For being located at the tail end of winter, in a time of year when most workers are grimly buckling down, pushing through, and happily daydreaming about the still-distant vacation season, February is practically littered with observances and commemorations, some festive and others more sober. There are three "major" U.S. holidays, Groundhog Day, Valentine's Day, and Washington's Birthday (colloquially called Presidents Day).
The United Nations observes World Interfaith Harmony Week Feb. 1-7, the United States observes Black History Month throughout February, countries around the world observe Safer Internet Day on Feb. 5, and the Catholic Church (along with numerous other Christian denominations) celebrates Fat Thursday, the final day of indulgence before Lent, usually sometime in February (Feb. 28 this year).
Even the information technology community indirectly celebrates February by participating in Career and Technical Education Month activities. ("Career and Technical Education Month" and "CTE Month" are registered trademarks of the Association for Career & Technical Education.) The phrase "Career and Technical Education" covers a lot of bases, but information technology (IT) and computer science are generally included beneath its umbrella.
IT professionals are typically presumed to be lifelong learners, so even if it's been a couple of decades since your last report card, CTE Month is still a time for all of us in IT to celebrate our own educational endeavors, as well as encourage the growth of IT and computer science education. If you'd like to play a part in either celebrating CTE or raising awareness of it, then here are five things to consider making some time for over the final weeks of February.
1) Get a Certification — It's always a good time to certify, of course, but if you need a little extra motivation, or you want to radiate (or benefit from) a dash of overall esprit de corps, then get rolling on your next certification goal. Certification is a great way to continue investing in your career and stay abreast of technological growth and change.
2) Become a Mentor — The next generation of IT professionals is out there, moving up through the ranks of formal education and entering the global IT workforce. Those who have already found their footing in the professional IT community can do important work by, formally or informally, welcoming IT newcomers and encouraging students who have IT ambitions.
3) Volunteer Your Time — IT education programs at all levels of the public and private education system have opportunities for experienced professionals to step in and assist or inspire. You could be a tutor, participate in a career day, or even help establish an IT or computer science program at a school that doesn't have one.
4) Donate — If you don't have the time to help grow IT and computer science education programs, then there are probably plenty of ways that even a small cash donation could make a difference. You don't even have to give money: Lots of recycling programs exist to either repair and refurbish old tech, or properly dispose of and sell off tech components, to benefit educational programs.
5) Directly Participate in Formal CTE Month Activities — The official CTE Month website can help out here. There are lots of ways to be involved and support the cause. If your career has benefited from a teacher or education program, then why not help to pass the torch to the next generation?