Have you ever done that thing? The thing where you clean your whole room during hell week because you’d rather be doing that than completing all the assignments that are due. That’s me right now, except I’m not cleaning – I’m writing this blog. After watching a bunch of people present their amazing apps in SOFTENG206, and as due dates not-so-slowly creep up on me, I began questioning why I started studying software in the first place. This post will be the first of a 2-part series which will highlight my experience in this specialisation and what I would’ve told my first-year self now that I’m basically at the end of my second year.
So, why shouldn’t you study software?
There I said it. Though I think I’ve been hinting (if I can call it that) this aspect throughout the blogs I’ve posted.
First, it’s a really competitive specialisation to get into. As you can see from the table that is also available here, software has the highest cutoff last year at 7.6-7.8, an A-. Before you even get to learn all the cool things about software, it’s pretty hard to get into. By hard, I mean you need to put a considerate amount of effort into all your first-year courses. I ended up stressing out about literally everything that the courses threw at me – like spending almost 12 hours on a 5% 121 quiz – which isn’t exactly the best part about being a first-year uni student.
Just when I thought I could relax when I got the offer to study software, I quickly realised that wasn’t the case. Software isn’t just about picking cool themes in VSCode and making fun little minigames in C (although it can be! just not in Part II). There’s a lot more to software than that – a lot of complicated concepts that I didn’t expect as someone whose first experience with software was ENGSCI 131. Everything I have learned this year has been very abstract, and it hasn’t been as easy to think about real-life applications the way I used to when I was studying courses like ENGGEN 121. One of the worst parts about this year was that I ended up coding almost everything in IDEs like Eclipse or IntelliJ, which doesn’t have nearly the same amount of themes as VSCode. :((
I’m sure anyone who enters Part II in any specialisation will realise that the jump from Part I to Part II is difficult, to say the least. However, as someone who found their worth in grades (and also because I have an unhealthy habit of comparing myself to others), I found that bridging the gap in my knowledge to be particularly challenging. Even more so as I was surrounded by very very talented people. Honestly, this part seems more like a me problem and not a software problem, but this is what I would’ve wanted to tell my Part I-self who had no idea what software would entail.
So if you found 131 difficult or struggle with grasping more abstract concepts ( like I currently am ;-; ) expect that struggle to be multiplied by 10 if you decide to study software.
The things you do outside of uni are important.
Going into software, I honestly thought that I’d simply have to study hard, endure all the exams, get that degree and live happily ever after as a software engineer doing whatever software engineers do.
Then I talked to wiser people who moved on to Part III & IV, and I was wrong – which you’ll find is a common theme, me assuming the wrong things and thus making my life a lil’ more difficult. While getting good grades is a nice thing to boast in a CV, it isn’t quite enough if you want to stand out in such a competitive career like software. Software employers value a lot of other things like personal projects and extracurricular activities. Again, reiterating that I had no experience coming into software, it felt like I was suddenly expected to create something in my free time with my C and Matlab knowledge. I felt I had to copy what other people were doing because they matched my new definition of a successful software engineering student. I’ll be honest, this was a really toxic approach to my newfound discovery. I’m very grateful that I’ve managed to rid myself of this mindset because that didn’t really help me enjoy my experience in Part II. Again, this is just another thing I wish last year’s Jess had known before diving into software engineering, thinking everything would sort itself out if I just got into software.
With that said, be prepared to learn some skills in your own time if you want to stand out! I think this piece of advice is pretty applicable to any specialisation. Employers will always prefer an A student with some other cool things under their belt than those who don’t. Experience and initiative matter – especially in a tech setting where there are so many things you could do to demonstrate your ✨passion✨. While the cash moneys you can earn in this field is very… attractive, the amount of work you have to do outside of uni makes me think that you should have a genuine interest in order to be motivated to learn what you can achieve with software!
I know this post has been a big rant about software, and I realise I’ve made it seem like I hate it here. Which I don’t!!! There are definitely aspects of software that I appreciate. I just figured I’d leave that for another post since this one is already preeetty long. I didn’t know I’d have so much to say about why you shouldn’t study software. oops :>
I promise that software isn’t all bad! I just wanted to end my posts on a more positive note – why you should study software!
Good luck with the rest of the semester! Leave a comment if you have some burning questions about software ( or anything – mayhaps even feedback? o: ), and I’ll see you all in my next post! <3