Q&A: A Young Engineer Mulls Her Next Move

Fei Xue is a newly minted software engineer who’s not only learning the ropes at her new job but is already thinking of her next career move.

technical typography XXue, who joined MarkLogic 10 months ago after receiving her master’s degree in computer science from Yale, is looking to grow her software engineering career into one that will eventually morph into a software architect position.

For now, however, she’s fine learning the ropes at her first job out of college.

“I really love my job, but I wasn’t really sure I would, because I wasn’t familiar with the field that I’m in now,” Xue says. “But 10 months into it, I really like the job. I think it’s really challenging and my co-workers are super nice.”

Here’s a look at how college prepared Xue for her software engineering role at MarkLogic, and where she hopes to eventually grow.

How is the “real world” of engineering different, or the same, as you thought it would be when you were attending Yale?

In school you do more of the academic work. But I think when you are in the real world, it’s more about solving problems and you have to make a lot of decisions about trade-offs in designs. In school, there is almost always a right answer. But in real life, there is no right answer. You have to figure out the trade-off between storage and performance, or you want the API to be more flexible or you want the API to be where people can more easily use it better, so I think that came across as something that I did not expect.

I also feel like I get into a lot of discussions with my coworkers, where they really challenge me. So, you better think over your decisions before you go to these meetings. You say why you are doing this and they will challenge you with what ifs?

In college, you don’t get this kind of push-back to prepare you for the real world?

In college, I feel they are always pushing you because there is a place you want to be. But in the real world, they may not know what is going on. You need to figure something out and persuade them.

Even though you’ve only been out of college for 10 months, have you started thinking of what you’d like to be doing in your next position?

For now, my ultimate career goal is to be a software architect at some point, because I really love technology. And I think being an architect would mean a better understanding of the bigger picture, rather than just an understanding of the small portion of the work you are doing right now.

What steps have you taken to achieve your career goal? Have you reached out to a software architect to advise you on steps you need to take?

I have not talked to any of my co-workers about my career goals.

So at this point, what have you done?

I’ve consciously tried to look at the bigger picture, even if I’m doing small things. And things I have not been doing are from the career perspective because I don’t really know what it takes to get there.

Comments

  1. BY R. Emmett O'Ryan says:

    IMHO I would recommend that this young engineer, like so many just out of University, find a mentor. She has had some really great training from her work at University. Mark Logic is also a very good company to work for BUT like so many others, it sounds like she needs some guidance or at least a sounding board for figuring out what she want to do in her career and how to get there.

    I would recommend ACM and IEEE as having great mentoring programs. If she is an ACM or IEEE member, this is one of the benefits. Universities, through their alumni program and through individual departments (like the CS Dept), also have mentoring programs.

    If her ambition is to be an architect, she needs to find a Sr/Principal/Chief Architect who can help mentor her to take stock of her current training, what her current job assignment is, and help guide to to where she wants to go.

    BTW, there are many folks in the tech community who are mentors. Personally I currently have 7 mentees of which only two are still in University. As for the mentor-mentee relationship, you get out of it as much as you put into it and what does a mentor get out of it? Well, for me it is the satisfaction in seeing my mentees succeed in their chosen field.

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