While geography student Tanner Minh Le found a Software Engineering internship with Liberty Mutual Insurance by browsing job search websites such as LinkedIn and Handshake, it was Tanner's willingness to tap into the UW alumni network that helped move the application process forward. Tanner reached out to an alum who worked with the company and knew Tanner's "work ethic was one he could vouch for." After submitting the application, and getting the referral from a current employee, Tanner was invited for two interviews: "The first was to get an understanding of who I am and the second went more in-depth asking for elaboration on both my experiences listed on my resume and how I would respond to certain situations, otherwise known as a behavioral interview." Below, Tanner shares insights into the internship experience and advice for other geography students to get involved in software engineering opportunities!
A "day-in-the-life": "My day-in-the-life at my internship includes a lot of meetings, coding, and learning. While coding is a huge part of the job overall, the meetings take up a huge amount of my time as an intern as I am currently only working 20 hours a week. This part takes the most time as it is important for me to be able to stay up to date with both what's happening and knowing what to do as we do in depth planning for two weeks at a time. When I'm not planning, I will generally be working on stories which are basically tasks assigned to my team and this takes up the majority of my time. How this works for me is it'll either be something I work on my own or with a teammate depending on the task."
Developing transferable skills from the geography major: "While my skills in geography didn't transfer one-to-one, it doesn't mean geography hasn't helped. I believe geography provides us as students a great breadth of learning and more importantly a strong set of communication skills. The countless papers and research you may have done is very similar to real world work where you have to constantly be seeking knowledge and explaining to others why you did what you did. That aside, some technical skills did match up as courses pertaining to databases in GIS (GEOG 465) were relevant to working with databases as a Software Engineer. I recommend taking these GIS courses as well as taking courses outside of the major as geography allows a lot of credits for non-major courses that will help make you more well-rounded."
Advice for others: "My advice for other geography students who are looking to get involved in this kind of work as well as those who are looking for any other job, is to know your goals and make a plan. It is important to know what kind of role you want to do and what you need to do for it. The same tricks don't work for every type of job as the requirements and interview process vary widely. However, if you are looking for a Software Engineering-type position, then you definitely should be focused on your three things:
- your resume builders,
- your interviewing preparations, and
- your network.
A great network allows you to be referred to many companies while having good projects allow you to get that interview even if you don't have professional experience. The lack of professional experience isn't the end of the world, it just means you need to show you can be trusted in another way; in this case [this is through] well-thought-out projects. Finally, when you get the interview you need to be able to pass [it]. As a Software Engineer this will probably include a technical and behavioral interview so make sure to prepare yourself to answer questions on algorithms and what-ifs accordingly."
What's next? "As of right now, I am thoroughly interested in going for more leadership roles and helping others. I love being a Software Engineer and want to code for a long while, but the impact my seniors have had on me has been extremely positive. Without their help I wouldn't be where I am today and as such I look up to these kinds of influences. I know if I held a leadership role in whatever I am doing in the future, I will be able to make a greater impact on others as well as lead my team in a vision I want, to some extent."