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how to get a job in programming

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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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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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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
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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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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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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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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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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