With guidance and support from her network, this Udacity graduate was able to pursue a great new career opportunity!
Udacity graduate Serene Liu is a great example of effective networking in action. Her path to landing a new programmer role with a major tech company demonstrates how amazing results can be achieved when you’re prepared to actively network, promote your skills, and produce your own opportunities.
Effective networking is one of our favorite topics, and we recently published 5 Ways to Network Well as a resource to help people successfully connect their learning experiences to their job search efforts. As Serene’s story shows, playing an active role in your network can make all the difference in your career journey.
Serene was inspired to start learning about programming while working in a development role at a non-profit. She was frustrated by repetitive data entry tasks that took up hours of her time, and began researching online for a solution. She discovered a Google Apps script that enabled her to complete the same task in a matter of minutes. It was a revelation. Serene became fascinated by how programming could simplify and automate tasks, and wanted to learn more.
She turned to her friends who worked in tech for advice on how she could start building her programming experience. They told her that practical experience with programming was the best way to advance her skills and build a portfolio of projects.
When she discovered Udacity’s Intro to Programming Nanodegree program, it felt like the best starting point for gaining the practical experience her network had recommended. She enrolled and started studying.
Serene quickly discovered that programming required her to think in a very different way.
“When you start learning to code, you realize there are things that appear intuitive as a human but are more complex to code. You have to think less like a human and more like a computer, thinking precisely about every step of the process. It took me a while to get into that mindset, but when I did, it completely changed the way I think about the world.”
Throughout this transformation, her network remained a source of inspiration and guidance:
“With so many of my friends and family already working in the programming industry, I’d started engaging with them online, asking questions and reading their posts. It was simple for me to go online and ping one of them with questions about my studies. I’d get multiple perspectives, and they wouldn’t just tell me the answer, but would answer my questions with more questions. This forced me to think about problems differently.”
Serene graduated from the program, certain she wanted to study programming in even more depth. She started the Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree program, and then landed a Grow with Google Scholarship to study Mobile Web development. She loved building new things with the skills she was learning, and she was already looking ahead to the moment when she would put her new skills to the test in the working world.
She spoke to a friend who worked as a back-end developer at one of the world’s largest tech companies. Serene talked about her growing project portfolio, and expressed her uncertainty about when to make the leap into a new career. Her friend offered to connect Serene with some colleagues who could give her advice on her readiness for a programming career. She set up a meeting with some front-end developers at the company.
“I saw then that networking can make all the difference. You obviously need the right skills, but if you have a person who can vouch for you, who can say “she really works hard,” “she’ll learn quickly,” it’s a really great thing. Because not every company is going to be willing to talk to someone who is as new to programming as me—definitely not from just seeing a resume. And that’s if they see your resume at all!”
Serene discovered her friend had actually arranged for a mock interview. It was a surprise, but because she hadn’t expected anything formal, she was able to relax and speak confidently about her new skills and experience. When they asked her to do some whiteboarding (a typical part of technical interviews for programmers where you solve a problem on a whiteboard) she was able to calmly demonstrate her skills.
Serene enjoyed being able to talk through her programming experience with people working in the industry. Her interviewer thought she was still lacking experience, and suggested she’d need another six months to really build her skills. Because Serene had impressed them with her knowledge and drive to discover more about the industry, they proposed finding a way for her to gain experience in-house!
She was referred to another manager who was working on a new project. They needed an extra person to move the work forwards, but hadn’t had time to advertise the position. Serene was invited to interview, and the department offered her a full-time role!
“It’s a really good way to get me started at the company. I’ll learn more about the company, about how projects work, about applying my programming skills. It’s a great chance to explore all the opportunities coding represents!”
Congratulations Serene! You were willing to engage openly and honestly with your network, and they responded with critical guidance that led to a life-changing opportunity. Most importantly, you took the advice to heart, worked hard, and mastered the skills that made the difference in your journey. Well done!