More and more Drexel University Dragons are landing co-ops and post-graduation employment in big tech, and it’s no secret why: because they’re letting each other in on the secrets.
At least, that was the goal of the “You Got a Job WHERE?!” event on Feb. 12, when four current students and one alumna filled out a panel discussion and let dozens of fellow Dragons in on what to expect from applying to interviewing to arriving for your first day of work at companies like Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Google.
“The process to get these jobs is one often shrouded in mystery, and can leave students feeling like they wouldn’t have a shot,” said John Doherty, assistant director of cooperative education for the Steinbright Career Development Center, who moderated the event. “But Drexel’s students are highly employable and valued — and better prepared than much of their competition because of what they get to do on their co-ops and through the recruitment process to get their co-op jobs.”
The panel was comprised of: Riddhi Ameser, a fifth-year computer engineering student who co-oped at Microsoft and has accepted a full-time position upon graduation; Adam Bengis, a fourth-year computer engineering student who co-oped at Facebook; Josh Cohen, a fourth-year student majoring in computer and electrical engineering who co-oped at Amazon; Meghan Pierce, BS electrical engineering ’ 19, who is now a network engineer at Google; and Aidan Toole, a fifth-year custom design major who co-oped twice at Facebook.
- Making connections matters
Toole (Facebook): For my first co-op I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn connecting with university recruiters and professional designers at various companies. I want to say I spent an hour a day on LinkedIn just connecting with people and asking for advice and seeing what previous interns were doing and how they got to that position. Toward the end of my first co-op, I had a university recruiter respond to one of my connection requests. I went through the interview and by the end of my first co-op I had secured my second one at Facebook.
Bengis (Facebook): I applied online, but I got a little bit of help. I found out after applying that my babysitter when I was 7 years old worked there in marketing. I reached out to her for the second time in my life, and I said, “Hey, would you be willing to submit my résumé?” She did, that got the recruiter’s interest and she reached out to me for an interview.
- Pay attention to your LinkedIn
Toole (Facebook): I put a lot of experience on both my LinkedIn and my résumé [in real time] regarding my co-op experiences. My portfolio is on my LinkedIn profile as well. I was looking at LinkedIn profiles of previous interns and full-time employees, seeing how they were formatting it. … As far as getting a foot in the door and making a first impression, I will say that was mostly LinkedIn and my portfolio [as opposed to my resume] helped.
Pierce (Google): My LinkedIn wasn’t very up-to-date and my co-op advisor was always on me about that. But, when the recruiter did find me, she typed in key words like “network engineer,” “backbone” and “data center experience,” and that’s kind of how she found me on LinkedIn.
Toole (Facebook): To prepare for the interview, there’s a lot of literature online and in the media about the process. So, I was able to prepare significantly through reading those articles. I would also call up my design friends and do practice interviews.
Ameser (Microsoft): I know I read “Cracking the PM Interview” about three times before my interview. … There are a lot of resources out there — leverage that. There are so many things out there to help you prepare, and so many people out there to help you prepare, too. Take advantage of it, because no one walks into these interviews and expects to do great without preparation. It is literally 90 percent preparation, 10 percent luck of just having a great interviewer who’s in a good mood that day too. If you’re not prepared, they can see right through you.
- Be yourself
Ameser (Microsoft): My interview was at Steinbright upstairs on the second floor, and in the email it said, “Please don’t dress up, just come as you are.” I thought that was super strange. I still wore a blazer. I still looked kind of professional, but my recruiter was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. … He really wanted to know who was I as a person outside of being a student, being a computer engineer? … What makes me unique? What other things am I focusing on? What are the things that I can bring? What are my different perspectives? That’s what they’re really interested in.
Cohen (Amazon): Obviously, as a software engineer, they expect you to have some sort of skill in software, which is the first part of your interview. But the second part, the behavior part, your recruiter literally says to you, “OK, we know you have the coding skills. However, we want you to fit in with our culture.”… It really comes down to how you are as a person. I’d say that every person at Amazon, every employee, if you can’t talk, you can’t communicate your ideas, no matter how good you are at coding, no matter how good your hard skills are, soft skills are equally important if not more important, and being able to be a manager and be a leader, even if you’re at the bottom of the totem pole, is very important to them.
