Hello everyone,

I'm in a bit of a rut and was hoping to get some perspective from professionals in the field (who have been through this before).

So here's my (very brief history):

  • BA from a city school in Economics
  • 1.5 years as a quality assurance analyst at a real estate finance firm
  • decided to go back to school for computer science - chose NYU

** Decided to go back for CS because I was required to do some basic coding at my job and liked it -> after that I went to a community college to take some prerequisites and to make sure I know what I'm getting myself into --> made my decision after completing all prerequisites and taking the GRE.

So now I attend NYU as a graduate student and cannot find an internship ANYWHERE! my lack of relevant experience is killing me and the fact that I am competing with students who were writing websites at the age of 10 is not helping.

I'm starting to feel like going back to school was a bad choice and going to NYU which is soo expensive was an even worse choice...

I'm also afraid of not being able to find a job when I graduate to pay off these ridiculous student loans...

the catch-22 here is that you need an internship to gain experience but you need experience to get that internship...

So what am I to do? Can anyone offer some advice on how to better prepare myself for the future? The problem I am facing is that while I am still catching up on C++ , algorithms, operating systems and the like I am left with very little time to pick up the more "in demand" stuff - PHP, Ruby, Python, etc...

Anyway, any advice here will be much appreciated... I'd love to know what the more experienced guys say about this (especially some people who actually make these hiring decisions).

Thanks in advance!!

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Do you have any side projects or ways to donate your time? While I was in college, I volunteered with the high school marching band for the high school I graduated from, building a complete management web application for them. I asked the band director to write me a letter of recommendation for my work, and he agreed.

commented: Nice. +0

Since you have limited time, you probably need to work to your strengths and put off jumping into new domains like PHP or Ruby until you have more time available. A couple of ways to get some credibility would be:
1. Work on an open-source project
2. Develop a plugin for an existing open-source / commercial program.

You are looking for things that will demonstrate your range of knowledge and skills that can be done in a reasonable time-frame (3 -6 mo?). If you find a project that interests you, it may be a matter of completing an initial phase / assignment and getting a recommendation from the project leader and other people in the project (and then carrying on with some additional assignments). Significant projects usually have a need for quality control testing and for documentation writers. The same needs exist in the commercial world. These may not be your ultimate goal but they might be a place to start. You have some background in QC in a different domain so why not leverage that a bit? In a smaller shop you may need to be a programmer and a bit of everything else as well but in a larger organization you will probably find that there is quite a division of labor and there are people who do quality control / testing as a full-time job. Employers are looking for more than just pure technical skills. They need people who work well in a team, have good communication skills and have good work habits. It is much easier to train someone in a new technical topic than it is to give them some of these other skills. Experience working in a real project (even if it is virtual) also has some benefits. Also remember that there are programming jobs available for C and C++ programmers so if that is what you are currently learning, it is a place to start. Once you have time, you can work on learning PHP, Ruby, Python or ASP.

If you feel relatively competent in C++, then you should probably look for a project that is using it, even if your initial role isn't as a programmer. The second option (write a plugin) is more solitary and more entrepreneurial because it is pretty much all up to you. You would have the opportunity to develop code, test, document, put up a web site to promote it and so forth. The limitation is that it might be harder to get any feedback that you can use unless you can plug into an online community around that topic and ask them for feedback. It might be something that you could do jointly with someone who has more experience and then get a reference from that person.

I think that the open-source world provides some opportunities to develop and demonstrate your skills as preparation for finding a paying job. I started out in IT when this option wasn't available so I can't say that I have done this myself. I was responsible for hiring programmers and other IT people and I don't see why a sensible person would't give credit for this kind of experience as long as you have some letters of reference, feedback and/or results that demonstrate your contribution. That's my 2 cents. Hope it helps.

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