From working at Michelin star restaurants to attending 12-week coding boot camp, OneLogin Engineering Manager Andrew MacIver debunks common myths about the road to engineering and shares his tips on what makes an effective engineering manager.
You received degrees in French Language, Literature, and Music Composition. What skills are transferable to software development?
In fact, I feel that a lot of the skills that I gained in college are applicable to my work now as a software developer. Of course, studying a foreign language involves translating thoughts from one system to another and understanding that there are many ways to say the same thing. Thinking in another language, where the ideas themselves come out as fully formed phrases, is obviously something you end up doing in software development as well. In the case of music composition, I think it is commonly understood that music is quite a mathematical pursuit in its own way.
How did you enter the technology sector? Please tell us about your career path.
I have definitely had a roundabout path. In college, I worked with arts-oriented technologies like PureData and Max/MSP for interactive music projects, which I guess was my first programming as an adult. Following college, I moved to France to study cuisine and worked in Michelin restaurants for a while before moving back to the US. Later I attended a 12-week boot camp and ended up working for that school for a year as an instructor and career coach before moving on to my first full-time job as a software developer.
What advice would you give to people with humanities degrees who want to enter the technology field?
If you’re thinking about making a career change, the first thing you should do is try out some basic coding to see if you really like it. Next, you have to consider how you want to get the training that will let you jump into a role and be prepared to contribute. You have to keep learning; you are competing against folks with college degrees who may not have built a full web app like you but who can talk about computational complexity and sorting algorithms more fluently. You have to keep studying and learning and working on new projects to set yourself apart.
“If you’re hiring for [engineering] roles and dismissing anyone without a CS degree, you’re missing out on a group of highly motivated people..who may very well have slightly more practical experience building full-stack web applications than traditional CS grads”
-MacIver on why hiring managers in the technology field should hire humanities majors
What advice would you give hiring managers who are hesitant to hire engineers without traditional computer science degrees?
I would ask them to consider what they are actually looking for in a software developer. I would bet that most would agree that problem-solving, drive, and the ability to seek out the necessary information on your own are pretty good qualities in an effective software developer. But if you’re hiring for these roles and dismissing anyone without a CS degree, you’re missing out on a group of highly motivated people who have shown great initiative by devoting a lot of energy to learning something completely new, and who may very well have slightly more practical experience building full-stack web applications than traditional CS grads.
What are 3 ingredients to being a successful engineering manager?
- Selflessness: Look out for your people.
- Tenacity: Advocate for what you think is right; don’t be afraid to make your case to those who need to hear your point of view.
- Diplomacy: Understand where people are coming from and meet them there. Be empathetic and try to find a way to get your point across without running roughshod over someone else’s point of view.
“What are you doing here, if you don’t want to do it right?!” This was harsh, but his point stuck with me
- on his favorite life advice
How have you stayed involved in the arts?
I play in a band with some longtime friends. We don’t take ourselves too seriously which I think is important to keep things fun. Last year we wrote a rock musical which played in the city for 4 nights; the band itself was the orchestra, and I served as the “music director” for the performers. It was a lot of work, but a great experience.
What is a piece of advice that has helped you in your career/life?
I remember a chef at a restaurant yelling at me for not cutting something correctly: “What are you doing here if you don’t want to do it right?!” This was harsh, but his point stuck with me. This “advice” has not only served to remin me that cutting corners only takes away from my own success, but also that you have to plan on doing things right if you’re going to plan to do them at all.
What is your favorite resource for keeping up with new technologies?
My colleagues — I have the privilege of working with folks who have many more years of experience than me, and I am constantly learning so much from them.