Hey guys, I just had a quick question. I'm a recent grad in a STEM field, and I've kinda decided that that's not really the direction I want to take with my career. I'm interested in pursuing software engineering (I already have a little informal experience with that from my coursework, as well as mit opencourseware), but I obviously dont have a dedicated degree in computer science. That said, I need to find work now, and I have a few side-projects that I can show to prospective employers. So my question is: what should I expect going into this job market with my experience? Should I try to find work at a start-up or a bigger, more established company?

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last year

Hey man,

Career transitions are tough, but awesome that you're trying to pursue a path that is more fulfilling for you. My thoughts on your two big questions:

What should I expect going into this job market with my experience? Simply put, it won't be easy, but if a career in software engineering is what you want to pursue, it'll be much more rewarding. In terms of salary, you should be able to get a solid package between $80k-$100k right out of the gate. However, you'll be up against other software engineers who have more experience than you. What you'll need to do is focus on your strengths on a per company and per role basis. Since you're coming from STEM, perhaps find engineering roles at companies that have a core product focused on the sciences and less on ones where experience in retail or finance are more important.

Ultimately, you should be marketing yourself as an eager engineer who has a wealth of knowledge in the sciences and that combination of strengths will make you uniquely qualified for a job at company X.

Should I try to find work at a start-up or a bigger, more established company? Pros and Cons for Startups v. Big Companies:

  • You get to be at an early company that could take off like a rocket ship
  • You get to be at a company that could totally face plant
  • You get a ton of experience because you're going to wear a ton of different hats
  • You won't be as specialized since you're going to be running around doing different things
  • Compensation may not be as generous (e.g. limited or no healthcare, no 401k, etc.) and your options could be worth nothing if things don't go well
  • You may get a ton of fun perks and your options could be a worth a ton if things do go well

Ultimately, the decision is going to depend on your risk tolerance, but I'm a big believer that startups are a great opportunity for people who are just entering the workforce and finding their first jobs. Though you may not get the cushiest compensation package, you'll put yourself in an environment where you'll learn a ton. And at this point in your career, learning is everything.

In fact, check out this answer from Michelle about the importance of learning: http://huttle.co/posts/XFM2zSbh3qqAgP9Po/i-just-graduated-in-june-how-soon-do-i-need-to-start-looking

TL;DR: "Now isn't the time to prioritize what you earn over what you can learn -- if you pick a role based on what you can earn alone and thwart following curiosities, you're likely going to want out pretty quick. If you can find a job with a high ceiling for learning AND earning, well, that's wonderful!"

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