Gloria Chen is a sophomore from Reston, Virginia majoring in Computer Engineering. Gloria spent this past summer near home as a software engineer intern for Leidos, a relatively new defense company (split off of SAIC a few years ago). Leidos has a large presence in the DC area and sponsors the soccer team D.C. United, many FLL, FTC, and FRC teams and many events in the D.C. area such as the Marine Corps Marathon. Gloria had a valuable summer experience of personal growth and professional development. With all the connections she has built with her team and a strong interest in the projects, Gloria will be returning to Leidos again this summer!
What attracted you to the company/ position?
I was attracted to Leidos because they are always innovating and creating large scale projects while also maintaining focus on developing solutions that help people every day. The company has an extremely ethical and moral environment with an emphasis on giving back to the community. Another reason that I was excited about working at Leidos was the project that I would be working on. The position entailed doing government work with a large autonomous surface vessel which included testing and controlling the vessel and leading related test events.
What was the hiring process like?
I applied to this internship through Leidos' website. I had to submit my resume and fill out their application which consisted of basic information and a few short answer questions. A few weeks after submitting the application, I had a phone interview with the project manager along with a few software engineers that were on the team. The interview included a balanced mix of technical and non-technical questions. From the initial application to the phone interview, and waiting, the whole hiring process took about ten weeks; I applied in late August, and by the first week of November, I had received an offer.
Can you tell me a little about what your overall experience was like working there and what your typical day was like?
There wasn't a "typical" day for me or anyone else on the team because every day was different. We got to choose our work hours, so sometimes I'd go to work at 7 am, other days I'd come in at 9 am, some days I'd leave at 3 pm, and other days I'd leave as late as 8 pm. Traveling was also a significant part of the project, so there were almost always a few people across the country. The one thing that remained consistent was our daily scrum meetings at 10 am, where the team would update the group about what they were working on. Throughout the internship, I got to choose specific tasks, called stories, that I would work on for about two weeks (one sprint). The team was incredibly great at mentoring us interns while also treating us like full-time employees.
What did this job teach you about yourself?
At the beginning of this internship, I thought I would just be observing and learning from the full-time employees, and I never imagined coding anything significant for the project because I still had so much to learn. After the first week I was assigned a small task that I was unsure I was able to complete. However, with the help and guidance from the full-time employees, I was able to accomplish this task and many more throughout the duration of my internship, with less guidance from full-time employees with each task. Because of this job I learned that I could pick up on tasks a lot faster and more in-depth than I thought. I realized that with the right network of people collaborating with me, I could complete difficult tasks that I didn't think I could have before this internship started. Another important thing I learned was that while academics are essential to build a foundation of knowledge that can be applied in future internships and jobs, the grades and numeric results from classes are not always an accurate representation of what you are capable of.
How do you feel that your education at Purdue helped you while working for this company?
I got my internship about three months into my first semester at Purdue, so although my education at Purdue didn't particularly help me get into the internship, there were skills that I used at my internship from which I learned at Purdue. For example, in CS 159 I learned that when coding with multiple people it's more effective and efficient to have clear roles of a driver (the person typing the code) and navigators (those watching over, checking for mistakes, and sometimes guiding the driver). When coding with other people, it is important to switch these roles so that everyone gets a turn driving and navigating. During my internship, I would often have tasks that would have to be weaved together with other interns' tasks and many times we would have to mesh our code together but with the methods, I learned through my classes at Purdue, we were able to complete the tasks more efficiently.
What career advice would you give to underclassmen?
One piece of advice that I would give is never to feel discouraged as an underclassman at a career fair. It is all too familiar to hear a recruiter say they only hire upperclassmen. If you are in this position at a career fair, don't be afraid to ask them for advice; such as asking if they could give you any tips on how you could prepare to fit the candidate they're looking for, any improvements on your resume, or any suggestions on how to make your elevator pitch more effective. Connecting with a recruiter early will put you in an advantageous position against other candidates when you do become an upperclassman.