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Ask HN: Tips for students before starting their first job
132 points by oltdaniel 32 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 175 comments
Hi, I'm 19 and currently in my second CS semester. I've got some projects on my portfolio, did some internships and will start an job as an research assistant at an institute next semester. However, I really have no clue how I can prepare myself enough before landing my first job after university. The only things I can find are: build a portfolio and contribute to open-source.

Which advice did/would have helped you landing your first job after university? And whats your best tip for life in general?

A few useful phrases to memorize:

When someone asks for information, rather than try to answer immediately, or rush to research, ask, "When do you need that by?" Even if they tell you it's urgent, it causes them to consider.

"Sure, I'd be glad to. Just let my boss know you need me." If they hem and haw, be suspicious.

"What budget is that coming out of?"

Other useful tidbits: Politics is a euphemism for, someone's ego will otherwise get hurt. Tangentially, your ego isn't you. Don't let it getting hurt affect your thinking.

Most people are naturally good; the one's who aren't work hard to position themselves in a position handling communications. So be careful to route communications as directly as allowed, and regularly check what's incoming.

Faith is blind, trust is earned.

PM here: I agree completely. A lot of PMs aren't great with phrasing requests, and they come off sounding way more urgent than they are. I used to be guilty of this, and I thought it was great how responsive the engineers were until a manager told me I was disrupting their schedules with all of my urgent requests. We solved that one pretty quickly by agreeing I'd specify the timeline for eng requests, and for things that were big and urgent, I'd check with team lead/manager before asking. If any of those engineers had asked me how urgent things were, we wouldn't have run into that problem (which is not to say it's their fault - it was my job to give that context - just to say that an inexperienced PM won't mind you asking about timing/urgency at all and you may save him issues down the line).

I would avoid asking people "What budget is that coming out of?" if I was a student / fresh out of school, but the other points I definitely agree with.

In the same vein as these - when someone asks if something can be achieved, unless the answer is "No, because the physical laws of our universe prevent it," then the answer is "Yes, with the following assumptions, caveats and tradeoffs..."

> Most people are naturally good; the one's who aren't work hard to position themselves in a position handling communications. So be careful to route communications as directly as allowed, and regularly check what's incoming.

I'm really curious what you mean by this, "a position handling communications"?

Most people aren't bad actors. Some people are. Almost all bad actors know that they are bad actors, it's not a matter of ignorance or stupidity. The easiest tool of bad actors is manipulating communication. Lying, changing expectations, telling different people different parts/sides of the whole story, weaseling out of responsibility, brown-nosing, etc. A lot of bad actors will strive to put themselves in "lead" type of roles where they don't actually have the responsibility of direct reports, but where they can get their fingers into the communication channels for their team. Then, they use that position to get their fingers into the communication channels of other teams as well. They keep doing this and moving farther away from actually having to produce anything themselves. The manipulative communication becomes their entire output and job function, so they optimize it over time and get really good at it.

Dang you just knocked that out of the park.

For me lately the 'Just let my boss know' works really well, let them hammer out the details.

> And whats your best tip for life in general?

1) Take copious notes (in whatever format works for you).

2) Confirm managers decisions with a recap email (especially when you disagree with them).

3) Understand that while you may not like politics (I don't) knowing how the game is played allows you to mostly stay out of it.

4) Work time is work time, learn to be productive and then go home and switch off.

5) Work friends are NOT friends.

6) Learn to say 'No' in a way that doesn't ruffle feathers but does result in the no case.

7) If something seems interesting, go for it - all the best experiences in my working life have resulted from stepping outside my comfort zone.

> 5) Work friends are NOT friends.

I have made some extremely good friends through work, including the individual who, outside my family, is the person who I still see that I have known the longest in my life (we started our new jobs at the same company on the same day, approx 35 years ago).

The mistake is when your colleagues become your only friends. Changing jobs can see you lose your entire 'support network'. Always take the time to maintain friends outside your current work.

That's a good point.

Here's an important corollary:

Don't shit where you eat.


That is, avoid getting into romantic relationships with people at work. And for God's sake don't think of work as a cruising ground for members of the appropriate sex(es).

Sure, there's a chance both of you might simultaneously be two of the lucky ones for whom everything always goes perfectly, without any hitches or conflicts. But back in the real world, relationships have problems, and jobs have problems, and when one of those problems inevitably occurs in one domain, it sucks if it dominos over into the other domain.

In the ideal world, we'd all be eternally happy with our personal relationships, and eternally happy with our jobs. But if you suddenly become unhappy with one for some reason, it really sucks if you also lose the other because of it.

And also remember what Freewheelin' Franklin of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers said:

"Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope."



> two of the lucky ones

I honestly think there's a huge amount of survivor bias in this mindset. I'm in my thirties and I know more married couples who met at work than those who didn't meet at work. And the ones who didn't meet at work met at school. Even had two senior managers at my first job break up their marriages (both with kids) to get together. As far as I know they got married and are still happily together.

I think you just hear a lot more of the wild stories of the ones that go wrong.

The thing is, most romantic relationships fail. If it’s someone you met online or even a friend of a friend, you likely won’t see them that often after you break up, which is decidedly not the case for a colleague. So while it might work out with a colleague, and the odds aren’t even that bad, more caution is warranted.

Of course, it’s probably not terrible advice to tell everyone in a breakup to treat their soon-to-be ex as if they will one day be your manager. It’s just not likely that everyone will be able to follow through.

I'm sure there is a connection to the Franklin quote, but I surely can't see it.

>Changing jobs can see you lose your entire 'support network'

I have a wild tinfoil hat conspiracy theory that all corporate social events and activities are designed to foster this kind of 'support network' to discourage employees from leaving. I wondered why so many people stayed away from those when I started my first job.

yeah, I've also made a couple good friends from work; I don't think such an extreme position as GP is reasonable. I do think it's important to be extra careful with boundaries for work friends though. as a general rule, I don't let my work friends see me do anything I wouldn't do in front of my boss. it's a good heuristic and you never know, someday they might actually be your boss!

I read this as a warning that while people at work may be "friendly" with you, they are not "friends", necessarily, though they certainly can become them. This means that one must be careful confiding certain comments or thoughts with people who are friendly, or you may find yourself thrown under the bus or find this information enter the public domain at your workplace. Young people may be particularly primed for this oversharing, and I think the warning is that it should always be carefully considered.

A place I worked with an office of ~120 had at least 5 couples who met there eventually get married, and there are definitely friend groups among people who worked there.

So I'd say it depends; just go into it knowing making the friends isn't the same as when you're in school.

Ye it is strange concept. You make friends among classmates and parents childrens when you are young etc and that is a predetermined selection of candidates, why not at work?

If I would make a friend among co-workers, surely it would not end if any of us switch jobs? As in ex-student friends. Put in another way if you lose your friends from changing jobs they were not your friends.

I totally agree and your point reminds of a guy named noah glass who started twitter but got betrayed by his own so called work friend

As a general rule it works. Work friends are not friends. There are exceptions but don't expect anything.

This is all bad advice for this kid IMO. He's 19 and working as a research assistant, presumably part-time. I did that in college too. The people were nice and there was never a need to be at all guarded. The best thing he can do is get used to working on a schedule and try to figure out what interests him.

I couldn’t agree more.

The original post is a great example of why it’s dangerous to ask for advice on the internet. It often(not always) trends towards heavy handed and extreme views. But in real life, extreme views and stances are rarely the right course of action.

I agree. The advice is good for some environments, but too cynical for someone starting his career. Six out of those seven are about guarding against bad actors. I'm sure the author is trying to spare the person asking the question from some of the experiences that they went through, but default mistrust is not a good way to start a career (or any relationship for that matter).

Has the parent post been edited? Because I don't see what bad advice you are referring to here.

If you are working among people you trust, then this is all the better for learning an effective communication style, including saying 'no' or standing your ground. It's a safer environment than you will encounter later.

In my experience, 'nice' and 'not guarded' people in modern academia might only be like that because they are confident that they have enough power to get their way if you hit a point of disagreement. So, it's not always a good thing for you.

Unless the stakes are so high that you can't afford to mess up, the best way to "learn a communication style" is to do whatever comes naturally and wait to see what kinds of problems come up. Since the stakes are as low as they can be, I think a 19 year old's energy would be better spent on the sorts of things that will naturally draw their attention, namely the challenges of doing knowledge work on demand and the learning associated with the job itself.

This is just my take. I can say for sure that trying to learn about office politics would have been a terrible way for me to spend my time at 19. YMMV.

Agree. The key skillset I needed to learn was to get along with people. Being nerds, we think we are always right. Hello! The truth is that there is often no one true answer. Learn to bite one's tongue. Still hard for me to do - but I look at my easy-going my friends and see that they have had a smoother journey through life, maintaining their jobs for much longer than me.

> 1) Take copious notes (in whatever format works for you).

Documentation is always key. And notes about experiences is also important. Check on this one.

> 2) Confirm managers decisions with a recap email (especially when you disagree with them).

This is always important. I discussed a lot to with people in higher ranks than me to find for the perfect fit for a project. Check on this one.

> 3) Understand that while you may not like politics (I don't) knowing how the game is played allows you to mostly stay out of it.

