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Steps to get into computer engineering?

Veteran

Uriel Facio Fort Sill, OK

I'm currently set to transition soon out of the military and into the civilian sector. Problem is I have little to no experience in computer engineering. I do plan to go to a technical school and gain a B.S. in that field. What else can I be doing to gain the experience and knowledge necessary to eventually get hired? Perhaps by IBM? I do have some knowledge on how computers are put together and a bit on electrical.

Edit: I would like to clarify that I'm looking at the hardware side of things of computer engineering. Research, development, and design of computer hardware.

16 November 2020 13 replies Education & Training

Answers

Advisor

Alexander McCreary Kennesaw, GA

Hi Uriel, I am aware of some past roles at IBM that were specifically created for people that lacked experience that wanted to pivot their careers into tech, so initiatives do exist so I would certainly research what companies are doing something similar.

How far out are you from transitioning? I would recommend looking into the DoD Skillbridge Program--you could use that for computer specific training or an internship to gain experience prior to your EOS.

16 November 2020 Helpful answer

Advisor

Robert Whitley Lawrenceville, GA

Uriel,

Thank you for your service. I would like to ask about your goal to get into computer engineering. My question would be what aspect of computer engineering are you interested in? Designing computer hardware? Engineering (or architecting) computer networks? Or engineering (architecting) solutions to business problems using computers?

Depending on your answer would help you fine tune what you would like to do. If you want to get to know computer at a hardware level I could suggest buy components at a computer store and building your own computer. That is a first step.

A cheaper means would perhaps be to get a Raspberry Pi (any iteration, it is a $50, 1 board computer, here is the link to the raspberry pi org: https://www.raspberrypi.org/) and begin learning any of the several operating systems that can be loaded on it. There are TONS of help on google for learning coding , Operating systems operations, designing specialized circuits and code to run various applications such as a multi media computer, a home security system, learn any number of IOT (Internet of Things) applications and best of all a lot of IBM'ers use that platform for "building" things.

16 November 2020 Helpful answer

Veteran

Daniel King Andover, MA

Uriel, the degree program that you select will likely have internship programs available that will give you the opportunity to gain some direct experience. The internships provided will depend upon whether you choose an electrical engineering or computer science program, but many companies like IBM have long standing relationships with colleges and universities and provide these sort of opportunities. In some cases, the internships can span months where you provide a few hours a week to the organization and thereby gain valuable experience. Hope that helps.

16 November 2020 Helpful answer

Advisor

Angelo Fazio Asbury Park, NJ

Uriel, Thank you for your service. The field is very broad so "Computer Engineering" can relate to any one of several areas. As you get your degree focus on internships that are in the different areas such as hardware, software and cloud. Regards, Angelo

16 November 2020 Helpful answer

Advisor

Tim St. Onge Atlanta, GA

Hi, Uriel. Getting an education is the right first, and necessary step, to becoming a Computer Engineer. While you're getting your degree, consider other things that will help once you graduate: try to meet Computer Engineers and build a network. Look for industry groups that support the industry and join them or follow them so you know the current trends and topics of the industry, identify companies that you might want to work for once you graduate and begin to understand what they are looking for in candidates, try to make contacts within those companies and look for people who will mentor you while you are going through school, etc.
Good luck. I'm sure you'll do well in school and land the career you want.

16 November 2020 Helpful answer

Advisor

Richard Darden Leesburg, VA

Uriel,

A lot of good advice here. One thing you might consider, is to leverage a free public cloud account such as https://www.ibm.com/cloud and start building apps. You cannot scale an app on a free account but you can get a lot of experience and build some pretty impressive demos that show what you can do.

Good luck!

Dick

Advisor

Bryan Foley Poughkeepsie, NY

Hi Uriel, good old Ft Sill (spent 6 months there for Artillery training). Lots of really good answers below. Clarifying what aspect of "Computer Engineering" is key. However, sometimes you don't know until you get better understanding and hands-on experience. Even college students who always wanted to be Comp Eng or Comp Sci wind up switching majors or minors once they get into projects. The sooner you can understand what the field is really about, the better.

