I’m deciding to write this post, to help those going into the industry fresh and with no name made for them yet. I come from humble beginnings and I hope that this post can be used to fuel your aspirations and act as a guide toward your success in the future. Before that, let me tell you about myself.
I currently work as a Software Engineer in New York City, where I’ve lived all my life. I started programming in middle school when I wanted to find a way to bypass our school’s firewall and play games on websites like armorgames.com which had been blocked. My naive approach was, to use a website builder and then upload the flash games onto the site. I figured that since the school didn’t know my site and if I only mentioned the site through word-of-mouth then there was no way the school would catch on. At the time, I didn’t know that the websites accessed by students were frequently checked and analyzed by the school’s firewall. Fast-forward and the website were blocked within a month.
I then branched out into learning different aspects of programming, from game development to data analysis with Python. Not wanting to leave any stone unturned. I was adamant that I should at least try what each offered and see if I was interested in it. Not sure about my future career path, as I wasn’t a great student in high school I didn’t expect to go to college.
Eventually, some great people in my life gave me the courage to pursue a degree in computer science. It was a painful experience, I had to work to help out at home and then go to school afterward. Much of my social life was practically nil. But I wouldn’t change that part of my life, I learned practical time management, communication, and coordination to achieve my goals.
What does this have to do with working at a large company? A ton. I think there are many posts on the web I’ve noticed that don’t talk about what a person experienced before becoming an engineer which may have given me an advantage. I wanted to at least lay out my past, which could have been a reason for my ability to become a software engineer.
What’s it Like?
When I first joined a large company. I felt overwhelmed, there was a vast array of opportunities present. Examples include benefits, salary, bonuses, services, food and drink, and much more. For me, I wasn’t expecting much. However, as these extras were introduced to me, I equally felt a sense of imposter syndrome as a result. I had a constant feeling that if I wasn’t performing to a standard recognized by my manager, I would be let go. Losing my place, after working so hard to get there, would’ve been a hard pill to swallow.
It’s until I got to speak with members of my team that I realized that I was hired because they needed me and that I shouldn’t be too concerned about my role.
Whenever I would encounter a new problem that I didn’t have an immediate solution for, I became worried that my manager would sniff me out and discover that I wasn’t as good as I made myself out to be.
This is all to say, that it’s okay not to know everything, and it’s definitely okay to say to others that “you don’t know.” Most people will respect the fact that you’re putting your pride aside in order to get the job done. You’re opening yourself up for people to open up to you.
Typically a large company has several business units, in which case since you’re an engineer, you would be part of their engineering unit. An especially important part of being in a large company is that you understand, in detail each job function those units have at the company.
Just spending a bit of time learning about these aspects will pay their dividends, because you will not only save time by knowing who you should communicate a potential issue with, but what parts of the business you have access to and can utilize to get an answer faster.
Tight cooperation with other business units means you’ll also be doing a bit of networking and building healthy relationships which will be especially important whenever your performance reviews or a pending promotion come up. You’ll want to have allies at your company who will vouch for you and support your career.
Equally, pay with loyalty. If there are others who are willing to vouch for you, support them as well every step of the way. Navigate intelligently within a large company and you could remove a few levels of organization between the executives and yourself.
Engineering problems are far and wide. There is an endless supply of problems for you to solve. I’ve solved varying degrees of problems, from rendering correlations to generating reports on pdfs. All of these, were very new and very scary problems for me when I started them. So in retrospect, don’t be afraid to tackle them. This is where communication, understanding, and learning become a big part of your career.
Being open to others criticizing your design choices mean that you can grow. It’s hard to bite the bullet, and have your ego smashed when you’re work is being taken apart. However, only the strong survive for a reason. There are times when I had to ask my manager a few times to repeat the requirements because I just didn’t understand.
For me, it felt embarrassing this added to my imposter syndrome. To my manager, however, it meant they could rely on me more. Always checking in (if the other person isn’t busy) is crucial for your development.
If the company operates in Agile, I would take advantage of this fact by choosing problems that are slightly above my level and see if I can tackle them. If I was stuck, I could reach out to team members and learn the best approach for the problem. More often than not they are usually happy to help. We both win because it reinforces what they’ve learned in the past, and I now learn what they learned.
The culture of a large company has long been established before I arrived. There are usually guidelines for behavior and what you can do at the company. Meaning, you’ll likely get tutorial videos for you to watch (for HR purposes) but also for learning about what else the company is about.
Most companies would really like their employees to follow this culture and the more you become a spokesperson/representative of it. The more you can expect your career to progress and for more people to hear about you at the company.
For me, culture isn’t something I like getting into because there are overreaching opinions about you behave and it can be draining to always need to have this on your mind. However, chances are this company you chose to join, is most likely going to fit your character and you’ll have a great time navigating your way through the trenches.
Bringing it Back
I hope my experience helps and I hope that the advice I offered can help you make better choices as you move along in your career. If you have any questions or just want to follow up feel free to leave a comment below. I will be happy to answer them!