Giving back & step 1 on how I figured things out

I’m not yet in a position to make a material financial contribution to the institution that whipped me into shape by throwing me into a quicksand pit with only a textbook on how to get out. I’ve been volunteering at Georgia Tech since graduating in 2004. The day before yesterday was my 7th annual GT Major’s Fair where freshmen and sophomores get an opportunity to speak one on one with alumni from different majors.

When I was a student at Tech there were a couple of people (besides my fantastic parents) who had my back and showed me the way to realize that my potential was not limited. My mentor was my first non-client “boss” that hired me to do contract development work at the end of freshman year.

Sami Matari took me in not only as his chief contractor but also his life-long mentee. By doing contract work with him for his clients I was able to understand the different facets of a company and understand how to best perform client work at age 19. Hearing him describe the systems and processes he envisioned that would revolutionize and streamline organizations made me start to think far more abstractly. This directly translated to my ability today to take on any client, from any industry, and help them take a step back and look their business, product, or service holistically. Without the non-CS skills I learned from Sami I’d probably still be doing contract work at some Fortune 500 today.

Not providing other young Techies an opportunity to do the same would be selfish. That’s why every year, since 2005, I’ve been attending the Major’s Fair and for the last three years have been taking on official mentees through Mentor Jackets. I have a couple of unofficial mentees who stay in touch after getting my contact info from the Major’s Fair. There is nothing more delightful than seeing their faces go blank when I explain to them how I did what I did and that NOTHING is stopping them from following the same steps to get here in a few years.

So, in case any Techies or other students out there are interested, here’s my response to the student handout y’all were supposed to use to ask questions of us. Reach out, anytime by email no matter where you went to school!

Response to Questions – Student Handout
Computer Science

Who am I: Naveen Dittakavi, CS 2004 – At Tech I specialized in Software Engineering, Databases, HCI, Networking
What do I do: Current Job: Entrepreneur, I start App Businesses provide Software Dev Services – Started current business, iMLogical, Inc. in Fall 2002 out of 8th Street West

What will I learn from this major?

In short, you will learn how to make computers do anything you want. I make computers solve problems for my clients and charge them for either solving the problem or providing a product that runs on the computer that solves the problem. In general, this is how computer software businesses work. There’s another model called the advertising model where you offer the solution to the customer for free but promote other people’s advertising on it. Facebook, Google, and Twitter are examples of this.

What skills will I develop in this major?

You’ll learn how to ask the right questions in order to provide the solution to the problem. While you’re in school the problems are defined by your teachers and TAs. In the real world, your boss will give you a problem to solve. Typically their boss or their client is the one who gave THEM the problem to solve.

Being able to solve problems, especially figuring out how to make computers automate the solution process, is an invaluable, lifelong skill.

While you may learn specific languages in the CS program, you will ACTUALLY learn the ability to teach yourself ANY language required to solve problems now or in the future. I have taught myself 5+ new languages and frameworks since graduating in 2004. By throwing you into the deep end & giving you the tools to learn how to swim, this major promotes your ability to be capable of lifelong learning.

What kinds of internship and co-op opportunities are available in this major?

ENDLESS. What do you want to do? Ask alums like me and we’ll connect you with our enormous networks. Want to work at Google? Microsoft? I personally have friends at those companies and through LinkedIn probably have friends at almost any major company. They are happy to help you. Just email me and we can figure it out.

What types of jobs are available for graduates of this program?

Software Development & Consulting are typically what graduates do. Some may choose to do a start up. I can go into a lot of detail here if you want. Just ask.

How much are employment opportunities in this field growing?

There are not enough EXCELLENT software developers in the world. This is a seller’s market – and you are responsible to sell yourself to your client or employer. If you are good at what you do, you can get any job you want in the world of computer science.

What types of employers typically hire graduates from this major?

Small consulting shops like me to Facebook/Amazon/Google/Apple. Everyone needs CS grads.

What is the working environment like in this field?

Varies from company to company. Everyone who works for me works from home wherever they are in the world. There is still a dot-com culture at certain companies. Ideally the best companies allow a ROWE or a results oriented work environment. Some companies are like what you see in the movie – Office Space. Some companies are cut throat and political (Deloitte, Accenture, Bain, McKinsey, BCG) but offer you an ability to learn how business at the Fortune 100 level is conducted. There is a tradeoff for making any decision. It is up to you to determine your personal priorities. Is it becoming a CEO of a NASDAQ company? Is it to be able to travel the world on your own terms? Is it “not having a boss”? Is it to go to the best business school? What is it that motivates you? What do you think is ideal for you? Happy to walk through these questions with you and point you to some excellent resources that might help bring you more clarity.

What else can I do with this major?

Patent Law. Medicine. The demand for capable patent attorneys is INSANE. After the crash of 2008 law firms cut back dramatically. This persuaded most young people to stay away from law school as anyone who is not a patent lawyer is STILL having a hard time finding a job. Patent attorneys who are well versed in computer science or computer/electrical engineering are nearly impossible to find. The pay starts at $125k for small firms and is around $150k for large firms. The work hours are intense and of course a $120k law degree is required. If this sounds like something you are interested in, email me and I’ll connect you to my close friends who are patent attorneys who can help.

Is any additional training necessary beyond a bachelor’s degree?

Depends on what you want to do. Research? Yes. Want to teach at the college level? Yes. Want to start a business, join a consulting company, join a start up in Silicon Valley, or be a developer? Not usually. You’ll need a PhD if you want to work on how Google develops its search algorithm but you don’t need more than a Bachelor’s to make GMail.

Will this major prepare me for medical school, law school…?

You’ll need to confirm with GT CS staff but when I was here in 2000-2004 we had the MOST electives of any engineering major. This enabled several of my friends to use those electives to take the pre-med courses. That being said, CS is not for the faint of heart. To get to medical school in the US you need a high GPA in your pre-med courses AND in your general courses. This is not an “easy” major. I’m not going to say which majors are “easy” but if medicine is your end goal and if you’re currently struggling to get good grades, I don’t know if this is the major for you. My friends in medicine (both Tech CS, Tech non-CS, and non-Tech) are happy to talk to you more about how to get into med school.

What is the typical starting salary for graduates?

Bachelor’s $60k. Master’s $80k. After a couple of years after your Bachelor’s, you should be earning $80k and a few years after that $90-120k if you are top performer. Get an internship/co-op, build apps, show that you are self motivated and understand how to get things done and you could walk out of Tech like me, with a $100k+ job. My first contract as a Software Engineer was for over $100k. Happy to tell you how I did it.

Note: At the 2012 Major’s Fair the statistical data was at the table. I remember it describing a 90% placement rate, 90% offer rate, median starting salary was $67k, mid career median salary was $110k. The exact figures are available through your CS advisor.

Want to know more? Reach out and say hi! :-)