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The young ones

Getting the right start.

Q: I currently attend middle school, and my main area of interest is computer science. My main goal is to become a software entrepreneur. Before I become one, I’m thinking that I need experience in a certain job or occupation, and I’m thinking of becoming a systems programmer. Would that be best in terms of experience to prepare me for entrepreneurship?

A: Let me congratulate you in advance on potentially starting your own business before you’re of legal drinking age. While your peers scheme about ways to break curfew, I suspect you’ll be plotting investment strategy. Before I tackle your main question, maternal impulses demand that I urge you to think about putting off such serious thoughts about a career path right now. Strategize later, during high school or, ideally, after you’ve played some kickball, dreamed about being a private detective, or just lounged outside in the tall summer grass and didn’t do a darn thing for the whole day.

Admonitions aside, let’s talk entrepreneurship. As you may know (being such a whiz kid and all), the dot-com era was filled with passionate and ambitious software entrepreneurs, some of whom were excellent systems programmers. What they lacked was not vision, but strong business and management skills that would allow them to follow through on their grand plans. Although it may have popped in a painful way for many, the bubble did teach entrepreneurs about the importance of possessing a solid knowledge of traditional business processes and operations.

If you want to pursue a career in which you combine your love of software with your desire to start a successful business, balance your education in technology with classes in management. This will give you a solid base from which a stable business can grow. While you’re doing this, however, do try to squeeze in a few games of kickball, will you?

Q: Do you know of any specific classes from vendors, or educational institutions, that teach data recovery techniques?

A: You’re wise to look at data recovery as an area of interest. The field has gotten much more attention lately, with data recovery seen as both a forensic tool and a way for companies to bounce back after system crashes and other mishaps. Even if your interest lies only in restoring hard drives, rather than catching cyber bad guys, you should look at some of the classes offered in cybercrime programs. The methods for ferreting out information are varied, and these programs can give you a start in understanding different techniques.

A good place to start is with The National Cybercrime Training Partnership, which has a database of computer forensic courses and information security programs throughout the country. If you’re unsure about whether you might like the field, you may want to try a general class first, like the Win2000 Professional: Recovering Data and Systems course, which is part of the MCSE track.

Q: Recently, I got a DESS (a French diploma equivalent of a post-graduate degree) in Computing Complementary Skills with a minor in networking. I have about one year of experience, and I’d like to work on an administration team, or maybe an interesting OS migration project. However, I don’t have a work permit. What kind of firm would be able to hire someone like me?

A: If you’re keen on staying stateside, the easiest route for you may be to look in your native country for companies that have U.S. offices. By becoming an employee who’s assigned overseas, you’ll be spared a great deal of the Immigration and Naturalization Service paperwork that can arise with work visas.

If your heart is set on fostering roots at a U.S. company, your first step should be to check INS regulations about how long you can stay in the country and what kind of permits you need. Although H1-B visa regulations loosened up a few years ago to allow a greater flow of technology professionals into the country, the economic malaise has stopped the visa program from expanding further.

If you’re already in the United States and want to find work, you might want to set up an appointment at your local consulate, which should have resources to help you get started in your search. To locate a French consulate office, go to France Consulat or Embassy World, which lists embassies and consulates for every country.

Send your career-related questions to Elizabeth Millard.

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