How this Immigrant Student cracked an Internship with Netflix?

Emir Akdere, Incoming Software Engineer @ Netflix | Yale ‘21

What tactics led you to an internship at Netflix? What were some relevant coursework or skills which helped you?

At the beginning of my interview prep process, I could not find much guidance. So much so that the first time I heard of “Leetcode” was the end of summer my Sophomore year. I remember starting my Junior year having only solved 10 Leetcode questions. To put it into perspective for those that never did any Leetcoding: I do not think anyone should go into ANY interview before solving at least 40 medium/hard Leetcode questions. In contrast, many of my peers did recruitment during my Sophomore year, and they were a year ahead of me.

I do not think anyone should go into ANY interview before solving at least 40 medium/hard Leetcode questions.

I remember walking into my first interview with Facebook, and I remember how ashamed I felt for not knowing how to solve a specific binary tree question. I botched it hard, and consequently, I grew furious with myself: an opportunity of a lifetime slipped right out of my hands. That was when I knew I had to shift the gear up; this sadness and anger with myself fueled up my progress, to be honest. I started solving Leetcode every single moment I had free time. I was watching algorithms and data structure Youtube videos as I was brushing my teeth, falling asleep, and during the other times, I was reading Cracking the Coding Interview. I made recruitment pretty much my life for some time.

Can you walk us through your interview experience? How did you prepare for the “D” day?

Rome was not built in a day. Some say that the interview process is broken, but I am sure that this process was the only factor that ensured that my basics were in their place before I received my first internship offer at a start-up. Tries, heaps, DFS, BFS, binary search trees, dynamic programming, etc. I did not know these nearly as well as I needed to until I was rejected by Facebook early junior year.

After learning all that, getting an offer at any company was trivial. For my Netflix interview, my Object Oriented Programming experience I got through TAing the AI course at Yale definitely played a huge part.

An important question that we should ask is, how do we minimize the stress surrounding this quintessentially stressful process?

What did your day-to-day look like when you were interning at Netflix? What were some of the cool projects, tools, and technologies you worked on during your internship?

At Netflix, even though it was initially an SWE internship, due to Covid-19, I was now tasked with a research-heavy project where I got to compare Netflix’s security architecture with another company’s model and present my gap analysis to senior engineers. I was not disappointed with this change, since now I got to learn about security and architecture at a higher level; this was a huge opportunity to see the big picture.

I have to say, Netflix was a different place. The company does not typically hire new grads, meaning most people in the company are relatively older. There was one other undergrad intern, and I was amazed the entire time how seasoned everyone was. On top of that, everyone was ambitious to achieve, improve, and serve results. Despite that, everyone was incredibly collaborative and friendly, at least as far as I could see as a remote intern. I was pleasantly surprised, and also inevitably daunted: how was I supposed to produce anything useful for these people over the course of 3 months? I have to note, I had experience in AI/ML, multithreaded programming, computer vision, algorithms, data structures… and absolute 0 (zero [null]) exposure to cybersecurity or computer networks!

However, I knew I wanted to get two things out of this internship for sure: learn as much as I can, and deliver a useful output. This task definitely gave me an opportunity for the former, and I did not want to give up until I achieved the latter.

I really applied myself to patch my knowledge gap, I took two online classes on networks and cybersecurity in a single day, read a whole bunch on “zero-trust network access”, binged countless Youtube videos. However, I had to make peace with saying “I don’t know” more often than I was used to, and also make peace with not understanding 100% of my mentor’s explanations.

Therefore, wherever my background allowed, I made inferences, and wherever it did not, I contacted people that would have answers. I even went so far as to reach out to authors of the security papers I was reading, and –indeed to my luck- I was able to set up a Q&A between Netflix’s InfoSec and an author!

Eventually, I completed my report. My first presentation was to my team, and it was godawful. So I was given thorough feedback, and I thoroughly applied it. Then checked in with my mentor once again, and improved it some more. Afterward, I proceeded to present my report to Netflix InfoSec.

As a side note: I was quite lucky to have my manager and mentor keep a close eye on me, and give me feedback; otherwise, I really do not think I would have succeeded in my goal of producing something useful.

What advice would you give young graduates who are trying to get internships in tech?

