Should you make the switch to tech?

I've been working professionally as a software engineer for 23 years, inspired to learn how to program at 13 by my dad. I started as an intern in software testing and am now an engineering manager.

Throughout the years, people have approached me, wanting to know if they should make a career change to tech. Obviously, the answer to that question is highly personal, and I can't tell you what you should do. However, if you are looking to make a move, I can tell you more about what it's like to be a software engineer so you can make up your own mind.

What does a software engineer do?

Software engineering is like being a chef. Chefs leverage their creativity to craft dishes from ingredients. Software developers construct programs using computer instructions.

It often requires many chefs in a restaurant to effectively craft their meals. And there are often many types of engineers working together on different aspects of projects. Some engineers focus on the front end (creating things you can see), while others work on things hidden from your view.

There are many cuisines a chef may specialize in. And there are many areas of specialization within the tech industry. For example: big data, front-end web development, security, game development, databases, fintech, etc.

Lastly, as Ratatouille taught us, anyone can learn to cook (or program), but becoming an expert requires passion and dedication.

How does the job change as you move up?

Entry-level engineers have a narrow focus, often focusing on their daily tasks and their technical skills.

As you grow in this field, your scope broadens. You will have broader perspectives, encompassing the larger systems at play. You'll begin to consider how today's work impacts the next week, month, or even year. You'll also start thinking about your team and other teams within the company. Lastly, you'll focus on growing your organizational and communication abilities.

Where should I start? Should I go back to college?

Many people start their careers with college degrees in computer science, like I did at George Mason University. My degree opened up job opportunities, and the math courses I took also helped me think in structured ways. Ultimately, however, what made me most successful were things I did not learn in college.

Often, coding camps are great alternatives to four-year degrees. Just be sure to research some of your ideal job postings, noting their educational requirements.

Is now a good time to get into the tech field?

As I'm sure you're aware, there are currently lots of layoffs happening, especially in tech companies. Despite this, this is a great time to get into tech. This news scares off many people who are seeing these headlines. If you're just starting out, by the time you have established your skills, the industry will likely bounce back. This is what happened to me: I entered college just as the dot-com bubble was bursting.

If you're thinking of getting into tech, I'd love to talk. Feel free to reach out, and best of luck to you on whatever career path you choose!

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