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I graduated from RMIT University (City campus) in 2007. I studied for two degrees: Computer Science (Bachelor of Applied Science) and Computer Systems Engineering (Bachelor of Engineering). I am currently working as a software developer for a company based in Geelong specialising in RFID technology. My day to day work involves designing new features, defect analysis and fixes, meeting with potential partners and suppliers, supporting clients and on-site deployments of our solutions.
Since entering the workforce, I have come to realise that university is only a very basic overview of the knowledge that exists in your given field. This reinforced the idea I held that university was not about the fine details, but gaining enough of an understanding of your area to build a solid foundation for further learning in the workplace. Of course, this is not to say university is not a critical element in your career development, as you will never learn so much in such a short time, but you cannot allow yourself to believe that you have a reduced requirement for learning simply because you have completed your qualifications.
Applying what you have learnt
Another interesting thing I became aware of is the contrast between a scientific approach and an engineering approach. Science taught us to look for new and innovative ways of solving problems, going beyond what has been done and striving for an ideal solution. Engineering was more focused on delivering a solution using existing knowledge while ensuring that it was delivered methodically, on time and on budget. In the industry it became clear that while all employers would like the ideal scientific solution, the engineering approach was often more practical given the limited resources available. The engineering approach also aligns well with the client-driven approach that a lot of employers have.
Transitioning from university to the workplace
One of the key factors that I thought really made the transition from university to full time work much easier was prior experience.
Throughout university, I held a casual position as a computer technician at a local store. I can't stress enough how important it is to pursue some sort of work while at uni. Without the essential skills I developed here (mostly of a non-technical nature) I don't believe I would have been able to transition as easily into full time work.
Obtaining relevant work experience
While still at uni, I was also lucky enough to pick up additional casual work in software development, allowing me to apply some of the skills I was learning. When I began my job search in my final year, my prior experience was always a very positive factor in interviews.
Despite having very good grades (HD average, first class honours, etc.), it is that experience I believe gave me the edge over other candidates. All too often you hear of employers speaking of very highly qualified students with fantastic grades performing very poorly in the workforce as they haven't learnt the general skill set you obtain in every casual job.
One last thing I can advise is that when entering the workplace, you must keep moving. Keep learning everything you can (in your own time if you have to), keep pushing for more responsibility and above all ensure that you perform well in all areas of your work - an employee of average technical knowledge but basic knowledge across other areas will often be preferable to a highly knowledgeable employee with no client interaction skills (for example).
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