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Side Projects Q&A and Videos

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The beautiful thing about software is that it can be built anywhere. Build personal software projects to make yourself more lucrative to employers or even improve at your current job.

How to come up an idea which matched on personal limited skills? (assume you do it by yourself and have limited information)

Junior IT Support at Taro Community profile pic
Junior IT Support at Taro Community

I used to try several courses to learn C++ for Unreal Engine, however after I finished all of them, I even can't came up an idea to make a project which matched on personal limited skills. As a result I tried lowering my expectations by finding it the most basic one (I found CS50 - programming with Scratch) to build logical thinking skills. When I did the assignment (the assignment has specific perquisite), unfortunately it turns out I trapped into tutorial hell and I still can't came up an idea. Feeling burnout, I decided to take a break for few days because I believe good idea doesn't come from burnout. But after few days recovered I somehow came up an idea by looking past interest game and turns it into my assignment , however after did a few days, my idea didn't match my knowledge skills. (in this moment I don't know about Jointaro yet)

I understand programming is about doing and doing as this explains and also communication . But I'm struggling to find the solutions based on my current situation. A lot of advice and courses on internet are omnipresent, and the comments more or less just say "thank you for your advice" or "Great video" whatsoever (especially YouTube) . I tried some of them based on my current situation, however I realized there is no progress and I slowly doesn't have principle of life.

Sorry if my questions seems so futile for experienced software engineer. However I want to give it a shot to breakdown my own problem. If you think my situation has something off, feel free to ask so there will be no misunderstanding. Thank you for your attention.

Additional: I also find out whether I write blog or write questions, it takes me a lot of time (maybe 1 - 3 hours or could be more depending the complexity), because I try every possibilities to avoid misunderstanding or miscommunication. I believe people who smart at great university or company might not need take such hours to do so.

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Would an "unfinished" project(s) be worthy to present in interviews?

Entry-Level Software Engineer at Unemployed profile pic
Entry-Level Software Engineer at Unemployed

Hi there, everybody. I was aiming to build a few applications to present in interviews. Last week, I was building a small-scale Spring Boot application with the help of a tutorial. The project I was working on was meant to retrieve data from a database using PostgreSQL to provide multiple choice DSA questions. I was creating an automated study buddy for technical interviews. Unfortunately, I've been trying to figure out some technical issues and database connectivity mishaps for some days, unfortunately to no avail. Currently, I'm working through a Node.Js tutorial to build an application geared to help me keep track of the things I'd like to do during my job search, so I can always stay on task. I don't know if I'm going to run into some more issues that plague me.

The thing is, I'm learning a LOT from both experiences. Now I feel I can have an educated conversation on the trade-offs of monolithic and microservice architectures... and I LOVE what I'm learning. I'd really like to have at least 3 small-scale projects handy that I'm using to automate my own life and make this job search easier for me.

Of course I'm going to continue to try to plow through these issues, and I'm not here to necessarily ask for help with my applications (although I won't say no if someone wants to help). It'd be great if I can explain how I solved these problems, because I know the challenging problems I've solved are what I'd want to highlight to people in an interview.

But let's say if the day comes where I have an interview and DON'T have a "finished" product, yet I still have these code samples that I can defend and show that I've gained a great deal of experience from... would it be a good idea to present these in an interview?

Thanks for the help,

Evan

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Should product-minded engineers learn UX design?

Junior Engineer at JPMorgan Chase profile pic
Junior Engineer at JPMorgan Chase

Questions:

  1. Is learning design a worthwhile investment as someone most interested in doing full-stack work at product-based startups?

  2. Might working in a small product-based startup be an effective way to pick up design skills while working as a SWE?

  3. How can engineers build more complex side projects without any design skills?

Regarding #3:

I’d argue that basic product design skills are critical for building any CRUD application. You can’t build something without defining what it’s going to do first. 

Literally - you can’t write code for a feature if you don’t know how the app will behave during a loading state, an error state, a complex edge case from a wonky user flow, etc.

You can wing the design and iteratively dogfood it to improve its UX - but that’s the same as doing UX design while having zero UX design skills. It’s the software engineering equivalent of writing spaghetti code - except you’re not even improving.

Personally, I find that UI libraries like or are most helpful for solving UI problems like designing a button or a modal. However, they can’t help you decide how a screen in an app should work, nor can they abstract away all design challenges for more custom use cases.

Also, any CRUD application built with poor design will inevitably feel like a crappy database client. 

The design problem applies to backend projects, too. Backends exist to service frontends, so you can’t build a backend without knowing what features the frontend needs - and you can’t do that, either, if you don’t design it first!

These are all challenges I’ve faced working on my own projects.

I suspect the best approach is really to just learn UX design and a design tool like Figma. However, that’d be a hefty investment given UX design is a separate field from SWE - especially if it’s just for a side project.

Also, building cool stuff as a semi-competent engineer is tons more fun (for me) than learning design from scratch!

What are your thoughts on my aforementioned questions?

