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Learning Curve for a New Grad

I got my degree (B. Sc, Comp Sci) about 3 months ago and am still looking for some sort of development job but it hasn't been looking great so far.

Most the job ads I see want something like 3+ years experience, but it doesn't look like theres a lot for fresh grads right now, at least in Canada.

So I'm curious,  how much did people, who have been working in the industry for awhile already learn in their first couple years of their first development job?

Does it require skill and smarts  that is orders of magnitude above finishing University or is it still just that much of an employers market still? 

Any suggestions on how to break this no experience, no job cycle, or at least get someone to take a chance on me?

Also does anyone think the entry level end of the market is going to reappear anytime soon?

Randy
Thursday, July 29, 2004

Work on interesting projects and add them to your CV.


Thursday, July 29, 2004

> So I'm curious,  how much did people, who have been working in the industry for awhile already learn in their first couple years of their first development job?

I learned a lot (but my degree was Maths, so I knew little about computers before I started work ... just some BASIC).

> Does it require skill and smarts  that is orders of magnitude above finishing University or is it still just that much of an employers market still?

It requires team-work; also exposure to technologies that you may not have learned to use at University.

> Also does anyone think the entry level end of the market is going to reappear anytime soon?

Some companies at least still hire temporary interns/summer students who haven't graduated yet.

Christopher Wells
Thursday, July 29, 2004

Let's start with the easy(?) question.  The market for entry positions in the US will probably start in 2005 (sorry if that hurts).  The economy, is growing but everyone is nervous a 9/11 like attack could throw us back into the nether world.

Skills and smarts.
I don't know you.  You could have finished in the top or bottom 1%.    You have a lot of theory, perhaps even skill, but that is like plowing the field.  My father used to say that college proved you could learn, nothing more. He is more correct than I wished.

In most cases, your entry level position will be bug fixing.  This gets you used to the system and how coding is done.  This will last 1 to 2 years in big organizations. Smaller ones don't have the time for that, so you will soon be on to projects.  If you want to keep yourself from a heart attack, figure that it will be 2 to 4 years before you are doing any from scratch development work.  It could happen sooner, but if you focus on that you lose the long term value of a career.

Random thoughts:
- The first three months are a waste for everyone.  Don't let it get you down that nothing makes sense. 
- You don't know half of what you think you do.  That's ok, until you speak. 
- When you speak pose it in the form of a question and you will get a good response.  "What do you think would happen if we..."  Don't worry if the answer is "Well, you land the shuttle right on Washington"  Look up Edison's quote on failed tests.
- You will screw up, bad. You will do something that crushes the system, kills a build and makes people work long hours to fix.  People will define you by how you react. 
    - no excuses
    - be there, even if it is only to make a food run
    - be sorry 
- Learn the business.  While coding got you the job, the business will make you valuable.  Take areas people don't want. Do production support.  Handle the TPS reports :)
- Listen to customers, this means ask a question and shut up.  It sounds obvious, but we often feel the need to solve every problem.  Listen and you may find the problem is not IT fixable. (That's ok)
- What IT thinks is the value of the product is often very different than customers. 
- Never complain about an assignment.  Do it well and be happy about it.  People like that and remember you.  You can also use it to get onto better work.
- Always have a backup.  Someone who can do what you do.  Some people mistakenly believes this makes you easy to replace.  They are wrong.  It makes it easy for you to take that "great" project when it comes along.
- Smaller companies give you more exposure, but often suffer from the big fish in a small pond when you move on.
- Big companies are entrenched.  Picture pulling a buffalo out of a well and that is how some days go.  But they also have the resources to do huge projects you might not see otherwise.
-  Try to switch companies after a few years.  It good career exposure and you start to see that many bad ideas come from people who have only worked in one environment because they don't see "it" coming.

I could literally go on for hours, so my last piece is no when to stop.
Good luck.

MSHack
Thursday, July 29, 2004

D'oh and have someone proof read anything you are sending to large groups or up the food chain.  They would catch know versus no. 

MSHack
Thursday, July 29, 2004

Where are you in Canada? There may be jobs in other cities (like Calgary) which is pretty much booming right now. It's booming with engineering work for the oil companies, but the rising tide is lifting many boats.

MilesArcher
Thursday, July 29, 2004


Try Montreal Kitchen Systems (MKS, now, uh, 20/20 technologies) in Laval, Canada.

:-)

www.xndev.com (Matt H.)
Thursday, July 29, 2004

MSHack,

Good words, my friend.

Anon
Thursday, July 29, 2004

"Any suggestions on how to break this no experience, no job cycle, or at least get someone to take a chance on me?

Also does anyone think the entry level end of the market is going to reappear anytime soon?"


answering the 2nd question first: no, no time soon.  i was a 3 yr dev. looking for an entry level pos. getting beat out by 5 yr devs.  however, if your comp sci is at a credible U (waterloo/u of t), then you might have a big edge there...

the best thing you can do right now is code.  i think someone mentioned it before: employers want to see that you've coded all the bad code out of your system.  create a big project for yourself, and start implementing it.  its amazing what a big difference actually having something tangible to show can be at an interview...

the next best thing you can do is read - magazines, books, whatever you can get your hands on.  get as up to date as you can with the most current technologies.  if an interviewer starts spouting the lingo, you wanna be able to act like you know what they're talking about (even though they probably don't)...

lastly, maybe go for some certs.  work towards an MCSD or somethin'.  its mostly memorization, but you do learn a few useful things on the journey...

most importantly: DO NOT STAND STILL.  Still = death.

Kenny
Thursday, July 29, 2004

(and one more thing: montreal = death!)

Kenny
Thursday, July 29, 2004


I'm a trained engineer.  I started developing little software projects in high school, continued throughout college, and am doing it fulltime now.

If I knew a bit more back then, I would have tried to get involved in an Open Source project or two to start gaining a bit more experience earlier.

KC
Thursday, July 29, 2004

Kenny,

How do you know Randy is in Montreal?

Hohoho
Thursday, July 29, 2004

Try and get work with a large corporate on some sort of graduate recruitment program. IMO, that's what you should aim for initially.

I started my career working for one of the largest IT outsourcing companies in the world - that gave me plenty of scope to move around internally and work on a variety of projects. I'm not quite sure what the job market is like where you are but if you're willing to sell your soul to get a foot in the door somewhere, that should get your career kickstarted.

Good luck!

TheGeezer
Thursday, July 29, 2004

So I'm curious,  how much did people, who have been working in the industry for awhile already learn in their first couple years of their first development job?

Probably more than you learned in your entire college career. This depends on what and where you decide to work though. The people and the company make a huge impact on how you progress.

Tom Vu
Thursday, July 29, 2004

I'm in Toronto right now, even though I'm willing to move
pretty much anywhere. I have previously lived in Calgary. Whats the story on Montreal?

Randy
Thursday, July 29, 2004

The Games industry is generally more willing than the mainstream to hire no-experience grads. It's an awful place to work but it can get your foot in the door - moving from games to the mainstream is fairly easy if you have a degree.

Mr Jack
Friday, July 30, 2004

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