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I'm graduating next year with an MEng in Information and Computer engineering. I've worked mostly with MATLAB, Java and low level assebly language in the past (due to classes and a work placement) but I'm aiming for a career in the field of robotics and all the robotics jobs out there require C++. I guess I could just read a self-teach C++ book but I feel like that would be a waste of time given that I could spend all that time working on my final year project which is actually practical and exciting.

I feel confident that if I landed a job needing knowledge of virtually any coding language, given several months I could get that knowledge, so maybe even before I commence the job. I mean, at the final day review of my recent internship, my line manager was shocked to find out that I've done no work in MATLAB before the work placement. Based on how fast I got into the project assigned to me he just assumed I knew MATLAB.

Is there a way to demonstrate that readiness to learn to a potential employer? Can I hope for a job using a language I have not worked with before? Am I doomed to huge companies' graduate schemes where I might or might not end up with a job I like?

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  • You have to come across as credible. Like that individual an acquaintance told me about who did well at a C-sharp interview at Microsoft. He got an almost instant job offer when he freely admitted that he had learned C-sharp the week before. Not everybody can pull this off. Certainly not me. Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 0:48
  • "Am I doomed to huge companies' graduate schemes where I might or might not end up with a job I like?" - there is nothing wrong with joining such a scheme, fulfilling your minimum contracted term and then taking the skills and experience to interview anywhere you like. That's how it works for most people when leaving uni.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 2:35
  • I'm trying to understand why you want to work in a field that you aren't showing any interest in picking up the requirements for? If Robotics is your thing and it requires C++ then shouldn't you be learning C++ right now instead of trying to figure out how to tell others that you want to learn it? How you demonstrate readiness to go down a path is by actually making progress to go down that path. I don't see that you are doing that. As Joe said, "sounds like you have decided your priorities".
    – NotMe
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 0:16
  • @ChrisLively - well, the university I go to has so much required workload that one can barely make it on time with everything, not to mention learning a completely new language. I mean I can read a book on c++ but there's no way I will have any time to actually put it to use. And my course simply doesn't include any c++. UK universities work very differently from US colleges. There is much, much less flexibility and being able to decide what you want to do with your time there.
    – Sanuuu
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 0:36
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    possible duplicate of How can I overcome “years of experience” requirements when applying to positions?
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 8:57

4 Answers 4

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Is there a way to demonstrate that readiness to learn to a potential employer?

No.

It turns out that everyone is a fast learner, hard worker, and great communicator when they're applying for jobs. Such statements are pure noise to someone experienced reading resumes, because everyone claims to be good at them. The best way to demonstrate your ability to learn is to learn.

Can I hope for a job using a language I have not worked with before?

You can hope...

I have at least heard of people getting jobs when they didn't know the primary programming language of the company. It is exceptionally rare.

I've seen more often (and personally experienced) getting a job where the company used two (or more) languages commonly, but the candidate only knows one well. You may be well served looking for a robotics company that needs matlab for statistical analysis or Java to maintain their internal UIs (and some C/C++/whatever for the robotics).

Am I doomed to huge companies' graduate schemes where I might or might not end up with a job I like?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unless you're really exceptional/rare in your field, companies have all the leverage. You're largely doomed to their schemes if you want their money. And recent surveys have shown that the odds of you enjoying your job are slim.

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    Personally, I think people in American culture want too much. Not everyone can be working on the next world-changing Google or insert-silicon-startup technology. Get a job, work hard at it, be happy that you live in a place where we can even have the freedom to do such things. Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 23:09
  • @laiello - I would tend to agree, though I would also rather people want to do awesome things but not be able than people capable of awesome things who are never challenged.
    – Telastyn
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 23:17
  • @laiello the fact that the OP mentions graduate schemes means that he's not currently in American culture. That's more of a British terminology, as far as I know.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 23:17
  • @laiello - I just want to make sure I'm not accidentally closing a path to doing something I'd actually enjoy. Life is not all about working hard at a random place wasting your life away doing things you don't care about. I know not many people have the privilege to enjoy their jobs but I don't think I'm being unappreciative only because I'm trying to.
    – Sanuuu
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 1:26
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    @Sanuuu: Life is also about doing what it takes to get what you want, even if that means doing something you might not want to do if that gets you closer to your goal. If you want to be in Robotics and the key is to know C++, then the one thing you should be focused on is learning C++. Not waiting around for someone to give you a job learning C++.
    – NotMe
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 0:21
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I was in your position not long ago. Here's how you should tackle it:

First and foremost, the fact you graduated with a Computer Engineering degree means most entry-level employers know you are familiar with programming. You simply could not have graduated without it. That being said, during the interview you will be asked basic programming questions and be expected to solve them.

