Boots to Bytes

Website for Veterans Transition into Tech Careers

Don't Waste Your Time on Community College



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When it comes to choosing a college, my advice is to avoid Community College at all costs possible and go straight for the four-year degree. And, the reason for it is NOT because Community Colleges are bad. I have taking classes in a Community College. For example, Calculus 3 and introduction classes like Algebra and Geometry to prepare me for my computer science degree, and they were great. Professor was great.

The problem with the Community College is that a lot of the classes you take don’t translate one to one when transferring to the four-year university. So, sometimes you’ll have to take like a three years’ worth of classes to account for two years. That’s something you could have gotten at the four-year university sooner.

So, only take community college if you need a specific certificate or something like that. People would normally be taking Community College with idea of transferring to the four-year university. And you DO need to have a bachelor’s to be taken seriously these days. You can get your bachelor’s much faster if you go straight to four-year university.

There’s a cost saving of doing the community college path, but I think for most people, it’s not worth it, the cost saving is not worth it. So, I would only recommend community college for people who really don’t want to spend a lot of money and want to spend as little money as possible. Probably they’re very young, 18, 19 years old and they have time to invest into their career, sure, go to community college and have a good time.

If you’re like me who got to college out of the military or you’re trying to find a different career later in life, don’t waste your time with the Community College. They will suck the time out of you and that time is much more important than money. You want to go to a four-year university and you want to go to the best four-year university you can get into. And, while there, you want to get in and get out as fast as you can. So, I recommend taking more than the average load. At the college that I want to recommend load was 12-semester units. I’ll recommend taking 16 to get out about half a year faster. You might suffer a little bit, but in the long run, it’s not going to matter as much, but it does matter if you have that paper and you do need to get it, then I highly recommend it.

Another thing I want to mention is do take out loans if you have to, or use GI Bill. Do try to finish in the fastest time possible because GI Bills run out and the more loans you have to take out, the more money you own. But assuming you try to get through college as fast as you can, loans are not a bad idea at all because every year that you would take longer in school, if you work part time and go to school (part time making minimum wage or something), then the two years that take you longer to finish your degree are not worth it. Because as a software engineer out of college starting salaries (depends on the college on how well you negotiate) are high. I got 90K for landing my first job. I know people who got 110 out of slightly better schools.

So, yeah. It’s really the 90K over two years is $180,000, after tax is let’s say it’s like 120K or something minus what you would make working minimum wage, I don’t know, you’re looking at $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 difference depends on what state we’re talking about. So, yeah, that’s 70, 80K of loan, you could basically assume you’ve maintained the same level of the quality of life, you could pay off 70K loans in those two years.

And then, you also have started your career, again, really invaluable experience, which means in third year, you’re making more money. So, the sooner you get into your career, the better. At the same time, I do recommend finishing a bachelor’s degree. I think the market is over-flooded currently with coding boot camp graduates and it’s pretty hard to get that entry level job. It’s not impossible, but it is hard.

Some people, who cannot afford to do three and a half years to go get your college degree, you don’t have GI Bill, you don’t want to take out loans, you have little kids, who knows… There are other ways of getting this career, but if you can afford, then make an investment in college education related to computer science degree.

Actually, I recommend computer science degree or software engineering degrees exclusively. I got a computer engineering degree. It was more troubling than it was worth because I end up doing software. It was a great learning experience, I had a good time, but if your job is getting a JOB, it was not as good as just going and getting a regular computer science degree. I’ll talk more about that in different video…

But anyway, computer science degree is a way to go, from a four-year university. One trick you can use to get into college (if you can’t get into a new computer science degree because some might be more competitive), is to just try and get into some other degree that is less competitive, and then, once you get accepted in school, try to change your major. I don’t know if it works everywhere, but it work in San Jose State where I went to. I can’t remember if I used this trick to get into my school, but I definitely remember that I have changed my major at least once from Mechanical Engineering to Computer Engineering. I might have actually changed it from Business to Mechanical as well first. I do not remember that.

But yeah, that’s something to consider. Go to a four-year school, don’t be afraid to take out loans, take more classes that they recommend and try to get out there as fast as you can. But while you’re getting a college degree, also do take this time to try to get internships as much as you can. I’ll talk about in other videos. But yeah, internships matter a lot and being in college helps you get internships and graduate from college helps you line up your future work. And, internships matter, work matters, I’ll talk about in other videos. Make sure try to get software engineering, software programming internships if you can. Those actually pay more than minimum jobs, minimum wages usually, so that’s another benefit of going to school. And then, when you’re out of college, try to get real programming job. Don’t get sucked into other things (like QA) assuming it is programming that you want to do.