Yeah I stay in the mainstream part, and just vote if there is something to vote on. But it is just a decade where keeping up with politics will just drive you nuts.

> 4) Work time is work time, learn to be productive and then go home and switch off.

That's something I really need to learn. For me it is really hard to switch off my head.

> 5) Work friends are NOT friends.

Always true. I mean you can meet with them for lunch etc., but it will always be about work.

> 6) Learn to say 'No' in a way that doesn't ruffle feathers but does result in the no case.

Also know your weaknesses and don't lie about them. This will save a lot of nerves.

> 7) If something seems interesting, go for it - all the best experiences in my working life have resulted from stepping outside my comfort zone.

Also something I need to learn. For me it is really hard to step out of my comfort zone.

> That's something I really need to learn. For me it is really hard to switch off my head.

Find a hobby that requires focus but isn't your day job.

If you are focussing on rebuilding a motorcycle you aren't worrying about that project that is going to go late because the stakeholder is MIA or is present and their intelligence is MIA.

For me it's Motorcycles, Cycling, Chess and Reading but for you it could be painting, woodwork whatever - if you are a developer try to pick something away from a screen or that has screen work be the ancillary part - there is a therapy in sitting outside on a sunny day working on a bike that I can't find anywhere else.

Boy are these good advice.

> Work friends are NOT friends.

This is very hard for people to learn, including me, but it will make you much happier.

And, I'd add something that someone else said:

8) The most important determiner of how happy you are is your choice of life partner.

strong disagree, mostly because my life partner of 20+ years is someone who I worked with at my first job out of uni.

When you are young and in your first real job my experience is your best friends often are work friends. It's pretty natural to do things outside of work with the same people you really enjoy working with.

I think the main advice given is that work friends can be real friends, but not all friends should be work friends. It's about "diversifying" who you spend time with because your relationship with your employer is not the same as with your friends.

Only one thing I can add - start thinking if you want to work on cool stuff or make a career. There will be overlap but the two will significantly diverge at some point.

> And whats your best tip for life in general?

This will sound snarky given the context, but my best tip is to stop looking for personalized advice for common problems.

You haven’t given enough details to for anyone to seriously tailor their advice to you. So it’s just going to be generic. And if you’re willing to go with generic, you can do better than what fits into a comment on HN.

You could get the same advice much faster by googling the same question and looking at threads. You could find authors that seem respected and find out what they say about the matter.

If you’re going to go for personalized, share as much as you can. Fit as many details as you can while still keeping it organized. If your question is worth asking, ask it all the way.

And, this applies a ton in programming. You’ll be much faster if you learn to do as much as you can pulling from resources, and then pushing a great question when you need to.

Another important thing to know, is that people's advice will be based on their personal life goals--which is likely different from your personal life goals. If you go ask wall street playboys advice, they are going to give you advice on how to make $X,000,000 (start a business on the side) and become a player. If you ask a preacher for advice they are going to tell you to do a mission trip abroad, find a wife and get involved in a church.

- Until you build a network job hunting is a numbers game. Be ready to apply to hundreds of places.

- Be willing to move. During the great recession a lot of my buddies wanted to stay near home and it hurt them a lot. I moved across the country and have been the better for it.

- Be thoughtful about your partner/spouse choices. I married admittedly younger than most do now but your long term partners/spouse will have a huge impact on things like work and where you live. Make sure those are aligned well.

- Don't lie on your resume but don't be shy either.

- Work on your network as much as you can. Hiring is still a networking game no matter how much we wish it weren't. People like to hire people they know.

- Stay out of debt! I spent the first couple years paying off bad college credit card mistakes.

- Start an emergency fund. I would say at least $1000 but calibrate for where you live.

- You're probably living as cheap as you will ever live. Stay that way as long as you can. Don't be too eager to get rid of roommates or upgrade lifestyle any faster than absolutely necessary.

- Start a good routine of exercising and eating right. It only gets harder later and time is not forgiving for putting it off.

- Start being thoughtful about what you have on social media. This will depend on where you work, live, and want to do but give your last few years of online life a good pass and consider purging anything that doesn't represent who you are now.

- Takes courses on ethics, philosophy, speech, and other things that help you to think clearly and speak confidently.

- Be nice to as many people as you can. Your interviews start when you communicate to HR, walk thru the door and talk to the receptionist/ security guys. I used to ask them how potential hires treated them.

- Softskill are important, learn how to explain technical problems to non technical people. Try explaining CI/CD pipelines to your non tech friends and see if they understand.

- don't focus on tech all the time, try to understand why people around you are pushing for certain things that "don't make sense" ( there is usually a valid business reason).

- collaborate, don't say no, say "yes but here are the impacts" (it is not up to you/me/or a single person other than the CEO, to know if it is worth it to invest 2 months in what seems like a useless task).

Wear sunscreen?

Start saving money now and planning for retirement now. The earlier you start the more of an advantage you have.

Stick to the 50/30/20 rule: When paid, put 50% into an account for bills, 30% into a savings account, and 20% into an account for spending. Setup auto-billing and never touch bills and savings accounts. Live on less than 50% income and let the extra money in bills account roll over as additional savings.

Once you’ve saved one year’s living expenses, invest new savings into an index fund. Saving one year’s living expenses should only take 1-2 years if you’re living on 50% or less of income and saving 30%.

If you stick to 50/30/20 and grow your income, by the time your 30 you’ll have at least $250k if you only earn $60k, but probably over $1,000,000 if you increase your earnings over that time.

If you start planning now you can retire by 35-40 just by working a job and being financially disciplined.

I could go into more detail with a financial plan, email me (in my profile) if you want more info.

Yep. Most of the advice here is about how to be a better employee and navigate a system that doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

Instead, work to free yourself from needing that system at all. Then you don’t need a life of playing politics and keeping CYA emails from your manager.

If I may suggest (only because I have become a fan of the guy's principles), check out Dave Ramsey and his 7 baby steps. I wish I knew these 35 years ago, I could have avoided most of the "stupid". I know that his ecosystem is about sucking you in and but all his books, but still, if you can phase out the too-much-Christianity bits, he gives some solid advice. (YMMV)

Dave Ramsey is good but I think a sane mortgage can be healthy. Another thing I like about him is being wise with money instead of being cheap. Some places like /personalfinance are focused on being as cheap as possible and I feel like you can’t have fun.

Dave Ramsey is Really good if you are starting from a bad place financially (eg credit card debt, no financial plan).

He looses steam when you’re in the actual wealth building phase. Boogle head and other resources are better there. Tax law is hardest and for that it’s probably worth paying someone (once you have >$200k in assets).

For a completely different perspective on this advice (the advice given here is the consensus view on how to build wealth) read "Unscripted" or "The Millionaire Fastlane" by MJ Demarco.

Starting a business can be a great way to earn more income, and the income potential is unlimited.

My advice applies to whether one chooses to start a business or not.

Your advice is to use your savings to generate capital growth via the stock market via index funds. This isn't necessarily good advice. It may be, and it's common advice, but the books I mentioned explicitly advise against doing that.

My advice is living on 50% of income, and saving. It doesn’t matter if income comes from business or a job. Even if you don’t think index funds will grow, which is going against 100+ years of historical returns, you have to park money somewhere for capital preservation.

After saving one year’s expenses as cash in the bank, where would you park savings for low-risk passive capital preservation? Cash gets destroyed by inflation. Bond yields are too low. The historical track record of 20 years in a good stock index is unbeatable, no matter what year you started.

Where do you keep your savings, right now?

Even if you focus on growing capital by starting a business (what The Millionaire Fastlane recommends), you still have to park the profit somewhere.

One of the points of the book is you aren’t going to “park” capital but instead hand it over to income generating investments.

Also, I’m in cash and private equity, whatever that’s worth. Have never owned an index fund.

Thanks for that tip. I personally will start putting like 25€ away for saving every month. I will note the 50/30/20 method for the feature if I have a regular income none based on my parents.

I’ve only recently learned this but letting go of your ego and being easy to work with rather than constantly believing you are “right” is going to get you extremely far and you’ll be able to learn how people think and be able to judge if you want to model them (or absolutely not).

So basically if you think your boss knows nothing, got there by luck and you are finding everything they do irritates you; it’s you not them.

We could also talk about not getting too involved in general, work is work and you should have important things you’re interested in outside of what you are doing in exchange for money.

I had to learn the opposite lessons:

- sometimes, you are right, and you need to assert your opinion

- your confident boss might not know what they are doing,

- and getting involved with your work makes the work a lot more fun.

I think the default for me is probably to bluntly say what I think. Maybe what you learned is needing to “assert your opinion” more. I think either way taking your personal ego out of what is said has been an important lesson for me.

One of the best experiences of my career was making a friend who always admits to not knowing something. I've never thought less of him for it at the time and the accumulation of knowledge from just asking people is staggering.

Also, it's much nicer to work with someone without an ego. Keeps the whole team happy.

I really need to trust my skills. Sometimes I take a step back although I have the knowledge to solve the problem.

Up until now, educators have been required to be clear about expectations (rubrics, curricula, syllabi) and outcomes (grades, certificates, report cards).

It varies a bit by profession, but that sort of structure goes away very suddenly once your career starts. In some ways, that structure is already an illusion because many professions utterly ignore grades after only a few years of experience are added to a resume.

