My journey to becoming a software engineer started a little unusually. A friend of mine had taken a programming co-op in high school and made $16.50 per hour, which seemed like a huge amount of money to make at the time. This sparked my career in programming and would lead me down a path of a software developer/tester co-op in Waterloo, fruitless job searching, an internship in a start-up with only 5 people in Toronto, another internship in a game company in Vancouver, and finally a unicorn startup back in Waterloo. Through it all, I would discover countless skills, a keen interest in computer science, and a love of problem-solving.
With my plan in place to become a programmer, I went to the Computer Science joint Business Administration program offered by Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, which offered both business and computer science courses. Unfortunately, it turned out it wasn’t the best fit for me. The computer science I enjoyed, but I simply wasn’t interested in the business courses at all.
When the postings for the first co-op came up, my chances of getting something I would like didn’t look good. 90% of them were for business and only 10% for computer science. I really wanted the position of a software developer in my first co-op.
Luckily, I managed to get that 10% and got my first co-op with NCR Corporation. My experience with NCR taught me the importance of maintaining large-scale software, and how detail-oriented quality assurance should be. I did a lot of testing and got experience working on a full-stack web application while I was there.
After the co-op, I decided to drop out of the double degree program. By this point I knew I didn’t want to go into business and just wanted to focus entirely on computer science. I began my job search.
My applications were rejected immediately, and typically for three reasons:
- 1. My GPA wasn’t high
- 2. I was no longer enrolled in a co-op program
- 3. I didn’t have a strong resume
At this point, I was in trouble. I couldn’t land a job.
I tried to find an internship with everything I could have used. I asked for referrals, did online applications, attended hackathons and career fairs. In all my efforts, I only managed to land two job interviews, neither of them leading to anything.
This was when Hatchways reached out to me. Their support changed my search drastically. For one, I had their interview prep, advice, and projects I could work on. More importantly, they connected me to startups. When you’re searching for jobs on your own, you don’t tend to know about the smaller startups out there. Through Hatchways, I did two interviews and received one offer.
This was how I got an internship at BrokerBay. There were only 5 people when I first started. I learned everything there, front-end, backend, and microservice architecture. This was a real turning point in my life. I came out of that internship with new skills, confidence, and a very strong resume.
At this point, I was getting all kinds of interviews and some really great offers. I started thinking about working somewhere outside of Ontario.
I went with A Thinking Ape in Vancouver. Working at a game company was a huge change of pace. It was fun. I had zero experience in that area, but they were happy to take me on based on what skills I did have. Working there I got the chance to do some work in the game industry, and learn app development. It was satisfying that I could look at the product and see exactly what parts I had done, and see how it was featured. I also learned to handle data-intensive applications there. Data is the most valuable asset in a company, and as soon as that data becomes more intensive, there’s the additional important process of dealing with it - one which I learned.
After my experience in Vancouver, I decided to move back to Waterloo. Not that I wasn’t getting offers from other places, but I liked the environment here the most. I accepted an offer from a unicorn startup, Faire. That’s where I’ll be starting work in June, as a front-end engineer.
What is exciting about working at Faire is that I can see the potential, both in the company and in my career. Faire was founded in 2017, so the tech stack Faire is using is very new, giving me the opportunity to work with the newest technologies. Also, Faire puts its engineers into small teams. This offers a lot of ownership and a great impact on specific fields of the product.
To those starting out and looking for their first programming job, it might be worth considering looking for smaller startups over bigger companies. It’s a lot of work, but you can learn a lot of technologies in a short period of time, and you will play an important role in it. You will have interesting work to do every day in a fast-paced environment. I also recommend considering Hatchways as one of your job-searching tools, it will provide you an end-to-end process so you don’t need to deal with a lot of redundant work.
For me, I enjoy solving problems and learning. That’s what I want to focus on. As a software engineer, I have to learn the newest technologies and solve any problems I faced. That’s what I love, and that’s what I want to continue to do.