For a person with more energy than she knows what to do with, sitting at a desk for eight hours a day while staring at a screen did not appeal. Add to that the fact that, by some timing misfortune, I missed the grade school class where you learn how to type, there was just no way that a career in software/computer engineering was going to happen. So when I first heard about Hacker Fellows, my initial thought was, That sounds cool and all, but…nope.
Sure, I had taken some Computer Science courses during college, even decided to minor in it since programming was useful in electrical engineering and research, but I had no delusions that those classes would lead to my first job. While seeing solutions come together bit by bit was fun and the satisfaction of finding the right bit of code was wonderful, those long hours of debugging or looking for missing semi-colons were not for me.
Thus it was that after a labyrinth of changing plans I ended up sitting in a room overlooking Midtown Detroit and wondering what in the world I was doing there. I had no job lined up, way less development experience than everyone else, and only some basic microcontroller knowledge. Yet, I somehow found my way into the 2017 Hacker Fellows cohort. And despite my general lack of any sort of concrete plan, I learned a lot, and not just about code.
Here’s the short version:
Developers are Pretty Cool People. I don’t just mean the secret agent hacker, who can find his way past firewalls and expose conspiracies. I mean the everyday people who write the software we use all the time. The other Hacker Fellows were more than happy to help when I had questions (or the same question about Github over and over again), and seeing how excited everyone got about their projects was inspiring.
Persistence Pays Off. Going into the Hacker Fellows bootcamp (and really the beginning of adult life) without a job at the other end was…terrifying. Fortunately, with the dedication of those running the program and the encouragement of my cohort, I was able to interview with several companies during the boot camp and eventually found a job. It took a lot of time and persistence, but I am now working with OPS Solutions as a member of their Applications Engineering team. Working on augmented reality projects has been amazing, and it just goes to show that the time and effort put into finding the right job really are worth it.
The Two Most Important Things You Learn In College Aren’t Graded. Two things you learn in college are how to learn and how to persevere. School is hard. As an engineering major, I feel qualified to make that claim. But if you can stick with it enough to understand how you learn and how to keep trying until you get things working, you’re in good shape to start a job, especially in a small company, where everyone must wear many different hats. Yes, the principles I learned in class come up a fair amount, but development is a lot more about knowing where to find the information you need and how to process it than knowing it all ahead of time.
Not all “Development” Jobs are for Developers. My official title at OPS Solutions is Development Engineer. I don’t write code. At least not often. I spend most of my time figuring out what our systems can do, talking with customers about what they want our systems to do, working with my colleagues to make those two meet, integrating new hardware, managing proof of concepts, testing new projectors, troubleshooting, and…well, you get the point. A couple of my smaller projects do involve writing code, but having such a variety of things to work on actually makes those fun.
So yes, I may still have to look at the keys when I type and I may not be a developer in the customary sense of the word, but I’m so grateful to be working with an awesome company that’s developing products that didn’t exist before! And I’m proud to call myself a member of the 2017 Hacker Fellows cohort, even if I’m not a “coder.”
Courtney Myers is a 2017 Hacker Fellow who studied Electrical Engineering at Hope College. She is currently working with OPS Solutions in Wixom.