A CS Degree is not needed to be successful as a Software Engineer
There are 3 more important factors that makes you successful!
Being a Software Engineer at the current time is a lot different than it was 10-20 years ago. I can’t talk about 20 years ago, because I haven’t yet started my career, but 10 years ago, the mindset that you need a degree to be a Software Engineer, was quite common.
And now, especially in the last 5 years, there has been quite a shift in our industry. A lot of people decide to pursue a career as a software engineer by learning themselves. Is that the way to go? Read on!
Why a CS Degree is not needed
What makes you successful as a Software Engineer is also lot different at this time than it was some time ago. Some time ago, with just pure technical knowledge you might be successful, but not at this time anymore.
Skills such as good communication, problem-solving, teamwork and overall being a great person to work with are becoming more and more important. And you don’t get these particular skills in universities.
Also the same is true with technical knowledge. You do get some specific knowledge, but a lot of times, what you are learning in a university, will not be applicable in your job.
You need to learn new things constantly to be successful. So, it doesn’t really matter if you have a degree or not → our industry is constantly evolving and you will need to always be learning new things. That’s also what makes our great industry so fun.
Some companies have the requirement of a CS Degree. Should you go for it because of it?
My answer is no, you shouldn’t just because of it. There are a lot of great companies out there which doesn’t require it and as mentioned above, the drive and motivation for learning is what is going to be the deciding factor for your success.
Although I would say if your ambition is to work for well-known companies like MAANG companies, then yes they still require the CS Degree. But, not sure if they will keep this requirement long-term, because there are so many great engineers out there without a degree. And they are losing out on a lot of great candidates because of it.
As a self-taught engineer, I believe I am doing quite fine in my career!
I was first introduced to programming in school and it was with Java. I didn’t quite enjoy it. And later when I discovered JS, that’s where I started enjoying programming.
Building something visual was the main driver for me to learn more and more and never look back. I remember learning for whole days and enjoying it!
You can read my full story of how I started, how I got my first job and my learnings here: Starting my career again as a junior engineer (paid article).
After I got my first job as a Software Engineer, I felt my imposter syndrome kicking in and telling me that I was not good enough, because I didn’t go to the university. I thought that people from university were so good at programming, that I’ll never be on that level.
But then, the more people I worked with, the more I knew that my motivation and drive prevails any university knowledge.
This finding is what sparked me to grow and learn even more, which eventually got me to the Senior Software Engineer role and later I decided to pursue the management path.
You can read my story of how I went from an engineer to manager here: From IC to manager (paid article). After that, my growth was quite linear: Engineering Manager, Head of Engineering, VP of Engineering and now, CTO.
Does a CS Degree matter to me when I am looking to hire a new engineer for my team?
I had the pleasure to interview more than 300 engineers in my career and I really can’t remember a time when I put my thought into “does a candidate have a CS degree or not”. I don’t look at that.
What really matters to me is that the candidate can perform well on the job. The 3 main traits I look for are:
sense of ownership and responsibility,
drive and motivation for improving,
team player and making others around them better.
If you are interested to see how I’m doing interviews and how my process for hiring looks like, I have a learning track specifically for that. You can find the learning track here: Hiring (for paid subscribers).
I also have a learning track for everyone who wishes to prepare for interviews. You can find the learning here: Preparing for interviews (for paid subscribers).
As the title already says, you don’t need a degree in order to be a successful Software Engineer. You can learn on your own and do equally well or better than others that have gone to the university.
It’s all up to you, drive and motivation for learning new things and being able to work well in a team environment. If you can do both things well, you are going to be successful.
We are not finished for this week yet!
There are still some seats available for the The Effective Engineering Manager Course. Make sure to grab it while it is still available. Tomasz Korzeniowski, CEO and founder of HAY is a fellow enthusiast of good management practices. He will be your instructor.
Using role-playing exercises, The Effective Engineering Manager Course equips engineering managers with essential leadership skills for dev team management. It focuses on critical managerial ceremonies in software engineering, offering immediately applicable tips and insights.
If you’re looking for a 2-day online workshop with a unique approach to mastering your leadership skills, this course is for you.
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