Since our positive appearance in the national news end August, we’ve received quite a few mails/tweets/calls. Let’s call it a small media storm for quotes, questions, jobs, info and more catching-ups.
But, last week, a 17-year old student mailed us with one of the better questions…ever:
“What should I study to be able to work as a developer at WebComrades?”
What seems to be a standard question at first sight, requires a more profound answer. Actually, we had several chats and discussions around this topic. Looking at our current team, people’s backgrounds range from electronics engineering over computer science to marketing & communication. So, yeah, there’s no clear-cut answer and we don’t want to send back the standard text the majority of companies forward to their applicants. But sure, we’ll give you some hints and ideas to think about.
Let’s first start-off with a key quality we look for in every person who applies or helps creating our products: you have to be a builder. Sure, visionaries are all nice and funky for dreaming-up how the world should look like in fifty years, but (sadly enough?) we are living in this place, at this very moment. We create the things people are using today, tomorrow, next week or next month. And although we do a lot of dreamin’, when we come back to Earth to face our clients, we want to define clearly how our apps should look, feel and work like. And sometimes, well sometimes we’d expect you to just dive in, head-down, ignoring what outsiders say. To be able to do that, you’d better be someone who can actually build them too. The idea is nice, the execution is key.
That said, we come to the number 1, most-wanted profile in our team: the developer. We prefer the builder that is smart and gets things done. And, I guess the number one prerequisite for that would be that you know how to program. So, there you have it, go study something where they’ll teach you how to write (awesome) code! Next question will probably be “where is that?”. Good one.
We believe you have a wide range of options, depending on the focus you desire. You can go to university or graduate school. You can acquire a bachelor or masters degree. You can choose between electronics engineering or computer science (informatics as it’s often called in Belgium). The choices are endless. That said, we don’t prefer one over the other, and we talk to all applicants that have an interesting curriculum. However, we do like you to have a good knowledge about a wide range of computer science domains.
e.g. You’ll find it easier to reason about data traffic between an iPhone app and a server in London when you have an understanding of the underlying network (software). Having a notion about encryption theory, will give you an edge on developing secure applications. Programming with pointers might not be a necessary skill in a garbage collected world, but at least you understand how computer memory functions. You get the point.
Regarding programming languages or frameworks, we’re not the kind of company that requires you to have 20 years of experience with a very specific tool. Technologies are still evolving so fast that the only thing we ask of you is to keep up with the (r)evolution. On the other hand, we will look for anything special in that experience list. Everyone leaves school with at least some basic knowledge of Java programming. So, you better better make sure to stand out with some more interesting stuff in your backpack.
Some final round of advice. Most resumes we receive contain 2 pages with personalia and work experience, with only 2 to 5 keywords of personal interest or hobby information. Well, and I hope some recruiters and schools (where you learn to ‘write’ a cv/resume) will read this too. It’s the part “personal project” that -in our case- can make the difference between just an average builder or a top builder. There is no better job than to develop something for a project where your heart is. (e.g. you’ve made an app for a local sports/students/whatever-makes-you-happy community, …)
We strongly believe the personal project section is the part where you can excel and outclass your colleagues or competitors in the long-tail.