The Deep End: Pursuing a Computer Science Degree vs. Pursuing a Career

Completing a computer science degree is not easy. From pulling all-nighters attempting to get your tests to pass (or maybe at least run) to hours spent trying to fathom the intricacies of constructing a compiler, you will go deeper into new complex ideas. As the years go by, a new thought will loom in the background: I need to get a job. Now, after completing your schooling, there is a new monumental task to conquer — pursuing a career.

The Deep End

When we began to apply for jobs, I found my classmates and I had a common fear. We worried wouldn’t be able to perform and that company would throw us into the deep end without any support. (Who would’ve thought a room full of imposter-syndrome-ridden college students would worry about how capable they are?) We didn’t want to underperform in our first software development jobs and, in turn, not enjoying the future jobs we’ve worked toward so hard.

“Come on in, the Water’s Fine!”

Las year, I completed my computer science degree and started my career as a software consultant and developer at Atomic Object. After working full time and asking classmates how their new jobs are going, I realized our fears were displaced. We missed a key perspective: throwing new hires (specifically recent graduates/those new to the industry) into the deep end without support benefits no one. Workplaces already understand that, as a newcomer, you have no idea how anything works in-house, and that’s okay.

Sending someone in unsupervised to work on a system they don’t know, expecting them to make substantial contributions immediately, doesn’t benefit either party. A majority of my friends say their onboarding experience is slower than they would’ve liked. We found that the deep end wasn’t nearly as deep as we thought it would be.  Some colleagues realized that, since they were too focused on worrying about being able to do their work, they didn’t spend enough time considering where they were going to work.

Swim at Your Own Risk; No Lifeguard on Duty

I cannot speak on behalf of every tech company and each business strategy they might employ. That means it’s important to understand the environment you’re about to commit to before you dive in head first. A strategy I advocate for (since it was one of the things that helped me decide on where I wanted to start pursuing a career) is to research the values and missions of the company you are applying to. First, get a good understanding of what their ideal work environment is. Then, compare this understanding to the environment you see there. Are they able to align themselves with their goals? And do you find yourself wanting to align yourself with the same principles?

Now, if this was all you needed to decide on where to work, I wouldn’t have a reason to write this post. But I will say that there is no single source to your answer; it’s truly up to you to decide how the transition will go. Allow yourself to get past your fears and doubts and take time to survey the environment. Then, I’m sure you’ll land somewhere you can at least stand on your tippy toes with your head above the water.


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