Software Engineer vs Network Engineer: The Magic Words That Defined My Career Path

Many graduates nowadays and even folks considering a career conversion ask themselves the following question: should I go for a Software Engineer position or a Network Engineer position? The answer to this question is not in a sentence. And nobody can give a perfect exclusive answer to it. However I can guide you to take your own decision based on a personal experience.

First thoughts after graduation

shortly after graduation in 2008 the first thing that haunted not only my mind, but the graduation class (96 engineers) in general, was to find a job. Talking to my classmates and knowing them for 5 years in a row, I could formulate roughly a theory about their future perspectives:

  • 15% are going to continue higher education
  • 82% are searching for a job
  • 3% are searching for a job in telecommunication and network engineering

My best friends and I were among the last three percent.

The day I took a leap of faith

software engineering company in Tunisia

It was February 2008, only one month after my graduation as an Engineer in Telecommunications and Networks from INSAT. I was with six of my classmates interviewing for engineering positions in a famous tech company in Tunisia called Telnet.

We were young and dumb. We always thought getting a job right after school is an indicator of success. Or, let me put it this way: we were subconsciously “programmed” that, if we do find a job right after school, then something is wrong with our skills! That is why it did not matter which daily activities we will be doing. All that matters for (most) of us was getting a job.

I was in the interview room, sitting waiting for my turn. A person came, introduced himself as the interviewer and handed us each a double sheets which included questions.

The test had two sections: a logical section and a programming drill.

I was skeptical at first. I filled the logical test and hurried to the second part. We were given a set of programming libraries in C, a sample code, and we were instructed to write a program that does something I don’t remember.

I did not write a sentence. All other guys and gals were writing fiercly. The interviewer came and whispered to me:

– “Why aren’t writing anything?”

– “I am not here for software development. I am here for a network engineering position.”

– “I see, but write something at least!”

“Fine.”

And I wrote it down on paper: I am not here for software development. I am here for a network engineering position.”

I was the first in the oral interview,. The engineer told me the company had no such positions available. But it could have one in the future.

I thanked him and went out. I was the first interviewee to leave the room.

I knew later that all other classmates were accepted as software developers. One of them converted later to telecommunication engineer, configuring proprietary telecom devices on customer sites and traveling the world.

How did I feel, being the only fresh graduate in that interview not getting a job? a bit frustrated and a dozen questions kept playing in my head.

I laugh at this thought now LOL, but back then it was serious business! And don’t start telling me “you are young, you still have time, there are plenty of opportunities and yada yada..”. If you are a fresh grad you’ll perfectly understand the feeling I am describing.

Why a Software Engineer position was out of question (for me)

I had the image of a guy sticking to his desk in the open space, typing on the keyboard. A software engineer for me was a synonym of zero interaction with humans, someone who marries two wives: on at home and one that has 102 keys and a screen.

I also asked a classmate of mine, who were working for Sungard, what her typical activities involve. She said she gets piece of code, adds here modules and sends her work down the production line. She says she had no idea what the final product will look like (WTF!)

I see myself not doing this for years. I wanted to play with routers and switches. I wanted to configure things and see the end result. I wanted to discover new technology, implement it and see how it impacts the world around me.

It was not about the salary. I was imagining myself in this position and extrapolating it.

Conclusion

Looking at my past and seeing where I am today (Alhamdulillah) I can say that I made the best favour to myself by purchasing a career in network engineering not as a software engineer.

How do you relate to my story? Did you choose to become a Software Engineer or a Network Engineer?

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