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  • For anyone working in the Computer Field:

    Hi, it's about time for me to start thinking about narrowing my field of studying in Computer Engineering. At this point the major splits into two branches, hardware and software focused. I was hoping that anyone here who works in the computer field could post their job and the skills that help them the most.

  • #2
    Matt,

    I spent 30 years at IBM, and another five (5) before that elsewhere -- starting around 1962. I did H/W and S/W, ...all kinds.
    The H/W was a really enjoyable thing (when doing field work) and eventually when the discretion of where to put an oscilloscope probe was taken away I went in S/W Operating Systems Support and Compilers. Those were different days, you had loyalty towards a company and that has all but dissapeared today. In those days you had the luxury of following your heart and that is gone today.

    Before I start digressing let me just give you my .02; software will allways be playing catch-up to H/W and the marketplace (IMO) is much more extensive, so that's where I would go. You are close to some of the best universities for Computer Science and they may also be a good source to interview.
    Just check where IBM is placing it's resources for some hints.

    Cheers!
    Han Tacoma

    ~ Artificial Intelligence is better than none! ~

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    • #3
      I've worked in software for @ 26 years. I've seen that field chage dramatically. IMHO - you need to decide if you're interested in a field where "soft" skills like written and verbal communications is important or more "hard" technical skills - more "binary" - the switch is on or off. I guess hardware can be very challenging and satisfying, especially when it comes to troubleshooting.
      One of my nephews got a comp sci degree and is now at Intel, writing code that drives machines that test other hardware. I think you should cover yourself by learning some solid, low level coding skills.
      The main thing is - smart, dedicated people will never go out of style.
      Good luck.

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      • #4
        Matt-

        I have been doing software development for 10.5 years now, and the one thing that I had to think about when I was deciding was what interested me more...the actual hardware of the computer....and all of its many facets or programming (the neat software side). For me, I got a great sense of accomplishment when I coded a porgram that actually did what I wanted it to do and even a bigger thrill when the rest of the user community used it in their every day work. I really did not enjoy the technical hardware stuff...although a lot of people in my class did.

        To be a software programmer, you need to be able to think logically. Given a problem, can you figure out what the actual root cause of the problem is (and not just the symptoms)...can you figure out more than one solution to the problem...can you determine what the best solution is...can you implement the solution...all of these questions seem simplistic...but I have seen a lot of people who cannot follow this logic flow.

        It is definitely up to you...and you will get varying opinions on this topic as far as which is better. Just remember...you will need to be happy with it...and if you are good at what you decide to do...you will always be in demand...no matter which path you take.

        Just my 2 cents.
        "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot nothing's going to get better. It's not." - Dr. Seuss

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        • #5
          garvey and wheeliecoach,

          Please do NOT take this a criticism of the advise you offered Matt.

          In both your posts you have referred to hardware as something to be fixed and while that is certainly one of the associated areas, I believe that the actual hardware design and associated areas may have unwittingly been downplayed. Remember without the hardware there would be nothing to code.

          Also when it comes to Software Engineering, it is not only a matter of "coding". There are multiple (sub)areas that will take you a lifetime to master:
          Areas of software engineering:
          •Computational Science and Engineering
          •Databases
          •Graphics and Visualization
          •Information Security and Assurance
          •Networking, Operating Systems, and Distributed Systems
          •Programming Languages and Compilers
          •Theory of Computing and Algorithms
          •Massive data handling
          •Computational biology and nanotechnology
          •Critical infrastructure protection
          •Pervasive computing
          •Neural Basis of Cognition
          •Robotics
          •Language and Information Technologies
          •Human-Computer Interaction
          •Computational and Statistical Learning
          •Computation, Organizations and Society
          •Probabilistic Methods in Digital Systems
          •Advanced Computer Networks and Distributed Processing Systems
          •Distributed Database Systems
          •Parallel Processing
          •Distributed Component Systems
          •Semantic Data Models
          •Data Mining
          •Information and Data Security
          •Introduction to Modern Cryptography
          •Computational Geometry
          •Sequential and Parallel Algorithms
          •Automata
          •Image Processing
          •Artificial Intelligence
          •Linear Algebraic Queueing Theory
          •Fault-Tolerant Parallel Computing
          •Natural Language Processing

