For the past year and a half, I’ve been working in two teams in Information Services at OSU as a student developer. My first year in SIG (Shared Infrastructure Group) gave me an opportunity to work on the open source CoprHD project and regularly collaborate with the community members and the developers from the industry. As the team leader, besides the work assigned to me, I was also responsible for tracking the progress of my team members, assuring the on-time delivery of the features. Giving presentations of our work based on different purposes to the audience from various backgrounds was another important part of this project.
My role in the second team was one of the developers in the team. This team involved more diverse tasks allowing me to grasp many skills in a short period. Similar to the previous work, presentations were also frequent activities. Team members share knowledge through demoing or explaining the work to the team members. On the other hand, I went through several interviews for the past year, which gave me a sense of desired skills in the industry. If I look back to the experiences of interview processes and my job, there are some tips I could share with the students who want to be developers, and some of which I wish I could have done better.
I know this might sound cliche, but it is one of the most highly effective skills that can help you reach your goal whether to get the work done or the help you need. Specifically, being able to ask questions wisely will bring you the answer you need, reduce avoidable mistakes or get out of the tar pits. In addition, communication over emails is another routine. A clear and concise email not only shows your professionality but also leads up to prompt replies.
Moreover, as described above, presentations are commonplace at work, so being capable of showing your work through the presentations is not just desirable but also necessary. During interviews, it’s very likely to be asked to introduce the projects you have done, while at work it’s even more frequent to demonstrate your work/ideas to your team or even a larger audience. Therefore, capable of delivering your thoughts clearly or even vividly will be a big plus in the job market.
Technical skills are your core competencies, and it’s very critical to keep strengthening the skills you already have. Further, being able to learn new skills and learn them quickly on demand might be even more valuable. It is very common that you are not familiar some of the techniques used in your project, which can be a programming language, a framework or a tool. Being able to grasp the knowledge and applying them to the project is also a demonstration of your ability to work.
Another suggestion is to be aware of your thought process and try to identify and form the most efficient one for yourself. The thought process, such as how you learn things, how you debug and how you figure out a problem will change over time along with your experience. And an awareness of the changes will help you improve your efficiency, which is also helpful for your interviews since a lot of interviewers will try to identify your thought process from the way you answer their questions.
Additionally, putting down the notes for the work you have done is one of the things that I wish I could have done better. No matter how confident you thought you would remember the work, after leaving it aside for couple months or even weeks, everything will look completely new to you.
In a nutshell, technical skills and the communication skills are the way to becoming a professional developer. I believe if one could continue enhancing the skills discussed above and be able to show them to the employers, he/she will be a strong hire in the job market.