From Art School to Software Engineering: How She Landed a Job at uShip (and You Can Too!)
Leslie Crunkilton brings a sense of art and creativity to just about everything she does. When she's not working, she is busy creating culinary masterpieces, composing music, or performing with her band.
We sat down with Leslie to hear about how she harnessed her creativity to jump start her career as an associate software engineer at online shipping marketplace company, uShip. Keep reading to learn more about her interview and onboarding experience and advice for new software engineers.
Finding the Art in Engineering
Leslie studied Studio Art and Photography in college. "I always wanted to do art and I've always done art, so it made sense at the time to pursue that as a degree," she explains. "However, once I graduated I wasn't sure what I'd want to do with it.' After moving to a new city and working a number of demanding part-time jobs to support her artistic pursuits, she began taking coding courses and building websites in her free time.
"I wanted a career path that was sustainable," Leslie explains. So she focused on learning more coding languages and became a freelance web developer. "It felt like a pretty easy transition, because I could still be creative in ways." After six years of contracting for agencies and e-commerce companies, Leslie yearned for more stability. "I felt like I was moving in the right direction, but I still didn't have a full-time job and my schedule was inconsistent." That's when she decided to participate in a coding immersion program with Hack Reactor. "I really wanted to accelerate my career and level up my skills to be able to get a job at a larger company and have a whole full-time stable career."
And Then Finding uShip
After finishing her bootcamp, Leslie was ready to take on the challenge of searching for that dream job, so she decided to attend a PowerToFly virtual networking event with uShip. "I was really nervous beforehand and I almost backed out because I didn't really know what to expect," she says. "But it ended up being great and the presenters were really inspiring and encouraging." She decided to apply for a Software Engineer position and began UShip's multi-stage interview process:
Step 1: Phone screen. A few days after submitting the application, one of uShip's recruiters gives the applicant a call to learn more about their experience and fitness for the role.
Step 2: Technical interview. If the phone screen with the recruiter goes well, the candidate moves on to a technical interview with a hiring manager. In this interview, the applicant will have to complete a coding-related task and explain their thought process along the way. If the candidate is applying for a non-technical role, this step is a standard interview with a hiring manager.
Step 3: Onsite interview. Nowadays, onsite interviews are held virtually. During this process, the candidate will meet with a number of different team members to talk about their experience and showcase their problem-solving skills.
Step 4: Final interview. If all goes well in the first three steps, the final stage is to meet with a manager and hopefully receive a job offer!
"It was a pretty standard, multi-stage interview process," explains Leslie. But connecting with the interviewers set this interview process apart from other companies she had interviewed with. "Everyone at uShip was so nice and personable and I could immediately imagine myself working with them. That definitely helped the entire interview process feel more comfortable, exciting, and fun at times."
Early Days at uShip
After acing all four interview stages and accepting the job offer, Leslie began the onboarding process, which started with training meetings to go over the company's products, website, and high-level functionality. She was also assigned an onboarding buddy—an existing member of the team who served as Leslie's main point of contact throughout the onboarding process. "Having that buddy was really helpful in the beginning, and fortunately, he didn't seem to mind all of my questions," she says, laughing.
Right away, Leslie felt integrated into her team. "I immediately felt supported by [them] and I felt like people wanted to see me succeed," she elaborates. "They're eager to help new people out by sharing their knowledge and experience. I legitimately enjoy working with my team and collaborating every day."
Leslie's one year uShip anniversary is coming up in January. "This first year at uShip has been incredible. I really like my job. I feel really lucky to be here," she reflects. Her favorite part about the company is the culture of growth and collaboration.
She recently hit a major professional milestone, presenting as a subject matter expert on an upcoming project. "I got to present my technical plan and idea for how we could approach this big project. I feel like I was contributing on a higher level, even as an associate," she says. "I'm a lot less experienced than most of the people there and I wasn't valued any less because of that. My experience and ideas were still taken seriously and I'm actually making a difference in how we're going to approach this problem."
Advice for New Software Engineers-
Leslie knows what it's like to step into a role without much experience, so here are her top pieces of advice for new software engineers:
Look for ways to grow every day. "Basically every day I'm faced with something I'm unfamiliar with or don't know much about. So I make sure to take the time to dig deeper and understand fully what I'm doing," says Leslie. Don't be afraid to ask questions and find small ways to grow on a daily basis. "Asking questions and asking for feedback about how I'm doing and what I could be doing differently has been really important for my growth at uShip."
Leave self-doubt at the door. "I definitely still deal with imposter syndrome, but something that has helped me is to focus on the qualities that I have and often overlook." When Leslie struggles with self-doubt, she reminds herself of those important qualities. "Those skills can boost your confidence and reminding myself of my positive qualities has been really helpful for me."
Focus on communication. One piece of advice that Leslie has for anyone looking to apply for a technical role at uShip is to practice talking through technical issues. "It's easy to just churn out a lot of coding practice and then not really think about how you would explain your thought process," she says. "And that's really important when you're collaborating on a team of people."
Weave in a little creativity. When approaching a technical problem, don't be afraid to get creative when coming up with solutions. "Creativity helps a lot in problem solving and the engineering mindset because you have to think about things from several different approaches," she explains. "Creativity has a big place in technical thinking."