Series: 5 Tips for Software Developers (Part 3)

Jack Wilson, Laplink Software’s Chief Technology Officer, has 30 years of experience in a wide variety of software development projects and is a seasoned software developer. In the final post of this 3-part series, Jack expounds on his last two tips for software developers he would give to interested parties applying to work on his team.

TIP 4: Beware of getting “stuck” in one area

It’s certainly not bad being an “expert” in something, but if that’s all you know and that technology goes away–then what? I remember working on a long term Air Defense system that was mainly written in FORTRAN. The project got cancelled and all of us had to find new positions. The work I was doing was written in ‘C’ and on embedded processors. I had no problem finding a new position. The mainframe FORTRAN guys were not so lucky.

I am also probably one of maybe a handful of people who can say they helped write implementations of DecNet, Netware, and TCP/IP for embedded systems. (Right now, there is one gray-haired guy in a ponytail someplace reading this who is thinking “Cool dude” and the rest have no idea what I’m talking about.) But that brings up a point, besides new advances in hardware and technology, there are tons of things that have also gone obsolete. Ever see a punch card? What happened to all those AOL floppy disks that used to come in the mail? Engineers don’t often think about that.

TIP 5: Make your hobby your job.

The last thing you want to do is wake up in the morning thinking, “I don’t want to go to work.” The best job is the one where you can’t sleep at night because you want to get back at it. However, don’t become so obsessed that life passes you by. Stop worrying about money.

That concludes our series of tips for software developers! If you have anything you’d like to add, leave a comment on Laplink Software’s Facebook page!

Series: 5 Tips for Software Developers (Part 2)

Jack Wilson, Laplink Software’s Chief Technology Officer, has 30 years of experience in a wide variety of software development projects and is a seasoned software developer. He has extensive experience developing network devices and network-enabled applications. Jack’s professional skills were honed at leading companies, including Networks Northwest Inc., Boeing Defense and Space Group, and Westinghouse.

As the manager for the tech department at Laplink, Jack expounds on his 5 tips for software developers he would give to interested parties applying to work on his team. This is the second post of the series, so stay tuned for the last post.

TIP 2: Always think about what will make something better.

If you come up with something and you find out someone has already done it, then see if you can do it better. If no one has, then do it! There have been many companies that were started by someone who just found a better way of doing something, and they were the ones to succeed. The most fun I ever had in my career was working at a small startup; I was the fifth employee. We worked hard and created a great product. Unfortunately, we were unable to get our costs down to a competitive level and so the company ultimately failed. However, even though the company didn’t succeed, it was still a great time and a really great learning experience.

Having tunnel vision in your field can be debilitating for your future as a software developer. It’s always important to stay abreast of your competitive landscape from a product perspective. Because you want to make sure that your product is better than everyone else’s. Communicate regularly with your team’s project manager to better understand what your competition is doing, and see if you can’t make it better.

TIP 3: Software is not only limited to the PC, Mac, or tablet.

Software is now in everything and will keep growing immensely. Another misconception is that everything has a screen; more and more, screenless devices are part of the Internet of Things. My advice is to learn to do embedded software; it can be a real challenge. Pick up a Raspberry Pi or Arduino and play with it for a while just to see what you can learn. It will help you when you’re applying for software developer and programmer jobs.

But be wary whatever the new fad is. Engineers love to play with whatever is the new thing, which is okay as long as it is the right solution for the job. Otherwise, you are wasting time and money for your company, yourself.

Stay tuned for the final post in this series!

Series: 5 Tips for Software Developers

With the rapid evolution of technology, the demand for software developers and engineers is growing. Software has woven itself tightly into daily lives; programmers and developers have almost guaranteed job security.

The job outlook for software developers in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is growing at a rate of 22%: faster than the average career. With an undergrad degree and computer programming skills, college grads are hired out of school earning a much higher starting salary than almost any other profession that does not require more than a BA.

But while this is an exciting time to study software development, young graduates and newcomers to the industry might lose sight of their goals, or get lost in the shiny haze of new opportunities that are coming at them as fast as technology is changing.

Jack Wilson, Laplink Software’s Chief Technology Officer, has 30 years of experience in a wide variety of software development projects from radar and air defense systems to commercial software. He is a seasoned software developer and has extensive experience developing network devices and network-enabled applications. Jack’s professional skills were honed at leading companies, including Networks Northwest Inc., Boeing Defense and Space Group, and Westinghouse.

As the manager for the tech department at Laplink, Jack expounds on his 5 tips for software developers he would give to interested parties applying to work on his team. This series will be broken into 3 posts, so stay tuned for the next two posts, also.

TIP 1: Don’t just get into something just because it’s the “in” thing.

Get into something that you can be truly passionate about. In the late 1990’s everyone who could spell “www” got jobs creating web pages. By 2001 most of them lost their jobs, except those who were passionate. They became even better. Something that has vastly advanced in the last 20 years is the Internet. I remember telling one of my engineers back in the early 1990s to go get this Mozilla browser thing and look into what this World Wide Web “thing” was all about. In those days, smaller companies had networks running Novell Netware. The really big companies networks ran Digital’s DecNet on mainframes. (Those networks don’t even exist anymore.) Companies connected offices to each other using state-of-the-art “modems” sending about 300 bits per second.

To give you an idea of how slow that is by current standards, my home Internet today is connected at 50 Mega-bits per second: it is 166,666 times faster than what we used in the nineties, and I still complain that the Internet is slow!