Computing Science Alumni Give Helpful Advice to Current Students

A student's job destination should also depend on their individual passion, desire, and additional effort put into securing the job. Students who are able to demonstrate their willingness to go the extra mile have a higher probability of landing their dream job.

These were only some of the many helpful pieces of advice provided by three Women in Computing Science (WICS) alumni during an information session entitled "Interning in a Large Company: 3 Women's Experiences." Angelica Lim, Kate Tsoukalas and Kerry Corrigall were able to attain positions in prestigious companies due to their drive in pursuing the job, along with their talent in Computing Science.

These three individuals agreed to share their experiences and the lessons they learned from working at such internationally-recognized organizations with other students that are looking to pursue similar opportunities.  

"First you have to get seen somehow" advised Lim, who was able to land a job at Google in Santa Monica, California. "Google looks for a certain personality; they like people that are quirky. Secondly, you have to have an excellent cover letter [that helps] you stand out again. Third, you have to work really hard towards your technical interviewing skills. Those three things got me through the door."

All three women found that working with very knowledgeable and helpful co-workers within these large companies helped nurture their development as computer scientists. Tsoukalas was overjoyed with the support and veteran advice she received from her fellow workers. She was able "to work with people who have PhDs and work in industry, which is something that [she] wants to do," during her internship at SAP BusinessObjects.

SAP BusinessObjects is a renowned provider of business software at a global level. Tsoukalas had the opportunity to work at their Vancouver office.  "I was able to contribute to a large scale project, where there were many, many developers working on it," said Tsoukalas. "I also learned several new languages from scratch and improved my ability to present in a style where the content was relevant and realistic."

Microsoft is another well-renowned corporation that employs many skilled employees.  From her experience with working at Microsoft, Corrigall learned that "Microsoft is basically the biggest tech company in terms of impact on user software. If you don't have passion, drive, intelligence and determination, you're pretty much a cog in the Microsoft wheel. If you have those things, however, you can go anywhere within the organization."

The women also discussed what their interview processes entailed and how to prepare for an interview with a highly established company. According to the former WICS presidents, the interview processes consisted of general and technical questions that tested their knowledge on computer science and their ability to solve puzzles. "The technical questions consisted of algorithm and coding questions," stated the experienced Lim.

Once they succeeded during the interview process and establish themselves within the company, they gained valuable experience through their job positions. These ladies were able to learn new programming languages, balance multiple tasks, and complete projects while being faced with "real-world" problems and restraints. "The biggest thing for me was that I got to work on a project that I was really interested in and motivated to work on, because it was something that got applied to a real world application," said Tsoukalas. "This was really great because I know that people will be using something I made."

Although working for large and globally recognized companies requires dedication and hard work, these women also had a lot of fun while on the job. Lim fondly recalls the benefits she received from her company, "Google takes very good care of their employees. We get free breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and lots of ways to de-stress like massages." Other advantages of working at large companies were events such as baseball games, video game tournaments, and even concerts.

In order to land a job at a large company, students must explore every avenue possible. I think the most important thing is talking to people," advised Corrigall. "For example, I host a poker night at my house and a lot of the people that come are software developers. Now that I'm coming close to graduation, it has come in really handy to know a bunch of people because when their companies are hiring, they think of me first."

The success of these three students is clear evidence that these strategies paid off.  One can only presume that the future holds many more opportunities for them in the field of Computing Science, especially now that they have experience working within a large company.

-    Written by Kamil Karamali.