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Entry-Level Tasks

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Going into a typical contracted software development studio, what sorts of tasks would such a company want recently-graduated or soon-graduating B.Sc. CompSci majors doing? More specifically, what sorts of things should be highlighted or featured on a resumé? I'd imagine I should feature the areas and skills where I've focused and where I have much experience, and then go through a more complete point-form listing of where I have enough experience and skill to work in immediately without training. Any suggestions, or sage advice to pass down?

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One hiring pet-peeve is people who seem to imply they have more experience or knowledge than they really do. OTOH, ppl need to be able to list all the things that they have been exposed to.

One thing I used to do with my resume was to use a table layout in word, and then list each job experience in a paragraph, and then next to it, each skill that I used or learned there, listed in order of

expert
C++ ( 10 yrs )

familiar with
Assembler ( 2 yrs )

exposed to
Lisp ( 3 months )

etc.
That way you can list everything that you've done without misleading anyone.

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I'm with Joel on this one (he likes to hire people who are Smart and Get Things Done), and I emphasize the things I have accomplished. In your case, either a pet project or your senior project would be good examples.

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In my expierience most companies want someone who can work self-responsible, fast, task-orientated and is able to find problems and suggestions on his own. If you will work on large projects you should be able to manage smaller teams or at least have good communication skills. You should also have the ability to gather new information and skills on your own. A good understanding of marketing and buisness processes is also often required . The qualification should be at least 2 well known programming languages and also a good understanding of common software-engineering techniques. It's also important for them that you have a well handling of standard software in the specialized field you will work (Compilers, System-tools and managment tools like CVS). It's also very useful to have good writing skills for documenting your work.

Hmm .... I think that's all at the moment :)

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All of the advice so far has been great. Here are my two pesos worth:

#1) Have a portfolio of past works.
A good portfolio is 10x more important than good school credentials IMO.
let me repeat that...
A good portfolio is 10x more important than good school credentials IMO.

Nothing a company hates more than a "paper developer" (ie has great credentials, but no experience). I could care less that you went to MIT or Fullsail if you have nothing to show for it. On the other hand I could care less that you didn't go to school if your work is top notch.

In short, a picture is worth a thousand words and a portfolio is worth a thousand resumes.



#2) Play to your strengths.
Typically, you aren't just hired 'carte blance' into a studio...they have hired you as a programmer, or artist, or producer, or whatever. POint is that you should already have an idea of what your strengths are, so play to those. If art is your gig, list all the art schools, art shows, and other experience; if programming is your gig, show them a small program you did (even if it has nothing to do with games); etc.

#3) Show that you have a life.
This one depends on the studio...the smaller the studio, the more they will want you to have personality and get along with everyone else at the company picnic. If it's a larger studio, you are more of a cog and thus the less life you have outside the company, perhaps the better. I tend to think that a good company wants stable employees, not burn-out prone workaholics; thus I think it's a good idea to tell them about your band, or your weekend camping trips, about your family, etc.

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Quote:
Original post by Magmai Kai Holmlor
I'm with Joel on this one (he likes to hire people who are Smart and Get Things Done), and I emphasize the things I have accomplished. In your case, either a pet project or your senior project would be good examples.
I'd add that Getting Things Done is more important (to your boss) than being Smart.


I started working at at a smallish company four weeks ago (my first full-time job) and I've done a variety of things (mainly development). I'd guess that at a bigger company the typical tasks might be different though.

Make sure that you communicate effectively: let them know that you're smart and learn fast (unless you're not and/or you don't). I'm working in Java, a language which I haven't used since my first year of university (four years ago), and I've been working with stuff that I've never heard of before. I had no portfolio: they hired me because I gave the best answers to their technical questions, I emphasized the fact that I'm a fast learner, and because they got along well with me in the interview.

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My old classmates and me graduated last year in software engineering and most of us started working. The tasks each one is doing varies quite a bit.

One started at a software firm of medium size, and he started out doing 3rd line support, digging through source code finding bugs reported by customers.

Another one started working in Philips Medical systems, and as far as I know he's doing full development work and is overloaded with meetings.

