Job opportunities are plentiful for new grads in CS and IT
Hot jobs include programmer analysts, software development engineers, test engineers and program managers, says Jerri Barrett of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology
New college grads have a fresh view of technology that can invigorate any team, says Paul Eisner at Harris
By Sue Marquette Poremba
In 2012, the opportunities for new grads in computer-related majors are unlimited.
"If you look at the Department of Labor (www.bls.gov) statistics, they forecast a huge gap between the number of jobs available and the number of people to fill those jobs," says Jerri Barrett, VP of marketing with the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (www.anitaborg.org, Palo Alto, CA).
Companies are definitely looking to hire new employees. "At our Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, we saw a huge spike in the number of companies coming to recruit because they really do need technical talent," she says. "We went from seventy to ninety-nine companies and academic institutions showing up, and all of them had numerous jobs to fill."
Jobs that Barrett says are hot right now include programmer analysts, software development engineers, test engineers and program managers. "The other thing is, these jobs are global, and they are across industries," she says. "We see a lot of opportunities in finance and credit card companies, but almost all large companies have an IT division or a need for software development that is customized."
New grads bring benefits
"In the past couple of years, we have been hiring more new college graduates as part of our overall strategy," says Paul Eisner, VP of workflow, infrastructure and networking at Harris Corporation Broadcast Communications Division in Toronto, Canada.
"New college grads bring many benefits to the development teams. They have a fresh view of technology and opportunities that can invigorate any team. And many of the university programs are working on newer technologies and techniques that can be applied to current projects.
"In some development areas the skills require ten-plus years of experience and the new grads are able to learn from other employees' experiences. In other cases, the technology is so new that new grads have the opportunity to quickly become subject matter experts."
Lori Hill, deputy EEO officer for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL, Washington, DC), notes that "NRL is continually performing dynamic and complex research, which produces a myriad of end products benefiting not only the fleet but all of our armed services." That means NRL is always seeking talent at the graduate level in the science and technology (S&T) fields, she says.
"The diverse nature of NRL's S&T work is complemented by its diverse workforce, which provides not only the necessary technical talent but the added value of varied life experiences. That enhances our overall research and the end products. We believe a diverse workforce is imperative to fulfilling our mission and ensuring that the laboratory is as vital and innovative today as ever."
Renee Carignan is a computer scientist at NRL
An internship at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory the summer after her junior year helped Renee Carignan get her foot in the door.
"I got to learn what the job, location and people were like, and they got to know me and my capabilities," she says.
After graduating from the University of Mary Washington (Fredericksburg, VA) with a BSCS in 2010, Carignan joined NRL as a computer scientist with the satellite and wireless networking section. NRL is the corporate research laboratory for the Navy and Marine Corps.
In college, Carignan initially focused on video game development, but switched to networking and systems, which she found more gratifying. "Computer science is a form of problem solving that has immediate, real-world applications," she comments.
She chose a research position in communications and networking after graduation "because the field of communications continues to be more and more integral to our daily lives, both in civilian and military applications," she says. "There is room for innovation and improvement in the current systems and technologies and I wanted to be involved in something that I knew was relevant, functional and useful."
Carignan's job involves both hardware and software projects. Her hardware tasks include bench testing and physically installing hardware in test aircraft. The software work ranges from coding to operating, monitoring and analyzing software over networks.
"We also design, implement and analyze the performance of a specific small network," she adds, "including the physical setup, system settings and device capabilities. The job touches almost every aspect of a complete system's early lifecycle."
On a project involving the aircraft end of a point-to-point link, Carignan was responsible for the antenna, the transceiver, the modem, laptops, switches and dozens of different cables.
"I coordinated and helped mount the equipment in rack shelves and on the aircraft," she notes. "I also got to fly in the aircraft and operate that end of the system."
Carignan particularly likes the adaptability her job requires. "It's not like a class where there is a problem with a definite answer and a right and wrong way to get there," she notes. "It's your responsibility to use your best judgment to find the optimal solution."
Yu Fan develops communications products at Harris
As a kid, Yu Fan wanted to be like his electrical engineer father. "He's the original reason I wanted to become an engineer," he explains. "I wanted to be a man like him."
For Fan, being an engineer is still really fascinating. "Different from scientists who discover or invent new things, engineers take advantage of existing techniques to build their projects. It's like playing with building blocks. All the pieces are there for you, but what you can build is totally dependent on your skills and imagination. It's challenging and so much fun. And software engineers can basically work anywhere because the only tool you need is a laptop."
Fan holds a 2007 BSEE from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (Chengdu, China) and a 2009 MSEE with a focus on computer networks from the University of Southern California (USC, Los Angeles, CA).
As a software engineer at Harris Corp's Broadcast Communications division, he works in Northridge, CA developing complex products in the video server, editing and processing area.
"I apply video and audio standards and specifications in both SD and HD formats," he says. "I also work on video quality, processing speed and reliable real-time architectural design and implementations, and implement inter-process communications using sockets and other techniques."
Fan found his job through ConnectSC, a USC career website that posts job opportunities. "I applied from that website, went through interviews and got this job," he says.
