Get Hired in Engineering

The week of May 9 through 13, 2022, was significant for women in tech. LadyBird Talent hosted the first-ever (and hopefully the first of many) Hire Women Week. Each day was full of keynotes, panel discussions, and interactive Q&A sessions regarding women working in tech fields and recruiting and networking opportunities. It was a week of unprecedented sisterhood. 

Why was Hire Women Week so important? For several significant reasons,

  • 2 million women have left the workforce since Feb 2020;
  • 1 in 3 women are considering leaving the workforce or changing jobs;
  • Women make up only 24% of C-Suite positions;
  • Women earn between $0.54 to $0.87 to a white man’s dollar. 

Did you miss out on the inaugural Rally Cry for Women in Tech?  Not to worry!  We’ll be keeping the momentum from Hire Women Week by highlighting some of the insightful sessions and hosting videos of each session on our website. 

How to Get Hired in Engineering Panel Discussion

Are you looking for a position as a junior or new engineer? The discussion was a huge source of valuable tips and tricks women from nontraditional backgrounds can use when searching and interviewing for an engineering position at tech companies.

The Panel

The panel of engineering leaders was moderated by Doa Jafri, fractional CTO for Super and Operator in Residence for Reforge. She has also worked at Glossier and has extensive experience interviewing and hiring engineers and developers. The panel also included Jear Jujaroen, who works at Chief as a mobile developer, and Sarah Goldgart, a senior software engineer at Disney Streaming All three of our panelists come from nontraditional environments where they started as self-taught coders and jumped into more extensive coding through bootcamp learning. They are uniquely positioned to provide advice to new or junior engineers from nontraditional backgrounds. So, let’s get into it!

Question 1: How can I land my first job?

How can a newbie land her first job as a junior engineer? Jear told the story about how she got her first job. She had applied for the job on AngelList. It was for a very small startup. The founder called her to come in for an interview. The founder asked her to start immediately as a contractor. She had no idea about their tech stack, but she jumped in and learned quickly. So what is Jear’s takeaway? 

"Be prepared for every interview and believe in yourself."

Jear also mentioned that there are usually job counselors at bootcamps who can help you find an employer. Which leads right into Sarah’s experience. 

Sarah’s first job came from a showcase night during her bootcamp. Her employer had attended the event and very informally offered her a job on a contract basis. Sarah’s second job was through a recruiter who helped her find employment in a new city. They set up a day of interviews with different employers and helped her make the final decision. Both routes are great ways to get started – there are many options when it comes to getting hired in tech! 

Also, take advantage of networking groups like LadyBird Talent or groups on Discord and LinkedIn, or events like Hire Women Week. Hire Women Week had 200 open positions available throughout the week with connections happening directly between candidates and hiring managers! The panelists also recommend Women Who Code, the Open Source, and ChickTech.

"Always use networking to ask for help. If there is a company you are interested in, research the company on LinkedIn, find a person who works there, and reach out to them. Look for first connections who might be able to introduce you to second connections working at that company. That person may receive a bonus for recommending you, so they might be willing even if they don't know you well. It is always better to apply for a job through someone who works there. If you apply for a job online "cold," it’s higher probability that your application may be overlooked."

Question 2: What resume advice do you have for new engineers?

So what do employers look for when reviewing a resume? Doa starts by outlining  that when she hires someone for a junior position, she focuses more on their soft skills than their hard skills. 

"She can train someone in coding, but if the employee is not willing to collaborate, learn new skills, take feedback and criticism constructively, or be curious about the things they don't know, they will not fit into her team, nor will they be successful."

To test this theory in an interview, she will intentionally ask a question the applicant would probably not know the answer to, to see how they respond. She feels that it’s ok not to know everything. It’s better to want to learn.

Jear adds that she looks for how interested her applicants are in the company. What do they know, and what are their questions? She wants the applicant to be the right culture fit. This is especially important when hiring for startups. 

"Remember that you are also interviewing the organization to make sure it’s right for you as an employee & contributor."

Asking questions is never a sign of weakness, even if it is technical. All three agreed they are looking for team players.

In terms of hard skills, the panel said that they consider end-user experience on a resume. For example, if an applicant works in a field (say hospitality)that would use the product (a POS system) they will work on, that can be valuable experience.

Question 3: Any advice for those who have not attended a bootcamp?

