New Grad Steps on Path to Career as Software Developer
How Lander College for Men Alum Ezra Koppel Achieved His Goal Despite Graduating During Pandemic
Ezra Koppel earned his degree in computer science last May and knew it wouldn’t be easy to enter his chosen field when so much of the economy was stalled due to the global pandemic. With persistence, a positive attitude and help from the Lander College for Men (LCM) Career Services staff and alumni network, he landed a job as a software developer at Northwell Health. Here, he reflects on his new role, skills for success in his field and advice he has for new grads.
Congrats on your new job at Northwell Health! Can you tell us a bit about your position?
Thank you! I will be working in the informatics department, which processes all laboratory data coming in from the Northwell Health laboratories. Millions of tests each day get put into the system, and the team I am joining will manage that data and make it more meaningful for those to whom it is supplied.
Can you share what skills are needed to become a successful software developer?
I believe the key skills for anyone looking to be a successful software developer are persistence and resourcefulness; most of a developer's time is spent finding bugs and scouring for the proper solution or hint to fix a given problem. It is rare that one has to come up with a novel solution alone.
How did LCM help prepare you for your career and current role?
LCM was the only place I learned about programming. In that college building (and a little bit over Zoom), I learned how to query data, write functions and pick up new programming languages quickly. In my role, there will be technologies used that I am not familiar with, but adapting won't be a problem due to the solid background I have.
You graduated right in the middle of the pandemic. Was it more challenging to network and job search? How did you overcome this?
The worst of the devastation the pandemic brought was certainly the lives we lost, but the economic struggles many have had to face is a close second. I experienced first-hand what many others have too, in terms of the job market. Back in March, I completed a third and final interview with a fairly large company for which I was excited to work. Though I was told I could expect to receive an offer soon, the company decided that week they would not be hiring new employees and my application was discarded along with thousands of others. Searching for jobs after that point was futile, and it was difficult to maintain the motivation to continue. Many companies couldn't afford to take on a recent graduate, because training was too costly and a new alum doesn't have the guaranteed knowledge and experience of someone seasoned in the field. Overcoming this challenge was a milestone for me, as it involved many uncomfortable emails and phone calls that I would have never otherwise made.
I was quite fortunate that early on in the Spring semester last year, several Lander College alumni working in computer science came to speak to us about where they work and what skills they recommend we develop in order to be prepared for the workplace. One such alumnus was Mr. Yehuda Jacobs, who shared excellent insights. This past October, the Lander College’s Career Services director, who had organized the alumni forum, posted an internship opportunity at Northwell Health under none other than Mr. Jacobs. After reaching out to Mr. Jacobs, with the help of Mrs. Smolen's connection, I landed an interview at Northwell, and the rest followed from there.
Any advice you can offer to new grads entering the job market?
Keep your chin up. Most applications are disregarded, but don't let that discourage you. Apply to every company you can think of, and more importantly, connect with the talent acquisition team members on LinkedIn to make your profile stand out. You never know who will take interest in your skills, what you have to offer and pass your name up the ladder to the person in a position to hire. Don’t forget to reach out to the Career Services department, that was a move that certainly helped me get my start!