Written By Kate Ernst – iXperience '15 (Web Development), University of Michigan '17
“Wait, whoa, you were in South Africa this summer? That’s awesome!” – almost every person I shook hands with at the career fair.
I am now a Junior at the University of Michigan. I am not a brainiac, nor had I ever seen a line of code before the beginning of Sophomore Year. I am still learning, I still ask a lot of questions, and I still search relentlessly on stackoverflow to help me figure out how to write efficient code (because I promise you there is someone who can write a better algorithm than me). However, I landed a summer internship in software development, and I can credit most of that to my experience in Cape Town. Not only did I learn how to apply my coding skills in the real world, but I also learned a lot about myself: how to be confident and curious when I don’t always feel like a master.
This is what I realized about job recruiting after attending iXperience this summer:
1. People don’t like machines, people like people
Recruiters want to like you. Just as much as you are looking for a job, they are looking for cool, curious, savvy people to fill those jobs. You need to know what you’re doing, but you don’t have to be the best. Instead of freaking out when you hear the person in front you say, “I spent 23 hours studying cracking the coding interview yesterday”, put on a smile and go talk to someone about something you’re passionate about. iXperience taught me a lot about passion and creating things I am excited about. For example, I stumbled through algorithm questions during interviews, but my eyes lit up when I talked about my outside app project. Once I mentioned it, I was never asked another algorithm question.
2. Be Bold
iXperience taught me to jump outside of my comfort zone. I had never traveled alone outside of the United States, and when I got on the plane all I could think about was how Cape Town was a daunting 9000 miles away. However, this study abroad trip was the adventure of a lifetime. Even without the class or the internship, iXperience taught me how to be brave and bold. This helped me during career fairs because I wasn’t afraid to talk to anyone. What is there to lose?
3. Be curious and take coding into your own hands
I love math and problem solving, so naturally I really enjoyed my two introductory coding classes at my University. However, my knowledge of how to apply my skills in industry was limited, and it seemed far out of reach. The instruction I got during my time abroad opened up my eyes to the many different applications of coding, whether it’s developing web applications, designing websites, or using statistical software to analyze data. iXperience taught me how to learn on my own, which is an invaluable skill in the workplace. Our instructor’s motto in the classroom was: “if you can’t figure it out don’t ask me. Google it, then ask me”.
4. You ARE good at this
Not going to lie, learning to code is a little bit intimidating. Going to a job interview where you have to code on a whiteboard is terrifying. But find the thing that makes you stand out, be confident, study hard, and people will believe in you. iXperience taught me that no matter what level you’re on, you have the potential to do something awesome.
Although I can’t wait to be in Silicon Valley this summer, I can’t help but to wish I was going back to take another course in Cape Town.