Q1. Did you choose this career or did the career choose you?
SM: I think it was a little bit of both. My grandparents, my parents, and my uncles are all engineers. So in a way, it was natural for me to become an engineer as well. And I have chosen to study Computer Science and IT. It was a domain that always appealed and it is still appealing to me due to several reasons:
- It’s one of the most rewarding careers;
- As we live in a digital age, computer science and technology make the world better, faster, and more connected;
- There is a large variety of career choices;
- It is always in demand;
- You’ll earn good money;
- It offers a flexible work style: working in a company or on your own; working from an office or home; flexible schedule.
GB: I would also say a bit of both. I was lucky enough to grow up in a media-rich environment where science was considered cool. Shows like Star Trek catapulted science and technology into my interest zone.
I knew as a kid that I wanted to work in a science-related field and various circumstances have put me where I am now.
About adjusting to new concepts, this field is more like an interconnected web of technologies that are all linked together in some form or another. It is easy to go on tangents when you are researching a topic. So as long as you have a general interest in this field and you can figure out the conceptual or historical links between various technologies, all is good.
Q2. What qualities do you consider necessary to meet success in this domain?
SM: Critical thinking and problem-solving go hand in hand. And they will help you whether you work on debugging a program or resolving a security breach. Analytical skills are especially useful for professionals who work with big data or algorithms and are looking for patterns or creating instructions. Attention to detail can make or break your application or software programmer.
GB: A general curiosity about your field and field adjacent topics is good to have. You can go a long way on curiosity alone but to excel you need thoroughness.
You can write a super fancy piece of code and be proud that you managed to use that new language feature that all the blogs talk about. But if it’s not properly documented and all the know-how resides in an esoteric, coffee-infused Friday, your code will not be maintainable.
Q3. What was the biggest challenge from your engineering career so far?
SM: I was asked to become the technical lead and take over, in a couple of weeks, a complex project that had started a little over two years before. I had to go over and review the main points of the project and the past work. This was challenging because I had only two weeks before the retirement of the former technical lead.
I had to take over the past and the current tasks, we organized meetings with the client to discuss the ongoing tasks and we made the takeover as smooth as possible for the client.
GB: Managing all the programming languages and technologies that I need to know. It feels daunting when you need to go back and use a language after some time. And then you see that your hands are at the keyboard, but you are not typing anything because you don’t remember the syntax. You start looking up the basics again and it can feel like two steps forward, one long jump back and that could be depressing if it hits at a bad time.
To overcome it, you need to start being used to it. This is the norm and there is nothing wrong with you. Each time it happens, you switch faster and faster between technologies you already know.
Q4. Can you tell us more about a project that didn’t match the expected results?
SM: Sometimes it is not your fault and the client’s interests are changing at the last minute. Sometimes it is because at that time you are lacking the necessary experience. Therefore, I can say that these types of experiences are beneficial because you can learn from them.
GB: I can talk about all my hobby projects where I don’t have support from experts. One of the most challenging stages of a project is the initial set-up stage. I don’t have much experience in DevOps and Software Architecture. So setting up a new project feels like running up a mountain, trying to reach the top where the development starts.
Choosing a suitable hardware platform, build system, testing method, and framework, language, coding standard, or deciding on which component to begin with. These are all difficult tasks that could make or break a project.
Q5. Have you ever been close to giving up this career and choosing another one from a new field? What motivated you to keep going during that time?
SM: That hasn’t happened to me yet. And regarding my source of motivation, I guess all the reasons stated in the answer to question number 1.
GB: Sure. I have a great interest in philosophy. So there is a thought in the back of my head telling me to quit and just go to a retreat and read all the books that I want. Besides that, I want to make music and I want to learn how to draw but it’s hard to find the time.
I’m not going to lie, a big part of not moving fully away from engineering is the financial issue. In a way, my engineering career budgets my endeavors into art. I also view it as a way to keep my work separated from my hobbies with the minus that I can’t quite program as a hobby anymore.
Q6. If you had the chance to go back in time and give your young scared self a piece of advice when you started this path, what would that be?
SM: Follow your dream and it will become a reality! Don’t give up! Any failure is a learning experience and a part of your success.
GB: I know it is a bit of a meme but “just do it”. We live in the age of information. You can find free courses from universities all over the world. Readily available papers from scientific and tech journals. Lots of communities out there that can help you. There is a huge push towards open source toolchains and open source projects. As long as you have a computer, you can start right now.