By Joey Hou, MEng ’23 (EECS)This life in tech interview is part of a series from E295: Communications for Engineering Leaders. In this course, Master of Engineering students were tasked with conducting an informational interview to learn more about working in tech. They then submitted a written account of the interview, edited and organized to create a clear, compelling narrative. The year 2022 was a year like no other: In the spring, I was accepted into the MEng program for Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences (EECS) at UC Berkeley. In the summer, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Columbia University. Even so, I faced unexpected difficulty in finding a programming-related job in the fall. Did these series of events signal that I failed? Did it mean I made the wrong decision? As I learned from my Life in Tech interviewee Haotian Zeng, I would answer both questions with “no.” Haotian, who originated from China, shares several similarities with me: We both graduated from Columbia University and love traveling. We met over lunch near Columbia, where Haotian felt emotional about what the campus was like three years ago, the last time he was in uptown Manhattan. In the following years, the COVID-19 pandemic took place and changed everybody’s life. He mentioned how every part of recruiting — assessments, interviews, and group activities — moved online. These changes are familiar to both of us now, but they weren’t at the time when we were forced to stay home. When I asked Haotian about how he found his current job, he responded with pure encouragement: “If you have anything that is unclear, feel free to text and ask me!” He sounded so carefree and positive. I would later find out, however, about the truth behind his job-finding process: Haotion had applied to about 100 different job postings before hearing his first response for an interview and even had to switch majors to become more competitive in the job market. Despite all of this, he eventually landed a job at LinkedIn, working as a Data Scientist in New York City. During the interview, Haotian also talked about his uncle who had worked in tech for 15 years at Google and other companies in director-level positions. However, his journey to get there was by no means linear. After graduating with a master’s degree in 2001, Haotian’s uncle faced a challenging situation with a recession in the United States. After evaluating several possibilities, he quickly applied for and was accepted by the University of Minnesota where he completed four years of academic research. Overcoming the challenges, he graduated with a PhD degree and became employed by Google.
“Haotian and his uncle not only provided real-life examples of how they managed to persevere under difficult circumstances but also showed me a positive and wise mindset.”While global situations were out of their control, they were able to exercise agency in their mind and put a plan in place to prepare for the next opportunity. Their life stories were inspirational for me as a new graduate in 2023, who is currently standing at a fork in the road, deciding which path I should take. Connect with Joey Hou. Edited by Mary Tran.
Life in Tech: Doubts and decisions in graduate school was originally published in Berkeley Master of Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.