Why Programming is only 10% of a Software Engineering Position

Entering into college was probably one of the most humbling moments of my professional career. Before submitting a single college application I had worked on a number of paid programming projects, but I realized rather quickly that I had a lot to learn about life and my career. To get to the point, which really is the point of it all, is that I could be a Good Will Hunting programming prodigy (read: I’m not!), but without effective communication / valuable life skills I would be just another cocky, mediocre college kid who thinks he’s entitled to his dream job at Google.

My epiphany came to me when I realized how hard it was to explain a simple concept in 30 seconds or less. That epiphany being that no one cares about how much you know, but how few words it takes for them to understand what you’re trying to convey. My manager at my 9 to 5 Software Engineering job has things to do. He is a very busy man who comes in early and stays late. The last thing I want to do is waste his time with unnecessary fluff. People need to get on with their day and the best thing I can do as an entry level Engineer is make my manager’s job as easy as possible.

As I reflect on the past six months of working side by side with some of the most brilliant engineers in the Tampa, Florida area I become overwhelmed with a hosh podge of victories, frustrations, times I had to endure, times I had to refine my communication, and times where it would have been better to remain quiet. All in all, we live and we learn. The less you think you have to learn, I’ve learned, is actually just an indicator of how much farther you really need to go. On my best day it’s easy to fall short of the bar, but isn’t that the beauty of a lifetime of opportunities to grow in your profession?

I humble myself by posting this on my professional blog, because I don’t know it all and I never will. The beauty of being an engineer continues to manifest itself in the form of learning day by day how to analyze and solve problems with or without having any prior knowledge of the task at hand. My advice to any aspiring engineers would simply be to learn code and then learn how to teach it to someone else. Through my experience with iD Tech at MIT, I had never been so humbled in my life. Every day was a struggle that I had to prepare for, but as I struggled on I began to struggle less. Who would have thought? As cliche as it seems, if I were to give up now, tomorrow, or the day after I won’t ever know what it feels like to succeed. So as I prepare to return to iD Tech at Stanford this Friday, what better practice than to teach my beautiful fiance, who knows nothing about programming, some iOS and Android development? I’ll keep a jar of her tears by my bedside at Stanford. See you soon, Bay Area!


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