Hunting With Strategy

The hunt is real. Especially more now than ever. Overall, job statistics are good, but the major tech employers are all making big personnel cutbacks. So, there’s still opportunities. They may just be at less-known companies. Making your search more important and involved than prior.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely making a transition yourself. From some other field to Computer Science. Beyond the basic resume techniques, we need to relate everything as best as possible. If it’s not translating to the role in question, it shouldn’t be included. Remember to read everything about the role and organization. The more information you have, the more parallels can be drawn from your past experience that can be utilized. If the specifics of your experience don’t relate, how about aspects of the work. Team projects, management, teaching, etc.

It’s important to remember some of the foundational resume techniques that you should always leverage. “Less is more”. It’s important to convey information succinctly. It leaves desirable whitespace on your resume while conveying you’re a clear and efficient communicator. “Get over it, talk about yourself.” It can be hard talking about yourself. That’s is the whole idea though. Don’t downplay anything, you’re not bragging. Tell. Your. Story. “Express passion and interest.” If you have specific passions or interests that directly to your field share them! For example learning. If you’re applying to a company that emphasizes learning, they want to hear you are passionate about learning. Work it in.

Work your network. The people you are reaching out to may not be in Tech, Computer Science, etc. However, they may know someone that is. Even if their role isn’t tech-focused, internal referrals still hold a ton of weight in just getting an initial interview. This is especially important with smaller organizations. My wife works for a late stage start-up (preparing for IPO). The last three hiring rounds, there wasn’t a single new hire that didn’t have an internal referral source. So, work that network.

With the shift in job openings, every advantage available has to be taken. Don’t forget the basics of job hunting. I hope any facet of this helps you with your transition to a developer role. I’m utilizing all of these and always keeping my eye out for new approaches, techniques, etc.

Give Me Some Knowledge

Everyone has their preferred ways to learn new concepts, information, tools, etc. There is usually some degree of overlap between people especially for the same type of learning. I’ll cover how I like to learn generally below. There is an inherent emphasis on technical material.

Typically I prefer my initial information exposure through some form of in-person or video lecture. Where there is an instructor covering the material while providing examples to solidify the material being delivered. I work best having this initial audible delivery with visual cues. It allows to me to listen while focusing on notes and the examples. The added benefit of in-person is the ability to ask questions as they arise. Afterall, we’ve heard the best practice to make sure you understand everything before moving forward. Video lectures still provide this benefit by being able to pause it and then look it up before proceeding.  

Next, I enjoy more complex examples that I can work through on my own. This allows me to drive the material home. Working through on my own. Then having access to or provided at a later time to possible solutions. This allows me to review and see where my mistakes are or alternative approaches to solidify my knowledge. Without any structured ‘struggle’ its hard to really fully grasp concepts.

Any supplemental and especially text-based content I look to be clear, concise, and to the point. Paragraphs that can be summarized to bullet point main concepts should be. Even if its just to provide the initial point where subsequent material can be elaborated on. If the meaty details are first, it can be hard to work towards the summarized points that I should be grasping. Within that, too much fluff is distracting and loses the readers. Especially with technical material. We’re here to learn something and apply it. Let’s keep the material to the point.  

Lastly, the final step to really grasp new material is to apply it in whatever context is applicable. Without practice, its hard to really say you know something. No expert in anything is right out of school. They typically have years of experience applying whatever their subject is.

Avoiding and Getting Un-Stuck

There’s countless approaches to problem solving. A quick search on Google will yield tons of varying results. Each of which have a degree of overlap. However, most of them do not really cover how to handle the situation when you end up stuck. Not “if” you get stuck, but “when.” I’m not saying everyone will get stuck on any given problem, but it’s inevitable that you’ll get stuck at some point. Let’s dive into some techniques that I have found helpful to me. Likely some if not all will seem familiar to you.

First and foremost, it’s important to start the process early. This will budget in time into the process if you get stuck and run into a problem. This extra time allows you to try the different techniques; especially the last one that can be extremely helpful if it’s a particularly challenging problem. Starting early is paramount. If you don’t need the time, you can spend it on the back-end instead of the front-end.

For any problem, it’s critical to have notes, a documented approach or outline to refer back to if you run into an issue. This needs to be derived directly from the project requirements. If done properly, you’ll have at very least a logically approach to solve any part of the problem you’re working on if not already solved it on paper. The issue is often lies with the implementation. Either an error in translating the logic to the implementation or a missed logic outright! It’s easier to miss cases. Especially when there are a lot of small ones.

If the problem is more challenging than you thought talking the problem out loud goes a long way. If you’re lucky enough to have someone around to talk to that’s the best case. Even if they don’t have a background in whatever the topic is try break down the logical approach for them. Otherwise, tell a pet or any inanimate object. As long as you’re literally saying it out loud, it can help you self-trigger on something you missed.

Now if you’re really stumped, taking a break is the best thing. No matter your convictions or motivations, take the break. You’ve heard, “square peg, round hole”. Well right now, your mindset is a square peg and the solution is a round hole. Yes you can eventually cram a solution through. However, taking this break can reframe your mind-set to work towards a solution more efficiently. Often you’ll spend less time overall problem solving utilizing this approach. Even if it seems counterintuitive. By budgeting this time in, you can save yourself a lot of frustration and time.

They may seem simple, but utilizing these techniques in this sequence can help you work through many problems. Yes, the sequencing was intentional. Take them and try them for yourself. I hope they work for you as they have for me.

Finishing the Chapter

Not the first and not the last. Like many others, I found Computer Science as a means to transition into Tech and ideally a more fullfilling career. Technology and specifically software is being embedded into almost every aspect of our lives. Its growth and integration has opened up the opportunities for people like myself. The applications are almost endless.

The choice to make this change wasn’t entirely planned. My first degree was also a STEM degree. Going through school, with the intention of working with innovative technologies. Designing cool new systems and products to further our progress as a species. Once graduating, the real world didn’t reflect the grandiose ideas that I had as an undergraduate student. Where my first month on the job, was literally working on a desk and chair made out of boxes. Working on a laptop that couldn’t even run the lightest version of AutoCAD. How was I supposed to be an engineer and make any meaningful change without the essential tools?

Fast forward, five years. After traveling to five countries, getting married, relocating to another part of the county, and working fifty to sixty hour work weeks regularly; I reflected on my current state. I wasn’t working at a job or position that I was remotely interested in. I was entirely unfulfilled and mentally unstimulated with the work I was doing. Change and progress was resisted. The experiences of the prior years, helped me identified my true passions. I love to travel, explore cultures (especially through food and wine), spend quality time with loved ones, and as much time outdoors as possible. Professionally I love to create things, make tangible change in the lives of others, and be challenged mentally. Combining my personal and professional passions, I identified Computer Science and the program at Oregon State University.

My aspirations are to leverage software’s capability of endless applications and potential for good to creating positive change in the world. As my chapter at OSU is coming to an end, I’m looking more forward to my future than ever before.