'No barriers': Microsoft employee has advice for Belleville East students

News-DemocratApril 14, 2014 

Belleville East High School senior Don Proctor, 18, got a rare chance Monday to show a Microsoft employee a website he and a friend crafted.

The site earned Proctor, of Belleville, first place in the regional Future Business Leaders of America competition. Proctor, who wants to be an electrical engineer, showed off his site to Bill Fink, a technical evangelist with Microsoft.

"It was really nice and informative," Proctor said of the presentation Fink gave to his class at Belleville East.

Fink, a 1987 Belleville East graduate, was at his former school to speak to classes about information technology careers as well as talk to students informally during the Counseling Department's career chat.

"Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would get a job working for Microsoft," Fink said.

Fink, 45, talked to the students about his responsibilities as a technical evangelist, which include helping students learn technology and assisting businesses and start-up companies.

"I love my career. I love my job," he said. "Sometimes I love my job more than my weekends."

The most challenging aspect of his career, Fink said, is that technology is constantly changing.

"I'm always learning. Technology moves so quickly. There's so much technology I can't learn it all," he told the students. "If you want to be successful and be comfortable, you're always going to have to be learning."

He urged the high school students to pursue a career in technology. Fink said the college major that garners the most job offers is computer science.

"I've never had any issues finding a job," said Fink, who lives in Belleville and works out of his home. "There's no shortage of jobs."

Information technology jobs are high-paying positions. Fink said an information systems manager can earn nearly $130,000 annually and a software developer makes $100,000.

"Technology is a really good industry to make good money in," he said.

The kinds of technology jobs available today run the gamut -- graphic artist, game tester, business analyst, programmer, sound engineer and writer.

Fink also encouraged students to start their own business, even if it's a small endeavor like creating their own cell phone application.

"There's no barriers," he said. "You can do this starting today."

He discussed what classes students should take if they are serious about a career in technology. Fink suggested computer programming, math, science and business classes for high school students and computer science, management information systems, electrical engineering and economics for college students.

Fink provided a list of resources for the students to check out including: http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com; http://www.dreamspark.com; and http://www.digigirlz.com.

Belleville East counselor Denise Douglas said students really respond to the career chats.

"As counselors we can talk to them about a career, but it's more meaningful to hear it from someone directly in the field," she said.

Director of School Counseling Chyriell Drain-Hill said career chats aim to "expose students to current professionals in areas they (students) have expressed interest in pursuing."

Belleville East has had a wide array of professionals visit the school over the last several years, Douglas said, including a pharmacist, lawyer, athletic trainer and nurse.

"We like the idea of having community members in our schools," she said.

Guidance counselor Merle Wilder said the main goal is to help students make their future career plans more concrete by outlining steps they need to follow to achieve their goal.

"Students get an idea but don't know the steps to get there," he said.

Douglas would like to see the career chat program expanded to once a month for Belleville East students. Currently, a career chat is held quarterly.

"It's exciting to talk to kids about all the possibilities," she said.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

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