Interview with Yesha Joshi, Software Development Engineer @ Amazon.

In this session of Gydable Talks, we connected with Yesha Joshi to discuss her career path and job search/interview experience as a college graduate. We also touched a little on her experience as a Woman in Tech as well as imposter syndrome in the tech industry. Yesha finished her Master’s in Computer Science from Northeastern University in 2019. She is currently working as a Software Development Engineer at Amazon(AWS). Before joining Amazon, she worked for about 8 months at the Education Advisory Board(EAB).

Why don’t we start off by learning a little bit about you and your career path since college?

I completed my undergrad in Information technology in India and worked for Infosys as a Proof-of-Concept developer for their Data and Information platform. While working there, I was really intrigued by Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) so I decided to pursue my Masters in Computer Science at Northeastern University, in Boston. During my Masters, I did an internship at Sanofi where I got more hands-on experience in Machine Learning techniques working in the RnD department. On graduation, I ended up working for about 8 months at a company called the Education Advisory Board (EAB). I am currently working at AWS, Amazon as a Software Development Engineer. I am a full stack developer focused on backend development. My career path has been a little chaotic in the sense that I explored many avenues. I worked on the frontend, then on machine learning, and currently backend, while still being curious about each in my current role.

For EAB: What was the process like when you interviewed?

I had three interviews. The first one was a usual recruiter screening with HR on role discussion and culture. Then I had a phone interview with one of the senior engineers of the team with one coding question. I was then invited for an onsite interview after about two weeks. The onsite interview consisted of 3 rounds, the first focusing on design and UI, while the second round was a coding interview with two engineers in the team. My last interview was with the hiring manager, which was more discussion-based and was used to decide my fit for the team. A week later I received an offer. 

How did you land this interview with EAB? 

It’s really funny that in my last semester of college, I was randomly applying to jobs on Linkedin posts. So I was just responding to somebody on Linkedin when a college friend read that and actually messaged me about their company’s hiring and asked if I would like to apply. That is what accelerated things for me, and I ended up working for EAB. 

What is it like to work in your current job? What does your typical day look like? What kind of projects are you working on?

My workday usually starts with a status update followed by design meetings – this usually takes up the first half of my day. In the second half of the day, I spend writing code and reviewing things written by other engineers. This is because, in Amazon and AWS, we have really high standards on what code goes to production. We typically work on features and bug fixes. We, as new joiners, have mentoring sessions and technical office hours from senior developers from within and outside the team. Since the work-from-home measures, there has been a very thin line between work and personal life so I try to keep time for myself towards the end of the day.

I work for the AWS Inspector team in the security domain. Amazon Inspector is an automated security assessment service that helps improve the security and compliance of applications deployed on AWS. It is a new area for me so I also spend a good amount of time on research and learning new things about the field.

You started your career at EAB as a Frontend Developer and after that, you switched job to work at AWS where you are building APIs and dealing with vulnerabilities. What was the experience like to switch between these roles right after college? Are there any suggestions you think are important to share with students?

I feel that if students are really certain about what they want to work with and want to stick with that then I am all for it. But I think the initial years of your professional life is when you get to experiment. When you are 4 or 5 years down the line and want to make a drastic change, I think that it gets more difficult considering the amount of experience you have in a particular field. So I would say to students that even if you do not want to experiment in your first job, then I would suggest you do tons of internships. That is where you can experiment all you want with less liability. That goes not only for the tech stack but also for the job location and company atmosphere. The more exposure you get to different things, the more risk-taking you do. With all the experiences that you build, you never know when those transferable skills will come in handy. 

Career Tips for Students

  • The initial years of your professional life is when you get to experiment. Use these years as an opportunity to explore development areas, tech stacks, location, company etc.
  • If you do not want to experiment in your first job, you should do tons of internships to experiment.

Imposter Syndrome is fairly common in software engineering, especially for students. I imagine it is not unusual to start losing confidence as you see all these smart people who are so experienced. Did you ever feel this syndrome? If yes, how did you tackle the problem?

