Industry Spotlight: Technology & Software Engineering
What is tech?
The tech industry incorporates a range of different roles that all serve to develop computer and technology related products. For the most part, tech firms are either big name technology corporations or startups in more niche industries with very specific goals in mind.
Some of the most popular tech roles include software engineers, product managers, and web developers.
Tech firms are generally organized into a number of teams, each with their own hierarchy. Each team has a very specific focus and works on projects that specifically pertain to their area of the web platform or the company’s products. Certain teams are designated to frontend projects and to backend projects (and more). Frontend refers to what users see and interact with when they use the product, whereas backend refers more to the software and actual function of the product.
What kinds of software engineering jobs are out there, and what do these roles entail?
There are two main kinds of software engineers (SWE): systems software engineers and applications software engineers.
Systems Software Engineers are responsible for working on computer systems. Think of Systems SWE as the ones who work on ensuring the core functions of the system are running smoothly.
Applications Software Engineers are responsible for working on specific computer applications software, whether that be designing, creating, or updating them. Applications SWE as the ones who are working on different apps or specific functions that depend on those core functions to run smoothly.
Major Responsibilities: Responsibilities include using computer languages such as Java, Python, C++, etc. to construct software products, run performance tests, and debug programs. This career path is definitely one that requires a level of technical skills.
Careers in this industry come with many pros and cons, depending on what kind of a person you are.
PROS: People are attracted to software engineering because of the high pay and extensive benefit packages. Many large tech firms are also known for their comfortable work environments and prime locations in Silicon Valley, Seattle, Austin, Boston, New York City, and more. Also, work schedules in tech tend to be more flexible than those in finance. SWE work on a more regular schedule than people in finance and usually fewer hours. SWE work on average 40 hours/wk, sometimes 50, and have very structured start and end times in daily work life.
CONS: Some disadvantages are that technology is constantly evolving, so software engineers must continually update their skill sets in order to keep up. Also, software engineering jobs often still have long hours and are high stress.
EXIT OPPORTUNITIES: Software engineering careers are generally pretty long-lasting. People generally enter SWE with the intention of staying in tech and in SWE, although they may take on new projects within tech in their career.
So how do I land a summer tech internship or a full-time position?
Most big tech companies recruit in the fall and generally finish up by the end of the calendar year. The recruiting process generally looks like an initial application, a phone screen, a coding assignment or challenge, a phone interview, and then an in-person interview. Of course, this varies from company to company.
Behavioral Phone Screen: After you submit your initial application, many companies will first run a behavioral phone screen where they want to get a sense of who you are and your experience. Be ready to talk through your resume and be sure to have a good understanding of the company.
Coding Challenge: Next, some firms will ask you to complete a coding test or challenge. The point of these is to confirm you do indeed have a technical skill base.
Phone Interview: Once a firm confirms you are able to code, they may invite you to move on to an interactive phone interview. In this phone interview, you will be simultaneously solving a programming problem on a shared document and verbally explaining your thought process and actions to the interviewer. Here, they really just want to see how you think through these problems and feel free to ask them for help along the way if needed so that they can see how you work when you run into something new.
In-Person Interview: The end of the recruiting process is usually an in-person interview on-site. Companies will invite you to interview multiple times in one day where you will be asked both technical and behavioral questions. People from different teams will interview you to see if you’re a good fit.
How should I best prepare for tech recruiting?
Attend career fairs and network with the recruiters
Read up on interview prep books:
Cracking the Coding Interview
Programming Interview Exposed
Algorithms for Interviews
Dynamic Programming for Coding Interviews
Use online interview prep resources to get comfortable with coding tests
InterviewStream (OCS provides free access) https://fas-harvard.interviewstream.com/Account/Login?ReturnUrl=%2fQuestion%2fChoose%2f
Do your research on what kind of tech company you see yourself at
Some leading tech companies include the big name ones most people have heard of: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Palantir, Yext, Apple, Compass, Adobe, SAP, Fast Enterprises, Paylocity, Ultimate Software, DocuSign, HubSpot, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Procore Technologies, Zoom Video Communications, IBM, Hewlett-Packard Company