Chapter 1, Introduction and Launching a Developer Career
While IBM is known for its hundred years plus as a technology leader and innovations throughout the decades, none of it would be possible without the talent and skills of new knowledge workers. Let’s follow the path of three recent additions to the IBM developer workforce: Da-in, Diana and Luc who all recently joined Big Blue in the summer of 2019.
We’ll take a dive into their recruitment and growth as enterprise developers at one of the biggest technology companies in the world. You’ll have a front-row seat to their stories as they adjust to corporate culture, the business world and life in the bustling city of Austin, TX. This post is chapter one of a seven chapter series.
Q1 – Tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up interested in IBM during your job search?
Luc Olsthoorn – Developer Advocate: Hi, I’m Luc. I’m from South Florida but went to school at University of Florida. I studied Computer Science, but I actually learned web development on the side. I had scored two internships with Sandia National Labs while I was in college and so by the time I was a junior, I was pretty proficient at web development. On a very, spooky day in October, I went to a party as one does at the University of Florida. There, a good friend of mine regaled me of his times at an IBM internship. Sounded pretty sweet, so I decided to apply and did an internship with IBM end of my junior year.
Diana Galarza – Developer Advocate: Hey! I’m Diana. I’m from New Jersey and I went to Stevens Institute of Technology where I got my bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. Before college, I had never considered studying Computer Science, but I remember always being really into web development since my early Tumblr days back in 2011. Customizing themes was one of my favorite past times, lol. During my job search, I found a posting for a front-end dev position at IBM’s Design Studio in Austin that sounded fun, so I applied!
Da-in Ryoo – Developer Advocate: I’m Da-in, and I grew up around Atlanta and went to Georgia Tech for Computer Science. I’d been choosing a lot of classes on the visual and human-interaction aspect of computing, so I was drawn towards internships for UX and front-end positions. I found a really cool one at the IBM Design Studio called the Patterns program, applied excitedly but not with much hope or expectation, and then somehow got accepted!
Q2 – What was the interview process like with IBM and in general?
Da-in: I was supposed to work as a front-end developer for a heavily design-centric part of IBM, so the process was different from what I was used to for other companies, where I’d usually stress about coding challenges and desperately review data structures and algorithms. Instead, I was asked to code up a webpage based on a flat mock-up and then talk about my design and development process for my portfolio site. A lot more fun than I was used to. The full-time process was even better. If I were to grossly simplify it, it was really just HR reaching out after the internship and being like, “Hey, you were a good intern, you wanna come back?”
Diana: My interview process went about the same as Da-in’s did. First, I had to complete a Hackerrank assessment and then I had a few interviews before I got an offer from the IBM Developer team. All my interviews went pretty smoothly and I think that’s in part due to the interviewers I had who were all great people to work with. The whole process took about a month, start to finish. I think a piece of advice I’d give to anyone interviewing not just at IBM but anywhere is to be enthusiastic about the job. It shows throughout the interview just how much you genuinely care about working at that company!
Luc: I was pretty similar to Da-in. They pretty much jumped straight to the team matching directly after the internship. One of my favorite parts is that I could choose where I lived. Desperate to get away from the crazy Florida man I decided to seek refuge in the beautiful city of Austin, TX.
As for the interviews for my internship, I had a couple classic tech interviews with a final team matching experience. Practicing Cracking the Coding Interview and doing Leetcode medium helped me prepare immensely for many of these god-awful interview questions that I still never use in my day to day.
Q3 – When you received the news and job offer from IBM what did it feel like? What were you thinking?
Diana: It was the middle of winter break and as I was laying on the beach in Miami just days before my birthday, I got an email from IBM! After weeks of waiting in anticipation, I opened it as fast as I could to find an amazing offer. I felt so much relief after job searching for half of my senior year. It’s like one of those milestones in your life where you finally get to see all of your hard work pay off. My next immediate thought was the move I’d be making to Austin. I had never been there and honestly didn’t really know much about the city, let alone Texas. I had been planning to go to SF for a job I had already accepted. And now I had to deal with that other offer, but I didn’t wanna settle. I’m sure the other company wasn’t too happy I had decided to go back on their offer. But I had heard good things about Austin and IBM so I took a chance and just went with it!
Da-in: I was really happy to get the return offer! I had an incredible time during the internship, where I got to meet so many interesting people—designers, artists, researchers, developers… I was so used to being surrounded by engineers and CS students at school that everyone’s design and UX-centric mindset, and just the fact that I was meeting new people, was super refreshing. Before the internship, I honestly had no idea what IBM did. The internship was just an absolute fire-hose of information, blasting us with info about the company, relevant industries, IBM design thinking, all while expecting us to complete our project in the limited time we had. The design thinking workshops and education were especially eye opening, and surprisingly coming from what I thought was more of an old-fashioned tech company.
I can relate to Diana’s excitement getting the email—the gratitude, the relief, feeling like all those years of school really did pay off. Since I got the return offer pretty early into my senior year, I didn’t get too far job hunting and didn’t have conflicting offers to worry about. Or maybe no one wanted to hire me. Anyways, I didn’t know much about Austin since I hadn’t explored much during my internship, so I started getting ready to say goodbye to the city I’d spent all my life in and welcome another as my new home.
Luc: Like both Da-in and Diana, I had excitement, but mostly relief. For the majority of my college career I was focused on getting a job. When I got an offer from IBM I knew I wasn’t going to have to move back in with my parents. I was still interviewing with other companies, but ultimately landed on IBM, especially since the other companies didn’t want to hire me. My last semester I could relax, and it was definitely one of my favorite semesters. I was so glad to be able to just hang out with the Gainesvillians and enjoy friendships before I left and became lonely forever.
Chapter 1, Close
While interviewing and getting the job offer is a huge first step, there’s so much more to be done for our trio of young developers. From moving to a new city, getting onboarded at their new company to establishing a new life and social circle. While coding and technical talent will get you in the door, it’s often the other skills you learn over time that really helps you move forward in your career. Join us for the next chapter of Dev Interview as we follow Diana, Luc and Da-in to Texas and getting established as professionals at IBM.