Code after College

Code after College

The transition is daunting, to say the least. One day you're up until 6 in the morning playing Stardew Valley and the next - boom! You're employed and all of a sudden you have to figure out that there's a tiny little filter inside of a dishwasher that you need to clean in your apartment. (Seriously, if you don't believe me look it up.)

The change might be abrupt, especially after COVID college for the past couple of years. But seriously, how is coding at college different from coding at a real job? Well, for starters there's a lot less posterboard. But that's not to say that there's a lack of projects!

The biggest difference you'll encounter on your first day is a lack of true "programming" problems. If you're anything like me, one of the best parts of your Computer Science degree was getting a problem that you could get excited about a solution for, in isolation. It's a great feeling when you finally pass that last JUnit test for your function to reverse a linked list. In the workplace, you're often the one responsible for writing that test which really kills the high.

What replaces those problems in isolation, though, is an endless abundance of complicated problems in context. No, you can't use company time to reverse that linked list yourself, there's a library for that! But you know instead, you can figure out how to dynamically assign clients a ZeroMQ publisher prefix when they connect to your endpoint! And you know what, finding that solution almost gets you that same high.

Now that isn't to say that the job is all sunshine and roses where we get to solve cool problems all day. The most surprising part of transitioning from college to work is absolutely the overhead involved in your job. Oh, you thought you were going to code for a few hours today? This meeting about the philosophy of what a system error is says otherwise! It's inefficient and sometimes boring, sure, but meetings are absolutely a necessary part of solving complex problems in the context of a larger project. Just expect it to take about as long as it took your roommate to get out of the shower to get your point across while everyone else is trying to do the same.

It's a big change in workflow, especially if you end up somewhere like me where the thought of a standup meeting is laughable and version control started as a flash drive (more on that later...). But don't think that means your degree doesn't leave you prepared for it - it totally does! And it actually comes with a huge benefit compared to college project or academic research coding. Your work has a real, tangible impact on the world. Your code can have the opportunity to make someone's life better.

And that's what makes it all worthwhile.

Stay tuned! I'm planning on writing down a lot more about creative solutions and opinions on the state of the modern tech workspace.