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Career Advice: Jim Steinberger, Senior Software Engineer

DonorsChoose.org staff member, Jim, would like to shed some insight on the world of non-profits. Hailing from southeast Michigan, Jim is equipped with a B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and strives to make software development more efficient, enjoyable, and cost-effective for everyone involved. Here is his advice!
Q: What does your position at DonorsChoose.org entail?
A: Stretched puns, desperate one-liners, and some software engineering.  Generally speaking, I help architect and implement new features for the website, as well as make our existing features more efficient and easier to extend.  I’m also a left-fielder on the DonorsChoose.org kickball team.
Q: What are the advantages of working for a non-profit organization?
A: Obviously, there’s the mission of the organization.  Having larger, noble goals usually puts daily frustrations into a productive perspective.
Perhaps less obvious, however, is what this means about your non-profit coworkers.  At a non-profit (though, mind you, I’ve only worked at this one), that mission tends to be everyone’s source of motivation, enthusiasm, and satisfaction.  This fosters an environment of support, kindness, and seven other flavors of Warm Fuzzy, as opposed to the cut-throat competition one might encounter at a law firm, financial institution, or department store cosmetics counter.
Q: What is your advice for college grads entering the workforce (and specifically for those who want to work at places like DonorsChoose.org)?
A: Treat the job search like dating.  You don’t succeed at dating if you pretend you’re someone that you’re not.  Nor does it work out to date people because they meet a standard that’s not your own.  Your friends might ooh-and-ahh at your partner’s perfectly-symmetrical face, and your parents might ooh-and-ahh at your partner’s perfectly-symmetrical yacht.  But then you accidentally spill cereal milk on the deck of that yacht (which stopped being novel the fourth time you got motion-sickness), and now that symmetrical face is raging at you about the mess — is it worth it?
A non-profit might not give you as many shinies, or buy you lunch every day.  But chances are, if you spill some milk, the non-profit is going to get down and clean it up with you; you’re in it together, and nothing is just for show.
So, think hard on what you expect from your career, and what you want your company/organization to expect from you.  And then, make your cover letter a love letter, and your interview a first date.  Show them that you care about the same things.  And smell nice.
Q: Looking back, what is ONE thing you wish you knew when you were starting your career?
A: Don’t be afraid to pretend you’re not afraid.  Leave your hometown, your college town, your family, your friends, even your 20 year old E.T. doll, if you have to.  For the decade after you graduate, everything and everyone you know is going to be bouncing here and there and everywhere, like Gummi Bears but without the realism.  I had settled in my college town for my friends, and then they left and I felt stuck.  Let finding your satisfying career drive your decisions for awhile.  It’ll be uncomfortable, error-prone, and a little messy.  But so is using a public restroom, which you probably already do when you have to, and this is just as important.
Want to work with Jim? Check out our open job opportunities!

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