Making the transition from school to work meant rethinking how his days were structured. "The working time is fixed and you have to stay in the office during working hours," he explains. "It's not like school where you are fine as long as you meet the deadlines.
"Another thing is the difference in responsibility," he adds. "The products we build are used by customers, not graded by teaching assistants. Any mistake you make is more serious, so you must be much more careful to ship bug-free code."
Maria Huntley is an associate software engineer at PTC
Maria Huntley has always been interested in computers, and she too has a technical legacy. "My father is in the industry," she explains. "I took my first programming class in college, a Java programming class, and just fell in love with programming."
Huntley got her BSCS at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN) in 2011. She started as an intern at the Blaine, MN location of PTC (Needham, MA) in June 2010 and converted to employee after graduation. PTC is a software company that develops product lifecycle management solutions.
As an associate software engineer for the security team, Huntley is getting to know the client side of Windchill, one of PTC's products.
Huntley explains that the security team is currently working on a feature to introduce custom security labels to Windchill. A security label is an enhanced form of access control. The current implementation of security labels has the customer defining a set of values that could be applied to an object. A custom security label will let a user define any value they want for that custom label.
"I have been working on the UI support for this change, with rendering text boxes to intake values and other UI issues," she notes. "It's my first attempt to help design and implement a UI, and has been super fun."
Lavanya Jagirdhar is a project management analyst at Deutsche Bank
When Lavanya Jagirdhar was an undergraduate in India, her studies focused on chemical engineering, but a career in information systems interested her.
"We live in an information age," she explains. "I knew IT would offer a wide variety of opportunities."
Jagirdhar started her transition from chemical engineering to the IT world when she worked as a software engineer in India for two years.
She came to the U.S. for her 2008 MS in information systems management at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA), and connected with Deutsche Bank (New York, NY) via the school's career portal. She joined the worldwide financial service provider in 2009 as a project management analyst.
"The environment is dynamic, fast paced and demanding, so it keeps me on my toes," she notes. "Technology is integrated into the entire organization, and that allows me to work with people from all over the globe. That's one of my favorite things about working here."
Jagirdhar's previous work and schooling involved working on small teams. She's found that working in IT for a financial services organization is multi-dimensional.
"One thing that is very different is how aware you have to be about policies and regulations, and the other projects and teams that interface with your work. Those are things I didn't have to deal with in school," she says.
She's currently pursuing IT project and program management, which interested her in grad school. "I'm part of the program management office to deploy IP telephony for the United States and United Kingdom," she notes.
Jagirdhar is on the steering committee for the company's employee network for generational diversity. When her workload permits, she helps recruit summer technology interns.
Stephon Carter is a systems programmer at Florida Blue
As a kid, Stephon Carter was attracted to computers. "I had a natural knack," he says.
He took his first programming classes in high school. He wanted to make a career of it, but he was also considering a career in business.
"Majoring in management information systems gave me the best of both worlds," he says. "It provided a nice balance between my interests in business and computer programming."
Carter earned his BSMIS in 2009 from the University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL), but got a head start on his career before entering college. As a senior in high school, he landed an internship through Inroads, the internship program for talented minority youth.
"During the Inroads interview process, you find out what your skills are and they try to place you with the best company to match your skills and interests," he says.
Carter was matched with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida (now Florida Blue, Jacksonville, FL), and he interned there throughout his college years. After graduation, he became an employee.
"I was able to develop a great bond with my co-workers during those years as an intern," he notes. That made his transition from intern to fulltime systems programmer seamless. "The work itself was pretty much the same," he says. "It was the workload that changed, increasing a little bit."
On the job, Carter is a systems programmer, with responsibility for the company desktops and the infrastructure that supports them, and desktop security compliance.
"I'm responsible for making sure the operating system is properly installed and configured," he says. "I have to make sure all the security updates and patches are properly applied. I also do some work with related systems on the server side."
For the past year, Carter has been working on a Medicare project with a Florida Blue subsidiary. Working with government contracts presents its own set of challenges. "For example, we have stricter timelines, and the documentation requirements are very thorough," he says.
Carter would eventually like to move into management.
Seshupriya Alluru is a software engineer at Rockwell Collins
Seshupriya Alluru grew up in India and was introduced to engineering by her father, who was an EE. The field interested her, and she started in communications engineering. Eventually, she turned her attention to software engineering.
After graduating from India's Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University with a BS in electronics and communications, Alluru worked for a year as a software engineer in India. She came to the U.S. to continue her education.
"I felt graduate school in the U.S. would prepare me for a long-term job in my field," she says.
Alluru earned her MS in computer engineering at the University of Florida (Gainesville, FL) in 2010. That same year, she attended a SWE conference in Orlando and met a rep from Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, IA), a conference sponsor. She joined the company in August 2011.
As a software engineer, Alluru defines customer requirements and builds system displays. Learning to manage deadlines in grad school was valuable, she says.
Alluru would eventually like to move into software architecture, where she can solve software problems. "That's what I especially like doing," she says.
In her spare time, Alluru enjoys outdoor activities and plays on the company's recreational volleyball team.
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