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ctaclas

how to get a job in programming

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ctaclas    122
hi i recently graduated from university with a degree in computer engineering. we learned mostly c++, although i did a little programming for microprocessors and learned some C#. in my senior year we got to use microsoft visual studio.net and had some assignments using mfc. now that i'm done with school, i've gotten temporary work as a computer technician, but i still would like a more permanant job in programming. i know theres probably a few pros here so i figure i should ask here for advice. i've been going on sites like monster and dice.com and applying to pretty much everything i see. i haven't even gotten so much as an email back (except for the auto-generated "thank you for applying" things). are those job board sites the wrong way to go? also, to land a typical entry level programming job, how good of a programmer do i really have to be? i'm not too bad, but i'm not the best either. i usually on average like a B/B+ in my programming classes. overall my GPA's more like a B- though. to get an entry level job do i gotta be a real expert? also i heard some of the interviews are pretty tough. i knew some people who got interviewed by microsoft. i heard they flew them over to washington, paid for their hotel, and made them go through an 8 hour interview where they had to solve all kind of problems and riddles and psychological questions. is that typical or is microsoft just crazy? and is BS enough? should i think about going back for a masters?

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Extrarius    1412
You have a BIG problem: No experience.
"Well, of course!", you say. "That is what my first really low-level job is for!"
No, that is what internships are for during college.

I don't know of any other way to get into a field really =-/ I'm not saying that it is the only way, but everybody I know that has gotten into computer science as a field did an internship as their entry-level job (and went on to be hired by the company, but some have moved to other companies).

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S1CA    1418
1) many online sites are just collections of agency jobs - often 2 or more agencies will be advertising the same job. Sometimes agencies advertise "expected" positions rather than actual jobs. They're on 20%+ commission, you can understand their perspective.


2) The quality of your CV/resume makes a *BIG* difference to whether you get any replies. Check out the recent thread in the business forum here. If you don't impress the recruiter in 30 seconds, your application is usually in the bin (trash).


3) For games, unless you have a track record, expect to show some form of demo which lets the employer see your area of speciality (e.g. a path finding demo for an AI programmer, some nice 3d and lighting for a graphics person etc).


4) Tests are a regular part of the interviewing process. Most are very general, some can be very specific - basic vector maths, logic puzzles (practice those MENSA tests :o), C++ knowledge ("in what cases is it safe to use multiple inheritence" was one I got recently), "what does CISC stand for - what does RISC stand for - what's the difference", "add two 32bit signed numbers together using 16 bit registers", "name the characters from Street Fighter"*.


5) If you don't get an interview then:

a. you're applying for jobs you aren't qualified/ready for.

b. your CV/resume needs some work.

c. you've missed the job or it didn't exist in the first place (it takes a month for an advert to hit the press - a LOT changes in a month!).

[* dating myself a tad there ;)]

[My perspective: 11 years in industry, games for 9 years, a selection of companies of all levels (... to LEGO to a small local co. to Acclaim...)]

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Guest Anonymous Poster   
Guest Anonymous Poster
Tough one,

I've been programming professionally for about 8 years now, and out of the eight I've proably coded applications from scratch for the first four or five. I also had the opportunity to develop a few J2EE applications with a large team.

But the landscape of IT as we know it has changed dramatically over the last couple of years. There really isnt any programming job's as we knew back in the day, seriously...programming today is considered low on the totum pole in most companines. The pay that used command big bucks is now reduce to McDonalds money damn near and the rest of the opportunities are in India.

What most companies are looking today for is basically a "CIS" / "MIS" hybrid better known as the "Business Analyst". (The guy has the capacity to code, is familar with databases, OOP and every other three letter acronymn) but we dont want him to develop anything, Just use this $100,000 solution we bought and get the job done.

The days of building applications from scratch are practically gone, shit the company I work for along with others are building tools that code for you based on UML documents designed by guys who couldnt tell a compiler from an email.