          When it comes to Hardware Engineering (I'm only including a few),
          Areas of hardware engineering:
          •Logic design
          •Circuits engineering
          •Printed circuit board/assembly (PCB/PCA) design
          •Mechanical design
          •Power engineering
          •Manufacturing test technologies
          •...etc.
          Han Tacoma

          ~ Artificial Intelligence is better than none! ~

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          • #6
            I think there's more money and available growth opportunity working with software. The real money is in Systems Consulting. Because there's so much available information being delivered to various media types (web, cell phone, pda, etc…) a huge demand currently exists and will only continue to grow for those who have programming skills (preferably JAVA) combined with the ability to assist business teams with architecting information and defining functional requirements. Today the pool of applicants who have the ability to model content that's easy to manage, deliver and find are few and far between.

            I currently work as Web Applications Programmer/Analyst spending 80% of my time defining/architecting specs and 20% writing code. My roles and responsibilities revolve around delivering content stored in a Content Management System through the browser via IBM Portal. With more and more legacy code being rewritten for the web a demand for Systems Consultant will only continue to grow.

            Good luck!



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            • #7
              Laozisailor

              Excellent post!
              How does Ben Stein put it? - I bow to your Buddha nature..

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              • #8
                thanks for the replies. I've done C/C++ and Java. I'm not sure how well I could do it for a living. The class I'm taking now is Assembly and it's beginning to look rather frightening. I always thought I wanted to do Hardware, but I don't think I knew just what that meant. It looks like with a Computer Engineering degree I would probably code Firmware and Device Drivers. It sounds interesting, and I've always wanted to work on new stuff before it came to market but the asm looks a little sketchy what with having to do everything manually. I guess the main thing with any programming language is practice, right? Another thing is, I've been searching job ads on monster.com and everyone wants at least 3-5 years experience in a given field. Did most of you do internships, or what did you have to do to get your foot in the door?

                Thanks again,

                Matt

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by mattblan
                  thanks for the replies. I've done C/C++ and Java. I'm not sure how well I could do it for a living. The class I'm taking now is Assembly and it's beginning to look rather frightening. I always thought I wanted to do Hardware, but I don't think I knew just what that meant. It looks like with a Computer Engineering degree I would probably code Firmware and Device Drivers. It sounds interesting, and I've always wanted to work on new stuff before it came to market but the asm looks a little sketchy what with having to do everything manually. I guess the main thing with any programming language is practice, right? Another thing is, I've been searching job ads on monster.com and everyone wants at least 3-5 years experience in a given field. Did most of you do internships, or what did you have to do to get your foot in the door?

                  Thanks again,

                  Matt

                  That's a tough one. I had some business experience and a background in economics when I got my first programming job way back in the Jurrasic era.
                  Internships can't hurt. The Chubb company used to have a developer "bootcamp" where they payed you a modest salary while you trained and then you committed to work for them for something like a year.
                  That nephew I mentioned hit the market right after 9/11 and if you didn't want to work for the gov't at the time, it was rough finding that first gig. He started out doing contractwork until he finally got a call from Intel.
                  Maybe some of the younger forum members can give you a better perspective.