Initially, it is very liberating to not have another quiz, test, dissertation, or other deadline looming. Enjoy that reprieve.

People canny about doing excellent work and advancing their careers will soon notice that they have a relatively open feedback loop. They deliver work, someone accepts the work with little constructive criticism, and then they move on to the next bit of work. But was it 'A' work? We're there mistakes to be corrected? Was the work below average in quality? Was it overproduced?

Will your work get you the raises and promotions you want? The next job you want? Will it advance the goals of your team? Does it even give you decent job security? Typical companies will have annual or semiannual feedback processes, but that is like turning in all the homework, quizzes, tests, papers, etc., then only getting a semester report card for feedback. And only then finding out that your grader ignored homework and valued office hour participation highly this whole time.

What to do? Understand that it's your job to seek high quality feedback from whoever you can find. Peer reviews, mentors, your boss, your boss's boss, people who have the kinds of jobs you want, and so on. You might have to get out and network professionally to grow a set of people to help you in this way.

That means, to be excellent at your job and career, do not exclusively take direction from your immediate supervisor. Certainly be an excellent team member and keep your boss proud of you, but if you are only waiting around for the next assignment from the boss, you'll likely stunt your growth.

There is no set program for you to follow anymore. If you don't want to be wandering around blind, you need to do your own research and get your own feedback.

ADDENDUM: I guess I didn't say this explicitly. For the same reasons, it's also your job to make sure expectations are clear before starting an assignment, project, or other goal. Good bosses are good at this, but everyone has flaws and you want to thrive even under mediocre or poor management.

> it's your job to seek high quality feedback from whoever you can find

Agree. Not always of high quality, but also for "reality check". For example, you'll have to write a feedback tool yourself (i.e. for a B2B, private software that hundreds of people can use daily), so you get how the users value the product (typical star system with optional comments, etc).

My pro-tip for when you land your first job:

You'll be tempted your first week to "clean up" the code you find there. Don't.

This in an excellent advice. In real world the value of a codebase is not in it's aesthetics. It's how and what sort of added value it bring's to it's users. And how much value your employer can capture from it (i.e. it's price).

The question you should ask is not "how to make this more beautiful" but "how to bring in more value to the customer". Don't go on a refactoring crusade alone.

If you want to become a valued individual contributor try to understand the added value created by the product as much as you try to understand the codebase.

The principle here is intellectual humility. Keep Chesterton's fence in mind. Take some time to listen and learn why things are they way they are before you disturb them. Consider your own expertise and its limitations. Assume competence good faith on the part of the original authors. Be willing to change your mind about that, but slowly.

That said, intuition and sensibility are your most important professional assets; you definitely want to nurture and listen to them. The feeling that code is "ugly" is often a signal that it hides surprising behaviors (bugs) or that changes involve more effort and risk than they should. Any software org you want to be part of does care about its ability to continue shipping working software. Protecting that capability is very much part of your job. Don't check in sloppy work. But let senior people take the heat on correcting others' sloppy work, at least until you learn what the attitudes about it are like.

Similarly, don't go having opinions about customer value or business strategy until you have a relationship with the product manager and an understanding of the context, intentions, and roadmap. When you do, they should be weakly held and gently expressed. Software engineering is your domain; there will be times when you know something that others don't and you have a duty to be firm about it. This will never be the case for business.

If testing is a thing in that company you can contribute by writing more tests in order to understand the existing codebase.

This will give you a good position to literally question the legacy code without being perceived as smartasserish.

That said, if there are small cleanup opportunities in your first commit related to the commit, that's usually ok.

When you are new, say yes to everything. Stay busy, if you have nothing to do, ask for something. You want to take the load off your team members where you can to contribute & build some clout/respect. Find the most knowledgeable team member and shadow them.

Real jobs are just college group projects that never end.

> When you are new, say yes to everything.

Anecdote: Back when I was first starting, we were experimenting with different agile styles, and were pulling cases off a backlog whenever we needed something new to do. It wasn't strictly ordered, so you could pull off the top several if there was something you wanted to do more.

The top two items were getting skipped for a long time, so I took one and stumbled around trying to figure it out. Ended up asking a few newbie questions (non-technical, about how the feature was intended to work) that our manager had no answer for, resulting in the case getting officially bumped way down. Then tried the second, and the same thing happened.

Even though I technically didn't get anything done (which did feel kinda bad at the time), I learned a decent amount about how those systems functioned, got rid of some eyesores, and brought it to everyone's attention that the cases hadn't been sufficiently fleshed out. Net positive, I think.

While saying yes to everything is an interesting way to learn new things. Keep in mind that saying no is also a skill to be learned.

As a person currently struggling with always-say-yes related burnout symptoms I cannot stress enough how important it is to manage your workload to keep yourself sane. Balance is key

This is true. I should have stressed the "while you're new" part and added "say yes but communicate when you're overloaded". After a while you'll start to see the good projects from bad ones and can stategically keep your mouth shut when someone pitches them.

This is good advice. Saying yes to everything is basically the most important thing. The other thing is to try to tackle headache problems for your team or manager.

You’ll know it when you see it because you will literally get uncomfortable when thinking about completing it.

High output involves completely finishing things. It will be impossible at first, but as you get more experience, in both total and your current company you will be better at it.

> When you are new, say yes to everything.

Maybe, but not if you already know what is being asked of you is boring because you have tried it before and it did not work. Also, don't be afraid of sharing experiences that you may have had - if a particular library/algorithm is sub-optimal and you know it, speak out.

> Real jobs are just college group projects that never end.

For a decent company, the differences are:

* The skill set of group members probably suits the tasks (e.g. some good at leading, some good at coordinating, some good at coding)

* The reward is real and can be life-changing. (e.g. becoming millionaires)

* The punishment is real (e.g. being fired)

Being fired is very normal procedure in current corporate world. You loose game of office politics and you are out. Maybe not immediately, but with next downsizing wave. Shouldn’t happen in decent company, but nobody is perfect.

Becoming millionaire as a salaried employee is a pipe dream. Company owner will become millionaire, salaried employee will get yearly 10% bonus. In decent company maybe 20%.

I agree on skill set, but I saw many different things like electrical engineers writing C# code because manager wanted this.

> Becoming millionaire as a salaried employee is a pipe dream. Company owner will become millionaire, salaried employee will get yearly 10% bonus. In decent company maybe 20%.

In a typical FAANG company, you can simply stick to a job for like 4 years to earn a million USD (before tax). If you do well on top of that + stock growth, your compensation will sky-rocket.

There are 10 of thousands of employees reaches $1m in earning. Maybe it probably takes 4-5 years to save $1m. But it's not hard.

There are many employees at FAANG for sure, but majority will never work there.

I’d say at least two out of those three points are usually true.

Except there's no recess and the grades count for more.

Set up a financial plan before you accept your first dollar, if you wish to be most efficient.

Use percentages, such as saving 10% for long term wealth, and 5% for a fun account so you don't sabotage your financial plan.

Learn enough of the tax code in the country you live in so that when you make financial (and employment/business) decisions you are doing so while obtaining the best treatment in taxes, one of our biggest expenses.

Once this is all rote, you can focus on doing what you want, following dreams, exploring new realms, acquiring new valuable skills, etc. knowing that you have your financial base set up to grow solidly.

This I think is the most important aspect most of the engineers ignore

Best life tip? Have a hobby or two that you love and that can occupy your body and mind for hours or days. Spend time wallowing in them. Be proud of enjoying them and share that enthusiasm with the people you meet. Mostly, these hobbies should not be what you do for work.

Regarding CS as a career: take classes in the humanities: art, history, political science, psychology, philosophy, etc. You’ll find you are better able to understand why you are doing what you are doing if your mindset for approaching problem solving is rooted in both technology and humanity.

I would augment this by saying "try to have many things in your life that give you meaning and enjoyment". Have some hobbies. Find a charity to get involved in. Have a semi-regular game night with some friends, or join a meetup group. If you're religious, find a religious community to be a part of.

It's very easy to end up with one or two pillars in your life that define it entirely, and that can make things harder when your life has ups and downs. And your life will have ups and downs. If the only thing in your life is your job, and you lose your job -- or are worried about losing your job -- it can really wreck your whole world.

Having a lot of things that are important to you gives you more resiliency. You may still care deeply about each individual part, but when one is going poorly you can at least take solace in and enjoy the parts that are going well.

19 and a portfolio. My former employer would have been tripping over themselves to hire you after the internship.

I was told multiple times over the years that I was hired because of my attitude and work ethic, not my skills, which were comparable to every other candidate. Something to keep in mind.

Politics dictate promotions over merit, so don't burn yourself out trying to get promoted. They'll just expect the extra work as normal. They might not even have a place in the hierarchy to promote anybody. If you want a higher position, they are out there, but you'll have to interview for them. As geeks we don't want to deal with the business side of the equation, but that's what career advancement is.

For tech advice, always study the fundamentals. It will be your job to know and be proficient with the latest JS frameworks and backend stacks, but don't forget the core fundamentals like algorithms and data structures. You should know what a trie structure is. You should know the advantages of merge sort. You should know what Big O is. If you only stick with the js frameworks and such, you can end up as a programmer with 20 years experience and not really know anything. You have 20 years of 1 year experience, each in a different, now obsolete tech stack.

