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How to Use Your Summer Break to Develop Your Skills

by Catherine Conlan
7.19.2017

If you’ll be starting a computer science program this fall, you don’t have to wait to hit campus to get going — there are several ways to get the most out of your summer before school starts. Brushing up on your skills and learning new ideas can help ensure you hit the ground running in the fall.

“It’s always good to get a head start so you're not inundated with new information and a new lifestyle in that first semester,” says Stefana Muller, founder of Long Island Women in Tech, which works to increase tech opportunities for women in Long Island, New York, and vice president of DataGrid Systems, a DevOps software and service company. Here are her tips for making the most of your summer.

Take Some Tutorials

While you’ll learn a lot of technical skills in class, it doesn’t hurt to get a jump on some on some of the concepts and ideas now, Muller says. Codecademy and other free tutorials are a great way to brush up on the basics and prepare for what’s coming, she says.

Muller recommends looking for courses that match up with what you might be taking your first semester. “This will help you get a head start on the technology,” she says. “As a computer science student you still have skills to develop, and since tech is a skills-based career, it's essential to dedicate most of your early years learning new coding languages and applying those skills.”

Attend Tech Meet-Ups

It’s never too soon to start making connections in your industry, so consider attending tech meet-ups to get to know people who share your interests, Muller says. “Meet-ups are the professional way to network and often do not require background or skill set to attend,” she says. “This will give you a head start on networking for your first summer internship.”

You can expect to learn about a new tool or skill at meet-ups and learn about the company hosting the talk, Muller says. “Most people attending meet-ups are very open to helping newbies, so don't feel shy to share where you are in your tech career, such as ‘I'm starting school in the fall.’ ”

Update Your Social Media Presence

Now is the time to establish a professional social media profile so you can start connecting online with peers and mentors. Muller recommends creating a profile on sites including LinkedIn, GitHub and StackOverflow so you can begin socially networking with tech professionals, sharing your portfolio and asking questions of people who have been there before.

As you begin to interact on social media with people you may see as experts, don’t be afraid to ask for help. “Being open to asking for help is important in the tech world,” Muller says. “Many of us rely on each other to learn new skills, as classes are often not yet available for the latest technology.”

Volunteer

One of the easiest ways to learn new skills is to teach others, and volunteering can help. Volunteer gigs can also help you get a leg up in experience and networking, Muller says, and you never know where those connections might lead.

“Whether it's a summer camp for younger students, your local library, a local company or at an event, there are a ton of opportunities for you to get your feet wet before jumping into the computer science degree,” Muller says.

Read Trade Sites Publications

Industry publications and websites are a great way to keep up with the latest developments in computer science. TechCrunch and Mashable are good places to start, Muller says. Creating Google alerts for specific technologies you’re interested in can provide up-to-the-minute information. In addition, look for experts to follow on Twitter and read links that they provide.

No matter what you do, always look for ways to keep learning, she says. “Computer science is similar to other science programs where there's a lot of information to take in,” Muller says.

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