Yes, that feeling is always there. I had it not only at EAB but even when I moved to Amazon – there were so many new tools and practices that I had to learn. But what I gained from all this experience was that you needed to be curious. Ask as many questions as you can- there are no dumb questions. That is what I have been telling myself and others as well. The more you ask the more you know about things and the more you learn. Primarily, what students or anybody should learn in the tech domain is to read the documentation and learn to dig out things because there will be things that won’t be covered even in the documentation and you need to learn where you want to start. 

Another thing that’s important is to reach out to people. People may not always be reachable in person but a discussion forum or interest groups are actually the best way to find someone more knowledgeable, so be sure to leverage that!

Tackling Imposter Syndrome

  • Ask as many questions as you can- there are no dumb questions.
  • Read the documentation and learn to dig out things.

Based on your experience, you might have already started taking interviews. Do you have specific tips, advice strategies that you have for students as they prepare for job search/interview?

Some basic advice from my personal experience is to calm yourself down before interviews. This is important because you may know everything but if you don’t portray that well in the interview then it would be meaningless. 

Another thing is to participate in hackathons. It is a great way to learn about simple things like working on a team and meeting deadlines. Not only do you learn during this event, but you also get a chance to build your resume. I have seen people’s resumes being thrown out and not given a chance because they have nothing besides their curriculum. That is important because it shows that you are doing something that you wanted to do and have gone outside your comfort zone. 

Another important thing for students before their job/internship search is to build relationships. Find people to talk to through mentorship programs or tech meetups, even LinkedIn for career advice. For women, I know there is a Facebook group for women called “Tech Ladies” which provides women technical support and advice on how you can approach negotiations or handle particular situations in work. There are great Slack communities too like “Women in AI” etc. to always stay in the loop with tech enthusiasts and leaders. I have met some brilliant people in this way. Use opportunities like these so that you can learn.

Any advice, or special opportunities you would like to share with women trying to break into the software engineering field?

Yes. GHC is a great stepping stone, however, there are many small women groups and events like SheHacks happening locally or as of now, virtually. There are also so many open spaces where you can collaborate, learn from one another. I like conferences that are solely focused on women too but I think it’s more helpful when there are no limitations on who can participate. That’s where you learn how to work in a collaborative environment, share diverse ideas with various people.

Have you come across any opportunities that companies have specifically for women? What is the best part about being a woman in tech, given companies are pushing hard to create a diverse workplace?

Well for me at Amazon, we have so many women-specific groups. So, the best part about being a woman in tech is that you are much more than that. You have a wider range of exposure, opportunities that are not limited to groups focused on women but are open for all. Having an access to open groups apart from women-specific groups helps to direct the right questions towards the right group. As a woman in tech, you are as responsible as your company. For a company you decide to work, one of the biggest considerations to be taken would be whether your voice is heard, where your opinion matters and you know it’s not being discarded. Honestly, what comes first is to ensure that your team is supportive and that you are able to express your opinions and be heard. I think this matters the most.

Any last piece of advice, any suggestions you would like to give to students?

Specifically technical, you can never be a great engineer by yourself. Learn to collaborate. Find a buddy you can practice coding with, whiteboard and prepare for interviews, etc. because if you are preparing alone, you will miss out on if not more but a different perspective. I have interviewed for Google, Facebook, and Amazon, and one thing I have learned from these interviews is that the more you enjoy problem solving the more helpful it is to your overall interview experience. I was told by one of the recruiters that interviewers are on your side, they just need enough to prove that you deserve this position. They are there to support you and walk you through. So, be vocal, ask questions, talk about your approach, explain the pros and cons, and talk through the solution so that they can help you if you are stuck. The more vocal you are, the more insight the interviewer has into your thought process. For the most part, the eventual outcome of the coding question is not more important than the process itself. I have digressed (not too far though) with interviewers on for eg. how hashing collisions can be dealt with and that has eventually helped me more.

Interviewing Tips

  • Learn to collaborate. Find a buddy you can practice coding with, whiteboard and prepare for interviews, etc.
  • Be vocal, ask questions, talk about your approach, explain the pros and cons, and talk through the solution so that they can help you if you are stuck.

Good luck with your job search and interviews!

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this post are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

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