I’m Galaxia, a third-year student at Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada! I study Interaction Design, which is kind of like the marriage between art, design, and technology.
I started going to hackathons in my first year of college, and I remember being so terrified! Back then, it was pretty rare to see other designers and non-technical students. But after falling in love with hackathons, I helped organize and design for Hackville, my college’s hackathon. It was really interesting to be on the other side, and I’ve now been a part of the organizing team for the past four iterations of the event.
A few months ago, I decided to become an MLH Coach to help support hackers and hackathon organizers. So far, it’s been the most amazing experience — I’ve met so many incredible people and learned an incredible amount about the hacker community.
Outside of hackathons, most of my early career has been in UI/UX and product design. In the past, I’ve been a product design intern at Intuit and a couple of startups. Most recently, I was a product design intern at Meta, working on social features in VR. I was lucky to spend my internship in Los Angeles, and I got to see a few of the other offices and VR labs as well!
Tips on Landing an Interview
In Fall of 2021, when I was still an intern at Intuit, I was approached by a Meta recruiter for their Summer 2022 positions. I was surprised that they reached out, since I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as a prolific networker. To this day, I’m not completely sure how the recruiter found my email.
A lot of people say getting an interview is mostly luck, and I would agree. However, my biggest tip would be to make your own luck. Put yourself in a position where a company couldn’t help but reach out: go to hackathons and make yourself known to recruiters and current employees at your dream company, polish your craft to make yourself unforgettable, and be so good at what you do that they simply can’t ignore you.
Interviewing Tips for Internships
My interview process stretched over a few months. It consisted of a few calls with the recruiter, then two back-to-back design interviews. I’d been approached pretty early in their recruiting timeline, so a lot of things changed from the beginning of the process to the end. I’d originally been interested in interviewing for Instagram or internal tools, but my recruiter pushed me to join Reality Labs and work on VR; I later discovered this was one of the most fun and in-demand teams for interns, so I was glad that my recruiter encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone
At the time, I didn’t have any experience with VR — I’d never even seen a Quest headset in real life. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re a little out of your element, I recommend trying to draw it back to things you’re familiar with. I was asked to critique an AR-based app in my interview, so I talked about video games and their shared concept of digital physical spaces. This helped me relax since I wasn’t frantically trying to make stuff up about something I had no idea about.
Above all else, remember to stay calm. My best interviews have been ones where I’ve been able to relax and see the interviewer as a peer. Remember that you don’t have to have all the answers, but you should know how to work toward one. Interviewers want to hear how you think and approach problems, not necessarily instantaneous solutions.
How to Leverage Your Hackathon Experience
Certain companies care a lot about your hackathon experience. Meta, a company that practically birthed hacker culture, is definitely one of these. To a recruiter, going to hackathons means you sacrificed a valuable weekend to work on your craft, build something, and engage with the community.
As a designer, hackathon experience means you’re well-rounded, you understand the concept of an MVP, and you know how to rapidly go from zero to one. Lean into the things that you’ve gained as a hacker or organizer because they’ll set you apart.
Again, I wouldn’t say I’m particularly good at networking, but my advice is just to be yourself! Be clear about what you’re looking for in terms of internships and jobs, but talk to recruiters about things apart from the job, too. Some of my friends have gotten internships just by connecting over music and sports — a recruiter is more likely to remember the person who shares their interests than the millionth person asking them about company benefits.
Standing Out from Other Candidates
Product design recruiters see dozens of portfolios every day, and honestly — a lot of them look the same. Something as simple as choosing an unorthodox font or colour palette for your website and resume can help you be a bit more memorable. Cultivating a deeper personal brand would be taking this another step further, but it can be very effective. Lean into the things that make you different, and the right people will notice and remember you.