College Student needs advice

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ron C, Sep 23, 2001.

  1. Ron C

    Ron C Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm graduating March '02 and am worried about my future career, especially with the current economy. Currently I'm attending Devry in the New Jersey Area, and will get my associates in Computer Information Systems. Unfortunately I don't know what I'll be doing after that.
    Right now I have a basic data entry job earning $11/hour. Not exactly happy with it, but it pays the bills (albeit barely). My school is supposed to have a program that helps graduating students get jobs in their field. Unfortunately, listening to other students' comments, it doesn't help much with the associate’s degree (only bachelors). My school doesn't have bachelors for my degree (CIS), and doesn't plan to get one for at least a year.
    So, I'm basically stuck looking for a job myself. I've tried looking for IT jobs on my own, but it has been very frustrating. Nearly every ad asks for 5 years experience ++ in yada yada program. I've yet to see anything for internship/beginner. Where do you go to gain experience in the first place?
    I'm basically looking for any programming job. I've picked up books and learned the basics of C++, Visual Basic, Java, Oracle, SQL Server, JavaScript, CGI, NT and Linux on my own. I'm at the point now where I need business experience with any of these to further my knowledge of them.
    If anyone has any experience they could share on entering the IT field, that would be great. I just need some direction. Should I go for certificates or a bachelors? How would I go about looking for jobs? Any advice would be appreciated.
     
  2. Steven K

    Steven K Supporting Actor

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    Hi Ron,
    Instead of possibly pursuing CIS degree, go for Computer Science. CIS people tend to be a dime-a-dozen these days. At least with CS, you get a solid programming background, and believe it or not, there is still a lack of good programmers out there.
    I'd focus on CC++ and Visual Basic. While knowing Java is handy, it once again boils down to the fact that there are a lot more Java programmers out there than C++ programmers, so they aren't in as much demand.
    Sadly, VB is become very popular (I say sadly because I don't look at VB as a real programming language [​IMG] I really think that Active X is going to become the future of programming... Also, try to get a good understanding of COM (Microsoft's Component Object Model). There are plenty of good COM books out there.
    If you have any time left after this, definitely learn the Windows API. "Windows Programming" by Charles Petzold is the best WinAPI book and generally regarded as the standard.
     
  3. Ron C

    Ron C Stunt Coordinator

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    Steve, thanks for the response. I originally chose CIS since it seemed to be a pretty focused degree. I've looked at CS programs around my area (such as Rutgers), but they seemed bloated and unfocused (ie liberal arts and unrelated subject requirements). I admit I didn't look as hard as I could have for a good CS program, and am also disappointed in the CIS program I'm in now.
    Logically, C++ seems like it’s the best route to take as most api/complex programs use it. Unfortunately, my C++ courses do not go past simple concepts such as variables and classes, and don't even come close to showing the uses of C++. I have an interest in building C++ applications for unix/windows and game programming/directX, but don't know where to start. I've them tried a few times, but have been repelled by the complex nature of these APIs. It's been hard to find good books that teach these apis but don't assume prior experience with them.
    I'll check out some books on the Windows API and COM. Hopefully my library will have some decent books on them(which is rare), since these kinds of books are expensive.
     
  4. Steven K

    Steven K Supporting Actor

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    Hey Ron,
    You're not alone in being overwhelmed. Everyone in the CS field has been through it at some point (and I haven't been in it that long).
    As far as classes that don't go beyond the basics, well, honestly, college courses never go very far, and employers know this. With regard to a C++ course, I would say that a good course should cover the following:
    1. data types
    2. control structures
    3. pointers and dynamic memory allocation
    4. classes (and structures, to some degree)
    5. encapsulation (information hiding)
    6. inheritance (base classes and derived classes)
    7. polymorphism (virtual functions)
    C++ is so huge, there's no way a college course, even 2 college courses can cover everything. If you can learn these basic elements of OOP, then you can teach yourself things like the Standard Template Library, etc...
    The company that I work for is primarily involved in the creation of APIs. Learning the first API was difficult, almost overwhelming. But then learning the second, and third, etc... kept getting easier. Now, learning a new API is like changing shoes, and it can be fun too.
    Strangely enough, when I started the position, I knew very little C++. I was a straight C programmer. Then some friends at work started harrassing me about not knowing C++, so I decided to learn it on my own. I'm by no means an expert C++ programmer, but Im confortable with the language now.
    If you think it would help, I'd be glad to send you some of my early programs that I wrote to help me learn the language. The source code is very simple, and there's nothing too complex, but it might help [​IMG]
     
  5. Tim Markley

    Tim Markley Screenwriter

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    Look for a job in technical/desktop support to start with. With the economy the way that it is right now, there are lots of experienced programmers looking for jobs. Most likely you're not going to get hired as a programmer. If you get a job in support there will often be different opportunities that open up in your company that will allow you to move up the ladder. Take as many classes as you can but focus your studies on web development. This is what companies are looking for now. If it's at all possible, work on getting a BS in CS. It will help you a lot in getting a job. Good luck!
     
  6. Steven K

    Steven K Supporting Actor

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    Sorry Tim, but I have to respectfully disagree. There's an influx of web developers out there now. Look on monster.com... you can see that there are a ton of people applying for the few web-development jobs out there, but not too many are applying for jobs such as "C++ software engineer."
    2 years ago, the situation was as you describe it now. However, after the dot-com burst, there are way too many people out there with no jobs and certifications in web-development, A+, MCSE, etc...
     
