An Insider Look at the Job Search Process for Programmers with Stepan Parunashvili

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I recently got to interview Stepan Parunashvili as part of a GiveGetWin deal.

He doesn't have a classical computer science background, in fact he didn't even go to university, but is now one of the youngest programmers at Facebook.

How did he do it? He shares some insights on how he leveled up and got the job he wanted. 

Sign up for his 5 person, hands-on class to learn how to have a great Github profile, work in open source, and have the right kind of hustle and attitude to get you hired:

In his own words -

“I think the biggest realization comes from looking at reality very objectively – and there’s a few things in life that only happen for a few times, and that’s why everyone is bad at them.

“Getting jobs, relationships… things like that, you only do once or twice, and then you’re there. But if you really focus on this, and look at it scientifically, you can get much more.”

“Arnold Schwarzengger said: ‘A bodybuilder doesn’t just look at his body; he sculpts it.’

“You can look at your career the same way. You don’t just succeed or fail in a job interview, you look at the questions they’re asking and sculpt yourself a job candidate.

“Treat it as a golden opportunity. I would pay real money to experience that over and over again. It’s so valuable to know viscerally what you’re bad at so you can get better.”

“There are so many things in life that you won’t learn because there’s no motivation to learn it or because there’s no pressure or need to. If you have a job interview at the end of the week, it forces you to perform - and then you know how you did so you learn to adapt quickly.

“It’s interesting trying to figure out what happened in the past. The old me feels like history.

“When I arrived in San Francisco, at the initial start, I felt like I was getting pretty good, but that I had gaps that I wasn’t fully aware of – and felt like I didn’t need to learn.

“There was some misunderstanding. I didn’t realize how difficult things like algorithms are, because I’d never done it. I tried to block out those weak spots because they felt so hard.

“I started contacting a bunch of people. I talked to a programmer who was really great. He said: “If you want to be really good, you want to make your feedback loop really tight and work on important things. If you work on important things, you can then work on even more important things… and you get really good. If you don’t do that, you wind up doing mediocre work and don’t get good.”

“I started wanting to do that.

“I started looking at myself. If you looked at me, there’s two ways to look at me – either negative or positive, depending on how you look at it.

One way is: ‘A high school graduate, hasn’t graduated university, has traveled a lot, and sort of knows HTML.’

“Or you can make it: ‘Got a scholarship to university but took a grant to start a business instead, traveled and worked on business in China, and then started to focus more on engineering than sales recently.’

"The level-up that let me start working on getting hired at a great company like Wit.AI was when I started preemptively working on learning skills related to building a whole product.

"I got a job offer at Uber as a result of working, but Uber didn’t work out as a result of visa reasons.

"I could’ve taken that different ways - I could have used this as an opportunity to disengage from what I was doing and go back to university, but I didn’t - I used it as an opportunity to get more intense about things. So I committed all the way to getting better at programming.

“Of course people don’t want to learn things they don’t like or are bad at but in the end it’s all about not accepting reality. If you come into a room and it’s dirty, and say, ‘Why is this room dirty?!’ and get upset… that’s the wrong interaction. Instead, just clean the room.

“When I came to programming interviews, I thought they were asking me for artificial reasons - just seeing if I had studied at university or other things people wouldn’t actually use at their job.

“But then, if you think, ‘I want my objective and I know the world works this way. So, why don’t I just learn it? Even if it’s just unfair, why not learn it if it’ll get me the jobs I want? Does it take ten years to learn? If not, why don’t I just learn it?’

“This was a breakthrough for me. I kept saying, ‘I just want to get what I want – I’m not going to identify myself as a ‘self-learned developer who thinks algorithms are bad’ … I’ll do what I need to do. If I need to learn algorithms, I’ll do it. As long as I get what I want.’

“I started doing two things:

  1. Identify where I was lacking and figure out what I need to fill that knowledge gap.

“Sometimes you don’t know. But if you do know, make a curriculum plan, and say: ‘This is how I’ve been successful, this is when I’ve failed, and this is the information I need to know to succeed.’ And once you make the plan, stop questioning it. Make the decision – and go.

  1. Just take the time to learn it.

“Sometimes, you don’t want to learn something because it’d be a waste of time if you try and fail. You’re worried about trying and failing. Stop that. Instead, identify with being the person who does everything you can to get what you want.

“Later, this made a big deal in getting accepted at Facebook once Wit was acquired. I didn’t know some skills that Facebook was going to need to hire me on, and I studied intensely, hours per day every day for weeks to prepare for the interview. I did it.

Make a consistent plan.

“Don’t say, ‘The chance of success X, so I’ll do X work.’ No. Do all you can, even if it might not work – if you know that’s the path you want.” 

Next Saturday, August 29th, Stepan Parunashvili will be teaching how to score your dream job if you're a programmer. 

Only 5 spots -- don't miss out:

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