How I managed to get a Web development internship after studying Excel all night.

I recently underwent a coding test as part of an interview for a Web Development position. A few days before the interview, I emailed the recruiter to inquire about the coding test topics. I suppose they were busy as I never got a reply, so I attended the coding test with a little preparation on various topics like PHP, SQL, JavaScript, and React. In the end, the test had one task to build a small React component and another task to solve a much harder problem using any language I wanted. I chose JavaScript for the second problem and failed to complete it. I do not know the coding test outcome yet, but this experience reminded me of a past interview. I hope you will find some joy and encouragement after reading my experience.

In September of 2018, I interviewed for Winter term internships. I applied to 20 jobs in about a month and got an interview with one of the provincial government offices. The job posting mentioned Excel as one of the primary skills. I was quite confused about what Excel had to do with the Junior Web Developer position. But I was quite desperate, so I decided to strengthen my Excel knowledge. The day before the interview, I spent the entire evening & night brushing up on Excel. I even learnt about pivot tables and some other advanced topics.

The following day, I walk into an interview with a written coding test. The written test consisted of HTML, CSS, and PHP questions. Even though I did not prepare for a coding test, I answered the HTML and CSS questions. The last question was worth about half of the test marks. And the problem was to use PHP to loop through an array, build an unordered list, then display the unordered list on the web page. Not too hard a question, you might think, but the problem was that I did not know PHP at all.

I was going to bomb the only interview that I had gotten, and I was on the verge of tears. I wallowed for a few minutes in self-pity, and then I decided that I should at least try to answer the question. I mentioned on the paper that I did not know PHP, and using pseudocode, I listed the steps to solve the problem. And I also wrote a solution using JavaScript. Rattled by the coding test, I stammered (social anxiety sucks😭) my way through the rest of the interview. I mentioned the difference between the job posting details and the actual coding test to the contact person. They were equally baffled and promised to look into it. After a few weeks of waiting, I got an email from the internship coordinator that I got an offer for the job. I was shocked and surprised that I got a job offer after what I perceived as a disaster of an interview.

On the first day of my internship, I met the rest of my team's internship hires. I found that all 3 of them were in their second or third internships and were part of a degree program. Whereas I was in a diploma program, and this was my first internship. Translation: They were much better qualified than me. The two biggest lessons I learnt from this debacle are that one must never give up even in the face of adversity. Most of the interviewers want to test our problem-solving skills and not if we know the programming language's syntax. And lastly, when facing challenges, we should always remember the wise wisdom imparted by the great Mr. Michael Scott.

You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take -Wayne Gretzky -Michael Scott
You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take -Wayne Gretzky -Michael Scott

What are some of your best and worst interview experiences in tech? Tweet me @sbappan_ and share your story."

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