Anyway, you know C++ and that's ok, but take I'd take a look at J2EE because most of the systems being built in big business mirror those patterns and technologies I.E. the tool Im developing with now (SIEBEL)....by the way if it makes you feel any better Im coding in it with e-script which is a bastardized marriage between javascipt and c-libs. (yawn)

MDA unfortuneatly is the future in the Business, learn all you can about it and how it's effecting the industry. The quicker you can get command of technologies like J2EE, UML and MDA you will find a job fairly quickly (talking the talk basically).

But if your search is just for a "Grunt" coder doing some C++ / C# work...good luck because either:

A) The guys that have those job's aint giving them up

- or -

B) The company is proably looking into out sourcing anyway.


Here is the mother link of all things "MDA"

http://www.omg.com/


....Learn J2EE :) because there is hope my friend.

Good luck, something will work out for you...it always seems to for the dilligent.

Cheers,

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ctaclas    122
thanks for the replies
i'd been pretty much focusing exclusively on entry level full time positions but i guess i better face reality and start looking for internships. while i think working in games would be an awesome job, i realize it's probably not the easiest field to get a first job in, so i'm looking for pretty much anything.

this summer in my spare time i've been drifting from book to book, i read a book about java and did a couple of my old "intro to c++" homework assignments in it. i've also messed around a little with php and mysql although not enough to really brag about.

i've moved back home with my parents and i've got a full time job doing computer maintenance for the state, it pays decent for now, but theres no room to move up. theres a school near me that offers a masters in MIS with night classes, maybe i could try enroll there.

how about certifications? do you guys know anything about MCAD (microsoft certified application developer) or MCSE (ms certified systems engineer i think)? are they something employers are looking for? are there any other types of certification i should think about? and is the best way to get one to get a book or take a class to prep for the test?

i'll definitely check out j2ee next time i go to the book store. any titles in particular you recommend?

thanks guys

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Jingo    582
Have you tried applying to graduate jobs?

Alot of big computing companies recruit graduates(Microsoft for example) through these schemes, not so many game development companies though sadly.

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antareus    576
Ugh, J2EE drives me bonkers. Code generation strapped atop a mediocre language with tons of indirection for its own sake. Oh, sorry, I mean scalability.

I'd say the best thing you can possibly do is work on a side project to show off. It could be game-related or it could be something else, but it can serve as a living, breathing resume. You could make it open source and show it off at interviews. Having a project like that shows initiative, dedication, and a passion for what you do. Additionally it teaches you a wealth of things that you cannot learn from the classroom, only from experience. I can't tell you how much my side project helps me out in the most unexpected ways at work.

You can definitely get a code monkey job somewhere and look to moving your way up. Just apply relentlessly, brush up on your interview skills, and keep your head up. The tech bust is over, and many places are scraping for people.

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a_insomniac    660
Hows that old saying go "A million ways to die choose one"

If your intersted in certification that will really take you some where at this stage then I'd suggest an Oracle cert or again a SUN cert.

With Oracle more or less you may not be interested in DBA type work but there is a developer cert. Secondly where J2EE is concerned, go for the SCJP and then get the SCWD or the one for building business components (EJB's).

The bonus imho about having a SUN cert is that you only have to take it once (in your life). Microsoft blows...you have to continue to update your cert about every 2 years. If you dont continue to re-cert then your no longer certified...why? Because M$ changes their technologies like my wife changes her friggin mind :)

But at least with SUN your certified for life...

Oracle is basically the same as SUN but your only certified on that "version" of the database. Companies will look your way though if they hear those buzz words "JAVA", "ORACLE" etc.

Like I stated in my first post, your just going to end up most likely working with a tool that does the majority of the work for you, you just need to have command of the underlying technology.

Cheers,

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You could work on some open source prj like mozilla, or something. Just my two cents. Also, learn Java and C#, because C++ isn't the common language of the industry in terms of mainstream programming jobs.

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Guest Anonymous Poster   
Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
i recently graduated from university with a degree in computer engineering. we learned mostly c++, although i did a little programming for microprocessors and learned some C#. in my senior year we got to use microsoft visual studio.net and had some assignments using mfc.


Sorry, but you sound like the typical underachiever who just did the bare minimum in college to get by. Its so easy to do nowadays.

The fact that you are concentrating on the easiest, most absurd, least likely to get results method for the job search backs this observation up.

