Just so you’re clear: it was not my idea to give a talk to Microsoft Research. I had learned embarrassingly little about computer science in my 18 years of life, and the last thing I wanted to do is to have that exposed in front of a bunch of genius PhDs in MSR. But my manager thought it’d be a great “opportunity,” and so there I was, blabbing on about my summer project.
I finished up my talk at lightning speed. As I was dealing with a somewhat severe case of stage fright, I considered my haste a good thing. And then the questions started. Did I consider doing X? Yes, I told them, I did, and this is what happened. Why not implement it with Y? You could, but that would cause problem Z.
I almost hesitated to admit it to myself afterwards, but things went fine. Just fine.
That whole summer I had been convinced that Microsoft would discover that I knew practically nothing and cut me loose. I had only gotten my internship offer through some brilliant streak of luck, I reasoned, and didn’t really deserve it. Not like my fellow interns did anyway. They had done three times as much college as me, completed three times as many projects, and basically knew three times as much as me.
Four years later, with a job at Google about to start, I reflected on my incredible luck. I landed a Microsoft internship at an incredibly young age, and that turned into three consecutive internships. Then I got an Apple internship, even though Apple never even recruited at my university. And then I happened to get hooked up with just the right people who referred me to the up-and-coming Google. I must be the luckiest person alive.
Or am I?
Maybe, while Lady Luck was certainly in my favor, I had somehow, accidentally, done everything just right. I completed several large projects in high school, offering me considerably more experience than my peers. I got an entry-level job as a web designer, which developed my professional and technical credibility. I created a résumé that, while atrocious in many respects, demonstrated my passion for technology and showcased my limited experience. And finally, I built a network of more senior professionals, managed relationships with mentors, and leveraged these connections to land one dream job after another.
And that, my dear readers, is how you get a job at the world’s greatest tech companies.