Internship Hunt

Note: I previously wrote about my internship interview experience in a Reddit post here. Although I touch on some of the same highlights below, I will focus on some more specific details that I have not already shared.

“The surest path to a full-time job is an internship.”


With the above in mind, I started planning in 2021 to do a software engineering internship in 2022, with the goal of securing a full-time software engineering role by 2023. This resulted in a very busy first year as a Computer Science student at Oregon State. I participated in hackathons, got involved in student organizations, took technical interviewing prep sessions, attended numerous virtual career fairs, and spent countless hours studying and interviewing on top of handling full course loads.

Amazingly, I also decided to do all of this while traveling and backpacking across multiple countries. Looking back, I was over-confident that I would receive a good outcome, since the economy and job market was so advantageous last year. If I was in the same position with the current macro economic situation, I would have not made the same decision and stayed in one area.

What made my decision so risky? At a certain point, I was on the road for 8-9 hours a day and only had 2-3 hours at night to study, do homework, or take calls. Arguably, a more dedicated Computer Science student would have spent more time doing Leetcode or ensuring they had access to reliable internet rather than risk taking interviews in remote towns with a population of 10.

With that said, what boosted my internship hunt process was that I was able to get quality opportunities. Opportunities to boost my resume, connect with recruiters, and improve the efficiency of my studies. These were the programs, hackathons, and conferences that I felt made the most impact on my internship interviewing experience:

  • Codepath Technical Interview Prep: There are multiple class levels. I applied for the Intermediate course because I did not feel confident enough to apply to Advanced, and the Intermediate level was the minimum level needed to apply for the Virtual Career Fair (VCF). I initially thought that the VCF would be a key component to getting an internship, and I actually spoke with 15+ companies through this process, but there was so many students with higher scores than me, that none of these amounted to anything. The biggest benefit was that I got onto recruitment email lists for events and future opportunities.
  • Rewriting the Code (RTC) Interview Prep: The study group itself dissolved over the first few weeks, but I got a free annual subscription to AlgoExpert and a technical interview preparation guide with specific problems and recommended timeline. The free subscription was a godsend for a visual learner such as myself.
  • Lyft Early Talent Access (ETA) Program: This program consisted of multiple webinars/workshops where recruiters and Lyft engineers demystified the interview process by explaining each part and providing tips on what they were looking for. At the end of the program, they also selected certain students to complete mock interviews. I was lucky enough to be selected. My mock interview was with a real Lyft engineer and I was given an easy LC problem (that we then adjusted to make it a bit more difficult). I received feedback that was a “Strong Yes”, and I had a follow-up group feedback interview with a different engineer. After this, I was able to proceed through an expedited internship interview process, which only consisted of two rounds (Byteboard and Final).
  • Wells Fargo Junior Leaders Conference: I initially applied for this program in June. The next month, I had a phone interview (behavioral) with a senior engineer, and attended the virtual conference in August. At the conference, I had the opportunity to interview (video) with a few executives. It was a long interview focused on behavioral skills and system design. By early September I received an offer — my first! It was a special day. When I received the offer call, I was in a hostel in Santo Domingo in Spain. The WiFi was spotty and kept dropping. I celebrated later than night by treating myself to dinner at Restaurante Los Caballeros.

I sent around 34 internship applications, received 7 offers, and accepted 2 (Winter 22 and Summer 22). I tried to move some of my summer offers to Fall but was unsuccessful. Most off-season internships are reserved for students attending co-op schools, such as University of Waterloo.



During student orientation, I found a list of all of the Oregon State student organizations and clubs and I wrote down which ones I thought were interesting: Society of Women Engineers, Association of Computing Machinery, Security Club, the Hackathon Club, and a few more. After looking at some of the websites for the student orgs, I noticed that they referenced a return to in-person meetings. Since I’m an e-campus student, that wasn’t going to be an option for me. The Hackathon Club however, specifically referenced how they were originally founded by and for e-campus students. This was immediately attractive to me and I put the club on my short-list.

Once I started my first quarter (March 2021), I joined all of the organizations on my short-list and silently observed to see what I could do to participate and get involved with. I saw a notice on the slack for the Hackathon Club that they were looking for new club officers. I wanted to hit the ground running, and submitted the interest form.

