I am a soon to be software developer and I have spent a lot of learning tools and languages. However, since a lot of these tools are self-taught, I do not feel proficient in them.

I am willing to put in effort if there is still hope that employers will appreciate my enthusiasm and initiative. I have not yet worked in the workplace (not even internships outside of research) and I was wondering whether I will be able to tackle day to day tasks of a entry level software developer in robotics engineering if I have knowledge of technologies but not necessarily proficiency? Do employers tolerate this and allow you to learn and get better?

Any advice is much appreciated!

  • 1
    What do you mean by industry tools? – paparazzo May 18 '18 at 20:04
  • A lot will depend on who interview you. Resume scanning tools are more going to look for core stuff from college. – paparazzo May 18 '18 at 20:22
  • What is your academic background? Are you fully self-taught? Are you a current student at some level? Are you graduating soon? – Eric May 18 '18 at 21:10
  • You need to separate "self taught" (which can result in proficiency) from "proficient" (which can come from formal education or self-teaching). Your question sounds like it is really about proficiency, not being self-taught. – dwizum May 21 '18 at 12:53

NOTE: my answer comes from a career in software development, not specifically software development for robots.

What can I do now in order to prepare myself for these challenges?

Learning tools independently is great preparation for a career in software development. Tools, best practices, languages, etc. are constantly changing. Being able to update yourself is extremely valuable.

I have not yet worked in the workplace (not even internships outside of research)

There are a lot of things you learn in the workplace that school doesn't emphasize or sometimes omits completely. Having internship experience is fantastic, but it's not required for entry level positions. Everywhere I've worked has expected that recent graduates will have to learn some of these things.

Do employers tolerate this and allow you to learn and get better?

Employers tend to demand that you learn and get better. Entry level jobs do not expect you to be a finished product, and any entry level software developer that doesn't improve will likely get left behind.

To have more confidence, check out glassdoor.com or other websites that list common interview questions. Prepare to answer those questions and similar questions.

  • Thank you! Are the tasks given in work fairly structured? – ce1 May 18 '18 at 20:21
  • @ce1 That depends entirely on the employer and work environment. Sometimes the work will be organized in nice tickets that give a task, some context, the goal, and timelines; other work places will have a more informal approach where the bossman tells you a rough description of what's needed and may or may not be able to answer in-depth questions about what exactly they want/need from the [feature, bugfix, refactor, etc]. – Delioth May 18 '18 at 21:19

I've been a dev supervisor/manager for over ten years. The fact is that most students didn't learn the exact tools that we work with; even if you are self taught on what you think the tools are that companies use, you most likely have several large gaps of knowledge. This should be expected.

I feel there are things that make a new grad really stand out.

  1. Feel not only comfortable talking about projects you've worked on but exhibit a bit of passion for it. We've all seen where you start talking to someone about something they are interested in and there is a bit of a spark.
  2. Have projects you are working on outside an academic setting. It might be open source software or Arduino or Raspberry Pi or whatever... have a technical hobby project you are working on.
  3. There is nothing wrong with not knowing something, but know and be able to explain how you'd learn about it.
  4. Be friendly and polite. It should not require being stated, but there have been so many interviews where this was not the case... so many...

With this said, being self-taught in tools puts you above your peers in your graduation class that didn't better themselves similarly (most of them for sure). Being self taught is certainly a strength as it shows you want to go above and beyond the minimum. This in itself demonstrates three of the key differentiators I listed above.

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