#43 - Scarlet Nguyen

“So never limit yourself to one option; just try many things. It will help your vision open up and deeper…”

Scarlet Nguyen - Software Engineer Intern at Slack

“I moved to Canada with my parents when I was in 8th grade. It wasn’t easy back then; people didn’t recognize my parents’ 20 years working experience in Vietnam. So they had to do manual labor and study online for certificates at night. Meanwhile, I was on my own at school. As a brand new student, who didn’t know English, I was isolated and bullied a bit. To improve my language, after class, I often sat down with the teacher to practice English. Still no friends at school? I started to join events, went volunteer, and explore the world outside. I met college students and 60s aunts and uncles at that time. Then I discovered that even college students wondered whether they liked their major!

So I asked them, “Why don’t you prepare before entering the university to know what you like the most?”

They said that they didn’t know about these things when they were in high school. And there was no one to guide or say anything for them to prepare. Guess what? I started self-questioning! I’ve heard that people were dealing with that problem in the university. So if I didn’t do anything to change, I would face the same. After that, I spent the whole 10th grade studying many different professions. I went to the career fair and job fair, learned related courses, or asked people who had been working for a while. Fortunately, during that time, I met a software engineer working in big tech. He introduced a program in his company that accepted students like me. I went for a test interview and failed ^^. Of course, I was so upset, and spent the whole 11th grade going around 23 technology hackathons in my city! At that time, the more I failed, the more I tried. After those contests, my profile was filled with some related experiences, and I was also bolder.

That said, it’s not like I haven’t been shaken since joining this industry. My mother likes her daughter to study medicine. So she asked a doctor, who had been a software engineer before, to “advise” me. He said that IT is a “men” field, it’s very hard, and I can’t compete. Also, China and India did everything in this industry. When I finish my studies, I will likely be unemployed! He worked as an engineer for twenty years, so he knows that. I was scared after hearing that, thinking about that for three days^^. But I am still keen on my decision, no matter what. I’ve also studied medicine before, knowing for sure that I’m not passionate enough to compete with other students.

But actually, what he said is not wrong. At my age, boys also made up about 70-80%. Fortunately, there was a wave of feminism at that time, demanding equality in all professions. So my profile got a little more attention. My first official job in tech was as an intern at Hootsuite. I was about 16 or 17 back then. In the team, there were all 40s and 50s. Outside of work, everyone talked about economics, politics, family, and so on. I didn’t know anything at all, and I even didn’t understand what people said. Well, I felt like I had culture shock; so useless! Partly because of my age, and maybe because my professional knowledge was not good enough. After that, I decided to spend two months learning about the system and better understanding the profession. When I understood a little better, I also finished the internship 😞. Next summer, I decided to return to that company. This time, I understood the system better. Plus, I started listening and asking questions. Linking what I’ve learned to the topic people were talking about. I asked more deeply, and evaluated if the things I related and people’s perspectives were the same. When asked about what people know, I find they like it very much and are passionate about answering me. That year, I felt I was a little mature.

Besides, I also learned one more good thing in Hootsuite through their senior management. When I asked if I should practice here until I graduate, understand the system well, and easily get a high level, or should I try more different companies while I was in college, then choose the one I like most? The second option will probably be harder and longer to get to the top. He just said, always experimenting with different things. Now that I am too young, I have not yet shouldered many family responsibilities, so trying a lot will help me know what I like and what is suitable for me. Plus, it’s never too late to return to this company. So never limit yourself to one option; just try many things. It will help your vision open up and go deeper.

Up to now, I have passed 9 internships. So I’ll graduate a bit late ^^. Usually, if I target a company, I spend about a year preparing, for example, working on projects, going to events, or meeting people related to that company. So, usually, I will know what I need and want to experience next. Sometimes, I don’t know what to choose among many options. Then I will rely on feelings. Is this internship good for me? That’s also why I left Google, or after I graduate, I want to return to LinkedIn. Through many internships, I gradually developed that “divine ability”.

For me, when going to interviews at big companies like Facebook or Google, it takes a bit of luck. Of course, it is necessary to prepare carefully, but sometimes, success is brought to me by fate. For example, on the day I interviewed, was my employer pleasant and easygoing? Or have they just been scolded by their wife? Can we catch the waves and talk to each other easily? If looking more broadly, while the company is interviewing me, I am also observing the company. My most bad interview experience was probably at that company named F. At that time, my interviewer came 5-10 minutes late, and then she said sorry, she had not prepared yet. While I was solving the problem, she didn’t seem to care much. At that time, I thought I would not want to work there even if I passed the interview. Haha, but I failed ^^.

Next year is my last internship. I’m looking for a place to practice and work after graduation. I wish the company has an office in Canada while its head office is in the US; they will pay a better salary than the common ground. Next is the culture and people of the team I work with; do they care, help each other, and talk to each other? Finally, the product; it must be challenging and fun for me to tackle.”

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