The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Tag: Master of Software Engineering

Student Spotlight: Carolyn Aquino

Hiring in an Ever-Changing Landscape

By Jesse Mazur

The New Hotness

You can’t go a month without hearing about the latest new framework or language that will solve all of your coding problems. In the mobile and front-end worlds it feels like last year’s state-of-the-art project is next year’s crufty legacy code. In this ever-changing landscape, engineers are always trying to learn the latest technique, attend a new bootcamp, or crank out a new personal project in order to keep up. The result can be piles of resumes that contain every new buzz word under the sun, and applicants painting themselves as the best candidate for just about any engineering position. How can hiring managers ensure that they find the right person? How can aspiring engineers land the right job?

The answer: fundamentals.

Back to Basics

There will always be a new way to do things. In the iOS world we saw a major shift from Objective C to Swift. In the Android world we are seeing a shift from Java to Kotlin. In the web world, we saw jQuery take the JavaScript world by storm, then Google’s Angular was the only way anyone wanted to write web apps. Now, it seems like Facebook’s React is leading the pack. What has not changed are the basic building blocks of software: data structures and algorithms. Minor differences aside, an array is always an array and a for loop is always a for loop. What many new engineers are missing when they go after “the new hotness” are those fundamentals. It’s not just about knowing how to set up an Action/Reducer in React that makes someone a good engineer. That skill will make them relevant right now, in the world where React is king, but in a few years there will be a new player in the game and that skill will be yesterday’s news. The engineers that will continue to shine will be those who understand the fundamentals of programming so that they can adapt to the next wave of short-lived must-have tech stacks.

The Current Process

There are certainly valid criticisms of common tech hiring practices. Long interview loops with difficult coding problems written primarily on a whiteboard inevitably leave something to be desired. The reason for this process is often misunderstood and can lead to dissatisfied candidates complaining about unfair, puzzle-like questions. “When was the last time anyone actually used a red black tree on the job anyway?!” Not all of those complaints are unwarranted. An engineer, at her core, is a problem solver. The programming language is simply one of many tools she uses to solve the problem. The spirit of these questions is to reveal the candidate’s problem solving skills in order to understand if she will be able to solve similar problems on the job. Coding interviews shouldn’t be vocabulary tests or mind bending trick questions. A well-worded question will challenge the candidate, but it will also be practical and relevant to the work they will be doing on the job. It will have several possible solutions, each of which may leverage different data structures and algorithms. Its difficulty will also scale, so that a more seasoned engineer will solve it more elegantly, while handling more edge cases right off the bat. An experienced interviewer should be able to gauge that skill early on and know what curve balls to throw the candidate to calibrate the questions to the candidate’s level.

Talent vs Skill

A final piece of the puzzle is the ability to recognize and balance the difference between talent and skill. In this context, talent is defined as an innate ability or trait the candidate possesses— something that cannot necessarily be taught. A skill, on the other hand, can be defined as something that can be mastered with practice over time. Finding the correct engineer should start with identifying which talents she needs to embody in order to be successful in the role, then defining the ideal skillset. For example, a candidate with a natural drive to deliver results, who is a quick learner with good fundamentals, might not need to be 100% familiar with the bleeding-edge framework being used on a given project. She can probably join the team, learn quickly, and get a project to the finish line on time.

Conclusion

The engineering world is always changing and there will always be some new way to solve the same old problems. Finding candidates with innate talents that are necessary for the role, who also have a strong grasp of the fundamentals, will set up any dev team for longer term success. Trying to hire a team of engineers who only know the latest and greatest means having a staff that will not outlast the ever-shortening lifespan of tech stacks. What’s more, trying to find that unicorn-ninja-coder may actually take longer than simply finding a solid engineer who can learn on the job.

Jesse Mazur is a Senior Director of Engineering at Meredith Corporation, the largest US media conglomerate (People, Sports Illustrated, Real Simple, etc.), and a member of the Brandeis GPS Master of Software Engineering advisory board.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

The Best Jobs for Life-Work Balance

Glassdoor, a popular jobs and recruitment website, recently released a crowd-sourced list of best jobs for achieving work-life balance. Many of the positions in the Glassdoor list directly correspond to the industry-driven master’s degrees offered at GPS. Among the 29 positions profiled include:

1. Lab Assistant
2. Creative Manager
3. Computer Programmer
4. Marketing Coordinator
5. Data Analyst
6. Content Manager
7. Web Designer
8. Social Media Manager
9. Scrum Master
10. Marketing Analyst
11. Devops Engineer
12. Mobile Developer
13. User Interface Designer
14. Data Scientist
15. User Experience Designer

Whether you currently hold one of the positions above or are interested in advancing into a similar job, you’re probably looking to achieve balance in all areas of your life. For those seeking to pursue a graduate degree, Brandeis GPS fosters a community that is mindful of the multiple demands facing adult learners and while offering the rigorous standards of excellence that makes Brandeis one of the top universities in the country.

Graduates with Roots in STEM Face Growing Career Opportunities

By: – Custom Content Coordinator

As we enter May, young people here in Boston and across the country are about to embark on a new chapter in their lives. Many will be graduating from college and taking their first step into the great, wide, professional world. Question marks fill their future as they wonder what kind of opportunities await them and their hard-earned bachelor’s degrees.

