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Making a living as a software developer

Discussion in 'Technical Discussion' started by Aerosol, Oct 20, 2019.

  1. Aerosol


    Not here. Moderator
    Not where I want to be.
    Sonic (?): Coming summer of 2055...?
    So, I'm not especially good at it but...the only thing I've maintained any real interest in for the last 20 years is being a programmer. But without going to (or finishing) school I've got no idea how to make a decent amount of money doing it. £35k/yr. I'd be satisfied with that.

    That's not entirely true, really. I've got a few ideas. Just little confidence in achieving them without some kind of game plan or barometer with which to compare my progress to. I've had a meeting with a career man with dozens of certs that thinks I'm good enough for a junior programming role interviews yet. My CV is just shit I guess.

    How do I get my foot in the door? How does a 30 year old non-college graduate even get started?
  2. MarkeyJester


    Original, No substitute Resident Jester
    I too am interested in this.

    Going the extra mile in a minimum wage job and not getting anywhere is getting old now.
  3. Billy


    RIP Oderus Urungus Member
    Colorado, USA
    Indie games
    This is actually a huge topic, so much so that there's an entire subreddit dedicated to it. So I actually do work as a software developer, and I can tell you that there's unfortunately no preset list of prerequisites for landing such a role. I've known people who got their first job just after going to a bootcamp, and others who did a full bachelor's in comp-sci and had to work their way up to developer. Myself, I took a gaming focused bachelor's (don't do that), and then worked QA for a couple years (definitely don't do that), and then finally lucked into a job where they were hiring junior developers. My only 'real' advice is this:

    • I've heard that a lot developers only get to work on internal (to the company) tools, and I believe it since both of my dev jobs have been so. Don't get discouraged just because you don't get it work on client-facing stuff.
    • Be prepared to whiteboard sorting algorithms and stuff during interviews.
    • You will likely be brought into interviews even though they have a candidate picked out, because they have to interview outside the company.
    • Don't do QA work. You'll be constantly judged for it if you ever try to transition to development. I was lucky enough to escape this trap.
    • Recruiters are checking boxes of technologies when they search for candidates. They are completely non-technical. Most of my recruiter calls begin with a line like "So I see you have experience in C#.NET..."
    • A lot of modern dev work, at least based on my personal job searching experience, is web dev/web apps. Most of your Sonic hacking knowledge won't apply, unless you get into do embedded stuff, I'd guess. Nobody who interviewed me was impressed that I was proficient at C++
    • If you don't have a LinkedIn, sign up now. Also, I had more recruiter calls when I signed up for LinkedIn premium. Money talks, I guess.
    • Even when you're getting calls, it will likely take months to get a job.
    Huge disclaimer: I can only base this off my personal experience. Results will vary.
  4. Neo Geo MVS

    Neo Geo MVS

    Giga Power Pro-Gear Spec Oldbie
    I'm a software developer as well. In my opinion, it seems most employers care more about experience than education, so don't worry so much if you don't have a degree in computer science. Instead, choose a focus area that interests you (for me, it was web programming) and concentrate on getting some experience in the languages relevant to that area (write some code for fun, contribute to open source projects on Github, etc.). Once you feel comfortable with code, the rest is just applying for jobs until you find the right one.
  5. DigitalDuck


    Arriving four years late. Member
    Lincs, UK
    TurBoa, S1RL
    I keep bouncing around software dev roles, and they're all universally interested in one thing.

    See, on my CV, alongside my job experience I have a section listing personal projects I've worked on. I have the mobile snake clone I made; I have my degree final year project that I turned into an academic journal paper (in which a track is generated randomly to match a player's skill level and playing style). Despite these two things being very relevant for companies I've worked for (one produced mobile games, and another produced simulations for car manufacturers and was interested in creating roads to fit certain condition), they weren't interested in these at all.

    They were all interested in Sonic 1 RL. They were interested in how I could work with code that wasn't mine, and turn it into something that was. They were interested in how I could do procedural generation on such old hardware. They were interested in my knowledge of low-level coding alongside my knowledge of high-level coding.

