Electrical Engineer as a Software Developer


I am currently studying Electrical Engineering and I recently did an interview for an internship with a software company. Before the interview, they gave me a coding challenge which I successfully finished.

When I started the interview, the interviewer seemed to be impressed of my coding ability and praised the way I tackled the problem. At this point, I felt confident that I was about to land the position. However, the interviewer proceeded to ask me questions specific to Computer Science which are related to the position (terminology, difference between thing A & B). Because I am an electrical engineer, I had no hope of answering these questions. I frantically googled and I did my best but I’m pretty sure I screwed up.

I studied what the interviewer was talking about after and I was eventually able to understand it. I am able to learn really quickly but when I’m asked about some terminology I haven’t learnt, I will probably not know the answer.

I feel pretty sad right now. This has probably happened to me on numerous occasions. I always feel like I’m at a disadvantage in both fields because I do a lot of software development, but I’m majoring in Electrical Engineering. However, I deeply enjoy Computer Science and Electrical Engineering equally. It’s amazing how much resource on Computer Science is available online today. That’s why I chose the less documented Electrical Engineering as my major.

I’m waiting on their reply right now. If you were them, would you accept me? It’s OK if you told the truth (pros & cons are highly welcomed). I just want to get opinions from more experienced people so I don’t obsess over it for weeks. This way, at least I will get an idea of what my reply will be.

Thank you.

You don’t have any control on their decision. If they don’t submit an offer, it could simply be because you’re not a good fit. In that case you don’t want to work for them anyway. No need to worry on things you don’t control.

Pretty much impossible to answer that question unless we see the video ;). I would say that attitude and character are very important. They want to see how you’ll react when challenged. Be honest. They don’t expect you to know everything by heart but they expect you to show that what’s on your resume is not bs ;).

I sympathize with your situation because I feel there are lots of concepts in CS that I understand but can’t explain accurately. I was asked once in an interview to name 3 design patterns. I managed to name only one because I froze. I felt pretty stupid.

In another interview, I had a hard time with the coding challenge. It was a pair programming session and I felt out of sync working with someone I just met. I didn’t get the job and there’s no point feeling bad about it because they didn’t tell me the exact reason.

I like your chances of landing a great job. Good luck.

I was an electrical engineering major in college and now I’m in a top-notch Computer Science PhD program. It’s definitely possible to have a stellar career in software engineering or CS in general after being an electrical engineer.

It might help to look at these interviews as ways to highlight what you don’t know so that you can study up in those areas to get better. Also it might help to tell people that you’re an electrical engineer so that they can set their expectations properly. Make the point that you are good at general programming and problem solving and specifics you might not know (terminology, details of the language or library) are things you can pick up easily once you’re on the job.

If you get an interview question you can’t answer or don’t know, the best thing to do is be honest. Say, “Since I’m an EE, I haven’t studied this, yet. I’m confident I can pick it up.”

Interviews are about finding a fit, not about merit. If someone is asking you technical CS questions, knowing that you’re an EE, you respond honestly, and they keep at it: do you really want to work there? What that tells me is at that company you will be bullied and considered subpar for your EE background. When, really, people should be impressed that you can answer programming questions well coming from a non-programming degree.