While it is impossible to forecast the job market with absolute certainty, it is undeniable that the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) hold the greatest opportunities for job seekers now and in the future. Industries like renewable energy, healthcare, advanced manufacturing and technology are rapidly growing and demand increasing numbers of skilled workers to sustain their expansion.

The computer and math occupations account for close to half of all STEM employment, followed by engineering with 32 percent, and then physical and life sciences at 13 percent, according to U.S. Department of Commerce. Significant growth is projected for computer and mathematical scientists, engineers and engineering technicians, architects and architectural technicians and more STEM occupations.

Those with strong STEM education backgrounds “will find themselves at the center of our new economy,” tech expert Vinay Trivedi said in the Huffington Post.

But unfortunately demand is outpacing supply when it comes to STEM-related careers. Fewer students are pursuing advanced math and science degrees, creating a problematic skills gap threatening the United States’ position in the new global economy.

The U.S. ranks 30th in math and 23rd in science, according to latest Program for International Student Assessment; and the latest ACT results show that only 44 percent of our high school graduates are ready for college-level math, and just 36 percent are ready for college-level science, the National Math & Science Initiative reported.

The impact of the skills deficit which develops in secondary level education has deleterious consequences once those students reach college. Many students abandon interest in STEM career by the end of their sophomore year, Irv Epstein, Professor of Chemistry at Brandeis University, observed.

It is a national imperative to reverse this trend. President Barack Obama declared creating the next generation of STEM leaders an educational priority for the nation at his State of the Union Address in January.

“I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think about that–openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work,” he said. “That’s inexcusable. And we know how to fix it.”

program-hero-softwareMany have answered President Obama’s call to improve STEM education. In addition to early education initiatives, select colleges and universities have stepped up including Brandeis University who has partnered with the Posse Foundation to provide merit-based scholarships to minority students interested in pursuing STEM degrees.

But meanwhile, as programs launch to serve the next generation of students, the STEM jobs are still waiting, available for current job seekers who have the skills and ambition to seize the opportunity.

For those who lack adequate STEM skills but are eager to break into expanding, innovative industries, there is a way for them to bridge the skills gap: graduate education. Don’t wait for a job to pop up that fits your resume. Act now to get the training you need for the jobs available.

Brandeis University’s Division of Graduate Professional Studies prepares ambitious professionals for exciting, expanding opportunities in the job market right now. 

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Advice at Rabb ceremony: ‘Geek Out’

Original Post: http://www.brandeis.edu/now/2014/may/commencement/rabb.html

by: Leah Burrows

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In Sunday’s kickoff diploma ceremony, the Division of Graduate Professional Studies at the Rabb School of Continuing Studies conferred nearly 100 graduate degrees and certificates on a diverse group of professionals from across the country and around the world.

The ceremony awarded graduate certificates and master’s degrees in bioinformatics, information security, information technology management, project and program management, health and medical informatics, virtual management and software engineering.

The graduates, most of whom worked full-time jobs as they pursued their degrees and certificates, shared the spotlight with their families, who were praised for their support and patience.

“Friends and family members should get a graduate degree in understanding,” said Anne Marando, executive director of the Division of Graduate Professional Studies.

Student speaker Robert Havasy, MS ’14, agreed, thanking his family for “propping me up when I thought about quitting, when the work seemed too much.”

Havasy, the corporate team lead for product and technology development at the Center for Connected Health, highlighted the differences between Rabb graduates and others receiving their degrees on Sunday.

Many of these students will spend the next few years figuring out what they want to do, struggling to find their place in the work force and searching for a mentor, Havasy said.

“What makes Rabb unique is the vast majority of us came here from established careers,” Havasy told his fellow graduates. “We will return to work next week or, more likely, tomorrow. We will become mentors to these students. So spend time with your interns, use your influence to promote diversity, civility and integrity in the workplace.”

Eric Siegel ’91, the founder of Predictive Analytics World and Text Analytics World, gave the keynote address. He urged the graduates to “do what you love and love what you do.”

EricSeigelStudent“My advice to you is geek out,” Siegel said. “Get into it. Find that thing in your work you get a thrill out of.  The holy grail in your work life is finding that thing that gives you a kick.”

Siegel, the executive editor of Predictive Analytics Times and the author of “Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die,” received his bachelor’s degree from Brandeis in computer science.

He shared his own experiences geeking out about predictive analytics, theater and teaching. The self-proclaimed “singing professor” lived up to his name, serenading graduates with a few verses from his songs about problem solving and analytics.

“It is a priority to find the fun in your work life,” he told the graduates.

Pursing an education while working a full-time job wasn’t always fun for many of Sunday’s graduates but it was fulfilling.

“This was such a rewarding experience,” said Rocky Moscoso, who received a Master’s of Software Engineering. “I had 14 years of experience in the field before coming to Brandeis and I was able to use what I learned at work in the classroom and visa versa.”

Veronica Orozco, who also received a Master’s of Software Engineering, agreed.

“This experience was insane, overwhelming and totally worth it,” she said.

About the Author:

Leah is the  News and Communications Specialist at Brandeis University, generating content for the university’s website and magazine. Leah also writes for her own blog: wordsbyleah.com

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