We hope you’ve enjoyed our three part series on Sam Gould, former Priest, squash pro, Thinkful student, and current Twitter software engineer. In our final installment, Sam shares his interview process and what life is like now that he’s working in his new field.
Tell us how you landed an interview with Twitter.
I had lunch with a buddy I'd gone to college with who was a product manager at Twitter. As I was telling him about my Thinkful experience, he suggested that I apply there.
I ended up applying for to be an engineer on the video consumer team. The day I had my final interview, a person they'd offered the job to actually accepted. So when I interviewed, there wasn't a role for me anymore. Fortunately, one of the people interviewing me was on the content publisher team. He was so impressed with the interview that he went back to his manager and said: look, if they end up having to pass on him, we should consider hiring. It took far longer than I would have hoped, but it worked out. The process took about eight weeks.
How did Thinkful help with your Twitter interviews?
I appreciated that we started working with career services before we were done with the program. A month prior to graduation, I was working on my portfolio, making improvements, and getting direct support from Thinkful. In the final stretch, to prepare for a full day of in-person interviews with coding challenges, Thinkful connected me with a mentor who was an interview specialist. He sent me challenges to work on and I could ask questions. That really helped frame the way I should approach problems and gave me the right mindset on how to talk through data structures and algorithms.
What type of onboarding experience does Twitter have?
How’s your development experience grown since working as a software engineer at Twitter for over a year?
I was hired because I could immediately come in and be a valuable contribution to the team's front end, which is built in React. They were really excited about me working on the front end code base and they assured me that it was going to be a continual learning process for writing in Scala and working on their back end code.
There's so many things for me to learn. Year over year, I still feel like I have all this information that I need to attain, but I can appreciate how much expertise I have developed since working with Twitter and driving initiatives for the team.
Initially, it was really intimidating thinking about all the things that makes a multibillion dollar company run. Then I thought, it's a web application built on a React framework with or Raft library with arrest API. I figured Twitter’s systems were implemented with the same model of an application that I worked on during my Engineering Immersion course at Thinkful. I was able to bridge that gap and understand how it all fit together, and it's been great. I'm a much better engineer than I was when I left Thinkful, but that's because every day I come into work, I learn more.
What are your tips for someone on the job search?
Stay focused on structuring your day. I said to myself: alright, I'm going to spend two hours every day working in Code Wars, just learning tricks and practicing coding challenges, and four hours a day building new projects.. Staying active, writing code, and continuing that learning process is key. Don’t just stop once the five months are up and try to pick it back up when you land a job, that would be really hard. By building things you're excited about, it helps to give you things to talk about in interviews and helps to keep the brain sharp. Also, I suggest proactively reaching out to friends, friends of friends, and trying to get referrals into companies.
Job searching is stressful and you have to acknowledge that. It's a really hard process and a tough job for you to get into an engineering career. I firmly believe going into my second job will be far easier because I’ll have a resume to stand on. It’s all about getting that first person to take a chance.
Compare your quality of life now that you're an engineer working at Twitter to your previous careers.
I'm far better compensated for the work that I do now. My schedule ismore routine, and I love what I get to do. I love that every day I'm learning and growing.
The tech industry is great for anyone who is excited about that continual journey of learning and growing. What makes my colleagues great is that they all share that passion to keep becoming better engineers. I know there's always more that I could learn, so the growth mindset hasn’t changed.
What does being a part of the world's next workforce mean to you?
It has opened up a world of possibility. The exciting thing about working in tech is that the skills you're learning, you can take and apply to anything. Tech enabled solutions are being thought of every day to change the way people live and work. By learning tech skills from Thinkful, you’re getting in position to react to those changing needs.
One opportunity I've been able to take advantage of through working at Twitter was getting connected with the program, The Last Mile. They teach software engineering skills to inmates at San Quentin State penitentiary. I've been able to go to the prison and work with some of the inmates there. Having a solid tech foundation enables you to have access to so much more. The democratization of this learning is really exciting. It is becoming less about ‘okay, where did you get your computer science degree’ and more about ‘what can you build, what can you do?’ My hope is to continue to grow in the industry, have a position to empower others to get opportunities, and support those from nontraditional backgrounds.
Read more on Sam:
Art by Jay Quercia.
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