Below is an interview with Caitlin Rubin. Caitlin is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Computer Science. She will be joining Optimizely, one of the fastest growing SaaS companies in history this summer as a software engineering intern. You can learn about her journey below!
When did you decide you wanted to be a CS major? Why?
I ended up in CS in a roundabout way. Entered college as an English major, switched to Cognitive Science, took CIS110 and fell in love with it. I’m a really practical person, and I loved being able to build something on day 1.
Why did you choose to attend Horizons?
Because I ended up in CS later than most, I was pretty behind my peers in terms of classes taken/experience in the job hunt. I also just loved the premise of Horizons, they promised that we would learn more than we’d ever learned — come out of it with these real, useful skills that were both extremely employable and extremely interesting. It was an offer that I couldn’t really pass up.
Tell us about your favorite parts of the Horizons experience?
Horizons was simultaneously the most fun and the most intense summer of my life, and the people are what made it so.
My favorite part of horizons was the “project phase”. We were actually building a real product for real clients, and a challenging one at that. I learned so much, not only about Software Engineering but also about how to work within a team of engineers. It was so great to finally have the knowledge I needed to be able to build “on my own” (even though we were still tremendously supported!).
Not sure if this counts, but one of the best parts of Horizons is the incredible people you’re surrounded by. I met great friends who I felt I’d known my whole life, even though we’d only spent 3 months together. Horizons was simultaneously the funnest and the most intense summer of my life, and the people are what made it so.
How many CS classes did you have under your belt before Horizons?
CIS110, CIS120, CIS240, CIS160
How did Horizons help you as a CS Major? Any advice for CS majors thinking about Horizons?
It’s a completely different set of skills from a traditional CS major
I think personally Horizons completely changed my career path as a CS major. It brought me up to speed/ahead of peers who had been coding since day one of college. It changed how I thought about the world of tech and where I wanted to be in it. It’s a completely different set of skills from a traditional CS major, it’s not so much about theory as it is about practicality — building, deployment, building your own stuff. Horizons is the complete other side of the coin, and it’s necessary in that it really brings your CS education into the real world.
How did Horizons change the way you think about your career goals?
After Horizons, I not only had the confidence/ ability / resume to get and succeed at big name company interviews, but also the knowledge that that’s not where I should be.
Horizons changed my career goals completely. Penn tends to be a feeder for wall street, and tech at Penn is a feeder for banks and other large name companies like Google, Facebook, etc. Before Horizons, I had the skills to get a job at a financial institution’s tech team. After Horizons, I not only had the confidence/ability/resume to get and succeed at big name company interviews, but also the knowledge that that’s not where I should be. Even if you’re not an entrepreneur, there’s a lot to be said for working at mid-size companies or incredible fast growing startups — Horizons introduced me to this world and I absolutely know it’s where I should be.
How did the Horizons experience help you in your interview process?
It put me in an incredible position for recruiting, to the point where I was getting interviews that other kids who had tech internships on their resumes already weren’t getting.
Before and after Horizons is night and day. Recruiting before Horizons was painful, recruiting after Horizons was still painful, as recruiting is, but so so much better. Recruiters said to me all the time, “wow you have so much experience”, even though everything tech related on my resume was from Horizons. I spent over 800 hours coding — that’s not something a lot of people can say. I needed a personal website for an application — I made one in a few hours. These are the abilities Horizons gives you — this is the mind set it puts you in. It put me in an incredible position for recruiting, to the point where I was getting interviews that other kids who had tech internships on their resumes already weren’t getting.
Where are you interning this coming summer?
I’ll be interning at Optimizely as a Software Engineer.
What was your biggest learning from last summer?
Not sure if this is a fair question! Horizons isn’t one “big learning” it’s intentionally 800 hours of small learnings. It’s you putting in the hours every single day to become an amazing Software Engineer, and a team of incredible people who help you through it.