So how to do that? Obviously searching the web is the starting point. I often like to start with a generic topic in wikipedia and drill down to subtopics. If you get some time, go to a local college and see if you can talk with faculty/advisors in that field. Search for local meetups and hackathons in your area, pick their brains. Javier mentioned some of the no/low cost training tools for coding. Tim mentioned Red Hat's training. Coding is a good tool to have in your toolkit no matter what you do. Pick a language like Java, download a free development tool (Integrated Dev Environment (IDE)) like IntelliJ IDEA or NetBeans. These usually coming with basic dev training guides. Just get started.

I'd also second what Robert said - find a good basic Raspberry Pi kit. I got one for my son and he loved it. It was a combination of learning the basics of computer engineering, very basic programming, and getting to see it work because of what you did. Or even better, it doesn't work and you have to debug the problem to get it to work.

Good luck!

Advisor

Johnathan Van Houten Sarasota, FL

Uriel,
What specifically are you looking for? Computer engineering as a term conjures images of chip and electronics design, but I imagine is also used (in this context) interchangeably with everything from system management to platform architecture. I am going to assume, because of your stated experience level that you mean IT support or system administration. If I am wrong, please correct me.
If that is the case, however, then I don’t think you necessarily need to have your BS right away, in fact, you could acquire it while working as a support technician. You could broaden your practical skillset via online courses (with or without certification). Such things might help you get your foot in the door, but at that level, I would be more inclined to hire someone who was passionate about the work and had a desire to learn. That is what you need to put forward, your drive to work and learn and your focus. The same qualities that make for good military service will serve you well in the civilian world.
Attaining an accredited degree will help you extend your career and provide more opportunities down the road.
Cheers.

Advisor

Charles Arvin Poughkeepsie, NY

The Department of Labor has set up the apprenticeship program in partnership with private companies.

Here is an example which is in our department for a hardware lab technician.

https://careers.ibm.com/ShowJob/Id/1000398/?lang=en!

The apprenticeship programs are 12 to 18 month programs that pay you to learn on the job. There are many throughout IBM throughout the country. The goal is for half of the hires to be military veterans who have or are transitioning to the civilian workforce.

Many companies offer these. After the program is complete, you can apply for full time positions within the company or to other companies.

Best Regards,

Charles

Advisor

Evan Gubler Vail, AZ

Hey Uriel. I just wanted to add my experience. When I was transitioning from active duty military service I also had no prior coding experience. I got out and pursued a degree in computer science with the GI Bill and got an internship with IBM while I was studying. It was a great way to build experience and education at the same time. Here is a link to our current internship opportunities if you're interested:
https://www.ibm.com/us-en/employment/internships/
Biggest thing is don't let a lack of experience stop you from pursuing a career in computer engineering. You can do it!

Advisor

Javier Zayas Anaheim, CA

Hello Uriel. Getting an education is important, however, don't focus solely on the degree to getting you to your end goal. There are plenty of free, or low-cost tools available to you (Code Academy, Udemy, and those already listed) that will help you start your journey. I would also recommend setting your sights on entry-level positions that will gain you practical experience. Having come from the US Army myself, what I learned in the military and what I actually ended up doing weren't the same thing, and even less so once I got into the private sector. Everyone's experience will be slightly different, but don't be afraid to start out in a junior level position to "cut your teeth" as these will only help you get better, but also serve as a way for you to challenge yourself in new ways you hadn't thought of.

Advisor

Tom Crawford Columbus, OH

Hi Uriel, after my four-year enlistment in the Navy I started as a contractor for a technical help desk and worked my way up into consultant, system administrator and architect roles. I also crossed over to the Navy reserve which I found was a great way to network with many other folks. Later, I used my GI Bill to get an MBA in Technology Management.

Advisor

Tim Olson Port Orchard, WA

I'd recommend taking on-line certification courses in IT topics that interest you. There are bootcamp-type courses too - very intensive - that can quickly get you heavy in IT. No need to get a college degree to start working in IT. Red Hat has great on-line learning. Linux Learning Academy also has great training - I've taken several courses from each of these - they are what IBM has us use. https://www.linuxtrainingacademy.com/about/

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