Sad but true, the days of a comp sci degree guranteeing you a job are long gone. Will they ever return? I don't think so.

Also sad but true is the fact that Higher Education in the US is a business. The vast majority of schools are only interested in taking you money. They care little if your actually prepared to go out and find a job.

Goto the library and read some books about job hunting, interview skills, resume writing/building; educate yourself. Like someone above said; interships, interships, interships, interships.

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hplus0603    11347
If you "apply to anything you see" then your approach is wrong. Also, you should make sure you apply in a professional manner -- if you haven't taken a "resume prep class" yet, then go do so right away. Or at least read two books on the subject.

Figure out what kind of software you want to write, and then look for companies in those businesses. Figure out what products they make, figure out where they need people and why, and then write a personalized cover letter, and ideally tuned resume, to each company. Starting at the companies' web sites is usually the first step.

When it comes to how good you need to be, my opinion is that larger companies have lower standards on average, because they have "empty positions to fill with warm bodies."

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MrPoopypants    124
My cousin, who is the Technical Director at Amazon.com, told me that he NEVER hires developers who have a degree in Computer Engineering or Information Sciences.

He told me: "They suck."


I know this certainly does not apply to all companies, but I trust the word from the big man at amazon.

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Doggan    528
Currently as a college Junior, getting a BS in CS, even though I do plan on going straight to a Master's in CS program when I graduate... this was easily the most depressing thread I have ever read on GameDev. :( There is some decent advice, though.

I'm going to go cry in the corner.

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anist    100
i can second everything said to. i graduated in August, yet am still unemployed. i send out 20 resumes a week, still nothing. this is evidentally not a good area to go into now, and probably for a while. i was unable to intern (too few positions, too many were closer to the dean) and though my skills outclass those who have been in the industry for a couple of years, i am not even being given interviews.

my advice: if you are in college, spend less time learning skills and more time kissing your deans ass. an internship evidentally is the only thing that will help you.

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daviangel    604
Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
interships, interships, interships, interships.

yup if you didn't take advantage of internships during college you are as bad off as someone right out of high school looking for a computer job. Personallly I got my first programming job right out of HS but I guess I got madz resume skills since my resume was picked out of hundreds or so I was told. Actually if you aren't at least getting some interviews you need to have someone look at it cuz even here in central cal where there are like no computer jobs I always get interviews at least for all the jobs that I do find.
But yeah I've noticed during all my interviews for tech jobs they always try to throw at least one curve ball at you to see if you know your shit.
Examples at the last few interviews I had were:
for programming job-"explain what ODBC is and what it is used for?"
for computer tech job-"explain what vt100 terminal emulation is and how it works?"
pleaze? whose ass did they pull that one out of?
and for bestbuy tech-"what file on a windows boot disk allows you to partition the drive?"
so yeah they can ask you anything but getting them right as I did still don't mean you gonna get the job. Unfortunately I found out long ago as you will and anyone that is watching the presidential debates that first impression count for a lot more. In other words if you "click" or the person that interviews you likes you damned be what the hell you answer.
take my friend who is clueless when it comes to linux whereas I've been using it since redhat 5 came out is now a linux administrator just cuz he applied for a job that he wasn't even qualified for(b.s. which he didn't have required) but he got job anyways since he told me he hit it off with boss right away and he even admitted he didn't have a clue what 1/2 the questions they asked him about linux were during interview but they told him that was ok since he could figure it all out later!
p.s. If you really serious about getting that computer job though you will have to move to one of the tech areas like San Diego,silicon valley,washington dc,chicago,etc. I know SD anyways programming jobs were everywhere as long as you could get a security clearance anyways.

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daviangel    604
Quote:
Original post by anist
i can second everything said to. i graduated in August, yet am still unemployed. i send out 20 resumes a week, still nothing. this is evidentally not a good area to go into now, and probably for a while. i was unable to intern (too few positions, too many were closer to the dean) and though my skills outclass those who have been in the industry for a couple of years, i am not even being given interviews.

my advice: if you are in college, spend less time learning skills and more time kissing your deans ass. an internship evidentally is the only thing that will help you.

yup that works too cuz I just ran into my old biology professor who is now some bigwig on campus and was offering me jobs to work on the dean's website and do some other programming stuff in c#,asp,etc but he told me it don't pay much so I had to pass not to mention I don't do windows anymore unless I have to after getting my mac powerbook.

