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Collegiates Who Code Pt. 1

Illustration of a student wearing a graduation cap, seated on a desk with a laptop

Behind every great company is a great product. And behind that product, is a dedicated team of developers. 

That’s why we’ve launched our latest series called, “Collegiates Who Code” which features interviews with aspiring innovators and engineering students. 

Some students were born to code, others pick it up after their degree—every journey is different. We hope that by sharing these stories we not only inspire future innovators, but also shed some light on what young developers are looking for in their next role.  

Collegiate: Luke Brouwer

Education: San Jose State University

1. When did you know you wanted to become a developer?

Luke: I first began programming in the summer of 2019. After getting my first taste of coding, I knew I wanted to become a developer.

2. Tell me about your journey to becoming a developer.

Luke: In 2019, I started my first year of school and learned Python. I practiced every day with the goal to apply to internships through HackerRank. However, I should have focused on fundamentals as this led me to have a weaker core structure.

Unfortunately, I had to work a full-time job to support myself, which hampered my ability to learn as I could not focus as much time on programming.

After a few months of practice on interview prep, I applied to 120+ internships and was rejected from each one.

This failure made me restructure my studying plans, focusing more on my fundamental knowledge before practicing the interview problems on HackerRank. 

Fast forward to Fall 2020, I attended two job fairs: HackerRank’s Virtual Career Fair and one through SJSU.

Thanks to the work of all involved in the career fairs, I connected with tons of employers got 20+ interviews. This journey led me to a confirmed offer as an SWE intern this summer at Walmart Labs!

3. Does your formal training through college courses or boot camps align with the hiring needs of the employers you've interacted with? Please share why.

Luke: Yes, I have found that my formal training aligns quite well with what is expected by employers. Many courses at my school integrate technologies desired by job recs for the employers I’ve interacted with. 

For example, last semester, I operated in a 6-person team creating a web-based banking application. We used full-stack technologies (js, HTML, CSS - front end, MySQL, PHP - backend, AWS EC2, beanstalk for database and website hosting). This experience was incredibly helpful as I used it as a strong talking point during all my interviews.4. What platforms do you find most useful when learning code?

At the beginning of my programming journey, I used free online programs such as freecodecamp, W3schools, etc. to develop my foundations. I also quickly jumped into interview problem preparation using HackerRank and took most of my online assessments for companies through HackerRank as well.

4. What do you want most out of a job?

Luke: My biggest aspiration is simply to learn and grow. Realistically, if I weren’t living alone and didn’t have to support myself, I would work for free if it guaranteed I would have incredible personal growth and learn how to be a proper developer.

5. What benefits do you expect from an employer beyond the regular benefits?

Luke: I desire to work in a strong team that will help me learn and grow to become the best developer I can be. Fostering a powerful learning environment is important to me and I expect this to be important to my employer as well.

6. What does the ideal interviewing process look like to you?

Luke: The ideal interview process to me starts with the first interview to determine if the candidate is both technologically capable and fits the company culture.

Then, strong candidates will move forward to a second round where they are tested on their problem-solving techniques and skills. Candidates are then given 24 hours to complete a take-home assignment. For example, one take-home I have experienced was creating a GitHub Issues page with pagination implemented, pulling from a given API. Then, candidates will explain their work process and any shortcomings.

Finally, candidates will experience the third round of interviews where they speak directly with an engineer for 45-60 minutes and cover their past projects, resume, work experience, and some tech questions.

This is an ideal process for me because I feel it gives the candidates a fair opportunity to showcase their technical capabilities in a multitude of environments. Additionally, I feel it is important for employers to give feedback (for both passing and failing candidates) wherever possible. Receiving a rejection from a company that offers no feedback is a painful process to go through.

7. What does a work-life balance mean to you?

Luke: A strong work-life balance means I don’t have to give my life up to work at a company. As someone who enjoys being active, I need time to myself to enjoy hiking and lifting during the week. I also want time to pursue my hobbies, relax, work on side projects, spend time with friends and family, etc.

A strong work-life balance is an environment where I work hard, learn, grow, and improve, while not hampering my ability to have my own time outside of the job.

8. What advice would you give someone just starting to code?

Luke: Without the fundamentals, you aren’t going to be able to solve the difficult problems you will encounter on HackerRank.

Additionally, if possible, focus your efforts on your school, boot camp, or whatever learning program you are using. If you don’t need to work simultaneously you will grow your knowledge much faster.

9. How did HackerRank's Virtual Career Fair help you prepare for a career?

Luke: HackerRank was a godsend for my career. 

I interacted with so many new friends through the recent virtual fair. I also met the recruiters for several awesome companies and talked directly with their representatives as well.

HackerRank’s career fair was great because it allowed me to send my resume to tons of companies, granting me access to all the opportunities I was looking for. I even got my foot in the door at Walmart Labs (my internship this summer) through HackerRank.

 I am so grateful for the experience and all those involved.

Are you ready to land your dream job? 

This year's Virtual Career Fair will be on September 13-14. Register today to start building your profile and earning skill certifications so you can stand out to recruiters!

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