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Uneven Playing Field: Examining Preparation for Technical Interviews in Computing and the Role of Cultural Experiences

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Computing and Information Technology Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Computing and Information Technology

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

27

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37973

Download Count

28

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Paper Authors

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Stephanie J. Lunn Florida International University

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Stephanie Lunn is presently a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Computing and Information Sciences at Florida International University (FIU). Her research interests span the fields of Computing and Engineering Education, Human Computer Interaction, Data Science, and Machine Learning. Previously, Stephanie received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Neuroscience from the University of Miami, in addition to B.S. and M.S. degrees in Computer Science from FIU.

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Monique S. Ross Florida International University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-6320-636X

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Monique Ross, Assistant Professor in the School of Computing and Information Sciences and STEM Transformation Institute at Florida International University, designs research focused on broadening participation in computer science through the exploration of: 1) race, gender, and disciplinary identity; 2) discipline-based education research (with a focus on computer science and computer engineering courses) in order to inform pedagogical practices that garner interest and retain women (specifically Black and Hispanic women) in computer-related engineering fields. 

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Zahra Hazari Florida International University

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Zahra Hazari is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning and the STEM Transformation Institute as well as an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Physics. Dr. Hazari’s research focuses on reforming physics learning environments in an effort to improve critical educational outcomes for underrepresented groups in physics, especially women. In particular, her work centers on physics identity development, a framework which has proven insightful for explaining gender differences in persistence and is providing critical insight into understanding how to inspire and engage students in physics-related studies.

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Mark A. Weiss Florida International University

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Mark Allen Weiss is a Distinguished University Professor, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education in the College of Engineering and Computing, and Interim Director in the School of Universal Computing, Construction, and Engineering Education (SUCCEED) at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami Florida.

He joined FIU after receiving his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Princeton University in 1987. His interests include data structures, algorithms, and education, and he is most well-known for his Data Structures textbooks, which have been used at hundreds of universities worldwide. From 1997-2004 he served as a member of the Advanced Placement Computer Science Development Committee, chairing the committee from 2000-2004. Dr. Weiss is an IEEE Fellow, AAAS Fellow, and the recipient of the 2015 SIGCSE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Computer Science Education, 2017 IEEE Taylor Booth Education Award, and 2018 IEEE William Sayle Educator Award.

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Michael Georgiopoulos University of Central Florida

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Michael Georgiopoulos received the Diploma in EE from the National
Technical University in Athens, his MS degree and Ph.D. degree in EE
from the University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, in 1981, 1983 and
1986, respectively. He is currently a Professor in the Department of ECE
at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando, FL. From September 2011 to June 2012 he served as the Interim Assistant Vice President of Research at the Office of Research and Commercialization. Since May 2013 he is serving as the Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at UCF.

His research interests lie in the areas of Machine Learning and applications with
special emphasis on neural network and neuro-evolutionary algorithms,
and their applications. He has published more than 70 journal papers
and more than 170 conference papers in a variety of conference and
journal venues. He has been an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks from 2002 to 2006, and an Associate Editor of the Neural Networks journal from 2006 to 2012. He has served as the Technical Co-Chair of the IJCNN 2011.

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Ken Christensen P.E. University of South Florida

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Ken Christensen (christen@csee.usf.edu) is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of South Florida. Ken received his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from North Carolina State University in 1991. His primary research interest is in green networks. Ken is a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Florida, a senior member of IEEE, and a member of ACM and ASEE.

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Tiana Solis Florida International University

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Tiana Solis recently transitioned from her previous position as the Associate Director of Academic Advising to be a full-time instructor at the School of Computing and Information Sciences, Florida International University. Prior to moving to Hawaii in 2007, she was an instructor and academic advisor for the School from 1994 to 2007. Ms. Solis has taught different undergraduate courses and mentored several FIU students participating in the Florida-Georgia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (FGLSAMP). She is a past adviser of the Women in Computer Science (WICS) student club. From 2008 to 2010, Ms. Solis was a programmer analyst at the Department of the Attorney General in Hawaii, a member of the team revamping the State Juvenile Justice Information System.
Her research and instructional Interests include programming languages, computer ethics and student success and development.

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Abstract

While starting a career may be challenging in any field, in computing the process tends to be aggravated by requirements of digital portfolios and technical interviews that necessitate coding extemporaneously. During the programming components, candidates are expected to offer a solution, while also giving consideration to the choice of algorithm and its time complexity. Although intended to assess the competency of the job applicants, the process is often more akin to a professional examination. Applicants are encouraged to prepare months, or even years before they begin looking for a position, an expectation that neglects to consider the obligations and responsibilities students already have. Moreover, this presumption can result in an unequal divide between those who have the time to commit, and those who are unable to do so. To examine students’ preparation for technical interviews and their own cultural experiences, we administered a survey at three metropolitan universities in Florida. Specifically, we utilized social cognitive career theory to examine: 1) Students' preparation practices for technical interviews; 2) The impact of cultural experiences on preparation time; and 3) The relationship between preparation and job attainment. To address these topics, we used descriptive statistics, Shapiro-Wilk tests, Wilcoxon rank-sum tests, and Kruskal-Wallis tests. We also applied the community cultural wealth model to interpret our results. We observed that, in our sample, White students began preparing earlier for technical interviews, spent more time preparing, and received more job offers than non-White students. Females also spent more hours preparing on average, and received more job offers than students that did not identify as female. However, female, Black/African American, and Hispanic/Latinx students were more likely to have cultural experiences that would impact their availability to prepare, including non-computing related jobs, caring for a family member, or ongoing health issues. While we do consider the support mechanisms students may leverage to overcome obstacles, in general, these results emphasize the larger issues in existing hiring structures, and demonstrate the importance of not treating students as a monolith. The findings from this work are intended to inform educators about how to better prepare students to succeed on technical interviews, and to encourage industry to reform the process to make it more equitable.

Lunn, S. J., & Ross, M. S., & Hazari, Z., & Weiss, M. A., & Georgiopoulos, M., & Christensen, K., & Solis, T. (2021, July), Uneven Playing Field: Examining Preparation for Technical Interviews in Computing and the Role of Cultural Experiences Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37973

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