For life advice, your daily routine is everything. Your sleep schedule, diet, commute time, study time, entertainment, etc is key to advancing your life progress. Highly successful people have routines behind them where large swathes of events are managed in a clockwork fashion.

Tip for life: human memory is essentially a solved problem. Spaced repetition Just Works (TM). Learn how to use Anki, read Michael Nielsen on Anki, read through the first essay of https://quantum.country (even if you don't intend ever actually learning any quantum computation) just to see what good spaced-repetition flashcards look like and how to convert a text into flashcards. You can memorise very nearly anything with Anki.

Edit to add: even if for some unaccountable reason you choose not to use Anki or one of its siblings, you must read and comprehend https://www.supermemo.com/en/archives1990-2015/articles/20ru... .

Good tip, but I thought you were going to go a different direction with this. More like:

- Don't bother memorizing trivia. At least for work. Save room for the pleasurable trivia from your private life. Convince your team to set up a knowledge base and use it.

- Learn how to bookmark and reference stuff that is important.

- Almost nothing said in a meeting matters unless it is written down and most of the stuff that happens in meetings immediately evaporates into thin air.

- The palest ink is more reliable than the most powerful memory.

Are there examples/blogs of how to use Spaced repetition for math/sciences/computer science/programming?

For discrete math currently, I solve problems, and either I come across 1 complex problem for each topic which I might have struggled with, or a problem which has concepts of multiple topics interleaved. I add that to my deck and I solve them regularly.

Nielsen has http://cognitivemedium.com/srs-mathematics, for example.

I would strongly recommend not having entire problems as a single card; it's absolutely crucial that answering any particular card is a single mental motion. (You can get by with a very small workload if your cards are more complex than that, but it doesn't scale even in the medium term.) I wouldn't go any more complex than "what is 75 * 43".

As an example, the definition of a red-black tree for me is six cards:

* What, imprecisely, are the colouring rules on a red-black tree? ["global; local; base-case"]

* What are the leaves of a red-black tree? ["null"]

* What is the base-case colouring rule of a red-black tree? ["leaves are black"]

* What is the local colouring rule of a red-black tree? ["red node => black children"]

* What is the global colouring rule of a red-black tree? ["black depth is well defined"]

* What is the black depth of a node in a red-black tree? ["the number of black nodes encountered on a path from that node down to a leaf"]

One might naively have created a single card that is "what is a red-black tree?", but in my experience such a card is too big. The difficulty of learning a card grows at least quadratically with the number of mental motions it takes to answer that card, and small/simple/easily-learned cards are incredibly cheap in that Anki very quickly learns not to show them to you if they're genuinely easy.

Maths-wise, my cards usually look like:

* "Does path-connectedness imply connectedness?" [yes]

* "Does connectedness imply path-connectedness?" [no]

* "Counterexample to connectedness-implies-path-connectedness" [topologist's sine curve]

* "Definition of the topologist's sine curve" [union of the y-axis and a squashed sine]

* "Definition of the squashing of the sine component of the topologist's sine curve" [whatever]

* "Main idea of the proof that path-connectedness implies connectedness" [use "all locally constant functions into [0, 1] are constant"]

Can't really say much about landing a job. But I think the best advice I can give when getting a job is this:

Your job will most likely have nothing to do with what you were taught in school. It might have some superficial resemblance because you might use the same tools or in rare cases even apply something you learned but the the day to day work, the skills you need succeed and what you need to do to do something well are simply stuff you are never taught in school.

Higher education is used almost exclusively as a signal in hiring. Higher education teaches you how to be an academic (and if that's you career choice than forget what I said) it isn't a vocational school and neither the people who ran the institutions nor the people who will hire you expect Academia to actually teach you how to do the job.

This is true for almost all degrees to some extend, not just CS, but it is very evident in CS and many fresh graduates who land their first CS job have a hard time to adjust to the change in expectations.

For CS the shock usually revolves around understanding that most of what you are going to do is combining and interfacing with other people's code (whether colleagues, open source libraries or 3rd party services) and rarely if ever do algorithmic or data structure work.

Always important to learn stuff besides theory and the stuff from school. Something I do since 7th grade with CS.

> Which advice did/would have helped you landing your first job after university?

Every job I've ever gotten was through friends. Including my first job.

I got my first job because one of my college friends got a job and recommended me. I got my second job because one of my college friends recommended me for it, after we worked together at the first job, which I helped him get. I got my fourth job because one of my friends from my second job worked there and vouched for me. (My third job was with a startup where I just approached the founders and told them I want to work there, and they said not right now, but we became friends and eventually they hired me when they had money).

Now most importantly, all of these college friends were made while working in technology positions in college.

My point is, it's never too early to start building your network. Make friends with people in the same career track now, show them how good you are at your job, return the favor when you're in a position to help them, and then reap the benefits throughout your life (not to mention the bonus of lifelong friendships).

I felt a lot more comfortable about the idea of "networking" once I started thinking of it as "making friends with people".

When I first tried networking, I thought that I was supposed to help other people, and then ask those people for favors. To me, that felt really unnatural. It felt like we were just using each other.

Now I see that my friends are the people who help me the most. They're people who I care about, and who care about me. So when people tell you to "network", I would just translate what they're saying as "go make friends".

A lot of this advice sounds like old people spouting cliches - well, I'm old and have lots of obvoious advice too, so...

You're 19 and in your second semster, concerned about a post-uni job. It's great that you've started thinking about what the future could look like but also pretty pointless. There are too many factors out of your control when you'll be a new grad is 3+ years. Focus on the now. Explore classes that you really enjoy, take your breadth courses outside of CS or what you think employers will want. Do some dumb, fun things with other people, both technical and non-technical. Consider an internship or student position that lasts more than a summer - a 12 or 16 month work term delays graduation a year but look FANTASTIC on your resume when you go for that first post-grad job interview. Develop some interesting personal aspects beyond your technical skills. I love to hear about someone's exchange in Japan, or the non-profit they've worked with out of love vs. resume padding (it's obvious), or a deep passion for vintange computers or Russian lit or anything genuine and unique.

After you graduate you'll probably have 2 or 3 careers and countless jobs. This is amazing! Live in the now of each job, not always looking for your next move. The progression and change will come naturally or suddenly. Mapping out a decades-long career may still happen, but I've rarely seen it outside of a few industries/companies/fields.

You're going to make mistakes, the goal is not to be error-free. Don't make the same mistakes repeatedly and try not to make any fatal mistakes. Younger people are generally pretty good at try & failing and not destroying everything with their screw ups, but it's the good ones who avoid repeating them. New hires don't know much but this also means the good ones are willing to try anything and jump in to new areas. Be Courageous, not Fearless.

There are lots of other tidbits but I'm saving them for my opportunity to deliver a commencement address some day. If I only had one thing to say it would be that there is a lot more uncertainty about the future of a recent comp sci grad these days vs. the past ~25 years or so, when it was unambiguously really good or really bad. Prepare for this by cultivating flexibility and adaptability now.

1.choose jobs for their learning potential, not their earning potential for the first years. This will pay off later.

2.be willing to change jobs if you don't have a clear chance of promotion inside.

3.be a likable person. Have a coffee with your colleagues, make small chat with your boss, ask about their lives, remember their families' names... In office politics it doesn't matter how good you are as much as how much people like you.

4.be your own advertiser. Probably no other person will be. Make sure that when you have a success everybody knows it was yours and what you did.

5.be willing to do more than your job's description, but don't be a pushover. Ask for compensation or recognition every time you do something beyond your duties.

"4.be your own advertiser. Probably no other person will be. Make sure that when you have a success everybody knows it was yours and what you did."

Yes! This! This does not mean false promotion. It means being able to express succintly and understandably that what you are good at. The world is drowning in noise. You do a disservice to everyone, including yourself, if you don't create a "personal brand".

It does not mean being obnoxious or pushing yourself. It just means you can explain clearly - when the need is - what you are good at in as few words that are as effective as possible.

this is golden. except may be 2. which contradicts with 1. You probably don't need promotion in the initial years unless you are looking for management career, which would be good if you end up like Sundar Pichai but bad if you just become a redundant replaceable resource especially in bad times like this.

Be good at writing. I cannot stress this enough. Be comfortable articulating original ideas in writing. Be thorough, precise, and objective.

In the corporate world that one skill is what separates the adults from the children in the room.

I'll go against the tide here, since much of the advice in this thread seems to be from people who have gone through bad experiences, and laying on advice that might make you feel cynical or cautious about your work life. When life deals you a bad hand, it's important to not over-correct in the other direction. Digest the lesson, but don't assume doing the opposite of what you did before will result in better results. Try to integrate the lesson into a greater whole. Be cautious of views that are superficially contrarian, if you see many people holding them.

Work hard. When you are young, this is the best time to go deep, and get good at something, since you are free from other responsibilities. Later, you will have many things you care as much or more about than work, and so the time in your life will have passed to be as deeply engaged with your work. A lot of the work you do will ultimately be lost, be failures, or end up in the trash bin for other reasons -- take comfort knowing that the work was done to mold you into the person you will become, not for the sake of the project itself.

