What are you doing this summer?
As college students across the nation end their academic semesters, this is a popular question you will hear at the dining hall table. For many, the answer is an internship, and the stress of trying to land the perfect one can cause a lot of anxiety.
Sean Viswanathan wants to help change that.
Viswanathan, a graduating senior at Cornell University, is the founder of 1TakeInterview: a software engineering interview prep website that helps users learn how to tackle coding questions they’re likely to see in their job interviews. For a small fee, users gain access to the platform and a lot of training resources. After trying a lot of different resources to help him earn internship and full-time opportunities, Viswanathan grew frustrated with the resources on the market and sought out to create something better.
Since launching 1TakeInterview, Viswanathan has had a fair bit of success. He’s built a partnership with Pramp.com to create content for its users and is looking to partner with Cornell to provide free access to all students.
Entrepreneurship@Dyson recently spoke to Viswanathan about his journey with 1TakeInterview. Check out the interview below:
What do you see as 1TakeInterview’s value proposition?
For anyone who’s a computer science undergrad or looking to secure an internship or job full-time, you typically have to go through an arduous process. You send in an application, get a coding challenge back. Then you may do another interview via phone and then have an on-site interview. These questions don’t really line up with what you’re taught in the classroom. 1TakeInterview helps tackle these interviewing scenarios and prepare people as best they can by providing some of the questions asked by companies like Google, Amazon, and Netflix.
How does your platform coach learners through the problems on the site?
We start by looking at, “What is this question asking me?” And then go into detail on, “How do you solve this problem?” In software engineering, most interview questions will fall under certain paradigms. We go over how to recognize that it’s a certain type of question and how to solve it. Then there’s how efficient your solution is, and we do an analysis of that. When you give a solution, it has to be the most efficient one.
The market for interview prep is pretty saturated. What do you think sets you apart?
All of the popular resources that people push on you I don’t think are representative of what you’re experiencing in an interview. Cracking the Coding Interview is a good way to get your feet wet but is not a good way to get into these top tech companies. I wanted something a little more intense. Then there’s Leetcode which has a database of over 700 questions, but there’s no explanation of a solution. It’s like someone gave you a calculus problem and then just gave you a solution. How’d you get there? How do you know it’s the right answer? We want to give step-by-step solutions to these extremely tough problems.
What prevents someone from ripping you off?
What I’m doing is not that revolutionary. Sure, someone could buy access and copy how I’ve given the instructions, but it’s going to be tough to add new content. The quality of videos is going to be important, providing commentary on the soft skills is going to be important. I have a lot of experience with this. This past semester, I’ve done over 20 on-site interviews. I don’t think a lot of people can rip that off. Ideas are plenty, and execution is key.
You also have a blog on your platform. How does that add value?
I interned at this company over the summer called HubSpot, and they’re very big on inbound marketing. I really took to that philosophy. People will read the blog on my website, wonder what’s the website, and click my homepage to learn more. In the beginning, after I posted my first article on my website, my sales doubled. It’s a way to attract users to the platform and get them interested in what I do while providing them with a lot of value.
What has your progress been like so far?
I released the day before Cornell’s career fair and revenue has been a lot given minimal marketing. I just posted on a couple Facebook groups and shared it on LinkedIn. I had it in this one Facebook group for 3 hours before admins took it down due to advertising, and I got 15 sales in that time. 90% of my customers are out of Cornell and I don’t know them.
Long-term, I’m looking to add content to the platform. I was told that my soft skills were not good in an interview, or that I struggled to communicate my ideas to the interviewer and couldn’t translate my ideas into code. I thought my communication skills were good, so to have that said to me was a real eye-opener. People always think CS and engineering majors are poor communicators, and I must face that reality sometimes, but I want to mock interview students to record them and commentate over the interview that they do. I want to talk about all the soft skills that they get in a performance interview. I’ll be digging into all of the topics like recruitment and professionalism. If you do a Google search, the first 15 articles you get will be very generic. I don’t think they’re very relevant for people on my platform.
What is your biggest dream for 1TakeInterview?
I want it to be a community for people to share their insights and add their own experiences. I wrote an article on how to navigate career fair, and I’d want people to share their opinions on what they thought was successful for their career fair, too. I want all of the different areas to be boosted by people all across the nation with different experiences.
How do you define a successful community?
If I was a first year student right now, and someone said, “Hey I have an interview tomorrow.” I want someone to bring up 1TakeInterview. I want it to be trustworthy.
For more on 1TakeInterview, visit the website.