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  1. #1

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    Career advice (resume)

    Hey Everyone, I am looking for some career advice. I am currently working as an engineering assistant. I work with office applications mostly, as well as a CAD database and 3D modeling application. Some of the things I do are preparing reports for ship construction and design. There is a lot of data management that goes with that, and it has given me the opportunity to write a lot of code to improve our data handling processes. I have also had a lot of opportunity to write some customized scripts for our CAD environment. The coding is done in VB.

    That is sort of a snapshot of what I do daily; however I really want to branch out into full time development as a programmer. There are some opportunities to get entry level software engineering positions in the company I work for. However I'm not sure how to build my resume to appeal to that sort of job. I already applied to a position before with what I thought was an awesome resume, but I never even got an interview.

    Generally speaking, what do hiring managers want to see in a resume for software engineering? Also, I never finished school. I got in 2 years of computer science studies and that was it. However I was hoping that my experience with coding scripts and macros for a CAD environment might make up for my lack of a bachelors degree. There is plenty of math that goes into the work that I do.

  2. #2
    PowerPoster techgnome's Avatar
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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    With out seeing your resume, it's hard to say...
    It's possible that you're not even getting past HR. It depends on the processes. Some places, HR does a "buzzword" scan... if it doesn't have enough, it doesn't get past.
    What you might want to do is talk to the manager of the department and find out if they even saw your resume. Maybe even ask them what you could do different or what you're missing that could get you to the next round.

    Also, revisit the resume and look to see how you're describing the projects.
    Take this: " it has given me the opportunity to write a lot of code to improve our data handling processes" ... Instead try "Created multiple scripts to streamline and improve data management and handling, resulting in XXX savings and improving data integrity." ...

    stuff like that goes a long way.

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  3. #3
    Super Moderator Shaggy Hiker's Avatar
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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    I suspect that TG is right. If you have the ability, talk to the person who has an open position. If you blindly submit a resume, you will likely go through HR, and that may or may not work well for you. The HR people may have very strict rules as to how they evaluate resumes, and those rules can be totally wrong, because the people doing the evaluating may not know the subject, and therefore are blindly applying some goofy rule.

    For example, a buddy of mine applied for a job that he was VERY well qualified for. He had a Masters Degree in the subject and years of experience in the field, and with the people he'd be working with. One of the questions he had to answer, though, was whether he had experience with small boat operation (which actually had nothing to do with the job, so it was a weird question to begin with). He had been around boats a reasonable amount, so he thought he'd do well on that, yet got marked down for it. After a bit of investigation, he found out that the only way he would have gotten credit for that question is if he had worked in a boat engine repair shop. That's absurd, but that's how HR often works. Avoid them if you can.
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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    Most likely, HR will just filter out the resume based on not having a degree. That is often a basic requirement for most bigger business openings, and can bar a good problem solver from even getting their foot in the door.

    I don't have a degree either, but loved programming, and had technical computer skills from Navy training. I could only get a Field Technician position at a large company (of my choice pretty much), but would never have been able to get a programming position. But, because of a fluke, I ended up having to support a group of software engineers by doing software compiles over night. This was back in the day when it could take hours to compile large pieces of code so the engineers would run and test their code during the day, but couldn't test any potential changes since they couldn't compile while the machine was being used for running and testing.

    They would make changes to the code offline, and then I would do the builds overnight. If there was an error, they had to decide whether to fix it and take time the next morning to rebuild, or let it wait until the next overnight build. Since I was familiar with the language, and asked in all cases what was needed to fix different errors, I was able to fix syntax errors, and other errors so that I could recompile the code and give them a successful build most every morning.
    Of course this greatly improved their productivity, and when they realized I could code and they were short handed, I was allow to take on one of the programming tasks (in addition to doing the builds at night) that they needed to be done.

    Long story short, after helping them quite a bit during development and during installation at site (and after a year of normal field work) I was given a liaison type job (still technically a field engineer, but working full time on software tasks with the software engineers) so that (in theory) they would have a field engineer who was well versed in the hardware and software of the system to support it in the future.

