Internship Guide for CSE Majors

Shen Wang —  September 5, 2013 — Leave a comment

My name is Shen Wang. I am a Computer Science major senior studying at University of Washington Seattle campus. Currently, I am working as an intern here at WhitePages. Every CSE major knows the importance of that first perfect internship and asks just about every person they can find all kinds of questions. Thus, I’d love to share my experience, and hopefully it can help others find the perfect fit.

Where it all started

The first time I came across WhitePages was at the fall CSE career fair. Being the only company that offered coding challenges, WhitePages quickly grabbed my attention. I took a copy of the challenge and sat on the stairs and started working on it. Due to the pressure I gave myself to come up with something clever, I was not able to perform as well as I could and did not get very far.

Time flew by quickly afterwards and the Winter/Spring career fair was right around the corner. After my first unsuccessful adventure at the previous career fair and missing my mom and puppy in China, whom I haven’t seen them in nearly three years, I was seriously considering spending the summer back in China. At the fair, WhitePages was again the only company that offered a coding challenge. Wanting to redeem myself, I took the challenge again. My mindset this time was a lot different. Instead of trying to impress, I just wanted to improve upon the last time and show exactly what I could do. This mindset clearly worked out for me. Instead of getting only a couple opportunities that lasted only through the initial screening, I was able to grab the interest of a number of companies and go much deeper in the interview process. Among the companies was WhitePages.

After the career fair were two whole busy weeks full of due dates and interviews. Honestly, I was a bit surprised when I received the email from WhitePages asking if I’d be interested in a second round test. After replying with “YES, PLEASE. THANK YOU!”(In a longer version of course), I was given a shot at the second coding question. Luckily, I was able to ace this second challenge and given an opportunity for an on-site interview. The on-site interview was a lot more fun. The interviewers were the managers from various teams. Typically, intern candidates only get to meet with two managers. In my case, however, another manager (whom I work under now) was especially interested in me and asked if I would be able to stay a bit longer. Long story short, the interview took 4 hours that day and was a lot of fun. I learned a lot from the interviewers and was fully entertained (and fed) the whole time. Shortly after, I had a very competitive offer in my hands. The offer was generous and I was given a soft deadline of two weeks to decide. After spending a week closing out other interviews and a half-bragging-half-sorry Skype session with my mom, I accepted the offer.

There were a number of welcome/orientation events, happy hours and free Friday lunches during the time after the offer and before summer.

Life at WhitePages

While I could just finish this section with one word “AWESOME”, I should probably go into more depth so this guide does not make it to the “Worst Guides of All Time” list.

Working at WhitePages is a great experience. All the time and effort spent by HR, interviewers and candidates really pays off. Every single person here working here truly fits here. I can always rely on the people around me to be friendly, helpful and smart. Remember how annoying and poisonous that lazy person from you group project course was? There is absolutely no need to worry about that working here.

One of the topics that is covered all the time in intern talks is Big Company VS. Small Company. The conclusion always becomes big ones are more financially stable and smaller ones allow people to make a bigger impact. One of the groups that is not covered in this topic is a medium company like WhitePages. Medium sized companies can often provide the best of both worlds. Finance is never an issue, and small and independent teams allow ideas to be exchanged, discussed and evaluated very quickly. For example, my project this summer is actually geared towards making a brand new product, and I get to do interesting research work and learn about how to launch a new service into production from the ground up.

Another shining spot about interning at WhitePages is the amount of mentorship I’ve received. During my two months here, I have learned a ton of things in different areas: from coding style to approaches to problems, astronomy to physics, statistics to the hottest and newest video game, career growth to interview tips, from beer to whiskey, and conversations covering all ranges of topics.

Last but not least, we also have a HR department that is dedicated to making everyone happy. We have alternating free Friday lunches and happy hours, and a kitchen always fully stocked with free treats (yogurt being my favorite).

Oh, and did I mention for August we only worked 4 days a week and had 3-day weekends all month?

Final Advice

1. Instead of working hard to impress the interviewer right before an interview, work hard on a daily basis, and just believe what you have on the table is enough to impress.
2. There are many opportunities in the CS industry. A bad interview or unfit position is not the end of world but rather an arrow sign pointing next door.
3. Medium Size Company = Big | Small > Big || Small
4. Apply at WhitePages

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