Turning Professional Humiliation on Its Head


I bombed my first technical interview. It might be the most humiliating professional thing to happen to me. Actually, it might be the most humiliating thing to happen to me, ever.

I had just finished an 11-week intensive course to learn Ruby and Ruby on Rails. I was looking for my first coding job, and the company knew my newbie status. However, I myself did not fully understand my newbie status. After all, I’d already had a career — I’m 36. I’ve managed teams, brokered deals, sat at the table of some really important meetings and I’m good at what I do– in advertising. I’ve earned my stripes– in advertising. I was a total noob as a programmer.

And so there I was, Little Miss Accomplished, completely freaking out — sweaty palms, elevated heart rate, and not a clue as to how to answer the two Sr. Developers’ question about Active Record. And the worst part of it all — I knew the answer. I definitely learned the answer in class. I definitely used the answer on a regular basis. But the answer was stuck somewhere between my emotional state of panic and fear.

And so, I hung up the phone. And cried. And sure enough, a little while later, I got the call: they loved me. I was a great cultural fit. However, my technical skills were not where they needed to be, so they passed on hiring me.

I didn’t blame them. I would have passed me over too.

Technical Interviews are no joke. And they are a very real way that companies hire developers. So what should a newbie do?

Well, here is what I did — I went out and talked to Hiring Managers and Sr. Developers. Found out what they were looking for, and learned their tips and tricks for acing a technical interview and how NOT TO PANIC. And now, I’m sharing that knowledge with other women in technology through LadyCoders Boulder.

On May 4 – 5th at Google Boulder, LadyCoders Boulder is holding a Bootcamp. On the first day, Spotify is coming out to demonstrate their technical interview process with their lead recruiter and a Sr. Developer. I plan to have whiteboards for all attendees, and we are going to do this!

The seminar is over two days because while technical interviews are the holy grail for getting the job — there are so many other aspects to tech careers too. We plan to cover them all — resumes, LinkedIn, negotiating a raise, starting a business, networking effectively and my personal favorite — building confidence and risk.

Also, this is not just for ladies, everyone truly is welcome.

And yes, I did get a job coding. I did a 6 month internship at Commerce Kitchen working on Rails applications.

This blog post originally appeared on Built in Colorado, 4/22/2013.

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