Career advice from a former writer that landed an engineering role in Big Tech

kat excellence · Career Advice from a Former Writer That Landed an Engineering Role in Big Tech

Last month, I graduated from Oregon State University's Computer Science post-bacc program, and will begin my first role as a software engineer at (a subsidiary of) one of The Big 5 companies in tech.

Naturally, those with similar career ambitions have reached out for advice on their own journeys. This post is an attempt to address questions I've received.

But, with a small catch -

I no longer believe in giving advice.

The truth is, I can only share what worked for me in my situation. What worked well for me may not work well for others. Likewise, what didn't work for me may very well work for someone else.

Rather than sharing advice, I hope to instead provide useful information. What you decide to do with this information is totally up to you.

So, with this in mind, here are the factors I believe had the greatest impact on my transition into software engineering, and answers to commonly asked questions.

The biggest impacts on my career transition

Getting a bachelor's degree in computer science

Those that know me know I'm a big supporter of bachelor's degrees over coding bootcamps (as I wrote about in my previous post, Coding Bootcamp or Computer Science Post-Bacc?).

This recent tech winter of massive layoffs has only supported my claim that bachelor's degrees continue to be the most reliable entry into software engineering. Regardless of the "inclusion" lip service, the top dogs of the industry still show a strong preference toward campus graduates. This labor market has been particularly tough for undergraduates, but it's been even tougher for bootcamp grads.

But, putting aside the industry's bias toward degreed candidates, here's why a bachelor's program has been so impactful for me:

Getting involved in the student community

One phenomenon I've noticed throughout my years at Oregon State University (OSU): those who were most active in the student community tended to have the most successful career outcomes.

I don't know what causes this to happen, but I can attribute these two factors to my success:

Joining CodePath's technical interview prep program

CodePath is a nonprofit program that helps underrepresented students gain the skills needed to transition into software engineering roles. One of the ways they do this is through a summer-long course that teaches technical interview skills, followed by a career fair.

Here's why this program was impactful:

Taking a break to pursue multiple internships

As mentioned previously, we are in a tech winter that has created a very tough hiring market for juniors. I've seen fellow students - with better interviewing skills and more prestigious internship experience - struggle to get offers.

But here's why I believe my internship experience worked for me:

*FTE: Full-time employment

Now that I've reflected on the factors I believe have been most impactful for my success in transitioning into software engineering, these are answers to some of the most common questions I get in my LinkedIn DMs:

Answers to commonly asked questions

How do I get my foot in the door as a bootcamp graduate?

This is a tough question to answer, for a couple of reasons:

That being said, here's what I believe is the only way to get ahead as a bootcamp graduate:

What tips do you have for getting internships? What about off-season internships?

Did you have side projects as a student? What tips do you have for building a portfolio?

I had side projects, but most weren't great. Here are examples of some terrible projects that once graced my resume.

And, here's the only side project I'm proud of - an Android group project that won 1st place in a competition judged by Reddit CEO Steve Huffman.

As for tips, I found the most success in joining programs and events where a project was the final conclusion - i.e. hackathons and a CodePath Android course.

Best of luck in your career!

Software engineering is a tough field, but like any field it rewards knowledge, skills, and - most of all - experience. If you use these three points as your north star during your journey, I have no doubt you'll transition into the field.

Good luck.