Read Hamming's "The Art of Doing Science and Engineering." Have a plan, even though it will change with time, to move your career towards working on things you think are important. Even if you don't know what those are, make a point to "check in" with yourself every year or so to ask the question: "Am I working on the most important problems in my field? If not, why?" This doesn't mean you will always be working on these problems, and it doesn't mean that it's wrong to not be, it just means that you should always have a plan, a path, and a strategy towards getting there, and catching yourself if you are falling off-track.

Understand regret minimization as a framework for making good decisions.

Most of all, avoid listening too closely to advice :) Realize there are many paths through life, and yours is your own to write. Luck favors the prepared mind: prepare yourself, through work, and through reflection, to be able to recognize the doors that will appear that are uniquely suited for you to walk through. And, when they do, don't hesitate to go through them: the world, your peers, and 'common sense', will often try to pull you away from them.

Good luck!

Much of the advice I came to give has already been given in other comments (which is great). So I'll leave a piece of meta-advice:

McIntyre's Law: Anything I tell you could be wrong under the right circumstances.

Advice is more often than not, colored by the personal experiences of the person giving it.

"Which advice did/would have helped you landing your first job after university?"

I got no advice, I just tried to find something interesting (that I was not really competent enough to do). But it turned out well.

In the large scale life is ruled by statistics. In the small, personal scale by serendipity and chance. You live on the personal scale.

"And whats your best tip for life in general?"

Try to find a domain in which to work which is intrinsically interesting for you. You. Not the general public. Not interested in <hot topic X> that seems to be trendy? That's totally fine.

Try to be strategic with your career. Try to think time to time where you want to be in five years. You need a plan with alternative scenarios. They all probably go wrong - and that's fine. They are just a framework for your own reflection. But you need them.

Read biographies of people who've worked in your or similar domain.

Find out what the other guy is thinking. Not interested in management? Read a few books on management anyway. And don't use your knowledge in discussions. Because it will sound (no matter how you put it) like you read a few books on topic X and now think you are an expert.

There is a good book on every subject.

The most critical decision for your happiness will be who you will marry.

Find different ways to collaborate with others on software. Learn how to review code and how to respond when your code is critiqued. Contribute to medium-sized open source projects that are still maintained and have a fair number of users.

As for life in general: learn about personal finance. Once you’ve got a decent salary, you’ll need to know how to invest for retirement, save up for a house, pay down debt, etc.

"Contribute to medium-sized open source projects that are still maintained and have a fair number of users."

I've never contributed to an open source project and my career has evolved just fine, though.

I think this audience over stresses the need of open source contributions. It's fine if you don't want to work in the open and don't want to share your code.

Natural curiosity of open codebases is a good thing to have, though :)

I've known several excellent 9-17 coders who work, and then go home to do other things.

Some random thoughts:


Depending on where you live, there will be hundreds/thousands of new CS graduates every year, but a smaller number of available jobs for juniors.

So, you need to differentiate yourself from the rest.

Starting from there, there are two paths you can follow to increase your chances of finding a good job (not mutually exclusive):

- Do what everyone does, but better.

- Do different things then everyone


First principles thinking.

It has been an invaluable thinking method for me to improve myself, in all areas of life.

Some random links:



Some examples on how you can apply it to software development:

- You will be using various languages/frameworks/libraries when creating software, with various level of abstractions. At the beginning, you won't have the necessary experience to understand how everything works underneath. Whenever you find time, try to dig through the abstractions to discover why they were built the way they built, how they work together. This understanding will make you a better engineer.

- When working with non-technical clients/project shareholders, what they say they want and what they really want will usually be different. Often, you will have to dig through their requests to find out how you should continue.

Perception is reality. Your personal brand is insanely important. In a job, you are always assessed and your career progress will be based on how others perceive you (unless you are in a very metric focused career like sales). Anyone can say differently, but whatever other factors people mention, they all drive the final factor which is perception.

I always tell people two things when they start:

1) Impress everybody you meet. First impressions are very sticky. Impress people first, they will hold you to a higher standard, and then you aim to continue to impress. I’ve seen very few cases that people have shed their initial impressions.

2) Over-communicate. Make sure you ask questions, write thorough emails that explain rationale. It’s really important that you aggressively set and meet expectations. A major problem people have is expectation mismatch. Make sure both you and others are in sync and this usually happens via over-communication.

> 2) Over-communicate. Make sure you ask questions, write thorough emails that explain rationale. It’s really important that you aggressively set and meet expectations. A major problem people have is expectation mismatch. Make sure both you and others are in sync and this usually happens via over-communication.

Eh, this is not great advice for new hires. Let's not encourage them to spam their managers for every decision. Ha.

Spamming was not my intent. I agree that spamming “is it ok if I” and “should I” emails is definitely bad. I do think that communication is an incredibly important focus for new hires though. Confirming what they are hearing, asking questions, setting expectations (verbally or written). I think those things go a long way.

> Which advice did/would have helped you landing your first job after university?

Take a few advanced, specialized CS classes by your 3rd year. These often have large end-of-semester projects that can be fairly open ended.

These final projects are a great way differentiate yourself from the thousands of other CS grads looking for jobs.

Sure, you could get an 'A' in class by doing the bare minimum for a project. Alternatively, you could go beyond course requirements and have something to show off for potential employers, even if just another resume item to use as a conversation-starter. If you're doing the project anyway, going an extra 10% over the top is relatively easy, especially compared to trying to land a meaningful contribution to an open-source project or building a separate portfolio project from scratch.

> These final projects are a great way differentiate yourself from the thousands of other CS grads looking for jobs.

The bigger firms recruit for raw numbers and then reassign roles. So this might not mean the difference between being hired and not in some of the bigger companies, but on what you're actually pushed towards at the end of the placement cycle.

The technical talent of a new grad is rarely used to explore the deep end of a complicated problem, but instead is full of work that takes time rather than thought. So the last year or so of your course is the last chance for the next 3+ years to work on a complex problem which you are obviously not qualified to work on.

The bare point is that nobody hires you to run a hilly marathon, but will give you tasks that are mile-times instead & expect you to sprint through them. And these are expected even with the best managers, who expect you to grow out of that phase at some point (as frustrating as it is going to be for you).

So the project is going to be the most useful thing for someone to pick you over someone else when dealing with a problem somewhere in the same region of CS.

The thing I did to "get hired" was learn J2EE, but what actually guided the next problem someone threw at me was because I did a bunch of compiler/byte-code junk as an undergrad which ended up being career defining for the next six years.

If I was in a class in today's world, I might do the same with a neural network or some computational genetics.

Not because it is directly tied to getting hired, but very relevant on whether a manager/tech-lead throws a similar problem at you soon. And possibly you'll get to work with the best people who do that for a living.

You don't have to be a developer all your life (or not at all) :)

I recently met someone who started out as a dev in a bank, then took interest in the numbers part, and now he's a director in a mega-big bank in Internal Audit. Cool person.

In similar paths, I too studied CS, hated programming, started as help-desk, then moved to sys-admin, then to IT Audit and then IT Sec, GRC and now I am mixing and matching the above (Sec-Audit-GRC). I enjoy what I do and I never imagined that I would move from IT Ops if one would have asked me 20 years ago.

Ask people what parts of their career they enjoyed and why.. again this is about their life, but you can understand the CRITERIA more than the actual subject. Listen to their WHY and it may help you construct the rule-set that may lead you to your why/what/where/when.

One thing that worked well for me was to look for a mentor early on. Try to find someone experienced in the field that could lead you through your career, recommend books and give you feedback. Two things that happened to me while following this:

1. I was learning much quicker and way more valuable content than my peers during university. I think it was mainly because I was getting curated content/tips from my mentor which saved me from learning things that I will probably never gonna need. 2. I got job offers even while not looking for jobs. Interesting enough, my mentor casually mentioned me within his network and those people ended up contacting me.

The best part of it is that you can get it 100% for free if you search carefully. The tech field is full of good people that are willing to give their time(usually very expensive) away to help newcomers. Specially those like me that got help from the start, paying it forward feels like a obligation.

But you might ask: “how can I connect with those experienced people?”. There are many ways to do it, but some very effective are:

- go to meetups and talk to people. Don't just sit there and watch the talks. Be part of it.

- use Twitter. You will be impressed by the amount ok knowledge that is being shared there.

- reach out To your local companies. Send them emails, knock at their doors. There is nothing cooler than seeing folks interested on your product/company.

What would be a good way to find a mentor? I had looked into that topic a while back, but haven't found something promising.

And I think the first step for me would be getting to know people in the institute district we have here next to the university. But meetups are definitely something I want to go to in the future. But Twitter was something I always failed on. Any tips for Twitter?

Have an open mind to do work that's not your job by definition.

Those are the kind of people who become indispensable for a company and it'll help you when you become an entrepreneur.

Beat advice I can give you is to be endlessly positive and do whatever they ask you to do as well as you possibly can even if it is not what you want. If on your first day they give you a mop and a bucket and direct you to the toilets, then be damned sure you make those toilets the cleanest they've seen.

Silly example I agree (they won't ask you to clean the bathrooms... probably), but demonstrating a strong work ethic will get you noticed and earn you a good reputation that will pay back many times in the future.

