At the end of August, I had the chance to hear an inspiring talk from Pujun Bhatnagar, a software engineer at Facebook, thanks to Katie our EU director. I contacted him and he agreed to answer some of my questions so I could share it with the Wilders.
Julien: You're now software engineer at one of the greatest technology companies in the World. At what point in your life did you know you wanted a career in IT?
Pujun: When I was deciding my field of study in undergraduate, I always stayed away from Computer Science since everyone seemed to be wanting to do that. I wanted to build things by hand and therefore signed up for the Mechanical Engineering major. But during the first week, I realized that all majors heavily relied on programming and simulation to get the job done. So I gradually changed my major from Mechanical Engineering -> Electrical Engineering --> Computer Engineering and it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to focus on.
I think I was starting my third year in college when I realized that I really enjoyed innovation and being able to build new things. With other engineering majors, it took years, if not decades to fully realize a product ( for instance, it takes 2 - 3 years to build a building or 5 years to manufacture a processor ) but with Computer Science, I could build applications and deploy them to billions of people to use in just a couple of clicks. That was exhilarating.
Julien: What did you do to make it happen?
Pujun: I really think that I am an average person. After realizing that I wanted to be a Computer Scientist and pursue a career in Tech, I knew that I had to work hard, fully grasp all the core concepts, and really prepare for the interviews. After learning all the core concepts, I dedicated myself to doing the "Cracking the Coding Interview" book and then practicing coding questions on Hackerrank. That helped a lot.
Also, I got rejected. A LOT. And it was hard to be in that spot back then but I would say that unlike the movies, life isn't always a straight path. DO NOT give up on your dreams and on your dream job. Reach out to the people who are working at the places where you would want to work, ask them how they prepared. Identify what your weaknesses are and what you need to do to address them and really just keep working at it. I got rejected by Facebook 4 times before I got an internship and a full-time offer.
Julien: You seem passionate about coding. Beyond a job, what else does it bring to you?
Pujun: I think the power to impact and build things that can be deployed to billions of people is exhilarating. I am of the opinion that learning how to code is just like learning how to paint. After you learn the basics of different brushes and what their uses are, the world becomes your canvas. What you do with those skills is all up to you. So make an impact in the field that you are excited about: whether that is Education, Social Media, Fashion, or Entrepreneurship. Do not limit yourself. Clearly define what impact you want to have on the world and what you would need to build to make that happen. And always have fun building it. Computer Science and coding is a really collaborative field so find your tribe, and build the next thing that would change the world.
Julien: Most of Wilders are in a process of retraining, have you ever had the opportunity to work with people like them? What do you think of their profiles?
Pujun: Yes, I have personally worked with a lot of colleagues that came from all sorts of different backgrounds and then changed to Tech fields by enrolling and graduating from a Bootcamp. Overall, I really think that these people are more passionate and better to work with when compared to someone who went the traditional route and got a Computer Science college degree. I think this is because of the unique abilities that these folks bring to the table. Their past experiences in different fields really help shape the project that we collaborate on and they bring a fresh unique perspective.
Also, I think that these co-workers are really intentional and passionate. Given that they decided to enroll and finish a Bootcamp after having a career really goes to show that they are super passionate about coding, which makes them really awesome to work with. :)
Julien: Do you have any advice to give them for a successful career in IT?
Pujun: There is a lot to learn and unlike many traditional fields, IT is highly collaborative and is driven by a team effort that relies on mutual trust, good communication, and collaboration. So reach out to the people whom you think are doing interesting work, get involved in projects, and build things. That is the only way to learn. Also, don't pay too much attention to folks who say that you need a college degree to be successful in the field of Tech. Some of the best coders I know never had any formal training in coding/computer science. All you need is passion and the willingness to learn.