A friend helped land me the job in a corporate IT department (an advertised but effectively fake-competitive position, bypassed HR), plus I have a strong technical degree from a brand-name university. No portfolio or design experience. I'd like to say I wowed them in an interview, but it was really just sitting down in a bar on a Friday night, shooting the shit, and then getting a programming book to study over the weekend so I could start on Tuesday.
I was very lucky, of course, so it should be said that one size never fits all. I also think it was totally inappropriate for me to get hired. But when you're unemployed with dwindling savings and have been homeless for 2 months straight, a $45k/year internship is something you jump for, no matter how unqualified you are for it or how unfair it is that you're getting that opportunity.
I sincerely apologize for anyone who's had to read the code I wrote back then. Though, all things considered, it's probably not as bad as many of the monstrosities I see regularly in my current position.