Programming team graphic
Programming team, via Shutterstock

Choosing a career in programming: Start-up or multinational?

11 May 2015

You go to college, you learn your trade, you emerge a skilled computer programmer. What next? If you’re in Ireland, you’re told jobs are everywhere. But, what to pick?

The options, while varied and numerous, fall down to two or three particular channels. You can look to work in major corporations like Google, Facebook or fintech businesses like Fidelity Investments and Pramerica.

You can look at the smaller, yet still substantive medium-sized companies such as Information Mosaic and the likes.

Or you can look at start-ups and entreprenurial options, joining early stage, smaller teams, or setting something up yourself.

Choosing a career in programming: Options

These options are hugely disparate in terms of key benefits. The larger the business, the less likely that there’s room for freedom and creativity. However, in return, you have a solid progression plan and have access to huge teams of knowledge and experience.

The smaller the set-up, be it a start-up or even mid-sized place, the greater freedom you have to press your ideas and trust your skills. The downside is you are slightly isolated, often having to rely on your own confidence and trust.

So what do you pick? Well, Waseem Akhtar, head of the computing faculty at Griffith College, feels it’s all down to your personality.

“In every academic programme, usually there are modules and assignments where students learn about themselves, evaluate their own skills. In your final year’s project, for example, you could learn certain elements are not for you,” he says.

“There are graduates who think, ‘I’ve got my degree, now I’ll get a job in a multinational, use it as a springboard, avail of their professional opportunities and as I get going, my career will too’.”

Choosing a career in programming: The start-up dilemma

Sectorally, Ireland’s start-up scene is thriving, claims Akhtar. There’s plenty of infrastructure in terms of incubators and the likes. If this assistance grows in recognition of the industry as a whole “the opportunies will keep coming”.

Those who believe themselves to be highly creative and innovative sway more to the smaller set-ups, seeking appreciation for their own ideas. That’s largely because there’s a “certain glamour” associated with start-ups in Ireland at the minute.

“But from a graduate perspective, it’s a very lonely place,” he says. “You have to make big decisions on your own. You have to be very confident in your own innovation, trust your own abilities. If you are a team player, who loves being part of team, maybe start-ups are not for you.”

Waseem Akhtar

Waseem Akhtar, head of faculty at Griffith College, Dublin

The dot-com crash hit our labour pool hard, with the bad press the internet industry received turning people away from studying core computer science and mathematic subjects.

“Now IT is picking up again,” he says. “A number of students are doing convergent programmes and want to get into IT because there are jobs,” he says, before noting it’s not always that easy, you need more than just a certificate saying you can do something.

“If you apply for a programming job, I would not look at your college qualifications at first. I would ask you a few questions to find out how you see programming, how you see real-world problems in programming terms.

“Computing and the IT industry in a constant state of flux. However, there are some core skills and competencies. The ability to think critically, solve problems, model real world problems in a mathematical way. These are core, general competencies.

“Yes the industry and the technology used is changing, but if you have core skills you are good.”

Programming team, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt
By Gordon Hunt

Gordon Hunt joined Silicon Republic in October 2014 as a journalist. He spends most of his time avoiding conversations about music, appreciating even the least creative pun and rueing the day he panicked when meeting Paul McGrath. His favourite thing on the internet is the ‘Random Article’ link on Wikipedia.

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