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Interested in a career as a computer engineer? Check out this guide to learn what a computer engineer does every day, and hear from a computer engineer in the field.
How To Get A Job With Computers
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the computer and information technology sector will grow by 15% between 2031-2021, adding 682,800 new jobs. One of the fastest growing career fields in the US, computer and information technology helps improve people’s lives and shapes the future of the world.
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Computer engineers play a key role in technological progress. These professionals design, build, maintain and upgrade computer hardware, software and networks. They provide innovative and practical solutions to technology and business problems. On this page you can explore in detail what a day in the life of a computer engineer looks like.
Computer engineers apply electrical and computer engineering concepts to design, test, and maintain computer hardware, software, and networks. They work with programmers, data specialists, cyber security specialists and IT support services for businesses and organizations. Computer engineers need at least a bachelor’s degree to get started in the field.
A branch of electrical engineering, computer engineering can trace its roots to the first digital computer, built in 1937 at Iowa State University. Today, computer engineering encompasses several subsectors, including cyber-physical systems, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and distributed computing.
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Computer engineers fall into three broad categories: hardware engineers, network engineers, and software engineers. All three types of computer engineers design, build and test new technological solutions. Hardware engineers create and maintain physical products. Network engineers design and maintain systems, while software engineers create and upgrade new programs and applications.
People with a talent for science and math, along with an educational background in computer science or physics may benefit from this career. Computer engineers interface with customers, suppliers, other technology experts, and even artists and storytellers to make new computer products come to life. Professionals may work in corporate, government or educational research institutions. They may serve in finance, healthcare, the military and technology.
Although computer engineers are in high demand, the job is not without its challenges. Staying current on new research and trends, bridging the gap between technology and business, plus adjusting to team leadership roles can present challenges for new engineers.
Most computer engineers work 40 hours or more per week. During critical stages of project development, engineers may also need to work nights or weekends.
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Not every day in the life of a computer engineer involves programming and meetings. These professionals design or develop software, meet with engineering staff, design or test prototypes, and review new products for regulatory compliance.
Computer engineers also spend time completing documentation, a tedious but central component of their work. Engineering team leaders hire staff members, train new employees, and work with technicians and developers.
The industry and corporate culture determine a large part of a computer engineer’s work environment. For example, tech startups eager to bring their product to market may require longer hours and less structured job roles than industry giants or government agencies.
Computer engineers working in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare or finance, may have a different experience than education or entertainment companies with less stringent regulations.
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Every computer engineer’s career and day-to-day tasks are influenced by the industry, along with their company, position, education and experience.
What prior computer science (or STEM) experience did you have, if any, and what motivated your journey to become a computer engineer?
Ever since I sat down at a computer for the first time, I felt intrigued. How was it able to do the things it did? How could I order him to do what I wanted? It felt like magic. But curiosity persisted, and eventually I discovered programming. It was quite a struggle, but slowly I was able to learn enough to write small programs. Back in 2000, when the internet was all the rage, I started creating interactive websites for friends. Among other things I created a community site for https://pc-geeks.dk/, a community that is still alive today (but not with my software).
When I entered high school I chose programming, which was in the curriculum for the last year. I was able to create a small program to control a small LCD monitor. At this point I saw programming as a field with infinite possibilities to create and learn. So I decided to pursue computer science at university.
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If you specialize in a certain subject or work in a certain industry, what prompted that choice and/or how did it develop?
I have two areas of expertise. One happened by accident, and the other is powered by a drive to always improve.
Since I started building websites at school, until I started university, I have been programming websites for six years. More or less by chance, websites were a subject I was quite knowledgeable about. This led me to start my own website building company. Owning a company that specialized in building websites gave me a unique perspective on the subjects studied at the university. It definitely helped a lot to be able to put it all together in real life projects.
Ever since I started programming, I started getting into trouble. As my programs grew in size, they became too complex to manage. As I gained more experience, the size of my programs could grow before they became unmanageable. The topic of how to build software in a way that makes the software manageable in the long run has become something close to my heart. Since then I have continued to learn more about this topic.
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Programming is a vast field with many different aspects. But the key to all is continuous learning. To be a programmer, you need to know that programming requires learning every day. Even for people working in the industry, it never ends. The fun part of programming is problem solving: getting a task, cracking it and creating a good solution.
What educational path did you take to become a computer engineer? Have you studied further education at any stage? How was your educational experience?
I went through the formal education path: I studied computer science at the university and obtained a master’s degree in artificial intelligence.
I also tried to get various certifications in the technologies I worked with, such as MySQL, Kubernetes, PHP, Azure and others. The reason for continuing the certification was to have a goal to focus on while learning the technologies.
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My pet peeve with a university education is that it is very focused on academia rather than industry application. But during the courses it is not noticeable at all. If I didn’t have my own company that allows me to compare the learning with real projects, I would have a hard time. Instead, it allowed me to focus more on areas that were actually useful.
What certifications or tests did you have to pass, if any, to enter the field and/or advance in your career?
Other than my university degree, there were no credentials required. The certifications I chose were for my learning, not because they allowed me to get a promotion or other benefits.
When I got a job as a software engineer at Santander, I had to pass a programming/logic/math test as part of the job interview.
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For interview questions, I practiced by doing tasks on www.hackerrank.com, which is a website with small programming challenges similar to what you might expect in an interview.
For certification, I use a combination of reading books and watching videos on the subject. I try to compress the study time and the exam so that I don’t end up forgetting most of the information.
I like interview tests. The type of questions are like little puzzles, which allow me to show how to create a solution.
On programming days, I have a list of tasks – usually written as user stories that explain some change to the system.
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I then put on a headset and start my integrated development environment (IDE). The first thing I do is create a test case for the feature I want to implement. When the test is written, I start writing the code to support it.
Then, I look at the solution I made and see if I can improve it. Maybe a variable could be better named, or a method should be somewhere else.
I continue with this iteration until the feature is complete. If I get into flow mode, I can work for hours like this without noticing.
On refinement days I meet with my team, which consists of programmers and other business people. Then we will discuss what new features we want to have in the system. At the end of such a meeting, we have a list of user stories ready to work on.
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