The Decisions of a Recent Graduate

by Anne Neilsen 12/21/2011

As a recent graduate from the university, I can empathize with the many seniors who are starting to think about what the next chapter of their life is going to look like. A key component of this is the decision about where to apply and ultimately decide to work. There are so many things to consider when deciding where to work, especially given the many opportunities available in software development.

Some of the things I considered were:

  • available opportunities to learn and advance
  • the advantages and disadvantages of working at a big or small company
  • the business of the company
  • location
  • previous experiences and interactions with a company
  • salary
  • company culture

Right out of college, I think all graduates should be looking for opportunities to learn as much as possible. Whether you like it or not, as a recent graduate, you are bound to be very “green” and industry operates with different priorities and methodologies than academia. Different companies have different ideas about the best way to bring new hires up to speed and the best way to continue to develop their employees. I would encourage all new graduates to seek out companies that are interested in helping their employees learn and ideally in a way that matches their learning style.

Software engineers are blessed to be in an industry in which there is an incredible range in size and structure of companies. There are opportunities to do everything from being a part of a company that has incredible resources available and frequently makes waves globally to being a critical piece within a smaller organization and not having miles of red tape to deal with.

I think it is obvious that the “business” of the company makes a big impact on what it prioritizes and how it shapes the overall culture of the company. As a software engineer, you can go to work in the IT department of a corporation that is actually in the business of banking, making food, agriculture, etc., and not in the business of making software. These jobs can be just as great and are definitely a perfect fit for some people; however, you must remember that if you work at a company whose primary business is not developing software, there will be different priorities set by the company and that presents different challenges you will have to overcome.
Considerations regarding location, previous experience, and salary are pretty straight-forward and will simply depend on personal preference. Do you want to stay close to home or is it time to spread your wings and move a bit further away? When you talk to recruiters and people who work for the company, do you get the sense that they really believe in the company and are they excited about the things they do? What was your internship experience like and how were the full-time employees treated? And how does the typical salary or wage compare?

As a side note on salary, it has been said before (and I agree) that making more money will not make you happier with your job. It is definitely something to consider, but don’t let it be your primary decision-making factor.

Working for a company with a culture that meshes well with your personality is crucial to having a job that you love. Unfortunately, culture is something that's very hard to quantify. How I see it, culture is:

  • what the company does for its employees to help grow them as people
  • how the company treats people
  • the main priorities of the company - is it only concerned with making a quick dollar or is it also seeking to do things the right way while constantly improving its processes and products
  • the environment and how well it enables people to create something awesome because they are motivated due to the provided surroundings

So, as you might have guessed, I ultimately accepted an offer to work at Don’t Panic Labs. Trying to decide where to work was a difficult decision for me, but a year later (and maybe a year wiser) I am quite certain this was the correct decision for me. The DPL environment was a good fit for me as I wanted to be able to have immediate impact and knew that I worked best in an environment that features smaller teams, one-on-one mentoring, and emphasis on team success.

It also has allowed me to fast-forward some of longer-term goals, specifically, to be part of a start-up. I figured that opportunity wouldn't present itself until I had 5 – 10 years of experience; however, with the unique set-up at Don't Panic Labs, I am able to continue to learn, gain experience, and be part of an entrepreneurial start-up.

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Entrepreneurship

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