The Journey: Getting my First Job as a Software Engineer

February 09, 2018

Non-technical article

I didn’t start applying to programming jobs until the last few weeks of my final semester in my final year of university. In fact I only applied to one, and was lucky and got accepted.

I was just about to finish my B.Sc in Mathematics from the University of Bath with a very average 2:1. Most of my friends from university had already secured a job with some bank or accounting firm. This really didn’t appeal to me. I am not a fan of banks, mostly because banks are not a fan of me — but that’s a rant for a different time. I also knew that some mathematicians ended up as programmers. I had done a bit of programming in my course, mostly in MATLAB and R, and enjoyed it. A close friend of mine did a placement at a company she thought would be a good fit for me. It didn’t hurt that it was based in Bath where I was studying and my girlfriend at the time would continue to study. I applied with a cover letter and CV using the nervous-but-boastful tone of voice common amongst graduates. I even mispelled the “Dear Sir/Madam” opening line in my cover letter, but I’ll let you guess how I possibly did that. I still got called in for an interview.

I went in on the Tuesday the week before exams began, wearing a brand new suit and tie that I had bought for the occation with money I didn’t have. I had brought a folder with copies of my CV and cover letter, along with some scratch paper and writing utensils. I read on some blog that this was common interview etiquette, but I think in reality this is only the case for some jobs in the states. The kind of jobs you probably don’t want.

Relative to the horror stories I had heard from my fellow students, the interview was quite short. About an hour of ‘how do you behave professionally’ questions and brainteasers. Only one out of five problems resembled coding. All in all I felt the interview went well, and the offices and people I met seemed nice. I spotted some people not wearing formal business wear, so I took that as a win as well. I think my aversion to suits stems from watching a lot of MacGyver as a kid; he never liked to wear suits either. Oh, and my tree-trunk legs make them uncomfortable to wear.

I got a phone call that following Friday saying they were offering me a job, along with a salary. I had done some calculations beforehand, and knew that the salary would be good enough to sustain a living, even with my ridiculous student loans. “Sweet!”, the mathematician in me thought - “100% successful interview score”. It didn’t remain that way.

I started my first job as a Graduate Software Engineer that July.

This is the first in a series of personal (rather than technical) blog posts detailing my journey as a software engineer from university to the present. I recognise the luck and privilege surrounding my career progression. I aim not to boast nor apologise for the successes and failures in my career, only to report them. The names in these blog posts have been altered to protect the innocent (from recruiters, mostly), but everything else is detailed as accurately as I legally can.

Roger Guldbrandsen

Written by Roger Guldbrandsen.