    So my advice is: work on lots of personal projects. Challenge yourself to do new things. Don't be afraid to list experience you think is irrelevant.

    The best thing you can do to show an employer you're capable of doing a job is by doing the job in your own time.
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  6. Aesculapius Piranha

    Aesculapius Piranha

    つづく Oldbie
    A little bit of charisma goes a long way, or so I'm told. I've heard horror stories of bosses working on webapps who barely know javascript but got the job because they can talk a little baseball.
  7. Devon


    A̸ ̴S̴ ̵C̵ ̷E̶ ̸N̸ ̴D̶ ̵E̶ ̸D̶ Tech Member
    your mom
    Late to the party (just found out about this thread lmao), but I assume this advice can apply to an almost 20 year old college dropout (with pretty much no hope of being able to successfully go back, and I've tried, too, for the past few months, it clearly ain't happening) whose experience is mainly self taught since the age of 12, no? Or, would there be any complications? Working at this warehouse I'm in is starting to take a toll on me some, like how the other 2 dead-end jobs I've had have done.

    I'd assume making a good CV would probably be difficult considering all the stupid crap I released on here and SSRG ;v
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2019
  8. TheInvisibleSun


    Buffalo, NY, USA
    The Water
    I don't have strong programming experience, but if some of the other responses are anything to go by, then your work is certainly valid experience, if presented well. You've made some pretty technically impressive stuff, even if a bit whimsical or lighthearted.
  9. DigitalDuck


    Arriving four years late. Member
    Lincs, UK
    TurBoa, S1RL
    If it showcases your skills, put it on your CV. A strong portfolio is just as effective as a good employment history.

    Show you can complete a project from start to finish. Show you can work with whatever toolset and language it is they're using. Show you can learn new toolsets and new languages. Show you can work with code that isn't yours.

    As I said before, the best thing you can do to show an employer you're capable of doing a job is by doing the job in your own time.
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  10. Liliam


    This. Employers value deliverability -- being able to program all manners of crazy shit is one thing, but envisioning a concrete product, writing up a spec outlining what the project will and won't do, and then delivering on that spec goes a long long way. Cutting back is sometimes a skill.
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  11. Devon


    A̸ ̴S̴ ̵C̵ ̷E̶ ̸N̸ ̴D̶ ̵E̶ ̸D̶ Tech Member
    your mom
    Alrighty, I'll give it a shot when I get the time. Thanks y'all.
  12. Sz


    It's worth noting that "first software job" is a different test (and tends to be very much based on luck) than getting a software job once you have one or two on your resume. Breaking into the profession tends to be frustrating -- probably like breaking into any profession -- since you'll deal with many, many silent rejections and maybe handful of courtesy "not interested"s.

    This won't help with the first part, because I've only ever been in on interviews past the initial hiring filters. I don't know what recruiters are looking for on entry level resumes and the like, sadly. But as a developer, what I would look/hope for in a young developer being added to the team is:

    1. projects. Experience is not just "work experience", it's what you've worked on. Does it exist? Did you finish anything -- even a demo or prototype?
    2. some knowledge of the programming language we use on the job. This can be cursory, but ... we're expecting that a young engineer will have a lot to learn already, it's a relief when they already have some boxes checked on the way in.
    3. ability with multiple styles of programming (programming languages tends to be a signal for this). It's more impressive if you know more than one trick.
    4. presence in the interview. You can cover for a lack of projects or lack of experience if you just nail the interview. This is a blessing and a curse -- interviewing is a skill that's distinct from the caliber of programmer or engineer, which means some questionable candidates who interview well get hired over better candidates who don't. But you should always be aware of this and do the best you can for the interview, even if you're skeptical whether you'd like the job. You can always say no to a job offer!
    4a. Where interviews are concerned, don't ever forget the universal truth:

    I will say: be resilient! If you're good enough -- and believe me, if you're building software that actually works, you're good enough -- you'll make it in if you keep trying.