Interview with Ashley Qian '15

Interview by Howie Rhee '04, with contributions by Vivian Chung. Added May 13, 2015

Tell us about what you studied at Duke and which program you were in?
I majored in Computer Science and minored in Women's Studies.

Talk about your prior work experience.
During my freshman and sophomore years, I interned primarily at startups. I interned at eBay my junior year.

What did your recruiting process look like? How many people did you reach out to?
I didn't start my recruiting process until my second semester senior year because of organizing HackDuke. I reached out to around 7-8 companies.

How did you come up with a list of companies to target?
My main focus was on companies and startups that were making a difference, primarily in either EdTech, CivicTech or BioTech (specifically in women's reproductive health). Filling out my profile on AngelList and using the website to look for startups to apply to helped me immensely in my search. 

Talk about how you thought about location (city) as it related to recruiting. Did you know where you wanted to end up or were you exploring?
I always knew I was gonna end up in SF. NYC was also an option, but most of the upcoming and awesome startups are in the Bay Area.

What was a favorite article or tip that someone gave you on the job search process?
Do what you love, show passion, make something happen, and WRITE about it. The jobs will follow.

Anything else you'd like to share with Duke students that are doing their own job search?
Here are frequently asked questions and observations that I've made when I was doing my job hunt:

Q: Do your grades matter?
If you're studying computer science and want to work in industry as a software engineer, your grades matter less than you think. Stop trying to get the grade and start focusing on learning the concepts. In my 7 interviews with startups and large "prestigious" companies, I have not once been asked for my grades.

Q: Which will help me get the job more, a BA or a BS?
The BS will neither hurt nor help you. Stop worrying. Choose the BS if you like math and want to go through a more math intensive curriculum. Otherwise, stop wasting your time and branch out into other amazing things Duke has to offer. Like humanities classes.

Q: What's the secret to getting hired in Silicon Valley?
You need to show a love for building things. You need to have built something (and not just that dinky game in CS 308). You need to understanding the fundamental concepts of CS in order to pass the technical screens. You need to know how to code, well.

Work on side projects. Do something out of the classroom. What companies want to see is not that you're just taking CS courses and not loving it outside of those courses. CS has to be something that you're passionate about, in class and out of class. Companies need to know that you'll be able to learn, whether it be in machine learning, big data, backend frameworks, new languages or frontend frameworks-- and actually do it out of your own volition.

Duke CS helped me get the interview and past the phone screens. Getting the job is up to you, your passion, your personality and your projects.


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