At this time last year, I faced the same question all students in their final semesters of college or university face: what’s next? I knew that after university, I would begin my career as a Software Developer. Still, it was hard to predict how different this would be compared to student life, and whether I’d be able to keep learning to the extent that I was in university.
In 2018, I started at McGill University in Montreal with the intent of focusing on my degree in Biology. When I started at McGill, biology was my favourite subject in high school. I had never taken a computer science class before. I was interested in genetics, specifically courses which focused on how genes control early development and contribute to disease. What I enjoyed most about the program was some of the smaller, conference-style classes where we’d critique genetic research papers. I liked presenting and thinking of creative ways that scientific questions could be answered. But the more I learned about genetics research, the less I pictured myself enjoying a career as a genetic researcher. I liked the lab courses, but I wasn’t thrilled by the idea of spending whole days working on worms or yeast colonies in a lab for a single project which takes many years to complete, which is what life looks like for a lot of grad students in that field.
As I started taking more computer science classes, I realized that was an area I enjoyed learning about even more. I especially enjoyed classes like algorithms, software design, web development, artificial intelligence, and any project-based course. In the end, I graduated with a major in biology and a minor in computer science, but I ended up taking much more computer science than biology in later years.
From paper to practice
The past four years at McGill went by fast, seemingly accelerated by the fact that almost two years were remote. I started working as a Full Stack Developer at Indellient in May 2022, about two weeks after I wrote my last university exams. I was excited to start at Indellient, but in many ways didn’t know what to expect.
Within my first week at Indellient, I was already given time and resources to take several Angular training courses, which would help bring me up to speed on my project. We’re also encouraged to take certifications and courses, and we can expense up to $1000 per year towards them. Also, Indellient focuses on keeping up to date on technologies and frameworks. I appreciate this as a Developer because it means all the skills I’m learning are great resume additions and can apply to future projects.
I’ve found the culture at Indellient to be very welcoming and collaborative. Whenever I have a question, my coworkers are happy to help and encourage reaching out for help when needed. The mentorship and collaborative atmosphere at Indellient has already helped me become much more independent as a Developer over the past six months.
It’s hard to predict exactly which skills you learn in computer science courses will be useful once you start your career, and which skills you won’t really find applicable. I used to wonder the same thing with my biology classes. Now that it’s been a while, I don’t remember every amino acid structure or signalling cascade I once had memorized, but I can still look up and interpret research papers to teach myself how a certain vaccine or medication works. The same thing is true with computer science. Since starting at Indellient, I’ve noticed that a lot of the “hard skills” I’ve needed to use right away are the basics we learned early on in school: common programming languages, algorithms and data structures, optimization, web development, and databases. Beyond that, you can learn everything else along the way through experience and training.
Finding my balance
Something I love about my job is that I work on something different every day. Most of my day is spent developing which I enjoy, but there are often other tasks such as meetings, solutioning, researching, code reviewing, and writing which break up the workday nicely.
Life feels much more balanced than it did during school. At McGill, avoiding burnout was tough, especially when classes shifted online during the pandemic. For a year and a half, I was studying at home instead of the campus library and writing stressful final exams in my bedroom. Luckily, I had supportive roommates who were in the same boat as I was. We motivated each other to get outside every day and spent a lot of late nights studying together at the kitchen table. We made it work, but I was ready to have a more balanced lifestyle after graduating. At Indellient, our hours are flexible, so I’ve been able to make time to go cycling after work or break up the day with a walk. I’ve already had some relaxing vacation days, and I’m looking forward to using more of those days to travel in 2023.
I usually work remotely. Indellient sent me everything I needed for my home office setup. I’ve also been to the office a few times for team lunches and a company picnic. On occasion, when I do go into the office, there are comfortable workstations. I’ve enjoyed the office snacks, lunch outings, and getting to know my coworkers and their dogs (it’s a pet-friendly office).
Overall, it’s been a great six months at Indellient. University helped prepare me for my job, but I’d say I’m still learning as much as I was when I was in school, if not more. Most importantly, I genuinely enjoy my workdays and I’ve met a lot of smart, supportive people. I’m looking forward to growing with the company even more in 2023.
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