With every seat filled and student’s continuing to pile in the JST Iowa Room, Facebook Executive and Software Engineer Semmy Purewal delivered personal information to students wanting to pursue a career in the tech industry.
As a partof the Distinguished Lecture Series, Purewal spoke to the students on September24, 2018, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Before giving the scoop on Facebook and his employment, he gave the students a synopsis of his journey.
The Allendale, South Carolina native said he began pursuing his undergraduate degree at the University of South Carolina in the field of journalism. Shortly after he dropped out, took a break and graduated from College of Charleston.
“From USC I learned I wasn’t quite cut out for journalism. I then started making music in Charleston, South Carolina and learned that wasn’t it either. So, I enrolled in Trident Technical College to then transfer to and graduate from College of Charleston,” said Purewal.
In 2002 he graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. In 2007, he obtained his PhD from University of Georgia. From there Purewal taught in cities in the southeastern United States.
In August of 2013, he became a Software Engineer for Netflix for four years; for a little over a year he has been employed as a Software Engineer at Facebook.
He asked the audience, “How many of you are Computer Science majors?” Majority of the room raised their hands.
With a presentation ready, he transitioned into what it takes to land any job in the tech industry.
“If you’re not computer science, things may get confusing. This presentation is solely tech related but some of this information can be applicable to all students trying to get a job in their field,” said Purewal.
He directed the student’s attention to his PowerPoint with the slides reading, “How do I prepare for the interview?” and “Path to an offer.”He stressed to students the importance of knowing the company, the interview process and how to communicate.
“If you’re saying you want an interview, be prepared and expected to code,” Purewal said. He continued with, “You can be the best coder in the world. You can figure out every problem but if you can’t communicate and explain to others how you reached that solution, you’ll never get the job.”
He continued to engage with the students by asking how many have experienced an interview before; only a few raised their hands.
Those students all agreed that tech interviews are hard and can leave you puzzled. Purewal responded with, “Interview questions are purposefully hard to reach the limits of your knowledge. How far can you go?”
Thepresentation continued as he placed sample interview questions on the board toprobe the students. Through interaction he and the students solved codingequations.
“It’s not about how many questions you get right, it’s about how hard you try. I’ve failed more interviews than I’ve passed,” said Purewal.
He advises the students to network more. He provides examples such as attending tech talks, participating in hackathons or coding competitions, and to create a college programming team.
“Competitions are a great means to networking. Netflix found me through my blog because I would write about the competitions. My blog led to my employment,” said Purewal.
While everyone in attendance wasn’t a coder, other students took a lesson from what he had to say.
Tamera Jones, a senior and biochemistry major said, “Woah, computer science is way different than what I’ve been studying. Even though I was confused during the equation portion of the lecture, I learned something. Employers want you to know about the company and the way they do things.”
Computer Science major and freshman, Robert Campbell said, “This was one of the coolest and most interesting events at Claflin. I learned what it takes to be successful and rock the interview.”