FORTUNE -- Great software engineers are hard to find, let alone hire and keep.
Which is why more people than ever are trying to become one. The average annual salary for Google (GOOG) software engineers, for instance, now hovers around $145,000 and skyrockets to as much as $550,000, according to job site Glassdoor.
But training to be a software engineer and snagging a high-profile, high-paying position afterwards isn't simple or easy, even for some computer science grads from top-tier schools. Zach Sims, co-founder of the education startup Codecademy, and Matt Mickiewicz, co-founder of tech job recruiting site Hired.com, offer several do's and don'ts for landing a plum role in Silicon Valley.
Don't: Just take courses.
Build something, like a website or an iPhone app. "If you're just taking a class, it becomes much more about fulfilling the requirements for a class, but if it's about what you want to build, you're constantly being reinforced by seeing the actual manifestations of what you're learning," says Sims. Plus, many potential employers will want to see a portfolio of real-world work demonstrating what you can really do.
Do: Study data structures and algorithms.
Both are computer science fundamentals, and both make up a large part of the interview process with companies, explains Mickiewicz. It's possible for people to build some applications and write a lot of code without having a deep understanding of data structures and algorithms -- and some do -- but that lack of basic understanding is something potential employers will suss out quickly.
Don't: Do it just because.
Understand what you're getting yourself into, and make sure it's for the right reasons. "You can kind of dip your toes in and figure out whether this is something you're really interested in before committing whole-hog," says Sims. He also points out that it's unrealistic to assume you'll get a job at a top company that pays $120,000 a year. "Not everyone works at Google. Not everyone works at a startup."
Also, don't: Think you can fly solo.
Contrary to popular belief, coding isn't always a solo activity conducted from one's college dorm room. (Though of course, it can be.) More often, it's a collaborative process with others, who may for instance, help you figure out what to learn, troubleshoot your code or build on top of it.
But do: Form habits.
"We see a lot of learners say, 'I'll do 15 minutes a day,' sticking to that and actually doing it," explains Sims. Indeed, this piecemeal approach is more realistic than swearing you'll learn how to build a website in two weeks. To borrow the old adage: It's a marathon, folks, not a sprint.
Silicon Valley companies are still hiring en masse, but for industry outsiders, getting a job can seem downright impossible.
FORTUNE -- The technology industry aims to invent the future. But for too many aspiring Silicon Valley workers, it's their past that's holding them back.
Who can blame any job-seeker for trying to break into the tech industry? There were 58,000 available Bay Area tech jobs this October, according to job data firm, MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Nov 26, 2013 1:15 PM ET
A great film? Not exactly. Worth watching? Definitely.
By Andy Serwer, managing editor
FORTUNE -- I got a little freaked out.
While overall the new movie Jobs rates a definitive 'MEH' from me, and an even harsher, "soooo bad," from Fortune's Adam Lashinsky, I thought Ashton Kutcher in the lead role was pretty damn good. Even to the point where it brought back memories of my various meetings and conversations with Steve, MOREAug 8, 2013 11:44 AM ET
They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery ...
By Kurt Wagner, reporter
FORTUNE -- If you're going to model your business after an industry leader, you could do a lot worse than looking to LinkedIn. The professional networking site's rise has been impressive, to say the least. Just read Fortune's recent cover story if you need convincing. The site has more users than ever, all spending more time MOREAug 1, 2013 12:53 PM ET
The White House says Amazon's warehouses provide "high-wage" jobs. Not quite.
FORTUNE -- Amazon's announcement that it is planning to create thousands of new jobs in warehouses across the country is good news. Thousands more Americans will be working, paying taxes, and shopping. It will pull some families out of poverty and keep some others from falling into it.
But the very fact that the announcement is being heralded as a big MOREDan Mitchell, contributor - Jul 30, 2013 11:29 AM ET
Many users describe a surge in activity on the social network. Truth is, it's been a long-time coming.
FORTUNE -- What's up with LinkedIn? Suddenly it's everywhere. Last week, as I finished up teaching a dozen masters students in publishing, I told them to keep in touch. Nobody called. No one emailed. Seven of them requested to connect with me on LinkedIn.
What's more, lately my inbox has been teeming with social MOREJessi Hempel, writer - May 10, 2013 2:22 PM ET
The closest thing to a Steve Jobs appearance the Expo has seen since 2008
FORTUNE -- Okay, so it's not the Aaron Sorkin version we really want to see -- the one based on Walter Isaacson's biography. But it is the first Steve Jobs biopic to make it out of the gate (premiered at Sundance last week to mixed reviews, scheduled for release April 19), and it does have Demi Moore's MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 31, 2013 12:01 PM ET
Unmanned drones are bound for civilian skies -- leading to a surge in demand for experienced pilots.
By Clay Dillow, contributor
FORTUNE -- Charles Taylor did not set out to become a drone pilot. An avid fan of remote-controlled planes, Taylor didn't know much about unmanned aircraft outside the occasional news of military Predator strikes. But in August 2012 the University of North Dakota grad was among the first to receive MOREJan 11, 2013 5:00 AM ET
Won over by their logistical know-how and "bias for action," the online retailer is on a military hiring spree.
FORTUNE -- In a world where the typical preparation for becoming a junior executive at a Fortune 500 company is to go to college, sign on to some big corporation's management-training program, and perhaps pick up an MBA, Dennis Clancey stands out. The fresh-faced 29-year-old is an operations manager at an Amazon.com warehouse in MOREAdam Lashinsky, Sr. Editor at Large - May 7, 2012 5:00 AM ET
LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner argues that unemployment is worse than the numbers would lead you to believe -- and makes bold proposals on how to resolve the crisis.
By Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn
FORTUNE -- Tonight, President Obama is scheduled to unveil the government's latest plan to address the country's labor crisis. Unemployment is at 9.1%. However, that number only scratches the surface of the magnitude of the problem. There are over MORESep 8, 2011 8:34 AM ET
|Homeless college students seek shelter during breaks|
|GM names Mary Barra as new CEO|
|Snowden docs had NYTimes exec fearing for his life|
|Budget deal hits federal workers|
|Five things you didn't know about Bernie Madoff's epic scam|