Eric Bernier graduated from URI in 2006 with a B.S. degree in computer science. Currently, he is a programmer/developer at Applied Science Associates in South Kingstown, Rhode Island.
FMC: Your first position after receiving your B.S. degree from URI was as a software engineer with Fidelity Investments in Massachusetts. How did you get this position, and what did you do?
EB: While at URI, I was an intern for the URI Web Development Group. Upon graduation in May of 2006, I had decided I wanted to continue working a few hours a week for the URI WDG while applying for full-time positions, mostly in southern New England. After taking a celebratory vacation, I begin peddling my resume out via the usual websites, such as monster.com, careerbuilder.com, etc. I eventually landed numerous interviews, mostly in the Boston area. After turning down a couple of offers, I interviewed at Fidelity and received an offer for a position that I couldn’t refuse. While at Fidelity, I mostly developed .NET and J2EE Web Services that were consumed not just by their own customers, but also by third-party clients that Fidelity did business with. It was interesting to see that an “investment” company also offered technological products and services to other companies. As I stated before, I turned down a couple of offers before finally accepting the position at Fidelity. Once you graduate, you might feel a desperate need to take the first offer that comes your way, but I highly recommend taking your time, waiting for a position that you will truly be happy with, before wasting away a year or so of your life at a job you cannot bear driving to every morning.
FMC: You stayed with Fidelity for about a year and a half. Why did you leave, and how did you get your next position?
EB: Fidelity is located in Marlborough, Massachusetts. I was living in East Providence, RI at the time, and had no intentions of moving up north. I dealt with the seventy-five minute commute for around 18 months until Raytheon, located in Portsmouth, RI, offered me a position with a significant pay raise, shorter commute, and even better benefits. Hence, in short, leaving Fidelity for Raytheon at the time required no thought. One piece of advice I can recommend to anyone starting a fresh career is to always keep your ears open for new opportunities. You might love the company you work for now, but in my opinion, keeping an open-mind is an integral component in growing your career to its full capacity. Otherwise, you may unknowingly shut the door to your “dream job”. Love what you do, be loyal to who you work for, but at the end of the day realize the one person who cares about your success the most is you.
FMC: What did you at Raytheon?
EB: The work I did at Raytheon was quite different than the type of work I was accustomed to from my experience at Fidelity. Instead of developing in C#, Java, and PL/SQL, I was now mostly dealing with C++, shell scripting, some Java, and a splash of PERL scripting. I was on the Total Ship Computing Environment Infrastructure (TSCEI) project, part of the USS Zumwalt Navy battleship program. Without going into details that I cannot disclose, I mostly developed navigational data, as well as time services for the ship’s infrastructure software. Due to the fact that Raytheon was mostly government work, everything seemed to move at a much slower pace than I was accustomed to at Fidelity.
FMC: Recently, you began work at Applied Science Associates. How and why did you make the move to ASA?
EB: I was affected by a mass layoff at Raytheon in early November of 2010. My project had little work left, and conducting a Google search today on Government spending in regards to defense contracts will show you that the US Government is counting every penny they spend in 2011. Luckily, I had seen “the writing on the wall” at my former job and had been actively looking for a few weeks prior to the actual date of layoffs. I lined up an interview at ASA the day after I was let go from Raytheon and was hired the same day. To not sound too cliché, it turns out this is one of the best things to ever happen for my career. I say this because I had worked for large corporations my entire career, where at times you merely feel like another cog in the wheel and also where company protocol tends to stifle all types of creativity. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my tenure at both Fidelity and Raytheon, but right now I am much happier working for a smaller company, such as ASA, than a larger one.
Also I must give credit where credit is due. Kyle Wilcox, a fellow classmate of mine at URI who has worked for ASA over the past two years or so, was partially responsible for helping me land an interview with ASA. My advice here would be to always make friends with your fellow classmates. You never know when one can provide a helping hand when you need it most.
FMC: Tell us about your present position, and what your company does.
EB: Well, I can't speak on everything ASA does, as I am still fairly new there. Currently, I am a mid-level developer of services that provide our clients, such as the US Coast Guard, with Geographical Informational Data. These services are mostly implemented in C#, with a few Java services also thrown in there. I must say I really enjoy what I am doing, as ASA has pretty much given me free-reign in solving any problems that I must solve. This leads to less “hand-holding,” which junior developers may experience their first year or so out of college, more coding, more problem-solving, and just more fun overall.
FMC: Did your college education adequately prepare you for your first and current positions?
EB: My college education most certainly did prepare me for my first position with Fidelity Investments. That being said, be ready to learn a vast amount of new material in much less time in your first year or so out of college and in the working world. I am sure if you ask any college graduate after their first year or so of professional work experience, they will usually say that they learned as much in their first year or so of work as they did in their four years of college. However, I am sure that they will also agree that without their college education, they would not have been able to cut it at their first job.
FMC: How hard do you work? Does your career leave you with enough time to enjoy life?
EB: When at work, I work very hard on my tasks. If something is assigned to me, I make sure it is done in an efficient manner and always on time. I am willing to go above and beyond the typical “9-5” schedule if and when needed, and expect no extra form of compensation in return. That being said, I also have no problem leaving “work at work” and calling it a day when I see fit. All of us must balance our work schedules with the many other facets of life. Otherwise, you will just burn yourself out over the long run, and when burnt out you are as good as useless to your place of employment.
FMC: Can you give some advice to our current students?
EB: Work is a lot easier when you are doing something that you truly love. Sure, there will always be days when you go in in the morning and it is the last place you really want to be. We all have days like that. However, make sure those days are few and far between by landing a job that you thoroughly enjoy.
Also, try to learn as much as you can from your more intelligent co-workers. When starting a new job there will always be someone on your team who has more experience, more knowledge, and is just better at what he or she does than you. Make the most of this situation and learn all that you can from these teammates.
Lastly, keep yourself sharp and informed. Whether you read technical articles or just tinker with “home-brewed” projects in your free time (you don't even have to finish them, just start a new project to stimulate your brain if you must) it is always better to have a real interest in what you do other than the pay check.