8 min read
Programmers can come from anywhere, even a field that studies galaxies far, far away. Felipe Gómez-Cortés is a physicist, currently writing a paper about Dark Matter Halos and Star Formation Rate at Redshift 6. Felipe doesn’t have a CS degree and has never worked as a software engineer in the industry a day in his life. There was even a time when he found himself kicked out of college after academic probation.
On paper, he’s probably someone you wouldn’t trust with your industry code. Within 6 seconds of looking at his resume, you know most of his experience stems from academia. To most people, it’s not immediately clear how cosmology might relate to real-world software engineering. Consider the Facebook recruiter who plainly pointed to “relevant experience, ” “company recognition” and “keyword research” as the top criteria when sifting through traditional resumes.
But if you dig deeper, some might call Felipe a computational genius. He was home schooled as a child in Bogota, Colombia, blasted through the average education and made it to the university at the age of 15. Hence, the academic probation was less about a lack of capabilities and more about discovering the world of college parties at a young age. Math and computing has always pulled him. As a kid, he taught himself to use Excel to graph some polynomial and trigonometric functions. Eventually, he earned his B.Sc at the National University of Colombia, and now has one semester left in his M.Sc working in computational astrophysics.
Even though Felipe is not your traditional software engineer, he has more than enough potential, intelligence and–most importantly–self-motivation to be an asset for the right engineering team.
Hiring managers often complain about technical talent shortage. Stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tell us that 1.4 million positions will be open in computing with only 400, 000 computer science grads in 4 years. This ran a nationwide alarm, where even the White House is rallying communities to start training Americans on the critical skill of coding. In fact, we partnered with the White House TechHire Initiative to host the inaugural TechHire CodeSprint (or online hackathon) this past weekend to give nontraditional software engineers a chance to be seen exclusively to employers around the country.
Felipe exemplifies the self-starting engineering candidate who happened to excel in academia with hopes of eventually moving into the industry. But the reality is he’s often missed by most employers’ resume screening process. There’s a common stereotype or misconception that academics may not adapt to the culture of the software industry. While it’s true that programming for research is widely different than deploying real-world code, should folks as ambitious and accomplished as Felipe be overlooked because of traditional filters?
We sat down with him to learn more about his experience of being a great coder without the traditional resume of a software engineer.