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Dear Jobs@Intel Blog: To Code or Not to Code

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Note from the editor: One of my favorite reasons to use social networks is the accessibility you get—it’s truly conversation tool where you can share your likes, dislikes, questions and comments. We recently got an email from a reader that Tiffany graciously volunteered to answer. Do you have a burning question that you’d like us to answer on the blog? Share it with us by emailing us at jobsblog@intel.com

Not sure about you, but for me, this year is FLYING by! Before you know it, the school year will be coming to a close for most institutions and I’m finding it leaves students with a lot of unanswered career related questions. I wish I could profess I was THEE best guidance counselor out there, but sadly, it’s really not my specialty. So, when a student hit us up on this blog with a loaded list of questions about the type of Software Careers at Intel… I was a bit out of my league. My mind immediately turned to Tavish, a colleague who started his career at Intel as a software engineer, and recently joined the ranks of our College Recruiting Team. I knew if anyone had the answers to these questions, it would be him! Sure enough, he came to my rescue. So, for that one student (hi Garrett!) that was bold enough to ask these questions of multiple employers, here are your answers, and hopefully a good look at Intel as an employer and why one of our greatest taglines is: Welcome to Your Next Five Jobs.  

Question 1:  What is it like working with this company? (environment, rewards, satisfaction)

This is a tough question to answer because the reasons are different for everyone. There are some employees who were profiled on our Life at Intel site who can offer their perspective as well as a blog post from earlier this year where we collected some testimonials from employees answering the question, “Why do you think Intel is a Best Company to Work for?” In terms of compensation, check out my response to Question 5. You can also see some of our new offices on our flickr page to see the type of ‘collaborative’ work environment we work in.

Question 2: What is it like developing new software/hardware?

TAVISH: Exciting! At Intel, you will contribute to software and hardware projects that can literally impact millions of lives. In many cases you won’t be starting at the very beginning of a project: instead you’ll be required to ramp very quickly on an existing architecture or technology, and integrate with a team that has already been working together for a number of weeks or months (or years!). As it goes with any new assignment, it’s important that you’re comfortable asking clarifying questions and seeking support from your peers when needed. Nobody joins a project knowing everything about it already – fortunately you’ll find that engineers at Intel are very open and willing to share their expertise.

Question 3: What does it take to be an engineer/developer/programmer?

TAVISH:  A passion for programming! If you don’t love leafing through pages upon pages of code, identifying minute syntactical discrepancies, and generating innovative solutions to challenging technical problems, then it’s probably not the best field for you. You must be very logic-driven and highly detail oriented, while at the same time, possess a certain spark of creativity. The top engineers typically possess a balance of technical prowess and communication aptitude, having the ability to look at a complex problem and ask just the right questions to find the best solution.

Question 4: Describe a typical day for an engineer/developer/programmer.

TAVISH: I like to break down everyday tasks into one of four areas: designing, documenting, developing, and debugging. Engineers work with other project stakeholders to define the technical specifications of a product or feature, spending the remainder of their work in “implement & fix” mode. During this time, you’re either adding new capabilities to a product or stepping through code fixing existing issues (i.e. bugs) that have been identified and prioritized by the validation team. Aside from a handful of required meetings, a software engineer’s workday is very flexible and autonomous: you get to choose how, when (and in some cases where!) to work, so long as you’re meeting the project deadlines and deliverables.

Question 5: How much does an entry level employee make?

TAVISH: The average starting salary for an entry-level software engineer can vary – depending on your education level and experience. Let’s just throw out a hypothetical (and this is an average starting salary according to GlassDoor.com), say a range of $50,000 - $60,000 for a Bachelor’s level new grad that studied Computer Science. Keep in mind this is only the base salary. At Intel, we believe in a Total Compensation Package. Base salary is one component. Add to that base salary our profit sharing (in 2011 it was ~7% of your base), full healthcare coverage, a generous stock purchase plan, three annual bonuses, and countless other corporate discounts (50% off Intel products) and perks (private jet, anyone?). It doesn’t take long to realize the benefits of working at a great company like Intel go well above & beyond your paycheck. I look at my pay stub and am always surprised by all of the ‘extras’ I see by the end of the year.

Question 6: What does it take to move up in the company?

TAVISH:  Advancement within the company is directly correlated to your scope of impact. While at first you may be given a relatively narrow focus of responsibility, you can increase your chances of promotion by looking outside your assigned tasks, identifying ways to enhance and improve your given project on a broader scale. Technical competency and growth, and the ability to elevate the contributions of both you and those around you, are key components to moving up within Intel.

Question 7: What knowledge should be learned to perform the job significantly well?

TAVISH:  I think coding experience is inherently more valuable than “book knowledge” when it comes to software development; and with the advent of the App Store and Google Play there’s never been a better time to be a programmer. Start developing a project on the side. Get real world experiences building an app that you can showcase to a potential employer. In my opinion there’s no better way to learn about engineering than to build something!

Question 8: Compare the jobs of a computer engineer vs. a computer science major.

TAVISH:  This is really going to depend on your school’s curriculum for those two programs. Computer Engineers will typically have taken more coursework on the hardware and EE side, which may open you up to additional opportunities at a company like Intel. Most importantly is for you to look through the courses that are offered in each program, and choose the one that covers the most exciting and appealing topics and projects.

I want to thank Tavish (who actually just left for sabbatical) for taking the time to help me out on this post! Hopefully, by answering these questions, you (as well as our reader that sent us the list) feel more confident about what it’s like to be an Intel employee and are excited about exploring a rewarding career with us.

What other burning questions do you have about Jobs and Life at Intel? (Email us at jobsblog@intel.com or leave us a comment below!)