Conversation with Adi Agashe '17, co-author of Swipe to Unlock

1.     What prompted you all to write this book?

A few years ago, I spent a good half an hour searching Amazon for a book that would help give me a high-level overview of the tech concepts I needed to know to excel at interviews and better understand the technical implications when making business strategy decisions in the tech industry. I found that nothing of the sort existed. The information I sought was scattered across the web, written with various levels of presumed knowledge. Although there are hundreds of books to teach beginners to code, I found nothing to help me better understand the underlying technology concepts.

So my friends from Microsoft – Neel Mehta and Parth Detroja –  and I decided to write a book to help people interested in working on the business side of tech understand things like how Google search actually works or the business rationale behind why Amazon changes product prices 2.5 million times a day. Our book is called Swipe to Unlock — check it out on Amazon!

We have been reaching out to clubs and career services at universities to get the word out. We broke even a few weeks ago and recently hit #1 Best Seller on Amazon.

2.     Many employers use a student’s degree as a signal that they have mastered their area of study. Do you think students without STEM degrees, even if they ace the tech side of the interview, would still be at disadvantage when compared to students who do just as well on the interview but also hold a STEM degree?

I don’t think you need to know how to code to work in tech, however it is extremely difficult to get offers without having a high level understanding of how everyday tech — think Spotify, Snapchat, Apple Pay — works under the hood.

I think my high-level understanding of tech really helped me in my interview. For example, if you are applying for a non-software engineering role at Google, you most likely won’t be asked to explain how Google’s ad-targeting algorithm works. But they might ask you how you could increase ad revenue from a particular market segment. If you know how Google's ad platform works, you'll be in a far stronger position to come up with good growth strategies. Little tech-side insights like that helped my interview answers stand out from the pack.

3.     The tech industry is constantly evolving at an incredible speed. Even engineers with strong computer science backgrounds have trouble keeping up with these developments. Do you think Swipe to Unlock would provide students without backgrounds in STEM a strong enough foundation in tech to continue developing with the industry; let’s say 5 years from now?

We plan on updating the book with new insights as the industry changes.

4.     What advice do you have for our readers who are interested in pursuing a job in the tech industry?

I did a lot of networking. Essentially, I would reach out cold to people who currently had a job I wanted via LinkedIn. People are actually more receptive to a 15 minute chat with a stranger than you might think. The key to getting people to be willing to chat with you is really personalizing the message to why you want to talk to that particular person rather than why you want to chat with someone with their job. For instance, if you mention that you and your perspective conversation partner both went to the same school, majored in the same subject, or worked in the same industry previously, and you wanted to learn how those experiences helped prepare them for their current role, that would be much more effective in getting a response. You can expect someone with a competitive job gets several messages daily asking to chat. Make sure your message isn’t generic if you want people to make time for you.

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