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During the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), attendees flooded the George Brown Convention Center in Houston Texas to network, learn and share information in celebration of women technologists. For students at GHC, the expo hall also doubled as a career fair. Here’s how to stand out when you’re trying to leave GHC with opportunities to chart your own path in technology.

Recruiters, engineers, scientists and technologists were stationed at company booths to talk about their workplaces. They screened resumes, interviewed candidates and shared their experiences.

This year I was able to attend GHC for the first time, not as a student seeking a position but as an employee of Red Hat. At Red Hat we do many things differently, interviewing at GHC is one of those things. Red Hat is seeking associates who possess both a strong technical aptitude as well as a passion for our products and services.

My advice to students looking for job opportunities is to prepare.

Do your research. Understand the goal and vision of the company. If you are unsure of anything, ask as early as possible or look online at the company’s website. Do not wait until you are in the last round of interviews stumped by a question like “why are you interested in working for so and so company specifically?” Utilize your research to show that you understand the company and the different solutions that the company offers.

Ask questions. This is a good way to gain answers to these questions while signalling your interest to the interviewer or recruiter. The purpose of an interview is to discover if you are a good fit for the company, and for you to discover if the company is a good fit for you.

Asking interviewers about their favourite things about the company, their job, and co-workers can provoke interesting conversations and provide valuable information about whether the company will be a good fit.

The technical interviews judge fit based on technical aptitude, while behavioral interviews assess cultural fit, adaptability, problem solving skills and passion for technology and people. At the very least asking the questions you have prepared helps guide the interview along at your pace and avoid awkward situations where the interviewer is asking a question on a topic you were unprepared to discuss.

Evaluate your priorities. Everyone responds to relocation, technologies, and size and culture differently. Determine the factors that will ultimately help you make a job decision. During the interview make an effort to reflect on these priorities. This shows you care about where you’ll be working and that you understand that, for example, size and culture of a company will inevitably impact your job performance.

Stay positive. Most interviewers want the interview to go well. If you are interviewing with more than one company remember that one company’s criteria may not be the same as another’s. One rejection is also not a guaranteed rejection at another company. Start off the interview with a positive attitude and a firm greeting.

Remember, once you pass the technical hurdles, it often comes down to a question of “would I want to work with this person?” The earlier interviewers are able to answer this question positively during the interview, the better the interview goes. So come in ready to put your best foot forward.

Review domain knowledge. Before the hiring season, give yourself some time to brush up on basic computer science concepts and algorithms. For entry-level software engineering opportunities know string manipulation and search. Also be able to code solutions using data structures such a trees and hashtables/hashmaps/hashsets and speak on the runtime and space complexity of the solutions. If you are further along, be able to speak on specific tools or frameworks you have used, some interviews look for specificity and having domain-level knowledge presents a great value.

Learn more about yourself. Getting an interview is an amazing opportunity, take the time to reflect on the process to learn more about your aspirations. If you are looking into internships use the interviews at GHC to figure out what you like. Ultimately you want to develop diversity in not only skill sets but also experience.

Lastly, utilize any part of the interview process to learn more about the company! You will know if the shoe fits.

They say third time's the charm and it was definitely true for my third time attending the Grace Hopper Conference. I finally feel like I am a part of a community of supportive, intelligent, and just all around amazing women in tech.

Thanks to Anita Borg, Red Hat and everyone who had a hand in bringing us all together this year! Can't wait for GHC 2019 in Orlando.

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