9 Broadening your future

Do you feel like the weird edge case pictured in Figure 9.1? Do typical graduate destinations such as large multi-national corporations, not really make you want to Shake Your Thang? (Isley, Isley, and Isley 1988) Perhaps you want to:

  • use your technical skills responsibly and ethically to make the world a better place?
  • start your own business and make money for yourself, rather than other people?
  • work in computing in roles beyond software engineering?

Broadening your initial job search described in chapter 8 will open up more opportunities on your horizon. This chapter will broaden those horizons and get you to think about some of the less obvious options, because I love weird edge cases and you should too. 😻

Are you a weird edge case? By default, many graduates choose a graduate scheme with big brand, often a blue-chip multinational employer. While working for these kind of employers has many benefits, they are not the whole story. This chapter looks at some of the alternatives. Default user by Visual Thinkery is licensed under CC-BY-ND

Figure 9.1: Are you a weird edge case? By default, many graduates choose a graduate scheme with big brand, often a blue-chip multinational employer. While working for these kind of employers has many benefits, they are not the whole story. This chapter looks at some of the alternatives. Default user by Visual Thinkery is licensed under CC-BY-ND

Many technology jobs exist outside of technology companies, (Assay 2020) because a lot of software is written to be used rather than sold. Consequently, many employers create bespoke software to fit the needs of their business. The people who build it are often employees, rather than people employed by a technology company. In the United States for example, ninety percent of IT jobs are outside the traditional tech industry. Technical jobs outside the technology sector often have the advantage of being more accessible than those within a very competitive technology sector. (Markow, Coutinho, and Bundy 2019)

9.1 What you will learn

  • Describe the less obvious careers that computer science can lead to, besides software engineering, including:
    • Starting a business or joining a startup
    • Working outside of the technology sector
    • Working outside of the private sector (governments, non-profits etc)
    • Roles allied to software engineering that require you to be a conversational programmer
  • Recognise the social responsibility accompanying the power held by computer scientists
  • Match and critically evaluate the values of an employer with your own values and ethics

9.2 Beyond software engineering

The phrase software engineering has been around since Margaret Hamilton (figure 9.2) wrote code for NASA’s Apollo program in the sixties. However, the practice of software engineering has been around even longer right back to Ada Lovelace in the nineteenth century.

The role of software engineer has been around for a long time but there are plenty of other roles for computer scientists beyond software engineering. Margaret Hamilton in 1969 standing next to all of the printed code for the navigation software that she and her MIT team produced for the Apollo program. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons w.wiki/3YJW adapted using the Wikipedia app

Figure 9.2: The role of software engineer has been around for a long time but there are plenty of other roles for computer scientists beyond software engineering. Margaret Hamilton in 1969 standing next to all of the printed code for the navigation software that she and her MIT team produced for the Apollo program. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons w.wiki/3YJW adapted using the Wikipedia app

Software engineers (or software developers if you prefer) are one of the most popular roles for graduates (see e.g. figure 6.6) but there are plenty of affiliated roles that computer scientists go into besides software engineering.

What do these roles entail?

9.3 Research roles

There are plenty of roles in computing working in research, either in computer science, or working alongside natural scientists, such as Physicists at CERN or . There are also roles in research software engineering, using software engineering practices in research applications. Some examples from the UK and Europe:

Many Universities and research institutes have summer internships for computer science students working alongside researchers, for example, at the University of Manchester these are advertised each year around May. Speak to the head of a research lab in your department. Ask them if they have plans to take on summer students.

If you’re thinking of doing postgraduate study, see chapter 13. Commercial experience gained on a summer internship or placement year is valued by all employers (not just commercial ones) so doing an internship or placement during your undergraduate degree.

9.4 With great code comes great responsibility

Computer scientists wield tremendous power in the twenty first century. We know that:

The greater your code, the greater your superpower. The greater your superpower, the greater your responsibility. What powers does computing give you and how can you use that power responsibly? (Shapiro et al. 2021) With great code sketch by Visual Thinkery is licensed under CC-BY-ND

Figure 9.3: The greater your code, the greater your superpower. The greater your superpower, the greater your responsibility. What powers does computing give you and how can you use that power responsibly? (Shapiro et al. 2021) With great code sketch by Visual Thinkery is licensed under CC-BY-ND

Given the growing power of computing in the twenty-first century, computer scientists have a duty to society to use that power responsibly and justly. How can they do so? Do computer scientists need to sell their soul to the highest bidder?

