Ms. Entry Level Software Developer tells you how she took the challenge of putting her academic learning to the test and went for a ‘big reach’ job. Read her story of how the second time was the charm, with the company that turned her down for an internship giving her a job.
ZD: Why technology?
A: I chose to go into technology as a Software Developer because I figured that I could always go “softer” later. Knowing myself, I felt that this would be my one chance to use the technical skills I had learned in college. I also felt like my programming skills were too theory/class project based and I was excited to practice and make them more real world useful. It felt like the biggest reach for me, based on the skills that I had and how comfortable I was with them. It also seemed like a good time to take a risk.
ZD: Tell us about the “process” - your résumé, the interview.
A: All of the tech companies that I interviewed with had pretty similar, predictable programming interview questions. Generally there was a screening interview on campus or on the phone; and then, if you made it past that, you were flown out for a full day of interviews.
I studied quite hard for my interviews and most of them fit the formula of relatively straightforward coding questions. The real trick was picking the correct data structure or algorithm to best suit the problem. It was a bit like 4th Grade word problems in Math – once you translated the problem, it was easy to solve. It’s just a question of figuring out how best to map it to efficient coding practices.
A few companies did ask some not-straight coding questions – e.g. how would you configure different types of machines in a datacenter. But still, the goal of all of these questions was to measure your ability to think clearly and logically on your feet.
ZD: How did you land your job?
A: I applied through my college’s campus recruiting website but also had one of my friends who had worked at the company as an intern the previous summer recommend me to the recruiter. I had applied for (and not gotten) an internship at the same company the previous summer, so I knew what to expect when it came to the interview process.
ZD: How would you describe your transition from college to career?
A: It shocks many people (including me), but my life at work is more laid back than my life was at college! As a developer there are no expectations around what time I get to work, what I wear to work, or even what I do on a day-to-day basis. It is up to me to ensure that I get my projects completed in time and to figure out how to use my time most efficiently. This has been somewhat harder than it sounds. I had never realized before just how goal oriented I am.
Being new at work was really challenging. I was basically presented with a giant code base and tasked with learning enough about certain areas to be the expert on them. It also took time to get used to the company-specific process around coding and checking, as well as the tools that everyone uses. All in all, it took me at least six months to become a useful team member.
ZD: What was the biggest surprise in your new job?
A: The mechanics of working for a huge company. The first “Company Meeting” was basically an all-day pep rally in a basketball stadium. With so many employees, very few of us are very special or close to company strategy decisions, so it is interesting to see other ways that they secure employee buy-in.
It’s also interesting for the first time in having peers who are of all different ages. I’ve actually come to enjoy having friends who are a wide group of ages, but at the beginning this was somewhat off-putting and definitely different than my peers were at any type of school I had been to.
ZD: Where you see yourself 5 years from now?
A: Probably not in a development role any more – unless it is working for myself on my own project. I am interested in going back to school and working in a field where I can use analytics/programming to make things more efficient. I am about to take a class on Sustainable Transportation Systems which I hope will introduce me to a new and interesting field.
ZD: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I enjoy staying active – I play lots of volleyball and Frisbee out here and get to ski and hike quite often. I also like reading and cooking.
ZD: Your résumé.
ZD: What do you think shines in your résumé?
A: I think my continued involvement in one thing over time in a variety of roles shows my commitment and passion. I have lots of different experiences involving the outdoors – first as a student and then as a leader. I like to think that this demonstrates my passion and determination when I find something that matter to me.
ZD: Two Tips (Do's and Don'ts)?
A: Do: Play to your strengths. It took me a while to not feel bad about boasting, or using whatever advantage I had in an interview. The reality of it is though that you do want the job, and an interview is your chance to prove it (and also prove that you should get it). Also, it’s likely that if you are even worrying about this, you aren't coming on too strong.
Don’t: Be too nervous in your interviews. I know that this was frustrating for me. I could get nervous and flustered and psyche myself out early on.