How Can I Meet an Actual Software Developer?
Choosing a career path is a major life decision, and we meet many people who have chosen a career they don't end up liking. It's ironic that so many people decide on an occupation and then spend years in college and training for it without ever having investigated whether it's a career they'd enjoy.
We feel that the best way to investigate a career is to meet people who are currently in that career. And if possible, it's even better if one can spend a day shadowing that person in their job and see what it's really like.
That's why we recommend that someone considering a career as a software developer should meet with a real one.
But what if you don't know any computer programmers? How can you meet with one?
It's actually really easy to meet a software engineer even if you currently don't know any. Just follow these steps, and you'll be sure to succeed:
You'll need a LinkedIn account for this process. If you don't have one yet, make sure you have, at a minimum: Your name, profile photo, headline, and your most recent experience.
Then, perform a search using the search bar at the top of the page. Type "software developer" or "software engineer" into the search bar - those two terms are interchangeable. "Computer programmer" also means the same thing, but the term is slightly outdated. Before you hit Enter, LinkedIn will show a dropdown; select the option to search among "people". (Otherwise, Linkedin may show you software developer jobs instead.)
In the search results, you should see plenty of software developers. You can further filter your search by location to ensure that these developers are in your city.
Next, send a connection request to a number of these people. Along with the request, you can add a note, saying something along the lines of, "Hello! I'm considering a career in software development, and as a local software developer, I was wondering if I could interview you by phone or over coffee to learn firsthand what it's like."
Believe it or not, some of these developers will agree to your connection request! And some may even respond with a message agreeing to meet you.
If people accept your connection request, but you don't get any messages agreeing to an interview, it doesn't mean that they aren't willing to talk to you. Their lack of messaging may simply be due to the clunkiness of LinkedIn's messaging system. So your next step will be to send an email.
You have the ability to find any LinkedIn connection's email address by going to their profile and clicking on the link, "See contact info." In most cases, their email address will appear among their contact info.
In your email, you will send a similar message as you had sent along with the connection request. It can go something like this:
"Hi CONNECTION NAME,
Thanks so much for connecting with me on LinkedIn. I'm MY NAME, and I'm considering a career in software development, and I was hoping to meet local developers, as I'd like to learn firsthand what the career is like.
Would you have 20 minutes to meet with me for coffee or by phone? I'd love to hear about your experience as a software developer, and perhaps also get your advice on breaking into the field.
We find that 10% of random connections will agree to meet. So, if you want to meet just one developer, all you need to do is send this message to ten software developers in your community.
While it may be slightly uncomfortable reaching out to random people, it's well worth it. The 10% of people who agree to meet with you will be already preselected as super-nice people who want to help newcomers like you. When they first started out, they were probably helped by others and want to pass along the kindness.
When you do meet with a developer, prepare all your questions in advance! Bring along a notebook and take notes. And finally, don't forget to send a thank-you email the next day.
By meeting with actual software engineers, you can get a better sense of whether software development is a career for you. It's a prudent thing to do before you jump headfirst into school!
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