It’s mid-July the summer of your college sophomore year and it hits you:
“I only get one more of these. Next summer is it. After that, I’m in the workforce and summer will never be the same again.”
Sadly, it’s true. And while we’d understand if that thought inspires you to break out the funnel, we at Parkway Digital would like to make an alternate suggestion. You have just barely enough time to pick the skills you’ll need to get a job when you graduate, get started now.
If you’re a Computer Science student with plans of becoming a web developer, by now you have the foundational knowledge to really understand what is going on conceptually, yet you likely haven’t seen that knowledge applied towards real-world activities. Now is the time to invest the time necessary to really differentiate yourself from your classmates.
10 suggestions that will serve you well in the future:
Everything from JQuery to node.js. Learn it inside and out. See it in your dreams.
Learn PHP (see Synacor, located on the Buffalo waterfront – www.synacor.com). Even if the business you land at doesn’t use PHP, it is good to know your way around an interpreted language and you’ll run into PHP enough to make it a worthwhile time investment.
Complicated, difficult, weird… it’s all true what they say about perl. Still, perl can be one of the most powerful tools in your tool-belt.
Wade through the LAMP Stack
In so, get real good at MySQL and Apache. Perhaps install an ubuntu on an old PC and attempt to setup a public web server off your home network.
Build a Web App Using the Google Cloud
This will both get you familiar with Cloud jargon and architecture + provides an example of something real you built outside of the classroom (key for your interview).
Play in the Cloud
Get real comfortable with the Cloud (not the BS “cloud” marketing garbage, but the real “Cloud” — i.e. xen images in Amazon’s AWS). Utilize the academic discounts while you still can.
Get Comfortable at The Prompt
Become proficient in SSH and vi. Nothing tells me someone isn’t “advanced” as quickly as putting him/her at a terminal window and watching them stumble around a UNIX box. Schools have stopped teaching SSH and vi — sadly, they might be more important than ever.
Invest in the UI
Take some time to learn about UI and User Experience. As developers, it’s so easy to get caught up in the big problems we’re solving in code that we forget about our most important constituent: the user. At the end of the day, the users will determine your success or failure. Ignore them at your own peril.
Make software people use — start today. Get involved in a local community group and apply your unique skill-set as a programmer/engineer to their unique set of challenges. For example, if you’re interested in Historic Preservation, you could volunteer with a local group to make an online database of historic properties that need to be preserved. These will be your first clients. Learn how to listen to their needs and apply technology to solve them. After you’ve gotten too old to be an ace programmer (say, mid-30s), the ability to listen so as to translate real world problems into technological solutions will determine if you still have a career or not. It’s a skill that’s honed with practice, so start now.
Travel the globe. You’ll likely never have the freedom you do now to travel and explore this earth. I look for people to work with that have both depth of knowledge and depth of experience. Traveling will give you an edge in both categories. In a global economy, I find myself working with people all over the world. Knowing a little bit of the language and culture will increasingly serve you well. Plus, your travels will make for interesting lunchroom banter.
When all is said and done, what you learn in the classroom is just a foundation. It is up to you to build upon that foundation on your own time. If you do so, and are smart about it, you’ll find the rewards are there for the taking.