Succeeding in Computer Science Requires More Than Theoretical Education

productOps
Nov 20, 2018 · 5 min read

by Michelle Parent, productOps engineering intern

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Entering the upper division classes within the computer science realm of my degree, and five months into my productOps internship, a clear distinction between what is and what is most likely not applicable the “real” tech world had already been established.

When applying for an internship, I felt I was at an extreme disadvantage due to not yet having a bachelor’s degree. I studied aerospace engineering and mathematics prior to transferring to computer science, so I am technically only a “second-year”. To try and make up for this, and give myself the best chance at an interview, I finished 150 hours of Udemy courses incorporating the Amazon Web Services empire, Docker containers, and web development with two finished websites to showcase.

During the technical interview for the internship, it wasn’t the C/C++ or Java textbooks that moved me forward. Nor was it algorithmic complexity, pointers working behind the scenes, or the many assignment points lost from lack of bounds checking that were important. It was the external development tools and projects I’d studied and worked on outside of the required textbook readings that gave me an advantage and the opportunity to work at productOps. I believe that the computer science foundation built by higher education strays from the necessary skills and achievements deemed valuable by technical employers. Today, a computer science bachelor’s degree may be incomparable to experience with popular developer tools and platforms.

Higher education does not endorse time spent outside of theoretical practice while tech companies prize applied knowledge and practical skills.

Now, five months into my internship, I realize that the typical practice of grading on mistakes and the idea that “mistakes are not okay due to point deficits” has completely evaporated from the way I program. In its place, an emphasis on innovation, problem-solving, continuous learning and inevitable failure (except on final delivery) are prioritized. The world of STEM is always advancing and failure has long been considered a necessary stepping stone for innovation. Why then are success and failure considered mutually exclusive when studying and being assessed? After speaking to many freshly-graduated coworkers, this belief is not uncommon. Some have expressed their reluctance to apply for internships, participate in local hack-a-thons, or even implement their own ideas in personal projects because they feel their GPA is much more important than external exposure.

Higher education does not endorse time spent outside of theoretical practice while tech companies prize applied knowledge and practical skills. Here are some aspects I’ve learned while interning at productOps you probably won’t learn sitting in a computer science class:

Team Work

Version Control

Continuous Integration

Though change within the higher education system is needed, it has become the duty of students to prepare themselves for the actuality of a post-degree occupation’s expectations. A great full-stack web development course that helped me prepare for my interview was The Web Developer Bootcamp taught by Colt Steele on Udemy. His guidance in creating multiple projects using relevant languages and platforms are pertinent tools I use regularly at productOps. Likewise, Docker Mastery: The Complete Toolset from a Docker Captain and AWS Solutions Architect — Associate 2018 are both exceptional training tools and areas of essential knowledge. In parallel to self-education, picking the minds of any software developers/architects, user experience engineers, and DevOps engineers is imperative to having an accurate understanding of what the tech industries are seeking in potential candidates.

Having been fortunate enough to find an engaging internship, it is extremely crucial to take the extra steps to advance your knowledge outside of theory and place the importance on tools and practices commonly used by developers today.

productOps

Transforming organizations through technology, strategy…

productOps

Written by

Software product development in Santa Cruz, CA. We cover strategy, development, operations, and marketing. https://www.productops.com

productOps

Transforming organizations through technology, strategy, and custom software solutions.

productOps

Written by

Software product development in Santa Cruz, CA. We cover strategy, development, operations, and marketing. https://www.productops.com

productOps

Transforming organizations through technology, strategy, and custom software solutions.

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