Name: Krista Shuckerow
Degree Earned: B.S in statistics, second major – economics; minor in computer science
Hometown: Harmony, Rhode Island
What is your job title, and where will you be working? Engineering resident working at Google in Seattle, Washington
How did student life at FIU help you in your job search? As a sophomore, I went to my first hackathon, MangoHacks, at FIU in spring of 2016. A hackathon is a 36-hour coding competition where you build a project with a team, attend workshops and spend time with other programmers. I walked in, joined a team, built a project and demoed how it worked at the end to a number of judges. One of them was an FIU alumnus who works at Google. He was impressed with our project and gave me, and all the other people on my team, his work email. At this point, I was like – ‘wow programming is great. I want to do this all the time.’ Anything worth doing is worth doing right so I emailed him asking what I needed to do to get better. It was basically learn more programming languages, learn theory better, practice, practice, practice. So I did.
I also started going to the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) meetings on campus. I made friends there that became my hackathon buddies. I would (and still do) go to hackathons with them all over Florida and the country if we can find someone willing to subsidize our travel costs. I surrounded myself with people that were always talking about programming and giving recommendations on how I could get better. I found myself spending most of my free time in the programming labs in ECS and PG6 immersing myself into a culture that treats self-learning, personal projects and coding challenges as everyday conversation. In short, I found other passionate students here at FIU. And we all worked together to make the group better, help each other out, and we genuinely cared about everyone being successful.
Before securing a job with Google, you got an internship. How did that help? Come junior year, we all started applying for programming internships. Internships for tech jobs fill up early. If you want a job in the summer, you apply the fall before. I was trying to get a job after having less than a year of programming under my belt. I started applying for all the positions that were interesting and seeing who would get back to me. If you got picked for an interview, the recruiter would normally ask for suggestions of other talented programmers you know. Anytime someone got one they would recommend one or two other people and so on, and it would daisy chain until everyone that wanted to interview at the company had been recommended. I interviewed for more places than I can remember until I got an offer to intern with Fidelity Investments.
The internship taught me what it was like to be in the industry. I got used to the flow of business. I can’t talk about the specifics of what I did, but it was everything I could have wanted in an internship. They gave me a lot of room to explore and try different things. I met a mentor, who I still talk to from time to time, and everyone was incredibly nice. I think the biggest help was that it gave me confidence and practice. Skills I had learned before were reinforced every day at work.
How did you finally get the job at Google?
After the internship, I started applying for full-time jobs. Tech companies pick who they want out of college early. This semester, big companies like Uber, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook started looking at doing recruitment from FIU. Why did they start coming here? I’ll never know for sure, but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that FIU students were making noise in the programming/hackathon community, and companies were noticing. I interviewed with a few companies, including Microsoft, Capital One and Google. In the end, after talking about it with my trusted peers, friends and family, I decided to accept the offer from Google. I graduate at the end this semester in May and will be moving out to Seattle to start the job in July.
What was your greatest fear about interviewing for your first job and how did you face it or overcome it? The biggest fear about interviewing for a company is that if you don’t get it, you might not get another chance. It’s a large company and they get thousands of applications; there’s no way they could possibly look at all of them. When I was interviewing with Google, I had some interview experience, but you never lose that nervous feeling. I remember mid-interview I was stuck on one of the problems and I thought, ‘why do I even bother, I’m not going to get it.’ Thankfully, I did not give up.
I had five separate technical interviews with them, and I relived that feeling every time. I had even prepared myself for rejection because there was never any guarantee. I’m really grateful for all of my friends because every time I got nervous, they told me, “that means you need to practice more.” They reminded me that if I didn’t think I was good enough now then it was perfectly within my power to change, and that I just had to practice more. Your skills aren’t static, you have to keep learning, keep working, keep practicing.
What surprised you the most about landing your first job? It was that feeling of “what I do is actually useful.” That someone wants me for the skills I have. Yes, I had made projects before, but getting a job offer was a validation that someone thought my skills and experiences were good enough to work in the industry. Also knowing I don’t have to worry about where I’m going after college is relieving.
What advice do you have for those beginning the job search process? Apply to everything. If you apply for a job, the worst they can do is not respond, but if you don’t try, you guarantee you get rejected. You have to keep going and going until you get something. Just keep updating your resume. Try and present your best self and put yourself out there. And if you don’t think you’re good enough, try and think what it would take to be good enough and start working on it. It is completely within your power to make yourself better.
What will a day on the job look like? From my understanding, there’s a ramp-up period where they teach you the ins and outs of working there. After that, you get assigned to a team and do the normal programmer “job stuff.” Read other people’s code, test code, write code, go through code reviews, meetings, etc.
How will your job connect back to your coursework? I’m really hopeful that I’ll get to apply all the math and statistics skills I’ve learned. Data science is not easy, and I love math. But there’s no way to know if I will until I get there. I think the most valuable things I learned from my coursework were that some things suck and are boring, but that doesn’t make them any less useful. Not everything you do you’re going to love the first time. Some things you learn to appreciate with time. For example, learning how to use the command line in programming 3 was a pain, but I’m glad I had structure learning for something I hated because now I use it regularly. I think my coursework prepared me for the “some things just have to get done” mentality. Because in industry you still have to get things done.
Describe other activities that prepared you for this job? I had a lot of awesome professors, (special shout out to my data structures teacher, Antonio Bajuelos), and I’m really grateful for the Computer Science Department for providing the CS Labs in ECS and PG6 (I have spent a lot of time there), but you can only learn so much from your classes. There is not a doubt in my mind I would not have gotten this far if I didn’t have the community from ACM and a group of people to push me to improve. We built each other up.
The Grace Hopper Celebration [the world’s largest gathering of women technologists] was cool. I was sponsored to go by SCIS (School of Computing and Information Sciences). I never realized how few women were programmers until I found myself in a giant room with a couple thousand of them and came back to school where there are only a handful in any computer science class. Granted, I don’t think I had ever been surrounded by that many people in my life. I bonded with a lot of the other girls from FIU too, many of whom I had never met before because we had never had classes together. It was nice to interact with so many companies, and watch all of the different presentations of what companies do to change the world. But looking at those presentations, the process wasn’t, ‘I want to get that far one day,’ but ‘that’s the bar.’ As in, these ladies are establishing a precedent and one day I want to surpass it. I don’t know how yet, but that’s the goal.
What are you looking forward the most about starting your new job? I’m excited to start the next phase of my life. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
What’s is the coolest thing about being hired by Google for your first job? I think the coolest thing is just the opportunity for growth at a big company like Google. They’re involved in so many different projects that I’m bound to find something interesting to work on. It’s also nice that the first person to give me encouragement as a professional (from my first MangoHacks project) was a Google employee, and now I get to go work there.
Also I hear new people get hats with helicopter propellers on top. I like hats.