    Longer story short, eventually the manager wanted me to be in the software group but couldn't because every position had the requirement of a degree as a prerequisite. Since they really wanted me, the manager had to write up a position that would except quite a few years of combine experience to be acceptable in place of a degree, and post it. I was then able to use the six years of Navy experience plus five years at that company to qualify for the position (i.e. each year of experience in the Navy counted as .25 years toward a degree (in their formula), and each year of experience at the company counted as .5 years towards a degree, so combination of the 11 years of Navy and company experience was "equivalent" to the degree, so I was able to join the software engineering group officially.

    Usually smaller companies, and newer startups have been more flexible in how they hire. I wish you well in trying to find a shorter path to getting yourself inside the door.

  5. #5
    PowerPoster techgnome's Avatar
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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    Quote Originally Posted by passel View Post
    Most likely, HR will just filter out the resume based on not having a degree. That is often a basic requirement for most bigger business openings, and can bar a good problem solver from even getting their foot in the door.

    I don't have a degree either, but loved programming, and had technical computer skills from Navy training. I could only get a Field Technician position at a large company (of my choice pretty much), but would never have been able to get a programming position. But, because of a fluke, I ended up having to support a group of software engineers by doing software compiles over night. This was back in the day when it could take hours to compile large pieces of code so the engineers would run and test their code during the day, but couldn't test any potential changes since they couldn't compile while the machine was being used for running and testing.
    Similar story here... I've been programming since age 8... I'm 43, almost 44 ... all I have is an Associate's and only because the Air Force gave me credits for the on the job training I'd gotten - I still had to take some community college courses and some CLEP/DANTES exams... Received that back in ...97/98... somewhere around then... but, I have clawed and scratched my way to where I am now. I got lucky that my training in the AF was in VB3/4... after getting out, I got a job with a small company with some rather large clients... got VB6 under my belt and SQL Server. Was there 2 months short of 10 years... at the same time, I transitioned to .NET ... I've now relocated to the east coast and doing pretty good. But that's because I downplay the degree, and play to the experience I've got, as well as showing that my ability to adapt and always learning new skills keeps me going upward.

    Quote Originally Posted by passel View Post

    They would make changes to the code offline, and then I would do the builds overnight. If there was an error, they had to decide whether to fix it and take time the next morning to rebuild, or let it wait until the next overnight build. Since I was familiar with the language, and asked in all cases what was needed to fix different errors, I was able to fix syntax errors, and other errors so that I could recompile the code and give them a successful build most every morning.
    Of course this greatly improved their productivity, and when they realized I could code and they were short handed, I was allow to take on one of the programming tasks (in addition to doing the builds at night) that they needed to be done.

    Long story short, after helping them quite a bit during development and during installation at site (and after a year of normal field work) I was given a liaison type job (still technically a field engineer, but working full time on software tasks with the software engineers) so that (in theory) they would have a field engineer who was well versed in the hardware and software of the system to support it in the future.

    Longer story short, eventually the manager wanted me to be in the software group but couldn't because every position had the requirement of a degree as a prerequisite. Since they really wanted me, the manager had to write up a position that would except quite a few years of combine experience to be acceptable in place of a degree, and post it. I was then able to use the six years of Navy experience plus five years at that company to qualify for the position (i.e. each year of experience in the Navy counted as .25 years toward a degree (in their formula), and each year of experience at the company counted as .5 years towards a degree, so combination of the 11 years of Navy and company experience was "equivalent" to the degree, so I was able to join the software engineering group officially.

    Usually smaller companies, and newer startups have been more flexible in how they hire. I wish you well in trying to find a shorter path to getting yourself inside the door.
    That's a shame that the company is like that. Just goes to show they don't get it. Even when an ad says "BS degree required" I'll still apply. And I put it right in the cover letter that I know I don't have a degree but I have the skills you just can't get in a classroom. Last time I applied for something... the ONLY reason I didn't get it - lack of Angular.js ... that was the only thing. At the time, I had to look it up ... now I know what it is. And I'll be working on adding it to my bag of tricks. And the next time I'm asked if I have Angular.js experience, I can say "I do not have any practical experience with it because it is something outside of my day to day job, but I have worked with it at home and built a couple websites with it."

