How to Hack The Coding Interview

To start 2017 off with a bang, Hispanic Hackers, a community dedicated to showing the Hispanic community they have a voice and place within technology, decided to run an experiment to solve the problems new coders and developers face when getting hired after they complete coding school.

Students going through coding schools, such as Hack Reactor and Austin Coding Academy, face challenges around the lack of coding experience to land senior coding positions. The lack of preparation around nailing the coding interview is something most coding schools do not prepare students for, and one that communities want to solve. Coding schools teach students how to code and solve technical problems, not prepare for technical interviews.

“The lack of preparation around nailing the coding interview is something most coding schools do not prepare students for.”

Hispanic Hackers Founder, Eddy Reyes

Hispanic Hacker’s latest event kicked off when cofounder Eddy Reyes introduced and detailed the coding interview experiment. To start, each job seeker would come up to the whiteboard and get grilled with technical questions for 20 minutes. Whiteboard sessions like these allow interviewing companies to assess the interviewees’ problem-solving thought process, as well as their technical capabilities.

Job seekers carried out their individual interviews at the whiteboard in front of an audience of 40, which included company hiring managers and entrepreneurs looking for technical talent. This group also included five judges from Austin-based startup Tenfold, which focuses on integrating SAS platforms to solve common sales teams problems. While no prizes were offered, the participants had the opportunity to informally interview with Tenfold and the other companies present.

Oscar Garcia participating in a whiteboard session

As the interviews progressed, participants received questions that interviewees would normally encounter during coding interviews such as the implementation of algorithms and other basics of computer science.

Each participant was then encouraged to talk out their thought process and show their work as they problem-solved for solutions. As they continued to troubleshoot, an onslaught of questions challenged the interviewees to see beyond the problem and understand the bigger picture of the interview process and the process of the interviewer.

Audience members also chimed in to make suggestions on ways they could break down the code, while whiteboarding in a way that would make it more efficient, such as calculating the runtime of each algorithm. The participants were very appreciative because they learned collectively from the audience by going through the process.

Hispanic Hackers cofounder Zuby Onwuta giving his technical feedback to the community

One audience member who just arrived from Cuba a few months ago said, “I feel like I’m not ready to go into an interview because I know my English is not good.” Eddy and the rest of the community supported their fellow member and reinforced him with positive feedback to go for it! Pedro Assis from Tenfold explained that one of the most important things one can do in an interview is show that you have the ability to solve their problem. The language barrier is one that can be overcome, but at the end of the day, they want to know you can handle the problems the company would send your way.

The Tenfold Team

The event also brought up real questions for the Hispanic Hackers leadership team such as how to close the gap between earning technical skills from coding schools, coding interview skills, and building connections with local startups.

At the end of the experiment, everyone in the room, regardless of technical experience, expressed their gratitude to the group’s leadership for conducting the experiment.

“We hope that by doing more events like this we can actually make a real dent in the lack of diversity which exists in the tech industry,” said Eddy Reyes. “This is Austin Hispanic Hackers where we teach tech skills for tech jobs.”

Interested in joining or supporting the community, sign up for the meetup.