I do not know if it is my place, but I would like to give some advice to those of you that are looking for an internship. If you are a Sophomore, immerse yourself and start early. Even though the chances that you will land an internship are slim, you will learn how to recruit, build a network, and come next year you will be more than ready to tackle those technical questions.

Immerse yourself and start early. Even though the chances that you will land an internship are slim, you will learn how to recruit, build a network, and come next year you will be more than ready to tackle those technical questions. Solve LeetCode, day and night. Wake up with LinkedIn cold-reaches, and go to bed with Cracking the Coding Interview.

If you are a Junior, solve LeetCode, day and night. Wake up with LinkedIn cold-reaches, and go to bed with Cracking the Coding Interview. This might sound intense, but my experience is merely one testament to how much commitment getting an internship requires. And you too, come next year, will be in good shape for New Grad recruitment.

Why do you think it’s important to build a strong community of immigrants?

Networking is important, and I think this is one of the reasons why I think building an immigrant community is actually vital. Let me expand on that idea.

When I was applying for internships, I utilized my alumni connections, also did random reach outs, but the community that I received the most help from was Turkish SWEs. Here is what I believe: immigrants know that it is not easy to make it in this country, as most of us start from zero. We do not have an aunt or an uncle at high places, nor can our parents’ connections help us out in the US. How we succeed is highly correlated with how much initiative we are able to take. If I had a mentor throughout this process, I would have known to prepare earlier, solve LeetCode, learn how to build a network, memorized generic algorithms et cetera.

Immigrants know that it is not easy to make it in this country, as most of us start from zero. How we succeed is highly correlated with how much initiative we are able to take.

With that said, it is not a walk in the park for anyone; everyone sweats for getting an internship, and I would never minimize the effort put in by anyone to this process. However, I will surely say that the stakes for immigrants are higher, for we can only stay in the US if we have a job after school.

I hope that whoever is reading this blog is able to process the advice today. If you did everything in your power to improve your odds, then, from the depths of the heart of someone who has been there:

Best of luck, you got this! And if you don’t get it, Leetcode some more, and then: You got this! (you know, like a while loop)

BIO

This blog post is written by Emir Akdere. Emir is currently a Senior at Yale from Istanbul, Turkey. He studies Computer Science and Cognitive Science in college. He worked as a teaching assistant for Introduction to CS, and then Artificial Intelligence.

He interned at VisionAIry Health his first-year, Yale’s Social Robotics Lab (https://scazlab.yale.edu/) his sophomore year, and at Netflix’s Information Security team this past summer. Upon graduation, he will be starting full-time at Identity and Access Engineering at Netflix.

Also, he is part of an A cappella group called Society of Orpheus and Bacchus (aka, the SOBs) at Yale. He loves swimming, poker, and backgammon and is a sucker for black tea and philosophy at large.

You can stay on top of your job finding process by interacting with TIP Co. (The Immigrant Project Community) on our social channels:

👉 Follow us

LinkedIn: https://bit.ly/3hNR7pg​​
Instagram: https://bit.ly/3aZVZY2​​
Facebook: https://bit.ly/2RIbyJv​​
Twitter: https://bit.ly/2ZS9K53
YouTube: https://bit.ly/2Kri3jT
Medium: https://tipco.medium.com/

Visit our Website — www.tipco.us

Want to join our team? — Write to us at team@tipco.us

--

--

--

Helping Immigrants Find Their Dream Jobs

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

7 Reasons to Adopt Cross-platform App Development Frameworks

do and say

Determining the effectiveness of Selective Memoization to defeat ReDoS

The Power of Pandas: Python

Vite Ecosystem Celebration Campaign for Ringing in the Lunar New Year!

Quality Series Part One: The Challenge of Customer Experience with Continuous Deployment

Build a 3D Aquarium Using WebGL

Quick tip — how to upgrade to URP in Unity

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
TIP Co. (The Immigrant Project)

TIP Co. (The Immigrant Project)

Helping Immigrants Find Their Dream Jobs

More from Medium

My Experience of Virtual Internship with LetsGrowMore

The Internship Search Process- Personal Experiences on how I got 4 Internship Offers (Part 1).

International Internships for Indian Undergraduate Students

The Networking Strategy That Landed Me 14 Internships in College — and What You Can Learn From It