Curious about learning to code, but not sure if your interest is in learning a new hobby or if you want to become an engineer? Looking for more information on the topic than a simple should I be an engineer quiz?
We’re here to help! Whether you’re thinking of pursuing coding bootcamp to add a new skill, want to keep working while learning programming, or fully immerse yourself as you prepare for a career change, there’s an option available to fit your unique needs. Learning to code doesn’t necessarily mean you have to become an engineer. And coding bootcamps aren’t just for those with a technical background. Many of our 700+ alumnae come from diverse and varied backgrounds: teaching, nonprofit, marketing, design, and more.
That being said, if you’re considering a career change to engineering, here are 10 things to do to help you decide your path and get started on your way.
10 things to do to decide if engineering is right for you
1. Ask yourself what do you like to do?
It’s easy to attribute certain characteristics to specific professional roles: sales people are sociable, designers are creative, and engineers are good at math. Like all things in life, however, it’s not that simple. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to your success as an engineer. Consider this short “Should I Be an Engineer” quiz:
- Do you like to solve problems?
- Do you like to think of new ways to do things?
- Do you like puzzles and other mind challenging games?
- Do you like working with computers?
- Do you enjoy a challenge?
- Do you wonder how things work?
Now here’s the tricky part. If you answered yes to the majority of the above questions, then yes(!), you probably do have the right mindset to excel at engineering. It also means you’re analytical, thoughtful, and enjoy a challenge. Those qualities lend themselves to many other careers, as well as engineering. So what next? Read on.
2. Ask yourself what do you want to do?
- Do you want to make a difference in the world?
- Do you have an interest in the challenges facing our world?
- Do you want to help people and improve their lives?
Again, you probably answered yes here. And again, having an interest in these things means you’d likely do great in a number of professions, including engineering. You want to solve problems, improve systems, and make a difference. Great! Now, how do you know if engineering is truly your passion? Let’s get into more detail.
3. What do you like about your current job? What don’t you like about your current role?
For many of our alumnae, engineering is their second (or even third) career. Hackbrighters have backgrounds in everything from nonprofit work to teaching to sales to psychology. For all our students, prior experience helps shape the kind of engineer they’ll become, even if they don’t have a computer science background.
Say you love the client interaction piece of customer service. Consider how that experience will help you build more customer-friendly programs and tools. If you don’t like the manual aspect of event management, how would that translate to a technical role?
Think about the pros and cons of your current role, and consider how they might come into play in a new opportunity in engineering. No job is perfect, but if you tend to enjoy being hands on with problem-solving and enjoy working with technology, engineering might be a path you want to pursue.
If your answer only has something to do with what your parents want for you, or how much money you want to earn, it might be worth learning more about what you’ll be doing as an engineer before making the switch. While no job is perfect, if you don’t enjoy the bulk of engineering work, the paycheck or parental approval might not be worth becoming an engineer. That said, if you’re passionate about the field, try looking into specific areas of engineering.
Take some time to learn about the differences in front- and back-end development and what a full-stack role entails. You might gravitate to the infrastructure of a back-end role, or front-end development and design may speak to you. During the course of your studies, you’ll be able to hone in on what kind of engineer you want to be, but it’s always helpful to come in with a basic knowledge of the options available.
5. Conduct an informational interview with a Software Engineer.
What does it take to become an engineer? What does the work consist of? What skills are most valuable? If you’re looking for answers to these questions, then why not go to an expert?
This may seem like a no-brainer, but before you embark on your decision to become an engineer or learn to code, it’s a great idea to talk to others in the profession to learn how they got there, what their day-to-day routine and responsibilities look like, and any advice they may offer to you as you look to break into the tech industry.
Start by reaching out to your personal and professional network. Do you know any engineers or have friends, family, or colleagues that can introduce you to engineers? Practice your networking skills and start to build a list of contacts in the industry. If you’re still asking “What type of engineer should I be”, consider making contacts in a number of engineering disciplines. It doesn’t hurt to have a large network, and, who knows, down the line, one of them might become a mentor (or help you land your first engineering job!)
6. Solve non-coding puzzles.
At its core, coding is logic-based problem-solving. To prepare to get into the mindset of an engineer, try completing some algorithmic puzzles, crosswords, or sudoku.
The more practice you get in these exercises, the better. As you go, solving these puzzles helps build confidence in problem-solving. If you run into problems you’re having trouble solving, remember:
- Learn what you don’t know
- Set a process for analyzing
- Helps build thinking in a systematic or iterative manner
Remember these roadblocks or problems that you get stuck on, and how you figured out a solution. As you continue down your path to engineering, these examples can give you confidence in your progress, and even help cope with imposter syndrome.
7. Read about the software you use.
Are there apps or sites you use or visit on a regular basis? Search their websites for developer blogs or find other engineering blogs that discuss their API. There are likely insights in these forums where you can learn if they are team-focused or prefer individual contributors, what languages they use (Python?), and if they use open-source or proprietary hosting. If they’re on GitHub, take a look at their code.
8. Read about algorithms you already use.
Just like learning about your software, learning about your commonly used algorithms can be helpful in understanding programming.
9. Look at the Debug Console in a web browser.
A great place to get started with understanding basic code is to choose a website you know and like and right click to inspect the page. From there, you can start to move through the page and understand the different elements of the page design, function, and logic. Studying up on these elements let you get a clearer picture of how they all fit together.
10. Make a GitHub account, and explore!
GitHub is a web-based hosting service for code. Your individual project at Hackbright will be hosted on GitHub, as will many other engineers’ projects and code. Start by learning how to push code to GitHub, and then once you’re familiar with the basics, check out the trending repos to start familiarizing yourself with other codebases.
The best way to figure out the answer to the question “should I be an engineer” is to get involved. If you want more than self-guided learning, consider a coding bootcamp. Make an appointment to talk to one of our admissions counselors, come to our campus for a tour to get to know the programs, or drop by a Meetup to get a feel for how to be an engineer, and a taste of the coding life. Jump-start your engineering education without sinking years into a college degree.
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