Join LinkedIn Learning Developer Instructor for an in-depth discussion in this video Mary Ellen Bowman, part of Career Clinic: Developer Insights.
- So joining the tech industry was difficult in a way because I had a job lined up my senior year of college from Thanksgiving on until a week before I graduated the employer changed their offer to half. And I couldn't take that. So at that point I had missed out on a lot of college recruiting at companies, so I basically had to cold call. So I would just cold call companies and just try to get my name in the door and I ended up speaking with this NASA contractor, the manager of that division, and just had a good conversation with him and then I said, can I come down there for a tour? And he kind of was like, sure. (laughs) So I came there for a tour and then they brought me back for a real interview and I ended up getting hired by them.
Later my manager told me it wasn't like we hired you because you had a 4.0 GPA and they didn't hire me because I had experience, because I had none. I was entry level. He said mainly we hired you for your hutzpah, your initiative that you took. That was a challenge to get into the industry and it worked out. So what was interesting about my first job with the NASA contracting was, this was in the late 80's and most of the people I worked with were airspace engineers, or mechanical engineers and as a software developer, software was something they couldn't touch.
It wasn't like hardware. And so therefore they didn't really trust it. They called us software types, not really software engineers. But what was kind of ironic was whenever there were cutbacks, it was a lot easier for me to find a job because I was flexible and had that opportunity that I could do software in any industry whereas they kind of had their niche they had to stay in. So it was the fact that I could learn new technologies quickly and move on to almost any industry.
I've had many challenges, but probably it is has been difficult but a good challenge to have a family and a career. Some people have asked me what I do for a living and I jokingly say, I spin plates. (laughs) Because I get so many plates in the air with my career and my family and just try to keep them afloat and sometimes a plate falls and you deal with it. But I think it's been good that I kept constant in the industry with my knowledge in tech and I'm honestly still surprised I enjoy it but it's through learning new things that keeps me engaged in what I do.
I would say unless you have a real gift for management or program management, stay a geek. There's going to be draws that say, hey wouldn't you like to be a program manager? We need somebody in this. But if you enjoy coding, stay coding. What happens is you might get drawn into that program management role. Five years down the line, your skills aren't as sharp. Especially if there's layoffs, which always happen, then it's harder to get employed.
I'm honestly surprised after so many years that I still do what I do and it's because there's always new stuff coming along to learn. Even if you start out at a place and your assignments aren't that interesting, on your own you can stay current with technologies.