The College of Engineering & Computing (CEC) is proud of its alumni. Meet alum May Márquez who works at Electronic Arts as a Software Engineer.
Where are you working? Position title?
I’m currently a Software Engineer II at Electronic Arts working on the Madden games.
How did you get your job?
I got my job partly through connections and partly through skill. A friend of mine that I had met through INIT at FIU had interned on the same team and was able to refer me for an interview, and once I was in the interview room, they were impressed enough with my C++ skills that they brought me on as an engineer.
What was your greatest fear going into your first job, and how did you face/overcome it?
For my first job at an airline software company called Accelya, the biggest fear was definitely impostor syndrome. It was my first engineering job for a big company, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to measure up skill-wise compared to the other engineers. I was able to overcome it with the help of my amazing team; everyone I worked with was happy to guide me through any unfamiliar processes or tools, and I became a much better engineer as a result.
What surprised you the most about your first job?
The most surprising part was how little coding is required in most engineering jobs. The majority of the work I was doing was dealing with ticketing systems, proprietary tools, and minor bugfixes. The kind of grand software design that we practice in our undergrad is used very rarely, to my surprise.
What advice do you have for those beginning the job search process?
Make connections, as many as you can. This doesn’t mean talking to strangers to try to fill in numbers in a rolodex, it means getting out there and participating in your community. Join your local tech club (I highly recommend INIT at FIU for that!) Attend any local events you can find. Participate actively in extracurricular activities. Join a club. By doing all of these things, you make real connections with people, which is valuable in and of itself. The fact that those connections might help you land a job later on is a nice bonus!
What does a day on the job look like?
At EA, we work in a hybrid model. On remote days, I’ll connect to my work machine from home; on office days, I’ll drive the ~10 minute commute to EA’s Orlando office. After some quick meetings in the morning, most of the day consists of various small tasks: bugfixes, setup work, tooling upgrades, etc. Occasionally, I’ll be working on a larger project that involves designing the code for a system or feature from the ground up. Those projects are my favorite things to work on, as they let me flex my full skillset in software design and engineering.
How does your job connect back to your coursework?
A lot of the coursework we do at FIU is theoretical and foundational. It’s not necessarily knowledge that I use daily, but it is important knowledge to have as a well-rounded software engineer. I may not need to write mathematical proofs at my job, but I have used basic set theory in the past to write better code. On the other hand, there are a few classes that were very relevant to my job. Data Structures, Programming III, and Software Engineering I comprise the holy trinity of software classes in my opinion; nearly every lecture in those classes taught me skills that are directly useful in nearly every software job. Besides those, classes like Professional & Technical Writing help with refining communication and documentation skills that are invaluable as an engineer, and my Senior Project (or are we calling those Capstones now?) felt like the best rehearsal I could have had for a real software engineering job, complete with agile methodology and all.
How was your transition from school to work? How do you balance your time?
I started working at my first job while still a student. While it was a bit stressful managing both work and school, I feel that starting my career while still in school helped to make the transition more gradual, and I felt more prepared than I would have otherwise after graduating.
What’s been the coolest thing about your job so far?
The name recognition, by far. My previous job in airline ticketing software wasn’t exactly the most interesting conversation topic. Talking about working on Madden tends to be a much better conversation topic! We get heavily discounted EA games as a perk as well, which is always nice.
How well do you think FIU prepared you for your career?
Overall, I think FIU prepared me as well as it could have. While education is important for an engineer, other aspects like connections and side projects are just as, if not more, important for a person’s career. I’m a firm believer that the absolute best path a student can take to be prepared for their career is completing their courses while also making sure to make time for extracurricular elements like honor societies, hackathons, and clubs. It’s no exaggeration to say that every single job I landed in my career was directly a result of my involvement in INIT at FIU, the largest honor society for computer science and IT at FIU. The friends I made there enriched my personal and professional lives; if I’d just done my classes and gone home every day, I wouldn’t be anywhere near as far in my career as I am now.