Thursday, May 7, 2015

Saint Wesonga '08

Saint Wesonga '08
Software Engineer, Microsoft
Seattle, Washington

In the last year of my graduate program in computer science, one of my colleagues was  intrigued by the possibility of working for Amazon. It was his dream job and he worked extremely hard to prepare for interviews with them. Driven by my own uncertainty about my career path and  my friend's unceasing exultation over the prospect of a job at Amazon, I decided to investigate software engineering jobs at Amazon. I submitted my resume and was pleasantly surprised when they reached out to me for an interview at their Seattle office. Although I hadn't interviewed much at that point, my confidence in my abilities was still high since I had performed well in school. It was a rude awakening to find that I could barely even stumble through the whole of the first technical question that came my way. Needless to say, I was (unsurprisingly) not offered a position at Amazon.

However, I learned important lessons through this experience, all of which I would like to share with you as you prepare to graduate. First, surround yourself with friends that aim high in life and that challenge you. I had not really considered what I could do with my potential until my friend started working to realize his dream of a software engineering career in the Pacific North West. His keenness to pursue his dream spurred me into thinking about which path I would take.

Second, be willing to take risks. Although I had incorrectly assessed my skill level for the interviews, I was still a bit nervous about the non-technical aspects of the interview with Amazon. However, I still proceeded to sign up for it and although I did not receive a job offer after the interview, I had learned a lot about the interview process and about how unprepared I was because I took the risk of pursuing it. This leads me to the third point: never assume that you do not need to prepare for tasks you feel confident about. It might have been a while since you have exercised the skill in question, or you may be required to apply it in a new, unique, or unexpected way. It cannot hurt you to brush up on your skills.

A few months after my experience of interviewing at Amazon, I submitted my resume at a Microsoft recruiting event and was glad to receive an invitation to interview with them. Fortunately, I had prepared myself for these interviews since my experience at Amazon had informed me about how much more preparation I needed. I subsequently received a job offer from Microsoft and I thank God that He allowed me to learn from my earlier failure. So the fourth point to you would be to learn from your mistakes and not let them define who you are or hold you back.

As you graduate and head out into the world, it is important to realize that learning is a life-long undertaking and that you are beginning a new phase of this journey of learning. With this in mind, one of the most important reminders as you set out is that our lives are about Christ's Kingdom first. He instructs us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and that all other things shall be given unto us. This tenet of our faith should be a steady guide, a north-star, as you navigate the oceans of life. When deciding which job offer to accept for those that receive multiple, remember Christ's Kingdom and seek His glory in your decision. When waiting patiently for an offer of employment that does not seem to be materializing, remember that Christ's kingdom is about more than just our careers and how epic they could be. When contemplating switching careers later in life, remember Christ's kingdom first.