Computer Science Colloquium

On October 10, 2011 by Grad Forum

The Computer Science Colloquiums will be held every Wednesday at 4:15 pm in 006 Steele this fall and are open to all. The first colloquium was on Wednesday September 28th.

The speaker was Gayle Laakmann McDowell, the founder and CEO of and the author of Cracking the Coding Interview and The Google Resume. CareerCup is the leading source for technical interview preparation and provides a free forum with 3000+ technical interview questions, a book, a video, and mock interviews. Gayle worked as a Software Engineer for Google, Microsoft, and Apple and has had extensive interviewing experience on both sides of the table. She has interviewed and received offers from Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, IBM, Goldman Sachs, and a variety of other firms, and she has interviewed over 120 candidates at Google and served on its hiring committee. Gayle holds a BSE and MSE from UPenn in Computer Science, and an MBA from the Wharton School.

According to Gayle, the two main qualities that recruiters look for in software development applicants are intelligence and coding skills, while for product manager applicants, recruiters hope to see a passion for technology and good communication skills. Resumes should not be more than one or two pages long since recruiters spend no more than fifteen to twenty seconds on each resume. The resume should highlight three to five major accomplishments and should contain only bullet points of one or two lines each. For a software development position, the resume must highlight the different coding projects and their impact (Did it save the company millions? Did it make some software run faster?). Even for non-computer science majors who wish to work at top software engineering companies, it is important to have some coding experience—make an effort to build a mobile or web application, for example.

When asked about job responsibilities in startup companies and large software engineering firms, Gayle explained that a software engineer in a large firm would have a well-defined role while one at a startup company might take on different roles based on the situation. Her advice to students with ideas for their own startup companies is to get continuous feedback and comments from friends, professors, and people in senior positions. For internships, the earlier you apply the better and for full-time positions, you may apply at any time since top companies are always hiring.

Gayle’s talk covered topics such as how to write a resume and how to solve technical and non-technical questions at interviews. Her slides are available at

by Aarathi Prasad

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