9.5 Do you need to sell your soul?

You will sometimes hear people saying you need to sell your soul to get a job, shown in figure 9.4. See for example:

In European folklore, doing a deal with the devil is a motif that recurs in culture. Wealth, power and knowledge are some of the items that might be traded for a persons soul as part of diabolical deal. Will you need to sell your soul to the devil to get the job you want? Public domain image of an engraving by Adolf Gnauth showing Faust cutting a deal with Mephistopheles on Wikimedia Commons at w.wiki/3zio adapted using the Wikipedia app 😈

Figure 9.4: In European folklore, doing a deal with the devil is a motif that recurs in culture. Wealth, power and knowledge are some of the items that might be traded for a persons soul as part of diabolical deal. Will you need to sell your soul to the devil to get the job you want? Public domain image of an engraving by Adolf Gnauth showing Faust cutting a deal with Mephistopheles on Wikimedia Commons at w.wiki/3zio adapted using the Wikipedia app 😈

So when you’re searching for jobs and researching potential employers, one of the first things you need to find out is what the values and ethical principles of an employer are, see section 8.3. This is a quick way to evaluate what makes an organisation who they are. Most employers publish their values and ethics openly, here’s a small selection to give you a flavour:

Morgan Stanley is an American multinational investment bank and financial services company headquartered in New York City. The firms clients include corporations, governments, institutions and individuals. CC-BY picture of Morgan Stanley HQ in Times Square by Ajay Suresh on Wikimedia Commons w.wiki/3Vnt adapted using the Wikipedia app

Figure 9.5: Morgan Stanley is an American multinational investment bank and financial services company headquartered in New York City. The firms clients include corporations, governments, institutions and individuals. CC-BY picture of Morgan Stanley HQ in Times Square by Ajay Suresh on Wikimedia Commons w.wiki/3Vnt adapted using the Wikipedia app

Let’s look at Morgan Stanley (figure 9.5) as an example, I’ve chosen these values because they are brief and self-explanatory. Morgan Stanley’s values are to:

  1. Do the right thing: act with integrity
  2. Put clients first: listen to what the client is saying and needs
  3. Lead with exceptional ideas: win by breaking new ground
  4. Commit to Diversity and Inclusion: value individual and cultural differences
  5. Give back: serve communities generously with expertise, time and money

Look at these values carefully, or choose the values of another employer you’re interested in. What do they mean to you?

9.6 Breakpoints

Let’s pause here. Insert a breakpoint in your code and slowly step through it so we can examine the current values of your variables and parameters.

* PAUSE ⏸️
  • How closely do a given employers values align with your own? You may need to revisit section 2.3.
    • You might not get a 100% match but you’re unlikely to enjoy working for an employer where your values don’t match very well at all
  • Are the stated values of an employer the whole story?
    • Are there any unwritten or unspoken rules?
  • Is there anything missing?
  • Are there any unwritten rules? What an employers says and does may be contradictory. Actions speak louder than words.
* RESUME ▶️

Once you’ve thought about these questions, you stand a much better chance of working out if a given employer is a good match for you. So do you have to sell your soul as shown in figure 9.6? It depends on what you value and if an employer shares those values with you.

Here’s a dilemma: Do you need to sell your soul to your employer? If so, how much can you get for it? What percentage stake of your soul will they ask for and how much are you willing to give? How do your values align with those of your employer? Soul selling dialog box sketch by Visual Thinkery is licensed under CC-BY-ND

Figure 9.6: Here’s a dilemma: Do you need to sell your soul to your employer? If so, how much can you get for it? What percentage stake of your soul will they ask for and how much are you willing to give? How do your values align with those of your employer? Soul selling dialog box sketch by Visual Thinkery is licensed under CC-BY-ND

9.7 Summarising your alternatives

Too long, didn’t read (TL;DR)? Here’s a summary:

This chapter is under construction because I’m using agile book development methods, see figure 9.7.

Just like the Death Star, this galactic superweapon chapter is under construction. Image of agile weapon engineering in Star Wars via Wikimedia Commons w.wiki/32PB adapted using the Wikipedia app

Figure 9.7: Just like the Death Star, this galactic superweapon chapter is under construction. Image of agile weapon engineering in Star Wars via Wikimedia Commons w.wiki/32PB adapted using the Wikipedia app