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How to Approach Taro Networking Event

Data Engineer at Financial Company profile pic
Data Engineer at Financial Company

I'm ambivalent about attending Taro Networking events. On the one hand, the people I meet there are so talented and nice! On the other hand, what am I really getting by meeting them?

Now, I know I just said something extremely transactional. That I don't seem to "get" anything from meeting people. But let's continue this line of thinking for a bit. In my mind, going to a networking event can get you 3 things:

  1. potential job referrals

  2. potential partners for side-projects and maybe even a startup (which can be considered a kind of job referral)

  3. friends/social-contact

Let's assume that I'm not looking for friends, so only the first 2 are in play.

What should I be doing while networking? What happens is I tell them about what I do - my role, company, stack - they do the same, we'll talk about the industry for a bit, and that's that. It seems to me like I'm not getting much out of it, probably because I'm doing it all wrong.

Here's an excerpt from an email from a Data influencer I follow who makes a similar point:

Traditional networking is like a relic of the past for back when we didn't rely on the internet.

Back then, people only recommended and worked with those they'd met in person.

But in our digital age?

We can instantly find and judge coders, designers, data experts, and marketers online based on their LinkedIn & portfolio sites. 

So, here's an alternative to traditional networking... 

**Build things that matter. 

For example, let's say you wanted to break into genAI, or land an e-commerce job at Amazon, or work in ad-tech at Facebook or Google.

To impress hiring managers and recruiters at these FAANG companies, you could build an AI tool for to help retailers advertise more efficiently.

So his point is to build stuff and use that as the fodder for networking. I'm inclined to agree, since personally, my side-project cupboard is bare. I could be falling into the trap of thinking that I can/should only network once I've reached a threshold of building however.

So to sum this up, how do you balance networking vs. building and can you expand on the relationship between them?

Thanks!

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Looking for advice on fine-tuning LLMs as a side project

Entry-Level Data Scientist at Flatiron Health profile pic
Entry-Level Data Scientist at Flatiron Health

I'm a Data Scientist looking to switch company and move to a role closer to ML/LLMs. My plan is to build a side project fine-tuning LLMs to familiarize myself with this field and leverage that experience on my resume. I was wondering if anyone here has experience building similar projects or went through a similar learning process - it would be very helpful to get some insights on skill acquisition and finding a job in this area. Here're some examples of what advice I'm looking for, but please feel free to share other aspects as well - anything will be greatly appreciated:

  1. What are some good resources to learn about building LLMs? (currently mostly learning from HF, reddit, and googling)
  2. What's the best tech stack to build personal fine-tuned LLM projects? (I'm planning to use Runpod or similar services like Vast for training and inference, but was wondering if there's other better options)
  3. I'm looking to get into an early stage company in this field. What kind of project should I build to maximize my chance at getting into such companies? My plan rn is to fine tune a model using literature works (novels, poems, proses, etc.) since training data is relatively abundant and it's aligned with my interests. Are there more impactful use cases (for job hunting) out there?
  4. What are some things I should keep in mind when producing deliverables to better showcase my technical and learning abilities? I'm planning to make a series of blog/social media posts documenting my experience building this project. Is there anything in specific that would draw companies' attention?

Thanks in advance and please feel free to share your thoughts!

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Transitioning into the compiler engineering field (or any other domain) if you are unemployed and don't have prior experience in the field

Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community

I am currently seeking to transition into a career as a compiler engineer, a field I find deeply fascinating. The interdisciplinary nature of compiler engineering, bridging areas such as computer architecture and graph theory, intrigues me greatly. Additionally, the sector offers promising financial rewards, especially with companies like Meta, Nvidia, and AMD that are at the forefront of hardware accelerators experiencing significant growth. I am convinced this growth trajectory will continue, making this career path an ideal blend of intellectual fulfillment, professional growth, and competitive compensation.

Due to recent layoffs, I find myself unemployed, and I am seizing this moment to pivot towards compiler engineering. However, I acknowledge that there is a steep learning curve to becoming an ideal candidate for such positions. The required skill set typically includes:

  • Proficiency in C++
  • Experience with GPUs
  • Knowledge of an Intermediate Representation Language (e.g., LLVM)
  • Understanding of computer architecture

Previously, I worked as a senior backend engineer, specializing in tool development using functional programming languages such as Scala and Ocaml. My experience spans across FAANG companies and two startups.

To bridge the gap in my skill set, I have been actively contributing to open-source projects similar to LLVM and honing my C++ skills through consistent practice on Leetcode. Despite securing a few interviews for compiler engineering positions, I have not been successful, primarily due to difficulties with compiler-specific questions.

I seek advice on the following:

  1. How can I enhance my chances of entering the compiler engineering field, especially without being part of a compiler project community or holding a position of authority within such a project?
  2. What strategies can I employ to prepare for and succeed in domain-specific interviews, considering my lack of prior experience in this area?

Any guidance or insights from those who have navigated a similar path would be immensely appreciated.

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