Prior to enrolling at Oregon State, I had experience in judging hackathons at a past employer, Peek, and in participating in a hackathon through taking a full-stack development class in Kuala Lumpur. I absolutely loved both experiences — it’s just incredible to see what people can build in a limited timeframe. Above all else though, I thought that participating in a club would help expand my network internally at Oregon State and provide me with some experience that could benefit me personally and professionally.

Luckily, I was selected to join as the Vice President of the club. Together with the other officers, we quickly got to work in planning one hackathon a quarter, and overall, I took the lead in organizing three hackathons. Through that experience, I got a lot of inspiration from the participants, and once I felt I had more development experience, decided to participate in hackathons as well.

Last summer, I joined InternHacks, a 7-week virtual hackathon. Hundreds of college students from around the country were randomly assigned into groups, and we had to ideate, plan, build, and present a group hackathon project within two months. My group decided on a platform for machine learning researchers and students who want to decrease bias in their field. We offered a Python scraper tool that analyzed the metadata in a researcher’s dataset as well as provided best practices for researchers on how to avoid or limit bias with their datasets. In recognition of our work, we won “Best Architectural Design” and “Best Technical Problem”.

Earlier this year, I also participated in Beaverhacks, the quarter hackathon hosted by the Oregon State Hackathon Club. I temporarily stepped down from my role as an officer in order to participate. Although I was initially excited to take part, it unexpectedly took place during my flights to India (SFO – EWR – DEL). As a result, I had to code the majority of my project on a 15-hour flight from Newark EWR to Delhi DEL with zero wi-fi (too expensive). Once I arrived into my hotel (Holiday Inn Express near the New Delhi Airport), I logged into the wi-fi, created my presentation slides, pushed my code into Github, and submitted my project on-time with seconds to spare at 3 AM local time. I had made a platform that gamified completing household tasks, a project that was inspired by moving into a new apartment with my husband the month prior. I received great feedback on the project and won First Place – Overall.

Next weekend, I will be participating in JPMorgan Chase’s Code For Good Hackathon in Columbus, Ohio. This will be the first hackathon where I will be traveling (travel is paid for by JPMorgan Chase) so I am very much looking forward to this opportunity. Not only will I be gaining serious hackathon experience and networking with students and industry professional, I will also be helping solve real-world problems that impact social good organizations.

I highly recommend looking into hackathons — planning and participating — as a way to further develop your software engineering career. Not only has hackathons helped me raise my core technical abilities, improve necessary non-technical skills such as project management and public speaking, but it has also opened numerous career opportunities. Beyond whether my team or I win or not, I have always leveraged my learnings and challenges in hackathons during interviews.

In my next post, I’ll discuss my internship interview process last year and what tips I have from that experience.


Planning for Success

After I received my acceptance letter from Oregon State, I had about two months to prepare before I started taking classes. I researched everything I could about the post-baccalaureate program and scoured the internet for advice from current and past students. I focused on developing a strategy for success — after all, I was given an incredible opportunity to “go back to college” and I wanted to make sure I took advantage of every opportunity available to me in the pursuit of realizing my dreams.

First, I had to define, what is my dream? What do I actually want to do? Well, I knew I wanted to be a software engineer, but where? Doing what? I didn’t really know. At this point, I had been out of the workforce for four years and more importantly, had been living abroad for the same amount of time. I didn’t really know what the “hot” companies were because I had been out of the tech scene for so long. Since I didn’t really have a starting point, I went on Discord and Reddit and read about the companies that other CS students were really excited about. Big Tech. Unicorns. FAANG, or FAANGMULA+. I became familiar with a certain “tier” ranking system that many CS students subscribe to and in the absence of data, used it to guide my research (I will probably comment on this in a later post).

As I was becoming reacquainted with the tech scene again, I also started to hear just how difficult it was in getting a job at one of these companies. The figurative and literal hoops candidates have to jump through in order to validate their programming skills and job preparedness. Due to this, I learned that many people recommend an internship as the surest path to a full-time software engineering position at a company in order to bypass much of the difficulty of these interviews. An internship is still difficult to get, but the idea was that it was less difficult than the process of applying directly to a full-time position (there are so many factors that go into this though, and internships and intern conversion will likely be the topic of another post.). As a result, even before I started the post-bacc program, I knew my goal was getting an internship at a company where I wanted to work at after I graduated.

