Struggles of New College Graduates in their First Software Development Job

Andrew Begel, Beth Simon

Proceedings of the 39th Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education |

Published by ACM

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How do new college graduates experience their first software development jobs? In what ways are they prepared by their educational experiences, and in what ways do they struggle to be productive in their new positions? We report on a “fly-on-the-wall” observational study of eight recent college graduates in their first six months of a software development position at Microsoft Corporation. After a total of 85 hours of on-the-job observation, we report on the common abilities evidenced by new software developers including how to program, how to write design specifications, and evidence of persistence strategies for problem-solving. We also classify some of the common ways new software developers were observed getting stuck: communication, collaboration, technical, cognition, and orientation. We report on some common misconceptions of new developers which often frustrate them and hinder them in their jobs, and conclude with recommendations to align Computer Science curricula with the observed needs of new professional developers.