If you’re a software engineer, you have to get a job in big tech… right? Actually, your software skills can take you to a huge range of roles and industries! We spoke to panelists from General Motors, Charles Schwab and Discover to see what it’s like to work at these companies and what opportunities they offer for software engineers.
You can watch the recording of the session below, or scroll down to read their best takeaways.
You can find recordings of our other virtual events here, including Day in the life: Software engineers and How to break into tech, whether you’re a coder or not
- Grace Brackman graduated last year from Purdue with a degree in Computer Science with a concentration in Machine Learning and now works as an Associate Application Developer at Discover.
- Deanna Benson is a Campus Talent Advisor at Charles Schwab.
- Dan Deschamps is the Sr. Manager of Software Development, Digital EV Commerce at General Motors.
- Moderator: Imaad Uddin, Software Engineer at UT Austin and Content Creator
Tell us about the engineering jobs you have at your company.
Dan: GM is pivoting to be a platform innovator, rather than just a car manufacturer. We’ve hired over 9000 college grads over the last 5 years to help this strategy. GM has 50 different digital businesses, including Cruise and BrightDrop. There’s a lot of code that goes into these autonomous vehicles. We also hire for core IT roles to maintain our systems. Currently we have around 15,000 software engineers across the company. You can also join GM in a rotational program to get a chance to work on multiple teams and develop your skills.
Deanna: I primarily recruit grads for Charles Schwab’s NERD program, which is a 9-month software engineering onboarding and training program. We’re big on growth and development here, so there’s time to work on both your technical and soft skills. I also help hire for our internship program.
Grace: I am working as a front end developer to help the Discover network get accepted in as many places as possible. But there are a ton of roles for software engineers here, including in app development, AI, security, and back-end work.
Daniel, what made you choose GM?
Daniel: First, I want to say, if you’re majoring in computer science, congratulations, you can work anywhere! Almost every major company has an IT division, so you can pick almost any company you want to work for. I started my career in banking and finance, working at the help desk and resetting passwords, and worked my way up to doing application development and integration. 8 years ago, I found out about GM. A new GM building went up near me that said “IT Innovation Center”. I could have picked another company, but their transformative vision around electric vehicles, zero emissions, autonomous vehicles really spoke to me.
Grace, how did your experience differ from peers that went on to work in big tech?
Grace: I think my experience is more similar than it is different. I’m getting the same technical experience, I attend the same conferences and hackathons, and have the same drive for technical advancement. At the end of the day, the work I do is still technical work—I’m not the one to ask for financial advice!
Deanna, what are some overlooked pros to jobs outside big tech?
Deanna: It’s important to consider the culture of the place where you want to work. At Charles Schwab, we tend to demonstrate a lot of trust in employees. We are big on learning, growing, developing, giving opportunities, and eventually leading. I would say it’s a more intimate culture that fosters empowerment and growth, with a team mindset.
What skills and tech stack do you use on a daily basis?
Grace: I use React typescript and some CSS and HTML since I’m a front end developer. We use Jest and Cypress as our testing libraries. We also use GitHub. Your tech stack will depend a lot on what team you’re working on. I didn’t know anything about the front end when I came into the role! Discover really gave me the time to learn these skills through courses and mentors.
Daniel: Similar to Grace’s experience, at GM, your tech stack will vary by team. There’s also a lot of room to grow and move between software engineering roles, if you’re interested in gaining new skills.
What stands out to you in a candidate?
Daniel: Seeing your school, major, and GPA gives me a good sense of what you already learned through coursework. I think I know every capstone project that’s ever been done. So instead we focus on, who are you as a person? We have core behaviors that we look for: that you’re collaborative, that you’re self motivated and bold, and that you’re an innovator. We look for candidates that enjoy the fact that technology is changing so rapidly.
So I won’t ask gotcha tech questions. I’ll ask behavioral questions like, “Tell me about a time you had to get started on a project and didn’t know what to do,” and I’m listening to how you took initiative. Make sure your answers and stories are relevant to the role you’re interviewing for.
Deanna: It helps to clearly list programming languages and other software skills on your resume. Also list your projects, applications, and certifications. It may not seem big to you, but that’s the thing that may make you stand out. We also use behavioral interviewing, specifically the STAR method. We want to see how you solve problems. Practice for your interviews ahead of time!
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