So, yeah, that’s the advice. Don’t waste your time in community colleges. Think time. Think time to market. You are in the business of selling your software skills and the sooner you get to market with your product, the sooner your value of the offering you provide will appreciate as the more experience you get. But at the same time, it will be much easier to get your clients (meaning your jobs) by having a bachelor’s degree (at least on your resume). People are all about shortcuts and labels, and if they see a bachelor’s degree at least in the resume, they like it.

Yeah. Anyway, that’s the advice. Think time. Don’t think money in terms of getting your education, but education does help in terms of getting your career started in computer science. Thanks for listening.

Don't Expect Much From Tech Recruiting Events



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I want to say a few words about technical recruiting. It’s something, till this day, that I find completely counterintuitive. I expected it to be kind of like the military recruiting experience, where the big companies want you. And in the military, the way it works is you come in, you take this standardized test. If you do well in the test, they want you. The Navy, Air Force, Marines, they will compete, they’ll try throw perks at you and explain how one branch of service is better than the other, and as long as you can sign your name and pass the test, they’ll sign you, they’ll ship you out, they’ll find a job for you, they’ll train you for the job. They want you. They’re actively coming after you.

This is not how tech recruiting works at all. Tech recruiting will seem similar in the earlier stages, meaning they will throw events, recruiters will come to your college, they’ll organize evening coding hours and “come meet our engineers” type of events, and they will go to places and they’ll give out swag and all that stuff. But if you go to one of these events that they organize… For example, you could go to a night with coding exercises, and you’ll have a room of 40, 50, 60, 80 people showing up, and you can tell they’re all kind of honored and a little curious why they’re there, and they want to see what will happen. And the show up and then there’ll be probably somebody from the company, and they’ll tell you, “Here I am. Here’s what I do at the company. I love my job,” blah blah blah. “Okay, let’s do some coding challenges,” then before you have any time to really finish, then it’s already time to go home. They’ll probably have some snacks and appetizers and some food. And then it’s done and you go home, and you’re like, “Okay. What was that about? What was the point?”

[00:02:00] And I see that time and time and time again, and the more I do it, the more I kind of get used to it, but it’s still surprising me to this day. It’s like, okay, you go through all this effort and there’s nothing at the end of it? You’re not going to try to upsell the company and get people to take the next step or something? But they don’t. They really don’t. They just kind of do those things. And my best guess of what is happening is I think the name of the game for tech companies is fill the pipeline. They have this pipeline of candidates and they want to have a steady stream of interested people applying to work there, and these kinds of events is their way of making sure that this stream of candidates never dries up, although I don’t even think Google or Facebook or Amazon, any of those companies, have a hard time filling the pipeline. Like, everybody knows about those companies. Everybody will probably try to apply there at some point in their lives. But for some reason, they still do those events all the time.

But my point is, if you go to one of these events, don’t expect much. Probably nothing will come out of it, not even a follow-up from the recruiter. Maybe a follow-up from the recruiter if you’re lucky, but usually, just recruiters will be kind of like… There will be a recruiter reaching out to you, inviting you to this event, and then they’re not going to say anything. They’re just going to wait for you to make the next move. Not sure why, but that’s how it works. I think it’s stupid, personally – if you need people, why don’t you go after people? Why don’t you make them feel important? And I think that would work, but they don’t. They just wait for you to make the first move, sort of invite them to dance, so to speak. Then once you do, then you just go right in the pipeline. Hopefully, things work out. Probably some hiring manager will review your resume, but you obviously were prescreened by your career, otherwise they wouldn’t have reached out to you.

[00:04:00] And then you do a phone screen, and then you go in person and do an on-site interview for four, five people, typically speaking, and that’s that. It’s always how it goes.

So, my advice to you: Those events, recruiting events can be a huge waste of your time, because there’s nothing that will come out of them. So, if you can get into the recruiting pipeline by just sending your resume to a recruiter, or having somebody in the company you refer to internally, that’s a much better use of your time than the two, three hours that you would go to talk to some random person with no outcome at the end of it. Probably a little bit better spent by just practicing technical interview questions that will be asked at the technical interview, if you make it this far into the pipeline.

So, that’s my take on technical recruiting. It’s mainly misleading. It’s mainly a waste of your time. If you genuinely have no other way of meeting or knowing anybody who works at the company, it might be fine to go and to talk to some people, try and probe the culture a little bit, but that’s the only thing that’s going to come out of it. You’re not even going to get a follow-up from recruiters, as I mentioned. So, just be mindful of that. Don’t expect anything from those things. And if you have other ways of getting to the pipeline, your time is probably better spent there. That’s my take on tech recruiting. If I’m wrong, if I’m missing something, please let me know. Thanks. Bye.