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'The career -- and life -- lessons I learned from my favorite professor'

Matthew Tarpey, CareerBuilder Writer

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It goes without saying that college is a place where learning happens. However, many of the most important lessons professors impart to their students don't show up on final exams. Here are some examples of lessons professors have taught students that have affected their professional career.

Making a difference
"Computer science Professor Paul Pauca and I met when I was a graduate student at Wake Forest. In his software engineering class, I was part of a group that created an iPhone application to help Paul's son, Victor, communicate. Victor has a rare genetic disorder called Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome, which affects his fine motor skills. Our application, Verbal Victor, transformed an iPhone, iPad or iPod into a 'touch-to-talk' device. We spent the summer after the course polishing the application and put it up for sale in the App Store in December of 2010. Since then, we have sold several thousand copies of the application, given a TEDx talk and been featured in several news sources.

"From Paul, I learned the power of simple ideas that are well executed. Nothing about Verbal Victor is revolutionary or difficult . . . However, to Victor and to thousands of other children and parents, our application changes the way they communicate with their children." -- Paul Thomas, assistant member in the Department of Immunology at St. Jude Children's Hospital

Putting people first
"One of my favorite professors in college taught me something that has helped my company grow exponentially. He would constantly say, 'An A product with a B team will never beat a B product with an A team.' This has made me put a major focus on acquiring and keeping great people in my company.

"So many big companies take the exact opposite approach in today's world, taking the 'we can replace you' attitude. That never works, because companies will anger their great talent and then have to waste time/money hiring, training and teaching new employees who will also end up quitting when they are good." -- Adam Keune, co-founder of Higher Learning Technologies

Career or personal life?
"One of my professors who, though she was older, was one of the 'new kids on the block' and thus low on the tenure totem pole, advised me to make my career fit into my life, not make my life fit my career. She was a mother of seven children who went back to college when her youngest child began school.

"I took her advice, though it decimated my academic career. I got married, had three children and jealously watched my colleagues accept full-time academic positions all over the world while I changed diapers and arranged play dates. Occasionally, when I was between children or even huge and pregnant, this professor allowed me to come back to campus and lecture, grade papers -- just enough to keep my foot in the door. One semester, she needed help writing and editing an academic journal. I never considered that people would actually pay me to write or edit, but the little door she helped open for me evolved into a full-time writing career that fits into my life. From this professor, I learned that I can love what I do, yet still actually have time to comb my hair -- most of the time -- and enjoy a life with a family. She really showed me how to have it all." -- Carolyn A. Smuts, freelance writer/editor

Matthew Tarpey is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz.



Last Updated: 21/08/2013 - 3:14 PM


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