I have two degrees in electrical engineering, and a broad (but not long) range of experience in full stack web development. I also know a thing or two about somewhat more experimental/obscure things--I've worked professionally as a translator in a language that is regarded as "difficult" (by most English speakers, and the speakers of the language), and I enjoy somewhat new programming languages like Elixir and Rust.

I feel as though this makes my background look "weird". My work in both degrees was focused more on the mathematical side of electrical engineering (signal processing, adaptive algorithms, machine learning, etc.), and ultimately practicing with that knowledge came down to near-pure software implementations.

Most traditional engineering positions seem to be targeted at someone who did only traditional engineering in the typical progression. Likewise, most (contemporary) software development positions seem to be targeted at someone who either has professional experience or taught themselves. It's been my experience that neither culture tends to professionally respect the habits of the other.

But one of the things I learned in graduate school is that many problems in my (large) sphere come down to a few different combinations of math background, engineering approaches, and tricks+intuition about hardware in test/implementation. Whatever it is, I know I can figure it out. But that's not how I feel I am or will be judged for hiring.

I think I've got only one thing going for me: my specialties are "adjacent" to many, many things.

If I want to make myself more palatable for some specific specialized position that requires an advanced skill normally obtained in graduate school or on the job, how do I get that skill in a way that is convincing, without spending years in more graduate school or working a job whose sole value to me is training for the job I really want?

  • 1
    Find a way to demonstrate the skill that you can use in lieu of grades.
    – keshlam
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 5:44
  • If the position requires certification normally obtained in education or on the job, you're out of luck - no one's going to hire you as a Chartered Engineer unless you are one, even if you have exactly the same skills. If not, what @keshlam said
    – AakashM
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 7:50
  • What do you want to do? As it is the question seems too vague to me, software development? Engineering? Translating? The problem is most broadly knowledgeable intelligent people can work out anything given the opportunity, but you need to prove it to an interviewer and unless you're going entry level, most want you to hit the ground running.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 10:37
  • Can you give an example of one of these specific skills learned in grad school?
    – user8365
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


There are a few avenues open, if you can demonstrate useful, practical skills in an area.

You can contribute substantially to a popular open source project. For instance, Google's Tensorflow is a high-visibility project in machine learning. You will meet experts and be valued on the merits of your work.

You can create and market your own open source project. For instance, if you generate something useful in the Tensorflow ecosystem, you'll get noticed as more people adopt the parent tool.

Network, network, network by going to trade shows and having meaningful conversations about the technology with people in the field. Meetups are useful for finding both the right people and the right companies.

Investigate start-ups in the area. Startups usually need someone who can cover multiple bases, where your multiple skill sets will be an advantage.

From any of these vantage points you can grow your portfolio of work in the area you want to transition toward, while applying the skills from your current position.

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