I've had interns who get surly and moany when they don't get asked to work on machine learning to cure cancer and turn lead into gold, but got asked to fix some unit tests or something else unglamorous. They become a real pain to work with because you know they'll complain about whatever you give them so you end up just giving them scraps or at worst basically giving them nothong and letting them spend their time on tiktok or whatever because it's less hassle than trying to satisfy their ego. Don't be that person who makes a fuss for being asked to do real-world work and you'll go a long way.

Good luck

If on your first day they give you a mop and a bucket and direct you to the toilets, then be damned sure you make those toilets the cleanest they've seen.

Unfortunately, this can easily backfire. Make sure it is clean, sure, but at some point you are going to take time cleaning and it won't be appreciated at best. At worse, you are going to be told it took you to long to do the work. This is coming from someone who, at a foodservice job, had someone teach me how to mop. Their standards - for mopping anyway - were quite a bit lower than the standards I grew up with at home. It hasn't just been that establishment, either: Everywhere has some of this.

I'd much rather see someone be told, "Do well, but there is no need to be perfect. Be efficient where you can". This goes so much further and besides, most folks expect the new person to do a few things that are a bit off.

Not being fussy about the work you do, though: Solid advice. I've generally tried to do something other people dislike, if possible.

I would like to give the opposite advice. Learn to tell the difference between doing unglamorous work (which you'll need to do) and being taken advantage of by your employer.

> demonstrating a strong work ethic will get you noticed and earn you a good reputation that will pay back many times in the future.

No, this is an exception rather than the rule. Depending on your employer/manager, a strong work ethic may or may not be noticed. If it's noticed, it might even impact you negatively since you'll be the guy who can be abused and overworked in the future especially if you can't speak up for yourself. The other options are that nothing changes with your work ethic or that you're rewarded in some way. In the cases that you are rewarded, it's more likely that your employer is giving you meaningless tokens, praise and/or more responsibility rather than actual perks or increased compensation.

I think an organization should be able to deliver on what it promises when hiring someone even to an intern and both parties expectations should be expressed in good faith as clearly as possible. Frankly if someone told me they were cleaning toilets unexpectedly in their software development internship my advice would be to look for ways to get out of that internship if they can because engaging with that company is clearly a waste of time.

Oh ok that last part sounds "bad". Something my dad always thought me: you cannot always do something you love in work. A hobby is something where you do something you will "always" like.

But you should have a workplace you like, because that is key, from my point of view.

You have about six weeks where you can ask otherwise outrageous questions and actually effect change. After that they will just think you are an idiot.

I came here to say something like this, except for the last part.

I would say, rather, there are no stupid questions.

After awhile it will become increasingly clear who fields questions well, and who doesn’t.

Cultivate the former, avoid the latter.

Yes. this is a better phrasing. The key point is that you can ask almost anything in the critical new window.

After that period the ability to make other people re-think things significantly is made harder by their preconceptions about you, from their shared experiences.

BTW I've been telling new hires this for years, decades even. Not the 'after that they'll think you're an idiot' bit.

Other than school, which is sort of an anomaly, I find that the only thing that prepares you to do something is actually doing it. So the corollary is, you're never actually prepared for anything ahead of time. Don't worry about it, just trust yourself to either know or figure out what to do when the time comes. We make the path by walking.

Plus, OP shouldn't expect that the tasks that they get are always well thought through. In school you get assignments where the teacher already knows that a clear solution exists. In the real world your supervisor might work on flawed assumptions when giving you a task.

Also: The amount of effort needed for a task does not always correlate with the importance of the outcome. Sometimes big wins come easy and sometimes small wins are expensive.

If you're joining a company that does not have an established, tried and tested onboarding programme you may find documentation missing (whether it be technical or process) and pitfalls you fall into as a beginner. It may help to write it down in a public forum or help fix the stale documents which'll help other new joiners.

In general: listen to everyone than follow your way (C) nav.al

In practice: being research assistant is a good start. Do it as long as you can afford - I mean no family, no obligations whatsoever. (3-8 years)

Find a small company - this will teach you applying theory in practice. (3-8 years)

After that you will have the potential to start up your business. (3-8 years)

If you really enjoy, continue what you are doing. If not -but only if you have tried all above-, look for employment in a big company. No matter if it is tech, automotive, beverages or anything else. It will provide stable living for the remaining time.

If you've done everything fine up to this point you can't be sorry missing anything in your profession.

During the whole time listen to the sounds! :) Contemplate, analyze what fits you most? Which topics you are interested most? What you enjoy most? What are you the best in?

Share your thoughts with the younger.

> being research assistant is a good start. Do it as long as you can afford - I mean no family, no obligations whatsoever. (3-8 years)

I'll be blunt: this sounds like work that pays poorly (it's academia), is likely to be quite demanding (it's academia), doesn't give great industry experience (it's academia), and doesn't get you a PhD (at the end of it you still aren't an academic). What's the upside?

Your first job will give you lots of new and important experience. My advice would be to ask questions and say you don't know when you don't know.

When you get the answers make sure you learn from them.

Other than that - enjoy it! I much prefer my working life to my college life.

Always be true about knwoledge gaps. Thanks will do. And I am waiting for a workplace since school, but university is something I enjoy too and will help me landing a job more easily.

Learn the foundations. Linux/Unix shells, C programming, debugging, how linking works, how you can disassmble something, how strace works, networking, etc.

The reason here is that all this low level stuff is the literal foundation of whatever abstraction (python, JVM, C#) your company uses. And while it is not directly applicable it will help you a great deal when things do not work. Be not the guy that says "I did everything like it is written in the manual and it it does not work". Be the guy that says, "looks like libfoo.so on my system here is ABI incompatible to the libbbar.so I downloaded. I think we need to recompile libbar.so to make it work, where is the source?"

"Linux/Unix shells,"

On the other hand if the work is done on Windows it's much better to learn that platform than pining for something else.

Go with whatever is platform specific, and available out of the box. Avoid complex configuration packages just to get the specific interface flavour to the computational substrate you would prefer to use privately.

The reason is, if there is specific computational platform that the employer is using, you are much more helpfull to all around you if you operate with the vanilla settings rather than try to find something more special.

Privately try to find the best methods that work for you, in public, collaborating, try to find the most simple and straighforward method of contributing. Simple in this case does not mean a kludge, but it may mean a few extra lines of code or configuration here and there.

It really depends on what kind of career you want to have. If you're looking for a career at a FANG company, you pretty much just need to do what everyone else is doing and cater to your PM.

If you're more risk-prone, find a problem and start a company. Too many good developers are wasted at FANG companies instead of solving the world's biggest problems. When you graduate, you'll likely be around 22-23, if you spend 4 years working hard on something you truly care about you'll only be in your mid-twenties and haven't really lost all that much time.

Obviously, handle any financial obligations (Student Loans mainly) before jumping into the startup deep-end.

Your internship and research assistant are really good starting point. - Observe the work culture in your current workspace and ask feedback from your manager and coworkers. -Make a list of your weak and strong points.For me this helped me choosing the kind of work I love to do. Example: I like talking to people and solving problems,so I prefer customer support or BA role than a programmer. I know programming but I struggle to sit and code longer hours. - If needed improve your softskill. Many online free training available - Be flexible with relocation if the role promise long-term career growth and build strong skillset for your profile.

Thanks. Specially the part, talkong to people in order to find what you'd like most. I haven't found the perfect position for me yet.

Figure out what other people are doing, and copy it. You might think they’re doing it wrong, or they’re inefficient, or whatever; just copy it and see if you can ask questions. Take a bit of time to get in the flow and understand the environment. You’ll find that together a lot of the strange decisions will make sense once you know the context. Some of them won’t, so when you have a little bit of clout try to politely suggest an alternative; if they listen to you that’s great! If not, see if they’ll let you document the rationale behind it. Overall, don’t come in pretending to be a know-it-all. Even if you are, it’ll hurt you either way.

Do what you're doing right now — ask lots of questions! Especially if you get stuck!

That's generally good advice. Another thing I can recommend is to learn to market yourself and your work. Getting a job is, in a way, selling yourself. You have to convince the potential employer that parting with his/her money for your time is a bargain. This is a mix of persuasion, presentation, and communication. A few mock interviews with someone who knows the ropes, some time spent on your appearance and speech would help a lot. I landed a job in 2000 right out of college even though I had a CGPA below the cut off just because of how I was able to talk myself into an interview and then impress the interviewer.

Read The Beginner's Creed, by Peter J. Denning


I have recruited quite a few grads over the years and if you are like the majority of those (and I was) then I'd recommend:

1) Properly understanding what motivates yourself. What were the key parts of past jobs and activities that made you forget the time of day, do it for free, enjoyable.

2) Seek jobs with lots of the parts identified in 1) that you are confident you can be _bloody_ good at and people will pay you enough for.

3) When you apply for those jobs; apply for the job - tell the recruiter that you have read their advert, what it is that motivates you and that you are worth them spending time on.

For life in general; keep learning.

