Kevin Singleton is now a software engineer at Vanta, a startup that develops a security software package for other tech companies. But until 2017, Kevin was a scholar of Japanese culture pursuing a career in academia; he even attended Harvard to obtain a Master’s in East Asian Studies and earned a Ph.D. in Japanese Literature from Stanford. After following that path for a number of years, he decided that he wanted to chart a different course with his life. Although he had a minor in Computer Science from his undergraduate days and a persistent interest in coding as a hobby, he had no credentials, experience, or contacts in the tech industry to get his foot in the door. On a whim, Kevin decided to take our technical screen—and crushed it. With Triplebyte to vouch for him, he was invited to eleven on-sites and received multiple offers. After he settled into his new role at Vanta—his first ever in the field of software engineering—we caught up with Kevin to talk about his experiences.
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As a young person without a degree and with little prior professional experience, it's hard to demonstrate the skills you have. But, because Triplebyte is resume-blind and entirely focused on what you can do, it allowed me to demonstrate that I have the ability to build real things.
The main thing I'd say about computer science is that [programmers] have a self-concept of being totally skills-driven, but if you actually look at employment in computer science, that's not how it works. Degrees from leading schools really do seem to matter. They really do seem to open doors.
I'm sure a lot of developers would agree that refactoring is the best part of writing code—because you can make it super efficient and make every line useful. I think the same principles can be applied to your financial life and your life in general. If you're super efficient with your spending, and you're making a software engineering salary, then money piles up quite quickly. That's why I think there are so many software engineers in the FIRE community. They are used to systems and algorithms and efficiency, and it's like you're applying all those things to your financial life. You're refactoring your life pretty much all the time, which is just great and can get you to FIRE really quickly.
[Triplebyte's process] seemed too good to be true, and I wondered where the catch was. But after some thought, I could see how it made sense. Companies are looking for people with skills and aren't necessarily looking as much at credentials, especially in Silicon Valley. I was really apprehensive about whether I'd actually get any interviews with companies. And then, even if I got interviews, if I would get any offers. It hadn't even crossed my mind that I would have to choose between offers. But I got three offers, and that was a really cool experience.
tl;dr Programming interview questions can feel unnecessarily difficult. Sometimes they actually are. And this isn't just because they make interviews excessively stressful. Our data shows that harder programming questions actually do a worse job of predicting final outcomes than easier ones.