Tag: internship

FAQ: Starting Your Career in Software Development Pt1

Navigating Post Secondary Education for Software Development

Do you have any advice regarding university applications?

For university, it’s been so long since I’ve had to go through applications that I’m not sure I have really specific advice. I think it’s important to know what schools have for prerequisites and really ensure you nail those down. In terms of which school to pick, that’s certainly a personal choice. You’ll have so many factors to consider including cost, what programs are offered, relocation, proximity to loved ones, etc…

As a hiring manager, personally, I am less concerned with WHERE someone went to school versus what they could showcase about what they have learned. I’d also personally suggest checking out schools that offer internships since it’s an excellent way to get real experience! This is something that worked really well for me since I didn’t really enjoy classes but my co-op positions proved to me that I was in the right line of work.

Software engineering or computer science?

Great question! I opted for computer engineering. Couple of things to touch on here including the “computer” part meant both electrical and software as a blend. I loved to program but I wanted to learn about hardware. Once I learned about hardware, I realized I wanted nothing to do with it 🙂

The engineering vs science part… My understanding is that if you want to pursue being a licensed professional engineer, you must go to a school with an accredited engineering program. For me, this is something that I wanted personally. Funny enough, in software, it doesn’t seem to be too common that folks go for their P.Eng. As a result, it makes it harder for someone like me to work under a P.Eng to get that experience.

How do you navigate scholarships?

I’m not sure I received much of anything for scholarships/grants when I was going for school, but if I could go back in time I would kick my own butt… DO THIS. If you can get free money to fund your education, do it. Do the research. Write the essays. Invest time into this because it will pay off by subsidizing your school. You’ll be so thankful you did it later.

If someone would potentially pay me to write an essay now, I’d do it even 9+ years after graduating from university. You bet I would 🙂 I don’t think I could motivate myself at the time, but if you’re reading this then please do better at this than I did!

Any general tips for going into college/university?

Beyond what’s already been mentioned, I think that’s mostly it. Take it seriously to make sure you can meet the requirements of the schools you want to go to. It’s easier said than done, because I can remember I just wanted to be a kid, be with my friends, play video games, etc… But it’s a huge step in your life. Take it seriously.

People used to make fun of me for getting high grades in high school. It’s natural to want to fit in so it would be embarrassing to do well on tests. It would make me want to slack off. But remember, you need to put in the work to get in. And once you’re in, you need to KEEP working to stay in.

Another critical point is that you need to take the time to understand how you learn. I went from getting 95+ in all my courses to barely passing things. And a pass was more than just getting 50% for my average to be in an honors program, so it went from being a super laid back approach to feeling pretty scary. For me personally, I learned nothing in my lectures. I’d sleep half the time. So I stopped going into class (aside from tutorials and labs) and would force myself to do work at home. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it was critical for me to not be wasting my time sleeping in lecture halls. This took me a long time to realize. I also had to teach myself how to study effectively. I had to learn to take mini breaks. You learn a lot about yourself, but I think you need to have some awareness that your high school learning might look VERY different than post-secondary learning.

Once you have a good understanding of how you can learn and study, you’ll be on the right track.

What are your thoughts on internships?

Do them if you can. I can’t stress this enough. I disliked almost all aspects of my time in school (like the IN class part!) but my internships saved me. They were a constant reminder that as long as I finished I’d be doing what I loved.

If your school allows for different placements, take advantage of this. I had 6 internships at the University of Waterloo. I did a repeat of my first job, a repeat of my second job, and then tried two different companies after that. I gravitated towards startups, but I also tried working in a larger company as well. Get. Diverse. Experience. Learn about all the different fields you can get into. Software is such a cool industry because… It’s in every industry!

Another benefit to internships is potentially securing a position for right out of school. Cool huh? If you’re really liking where your internships take you, then why not take advantage of companies looking to take you on full time right out of school? Many companies are happy to invest in you, especially if you’re going to be sticking with them after you graduate!


Leadership Reads – Weekly Article Dump

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Great Leadership Reads

Here’s a collection of articles I’ve shared over the past week on social media outlets. There’s a lot of great leadership reads this time around!