You'll be fine, but good luck anyway

What worked for me: I got an internship at a big company in the field I wanted to work in. I stayed with that company throughout the entirety of my studies, I knew just about everybody in the company and had a list of job offers to choose from when I graduated. I declined all of them and moved overseas with the same company - was difficult to find but I managed it in the end. Had I wanted to stay in the US it would have been very easy to find work. Also, I graduated in a not so bad economic time - so I guess luck was part of it as well.

Learn to write a CV/resume without adjectives. When you do your best to fill up one page, and find your experience lacking, you can ask someone who hires new grads if they would hire/interview you. If they say no, ask why not. The answer they give will give you a clue as to what you need to improve on. Ask enough people and a pattern will emerge.

Also, no matter how hard things get, keep a positive attitude, or at least don’t become negative. People wanna work with people they’d like to spend time around.



do what you can to not work for anyone but yourself. even if it means reducing the scope of what you can work on and earning less.

and the hardest thing of all: find people you like, respect and trust - and stick with them. loyalty and fidelity above all else.

yes this sounds weird, but to me sleepwalking through life, being constantly distracted and dealing with office politics is by far more weird. to each his own i guess.

That was a fun read. OT: It helped me dress up a strange thought (read: dumb idea) I had where I pondered what would happen if the person representing the group (10) was the last one hired, had the lowest pay, the least contractual security and can be fired easily by the group. Put the tree upside down. They would function like an elected representative or a janator. It seemed fun to have a bunch of young inexperienced junior hires managing the show. The next level in the tree could work the same way. Let the juniors hire someone to represent them. It would no doubt create tons of new problems but it would get rid of many of the classical ones (that seem to scale with size) In stead of managing people we could simply go back to managing work(?!)

I'm don't think there's a dichotomy here. I've had jobs with a spectrum of autonomy. I like working for an organization because I can focus on my expertise. I don't want to market, do sales, or chase investors. To each his own.

excellent, you've provided another great life lesson: seemingly benign but nonetheless false assumptions can have disastrous consequences. so much talent and potential has been lost to hubris.

remember: don't ever rely on intelligence alone when making critical life decisions, it will only serve to dissuade you. after all, it's not the reasonable men who change the world.

As someone who hires CS professionals, a few pointers. Be deliberate about the industry that you are working in. You won't know how long you'll be there and after a few years, your industry knowledge will comprise a larger body than your technical knowledge. This is a lever for amplifying your value, because that crossover is when you can start thinking in terms of the value in the products and services you're developing, in addition to their technical implementations. The flip side of this is that the longer you are steeped in that industry, the more difficult it will be to change to a different one. You'll want to be in an industry that challenges you. For example, 10 years as an embedded RF engineer is not the same as 10 years in back-end banking. If I were looking for the former, I would not interview someone from the latter.

CS pros have to be intelligent to get in the game. Once they are in, the primary success factors are a. Do you participate effectively in a team and b. do you work hard and pull your weight. Most universities today have coursework that includes extended, team projects. Do well in those programs, encourage your teammates to be competitive and committed and actually make something you can show off when you start interviewing. Be ready to go into detail, not just on the technical, but the team dynamics: What role you played, and here's a nugget: What were the different strengths of the team members and how did you deliberately take advantage of those strengths. A new grad who displays that type of insight will set themselves apart.

Many jobs are landed through networking. Establish relationships with upperclassmen and keep in touch after they graduate. When you're ready to start looking, some of them may be working at companies you target. When you do your summer internships, connect with everybody you can. You can reach out to them, and in many cases, they will have moved and seeded other companies that you could interview with.

Finally, just some out of the box thoughts for getting that first job: Cast a wide net. Submit a lot of resumes. Take a lot of interviews. Before each, research the company. Not just their technical products, but again, what market do they serve and do you believe you'd be challenged by that industry for the long term. Be good about following up. Don't be a pest, but don't let more than a week go by without checking in with your contacts on how it's going. Many companies are really bad at keeping candidates apprised of their status in the hiring, or where they are in the process. You don't want to just be left hanging when they've made a decision weeks ago.

Good Luck!

A few things off the top of my head, no particular order:

* Read the documentation. I can't stress enough on that.

* Don't over-engineer stuff. Keep it plain and simple. Remember - most of your co-workers will have a lot of experience and you won't be able to impress them with something revolutionary. Chances are, they've seen it and had it for breakfast a million times.

* Don't be afraid to ask, even if it seems like a stupid question. Especially if you get wrapped up in a big and complex project. Most people are aware that during the first 5-6 months, new developers are often a net loss to the company, regardless of their skills and knowledge - there is always and adaptation period. Use that to your advantage.

* Be __brutally__ strict about the working processes and don't try to re-invent the wheel. Application structure, naming conventions, pull requests, code review - stick to it no matter what(unless there is a very specific situation and you are instructed to do otherwise). I.e. if everyone on the team makes short commit messages, that explain the change and link it to the relevant jira, github, gitlab(or whatever tracking system they use) ticket, do the same. No need to write a 50 line commit message describing the change in all files. And vice-versa - if they do write 50 line commit messages, explaining every line of code they've changed, do the same.

* Pay close attention to the most experienced people and try to understand their thought process and mentally train yourself to be able to think like them. Their thought process might not be the most efficient in general and it might be something completely different in your next job some day, but if it's proven to work for that team/company, stick to it.

* When you are given a task, check or ask if something similar exists. If it does, go over it, see if there is something you can re-use or at least understand it's mechanics and keep it close to that.

* You won't be in a position to say no, but everyone is in a position to require further details if needed. Which is not to say you should freely jump over to a senior developer every 3 minutes. Rather spend several hours trying to clearly understand what needs to be achieved, organize your questions in relevant clusters. That may help you answer many of them yourself. Whatever is remaining, ask someone if they have 10 minutes, go have a coffee with them if needed. If your questions/concerns are valid and relevant and what you are expected to do makes no sense, they can step up for you or tell you who you should talk to.

Good luck!

"Read the documentation. I can't stress enough on that."

There are lot's of production codebases with very little or no documentation, though.

"Don't over-engineer stuff. Keep it plain and simple."

This in an excellent advice.

"Pay close attention to the most experienced people and try to understand their thought process and mentally train yourself to be able to think like them"

Yes, this is similar apprenticeship. Just being able to work with talented people is an outstanding thing to have. On the other hand, if you are a junior contributor, but can't find the obvious master programmer around, that is a huge red flag that the organization is filled with mediocrity through and through and it probably would be best to work somewhere else.

If you actually feel you are the most talented programmer, and are confident of your skills, that is an important datapoint. If your organization does not value your skills in couple of years you should definetly move on.

> There are lot's of production codebases with very little or no documentation, though.

Indeed. But the advise is equally as valid for libraries or frameworks used in a project, which as a junior developer, chances are you have very little experience with. Read those :)

> On the other hand, if you are a junior contributor, but can't find the obvious master programmer around, that is a huge red flag that the organization is filled with mediocrity through and through and it probably would be best to work somewhere else.

Also correct. That said, you can go through the history of the project you are working on and see who's done the heavy lifting, granted they are still around.

> * Read the documentation. I cannot stress this enough. Always something to read. But also important to compare the different functions to get the best result for something.

> * Don't overdevelop things. Keep it simple. Remember - most of your employees will have a lot of experience and you won't be able to impress them with anything revolutionary. Chances are that they saw it and ate it millions of times for breakfast. But also important to not use a package for every little thing. I personally experienced many that e.g. in the NodeJS ecosystem, use huge packages to use a minimal set of functions or someone can easily copy from Stackoverflow which just makes the project more overcomplicated. Just a single package not updating can fck everything up.

> * Don't be afraid to ask, even if it seems like a silly question. Especially if you are involved in a large and complex project. Most people are aware that new developers are often a net loss for the company in the first 5 to 6 months regardless of their skills and knowledge - there is always an adjustment phase. Use that to your advantage. Above all is asking questions in the first weeks starting a new job. Else it is just stumbling around through the project.

> * Be __brutally__ strict about work processes and don't try to reinvent the wheel. Application structure, naming conventions, pull requirements, code review - stick with it unless (there is a specific situation and you are instructed to do something else). That is, if everyone on the team creates short commit messages that explain the change and link it to the appropriate Jira, Github, Gitlab ticket (or the tracking system they use), they do the same. There is no need to write a 50-line commit message that describes the change in all files. And vice versa: if you write 50 line commit messages and explain each line of code you changed, do the same. It is important to expect at least some knwoledge from the developers not to explain everything, because good naming already makes the code so easy to read, like a book. But, Magic lines need to be explained often with more than one line.

> * Pay close attention to the most experienced people and try to understand their thinking process and train yourself mentally to be able to think like this. Your thought process may not be the most efficient in general, and it could be something completely different for your next job someday, but if it turns out to work for this team / company, stick with it. Tips on not be annoying but still have a good amount of messages and discussion with them?

> * When you receive a task, check or ask if there is anything similar. If it does, go through it, check for anything you can reuse, or at least understand the mechanics, and keep it close. And always automate if something takes longer or is a recurring thing. Whats your opinions on prototypes? In terms of how functional they should be. Personally I build prototypes just to work and show the general concept, but could not be used by clients for "production".