    -tg
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  6. #6
    Super Moderator Shaggy Hiker's Avatar
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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    I'm in a similar situation. I have plenty of degrees, but all in squishy things, none in computers or software (unless you count some of those squishy things). I had written several programs that were in use for managing data, but programmer jobs were written such that you needed a degree in software to be considered. Then, perhaps by accident, they wrote one up where experience could be used in place of a degree, and I had experience. I'd say it was an accident because they didn't know that I was interested in such a move, but once they found out I was, everybody pretty much said I'd get the job due to my experience, and so it was.
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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    Interestingly enough, I think what the degree was in wasn't necessarily what mattered, it was having a college degree.
    I think we had at least four different degrees represented in the small group that I worked with (this was around 1980).
    There was Computer Science of course, but I believe we had a history, biology and math major in the group.

  8. #8
    #28 for the Yanks coming GaryMazzone's Avatar
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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    I'm in the same boat as tg, I have as associates degree that I completed after military service. But I have over 25 years of DBA experience. I let them know I don't have a degree, but I still get the interviews. Only turn down recently was not enough big data experience so that is what I am looking to improve on now.

    Biggest issue to me is probably my age (over 60)
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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    It's stupid hard to answer this question because hiring managers also often don't know the answer.

    There's companies out there perfectly happy to hire a high school graduate with no credentials on the basis of "Programming's easy, we can train this kid and pay him peanuts". You don't want to work for those people, but it's really easy to find them.

    There's others that have processes so convoluted they wouldn't hire Donald Knuth. They tend to be the big names that look like they'd be a DREAM to work for. I think most of us know whether or not we would get accepted there, or whether we'd be happy at all. In general, you maybe missed the boat for these. But some might say you also dodged a bullet. Eye of the beholder.

    There's lots of stupid policies at places in-between. One of my jobs required a CS degree, and specifically would not interview any "Software Engineering" graduates. I understand the idea behind being wary of that particular degree (no one's really agreed on a standard curriculum yet) but to reject an applicant without an interview seems foolish.

    I don't know that I've ever had a boss with a Computer Science degree. I've worked under former Navy sonar techs, Psych majors, Physics Masters, etc. They've all been smart people who were good at solving problems. They showed that off in their interviews, though it really helps if you are fluent enough in some language you can write an algorithm on paper.

    To that end, it also REALLY helps if you've got a visible portfolio of fun projects. It's easy to make a GitHub profile. You can make a few programs and toss them up there and even if they're cruddy it'll show you're actually doing things, and not just looking for an easy salary bump.

    So you've written a lot of CAD scripts in VB. I'm pretty sure there's someone out there that wants that full-time. You probably can't put the code you did for your employer on GitHub. But you can probably, in your free time at home, come up with some project that'd look neat and wow someone else.

    A resume is tough, I think most software hiring decisions are made based on the interview. Having a portfolio link/finished projects on your resume will definitely make it more likely you'll get the interview. I'd definitely agree "5 years experience writing projects like this demonstration" beats the tar off of "I just graduated with a CS degree". I know that CS grad can pass a class and has at least a loose grasp of algorithms, but not much else. But if you've got experience, I know we're more likely to get to talk about some off-the-wall problem you had to solve and the interesting way you solved it. If I'm hiring, it's because I've got an off-the-wall problem. College spent most of its time describing the wall to me.

    GaryMazzone also brings up a good point that's a terrible truth: programming jobs are very ageist. Being over 30 is a problem, being over 50 is worse, in terms of marketability. But if you're churning out impressive projects and proving you're keeping pace, the smart managers will snag you. "Keeping pace" with the young guys is easier when you already know the mistakes they're likely to make and avoid them.

  10. #10
    MS SQL Powerposter szlamany's Avatar
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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    Find a local hiring service - head hunter so to speak - and have them farm you out for jobs. They are experts in making a resume - and selling your skills. Do that for a short while and you will know how to sell yourself.

    Are you in the US? Do you have a Robert Half Associates in your locale?

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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    am really surprised to hear that most of you don't have at least a bachelor's degree in CS. That's actually kind of encouraging to hear (or in this case see). I see the contributions some of you moderators made on the forums and you can tell you guys really know your stuff. I'm not quite that knowledgeable yet.

    I'm certainly not downplaying a degree, the 2 years of studies I did in general Hardware and Software did help provide me a foundation to build on. However the amount of student loans I accrued for just those 2 years was insane. I told myself I could study on my own for free and save some money.