  • If You Don’t Treat Your Interns Right, You are Mean…and Stupid: This is a great post by Nancy Lublin that talks about something many full-time people share a common (and usually lousy) perspective on: interns. In my opinion, if you aren’t going to treat your interns well, you shouldn’t be hiring them. One key take away point from the article is ensuring that you treat your internship programs as something real and meaningful. Now, as a computer engineering graduate from the University of Waterloo and from being part of the leadership staff at Magnet Forensics, I’ve seen both sides of the story. Companies should treat their interns well, but interns should also realize companies are giving them the opportunity to be part of something great. It can be a win-win situation if both sides put in the time, effort, and dedication… but it can also be a lose-lose if approached poorly.
  • Does your company culture resemble jungle warfare?: Barry Salzberg talks about office politics in this article. Key take away points? Be aware of the politics but don’t participate. Work together as a company toward your mission and embrace your company values. There’s no room for politics if you want your company to achieve greatness. Politics only interfere and hinder the business.
  • At Home This Weekend? Try This!: Presenting… The Weekend CEO Challenge from Steve Tappin! I thought this article was a pretty cool perspective on how some top CEOs are spending their weeekends. Interested in doing any of these things over the weekend? Do you already do some of these things?
  • Resist the “Us vs. Them” Mindset: Daniel Goleman shares a quote about embracing an “us” vs “them” mindset. Look for the common goals you share with others and embrace them together. Work together and stop viewing others as enemies. It’s hard to be successful if you’re always worrying about thwarting your enemies, so why not rally your friends and work as a team?
  • It’s Time to Change Your Outlook on Change: Change isn’t a problem, according to Daniel Burrus. The problem is the fact that we sometimes fear change despite the fact that we’re built for it. In order to handle change well and be able to embrace it, we need to practice anticipating it. Stop leading blindly and acting surprised when things don’t go as planned… Start being proactive and paying attention to warning signs.
  • The Great Office Space Debate Rages On: Jennifer Merritt talks about a topic that’s been going back and forth for some time now: office layouts. It used to be the norm for companies to have cubicles and offices on the peripherals of a floor. Now the open concept offices have gained tons of traction and companies are even going to extremes and not having fixed work placements. What’s your opinion on office layout?
  • Four Things to Ask Yourself Before Arguing: Rita King addresses four really good things to ask yourself before you consider getting heated over what someone’s said or done. We’ve all been in a situation where someone’s done something to get us fired up, but is it really worth it? If you can manage it, try asking yourself the questions Rita discusses (are you listening? are you repeating patterns? do you understand the other person’s perspective? is there anything to be gained?) and perhaps you can cool yourself off before ruining your own day/week/month.
  • Change Your Habits with a Good Checklist: Habits aren’t easy to change. John Ryan writes about how you can use checklists to start enforcing good habits! Worth a shot at least, right? 🙂
  • Culture Quartet: 4 Steps to Unify Your Company: In this article, Dan Khabie talks about the merger of two companies and how culture played a large role in the success of the merger. Your workplace culture is essential for creating the right atmosphere for people to be productive and work well together. Teams thrive when the culture in the workplace is positive and places value on the employees.
  • The Truth About Best Practices: Liz Ryan discusses the how best practices can be like falling into a trap. Just because there is a best practice or certain metrics are a some sort of golden standard, it doesn’t mean you should blindly follow along. Does the process make sense for your company? Your team? Do the metrics make sense for your industry? Your market? At this current time? Focus on what matters and don’t get distracted.
  • Did You Make The Most of Your Mid-Year Review?: What makes a mid-year review useful? Linda Descano discusses four major points that include having an engaged conversation between both leader/manager and employee, constructive feedback for the employee to work on, and what goals are and how they can be accomplished. If you find reviews to be a time waster, is it because they’re not being conducted well? Are they a waste because nobody is engaged? Or are there other reasons that mid-year reviews feel like they aren’t useful?
  • Do You Find It Difficult to Claim Your Authority?: Judith Sherven, PhD addresses some common reasons why people often don’t consider themselves authorities. It’s a shame too, because it can hold people back from their full potential. If you have great experiences, skills, or you’re knowledgeable in a particular area, why wouldn’t you consider yourself an authority?
  • Where Are You on the Leadership Continuum?: When people consider good leaders, they often describe common traits. Joel Peterson points out that these traits often have varying meanings depending on the person using them. I’d recommend going through his list because it’s pretty interesting to see two very opposing descriptions for the same trait. You might even notice that a trait you would use to describe a leader is actually commonly described by others in a very different way. Definitely interesting!
  • Making Stone Soup: How to Really Make Collaborative Innovation Work Where You Work: Jeff DeGraff discusses some key points for having effective collaborative innovation. Setting high impact targets, recruiting domain experts, making multiple attempts, and learning from your experiences are all major points that DeGraff discusses. There’s also a playlist of videos discussing innovation, so there’s lots of content to absorb 🙂

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