> * You won't be able to say no, but everyone will be able to ask for more details if needed. That doesn't mean you should switch to an experienced developer every 3 minutes. Rather spend several hours understanding clearly what needs to be achieved and organize your questions in relevant clusters. This can help you answer many of them yourself. Whatever is left over, ask someone if they have 10 minutes and have a coffee with them if necessary. If your questions / concerns are valid and relevant and what is expected of you makes no sense, they can stand up for you or tell you who to talk to.

So better collect for a bulk of questions and try to solve them in the meantime.

> Tips on not be annoying but still have a good amount of messages and discussion with them?

This point refers to being observant. I.E. open up a ticket about a feature that's already been implemented, and go through the implementation, how did the developer go about implementing everything. Preferably a more recent one, as old ones might be something that was rushed through at an earlier stage of the development or simply legacy code.

> Whats your opinions on prototypes? In terms of how functional they should be. Personally I build prototypes just to work and show the general concept, but could not be used by clients for "production".

Double edged sword. Prototypes are a great thing when you are 100% sure you have plenty of time ahead of you. Otherwise they just become a "working" solution that sneaks into the codebase and goes to production with a "TODO: refactor" somewhere. Sooner, rather than later that bites back.

> So better collect for a bulk of questions and try to solve them in the meantime.

Bingo. And by grouping them together, some questions will answer some of the others. My advice - open up a text editor and write them down.

1. Have max fun with your co-workers, crack jokes whenever, always laugh with others, help them in every which way possible while knowing they may not always reciprocate.

2. Work like there is no tomorrow and save like you will live forever. Max the fudge out 401k.

3. Learn about office politics and stay the fudge out of it. Co-workers are human and they will make human mistakes and might hurt you intentionally or otherwise. Grow a thick skin don’t take everything others say or do so personally.

Despite what courses you did, or how great your grades were, when it comes to working in the Real World, you know very little. I know that sounds really arrogant, but experience trumps qualifications. By showing that you know you have a lot to learn, and are willing to take the advice of the more experienced, you'll get on much better with your team.

This probably applies to any profession.

I had side projects like Android apps, good grade, decent soft skills, and extracurricular clubs/sports. Those seemed to help.

I think your internships and being a research assistant should be your biggest assets. Try to remember some of your accomplishments and how you handled tough situations. Managers/recruiters love to ask you about past experiences. Try to get letters of recommendation from your bosses and from a professor too.

I landed my first job because I knew someone from uni who got work at this company first. Networking is everything for me and I suck at doing it. Later jobs I got because of what I knew and could do.

I have a CS degree. While young and unattached you can spent time on learning a lot and becoming a better sw developer. Do this now before wifey (assuming male gender) and children will take a considerable amount of your time.

> Do this now before wifey (assuming male gender) and children will take a considerable amount of your time.

*(assuming male gender and heterosexual and wanting to have kids)

- Don't try to get it 100% right on the first time, it's an iterative process. - Communication is key, be 100 focused when getting the specs. - If you get lost, if it's too much, it's time to refresh your mind. Whatever it is you can outgrow it with less effort if your mind is fresh. - If you don't get a good treatment, maybe it's not the right place for you.

A related discussion [1] and my response on that one [2]. This is somewhere in the middle of the two questions asked.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18128477

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18128901

There's a whole bunch of technical skills that Universities didn't teach when I was there. I would recommend reading The Pragmatic Programmers by David Thomas and Andrew Hunt to help with that.

Equally important are your soft skills. I would recommend reading The Hard Truth About Soft Skills: Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They'd Learned Sooner by Peggy Klaus.

Write good emails. Take your time in composing them and do not send in haste, especially when you are sending to a list.

You will be judged on how you look, how you speak, how well you write, and what you produce. You need to make an effort on all four. In every group, some will take advantage of you, some will sabotage you, some are bullies, and some you can trust. Your best strategy is to recognize them as early as possible.

I wrote about this topic based on my own experiences - https://medium.com/temasek-root-access/career-advice-for-new...

Whatever you do, don't get lowballed. Plan ahead so you can retire at 30. If you aren't able to get offers from multiple companies so you can negotiate properly, start your own company (unless you have dependents already, in which case you are fucked).

Your reputation is built on what you do not what you say. So leave all the latest fads at the door as new college grads are dime a dozen. You're nothing special until you do something in the new role. So don't be a smartass.

Be receptive to feedback from _anyone_.

Senior engineers and managers usually have lives outside of work. Don’t bother them off hours if it’s not an emergency.

The late night hacker archetype is usually immature and not a team player.

Careless mistakes are worse than calculated mistakes.

I don't have much besides: Stay curious and never stop learning, don't put all in one language, don't hesitate to look around every once in a while (in terms of jobs), and try to keep making and maintaining friends.

Learn how to give constructive feedback. If a coworker comes to you for assistance and you reply similar to some of the negative comments in this thread, then that's probably the last time they come to you for anything.

I'd recommend not sticking to a specific idea of what you want that job to be. University is a lot more interesting than most provate sector jobs, so explore non-cs stuff as much as possible.

My best tip, for your early career especially, is to embrace the idea that switching jobs is in your best interest. It usually is.

By all means, focus on your early growth. But try not to be blinded by loyalty.

Really find out what you want in life. This is not a philosophical task. When I think back to my days in school, I really wish someone actually took his time, explained and showed to me what that means.

I'm talking about goals and it doesn't matter if that is being an entrepreneur or the best ballerina in the world.

When you know what you want, as early as possible, you can work on a path to that goal. And if you have a path, you know what to do and how to do it.

In my opinion this will increase your happiness in life tremendously as you don't walk through life "unconsciously".

This question "What do you want" isn't so straight forward and easy to answer. It requires a lot of thought, but is very rewarding.

Be open to opportunities and do not reject anything based on face value or your comfort zone. Also, friends at work are not your friends so keep your friends talk to yourself.

Unlike school deadlines tend to be more flexible but finishing is less flexible, maybe not flexible at all.

Don't show off.

Yes, the system is a mess and everyone knows that.

But we can't fix it.

create a text file, and write down every piece of information you hear. server names, where documentation is, who knows what, etc...

I simply call mine "life.md" .

This will be invaluable because you won't have to ask twice about a piece of information that you've learned because you'll already have it written down.

I second this. People get very agitated when having to repeat themselves.

Forget machine learning or ai and learn a compiled programming language in and out. It will help in long run.

Read "a message to Garcia" its 3 pages, it's everything you need to know

” Showing up is 80 percent of life.” attributed to Woody Allen

Don't get overly attached to it.

Ask lots of questions. Why? Why? Why?

This is ironic but stop looking for advice on the Internet/random strangers who you know nothing about, especially tips on life.


Tl;dr -

1. Don’t go straight to Stack Overflow

2. Learn the standard libraries

3. Put away your phone

4. Figure out how to unblock yourself

5. Figure out when to ask for help

6. Keep track of what’s going on in the industry

7. Stop being insecure

Some reflections at 31: - you can’t buy self-actualization. The most devastatingly miserable times in me & my friends’ lives have often been when we worked at big corporations doing nonsense work. they’re extremely good ways of earning good money whilst becoming extremely depressed, watching your life pass you by, whilst also losing agency & willpower to escape.

- work on projects you actually care about. I can’t stress this enough. If you take a project or a role for the money, make sure 1) you’re honest with yourself about your reasoning, don’t lie to yourself to sugarcoat it 2) you have a plan for leaving (e.g. taking a role with a high signing bonus so you can pay the down payment on a house or buy land, and leaving after the 12 month probation period so you don’t have to pay it back), 3) consistently checking in with yourself about how things are going. Which leads me to...

- go to therapy regularly, even if you don’t think you need to. and journal regularly. like...on paper, in the morning, with a cup of tea, about your feelings. don’t let things fester, don’t live with regrets or sacrifices.

- have creative hobbies. don’t let your guitar gather dust, don’t let your paint dry up

- enjoy having a lucrative job, but don’t let it turn you into a yuppie. I’m a terrible person to take financial advice from, but I could never do the “high paying job, save 95%” thing - it’s soulless and you want to have fun whilst you’re young or you’ll just be old, financially independent, and bitter about all the things you missed out on. Have fun, eat at fancy restaurants, travel as much as you can. But don’t waste your wealth on expensive yuppie materialist goods either - especially if you end up in London, NYC or SF it seems hard to not blow your money on all of the trendy expensive things that everyone else in tech buys. Spend money on experiences.

- live in community as much as you can. live with lots and lots of roommates because you’re excited about living a life together, and then invest your time in them. Cook with them, hang out with them, do wacky art projects with them, put on events, raise kids with them, build something greater than yourself. Isolation is a disease. The Bay Area has an excellent co-op community - imo no one in the Bay should be paying $3500 to live by themselves in a nice-but-boring studio apartment. It’s SO nice to come home to a house full of people who care about how your day was.

- party more - your 20s will go extremely quickly and I promise you won’t look back wishing you spent more time in an office. seriously. go to that party.

A motto I picked up from a dear coworker at the one Big Corporate Job I had: “tell good stories”. Live a life where you amass interesting anecdotes to tell at dinner parties, or to your grandkids, or to your roommates when you’re stuck in isolation because of a pandemic. “And then I spent 5 years in an office” isn’t an interesting story.

don’t focus on work after work. work to live, not live to work

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