Former Google now Palantir Software engineer Angie Hu, talks about how by just simply doing your homework on top companies, you can land top jobs in tech.
Describe the culture of Palantir in one word.
What is the day to day like in Palantir?
A day at Palantir can really vary a lot depending on the team you’re on. It can be anything from meeting with users to understand their problems to writing data pipelines, building user workflows with our existing tools and products to contributing brand new software features.
One of the things that attracts people to work here is that the work is super dynamic and no two days may look alike.
You’ve been a software engineer for both Google and Palantir, what would your advice be for interviewing a major tech company?
There is tonnes of good advice out there on the internet and in books. So my first piece of advice would be to simply do your homework. Find out what the company you’re interviewing with is looking for. Do they care about what drives you, or are they focussed more on your technical skills. Work on the thing they care about accordingly. In terms of technical skills, it’s pretty straight-forward to brush up on your coding skills using any of the great resources freely or cheaply available nowadays.
I find that most tech companies care a bit about who you are, so being honest is a good thing. Learning to “think out loud” when you’re prepping for coding interviews will also be invaluable. The interviewers at all big tech companies will most likely get you to whiteboard code if you’re applying as a software engineer so they need to be able to see how you think. Get your friends to mock interview you.
Describe your mind in three words
Three words only! Oh man. Okay here goes: Social-emotional. Critical. Open.
Describe your character in three words
These questions are hard! Independent, spontaneous, curious/adventurous
What’s something you’re currently working on achieving?
I’m working on not getting caught up in details. I’m a really detail-oriented person and this sometimes works wonders for me, but often can also distract me or others from the bigger picture. I know it sounds like a bad answer to the classical interview question “describe your worst trait” haha, but it’s true! I’ve really learnt the value of not “derailing“ conversations with details in an environment where things need to move quickly. I’m also wanting to improve product vision and my general front-end development skills at the moment.
I haven’t had that much previous experience with front-end aside from my time on an Android app team. Working with React and Typescript is a fun new challenge in my current day-to-day work. On a personal level, I’m trying to get stronger for the first time in my life, via pole fitness and dance. It’s the first time I’ve felt sort of strong which is super exciting!
What’s your spirit animal? And why?
Probably a mouse. It’s what my boyfriend said when I asked him but also what struck my mind so I figured it must be right. He says it’s because I’m cute (ugh haha) but can be fierce, I think it’s because I’m small and clever.
It’s also my Zodiac animal. The mouse is the first animal in the Chinese Zodiac and all the stories and legends point to its intelligence to explain how it got to first place.
What’s one critical moment that has shaped your life?
It’s difficult to pick only one, but my first Google Internship in Sydney was one of the most life-changing, if not the most life-changing experience for me. It not only drastically changed my course of study and my life today (in a way that still shocks me sometimes when I reflect on where many friends from where I grew up are at with their lives/careers and how that could’ve been me), but it was also one of the experiences that challenged me to grow the most, mentally.
I entered the STEP program at Google (an early uni internship program for people in under-represented demographics in tech), as a student who’d enjoyed and aced their first year computing “electives”, but still thought they wanted to pursue biomedicine (potentially) even though I hated biology. I just really never considered a career or even studies in computing for the reason that “I didn’t think it was for (people like) me”. I didn’t think I’d make friends, nor did I perceive myself as fitting a mould of a software engineer or computer scientist – I liked arts and humanities and things.
Interning at Google in a really diverse team and making really great friends of diverse backgrounds shattered that glass ceiling and those damaging socially constructed views for me.
So I’m still grateful to Google for providing me an environment where I could learn to see myself in tech. I went on to try and build an environment and network at uni in my courses to support women studying tech to try and pass on some of that.
On top of that – it also made me feel like I could do anything I set my mind to. I felt like a genuine imposter and was so scared – entering my internship not quite knowing what a Hashmap was and never having written a line of Java. I came out having (super) successfully delivered our software project beyond the expectations of our supervisors.
Screen Time or no Screen Time?
No screen time – I get enough of that in my day job! I prefer brick and mortar shops to online shopping (support your local small businesses guys!), I don’t really watch Netflix (with the exception of Chef’s table, I prefer to go to cinemas. Especially small independent ones showing interesting films), I don’t game and I don’t use much social media (almost no Facebook, no insta, no twitter).
Seeing the addiction of people of my generation to social media platforms saddens me. If I’m hanging out with you, I will give you my full presence. Even on the occasion of the very few Tinder dates I’ve gone on – I’ve always opted to meet the person virtually straight away over texting for ages online.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’m only 23 haha so this question is probably premature ! Do all the things! Keep saying yes to everything! I don’t think my 20 year old self needed that much help – she did a pretty fine job of finding adventures, making sure she didn’t go broke in the process, and meeting some incredibly interesting people.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An architect – I loved art and drawing. I won the visual art/fine art award at my high school. I used to tell my parents’ friends that I wanted to be “a doctor” because my Dad was, and I knew that’s what they wanted to hear. It’s also a relic of being the child of Asian immigrants who, having struggled through immense hardships wanted their daughter to be economically and socially secure, in the way they thought was easiest. But I think I was always too rebellious to do the things people expected me to do. I never liked other peoples’ expectations.
For a while I thought I wanted to be a lawyer – I was pretty active on issues of social justice and I loved a good heated discussion.
I’m a software engineer who is often client-facing and loves improving products.