- Be confident
Ameser (Microsoft): When I went out there to Microsoft, I was in a room with 50 other candidates, and a lot of them were from Harvard and Stanford. A lot of my friends this summer were from those universities, too, but to come into a room where there are a whole bunch of Ivy League kids and people who have obviously been preparing just as much as you have, it’s intimidating. But knowing that you know your stuff and you’re good and Drexel prepared you through all your other co-ops and all your experiences, you have that confidence, too. So, prepare, do great, know that you have this in the bag and it doesn’t matter what school you’re from — you are just as qualified.
Toole (Facebook): There definitely is a culture of success within the company. Getting [the co-op] was very competitive, but internally they really stress that it’s not competitive at all, and they’re like, “We want you to know that we could hire all of you we would, it’s just about the cultural fit.” So, you know, that first summer. I was very nervous and I bumped into the director of my team. I was like, “Oh, I don’t really know what I’m doing,” and he just gave it to me straight. He was like, “We’re all here for you to succeed. There’s no secret agenda. If your manager says you’re doing good, then you’re doing a good job, and they’ll let you know if you’re doing otherwise. We’re here if you need us, so just let us know.” I thought that was really great.
- Be a sponge
Ameser (Microsoft): Right now, I’m just trying to be a sponge and trying to absorb as much as I can. I feel like, with every experience, you start coming up with the next step for yourself. I feel like everyone is just so young and we’re in such a rush to get to that next thing. I think that we also need to take a moment to just enjoy life and enjoy where we are. The biggest thing I think I took away from Microsoft is there are people that have been working there for 40, 50 years. Careers are so long. We all come in being like, “Oh my god, I want to be CEO one day,” or “Oh my god, I want to be in the C-suite or be a director or a manager.” But the steps that you take to get there, the direct impact they have really form you and shape you as a person. So, take every opportunity that you get to learn something new. If you fail, know that you’ve learned something and do better. You don’t have to be a person of power immediately. Take each step slowly. Learn. Just be a sponge is the biggest thing I think Microsoft taught me to be and I’m so excited to do that when I go back.
- Be present
Cohen (Amazon): You set goals in life, and most of the time you set them far above what you expect to get just so that you push to get there, and then you fall a little short. That’s at least how I do it. But this time, I actually got there. Amazon was my dream company that I always wanted to be at, and it was one of those things where I worked so hard, I pushed so hard, I finally got there, and the realization came to me when I was sitting there in this nice apartment that Amazon gets you when you move out to [Washington] D.C. or Seattle. I was like, “You know, I did it, but I’m still not happy.” And the reason why is because I realized that so much of my life, I kind of pushed and put classes first and put education first and put professional life first. But life isn’t just that. When I finally reached my goal and thought, “Wow, this is going to make me feel so much better, I made it!” it felt like that for like 10 seconds. Right after that I was like, “OK.” I realized there was other things in life than just that, like friends, hanging out, going out to eat, doing cool things in life, going and climbing mountains, stuff like that. So, that one moment really, really changed my life, and I started dedicating time to not just getting that 4.0. I kind of re-figured out what is important to me in life, and it took me getting to that point, getting a job at Amazon.
- Doubt your doubts
Bengis (Facebook): Facebook has all these three, four, five-word, witty things that they put up on posters all over the walls. One of them is to “doubt your doubts,” which at first sounds like some silly Pinterest post that has a weird sunset in the background, but it really was something I learned to do was, when you’re like, “Well, that will never work,” ask yourself, “Why won’t it work?” and “Why do you think that’s the case?” and “Can we change the things that are going to make it not work to make it work?” … It’s a great way of diffusing your own personal expectations of what’s going to happen, but also helps to diffuse bias in any form, whether it’s in tech or interpersonal.
- Do the work
Toole (Facebook): If you are interested in doing this sort of thing, don’t expect everything to fall in place just because you know someone. I had a couple of people, not necessarily at Drexel, reach out to me for a referral and I’ll refer them, but either the referral will expire or they won’t follow up. It’s like, if you really wanted this, you need to make time for it.
Pierce (Google): Google’s network is totally different than everyone else’s, so you come in here, and you have to learn everything from scratch. Everything I thought I knew, I did not know. I had to relearn everything.
- Trust in the Dragon
Cohen (Amazon): One thing that you’ll probably see from most big tech companies is once you pass the process, they have target schools. … Now that more and more Drexel students are coming through and they have good experience with Drexel students, Drexel is starting to be a target school for some of these big tech companies, which is awesome.