I started in a very small company (3 ppl, including boss, the other did production), got handed 4 software projects of poor quality and was told "make something of it".

I graduated at Océ R&D (office printers), and when you enter you are placed in a software development team (usually engineering, last stage of the development) and get handed some relatively simple tasks like making a logger for the project.

So, it varies per company what tasks you will be doing at entry level.

As for resume... I have no idea. I wrote mine quite a while ago, and was told it was too elaborate (describing skills and all). I never could be bothered to rewrite it because I got offered this job.
I guess I will be rewriting it this week because I'm quitting this job. Be aware of small companies I can tell you, and don't think you will get the chance to focus on one project for more that two days. And prepare for the regular "my email doesn't work" requests.

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Quote:
Original post by fastlane69
(snip)
let me repeat that...
A good portfolio is 10x more important than good school credentials IMO.

Nothing a company hates more than a "paper developer" (ie has great credentials, but no experience). I could care less that you went to MIT or Fullsail if you have nothing to show for it. On the other hand I could care less that you didn't go to school if your work is top notch.

In short, a picture is worth a thousand words and a portfolio is worth a thousand resumes.


Of course, a good portfolio is what will make the difference. I still disagree with you for a lot of reasons:

1) Showing code is the easy task. You can take code that you didn't write, use it successfully - because the help file was veru good - and have a good product. I won't trust any applicant until it shows me that it is his code.

2) "paper developpers" don't exist, or are very rare. Who can graduate a BSc without writing a single line of code?

3) ungraduated top-notch guys are rare, very rare.

A sa consequence, IME (yeah, experience is better than opinion [wink]) a resume is still worth a thousant portfolio :)

Regards,

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by fastlane69
(snip)
let me repeat that...
A good portfolio is 10x more important than good school credentials IMO.

Nothing a company hates more than a "paper developer" (ie has great credentials, but no experience). I could care less that you went to MIT or Fullsail if you have nothing to show for it. On the other hand I could care less that you didn't go to school if your work is top notch.

In short, a picture is worth a thousand words and a portfolio is worth a thousand resumes.


I wouldn't hire you because you are obviously inexperienced...

A person without a degree would have to be 10x better than a person with a degree for me to hire them. There are so many things you learn at school other than book knowledge. Also, to get a reputable engineering degree, i.e. from MIT as you put it, you HAVE to be smart...if it were easy, everyone would have a degree from MIT. I also know as a fact that if you gave a MS or PhD from MIT (or somewhere similar) you get paid a TON more.

LMAO...you put MIT and Fullsail in the same sentence :)

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Exactly. You can't exactly skate through MIT.

I think the point here is your resume should highlight your projects instead of just being a laundry list of skills that says nothing about what you've actually accomplished. What did you do at school (or in your spare time) that's extraordinary (even if it's just a final project for a really hard class)?

After a lot of iterations, I wound up doing my resume like such:

Project: Magical super-awesome 3D game engine
Environment: C++, OpenGL, GLSL, rigid-body physics, x86 assembler (for optimization)

Beyond the resume, my advice is to know (at least a couple of) the projects on your resume in depth such that you can produce the design for them off the top of your head, and possibly recode a function or two. I choked in my first couple interviews (at big scary corporations) because I couldn't remember any details of my projects.

Also, don't exaggerate too much on the resume. Don't put anything on there you wouldn't be able to answer to in an interview. If you took a hardware class and had to do one simple project in VHDL, don't put that on your resume unless you feel confident enough to answer questions about it.

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I got hired into a game development studio straight after high school. This was over three years ago and I stayed for about two years. The job was in the UK and I'm Swedish, so it even involved a relocation. I was recruited at the same time as two local recently graduated CS majors. I don't think that I did extra ordinarily well on the interview, but my portfolio of past projects I'd completed was enough to give me a junior programming position. What did my portfolio contain? Most importantly it had one completed game, published by a budget games publisher in the US. The game was a just a simple cute cartoon like 3D puzzle game. Not something anyone would raise an eyebrow to, BUT finishing a game shows commitment. Other than that, some smaller physics demos and some GBA homebrew development. A variety pack. I don't know if it was mostly a matter of timing and the times back then, but I reckon a good portfolio takes you about as far as a degree when it comes to getting the job. Obviously, it's up to yourself how you develop from there. Because having a game programming job is about constant learning, adaptation, communication and many many compromises. Being the best game developer doesn't necessarily mean being the best programmer.