"A portfolio is essential"

But what if you don’t have sufficient project work to build a porfolio? The panel suggests entering competitions, participating in hackathons, contributing to open source projects, and being active on GitHub. Doa told a story about a colleague who created a simple but funny game that involved a reference to Kanye West. The game went viral, and the developer got a lot of attention. She suggests creating something like that and promoting it on Reddit or Product Hunt with your contact information. She also mentioned applying for a Webby Award. All of these projects and contributions can be added to your portfolio. 

Sarah reiterates that open source projects are a great way to build your portfolio and allow you to meet employees in companies you may want to work for. Once you provide some work for the project, you can reach out to those folks to discuss the project and possible future employment.

Question 4: What are some tips on preparing for an interview?

Jear stressed that it is crucial to do your research before an interview. Find out everything you can about the company and the person interviewing you. Use LinkedIn and the company website as your sources. Learn about the products the company makes and think about the development or engineering issues they may be experiencing. For example, could they be having scalability issues or thinking about what’s next? Then, put yourself on that team and ask yourself what problems you can solve for them?

Sarah mentioned that:

"It is ok to be nervous. Interviews will never get easier. Try to channel that nervousness into curiosity and passion."

Also, remember that you are evaluating the company just as much as they are evaluating you. You want to make sure you find an employer that is a good culture fit. 

Doa then pivoted the conversation to interviewing for a larger tech company like Google. These interviews are more of a test. She recommends the book Cracking the Coding Interview and the websites  and Leet Code to help you prepare. The companies will also provide a portal to help you review relevant materials. Jear recommends finding a website that matches applicants to other applicants to practice live coding. Sarah mentioned that the timeline to prep for these interviews is at least six months, so plan accordingly. 

Jear pointed out that more companies are moving away from algorithm-based technical interviews, focusing more on live coding. Those algorithm skills are biased towards people with computer science education, limiting the hiring pool. She’s also found that a junior engineer does not necessarily need these skills at the beginning of their career. She recommends focusing on problem-solving skills and how day-to-day coding would help an employer. 

Question 5: What advice would you give career pivoters with just bootcamp experience?

Doa said to not worry about job descriptions asking for 0 to 2 years of experience. That doesn’t apply in most cases. The panel encourages you to go for it.

"Women don't always apply for jobs if they don't meet 100% of the job description criteria, while men often apply when they only meet 60%. If you think you can do the job, apply for it and see."

Question 6: Did you have a steeper learning curve than colleagues with a more traditional background?

Doa replied that she thought the learning curve was timed differently, not necessarily steeper. She feels that computer science degreed engineers come to their first jobs with a theoretical understanding of computer science and the ability to solve huge systematic problems but do not have practical coding skills. This can make their learning curve very steep at first, depending on the size of the company or assigned project. However, bootcampers who know how to code may be able to jump right in on smaller product projects for hands-on startups but will experience a steeper learning curve when they get to the middle of their career when they have to solve more significant problems. Regardless, she recommends leaning into your learning curve and finding the resources to overcome it. She jokes that all engineers are just master Googlers. They do the research and figure it out.

Question 7: Are there programs to help me find a mentor, or does it depend on the employer?

All agree that having a mentor is important for newbie engineers. Sarah said there are official mentorship programs in certain companies where junior engineers are paired with a mentor. If that is important to you, ask those questions during your interviews. She also said that a pairing might happen naturally if you find a company that values mentorship. Jear agreed and said that if there is no official program, reach out and ask someone to be your mentor. She also stressed that as you grow, do the same for others. Be a mentor or pair someone up who needs one. If you are looking outside your employer, check Twitter, LinkedIn, or Discord for connections or communities like Alpha and Chief.  Doa noted that:

"Having a mentor outside your employer may get you more honest feedback and advice."

Lightning Round of Last Thoughts

  • Is Googling a skill set? Unequivocally YES
  • Schedule interviews with companies you are not excited about first to get in interviewing practice
  • Practice, Practice, Practice! Don’t get discouraged when applying and interviewing – keep at it! 

We’ve gotten great feedback from this panel, and hope learned a ton of useful tips to help you find the perfect job. 

If you haven’t joined the Lady Bird Talent Discord, check it out! There might be a mentorship opportunity, job postings, community engagements, and more! 

And for even more content from Hire Women Week, networking recommendations, and job opportunities, subscribe to our newsletter and keep an eye on our blog and resources!

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