On May 15, a group of computer science students — Anuar Talipov, Azret Kenzhaliev, and Bolat Ashim — organized a workshop called “Hack the Technical Interview: Algorithms Practice”, to help KAISTians ace the interview required in most programming job applications. In this month’s issue, The KAIST Herald interviewed Anuar and Azret to learn more about this workshop, and the interesting story behind its conception.
Could you give us a brief background about this program?
AT: It all started when we decided to create some kind of chat for people who are finding internships, [especially in] CS. After some time, our group gained more members, so we decided that it would be better to organize an event because there are not many tech events in KAIST. For example, there’s a coding marathon that’s only held once per year, and not that many hackathons. We started to research how to organize [workshops], and we found out about Major League Hacking (MLH). They try to empower hackers around the world by providing materials, access to software, and so on. We contacted them, and they were very friendly.
When did you start organizing the event?
AT: It was in January when I came up with this idea. After some talk with MLH, we decided to organize a workshop. At the start of this semester, we also contacted the School of Computing Executive Committee, which is basically a student organization for computer science students. The issue is that this organization is not well-known or integrated into the international community and internationals miss out on its events, which are also rare during the semester. We asked for its help to promote our event through its channels and it posted the announcement on its Facebook [page].
AK: It’s good to point out that around winter, Anuar created a group for the international computer science students. Now, it’s called “Lots of People”. He gathered around 70 people in this group and it’s quite active now. This event was the follow-up of this group’s creation, and he hopes to expand the group and make more of such kinds of events.
Could you tell us more about this group?
AT: We have a group chat and a Facebook group for students who are interested in CS. We post interesting events, webpages, and materials for studying. We created the group because we thought we might also be focusing on other departments as well, and we also plan to post announcements about positions from other departments like Electrical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, and so on. But the chat was created specifically to make an instantaneous connection with all these students.
Did you face any difficulties or shortcomings during the founding of “Lots of People” or during the organization of the workshop?
AK: There were no difficulties when we created the group — it was just “let’s try”, and the group [grew] fast through friends of friends. There is a funny story about the electricity cut-off though.
AT: We told Azret to be in the conference hall by 6 p.m. However, when he got there he [plugged] in his laptop and it caused a blackout. It was one hour before the workshop so we were in a panic. We ran across the room and told the supervisor, and when he came in he was shocked. But we somehow managed this problem, just 20 minutes before the workshop started.
Do you have any suggestions or future plans for this community?
AT: Our plan is to expand, organize more events, and build an alumni network. Usually companies use referrals to hire for a job, and alumni network will be a good start. I think there’s some alumni network already but it’s not suited for international students.
AK: It’s a common practice in software companies to refer people to internships or full-time jobs, and referral letters ensure that the recruiters viewed your application. As the company gets bigger, there are more applicants, and your application may be ignored. Having somebody to refer you is a very big start in the application process. That’s why having the alumni network would be great. We have lots of people and lots of ideas — we just need to implement them. We also need to encourage people who are just starting to write projects and do meaningful coursework, instead of waiting until their third year.
Finally, do you have any messages for our readers?
AT: Think in the long-term prospect. If you choose a job just because it’s hyped, after some time you might realize that you don’t like it — but you’re stuck because it’s hard to move to another job. You have to align your goals with your vision.
AK: CS is different from other departments; you need to be practical and industry-oriented. From your first or second year, when you have already decided that you want to do CS, just put most of your efforts not on your grades but on gaining the practical skills. That’s number one.