Getting started in Software Development… From Software Goose to Software Guru!

by John Mulhall, Graduate Software Developer and former Management Professional with over 15 Years Commercial Experience. See more by him here

After completing the Higher Diploma in Science in Computing (a.k.a. Associates Degree) at Dublin Business School, the first thing that hit me (after my 1st class honour!) in my job hunt was the amount of obstacles in the way of getting that ‘first paid job’ as a Software Developer. They present a formidable challenge to any Graduate Software Developer armed with a quality software qualification and looking for a working start in the industry!

Those searching for junior level roles will relate to many of these obstacles including not having any “enterprise” experience of more then 2+ years, which seems to trump all other criteria! In my current job hunt, I got a giggle out of some advertised job specifications including those “junior” roles that that demand 5 years experience in HTML5. The fact that HTML5 was released in 2014 seems to not hinder some employers from placing such criteria in the “Requirements” section of their job specifications. In doing so, they are providing us with light humour as compensation for us not been able to deliver the impossible! Its hardly surprising as we are all supermen around here!!…

In my own search, both employers and agencies in response to job applications have often asked me about my languages, what ones I prefer and what stack is “my stack”? What often gets overlooked is my experience troubleshooting, which is captured by the old saying “The problem with troubleshooting is that trouble shoots back!” The ability to troubleshoot problems was a big part of my prior career in International Process Management, where developed outcomes proved highly valuable to my employer of the day. These developed skills in troubleshooting are already a huge plus for me as a Software Developer. On my work placement at Kinesense Ltd, this was the most used skill that aided the development work I was doing for the company and also aided my learning curve as I developed the application framework! That said, a key part of troubleshooting is debugging, which needs a highly structured approach to be successful in my view. In the wise words of Steve Wozniak “Never trust a computer you can’t throw out the window”, giving pause for thought after spending too long debugging a problem to a point where one can’t really see the code!

So, how to overcome so many obstacles? Everybody tells me that practice and speciality is the key. Given my passion for software development and coding in particular, I can say that practice is as much a requirement as it is a lifestyle choice. As for speciality, if you LOVE coding, isn’t speciality a matter of focus? Employers and Agencies alike have asked the question, which software language do I prefer? My answer has often been “I prefer to code as it’s what I love to do!” Java, C# or dynamic languages like Python or JavaScript… its all good man because I love to code!

On progress to getting that “first paid job”, despite a conditional offer from a Consulting Firm post course, their client cancelled the project and my ‘first paid job’ as a Software Developer became a false start! So back on the job hunt, the one thing that hit me very quickly was the need for proof! I need to prove I could code and code well!

Novalis once said “The artist belongs to the work, not the work to the artist” so onwards I go where over the last two weeks, I was working hard on DBS Application and Database Servers developing a version 2.0 of a group project from my course. The project is based upon a fictitious company called Mulderbert & Co, which sells commercial fridges and fridge services. This MVC application on ASP.NET is set to deliver an online Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that sets up the company with an online presence initially complementing their offline business. The v2.0 code release is due on Monday 9th October, so here is the trailer for the 7-minute feature movie of the site in action.

Version 2.0 is a full stack C#, ASP.NET, Native XML and SQL Server application, which delivers a MVP to market for a fridge company that wishes to initially keep payments off line instead generating sales leads from the online purchase process.

It’s not hard to see why those who possess an aptitude and passion for software have such trouble getting set up in a new career as a Software Developer. The reality is that businesses who rely on good software have realised software quality is a costly pursuit; especially for so many who were let down by poor quality software. This understanding gives direction to those like myself in climbing the mountain of doubt from software goose to software guru that its worthwhile proving with quality projects we can build a better future achieving what you need by doing what we software professionals love. When it comes to synergy, it does not get better then that!

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