My answers to some CS career questions

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I flip through Reddit from time to time. One sub that I enjoy is CS Career Questions.

Join 38,000 others and follow Sean Hull on twitter @hullsean.

I guess I enjoy posting and sharing knowledge there, because many of the questions seem so familiar, as ones that I pondered at some point or other along the way.

Here are a few questions, and the answers I shared.

1. I’m lacking direction

“I’m a 20 year old college student about to switch from an unrelated major into CS this upcoming fall. I’ve decided that I want to become a software developer because of my interest in game and web development. Also because I love mathematics and problem solving. I know the basics of Lua, HTML, CSS, Javascript, and PHP and try to get some programming in every day (at least 1 hour)”

My response:

“Paths will change. Just finish. Which degree you end up with does not mather. It will be how you apply it. Gates, Dell, Zuckerberg & Jobs all quit school right where you are now to pursue real world business.”

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2. Overwhelmed with amount of work, I want to quit my job. Advice?

“Long story short. My current manger is completely unrealistic in terms of amount of done to be in a short amount of time. I’ve keep working overtime every day and weekends to fix issues and I’m tired of it. I want to go to some training and take vacation soon and while my company approved my training, I’m afraid to ask for vacation while this project needs to be done ASAP.
I’m just feeling so overworked that I really need vacation ASAP.
I’m so tempted to quit my job or start another job hunt”

My response:

“I found myself in a similar situation a few years ago. And a colleague advised me “Sean, sometimes you have to let things break a little”. This seemed incredibly odd advice. however when i tried it i was very surprised. Management didn’t “blame it all on me” as i expected they would. In fact they didn’t blame anything on me merely adjusted their timelines.
Lesson learned, we cannot carry the entire org problems on our own shoulders. And no one is expecting us to.”

Related: Is Amazon Web Services too complex for small dev teams?

3. Possible red flags in startup? How can I know for sure?

“Basically my question is this: what questions should I be asking to know what I need to know? The main thing I’m afraid of is the engineering manager treating the engineers like dogshit, where we work insane hours and don’t really have control over what we work on. How can I coax that information out of them?”

My Answer:

“i would trust your gut. i have worked in companies that were all over the place organizationally but there were no weird tells on glassdoor.
Also as far as hours you are expected to work, keep the emails for documentation. remember there are also labor laws protecting w2 employees so you’re fine. just leave at 5 :)”

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4. I accepted a job, then got a better offer from another company

“So…I accepted and started a new job…but 1.5 weeks later I hear back with an even better offer from a larger company I applied to 4 months ago.”

My Answer:

“It is a tough position to be in, but also a “good problem to have”.
Don’t burn bridges. but business is business as they say. you could ask if they want to counteroffer. but there may be bad blood now.”

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5. Am I negotiating, or just being greedy?


“I landed a job with a big name company (non-Big 4). The offered pay is a solid 25% jump from my old job, the team is what I’ve been looking for, 10% annual bonus, etc. Should ask for more money? Every dime will obviously make my life easier and I certainly don’t want to fall behind on my career pay as a whole.”

One reader’s response:

“If it makes you uncomfortable to ask for more money, You might also have a think about what you really value and negotiate for that instead. Maybe thats two extra weeks of vacation?”

My Answer:

“Two extra weeks vacation is money. Negotiate the best you can. Only you can advocate for yourself”

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