What I did was lean on the projects I did in college, and had a section in my resume' where I listed all the projects, whether they were group or individual, a short explanation of what it was, and what languages I used. I also put this in my LinkedIn profile and linked my teammates' LI profiles to them as well.

Since you don't have real world experience, lean heavily on that project experience and what it taught you. Put all your time in your senior year project and sell that to companies when you go on interviews. As long as you are willing to learn, you will get hired.

And for the love of god, research the company and ask interesting questions. Keep in mind you are interviewing THEM as well. Questions like "what's the turnover rate?" or "what's the work/life balance like?" sometimes make my decision as to whether I would like to work there or not. It's also a good idea to look into a companies' revenue and ask about the specific earnings of the project you will be on. My company just went through a pretty big layoff and we were protected because I am on a project with a solid profit margin.

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    familiar with programming. You simply could not have graduated without it. ...actually, it would have been possible in my Bachelor programme, which dealt mostly with low-level hardware, electronics (flip-flops, XOR, truth tables, etc), and memory theory (SRAM, DRAM, flash). We did have programming, but they were mostly team efforts, in which you could in theory have delegated the programming to one of your team members who was better at it. Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 13:58
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Speaking as an experienced UK-based C++ developer who's been a hiring manager in the last year:

The best way to demonstrate readiness to learn to a potential employer is to have some experience on your CV which shows that you have done well in an unfamiliar environment in the past. Telling people doesn't cut the mustard, for the reasons given by Telastyn.

C++ is not an easy language to learn. It's simply far too big. It's in some senses the superset of C and a Java-like language, but it additionally has a lot of things that aren't in either, such as operator overloading and compile time template programming. It's only getting bigger with C++11 and C++14.

There is a heartening consequence of this, however. For a start, your university is not particularly special in not teaching C++. Many UK universities are on the Java plan because it's much easier to teach the basics in Java, and easier for lecturers - who are often not very strong programmers - to understand the submissions to the coursework. I would expect this to likely hold true outside the UK as well.

This means that as someone exiting university it is worth applying to graduate level C++ jobs with a background of Java and assembly. These jobs may not get any applicants with actual C++ experience. I wouldn't necessarily recommend trying that for your second job, but software graduates benefit from low expectations.

You'll also find many companies that claim to work in C++ are using a small subset that is mainly C. This is particularly true with embedded systems development. If you do decide to try to gain some skills before entering the market, since you are in robotics and have some Java, I would recommend you start by learning C and pick up C++ as you go.

Finally, graduate schemes are certainly not the only way to enter a software career, but many smaller companies don't employ graduates because they are perceived to initially be as much trouble to train as they're worth. You can counter this perception personally to some degree by reading up on modern development practices, but it won't help if a company doesn't even advertise a graduate job.

Good luck.

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You have to remember that you are in competition with others and that you need to make yourself more marketable, no one else is going to do that for you. If the job you want needs C++, then learn it. I don't mean read a book either, I mean do some actual coding in it. If you have created some homemade robotics then that is far more excitig to me as a potential employer in that area than someone who has just done coursework. (And as a plus you can bring them to the interview to show off your work.)

If you want something you have to put in extra effort. Do you have time? Of course you do. If you really want it. You have to determine your priorities and building something in the robotics line using C++ shoud be a higher priority for you than getting an A in your coursework (You do need to pass though). That is because that is what will get you the job you want.

Are you doomed to a job you don't like? Yes if you go along the path of expecting others to give you what you want without the effort on your part to learn what you have already identified that you need to know to get the job you want. To get that really special job, you have to prove you have the qualifications and the drive and attitude to do it. A hiring manager might have 500 resumes for an interesting entry level job, you have to do something to distinguish yourself from the pack.

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