Looking for Work: New Grad Edition

UPDATE (2020-11-13): I am no longer looking for work! Happy to say that I accepted a position as a Site Reliability Engineer in Toronto working remotely for a company. May share more details about this as my start date looms closer (as it stands, we’re about 7 months out), but haven’t decided yet. Going to leave this post up for posterity’s sake. Thanks to anyone who sent me an email about this over the last couple months!

After four years of searching for internships, my time has finally come to look for a full-time job.

This is a “reverse job posting”, where I’ll be describing what I offer as a candidate, but focusing more on what I’m looking for in a company.

I’m doing this because the sheer of amount of “Software Engineer, New Grad” positions out there is mildly overwhelming (there’s an entire git repo dedicated to the 2021 new grad search), and I want to try nailing down what I’m actually looking for. Just because I’m a “new grad” doesn’t mean I don’t have expectations for companies I work at - if anything, I have more expectations, thanks to the internships I’ve worked.

This post is heavily inspired by Julie Pagano’s “For a Limited Time Only: Looking for Work (2020 Edition)”, as well as Andrew Horner’s “Reverse Job Application”.


πŸ“‹ The Logistics

πŸ“… Start date: Around July 2021 - this is flexible.
πŸ“ Location: I’m currently located in Toronto, Canada; however, I am open to relocating (COVID-19 travel restrictions willing) to any country that is not the United States. As a remote worker, I would prefer timezones Β±3 from Eastern Time.

(Seriously - if you’re a company making a job posting in 2020, consider that our global pandemic may still be ongoing in 2021, and working in “the best city in the world” may not be possible.)

πŸ‘€ What I Offer

See my LinkedIn or resume for a decent summary of my work experience, skills, and education.

In particular:

  • I am highly detail-oriented and bring strong written/oral communication skills. You can see an example in my first CTF writeup.
  • I am a keen learner and want to be the best sponge I can be. I will and have read Confluence documentation in my downtime.
  • I like multi-tasking and juggling several tasks at once. It’s the best way to help me stay focused.
  • I want to leave things (code, docs, teams) in a better state than I found them.

Some more traditional skill offerings:

  • I am currently working towards a Bachelor’s in Computer Science, minoring in English Language and Literature, and aim to graduate at the end of April 2021.
  • I bring 2 years of industry experience, gathered from prior internship experience (six, if you’re curious) working in teams to plan, write, test, and deploy code.
  • I am most comfortable coding in Python and have previous experience working in Java/Kotlin, as well as previous knowledge in C++(17). I am currently learning Go.
  • I am comfortable using Linux, Git, and command-line interfaces, and have worked through Linux from Scratch.
  • I have experience setting up and maintaining pipelines using Gitlab CI and Jenkins CI. I have minor experience setting up and using Github Actions, and previous experience setting up and maintaining Fastlane.
  • I have minor experience using Docker, Ansible, and Terraform for my own learning projects.
  • I have a strong interest in security, and have participated in a few capture the flag (CTF) events (scoring well and completing writeups as well). I am currently a recipient of the Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) SANS Security Training Scholarship.

πŸ”Ž What I’m Looking For

TL;DR:

  • Good people. Always and forever.
  • A Site Reliability Engineering role (with some degree of flexibility)
  • Strong mentorship
  • Ethical practices

🚫 Dealbreakers

This is what I am not looking for.

  • Required to work in the U.S.
  • You have zero underrepresented minorities as employees.
  • You have a history of not supporting your underrepresented employees.
  • You sell your software/data to ICE, US CBP, or other militaristic government organizations (including surveillance programs).
  • You handle personal data with no sense of ethics or privacy.
  • You exploit your workers for low wages with almost no psychological/physical health support.
  • You actively support Internet censorship (for example, to comply with a large country’s government).

If you hit at least one of these points, I’m not convinced your company will be a good fit for me.


Still reading? Okay. We have more to go through.

πŸ“ˆ Size

I prefer small to midsize organizations. I’ve found I don’t do as well in large corporations, and although I enjoy the idea of a tiny startup, I’m at a point in my career where I would prefer to have the resources and mentorship of a larger company. I am open to working at “rapidly-growing” companies.

πŸ‘©β€πŸ’» Type of Work

I am primarily looking for Site Reliability Engineer roles.1

This is because I think I’ve found a niche of development I enjoy through SRE-related work in helping other developers develop better, and I am highly interested in learning more about this kind of work and honing my skills.

