Ai Santos


My Journey In Tech — Interviewing On The Job

My blogs chronicle my experience as a technologist making my way into Silicon Valley. I am a queer person of color, gender non-conforming, immigrant, and ex-foster youth. I come from a non-traditional coding background. I studied a few CS courses in college and ended up majoring in the humanities before becoming a teacher. Teaching web development to under served teens turned me on to coding. After finishing coding school, I began working at start ups in San Francisco. Half of my blogs will be about technical subjects and the other half will be about equality, and tech access (my journey).

For the past two and a half years, I’ve been on the hustle. Switching careers is NOT an easy task. Sometimes it feels like I am battling the currents.

In Silicon Valley, doing the job and getting the job are two completely separate things.

I remember my very first tech interview, I drove forty-five minutes to the South Bay — Mountain View, the heart of Silicon Valley. After battling traffic on 880, I arrived at a popular ed tech start-up. I signed some non-disclosure agreements and in a few minutes I was greeted by a casually dressed Asian man. He was a high level engineering manager. He asked me questions about my bootcamp experience and my opinion on how to increase student motivation through gamification. He showed me in to a conference room as we continued to have an informal conversation. Later I realized, this was the first part of my tech interview. For the next 3 hours, I went through the rigors of a typical interview at a big tech company, sometimes called “The Gauntlet.” It was like nothing I had ever experienced. Definitely intimidating. From that moment on, I knew that the tech interview process was something I would need support, training and tons of practice in order to overcome.

From that experience, I also learned that the classic tech interview did not bring out my strengths. But I knew then as I know now that I have the skills, tenacity, and analytical acuity that would make me a solid computer programmer. So…I applied. I applied to internships, to contract work, to temp positions, and to full time positions. Anything that would get my foot in to the door. While I was doing this, I also worked. Out of the interviews, I was able to land a gig as an intern at an early stage start up. My first foray into the tech start up scene is another story in itself. For now, I will say that it taught me a lot and has kept me pursuing my goal of landing a full time role as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. I continued to work. Landing a temporary gig converting Adobe Flash Files into HTML5. Not glamorous. Tedious but it paid my bills until I was able to get an internship spot at cybersecurity firm.

I have been working my ass off. I am interviewing on the job. I have been focusing my energy, tapping in to my support networks, showing initiative, positivity, and persistent tenacity with the intention of accomplishing my goal and achieving my dream of becoming a software engineer. To others who are on this path, don’t give up! Stay strong! You got this!

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