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johan123

You first programming job

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Can anyone here share their struggles to get that first programming job? I need some inspiration - what sealed the deal for you? I graduated last year and have since been looking for any sort of Junior Software Developer position. Can program in C++ and Java. I know a bit of SQL too.

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I applied to a few jobs, got an offer on one finally then I took it. It was my 4th interview. It wasn't so bad now that I think of it. Found a great one for me doing web development in C# on .net. Learning any other programming stuff as I go along really. They're flexible and I learn very fast.

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There are lots of things that might be holding you back, so its hard to be inspirational without more information on your situation and approach.

A few key questions:
How good of a programmer are you (honestly)?
What kind of problems/projects don't you like to work on?
What kind of problems/projects do you like to work on?
What are your weaknesses?
What are your strengths?

There are other factors, of course:
Is there enough opportunity at your level of experience in the geographic location you've been searching in?
Is there enough opportunity at your level of experience in the industry you've been searching in?

You might have to expand your search criteria. I have a degree in Real-Time Interactive Simulation from Digipen, and yet my first job was writing C# and AJAX for a Microsoft CRM customizer (which I ended up hating, and only lasted 6 months) and my current job is as a Technical Writer (and occasional programmer) for Windows Mobile at Microsoft (which I like a lot better.)

I'd love to tell you how hard I've searched for jobs, but I mostly let my resume do the talking and let them come to me... After school I posted my resume to craigslist and submitted it to a few local gaming companies directly. After that I played Halo 2 on XBL for a month taking occasional breaks to eat, sleep, do phone screens and go to occasional interviews. My only other piece of advice is to work with a recruiter or staffing agency (not a temp agency) who will also do a lot of work for you (which is how I got my Windows Mobile gig, twice.)

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Let's see.

I didn't major in computer science, so that was a problem; and then I screwed around in college (too many games mostly) and didn't finish. Major problem.

-That lead to a year doing midnight phone monkey work for an ISP

which (along with some social networking)

-got me 3 year job doing general sysadmin work for a software company

which got bought out, but in my spare time I got enough knowledge to

-suffer through 3 years doing black box QA

which eventually drove me insane (but mildly well off) so I moved to buy a house and aim for that entry level dev position with ~8 years of personal learning under my belt.

That got me 15 months unemployed, and 30+ interviews before one of the recruiters found me a company whose standard operating procedure is to hire slightly suboptimal programmers (no degree, fresh graduate, fresh off 30 years with COBOL) at 75% market rates.

And here I am: learning a lot, getting fantastic reviews, and... making 25th percentile entry level developer salary while leading projects. (stay in school kids)


As with all job hunting, social networking is the most powerful tool you can use. Have friends? Other college grads? Ask 'em if their companies need more programmers (and can get you an interview). Beyond that, the key is getting past HR and getting an interview. For some, that means putting more on the resume. For some that means being vague so it's assumed you have something you might not (but in reality, anyone will pickup quickly).

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I applied for, and got an interview with Microsoft for an intern position. They flew me out, I did the whole thing, and got an offer to join the team working on what eventually became Microsoft Surface. It was a pretty cool summer. As far as struggles, I don't always interview well. I tend to intuit my way to answers, and interviewers don't like it when you stare silently at a whiteboard for 30 seconds and then suddenly present a full answer, without any indication of how you got there.

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I didn't want to go in game dev. because coding games what was I was doing at home for fun (Since age of 13) and didn't even imagine it was possible to make money out of a fun thing like that :)

This idea actually followed me until the age of 23 (yes, pathetic..) But at that moment I had almost 6 amateurs 3D engines under my belt.

Went to college in pure science. And screwed it up very good. Mostly because of chemical ....

Anyway, I worked for 6 months in a meat shop. At minimum salary.

Then, I found that school in Montreal giving the program: 3D game Programmer.
I took it, and did well in every courses, with notes average of 98% or so.

You can almost say it, I had more background that most of the teachers ;)

During my intership for Desgraff, I got an interview at GameLoft Montreal. I did very well at the test. Actually, too well, they thought I cheated... But got the job anyway. 1 week before finnishing my intership, and starting my new job, GameLoft closed some departments in the Montreal's studio, fired some people and cancelled mine :S... and the other 6 that was supposed to start in same time.

I stayed 6 months at home, kinda depressed. Doing nothing but coding. Then, with the help of a friend, we made a game called baboViolent 2.

Then got a job at bitheads (Ottawa) as a Virtools developper. After few months, I got a job offer for EA Vancouver. In which I would have played a big role.
But I refused... instead we sold bv2 to bitHeads, and proposed to make the third one. Which is now called Babo:Invasion, and my job is awesome, our engine kick ass, the pay is great, the team is great, and I really took the right decision for staying in Ottawa :)

----------------

Sorry for the long (and bad english writing) post.
Bref, I don't think I had difficulties, because at home I was coding games, all the time, and got all my XP. I never got stressed about my competences in interviews, and I didn't really looked for job a lot. I'm a lazy person :P

[Edited by - Daivuk on June 14, 2008 9:15:36 AM]

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Demos > C.V.

I showed my first employer a game I was working on. It was only half finished, but it left no doubt that I knew my arse from my elbow. This is almost never the case with a C.V.

If you can prove that you've got the goods, an employer doesn't need to worry about the degree to which you're fibbing on your resume.

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How do these "tests" that employers give you (for a programming position) look? I am interested.

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The tests i've done cover knowledge on the primary language of development (ie, C++ or whatever you are going to use) and also on the theory & technical aspects on the area you will be assigned to (in my case graphics theory, so i got questions about HDRI and parallax mapping)

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