What do you do?
I'm an undergrad CS major at the University of Waterloo and I'm trying to
figure out where I want to go after I graduate. I've got some experience
in both programming and tech support, and I enjoyed both types of work.
I'm also strongly interested in the sciences. I'd love to hear from anyone
who really likes (or really hates!) their jobs. What are the rewards and
frustrations of your position? How did you get into that field, and how
would I get into it if I decided I liked it? What is the working environment
like? What kind of compensation is there? What country/city do you work
in? Thanks for the advice! -Ivy
Re: What do you do?
I doubt that anyone is going to answer your particular questions since they
would require too much time to do so. Many of the top programmers from around
the world post in the DevX forums. It would be nice if some of them stopped
by here and gave some of their advice. Oh well, looks like you are stuck
with the likes of me.
First, you need to figure what you like to do. Software development or tech
support (on the software side there is help desk, QA testing, or maintenance
I suggest that you check out the link I provided in my last post here in
this forum. A surprising statistic from that long article is the percentage
of software engineers and developers who are no longer employed in the IT
industry after only a few short years.
The best advice that I can give you is to forget about the amount of money
that you can make. Look for a company that you feel will be a good fit for
what you want to do. Concentrate on gaining experience and the money will
follow. During your interview(s) ask lots of questions. Not for the employer's
sake but for yours. A good professional culture implies among other things
a company where experienced technical people with 5-10 years experience work
because they like the place. Look for a company where reasonable documentation
practices exist; formal technical education is appreciated; and management
shields techies from browbeating. Now the only thing that would make such
a place perfect for you is that they have interesting projects for you to
Tech support has some downsides to it. Pay tends to be not that great and
you are considered to be at the bottom of the food chain so to speak. In
other words, you may not get any training whatsoever and more importantly
a chance to transfer into another position such as junior programmer. The
upside to tech support work is that this area is probably the easiest of
them all to land your first IT job.
If software development isn't something that you would do even if you were'nt
getting paid, then you may want to steer clear of it completely since this
type of work can be daunting and all consuming. If software development is
your 'cup of tea' so to speak then the following is my advice:
* Find a mentor as soon as possible. The best way to find one is to simply
ask a senior level developer a lot of questions and be friendly to everyone.
The concept of apprenticeship is vital to becoming a top flight engineer/developer.
As an alternative, perhaps you can find a mentor on the web?
* Choose a programming language and try to master it. Also, learn all you
can about database programming since that is what you will probably be spending
most of time doing.
* Buy lots of books and read them. Not just on programming, but other topics
such as analysis and design.
* Keep reading newsgroups and online magazines to stay current and informed.
* Don't pass up on any free training that is provided to you. Treat it like
gold and make the most of it. See if you can get your employer to allow you
attend local conferences.
* Establish career goals now while you are still in school and work your
butt off to achieve them.
* Setup a home computer system where you can hone and practice your skills.
* Join a local user group. Good for networking as well to keep abreast of
what is going on in the industry.
* Most of what you learned in college will not be used in the 'real world'.
Plan on taking additional classes to stay current. In fact, plan on spending
the rest of your life learning new things since this is the only way to survive
and prosper in today's complex world.
---- Types of IT employers ---
Many large corporations like to hire people who have management potential.
Be somewhat careful with these type of companies. They tend to downsize quite
often (short-term thinking going on here) and many have outsourced a large
portion of their IT department functions to consulting firms and independent
contractors. Now having said this, if you can land a job with a big firm
then go for it.
Consulting firms tend to hire new graduates but like staffing agencies most
don't provide you with anything other than a regular paycheck. Also, many
expect you to perform at the same level that a 10 year veteran does. I would
strongly suggest you stay away from them unless they can guarentee some form
Small companies and government agencies employ the bulk of the software developers
so don't overlook them in your job search.
Re: What do you do?
I think it really boils down to your own personal preference, and only you
can decide that for yourself.
You said you have enjoyed both programming and tech support. I've done both
types of work, and programming was a lot more rewarding for me, both personally
and professionally. From what I can tell, tech support isn't a "lifetime"
type of job. Most of the people in it used tech support as a stepping stone
into a more challenging I.T. area (programming, network admin, system admin,
DBA, etc). Also, it seemed like the "burn-out" rate for tech support was
If you are interested in tech support, I would consider looking into becoming
a network admin or system admin. Both job have a "support" component to
them, but there is a lot more skill involved, and in the end you might find
them a lot more rewarding.
On the other hand, if you like science, then by all means go that route.
You may have a problem since your undergrad degree is CS, though. Also,
I've noticed that there are a lot more B.S. in pure science who come over
to I.T. than the other way around.
One possibility would be to get a software development job working on a scientific
application. That way you would be able to satisfy both of your interests!
As far as landing a job after college, your best bet is to use the career
services office at your college. They should be able to get you in contact
with companies that are looking for recent college grads.
"IvyS" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>I'm an undergrad CS major at the University of Waterloo and I'm trying to
>figure out where I want to go after I graduate. I've got some experience
>in both programming and tech support, and I enjoyed both types of work.
>I'm also strongly interested in the sciences. I'd love to hear from anyone
>who really likes (or really hates!) their jobs. What are the rewards and
>frustrations of your position? How did you get into that field, and how
>would I get into it if I decided I liked it? What is the working environment
>like? What kind of compensation is there? What country/city do you work
>in? Thanks for the advice! -Ivy
Re: What do you do?
It seems like you already have a lot of good advices. As DavidK said, your
best bet to get your 1st job is thru the job placement/career assistance
office of your school. Every school holds job fair for the graduating
class, don't miss that! It is your chance to meet the corporate recruiters.
And of course, keep up your grade. No employer cares about a CS student
with GPA below 3.0. If you have a GPA of 3.5 or above, you should be hired
even before you graduate. It was true when I was in college, and I believe
it is still true today.
Don't worry about the compensation right now. Concentrate on building up
your working experience. Good luck!
"IvyS" <email@example.com> wrote in message
> I'm an undergrad CS major at the University of Waterloo and I'm trying to
> figure out where I want to go after I graduate. I've got some experience
> in both programming and tech support, and I enjoyed both types of work.
> I'm also strongly interested in the sciences. I'd love to hear from
> who really likes (or really hates!) their jobs. What are the rewards and
> frustrations of your position? How did you get into that field, and how
> would I get into it if I decided I liked it? What is the working
> like? What kind of compensation is there? What country/city do you work
> in? Thanks for the advice! -Ivy
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