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How to start a software development career

Matthew Phillips
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 09, 2001
Posts: 2676
I currently have 4 years IT experience on the support side. I have decided that I want to move to the development side. What kind of things should I be doing to make the move. I am currently working on a two-year degree and SJCP. The one thing that I really want is more experience writing code. I am going through the cattle drive, but I would like to write more code. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get more hands-on learning?
Matthew Phillips


Matthew Phillips
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
And if you can't think of a project, check out open source projects. Open source is also good, because you can see what other people have written and learn form their designs (and errors). Then, after understanding their system, you can contribute to it. (Check out http://www.apache.org/ for lots of good projects.)
--Mark
hershey@vaultus.com
Walter Vetrivel
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 01, 2001
Posts: 80
Hi Mark
I dont see any projects here, Thanks in advance
Walter.
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Matthew Phillips:
Anther suggestion. Will take some aggressiveness on your part.
If you are spending $$ ona 2 year program - your college should be helping you out in the internship / entry-level programming job search. If they are not - then spend your $$ elsewhere.
Talk to your professors - they may have something - or know of something.
Talk to the career services center. Even most community colleges have one these days. Hit them up at least once per week. Talk to these folks --- get to know them --- network with them.
If you get rejected by professors, then escalate the problem to the department chair. If no results, then escalate it to the dean. If you paid tuition via MasterCard/Visa - call credit card company and explain that you were defrauded by the institution. Write letters to dean/etc.
You have to get tough sometimes. I have used this trick several times in the past with retail merchants. It works with them, and it will work with the college.
------
Other notes:
I have found out that production support is like the SJCP. By itself, it won't open too many development doors. But combine it with a degree, and SCJP, and it helps to set you apart fromt he others.
I don't know of any "quick" way to land the US$75K/yr Java development job. It takes alot of hard work and dedication. But hang in there and you will be rewarded.
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)


John Coxey
Evansville, Indiana, USA
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Walter Vetrivel:
Hi Mark
I dont see any projects here, Thanks in advance
Walter.

Look closer at http://www.apache.org/. On the left hand side is arelinks and listings called "AFS projects" and "related projects." You should also check out the link "contributing." if you don't understand what the site is, read the FAQ.
--Mark
hershey@vaultus.com
Matthew Phillips
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 09, 2001
Posts: 2676
Thanks for the replies. I plan on using my college resources to the fullest extent when I am ready. Right now, I am just looking for more practice. I haven't had much of a chance to check out Apache.org (finals), but I will be looking at it soon.
The one thing I am worried about with the job placement at school, is that the jobs tend to pay considerably lower than if you are able to find a job on your own. I certainly don't expect the 50,000 dollar a year job right out of school, but I don't want to get stuck working 60 hours a week for under 30,000 a year either.
Does anyone else have stories to relate on college job placement?
Matthew Phillips
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Matthew Phillips:
In your previous post - you stated that you did not want to accept a $20K/yr position. I would like to respond to this.
A BS-Computer Science 4 year degree - pays US$45 - US$50K per year.
A MS-Computer Science degree (2 more years) - pays US $60K per year.
The above figures hold true whether or not you have production support experience or not. I have 4 yrs production support experience - and the above figures are what I am being offered. This is my 3rd job search in the past year - and the above salaries are standard across the IT industry.
----
You are attending a 2 yr program? If it is at a Community College then US$25 - US$30K/yr is your starting range. If it's an 18 month tech school - get out while you can - see www.jobcircle.com (job discussion area).
With the job market the way it is - you should be talking to possible employers NOW!!! You should be in the employment office NOW!!! Start networking. When talking to companies on the phone - ask them for career guidance. Offer to buy lunch and ask if you can pick their brains.
Remember, everyone loves a chance to "tell their story" - so use this to your advantage. Listen - make mental notes. Perhaps you may get an internship or somesuch. Would it not be nice to have an internship lined up for next summer already?
Even if all you do is format disks, you are "in the IT industry". Once in - you look of other opportunities. You can bet your sweet hiney that the company has a "wish list" of projects or enhancements. Now is your chance to take control - show what you can do - and make more significant contributions to the organization.
By staying at home and "waiting until next year" - you will miss many many opportunities.
So get out there - kick some butt. Yeah, you may have to start out low - but that's the harsh reality of the IT industry. Most of us on this board who have decent paying IT jobs (or in my case - did have a decent paying IT job) - all started out as grunts at one time or another.
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Matthew Phillips:
My history with using college placement has been a positive experience. I can tell you that it is alot easier to get/meet with recruiters via on-campus recruiting than it is to hit the market on your own.
In addition to interviews, most companies will hold an information session the night before. So now you are getting the research done for you. Here - you make mental notes - and use them to prepare for the next day's interviews.
ALso, college interviews tend to be managerial in nature as opposed to the dreaded 2 hour technical interview/grilling.
Since you and your friends will be interviewing the same companies - you can compare notes/ideas/suggestions. It's called networking.
Job ranges/descriptions come in a variety of ranges when interviewing the college scene. I usually end up with a $20K difference in job offers. But, you have to look at the big picture.
The last college job searches have netted me 4 or 5 job offers. Unfortunately, I chose Lucent (they were paying for PhD), and we all know how they are doing.
----
In your situation - with only production support experience - the salaries might not be up to your expectation - but you have set yourself apart from the other students.
Meaning, you should be batting 50% or better at getting on-site interviews. If you are interview-smart and know how the game is played - you will bat more like 90% for getting on-site interviews.
The on-site interview is where you can kick butt and get the job.
And this, my friend, is how you play the game.
-----
Right now - in your case - salary should not be your main concern. Rather, you should concentrate on getting the job. Talk to anyone/everyone. To hell with the published salary range - these can be changed. Your job is to get in the door.
------
My current job search is humming right along.m Resume is at: http://members.aol.com/jpcoxey
Been flying back and forth from Denver to Pgh the past couple of weeks. Lots of interviews - but few takers. Kind of like a mediocre day of fishing.
I am hitting up the real-world (at 8 week mark now). I have already turned down one $65K/yr job (C/C++). But am pondering 3 others. One is designing hulls for submarines. Not sure how Java is going to fit in.
I have also been offered a Java teaching position (fortune 100 company) - with PhD sponsorship at University of Pennsylvania. Am waiting for all the paperwork to get here.
So have been a busy puppy the past month.
Don't let anyone tell you that the jobs are not out there. Yes, you will have to "pay the price" as we say - but the rewards are there.
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
 
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