My Background as a Software Engineer

My name is Chris Sotherden, I’m a 28-year-old (as of 2018) self-taught Software Architect. Even before becoming a software engineer by profession I just loved programming. I’ve been writing code for fifteen years now, ten of which have been as a part of my profession. I started coding at 13 years old teaching myself C++ from online resources. Isn’t the internet great? It’s only gotten better since then even. From there I played around with assembly and learned some Java.

In my senior year of high school, I was fortunate enough to attend a vocational high school half the day taking a Cisco focused computer systems networking course. During the first semester of my senior year, I also was involved with a program at Lockheed Martin where I learned and wrote Python. Around the time of that Lockheed Martin program, I was doing the traditional college visits preparing to put in my applications. After visiting RIT and seeing the program schedule I became frustrated with the pace of the outlined programs. I didn’t want to wait to learn things at someone else’s pace, many of the courses that most interested me weren’t until into the third year of the program! So, without much of an alternative plan at all, I decided that college wasn’t the path for me.

Luckily for me, (emphasis on the luck) I had a few more internships lined up before and just after I graduated. Instead of applying to colleges I decided to focus on learning as much as I could on my own and putting everything into those internships. That plan (if you could call it a plan) worked out for me in the end. The last internship I had lined up started the week after I graduated and ran for one month. With the end of that internship approaching, I volunteered to come in and work overnight on the last day to help with a major software update for one of our large government customers. I showed up with that night with two dozen donuts and case of Mountain Dew to share with the team!

I wouldn’t credit my success solely to the donuts and Mountain Dew, but it definitely had to help! Out of the interns, I and one other guy got job offers at the end. Now over ten years later, I’m still with the company and have worked my way up from that entry-level position to Lead Software Architect. As an aside, the other guy is still with the company as well and after moving into sales was awarded Solutions Architect of the Year 2018, so we’ve both done very well.

Recruiting for a senior software engineer position at HackerX Raleigh-Durham

I’m on the far right, at HackerX Raleigh-Durham recruiting senior software engineers for Optanix.

So, with all of that background stuff out of the way, let me bring this all back around to why I’m starting this blog. I love programming and I’m self-taught (both on my own and on the job) so I believe strongly in nontraditional paths to a career as a software engineer. I have a passion for mentoring and helping others learn and grow, that’s why I became a team lead and a manager. Also, it’s 2018, let’s face it, some degree of technical literacy is only going to become more and more table stakes no matter what industry you work in. I genuinely believe that everyone should have some degree of understanding of how software works and some experience with actually writing code, even if you’re not going to be a software engineer as a career.

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