I recently landed my dream job at Amazon Web Services as a software engineer, and I’m here to tell you about my journey!
I’ve joined a lot of local and online communities to help with my career development, and one of the most popular topics I see involves people asking for tips and tricks to get interviews with a FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) or Big N company. Questions I see often include:
- “What type of resume does Google look for?”
- “What do I need to know in order to apply to Amazon?“
- “Is there a better chance of me getting in if someone refers me?”
The truth is, there is no secret for landing an interview with a FAANG company; all it takes is time, experience, and dedication.
I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Computational Mathematics and Computer Science at a non-prestigious university. You will hear a lot of people say that a bachelor’s degree gives you a better advantage than being a bootcamp grad when applying for jobs. While this is true to an extent, I believe anyone can land a job anywhere they want (even a Big N company) with good software engineering experience.
I didn’t try to aim for a Big N company right after I graduated. I knew how to code, but I wasn’t comfortable enough to jump into real-world problem solving, and there is nothing wrong with that! I started looking for internships at great local companies and landed a developer internship with an awesome company.
My mentors there taught me how to refactor, comment, and document my code. These skills were never stressed nor even taught as important in college, but now I understand why it’s done in the real world. I learned how to better communicate with other software engineers, UI/UX engineers, and designers. I came out of that internship as a stronger developer. If it weren’t for these mentors, I would not be the same developer I am today, and I really appreciate them for that.
One of my best pieces of advice for aspiring developers is to take an internship if you can – you’ll be amazed by how much you’ll grow and learn from being mentored by great engineers.
After my internship, I moved on to become a full stack developer for a small company in the same city. I was the only developer on the team, which was scary at first, but this is where I proved to myself that I could be a capable leader and strong engineer. My skills grew during my time there and I gained much more experience, which made me motivated to advance my skills even more. Not just for me, but for my team.
I started building an online portfolio and making projects ranging from small and simple to large and complex. I wanted to learn more code, more frameworks, more libraries, and stay up-to-date with the latest technologies.
After a year at that company, I took another great job where I stayed for two amazing years. This is where I had my first agile environment experience.
I quickly learned how to work with a team of developers. This opportunity allowed me to expand my skills even further. Tasks such as knowing how to pair program, take criticism from code reviews, refactor code based off code reviews, give peers feedback, share ideas, and resolve merge conflicts. This helped me grow to be an even stronger engineer who is technically adept and still a team player.
I was finally ready to start something new in my career, and with four years of experience under my belt, I was ready to apply at Amazon. I spent about two hours after work building projects, taking classes on data structures & algorithms, practicing Leetcode problems, and attending meetups.
Yet, I felt something was still missing. I had spent so much time practicing and reviewing computer science topics that I forgot that soft skills are just as important. You want your future coworkers to want to work with you every day. Sell yourself and be confident - especially if you love the culture of the company you are applying for.
In every interview, you will get behavioral questions, and the best way to answer them is using the STAR method. I spent some time with a friend and in front of a mirror answering interview questions. I would get feedback to improve my hand gestures, speech, and even my posture. Am I flailing my arms a lot when I’m explaining something? Am I saying “um” way too often? Take some feedback from your fellow peers to improve your behavioral skills. This will get you a step ahead in your interview.
Finally, the time came to fly to my on-site interview with Amazon. I was incredibly nervous, but I finally felt ready. It was a four hour interview that was very technical and behavioral. I walked in confidently, with coffee and smile, and walked out just the same. I told myself that even if I didn’t get an offer, I was very proud of myself for how far I had come. And I am a true believer that self-confidence is the key to successful interviews.
A few days later, I received my offer and I am elated! All my hard work has finally paid off, and I’m feeling more confident than ever as an engineer!
I hope my journey inspires you for the process of landing your dream job, even if it isn’t a Big N company.
Before I sign off, I want to share some key takeaways from this journey:
- Keep building stuff, even if you don’t do it every day. Never stop learning!
- Give yourself a mental health check; it’s good to take a few days off from applying for jobs and grinding Leetcode.
- If you’re not in a great financial struggle or you’re a new grad or junior dev, I’d definitely recommend starting with an internship to gain valuable skills and have access to mentors. Internships aren’t required, but it’s an easy way to get real experience while at the same time receiving advice and training from an expert.
- Get that sweet experience! For real, join coding meetups, find a mentor, learn how to work in an agile environment. Community involvement is a huge plus on your resume!
- Remember to practice your soft skills.
- If you get rejected, don’t see it as a failure, see it as a way to get better. Ask for feedback from your recruiters/interviewers, peers, etc.
- Be confident and believe in yourself ALWAYS!
- Graduated college with my BS in Computational Mathematics and Computer Science
- Got a summer internship - learned a ton and got mentored
- First full-time dev job
- Full stack dev on a team - learned agile environment, pair programming, git, code reviews
- Built projects, learned new languages, frameworks, etc.
- Practiced Leetcode, behavioral questions, took classes (Udemy, FCC, etc.)
- Applied to Amazon
If anyone has had a similar journey, I would love to hear about it! So many of you great devs out there inspire me everyday.