Sarah Katz

NYC-Based Full Stack JS Developer

From the mind of Sarah...

A Shy Dev Speed "Dates": My First HackerX Event

February 24, 2019

This experience started about a month back, when I got an email invitation to a HackerX private event. Unlike most HackerX events, which allow candidates to meet with multiple hiring companies, this event was for just one company. At this point I was just starting my job search, but I signed up, figuring I might as well give it a try.

Flash forward to the day before the event. I got an email from one of the organizers saying that the event was invitation-only and it was not the best fit for me. I was very confused (and a little insulted). I had gotten an invitation to the event, and with the event being for a major local hospital and my pre-development background being in biology and healthcare, I thought it was a perfect fit. When I expressed my confusion and asked for clarification, I was told that they were looking for someone with 5 years experience (which I don't have), but encouraged me to attend anyway if I was still interested. At first I was going to say "thanks, but no thanks" because I didn't want to waste anyone's time, but upon further thought I figured that if nothing else, at least I'd get experience sitting down with someone and sharing my background in 5 minutes, so I decided to go. (I was also, as part of this email exchange, invited to attend an event the next week that would be more suited to my experience level, so I signed up for that as well)

Finally, the day of the event came and I got myself interview-dressed (decently nice skirt, sweater, tights, and black flats). I got to the right place (which was touch-and-go for a while, because I forgot to check the address at first and almost went to the hospital instead of the office where the event was), checked in, got my nametag (and entered the raffle), and then went into the room where the event was being held. After dropping off my coat (I held on to my bag), I got myself a drink of water, saw that (as usual) there was nothing for me to eat, and then went to sit down on a couch because I was too terrified to go up to someone and start talking. At one point, one of the employees of the hiring company came over to talk to me for a little bit, and then another attendee sat down next to me and we chatted, but mostly I sat there feeling pretty awkward.

Thankfully, the awkward situation eventually passed, as we went into another room for a presentation by the hiring company. It was really interesting to see what they were doing, and I really enjoyed hearing their passion for the product. I probably should have asked a question, but I was a little nervous, and other people ended up asking my questions anyway.

Next up was the speed interview portion. We were told to get into lines for front-end and back-end, and since their back-end is in Python, which I don't know, I went for front-end (also … while my preference is full-stack, if I have to choose front or back, I prefer front). I ended up being the first person in the front-end line, and since the line was so short, they decided to have all four front-end people interview each candidate. They asked me some questions about my background and my interest in the experience, and I tried to answer them well, but I'm not always good at spontaneously answering questions, so I don't know how well I did.

Once I finished my interview, I had to wait around for them to finish the rest of the interviews. I probably should have taken this time to speak to some of the recruiters and other staffers who were there (or even some of the other interviewees), but I was still too freaked out. I kinda just sat there doing nothing, which wasn't the best idea. But oh well. 

Finally, the interviews ended. They did a raffle, and I won a prize - AirPods! Super useful for someone with an Android phone. Rather than sell them, as some people suggested, I'm going to give them to my sister (who has an iPhone). After that was done, I spoke to one of the front-end engineers (he's working on their design system, which looks pretty interesting). After chatting with him, I went over to thank and chat with the recruiting team (and got a recruiter's card and gave him mine), and then I left.

Overall, I thought it was a positive experience, but I could have done better.

Here are some things I'd like to try to do better next time:

  • TALK TO PEOPLE! I'm incredibly shy, and that makes it hard for me to make the connections that I need (and want) to make to further my career. I need to not let myself recede into my shell and force myself outside of my comfort zone to talk to people.
  • Don't carry my bag around. That was completely unnecessary. I need to have my cards in my pocket, and either carry around my padfolio with resumes or give people my resumes during the networking time.
  • Have better examples. There are some questions I can expect to be asked at most interviews. I should have good answers/examples from my past work written down, and then I can study them during down time in the networking or between interviews.
  • Dress more casually. I definitely felt overdressed. Next time I would wear something more like what I'd wear to work - probably still flats, tights, and a sweater, but with a denim skirt instead of a nicer skirt.

I'm going to another HackerX event in a few days, and hopefully I can learn some lessons from this event to make the next one even better.

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