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Recommend a few applications for my portfolio?

I graduated last year with a degree in Mech. Eng. (Industrial robots). We did a lot of mechanical subjects and not nearly enough C.S., but I privately maintained an active interest in programming.

Now, companies I've interviewed for have turned me down because of "lack of experience" even though I aced their C++ tests. Admittedly, there is more to it than C++, so nowadays I'm slowly catching up on Windows programming and a few other things.

I figured the best way to stand out (since the resume is still blank) is to come with a batch of "previous work", that should alleviate the "lack of experience" part (by experience I think they mean "exposure").

Could you recommend a few applications I could write that would put me in a good light? Something that people won't say "hell, everybody can do that." Something impressive and not boring.

I have an idea of my own (a collaborative application), but perhaps someone has better ideas for a nice portfolio.

Alex
Friday, May 21, 2004

How about a robot simulator (even just a really simple electromechanical system)?


Friday, May 21, 2004

How about a program to control your vibrator? :-P

Wisea**
Friday, May 21, 2004

Do you think the application you will write must relate somehow to industrial controls and robotics?

Li-fan Chen
Friday, May 21, 2004

Not at all. In fact, the farther from it, the better.

Alex
Friday, May 21, 2004

Well can you make a few web services? maybe a Goofy one? They are all the rage now days.

Start slow... like a ROCK SUCK meter for anyone to pop in their website name or something to find out if their site rocks or sucks. Share some code, spread the word, do some viral marketing. Sell yourself a little, someone will bend I think.

You might want to try to pick up some ISAPI if you are Windows and apache C++ module writing if Linux.

Li-fan Chen
Friday, May 21, 2004

Or one of those web toys. They are referenced using a url in a image tag. Shows weather and other dumb stuff.

Li-fan Chen
Friday, May 21, 2004

Have you thought about getting involved in an open source project?  There are plenty who could use the help, and they won't turn you away for not being a veteran.  It'll give you a real world application to point to and say "hey, I did that!" rather than something contrived in a sand box.

If you need to turn a profit with your work, then I suggest starting small.  Ask around and see if anybody local needs any projects done -- websites, simple DB apps, and the like.  Small shops can't afford big consulting firms, so they're more likely to take a chance on someone who doesn't have as much experience. 

Either of the above will also give you some great "soft skills" too, if you haven't had a chance to develop them yet already.  Working on an open source project means being part of a team, while working as a consultant gets you experience in analyzing business requirements and dealing with customers.

Joe
Friday, May 21, 2004

Oh, and don't worry about being "impressive."  Afterall, what's a better indication of skill: a boring bread-and-butter business app, or a big flashy widget with no real purpose?

Joe
Friday, May 21, 2004

A big flashy widget that adds value to a giant class of "boring, bread and butter business apps."


Friday, May 21, 2004

If you can't think of something to design and build, you probably are not a software developer anyway.

Cruel to be kind
Friday, May 21, 2004

Cruel, I want to be like you.

Alex
Friday, May 21, 2004

I think if you don't have that much experience, it is better to start with an existing codebase and make improvements rather than create something from scratch.

The suggestion get involved in open source projects is a good one.  It will teach you about working with people on software to some extent -- which is impressive to an employer.

There is a pretty big difference between writing something yourself, which you know everything about and having to comprehend a massive codebase that many other people wrote.  The latter is much more likely to be what you will be doing in any job.

And don't underestimate how hard it is to write anything useful all by yourself, especially in C++.

Roose
Saturday, May 22, 2004

> Cruel, I want to be like you.

I don't think you are.

Cruel to be kind
Saturday, May 22, 2004

Thank you, Roose, that's a good point.

Alex
Saturday, May 22, 2004

Roose is right. Do both, that way you can man a project yourself or join a team.

Li-fan Chen
Sunday, May 23, 2004

Get a part time gig , work as cheap as you have to to get it.  Nothing beats paid experience on the old resume.  Since you are a little lower on the experience curve, expect to work dirt cheap.

BoogerEater5000
Sunday, May 23, 2004

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