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Career Day: Polygon's product team goes back to elementary school

From left to right - Jake Lear, Tyson Whiting, Jon Douglas
From left to right - Jake Lear, Tyson Whiting, Jon Douglas

Two weeks ago, Jake Lear, Tyson Whiting and I were invited to represent the technology field at Ronald McNair Elementary career day in Montgomery County, Maryland. We spoke to fifth graders about our careers and the skills it takes to perform our jobs.

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It was a familiar scene as we stepped through the double doors and made our way toward the office. Waves of nostalgia came rushing back -- bells rang at designated times, kids formed lines and marched like soldiers, walls were plastered with artwork. Yes, we had definitely been here before. Team Polygon was back at elementary school, but this time around, we were the teachers.

We tailored our presentation to be fun, interactive and informative. After brief introductions with details about our background and education, we transitioned into the specifics of our individual roles and emphasized that it takes each of us working together to produce a quality product. As we explained to the kids all three phases of our workflow - Design, Coding, and Quality Assurance - they were genuinely interested in what we had to say. We capped off our talk by creating a mini web page with input from the students. Bugs were purposely introduced and the fifth graders eagerly jumped at the chance to call out what was wrong and needed to be changed. The three of us had a blast selling each mistake before we fixed it up.

For 10-and 11-year-olds, these kids were pretty tech savvy. All use the internet frequently and many are familiar with current video games and consoles, including several that spoke up to offer their expertise on Minecraft and what exactly a pixel is. One girl has already committed to learning how to code and others expressed an interest in drawing and one day becoming designers. It was refreshing to see these students excited about their futures.

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While we had a general idea of how the aforementioned portion of our presentation would play out, what we really couldn't prepare for were the questions at the end of each session. We were asked everything imaginable, from how much we make a year to our opinion on what video game console is the best and everything in between. And I'm fairly certain there are still a dozen kids that think we created the Xbox One and Playstation 4. Now that I think about it, maybe that's why we were asked to sign autographs.

For as many outrageous questions we were asked, there were equally as many that were thought-provoking. One in particular really stood out to me: "What do you like best about your job?"

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Such a simple question that we were all quick to answer in the same way. In addition to certain aspects specific to each of our jobs, we really enjoy what we do in large part because of the people we work with. And this sentiment isn't limited to the Polygon product team but extends across Vox Media as a whole. It must have been evident to our audience, as one class even joked that we probably didn't like our jobs at all.

What makes our days satisfying is that we don't view the people we're surrounded with as coworkers but as friends. We want to see each other succeed and grow. This is the type of culture that Vox Media has built and that's why we're all so proud to work here.

An elementary school career day may not have been a traditional way to recruit new talent, but I'm definitely glad we took part in it. Looking back, it really helped reinforce that we truly love what we do.

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