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This is a great post, I checked out the book on jobs for Computer Science majors and I find the stuff you guys takled about on here to be more inline with what I was expecting the book to have. I would like for more people to post up information about resumes and such. Also how important is math in software development? Which level of math should be known very well as well?

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Quote:
Original post by Emmanuel Deloget

2) "paper developpers" don't exist, or are very rare. Who can graduate a BSc without writing a single line of code?


I have to disagree on this one, assuming you mean a BS in Computer Science. Actually I think it's quite easy to get a degree but be completely unable to complete anything larger than a very simple "toy" project. I know quite a few people who have CS degrees who couldn't write a complex program if their job depended on it.

Not that there's anything wrong with that--or that they aren't capable of learning if they tried--the people I speak of specialized more in databases, networking, operating systems, and so on when they chose their classes. Also, CS involves alot of math and theory, and isn't the same as a Software Engineering degree which I think would focus more on development--THAT I would guess that you'd have to have at least some development knowledge to get the degree.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
i'm in an entry level position for a small engineering company
a lot of the software they have are tools to help design and test their product.
so far i've been making little improvements on existing tools they made, and i've taken apart old tools and made new tools out of them

one thing to look out for, a lot of people don't comment their code so things like that takes longer than it has to because you gotta stare at existing code and figure out what it does. i've been commenting the existing code myself as i read it and when i make new stuff i comment the hell out of it for the benefit of the next guy

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I've worked in the industry for over a decade. I've sent my resume out a few times, and I've looked at a whole bunch of resumes. When looking for your first job, let me give you some advice.

* Your resume should be 1 page. Resumes are supposed to be short. They should be 1 page even for experienced people. If someone has a decade of experience, I guess they can use 2 pages. I've read resumes for people straight out of college that were 3 pages. I, and everybody I know, usually just skip those. 3 pages with no experience is too outlandish to take seriously.

* List associations. If you're a member of ACM or IEEE, some people looking at your resume might get you a second glance.

* List your activities. It sounds stupid, but I've seen 2 people who ended up getting called in first because someone reading the resume enjoyed the same activity.

* Format it well. The whole point of your resume is that someone reads a summary of your qualifications so you'll get called in for an interview. Make it concise and organize it so that the reader can quickly and easily figure out all your skills.

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There are some very good bits of advice above but I didn't see one very important point.

There are a lot of people who, when they apply for a job, are so intent on getting the job that they tailor their resume specifically for that job. This is not necessarily a bad thing but what is bad is when you change the resume so much that you fool the company into thinking you are something you are not. This is bad not only for the company but for you as an applicant.

Why?

1. They may detect your deception and you will loose out on the job even if you are the perfect fit.

2. You won't be able to do the job.

3. You will get a job that is something you don't like or even hate.

4. The company will eventually figure out that you are not the right person and you will be looking for another job.

5. You may be the person they are looking for but if you make yourself look different than you really are they may then think you are not the right person. For example, they may think you are overqualified.

Here are two real life examples:

1. A company I worked for interviewed and hired someone from out of town. that person relocated their whole family. In a matter of weeks the company realized the person they hired had no idea what they were doing and fired them. The person had spent the time, effort and money just to move to a place with a tight market and no job and a family to support. Everyone lost on the deal.

2. A buddy of mine interviewed for a job recently. After several interviews it was down to him and one other person. He was a perfect fit but the other person was not - they had done their research and tailored their resume and interview to get that job. Luckily the company conducted several interviews and the other guy was weeded out but only after wasting a lot of everyone's time.

Keep in mind that, as a person searching for a job, not every company is for you. Be honest on your resume. Yes, you have to make yourself look good so highlight your strengths. But if they don't hire you, it doesn't mean bad things about you, just that you weren't what they perceived to be the right fit.

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