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On The Path: How Texas State's Desiree Hernandez Landed Her SWE Role at Freddie Mac

On The Path is an interview series with CodePath’s student community, highlighting our students’ stories, accomplishments, and journeys to become technologists.

Whether you are trying to land a full-time software engineering role or a summer internship, you will undoubtedly be asked to participate in a technical interview. Many students find the technical interview process intimidating and nerve-wracking part of the job application process. However, CodePath’s Technical Interview Prep Course is a 10-week virtual course specifically designed to support students so that they know what employers are looking for, feel confident going into their interviews, and ultimately do well to impress their interviewers.

Technical interviews also provide students with a valuable opportunity – to perform well and stand out from other qualified candidates. This is why it is crucial that students, especially those from under-represented backgrounds, are not just well-equipped with technical knowledge but also well-acquainted with the interview etiquette.

The course accommodates students at all levels and provides the preparation they need to solve the challenging algorithm problems asked during technical interviews at top companies. The CodePath methodology is proven to set students up for success, with 81% of students taking CodePath courses continuing their careers in tech 1+ years after graduation compared to the 61% national average.

Desiree Hernandez is an alum of the Meta + CodePath Technical Interview Prep course offered at Meta’s Partner schools: Texas State University, Georgia State University, and North Carolina A&T University. 

Desiree currently works full-time as a Software Developer at Freddie Mac, the publicly traded government-sponsored real estate enterprise. Desiree credits her experience in CodePath’s Technical Interview Prep course for helping her land the role!

How did you first become interested in computer science?

This routes back to my parents. My mom is a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). She first got her Bachelors in Business Administration, then went to get her MBA in Accounting. She is super prestigious and has always been; she passed her CPA exams with the highest five and all within a couple of hours which is rare. I didn’t think I would ever measure up to her, so I decided I wanted to do something different. 

In my first year, I started electrical engineering courses. However, I took a computer science class and thought it was cool. I learned C++, which was my first time coding. I didn’t even know something like that existed. From that class, I realized that there was a major (Computer Science) and that I could do this for the rest of my life. So I went to my counselor, and I asked if I could switch, and they said I could have either a BA or BS. I still wanted to have that engineering title, so my degree is in computer science with a concentration in computer engineering. So I still have that engineering background, but I also got to do all the coding. I was so thankful for that. Ever since, I have loved coding so much.

I knew I wanted a career in this as well, so I looked into the salaries between electrical engineers and computer science majors. Computer science makes more, so I said, “Oh, this is a no-brainer.” And that is how I got into CS!

How did you hear about CodePath’s Technical Interview Prep Course?

I received emails from Texas State, and they said that a Technical Interview course was coming out this semester. And by the way, it was free. At first, I was a bit skeptical. It was my senior year, the final semester, and I was already taking about 15 to 18 hours of courses. I already had a busy load, plus I was working two jobs trying to pay for school. I didn't know if I wanted to take the course. But then I went to one of the info sessions where they talked about having a career fair at the end and how you get a certification for completing the whole course.

I knew that would look great on my resume because I would look for a full-time role immediately after college. I didn't want to be that statistic that didn’t get a full-time position. So then I decided that it would only make me better than I am today. It was tough, but I'm glad I completed the whole thing, because I got my full-time role in the end. It also helped me with my communication skills, knowing precisely what the interviewer was looking for, and helped with salary negotiation–many aspects of it I probably couldn't have gotten on my own.

What did you find most beneficial about your experience with the Technical Interview Prep course and CodePath? 

My favorite part about the course was the salary negotiation lesson. During that lesson, I learned that sometimes men get higher offers. The instructor told us not to belittle ourselves– to raise our salary expectation because we're worth that amount of money. 

It was nice speaking with my pod members, who were also seniors and also interviewing for big-time roles. I was very interested when my pod members said, “I got Microsoft; they gave me X amount of dollars.” Another one of my pod members went into coding in the medical field and said he was getting X dollars. So I thought, “Okay, this is perfect. Whenever I get hired, I know what amount of money I should be looking for.” 

Something I didn’t know was that employers do a 25% drop from what they're supposed to give you. Getting that insight from someone in the real world, working that job shows that I can get a higher percentage as well. So I really, really liked that part because you can't Google these things. This is raw information you can only get from an insider's point of view. I definitely would not have known that without the course, and I probably wouldn't be getting paid the amount I do if I hadn’t had that lesson.

What else wouldn’t you have learned had it not been for the Technical Interview Prep course?

I definitely wouldn't have learned Python. You can choose the Python or Java route in the Technical Interview course. And since I was more familiar with Java, I chose Python. Python wasn't really in my mind to learn immediately. I knew I eventually had to learn it, but I didn't think it would be that semester. So that was cool. Learning Python really improved my resumé. Not only did I complete the course, but I learned a whole new language on the way.

How do your feelings before the course compare to your feelings after taking the course?

At first, I thought I could turn my camera off during the course, do some cooking or something. I thought I didn’t have to pay attention to it. But I was wrong. This is a course you definitely have to participate in. This was really me working a lot with not only myself but other people in my pods, which was new to me. That helped me and made me feel like the course would help me.

In an info session a couple of weeks ago, someone asked me, “Do you feel like you would have gotten your job today if you didn't do CodePath?” And I said I didn’t think I would because I wouldn't have had any valuable knowledge for the technical interview. Before the course, I was doing technical interviews but wasn't doing well in them. So I’m glad I took the chance on myself and took the course. I'd rather take that chance than wonder what if.

How did the experience with the course (and subsequent career center opportunities) affect the way you think about your future in tech?

It made me feel more involved and important in the world. We need diversity in tech. I see that today, even in my company. Tech is very male-dominated, and it shouldn’t be that way. We need more women – because girls are awesome, girls rule – The more, the merrier. The more diverse, the better because diversity offers so many different perspectives. You need to know how different people will look at a webpage. What would they think when they look at it? Are we representing those people? You have to represent everybody.

What are you working on now?

So many things! Right now, I'm a Full-stack Developer doing frontend, backend, and all that. But my passion is the front end. Right now, I'm developing a homepage for an internal website for Freddie. They want this landing page to call APIs. They also want buttons to go to a new window–things like that. I'm SO happy CodePath talked about edge cases because I cannot stress this enough. In the real world, we do edge cases all the time. We do positive and negative scenarios. I am so happy CodePath taught us that–I didn't even know what edge cases were until CodePath. But I do many edge cases, like what if the user inputs this? What would the console say when we pop up an alert box? Things like that. It's a big project that's been taking some time, but I'm almost finished. I'm super happy about it and super happy about what I'm doing right now.

What would you tell your younger self or another student considering applying to CodePath’s Technical Interview Prep Course?

I would say, first of all, you got this. And don't think that for a second that your opinion doesn't matter. Don't have imposter syndrome that you're not supposed to be in this career field or that you're not supposed to be in tech. That is not the case. Whatever you put your mind to, you can do it. Don't think for a split second that you cannot. If you need help along the way CodePath will definitely help you. They have TAs there for you. They have mentors, and coaches, with open hours if you need that extra 1:1 support. They also have opportunities for you along the way.

Don't stress out too much. Have fun. Learn and take as much as you can. Take all the resources from CodePath and keep moving forward. Go to every single lesson because I promise they are all important. Make the time for it. 

Interested students can sign up for CodePath’s Technical Interview Prep Course, now accepting applications for Fall 2022. Or if you are a student at one of Meta’s Engineer-In-Residence Partner Schools (Georgia State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Texas State University), apply here.