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Washu    7829
Quote:
Original post by S1CA
1) many online sites are just collections of agency jobs - often 2 or more agencies will be advertising the same job. Sometimes agencies advertise "expected" positions rather than actual jobs. They're on 20%+ commission, you can understand their perspective.

Yeah, you have to watch out for these sites.
Quote:

2) The quality of your CV/resume makes a *BIG* difference to whether you get any replies. Check out the recent thread in the business forum here. If you don't impress the recruiter in 30 seconds, your application is usually in the bin (trash).

Employers like a nice paper resume. While you may submit work that is virtual, having something i can fondle and scribble on is nice. If your resume doesn't stick out, it goes in the bin very quickly. I mean, when i'm sorting through anywhere from one hundred to one thousand applications, i tend to just do the simplest eliminations. Such as: "Are those greasy finger prints i see? *chuck*"
Quote:

3) For games, unless you have a track record, expect to show some form of demo which lets the employer see your area of speciality (e.g. a path finding demo for an AI programmer, some nice 3d and lighting for a graphics person etc).

For any job in this area, demos are great. Be they router configurations, or even demonstrating a grasp on the the minor complexities of transaction based processing.
Quote:

4) Tests are a regular part of the interviewing process. Most are very general, some can be very specific - basic vector maths, logic puzzles (practice those MENSA tests :o), C++ knowledge ("in what cases is it safe to use multiple inheritence" was one I got recently), "what does CISC stand for - what does RISC stand for - what's the difference",

Always fun, study before you go in, but if you fake your way through, you will pay later. Knowledge helps, but spirit matters more. I don't care if you don't know squat about the field, I can train that. If you have the right attitude and spirit, then you are much more likely to be hired.
Quote:

"add two 32bit signed numbers together using 16 bit registers",

Assuming all of the numbers are in dx:ax, and cx:bx. Also assuming you want the returned value in dx:ax:

add ax,bx
adc dx,cx

Quote:

"name the characters from Street Fighter"*.

It's fair game. Also shows if you even know something about the field/company that you are going into. I mean, if you go to work for Capcom, I would expect you to know something about their games and the world.

My perspective: About a decade (give or take some time) in my field (primarily networking, although I often end up doing contract programming along with design).

Edit: Don't mind my incoherence, it's probably sleep...

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lucinpub    186
on topic:
Where do all of you that are having a hard time live? I'm in my last quarter here in SoCal and am working two internships, my 3rd and 4th in the last two years. One is writing c++, the other is VB with database stuff. The c++ one has already offered me a fulltime position after I graduate and gave me business cards that say "Softare Engineer" under my name :). I was also able to do some contract work last year. And I am no superwhiz-who-knows-everything guy either.
Also, it does matter somewhat what school you attend, not just prestige-wise, but what the school teaches you. One of my current employers told me he interviewed a dozen candidates from UNLV a year or two ago and that not one of them could tell him what a class is or what a destructor is for.
Lastly, make sure to take a shower, shave, get a haircut, put on some deodorant and wear nice, clean clothes. Not a tee-shirt and holey jeans, but a nice shirt with buttons and some slacks with nice shoes, not your sneakers or sandals or doc martin boots. Seriously, it makes a huge difference.

off topic....
Quote:
Original post by a_insomniac

The bonus imho about having a SUN cert is that you only have to take it once (in your life). Microsoft blows...you have to continue to update your cert about every 2 years. If you dont continue to re-cert then your no longer certified...why? Because M$ changes their technologies like my wife changes her friggin mind :)

But at least with SUN your certified for life...


yeah, because I want someone 1.1 certified almost a decade ago to work on my java 1.4 or 1.5 project.

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RobbieJ    156
Hi,

Another thing that it might be worth looking into is networking (meeting people in the industry). I keep getting told this is the most effective means and I'll have to look into it once I've finished my degree.

