How I Became a Software Engineer
and how I plan to stay relevant and forward-looking
A twist of fate landed me in a tech polytechnic course — Multimedia and Infocomm Technology at Nanyang Polytechnic. This is when tech first caught my eye and I went ahead to pursue a degree in University.
Technology was the game-changer in my life because I found my passion in it. However, some of us (including me) are often struck with the thought of our incompetency and how should we stand out among over a million (or more) software engineers in the world. Or even just to stand out in your own country.
So what makes you different? What makes employers want to hire you? How do you stay relevant in this field even as an undergraduate?
Seek for Internships Opportunities
You may not have all the tech knowledge but internships show depth in your craft. Now the question is what kind of companies should you look for, startups or big corporations?
In startups, the scale of the company is smaller and Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur defines it as
‘An organisation formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.’.
In other words, the responsibilities may change often and you get more opportunities to take on different projects. If you are a person who likes a steep learning curve and is interested in not just one specific job scope — Software Engineer but also User Experience(UX) designer or Project Manager(PM), startups may be suitable for you.
While in big corporations, the work-around is more systematic and you will have lesser opportunities to work on projects that are out of your scope. However, the projects in these companies will have a wider reach and impact due to their recognition, somehow making your life easier.
Take Online Courses (Coursera Or Udemy)
Build skills through online learning and this is important because you will not get to learn everything in university. These are some things I considered before choosing a suitable learning platform for myself.
Free Trial and Subscription Fee
Coursera provides you with a 7-day free trial to explore the various courses (almost all courses are available) while Udemy does not provide any free trials. However, the monthly fee incurred for Coursera is at around $78sgd while Udemy allows you to purchase a course itself at a much cheaper and affordable rate.
Most of the certifications on Coursera are accredited, which means they are recognised by many industries and courses are curated by world-class universities (Stanford, Yale, Duke). While the instructors on Udemy may not necessarily be from world-class schools but they are most certainly qualified on a level to be giving out their materials.
If you are not concerned about the certifications then I would say Udemy will suffice.
Depth of Course
Using my experience as an example, I was looking for courses to learn ReactJS and my first initial choice was Coursera for the most obvious reason due to its accreditation.
However, mid-way in the course, I found that the course materials provided were not recently updated and it was using the old React version (really old version). Luckily, I was on a free trial, I quickly switched on Udemy.
My amateur mistake was not checking which platform is the best fit for the course I want. My advice would be to go on Reddit to check the reviews given by others before purchasing your courses.
I have also recently started venturing on this aspect and I do regret not starting on it earlier. Because it is a plus point and employers do look for personal projects apart from internships and school projects. Personal projects will not only show them if you are forward-looking but also, your ability to create your own product.
For those who have not started on your projects, the first step can be to develop your web portfolio (something that I am currently working on). With this, employees can visualise your projects and you might stand a higher chance of succeeding among your peers.
Follow Up on Technology Trends
I love to use Youtube and Medium as a platform to learn from other tech enthusiasts. The thing I love about these platforms is they curate their experiences and very often share their takeaways.
Through their experiences, it can be their struggles in university or interviews in FANG companies, you will get to learn from their strengths and ‘mistakes’. This is a good way for you to be better prepared for the future.
To conclude, being in university, it is important to not just focus on your curriculum but also, do beyond what is required. Technology is ever-changing and there is endless amount of things to learn. Always keep yourself ahead of your peers and this is how you can succeed.