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Interview with iX Alum, Yeon Kim – Notre Dame 2021, iX Data Science 2019
Landing an internship at a big tech company is no small challenge. That's something that iX alumn, Yeon Kim, knows all about. He's just got into Amazon, where he'll be interning as a software engineer this summer. Read on for his tips on the behavioral and coding interviews, experience, how to handle rejection, and and set yourself apart from the rest.
1. Tell us about your new role! What will it involve you doing?
I will be a software engineering intern at Amazon for the summer of 2020. They have not told me any specifics besides the fact that I will be placed randomly on a team to work on a project. I just know that I will be designing, building, and developing new services. I find the fact that I don’t know what will be coming my way is exciting!
2. You've honed in on software engineering as a career path (for now). Why did you choose this path? What are you studying at Notre Dame that supports this?
I am currently studying Computer Science at Notre Dame. Unfortunately, that doesn’t say much at all. The field of Computer Science is so vast— data science, artificial intelligence, software engineering, cybersecurity, visual effects, etc.—and I found the process of choosing one aspect challenging and stressful at times. My secret was to tell myself that I did not necessarily need to commit, yet. For example, if you choose to focus on one branch of Computer Science, such as data science, and turns out in the future that you do not like fiddling with big data, understand that you have not wasted your time. Instead, know that you have learned data manipulation is not your cup of tea and you have also gained experience that broadens your scope and perspective for future endeavors.
I still am not completely sure whether software engineering is for me, but I do genuinely enjoy coding, developing and designing projects, and solving tricky problems in multiple ways. This upcoming summer will further help me figure out my path.
Yeon on Lions Head, iX Cape Town 2019
3. How did you land the internship? What did you do to prepare for it?
In order to prepare for behavioral interviews, it was helpful to research commonly asked questions and prepare well formed answers beforehand. Interviewers try to assess whether you would be fit to collaborate with people in that company and many questions ask about various situations that may arise in group project settings.
It is very helpful to create a complete summary of past group projects and their key details. For instance, I created a table listing my projects and for each project, I briefly summarized the challenges, mistakes/failures, what I enjoyed, how the leadership was managed, conflicts, and what I would have done differently.
Past interviews that also did not go too well helped me realize what I should focus on for future interviews. It is almost never the case that the first interview will land you a job. Every interview, however, is a great learning experience for future interviews. Always make sure to take notes after the interviews to help you remember the things you should focus on.
For software engineering positions, coding interviews are crucial. Trying to solve a coding problem under the scrutiny of a stranger and with time constraints can be extremely difficult. I found the best way to prepare for these interviews was first to consult the book, Cracking the Coding Challenge. It is a genuinely helpful book that provides guidelines to the many possible questions that the interviewer may throw at you. Taking the course “Programming Challenges” at Notre Dame required me to solve various coding challenges every week and helped me prepare for the coding interviews as well. An equivalent to taking the course would be to review and exercise the various coding concepts and implementations on online coding challenges such as hackerrank.com. And again, failed coding interviews helped me realize the concepts that I should focus on in the future.
One important lesson I learned early on in the recruiting process is to not take rejections personally. I learned to accept that rejections sometimes happen simply because of timing and luck There is no need to beat yourself up over rejections. It is a stressful time and after every rejection, simply focus on how you can be an even better candidate for the next application. Another important thing to realize is to not compare yourself with other students. Just because someone receives an internship offer from a tech giant does not necessarily mean that person is “better”.
5. What can you do to make yourself a stand-out candidate?
I think one of the more attractive points in a resume to recruiters are side projects or internships. They do not have to be complete but should definitely reflect some passions and interests that you may have. Hackathon experience is always great, whether you win or not.
I believe that jobs at your university that are relevant to your passions help you stand out as well. I personally worked as a computer consultant in the Office of Information Technologies at Notre Dame and also as a teaching assistant to a class called Fundamentals of Computing.
Any experience that displays that you have some kind of passion will help you attract recruiters.
Yeon at his iXperience internship
6. How did your course and internship at iX impact your path if at all?
The most important lesson I learned at iXperience is to survive in uncomfortable environments. It really helped me decrease my fear of new experiences and naturally, it opened up more experiences. I became less afraid to reach out to various people (recruiters, professors, other students with similar interests, etc.), which consequently opened up more opportunities.