Tuesday, May 25, 2010 8:55 AM
You don’t need anyone’s permission to get work experience in software
Yesterday, I attended GCC’s Computer Science Day where they hosted a couple of hundred high school students and invited software professionals and colleges to speak to them. There were sessions for both the students and their teachers. As part of the event, I sat on a panel to answer questions about what it was like to work in IT.
One of the questions was: “how does someone get started?”
The software industry is probably one of the easiest to just get your own experience. I don’t mean just reading a book and playing around—I mean real products that you reference on your resume.
Here are a few ideas for things you can do without anyone’s permission:
- Start or join an open-source project. If you can’t program yet, do QA or documentation (every open-source project is dying for that). There are projects for any possible interest. Go search sourceforge, codeplex and google code.
- Start a website about some niche interest you have. The purpose is to learn HTML/CSS, a web framework (pick anything: PHP, Django, Ruby on Rails—whatever you like), graphic design and to get better at writing. Do it about anything you already are interested in—one simple idea is to make a comprehensive list of X and a good way to browse and search it. X is anything you like: great guitar solo videos on youtube, Wii game reviews, bike paths – many large sites got started this way (TripAdvisor, Low End Mac, Digital Photography Review, even IMDB)
- If there’s some social network that you are spending a lot of time on—learn how to use their API and make something useful for it. A facebook app, a twitter client—whatever you choose, you can use the social network to try to spread it.
- Do you have a smart phone? Make an app. You might make money, but I wouldn’t worry about that if you don’t. Just getting an app into the iPhone AppStore or Android marketplace will be a huge achievement. (our Chief Architect, Steve Hawley, did the equivalent of this for the Apple II – released and sold a game called Suicide! when he was 13)
And here are ideas where you’ll need only a little permission
- Go to any small non-profit in your area that you like and help them get on Facebook and put up a two page site.
- Go to any small (locally owned) business that isn’t on the web and barter your services. It will help if you have a portfolio already, and if it’s good, then get paid for this work, if you are still building it, then barter. (my advice: if you have to work for free, work for yourself, a non-profit or open-source).
- Are you already waiting tables, delivering papers or some other standard teenager job? Does the company have a website or any other IT needs? Volunteer to do it for them (this is how I got started – I was filing in an office, but I knew how to make spreadsheets, so I converted all of their paper sheets to Lotus 1-2-3 – before long I was making macros, programming little dBase III+ apps, etc.).
If you’ve done any of these things before trying to get an internship, your resume is going to stand out. If you’ve done this and live in Western MA, get it touch with me when you get to college—Atalasoft is looking for you.