On interviews and looking back at the future

I don’t think I’ve published a post on my job searches as part of my time in the SoftEng program at UWaterloo, even though I’ve got a few in my drafts.

Since I’ve had my last interview (and Jobmine has closed & matched), here’s some fun stats without naming companies:

  • Favourite interviewer line: “So our alphabet ends with Zee… actually wait, you go to Waterloo, right? So Zed.”
  • Favourite interviewer compliment: “If we hired based on domain name, you’d be our first choice!”
  • Most common uncommon interview question: “What’s your favourite TF2 class, and why?”
  • Most common common interview question: “Tell me about yourself!” (Still don’t have a fixed answer for this)
  • Most unexpectedly large number of interviews from a small-ish company: 4
  • Most unexpectedly small number of interviews from a large company: 1 (+ code test)
  • Weirdest application experience: Rejected on Jobmine, requested on LinkedIn (larger company, left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing)
  • Weirdest process experience: “Thanks for your interest in the Winter 2016 Internship position! We’d like to schedule your interview ASAP!” *interview* “Thanks for your interest in the Fall 2016 Internship position! We’d like to schedule your interview ASAP!”
  • Most annoying experience: “We’ll definitely consider you for the SRE position since you explicitly requested it!” “Here is the interview schedule for your SWE interviews”
  • # of code problems in phone/skype interviews left unfinished: 3
  • Best code writing platform: Coderpad
  • Worst code writing platform: Google Docs (“Let me just create some indentation groups for you”)
  • # of technologies to investigate: 6 (Stemcell, Consul, Elasticsearch, Kibana, Fluentd, Graphana)

Loosely, this term was a lot like my 2A term – many interviews. 20 applications, 5 companies rejected me right off the bat. (Actually 7, but 2 of them contacted me later asking to interview outside Jobmine.)

An aside on Jobmine: It’s very very different than working in the real world. Through the magic of the ranking system, companies are competing for the top students, but students are also competing for the top companies. Some companies go outside the system, when technically they’re not supposed to. I’m conflicted about this: if it’s your preferred company, bonus for you! If it’s not, then how do you tell them nicely to hold off? (It’s annoyingly stressful, having to tell someone who is perfectly nice, and the job is awesome, but you’re waiting for something potentially awesomer.)

Somewhat interestingly, the jobs that have rejected me are overwhelmingly pure software dev positions. Those that have given me offers are overwhelmingly operations engineering/DevOps-type jobs. I’m alternately amused and annoyed – I found a really really awesome niche. But that niche is a niche, and I can’t point to any specific software writing in a team roles that I’ve had, which I believe is a reason why pure Software Dev jobs at larger companies are rejecting me.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Neither – It’s 2 sides of the same coin. Being more specialized, the general positions are understandably looking past me. (I’d wager partly this it’s due to me being rather not great at pure algorithms. The only data structures question I got was on quadtrees, and I managed to say “Isn’t this just a spiffy quadtree?”, which probably got me bonus points.)

So what was I looking for?

Easily quantifiable things like salary & perks are, well, easily quantifiable. I’m reasonably financially secure in that I saved the vast majority of past internship earnings, so I could look for something else. I went into the Jobmine process looking for two things:

  1. I’d prefer a startup, for wider variance of experience (both in what I’d do, and also because I haven’t worked at a startup before)
  2. I’d prefer something that gives me more responsibility, primarily in terms of impact to the business.

Of all the offers I got, 3 stood out for these two factors, and I had a really tough time deciding between them. What it came down to was the experience of friends at those companies, and discussions with the companies on what I’d be working on.

So now that Jobmine’s closed, I’m comfortable saying that I’ll be working at kik, working on developing and rolling out their mircoservices architecture! It’s a team of 4-5, and it sounds like I’d be either in charge or 2IC of it, so it’s horribly exciting.

I’m terrified, but that’s a good thing, right?


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