By Flora Qu
If you want to gain some product management experience, along with a software development opportunity, at one of the largest Tech companies, I recently found the Explore Microsoft Internship program would be a good choice..
To learn more, I interviewed Tran Le, a student at Grinnell college, who is an upcoming intern there. Three semesters ago, Tran was an Economics major. What made her decide to transfer, and how did she get her internship among the strong competition after such a short period of time?
Why She Transfered from Economics to Computer Science
Tran grew up in the city of Huy in Vietnam, where traditionally girls study social sciences in college. So she took economics, which her parent also did. She saw a clear and safe path studying econ at Grinnell college in Iowa.
But her uncle encouraged her to try computer science since she was really into math. Therefore in her second semester in college, she took an intro computer science course as well. She found that whenever she had assignment from that class, she tended to do those before assignments from other classes. From there, she started to have the idea of switching to computer science as her major.
But the tradition and expectation from her hometown that girls should study social science was still strong in her mind. “Girls just don’t major in math and science”, she said.
She also shared that it was hard for her to imagine what her future life or career would turn into if she changed the plan she had long before.
So she tried other things to test her gut feeling. After the first school year of college, she went back to Vietnam during the summer. Instead of spending all that time having fun, she took some coding lessons.
After taking the intro to computer science class and her class in Vietnam, she realized that what she really enjoys is problem solving, and studying computer science gave her more opportunity for this.
How Did She Got Into the Program?
When Tran applied to the program at Microsoft, she had only been exposed to computer science for 7 months. She said she was therefore nervous to apply. But she decided that she would give it a try: At least she could get some experience and know what to expect.
“I did a lot of competitive programing online,” she shared. “I also tried websites like Leetcode to practice my algorithm and data structure. I think having a strong sense of problem solving and being comfortable with common data structure is very helpful because that is definitely something that will be asked for during the interview.”
Because this internship program is for first and second year college students, the requirements won’t go into such deep questions. But she still did a lot of the leetcode questions because she just really enjoyed practicing the problems. This excelled her skills.
She also shared that companies want to see how candidates approach a problem, and how comfortable you are dealing with data structure such as trees, pointers, and linked lists. Overall, things that are more complex than array.
“Having a good understanding of the data structures will help you to manipulate them and solve problems in efficient ways,” she said.
But she also mentioned that doing the problems right in the interview is not the only thing those companies are looking for. She mentioned one of her friends didn’t finish the problems on time, but she realized what part was wrong, and explained what way she can get the problem right to the interviewer. This is also what they are looking for
“They are looking for someone who they can work with,” Tran said, “so communication is also important. This can be shown through their behavioral questions. Doing mock interviews with your friends helps!”
Overall, I think hard work definitely helped Tranget her internship, but I think the point here is that she is working on something that she is truly passionate about. I think she is very lucky in that sense. Because she really likes problem solving, she enjoys doing the problem sets, and the leetcode problems.
I believe that she had pressure when she first decided to switch to CS, but she took some time to try it out, and that affirmed her decision. So what I learned from this is if you have some idea on what you enjoy, you should definitely try it out.
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