Welcome to, Transformational Power of Technology, a new series at HHF where we speak with Latinos in Tech who have been placed into jobs or internships after joining our Latinos on Fast Track (LOFT) and Code as a Second Language (CSL) network. The power of technology is a force like no other, a part of everyday lives and the means of constant communications across the globe.
Next up is Damian Durruty, a participant in the 2016 Stanford LOFT Coder Summit, and today is a Senior Site Operations Engineer at LinkedIn. He ensures the stability and reliability of five different data centers collectively serving 500 million users and creates tools to assist with the monitoring, analysis and reporting of site performance. He gave us advice for other students on leveraging his relationship with HHF, how HHF supported him throughout his journey in finding a job, and tips for other professionals and students in the workplace. This is what he said.
How did you connect with HHF and what interested you to attend the 2016 LOFT Coder Summit at Stanford?
I had subscribed to the LOFT (Latinos on Fast Track) mailing list and received an e-mail about the summit. I wanted to attend but didn’t have a car or the financial means to travel to Stanford because I was unemployed at the time. On a whim, I decided to e-mail both Alberto Avalos and Jose Duran at HHF indicating my interest in attending the summit and explaining my situation. They responded saying I was more than welcome to carpool with Jose and some members of the LA-based HHF team all the way up to Stanford. Their willingness to help me out when I was in a tough spot resulted in life changing circumstances, all for the better.
How did your experience at our 2016 LOFT Coder Summit at Stanford benefit you?
I attended the summit because I wanted to learn about new Latino-led emerging technologies and because I wanted to network with others in the tech industry. At the summit I met Raul, a software engineer at LinkedIn. We ended up chatting a great deal and connected thereafter via the company’s platform. Several months after the event, when the startup I was working for in LA had run out of funding and I found myself out of a job yet again, I reached out to Raul. He very kindly gave me an internal company referral for position that closely matched my skillset. That kicked off the 2-3 month interview process which was arduous yet educational. I didn’t think I was going to make it but in the end received a very generous offer. At this point, I’ve been with LinkedIn for about eight months and see myself staying with the company for a long time. Unlike other high-pressure Silicon Valley companies, LinkedIn really does value work-life balance, wellness, and inclusion, something that’s reflected at all levels of the company’s leadership.
Networking advice for college graduates?
It still helps to have a college degree as it opens up more job opportunities, but it doesn’t have the value it did a generation or two ago. In my case, I was better positioned than most new graduates because I already had some job experience in the tech industry, having worked at my college’s IT department in order to support myself as a student. If there is still time to land an internship, summer work or part-time work, strongly consider it. For better or for worse, tech is one of the few professional industries that places less emphasis on credentials and more emphasis on raw ability, work experience, or a portfolio of work demonstrating mastery of a particular technology. Many aspiring software engineers post their personal coding projects on GitHub, for instance, in order to validate their claims to potential employers.
The tech interview process can be fairly brutal, especially for software engineering positions that require you to solve challenging algorithm problems on the spot, often in front of several other senior engineers. Even positions with the exact same title may have a completely different set of requirements and emphasize disparate tech stacks which you are expected to be proficient in. Being well-prepared for these interviews is always advantageous. There are, for instance, a wealth of online resources such as CodeFights and CodeAcademy that allow you to simulate algorithms interview questions and interactively learn new technologies—take advantage of these sites in order to hone your skills as much as possible. The good news is that once you do accrue enough relevant work experience, landing the initial tech interview becomes a far more passive process relative to other industries. Tech recruiters abound and demand for talent is intense.
Finally, pushing the boundaries of your network can make a big difference. Everyone in my particular social network was either struggling or looking for work, so I had to look outside of it in order to get my foot in the door. This can seem daunting for those of us who are on the more introverted side of the spectrum, but those who manage to get past their discomfort and put themselves out in front of industry insiders will reap the rewards later on.
HHF’s CSL initiative provides opportunities across the country and opens its doors to everyone, Whether you are a CSL fellow, participate in our Bootcamps, Academies, Jams and or attend our LOFT Coder Summits, the opportunities in technology are endless! We’d love to chat. Contact us!