Note: I know that on-call is a key part of this, and I am highly open (interested in learning about?) to being part of an on-call rotation.

That being said, I am also open to:

  • Software engineering roles in infrastructure or platform teams
  • Software engineering roles for internal tools teams
  • Software engineering roles at SRE-tooling (monitoring, o11y, CI, etc.) companies
  • Developer advocate roles at SRE-tooling companies (writing about tech sounds cool!)

I know I am a new grad, and I know that it may take me (more than) a few hops to get where I want to go. So I’m flexible. But I know what I want to work on one day.

πŸ’Œ Culture

Disclaimer: I’ve taken the names for these categories from Key Values.

Open communication: People take the time to document their work, making it ideal when we share resources inside the org. Important decisions aren’t made in private Slack DMs with possible stakeholders/knowledge sources missing. We solve problems together, and aren’t afraid to ask people in other roles/teams for their expertise.

Safe environment to fail, EQ > IQ: This boils down to, “good people”. Good people don’t blame/belittle/yell at others when things go wrong. Good people can express and control their emotions healthily and bring empathy for their colleagues at work.

Committed to personal growth: Good people want to help their teammates grow as people, not just programmers.

Champions of inclusion: This is related to “good people”, but more specifically. How are you committed to building an actively anti-classist, anti-racist, trans-positive, diverse+equal+inclusive workplace?
As an non-Black, non-Indigenous, cis person graduating with a bachelor’s degree from a reputable institution, I know I have privilege in this system, and I want to make sure that my next workplace is working to ensure that those less privileged are given more, if not just as many, opportunities to be at the table, and that they and their ideas are welcome at this table.

🀩 Pros

These are things that would make me feel excited to work with you, in no particular order. This list is long: I’m very easily excitable.

  • Evidence of the culture points I mentioned above
  • Flexible work hours, work life balance
  • Continuous delivery
  • Detailed remote onboarding process
    • Bonus points if one existed before COVID-19.
  • Remote worker support, both before and after COVID-19
  • Intern program
    • Want to show you’re committed to mentorship? This is a great way.
    • Bonus points if you’ve hired from Waterloo before!
  • Love/care for your codebase
    • Do engineers get the time they need to clean up technical debt?
    • When someone finds something that doesn’t look right, are they encouraged to ignore it because it “works already” and it’s “not their focus”, or something else?
  • Close-knit teams
    • At the bare minimum, knowing that I can “watercooler chat” with my teammates without fear that I am distracting them from their very very important work.
  • Encouraging employees to give back to communities through volunteering, donations, open source contributions, conference talks, etc.
  • Humane hiring process
    • Examples: fully transparent hiring process available on application/FAQ page, not whiteboarding, solving day-to-day problems, feedback throughout the process and after, open to feedback about your process from candidates, enthusiasm for candidates, salary transparency
    • I could write a whole post about hiring processes. This will do for now.
  • You consider the implications of the software you make/sell and know that it will actively do good or solve a problem in the world.

πŸ‘€ Cons

These are things that would make me hesitant to work with you. Again, I’m easily excitable - the bar is low.

  • Interviewers that don’t give a shit about [helping] you, or don’t want to chat
    • I’m aware that there is a time limit to technical interviews, and each minute I/they spend talking is a minute lost coding.
    • However, I have also interviewed with engineers who have said “regular engineering stuff” in response to “what is your day-to-day like”. This is not helpful, and kind of rude.
  • Lack of transparency to projects/work during the hiring process
    • A job title is but a tiny fraction of the role itself. Knowing what my day-to-day can be like, what I might be working on, what my concrete responsibilities are, will help guide me on whether I actually want to work with you.
  • Exploding offers
    • I know they happen to new grads. I don’t want to be that new grad.
  • Dated job descriptions that contain perks like, “steps away from [subway station]”, “[ping-pong, foosball, pool] table”, “unlimited snacks”.
    • Please be realistic. When will I really next step into your office?

πŸ“© Contact Me

If, after reading all of this, you feel good I might be a good fit for your organization, please reach out to thejoycekung+grad@gmail.com with:

  • Your org name, and probably your name
  • A brief description of your org and what they do
  • A brief description of why I would be a good fit for this org
  • A link to the relevant job posting(s), or a person to whom I should direct my resume/info to
  • Any other info you think might sway me

  1. This is bolded and italicized because I understand searching for SRE new grad roles in a sea of SWE new grad roles is so utterly hard and awful and draining, but this is my (reverse) job posting so I get to define what I want, even if it’s niche. ↩︎