  7. Ron C

    Ron C Stunt Coordinator

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    Yeah, that describes my C++ syllabus exactly. But where do I go from there? I picked up a book on STL (was only one in the library) and started reading that. I didn't see too many books on 'Windows Programming' per se, but there were a lot of books on Microsoft Visual C++. Would it be good to start learning that, or find a book that isn't as software specific?
    Web design doesn't really interest me, since I'm not exactly an artistic type of person (although I realize there can be a great deal of code behind it). I'm probably going to go primary with C++ and maybe some Java and VB thrown in with it.
    Where would I look for 'technical/desktop support' type stuff. I build/troubleshoot pcs as a hobby, although sitting on a phone as a tech person doesn't appeal to me.
     
  8. Steven K

    Steven K Supporting Actor

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    Ron,
    You definitely want to check out "Windows Programming" by Charles Petzold. It's fantastic; its the best Windows API book out there.
    As far as C++ books, I use "How to Program C++" by Deitel and Deitel, as well as "Effective C++" although I cant remember the author's name offhand.
    For technical info, the MSDN Library is second to none. The web version is the same as the host version, but it's slower since it has to be accessed through the web. Often times, schools will give you older versions of the MSDN Library (Microsoft sends out updates to it periodically).
     
  9. Tim Markley

    Tim Markley Screenwriter

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    Steven - That may be how it is on the East Coast but not in California. Companies out here want programmers with experience in web development. That's still where the future lies. Every company wants their product(s) to be web enabled. I'm not talking about HTML, but rather ASP, XML, JSP, Java, etc.
    Ron - Starting off in Tech/Desktop Support is a great way to get into a company. Look for a job doing Desktop Support. This means that you'll be helping people within the company with whatever types of problems they have with their computers, installing software/hardware, working with the network, webpage, etc. You won't be sitting on the phone all day but will sometimes have to carry a phone for the IT Help Desk.
     
  10. Seungsoo Hwang

    Seungsoo Hwang Stunt Coordinator

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    dang, I was just about to get started on moving towards a CIS degree.....so the outlook for them isnt good huh?
     
  11. Steven K

    Steven K Supporting Actor

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    Tim, I agree with your assessment somewhat in that there are still several companies looking for ASP, .Net, etc... programmers. However, what has happened in the past few years is that the institutions of higher education moved away from traditional applications and systems programming and went to web development. As such, there was and still is an influx of people skilled in these areas. As a result, there were fewer people coming out of school with experience in CC++, VB (to some extent), and even COBOL and AS400. Yes, there are still many COBOL and RPG jobs out there that pay damn good money.
    Java, ASP, C#, etc... all of these new, budding languages are great in concept and theory. The only problem is that they haven't stood the test of time. C has been around for a long time. It has stood around because of it's all-around functionality, and is still considered the "universal language." There is a ton of legacy C code out there that needs to be worked on and ported to C++.
    At least on the east coast, finding people skilled in XML, ASP, Java, etc... is not that hard. However, finding skilled CC++ programmers is not an easy task.
     
  12. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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    There are other areas within IT besides programming and web development. Good data networking people are still in demand. Starting out in desktop/field support, as suggested, is a good way to get started in IT. You gain experience, and if you are willing to learn, other doors within a company will open up for you.
    Does your school have its own IT department? If so, you can sometimes get an internship within that department to gain additional experience. The pay is usually not very good, but the added experience and exposure to different IT disciplines will pay off later. I started out that way back in the early '80's.
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  13. Matt_R

    Matt_R Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Ron,
    How far are you from Edgewater, NJ? We need a helpdesk/desktop support person ASAP. $20/hour. We're running NT/Novell and are in the middle of phasing out Novell. We need someone who already has a strong technical background for 1st level phone and 2nd level desktop support... while we're looking for someone with some sort of experience, we have hired people from Chubb with no experience before. It's a Fortune Global 50 company and a great place to work.
    Let me know ASAP if you're interested.
    Thanks,
    Matt
     
  14. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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  15. Ron C

    Ron C Stunt Coordinator

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    Matt, I sent over an email to you, in case you don't check that account very often.
    --------------------------
    As a general question, whats required for helpdesk/desktop support position? I know my way around computers and can easily fix most problems, but don't have a degree/job experience backing it up. I might start looking around for them in a few weeks depending on next semesters schedule.
     
  16. Justin Lane

    Justin Lane Cinematographer

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    Ron, a path you may want to look at getting into is Automated Systems. Do you have any inkling about the interwokings of DCS or PLC systems?
    I just got done working for the past year (6 months full/6 months part time) for a pharmaecutical company on their plantwide DCS system. I decided to move on from there mainly because I wanted to get a taste of something new. Now for the next 6 months I am working at a petroleum company on their PLC based system that controls their pipline network. The college I attend offers a co-op program where you get experience while going to school (though it will take me 5 years to get my EE degree). As it is going now, I will prbably have close to three years of Process Automation experience on my resume once graduation rolls around which should make up for the extra year it is taking me to get my degree. Though these positions are usually filled by engineers, there are CS majors who fill these rolls as well.
    For the most part, colleges do not teach intensive (if any) courses relating to such automation. They are jobs you can only learn the ins and outs of trough experience/training. If you see any openings in positions in your area, do not shy away from inquiring about them just because they do not seem like something directly related to your major. It doesn't hurt either that they tend to pay very well.
    Have you considered maybe once you are finished with your associates to look into maybe getting your BS if there are any schools that will take the majority of you credit? Alot of schools have internship programs now of days.
    If you have any questions/comments post them here or shoot me an e-mail. I would be happy to help you out if I possible.
    J
     
  17. DarrinH

    DarrinH Second Unit

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    I hope this doesn't sound like a quick and dirty answer. I am not a computer savy person either. Now would be a great time to further your education if that was a possibility for you. Since the job market is so bad right now I would recommend pursuing a four year degree a this point. Wish you luck.
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