    Sometimes a degree can be overrated though. It really depends on what the person did with there studies. I talked to a guy who just finished his software engineering degree and he said he considers himself a Java programmer but he is still learning what variables are and what they do. Are you kidding me! I'm not putting the guy down for not knowing something, but how can you have a software engineering degree and not know something as fundumental as variables. He needs to get his money back.

    I honestly think experience is worth more than a piece of paper. Not in all cases, but I think in most. If it wasn't so expensive to get a degree I might consider going back, but I'm still paying off my student loans for the 2 years I did.

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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    I do have a BS degree but in Electrical Engineering and haven't done a lick of EE work since graduating. I was fortunate to learn my love was programming early on at my first job so I've done that and DBA work since.

    College isn't cheap in most cases. Since you already have 2 years under your belt you could likely finish an associates with minimal courses at a junior/community college. Next step up is the BS at a state school. Our son just started CS at the latter and commutes so it's pretty reasonable. My alma mater is also in town but it would cost 5X as much. While it is a far better school and he'd learn much more it isn't worth 5X the cost. I'm hoping our youngest will go there, but he'd have to get serious financial aid to make it happen.

    But I also agree experience is just as if not more important than a degree. You might consider some of the online courses being offered by the likes of udacity.com to help learn new things and at least get a certificate of some kind proving it.

  13. #13
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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    I got a BS in "Computer Science and Engineering", which mostly means I had a CS curriculum with more math/science oriented courses than humanities. I'm proud of it, it was an accomplishment I worked towards for years. But don't worry about sounding like you downplay degrees, I feel like it's overrated, too.

    My best development lessons came from the internships my enrollment helped me get. Many of the practices I learned came from the company who hired me on the basis of the degree plus those internships. A big chunk of my opinions today comes from reading I did in my free time. No one cares I got a degree almost 10 years ago, they want to know how I've spent those last 10 years and, in many cases, only the last 2-3 years matter.

    So start making your "last 2-3 years" show you've got a passion for development, and it'll fill in for the "not having a piece of paper a long time ago".

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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnnyWaffles View Post
    I'm certainly not downplaying a degree, the 2 years of studies I did in general Hardware and Software did help provide me a foundation to build on. However the amount of student loans I accrued for just those 2 years was insane.
    I hear that! The cost these days is insane. A single year of tuition at my college is now more than five times what I paid per year. I don't see how that's sustainable. I realize that they give so much student aid that the actual cost for most students will be FAR less, but still a few times what I paid.
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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    Quote Originally Posted by topshot View Post
    I do have a BS degree but in Electrical Engineering and haven't done a lick of EE work since graduating. I was fortunate to learn my love was programming early on at my first job so I've done that and DBA work since.
    That is indeed fortunate. When it comes to electrical anything, licking is not advisable.
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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    LOL, yes licking could be a bit dangerous

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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    You mean there's a better method of determining whether a circuit is live???

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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    Quote Originally Posted by topshot View Post
    You mean there's a better method of determining whether a circuit is live???
    Get someone else to lick it.

  19. #19
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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    I think employers require a 4 year BS degree or equivalent degree in related field as a way to determine if the person can accomplish a goal and commitment. Its less about what you did in school and more about the fact your completed it.

    I went back to school in my late 20's and completed my BSEE which opened doors for software development positions. I didnt have the professional experience but the passion and extra curricular activities is what I think helped me. My degree coupled with after hours time spent writing code, helping on the forums etc all showed I was passionate and helped land my first high level programming job. While in school I was able to get a computer assembly job which looked better on my resume as it was in the "field". I went to school full time and school as well. Busted arse for 2 years but it paid off.

    Its a transition and one you need to plan out. If you align yourself right you will be more desirable eventually for the job.
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    Super Moderator Shaggy Hiker's Avatar
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    Re: Career advice (resume)

    I would guess that few, if any, employers care about the degree once you have experience, but that's a chicken and egg problem. The degree is used when the experience doesn't exist for entry level. Beyond that, experience is more important, or even all that matters.

    Having said that, I also know that there are certain jobs that go through a screening process where you have to fit a certain shape to be passed through the screen. Those processes can be done without any knowledge, in which case the screen might require a degree for you to pass, and no amount of anything will substitute for that degree.
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