There are Java Users Groups (JUG), for instance, where anyone who uses Java is welcome to attend. They do presentations and then have beer and pizza afterwards. If you have something interesting you have worked on you can do a presentation if you want to. You can then meet and talk to people who work in the industry and who knows what might come up.

The JUG is just an example, but they do seem to have a group in a lot of capital cities. (http://www.ajug.org/ for Atlanta).

Good luck!

-Rob

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Timberl    106
Unluckily for you, every other computing graduate who has just graduated a few months ago and has no experience is looking for jobs just now as well. the market isn't too bad though, and things always go slower in winter. theres always jobs around, you just have to cast your net wide enough.

if you're getting no response at all, you may be presenting yourself badly on your CV & covering note. scan the internet for pages offering job application advice and interview technique advice (they always cover CV as well - which you could probably do with advice on). you should be highlighting your strengths and glossing over / ignoring your weaknesses. this isn't being dishonest, its selling yourself, and everyone else you're up against will do it. remember that with a computing degree you have a good-deal more education and *proven* ability than many others and have an acredited high level of competency. in the covering note always point out explicitly why you'd be 'particularly suitable' for a role, and why you're 'particularly excited' about the prospect of doing it.

no-where will expect you to be a good programmer, they're well aware that you have no practical experience, and thats the understanding they'll take you on with, and thats why you'll earn an entry-level wage. They'll be hoping that you'll be giving them value for money in a few months time and will be a real asset within a year.

dont forget that every programmer strarted out at the same point you're at now with no work-experience. keep trying and you'll get there.

be sure to apply to about 20 jobs at once, thats standard.

its probably for you personally worth going for the big companies, a big company would be the fastest way to build up contacts, and usually provide very good general training. small companies can often not have the resources or even understanding to train a newcomer up effectively, however talented that person may be.

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DrEvil    1148
In my experience it's not nearly as bad as some people seem to be making it out to be. I guess it's different per individual and location though.

I recently graduated Fullsail, and I'm now working at a sim/game company about a month later. I started sending out resumes and stuff 2 months prior to graduation, took quite a few tests, did quite a few phone interviews, a few on-site interviews, and finally landed one. Maybe the fact that Fullsail graduates have game projects to show might put them a bit above the rest in the entry level category. Once I took the job I have now I'm still having to turn down requests for more interviews from the resumes I sent out.

I think the best advice I can give is to make sure your resume lists some sort of experience, even if it's not on a commercially shipped game. A mod, or a game project, graphics demo, AI demo, whatever. I'm convinced that the game projects we did for school were probably the main reason I got so many replies.

The bottom line is this, and it applies to all schools. If you do the bare minimum to get your degree, you're going to have a hard time getting a job, and frankly you don't really deserve one. I've seen this alot from Fullsail grads as well as non Fullsail grads. The piece of paper you get at the end for your degree is a small part of what it takes to get an employer interested in you.

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Guest Anonymous Poster   
Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by lucinpub
on topic:
Where do all of you that are having a hard time live?


I graduated from Boston University, but I live in Hawaii.

Looking back, I probably should have gone to school in California because that sounds like it's got more opportunities, and also because i hated the weather in Boston :)

I got a little bit of encouraging news today, I learned one of my classmates just landed a job with Boeing so I went to their website and applied to a bunch of jobs.

While I admit, I had fun in college and probably could have done better than I did, I'm nowhere near as bad as the UNLV guys who couldn't even tell what a class or destructor is :)

It is pretty funny though, this summer i'm probably learning more about programming than i did in my senior year, including the 700 level graduate software design class i took to meet my technical elective requirement. There, the proffeser's idea of lecturing was spending the first 45 minutes ranting about how open source is doomed to fail and the only way to go is with microsoft.

although i had a few good classes where i learned a lot. I think my favorite one was a class about algorithms. we definitely learned a lot, and the assignments were actually pretty interesting. i dunno if i'm a real algorithms person though, whoever came up with some of those crazy algorithms has got to be a genius :)
although, one of the things the professor said is that most problems can be broken down into a series of steps which can be solved using existing algorithms.

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