How can you get an internship at a top tech company? The reality is, I’m not the right person to answer this question. But the good news is that I know someone who might be able to, and I’m so excited to have her on Pythonista Planet.
In this article, I interview Anjali Viramgama, who is an incoming SWE intern at Facebook. She has got internship offers from Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple recently. So, she is the right person to give you some valuable information on getting an internship at a tech giant company.
If you want to get an internship at a top tech company like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon, this discussion will be super helpful to you. Let’s begin the interview.
Hi Anjali. For the readers of Pythonista Planet who don’t know you, could you introduce yourself first?
Hey. My name is Anjali Viramgama. I’m a third-year student at the University of Maryland pursuing a Bachelor’s in Computer Science with a minor in Technology Entrepreneurship and Cybersecurity.
I’m passionate about technology and programming, obviously. But, I’m also super passionate about the inclusion and diversity of women and minorities in the world of tech.
I also love teaching and sharing knowledge, because wherever I’m in life, it’s because of the people who helped me. So, in order to encourage more people, especially women, to pursue tech, I always try to share my knowledge with everyone.
I was born and brought up in India, and I did my high school there. I also did my first year of college there. Then I took a transfer to the United States. And I did my second and third year here. I’m currently in my third year.
You recently got internship offers from Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple on your first try. How did you get that? Could you explain the process that you followed to get internship offers from these companies?
I got internship offers from Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple on my first try. Here is the process that I’ve followed: When I moved to the United States, I knew I wanted one of the top five companies, i.e., Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, or Amazon.
In order to do that, what I did was, I wanted to continue applying until I was actually good enough to be selected. So, I applied to Google several times, almost 20 times. But I got rejected every time.
I realized that people who were in high school in America had a better resume than me because they generally have internships even in high school. I needed a strong resume, but I had no experience. Because I had no experience, no company was ready to hire me. So, it was a catch-22.
The first thing I wanted to develop was my communication skills. So, what I did was, I started working at McDonald’s as a cashier. And I started interacting with a lot of people in order to improve my accent and understand different accents.
Because I had no experience and nobody was ready to hire me, I started teaching in my own college as a teaching assistant. That was one thing I could do.
When I was a second-year student, I started teaching first-year students as a teaching assistant. And that helped me get paid, and I also had something to write on my resume.
After that, to improve my resume, even more, I went around to different professors in my college and asked them if they would let me research with them, and I convinced them that I was smart enough for research through my grades. I helped them a lot with whatever they needed, and that way, I had a few research experiences under my belt.
Because of these few experiences, I was hired by a very small company called Division of IT. I worked there, helping people install different software, issuing tickets, and resolving problems.
All of this took one year. After this, I knew I was ready to start big. And I got an internship offer from Fannie Mae, which is a company in Washington DC. It’s a finance-based company, and I interned there for three months in the summer.
After all of this, I knew I had a solid resume that would make companies want me. But, the next thing I needed was very solid programming skills and projects under my belt.
So, the one way you can get hired by these tech giants is, step one: have a very catchy resume so that they want to interview you, and step two: clear that interviews.
I continued researching and tutoring in order to have more experience. And on the side, I was practicing competitive programming day in and day out and improving my programming skills.
I built tons of projects so that I could showcase my skills to different companies, and I spent hours on HackerRank so that if you threw any questions at me, I would be able to solve it at an interview.
When I looked at your LinkedIn profile, I could see that you have a strong formal education background. Did that help you in getting an internship in these top tech companies? Is it possible for a person with no formal education background to get an internship or a job at these tech giants?
Even though I do have a strong formal educational background, I really don’t think the fact that I went to the University of Maryland mattered to Facebook. I’m not saying it was useless. Of course, my education was super useful to me.
But these companies do not care about your degree. They only care about your projects and the fact that you have the skills to clear their interviews.
According to your experiences, what is more valuable, Certifications or Skills? Or a combination of both?
Even though certifications might look catchy on your resume, I think it’s the skills that matter more. So, I would say if you do not have the money or the opportunity to be certified, showcase your skills on your GitHub or wherever you can by building different projects, and that would be equivalent to having a certificate.
Which programming languages or technology are the most important for getting an internship in a big technology company?
I really don’t think programming languages or technology matter. Let’s say I know Java and you know Python. That doesn’t make you or me a better programmer. I think what is important as a programmer is that you are able to easily switch between languages and learn new languages.
So, it’s not important to know a particular language. It is important to be able to easily switch into any language that is thrown at you.
How did you motivate yourself to follow your childhood dreams seriously?
I think my only motivation was, I knew exactly what I wanted. If you really want to follow your childhood dreams, you have to be desperate. You have to need it.
Why did you become passionate about coding? What do you think is the role of software developers in making this world a better place?
Even if you’re not born with a passion for coding, I think it all depends on how badly you want to solve a problem. In order to become passionate about coding, just code as much as you can and enjoy the process. The thrill that comes to you when you finally solve a really hard problem is unmatchable.
I think software developers do make this world a better place. Even if we take the COVID-19 situation into consideration, the only reason the whole world is able to function right now is that all the software is easily available and accessible to everyone.
What advice do you want to give to the people who are struggling to follow their dreams?
To the people who struggle to follow their dreams, I would just say, focus on the end goal. No matter what you want to be in life or where you want to be in life, there’s someone who is currently living your dream life. And if they can live it, so can you.
Do you have a habit of reading books? If so, which is the one book that has changed your life?
I have been a voracious reader, and I love books ever since I was a very little kid. The one book that has changed my life is the biography of Elon Musk. He has inspired me in so many ways. It’s a great book.
I also love all the Stephan Hawkings books and Cosmos, basically the space-related books, because they make me feel how little I’m and how little the problems that I’m facing are. So, nothing should matter to me.
What are your plans for the future?
I really want to move to Silicon Valley as soon as I graduate, and I want to work for these tech giants. I also want to either start a startup or work closely with a startup because I’m also interested in business.
Finally, where can people follow you?
But if you have any questions regarding interviews and all of that, I would prefer Instagram because I want to keep LinkedIn only for professional opportunities, but either is fine.
I’m currently writing a tech blog. People can follow me on my blog as well.
Thanks a lot, Anjali, for sharing your experience and tips with us. I’m really sure that people will get a lot of value out of this interview.