Job Interview: My Internship at Software Engineering Professionals (SEP)

It's not every day that an internship will make you want to start a blog. But after an epic summer interning for Software Engineering Professionals, Inc. (which is conveniently shorten-able to SEP), I decided to write about it and anything else that comes my way (Xavier: Yay. Lucky us.)  I plan to split the experience into a few parts so that each post won't be yuuuuge (Xavier: That, and also because he doesn't have to sit down and write for ages).

It all started when I was a freshman at Purdue University, trying to get everything together - academics, clubs, and career fairs. That last one had been a particular goal of mine: it was common knowledge around Purdue that first-year students had "no pressure" at the Industrial Roundtable career fair. They were just expected to use the fair as an opportunity to learn how to talk to companies. But I really wanted (Xavier: Ha! Repeat "really" about 100 more times, is more like it.) an internship my first year, and I wanted a good one. I did everything: apply online to a bazillion companies, give my resume to friends and family to look over, the works. I even added my resume to Purdue's online big book of resumes for companies to look through. And boy, was I glad I did that!

A company called SEP got hold of that resume and sent me an email. They were coming to campus in the fall and wanted to interview. Whaaat?? It was extremely exciting that a company wanted to interview, but I didn't even know anything about SEP.

In the event that you don't know either: SEP is a software consulting company in the Indianapolis area. Clients from all around the globe come to SEP for help with updating, creating, or maintaining software. As a result, "SEPeers" routinely get opportunities to work on lots of cool stuff. Their office space is equally amazing (Xavier: apparently, the build lamps change color to reflect build status, and there are also hexagon-shaped team cubicles, huge windows, video game systems, and do-it-all coffee machines).

 To put it another way, SEP makes it look easy to regularly land a spot on Indiana Chamber of Commerce's Best Places to Work list. A quick perusal of SEP's website was all I needed: I wanted to work there for my internship.

Setting up the interview was relatively easy: I picked a timeslot for a campus interview and then proceeded to bombard their friendly HR manager with zillions of questions about the upcoming technical interview. Fortunately, she was very patient and I had an already good impression of SEP employees going into the interview.

I finally met my interviewers a week or so later on campus. Two interviewers: one male, one female, both very professional (Xavier: Naturally.)  They welcomed me in and we started the interview. The man explained that the interview was going to be done in 2 parts. During the first 45 minutes, we would talk about me, my projects, my plans, and of course, about SEP. The second 45 minutes would be a technical interview.

I thought the first 45 minutes went smoothly: there were a few laughs and plenty of time for me to talk (Xavier: Oh, time for you to talk. Lucky them). The second 45 minutes were more challenging. They asked me an open-ended problem-solving question which was a lot of fun to talk about. I even asked them how they'd do it, and we had a good time. Then they got out the dry erase markers. Yayyyy...

The SEP interviewers asked me to write code to solve a problem. I asked lots of questions and then got to work. The two interviewers were very encouraging and helped tip me in the right direction whenever my algorithm needed some tuning. If you ever interview for SEP, your interviewers will be an awesome resource; be sure to let them know if you ever get stuck.

At the end of the interview, they had me sign my name on the paper (I was slightly embarrassed to have a picture of code with crossed-out lines associated with my work, but to be honest, I was happy to have a working implementation). Then they handed me a final internship application packet and my first piece of SEP swag: a thumb drive! SCORE! They promised they'd get back to me in a couple weeks and then the interview was over.

In general, the SEP internship interview process was very smooth. The interviewers are friendly and they really want you to succeed, but they still want to be sure that you know your stuff. After all, they're engineers and might end up working with you over the summer (which is absolutely amazing, in case you didn't know). In my next few posts, I'll try to summarize my summer at SEP.