During assembly on Monday, December 3, Bill Richert spoke to students about careers in information technology, a field he worked in for more than four decades (see below). Richert said when he started, the average main frame was as large as our auditorium — and "now we're using hand-held technology and exploring artificial intelligence!" He encouraged students to follow the oft-quoted "Find something you love to do and you'll never have to work a day in your life."
Richert came to Burroughs for Computer Science Week at the invitation of Martha McMahon (chair, Computer Technology Department).
To pursue an IT career, he said, you must have a passion for technology. It also helps to be detail-oriented, flexible and adaptable; to enjoy the rapid pace of change; and to have an affinity for problem-solving.
What is the employment outlook for IT? Richert said
- Six of the top 10 best jobs are in technology, per Glassdoor.
- Jobs in technology command higher salaries, on average, than most fields.
- Unemployment in technology is lower than in most fields.
- There are more than one million open jobs in technology across a spectrum of specialties (software development, cyber security, cloud competition, robotics, AI, etc.) — with huge potential for women, who are currently underrepresented in IT.
What are the best ways to prepare for a career in IT? Richert advised students to
- Obtain an undergraduate degree, with a major in computer science and a minor in engineering or business;
- pursue internships to gain experience; and
- take full advantage of advisors/mentors, interview preps and campus recruitments.
What are the skills are needed to land that first job? First and foremost, he said, you have to be able to fit within the team/company culture. After that, the ability to learn quickly and communicate well along with being positive, punctual, creative and organized are strong assets.
He said entry-level jobs are usually as programmers and software engineers — essentially developing code. The next step on the ladder is as a business manager or project manager, and, after that, careers lead to CIO (chief information officer), CSO (chief security officer) and CTO (chief technology officer).
In retirement, Richert is working with Enabling the Future, an organization with more than 10,000 volunteers worldwide who use 3D printing to provide prosthetics, especially for children under 18, who aren't covered by insurance. Richert challenged students to start an e-NABLE chapter.
Richert is retired and mentors masters and PhD students at Washington University School of Medicine's Sling Health STL entrepreneurial healthcare program. His career in information technology spanned more than four decades in roles from programmer to chief information officer. He worked at companies such as Dow Chemical, Sprint and IBM, and has deep industry expertise in telecommunications and enterprise resource planning applications. His work has taken him around the globe, where he has managed large technology development projects with teams based in Brazil, India, Canada and the United States. Richert attended Missouri State University and has an undergraduate degree in computer information systems and a masters degree in human resource management from Ottawa University. He served in the US Army and Army National Guard as a crew chief and flight engineer, and flew as a mission pilot with the US Air Force Civil Air Patrol.