Self-taught, she beat 98% of candidates to work at Carousell
By Kylee McIntyre14-Jan-2019Views 4298

As much as our parents would like to think, breaking into the workforce isn't a one-time occurrence anymore. Once you're in, you have to stay in, and that means introducing adaptability into the mix.

It helped the cavemen survive, and it's still helping us survive our tech industry jobs. via GIPHY.

It's good then that adaptability has been a theme throughout Yishu See's life. The software engineer had first wanted to go into the arts, then slowly made her way to becoming a software engineer at Carousell. Along the way, she continued to augment her skills herself, which was how she managed to work at a company where the success rate for aspiring hires is only 1.68 percent.

Film and development

self-taught

Yishu See, software developer at Carousell and member of Techladies.

“I think I kind of stumbled into the industry because I always thought I was going to get into arts," Yishu says. She was interested in film and photography, but when it came time to further her studies, she got what could only be described as a gut feeling.

“After the tour [of the arts school], I said I really don't think I'm fitting in," she remembers. “So I thought, let's choose something where I don't have to make a decision first."

Faced with the decision of what to do if she couldn't go into the arts, Yishu set her sights upon her next love: space. She attended her first computing class.

Homework wasn't homework - it was super fun.

“I was like, whoa, this is amazing! Like homework wasn't homework - it was super fun," Yishu says. She spent the rest of her time at the National University of Singapore concentrating on electrical engineering, where she did a little bit of hacking of her own and made her final year project an iOS development project, which meant that she got the $99 development suite for free.

It was fun, but her old dreams still called to her.

Into the startups

Yishu's first job was working for an ad agency as a copywriter, but writing didn't feel right, so she found a better fit putting her programming skills to use making microsites for brands. She came into the workforce with an iOS background, but she taught herself web development from scratch.

“I just read books every night to keep up - there aren't a lot of iOS jobs. There's more web jobs," she says.

self-taught starbucks

A microsite for advertising is an often small website that plays a part in promoting a product. Ad agencies will offer them in conjunction with an ad package that may include print ads, social media ads, and others. This one for Starbucks doubles as a game. Easy to win, it draws the player in, awarding him or her with a voucher that will hopefully be used to purchase more Starbucks.

After over three years, she joined the startup community when a senior at her school asked her to join filmmaking startup Viddsee.

“I thought, okay, just try," remarks Yishu. The company was at Singapore startup hub Block 71. She was working, doing meetups, and attending startup events. The way she saw it, her initiation into the world of Singapore startups was complete.

She would remain for nearly three years before moving on to the role - and the failure - that would set her on course to her current job.

Blessing in disguise

Yishu moved on from the startup lifestyle to consulting for a while. She, a friend, and an ex-colleague stepped out on their own, which was more generous with time but came with another set of challenges.

“Within that one year when I was working by myself, I realized it's very stressful - freelancing. Money doesn't come in. You have no one to talk to. When I'm stressed, I just go drink water and come back," she says. She wanted a little more stability, so she went out for a job at Facebook - and failed.

She went out for a job at Facebook - and failed.

“I screwed up the interview really, really badly. I was really nervous," she remembers.

She took to Twitter to let off some steam. “I said I am going to read documentation about React to calm me down," she says. React is a JavaScript library that helps developers build user interfaces. Facebook uses a React library to help users build mobile apps.

Carousell's tech vice president happened to see her tweet. His response: I want to work with someone who reads documentation.

She made it through the interview process and has been working at Carousell for over a year. But her work to expand her horizons in the field is far from over. “It's always not enough time," says Yishu. “I want to do more work, want to learn more."

Tech work can make that difficult, she says, when a lot of tech jobs involve building websites from scratch. It can get repetitive.

So, Yishu wants to help others grow as well. In addition to picking up the role of a mentor at Carousell, Yishu is a member of Techladies and has taught before at General Assembly. She also has a group she calls “masterminds" with three of her fellow female developers and two men.

“I think we came together because we realized we are still a minority in our own company, and coming together, we could speak. We could [figure out] the problems and share with each other," she says.

Part of keeping ahead is paying it forward.


For more about how to have a successful interview as a tech candidate, visit our guide here.

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Kylee McIntyre
American tech, science, health, and environmental writer. Lover of scifi, fantasy, travel, and coffee. Find her on Twitter @ejkyleem.
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