On my recent trip back to my ancestral home of Boston, I was invited to speak at a high school. The topic was what it takes to work for a company like Yahoo!. Given that this was a group of teenagers, and the propensity of such groups to fall asleep when the lights are turned down, I did the talk old-school style with no Powerpoint presentation. I wanted it to be more of a discussion than a lecture (they get lectures every day, right?).
I have to say it was pretty interesting. Keeping the attention of a bunch of computer geeks is one thing; keeping the attention of a bunch of teenagers is another. So I decided that I’d keep them engaged by asking them questions and encouraging them to ask me questions throughout. I started by asking them how many of them use the Internet (naturally, they all do). I then followed up by asking, given that they all use the Internet, how many people do they think use the Internet worldwide? The answer is, of course, 1 billion people. I then gave my favorite statistic: of those one billion people, half of them end up on the Yahoo! network every day. That means when I go to work, my work is helping 500 million people every day to check their email, find their news, or contact their friends. An awed silence followed.
I explained to the students how I ended up at Yahoo!, how I learned what I know, and what sort of things are important to getting a job at a company like Yahoo! I spent a large amount of time emphasizing how important education is, and how the things they’re learning now could make them thousands of dollars later on (this group was particularly money-oriented). Of course, a few mentions about college were also thrown in, since not all kids truly understand how important it is to continue their education after high school.
What I found most interesting was when I was asking them what browsers they use. The majority said that they use Firefox, which I found rather surprising. A couple mentioned using Internet Explorer, and one even mentioned using Opera. I had no idea that teenagers were so savvy about web browsers.
Overall, I thought it was a really good talk. I enjoyed interacting with the kids and teachers, and was even slightly amused as I remembered myself in high school. It was quite different from any other talk I’ve given and I enjoyed it immensely.