My internship, James Sheridan

James Sheridan

For those Computer Science students that have the opportunity to take part in an internship program, it can be one of the most important parts of their education, and in my case it certainly was. Not only is it an incredible learning experience in itself. but it can also jump start your career and help you hit the ground running when you do finish your degree. I was lucky enough to complete my internship with Guidewire and I can safely say it was one of the best if not the best experience I’ve had since starting university. I of course would not have had this opportunity if I wasn’t accepted after my interview so I’d like to try and offer any tips that I can to make the interview process go as smoothly as possible; these tips should mostly apply to all interviews for software development internships but hopefully, you use them for Guidewire. Also, things may be slightly different this year with COVID-19 restrictions, but it shouldn’t be too different... hopefully.

Initially, I had a phone call with Joanne to invite me for my interview on-site although now it will be virtually over Zoom. You have nothing to worry about here; Joanne is very friendly and helpful and will offer you some advice for the interview. For me, she told me about Guidewire's core values, Collegiately, Rationality, and Integrity. These are the values that help Guidewire maintain great relationships with customers, build quality products, and foster a positive and accepting work environment. You can read more about these values on Guidewire's website which leads me to my next point. You should investigate Guidewire and what it does. At first glance, the company can look quite intimidating since it is so embedded in the insurance industry. The Guidewire website and LinkedIn pages are great resources for this - you can learn about Guidewire’s place in the industry, the culture and some of the things that the company is working on in terms of both products and internal initiatives and campaigns.

There were three components to my onsite interview: first, a coding test. This is just to examine your fundamentals and some of your thought process. Mine included things like printing prime numbers, sorting algorithms, SQL joins as well as some object-oriented principles like inheritance. Your test won’t be the same as mine, but this should give you an idea of what to expect; hopefully, you saved all your old lab exercises and didn’t delete them as I did! 

Next up I had a cultural interview. My interviewer Pablo made me feel very at ease here so don’t worry too much. Most of these questions are putting you in an example situation and asking you how you would go about handling the situation. Try and draw on as many real-world examples as you can and make sure to tell your interviewer if you have been in that situation and how you handled it or how you would have handled it differently. I was able to use my experience working in a restaurant quite a bit here as well as the team project I was working on in college at the time. 

The final step was a technical interview with Ian, and this is the part I recommend you do a bit of studying for. This is where your ability to problem-solve and explain your thought process will be examined as well as a bit more of your technical knowledge. I recommend you look back over your notes or some YouTube videos on topics like string manipulation, arrays, data structures, and algorithms as well as whiteboarding techniques as that is a key part of this interview. The start of the interview was a bit like a conversation on technical passions. You will then move to the whiteboard to solve a practical problem. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; you should be talking the entire time, explaining your thoughts, and asking the interviewer for feedback as you go. You should also spend some time looking into how Java works as a language as I was caught a little off guard with questions like what happens when you unlink a node in a linked list. But again don’t be intimidated here. You will be asked questions that you aren’t expected to have the answer to, to help gauge your technical skills and see how you process and understand the explanation. 

My final tip: if you have something on your CV be prepared to talk about it. My interviewer and I spent a few minutes talking about a Robot Sumo competition I took part in while I was in a transition year.

Hopefully, you find some of this useful. You should also try and be confident in yourself. I was worried sick before the interview but during the interview, I calmed down a bit and was gaining more confidence as the interview went on. When it finished I was almost sure I had messed it up somehow even though I couldn’t pinpoint why. Clearly, I didn’t mess it up (as I got offered the intern role), so no matter how unsure you feel about the interview before or after, I guarantee you’re in a much better position than you think. I hope to return to Guidewire after college and hopefully, you are there as an intern when I do!

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