Current Job Title - Software Engineer, Sr.
Name of Organization - Lockheed Martin
Undergraduate Degree - Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, University of West Florida
Graduate Degrees - Master of Science in Computer Science, University of Denver
Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science, University of Denver
What does your current position entail?
I have served in many roles at my current job, including software developer, systems architect, release manager, and software lead. I work in a large team environment on complex software systems, providing both maintenance and development support.
How did you get your current position?
I started by posting my resume on monster.com a few months before graduating. Within a week, I was sent a recruitment letter by Lockheed Martin. I interviewed in Denver while on winter break and was conditionally hired, pending satisfactory completion of my Master's degree.
In relation to graduation, when did you start the job search and when did you secure your position?
I thought it important to start my job search several months before graduation. I decided that winter break the year I was graduating was an ideal time. This time period was close enough to graduation that employers could verify that I was likely to complete my degree, but not so close to graduation that I didn't have time to explore other options if nothing seemed to be working out. In my case, I was fortunate: I interviewed and was offered a job within two months of starting my search.
In regards to the job search process, did anything surprise you?
I was surprised that a company would actively recruit me; I didn't think my resume to date was very compelling. As it turns out, many companies have active college recruitment programs and are seeking recent college hires with technical degrees.
What recommendations do you have for current students?
When looking for a job, I would provide three main recommendations:
1) Start the job search early. Waiting until the week before you graduate is not the best path to finding that dream job.
2) Don't interview at a company that you can't picture yourself going to every day. You spend a lot of time at your job. Although the money may be great, it will not be enough to keep you happy for long if you can't stand where you work.
3) If you get an offer from a company, don't be afraid (like I was) to negotiate for a better deal. Worst case, they will say no, and you're no worse off than when you started.
What's the strangest interview question you were ever asked? How did you respond?
I have interviewed at a few companies, including Google. Although I've heard the stories about brain teaser interview questions, I've never been asked them. In my experience, interview questions focus on my technical background, my problem solving skills, and my experience working in a team.
Which aspects of your background have been most helpful in your current position?
Beyond the technical contributions of my degree, teamwork and public speaking are two of the skills that I highly value from my education. Engineers, in particular, have a hard time expressing themselves, and working in a group. If you are able to demonstrate strong technical ability, in addition to a command of public speaking and teamwork, you will find that you are given opportunities that others are not. Practice public speaking whenever you can, and try to actively participate in group work. I know it's easier sometimes to do all the work yourself and sit quietly in the back of the class. But, unfortunately, it's also much easier to be passed over sitting in the back.
If you were in your graduate program again, what would you do differently, if anything?
I wasted a lot of time while being a full time graduate student. The last five years of my PhD were completed while working full time. This taught me a great lesson in time management, one I wish I could pass back through time.
Any additional comments for current students?
Enjoy your time as a student; these are years you cannot get back after they are gone. Although, while working at that "dream job" out of school, there will inevitably be days you wish you could.