Now that my goals and dreams were aligned, I came to the fun part — how can Oregon State help me? Since this wasn’t my first rodeo, I knew I needed to pay extra attention to two things: my course plan and my extracurriculars. As a full-time student, I could dedicate a lot of time to classes and that meant I could graduate within 1.5 years. I pored over the course catalog to construct a schedule. The first two quarters were easy — every student has certain pre-requisite classes they need to take before the rest of the curriculum unlocks for them. Once that happens though, students are given a lot of freedom on what their school experience will be. I thought deeply about what I would choose as my electives based on what I had learned would be competitive in the job market and organized my schedule in a way that the difficulty was averaged out between different quarters. This was particularly key because even if I got an internship, I still wanted to take classes during that quarter. I took that under consideration when figuring out at which time I was going to take certain classes. (As a result, I am taking CS 344 in the Fall, not in Summer, and at the same time as CS 467, which I had to receive special permission for.)

Lastly, I wanted to leverage my status as an undergraduate student and participate in university hackathons at Oregon State and beyond. All of my research showed me that recruiters love students who do hackathons, hackathons give opportunities to build portfolio projects, and hackathons also give opportunities to connect with industry mentors. For this reason, within the first month of starting classes, I joined the Oregon State Hackathon Club.

For my next post, I will go into hackathons, what I’ve built, and how I talk about it during interviews.


Hello world!

Thank you for joining me on here. You are reading the first of a series of blog posts for my CS 467 class.

For this initial post, I’ll provide some background about myself and how I taught myself how to code.

I first developed an interest in web development as a high-schooler. I learned basic HTML/CSS from in order to prettify my pages on Neopets. I thought it was fun but it didn’t even cross my mind to think about working with the web as a career. It was not until long after I started working at a tech startup in San Francisco that I started thinking how cool it would have been if I had studied computer programming instead of anthropology in college. 

The lightbulb moment happened as a result of a company perk. Each quarter, employees received a certain number of hours that they could dedicate towards professional development. A group of us banded together and said we wanted to learn how to program and so, every Friday at 3 pm, we’d huddle in one of the conference rooms and watch Treehouse videos for an hour while drinking copious glasses of wine. I’m not sure how much I learned from those particular sessions but that’s where my interest really started to take hold. After work and on the weekends, I started to spend time on websites like CodeAcademy. I wasn’t really entirely sure of what my goal was, but learning how to code was fun and a better way to spend my time than watching TV. 

On a whim, I learned about a year-long coding bootcamp for women in Seattle. I applied and I got in, and that’s when I finally realized that a career change was possible. I took this information back to my manager, and my company pitched an alternative: instead of quitting and moving away to Seattle, why not stay at the company and learn on the job? In other words, if you want to be a software engineer, we’ll teach you while paying you

I will forever remember that decision as a pivotal moment in my life. I was at a crossroads — I could stay loyal to my company in San Francisco, continue to receive a guaranteed paycheck while safely exploring a new career option, and commit to a future with my boyfriend or I could leave to Seattle, risk my career and my relationship for unimaginable opportunities.

I decided to stay. 

Sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision, especially looking back on the five years since then. Mostly because, it was really difficult trying to learn “on the job” because I did not have a strong foundation in computer science fundamentals. Sure, I knew the basics of programming, but I didn’t have any knowledge of data structures, algorithms, networking, or in general, how computers and the web worked. Any success that I had experienced felt invalid in the face of that realization. Imposter syndrome hit hard.

I started thinking, maybe I needed to learn another way. I quit my job in 2017 to go on an extended honeymoon and with that, I set off on a journey to really discover what I wanted to do and importantly, how I wanted to do it.

I tried it all — I took online community college courses, took other online courses via Coursera and EdX, and took a 3-month in-person coding course in Kuala Lumpur. Although they were all helpful and was inching towards progress, everyone learns differently, and my learning plateaued. What I wanted most was a form of structured learning and  a clear learning path that started from the beginning. I applied to a Master’s in Computer and Information Technology program (meant for those without a Bachelor’s in Computer Science). I didn’t get in and I became depressed. I took time off from my learning and started to explore other career options. If only I could have gone back in time and chosen Computer Science as my major!

Well, it’s not possibly to go back in time, but I discovered that it was still possible for me to get a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, specifically through Oregon State University’s post-baccalaureate program. Suddenly, the missing puzzle piece was clear to me. The program had everything I was looking for — a structured learning plan of rigorous and challenging courses, a supportive community of students and staff, and the opportunity to re-define my college experience with a field of study I was passionate and curious about.

I applied. I got in.

In my next post, I’ll talk about how I planned to make my Oregon State experience successful.