11 July 2021 /

From CoderSchool to Microsoft: How I learned to code and become a Software Engineer in the US

“Learning to code is like learning to play piano,” shared Khang Vu, one of CoderSchool’s first graduates, and currently a Software Engineer at Microsoft.

Hello guys, my name is Minh Khang, and I’m currently a Software Engineer at Microsoft in the US.

Before joining CoderSchool...

I was pursuing a Software Engineering degree in Vietnam, where I learned basic programming in C, discrete math, those types of subjects that helped me build programming and logical thinking. However, those subjects weren’t very engaging enough for me at the time.

Yet when I heard about CoderSchool, a part of me was both intrigued and excited in learning how to make my own iOS applications, and that pushed me into applying for the course. I still vividly remember how I stayed up all night when I was on a busy trip in Cambodia just to finish the entrance test for the iOS course. I didn’t know much about coding apps and I struggled a lot doing simple things such as transferring data from one scene to another. To put it simply, I was… kinda clueless. However, I tried my best and completed most of the assignments in the test.

And I still cannot forget the joy when I got the news that I was accepted. It was the very first course of CoderSchool, and it was also the course that left the most impression on me.

Learning to code is like learning how to play the piano.

Have you ever tried to learn piano?

For starters, you begin to learn how to play simple melodies. As you get more familiar with the keys and know how to play decently, you start to dive more into the theories and learn to develop more advanced skills, such as your musical thinking.

This is similar to the teaching and learning styles at CoderSchool. We start off with achieving simple tasks to familiarize ourselves with the programming syntax and the development environment. Then, we will move on to tackle more complex requirements and learn more advanced concepts. CoderSchool doesn’t teach you chapter by chapter alphabetically likefike many programming textbooks and coding programs. Here, we first learn how to build the smallest parts of an application, and then learn how to assemble them into a complete application. You see, when you break a whole application into smaller parts to build, the whole process becomes a lot easier. You can also work on all of the parts simultaneously. If you get stuck in one, ask for help while continuing to work on the others.

Besides, CoderSchool always encourages asking questions, because there is no such thing as a stupid question. The environment here is really open to everyone, and that makes me feel really comfortable. Another thing that got me really hooked into this iOS course was that everything was taught in English. And Charles Lee, the CEO and Co-founder of CoderSchool, was the one who taught us. I later took another Android course just because I really enjoyed my time at CoderSchool.

Looking back, my experiences at Coderschool gave me many advantages when I applied for an internship at Microsoft. As I got the technical foundation, things became a lot easier later on.

CoderSchool provided me the foundation to develop as I move forward in my career.

CoderSchool has given me a lot, from the technical skills and knowledge, to projects to display on my portfolio, and even a recommendation letter from Charles himself. But the most important thing CoderSchool has taught me is the way to learn and the foundation to develop more advanced technical skills.

The technology world is ever changing. Every second that passes, the knowledge you got becomes a little bit outdated. New frameworks are being made and developed every day. As a result, you will never be able to catch up with technology. Therefore, you have to learn how to learn, how to gain knowledge faster and more effectively so that when you are faced with any new challenge, you know where to start. That is how you can make progress in this knowledge journey.

Every tech company has their own requirements, so you have to acquire the very basic skills first, and later on develop work-related skills along your way. Don’t limit yourself by just some software frameworks, or coding languages. Instead, build a strong technical foundation and be ready to pick up any new language or framework, so you can work with anything regardless of the ecosystem. That way, you will never be outdated.

If you are thinking of getting into big companies like Microsoft, here’s a few tips I can give you.

  • The knowledge and skills showcase is a must, obviously, so make sure you have a good looking portfolio.
  • The knowledge and skills you gain at CoderSchool will help you develop your software engineering career, but the knowledge and skills you gain during your time in university will also play a crucial part in helping you pass the technical interview rounds.
  • Knowing the answer to a technical question is one thing. But explaining your solution to the interviewers in a way that helps them understand your thought process is another. So make sure you practice explaining technical concepts to other people. If you are required to communicate in English, also make sure you know the technical terms and practice doing interviews in English.l.
  • Software Engineering interviews in the US typically require a fair amount of Computer Science knowledge, but it might be different in Vietnam or other countries. Do your research and understand the recruitment process of the companies you apply to. Then, try to practice and simulate the interviews with friends as much as possible. For example, for online interviews, I had to type and explain my solution to the interviewers at the same time. So, you might need to practice talking and typing at the same time as well.

It’s not a piece of cake, but it was worth it.

The environment at Microsoft is really chill and comfortable. Well, I don’t need to say more about how big Microsoft is, right? But I want to focus on their supportive and employee-focused environment. You get all kinds of support at work. They even have a fully stocked pantry of beverages that you’re free to get anytime. Needless to say, it’s one of the Top 10 Best companies to work for here in the US.

My name is Khang Vu and that is my story from CoderSchool to Microsoft.