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                  • #10
                    I think there's more money and available growth opportunity working with software.
                    I actually think differently, I use to be a Software Engineering major and switched to Computer Engineering because the whole market is flooded with Programmers. Its assumed now adays that you CAN program and your good at it. Its like a must now, its no longer, well i either know hardware or software. So many software engineering jobs are being outsourced to other countries because its alot cheaper then paying high salaries here for programmers. Also companies are now wanting programmers to not just be programmers, they want you to know alot of business too. Thats when MIS majors are lucking out, they don't have to take the hard ass classes in physics, math, they just get taught business and programming but get paid shit, but get hired over CS/SE majors because they know business and programming but don't have the problem solving abilities of say a CS/SE major would aquire. Companies are all about making profit and don't care about how they do it anymore, who cares about loyality to your workers. Again i'm speaking from what my uncle has expeirenced throughout his computer programming years, he's been a programmer for about 30 years and has been in just about every programming job possible and has told me how much the business have changed.
                    On the other hand, in hardware its alot harder to outsource, software is a different story. I've been reading up on alot of business mags and they all say stay away from software, ever since i was 13 years old i wanted to be a programmer now I don't, i actually got burnt out coding. My uncle is a "programmer" with a CS degree and he has his masters and he is still jumping job to job. Its not a very stable market anymore. He told me back in the day, when he worked for Uynsis the company paid him to learn, and paid him to get his masters, in the 80's it was easy to get a programming job, you were more respected now they get no respect it seems. When 14 year olds are starting to learn how to do your job, you know your in trouble. But thats jut my 2 cents!
                    Last edited by mr_coffee; 01-23-2006, 11:25 PM.
                    Injured:10-16-04
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                    • #11
                      Companies are expecting to groom college grads. They're looking for Computer Science grads who have basic understanding of programming, especially with Object Oriented languages like C++ and JAVA.

                      From what I've seen most comp sci grads get hired as a Programmer/Analyst 1 making around 40k. The easiest way to get your foot in the door is via an internship, thats what I did. Companies realize that grads w/no experience need jobs... if you make good grades you shouldn't have any problems getting into the field.



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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by mr_coffee
                        I actually think differently, I use to be a Software Engineering major and switched to Computer Engineering because the whole market is flooded with Programmers.
                        I don't think you read my post.

                        ...a huge demand currently exists and will only continue to grow for those who have programming skills (preferably JAVA) combined with the ability to assist business teams with architecting information and defining functional requirements. Today the pool of applicants who have the ability to model content that's easy to manage, deliver and find are few and far between.
                        Todays programmer is one that can develop IT strategies that support business objectives, and set an achievable, forward-thinking direction for the future that is tied to the business not just heads down programming all day. I don't think many fourteen year olds can do that.

                        Programming is still a strong field and always will be.



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                        • #13
                          Hi Matt,

                          My 2 cents would have to begin with ... Don't make a decision on what you want to do based upon what's going to give you the most money. Do what makes your heart pump a little faster. Hardware or Software -- it doesn't matter -- good people who love what they do will always be in strong demand. I've found it takes 2 different kind of personalities to work in software or hardware -- the trick is to find out which one you are. I have a pretty good idea which way you're leaning based upon what I've read, but it's up to you to figure it out.

                          I've been working in software since '81 on one of the first personal computers inside the guts of MS-DOS. I remember when Windows was just a concept written down on a few pages in a notebook. I've been consulting since '88 and wouldn't change a thing. I work out of my house and my clients are all over the country. I love writing software. You've just got to decide which one you'd love to do everyday for the next 45 years.

                          HTH,
                          David

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by LooseCannon
                            Todays programmer is one that can develop IT strategies that support business objectives, and set an achievable, forward-thinking direction for the future that is tied to the business not just heads down programming all day. I don't think many fourteen year olds can do that.

                            Programming is still a strong field and always will be.
                            I've got to agree with LooseCannon here. Yes, the market is flooded, but there are more morons out there that believe they can write software than I care to think about. Jeez, I think I've worked with most of them . Good software people are still hard to find. The point I think LooseCannon is trying to make is make sure you're one of the good ones.

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                            • #15
                              SOrry i should have read the post more. But what i'm saying is, CS arn't given the business behind it all, they teach them how to think logically, take alot of abstract math, and do alot of programming, no business at all unless you do a minor in business or a double major. Software Engineering will give you some business background but its hard to find a school that offers SE, on the east cost there are only 2 accredited colleges i know of, which is Mellon and RIT.
                              Injured:10-16-04
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