Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Great Google Adventure: The Big Test

Not long after getting in touch with my recruiting contact, I picked my day for the technical interviews. More nervous than I'd ever been in my life, I pushed the date out as far as possible -- to Thanksgiving break, 5 weeks from then. 

My head was spinning, how would I ever be prepared in time with all my other coursework to worry about? At the time, I was taking 6 classes, working part-time in a research lab, and the second round of midterms were approaching fast to top it off. I needed to learn some serious time-management skills to be able to allocate enough time to prepare for undoubtedly the most unnerving interviews of my life. Viewing the technical interview prep advice slideshow attached to my email from my recruiter convinced me I had a lot of work to do.

Determined, I picked up a copy of Cracking the Coding Interview, loaded up past contest questions from Google Code Jam, and opened a Google doc (of course, first setting it to look like an editor before getting started). Every week I'd code a few more problems up in the doc and copy it over to Eclipse to check for errors.  

My study buddy thought taking a nap was a better idea

Eventually, it was the night before the big day. Reviewing my hard work, I had coded up 50 pages of Java into the doc, covering everything from trees and traversals to basic string manipulations. Still, I felt horribly unprepared as I'd never done a technical phone interview before -- or even just a regular phone interview. I barely slept that night, which I knew was going to be to my detriment.

Finally, 2 pm rolled around on interview day. Logged in to the interview doc, I tried to suppress the sheer panic as I knew my phone would be going off any second. A little after 2, I saw another person pop into the doc and my phone went off.

*2 stressful hours later...*

I had somehow managed to survive the back-to-back interviews although I thought I overall only did okay. The first I was convinced I had botched since it took half the interview for me to understand what was even going on. The second was much easier since I was able to breeze through both the brute-force and an optimal solution to the problem. I even had time to answer bonus questions on the second one and discuss my mind-controlled UAV project, which must have helped make up for the first interview.

One day later I was texting a friend when I saw an email notification pop up on my phone from who else but my recruiter. I instantly entered a state of sheer panic, thinking I shouldn't have heard back so soon -- I was expecting at least a week or two for feedback. After several minutes, I mustered up the courage to open the email, only glancing through it to check for length, figuring short meant bad news. As soon as I saw it was a long email, I actually read through it -- I had made it to round 2. I couldn't believe what I was reading.

Next up: the host-matching process.