Not that I was desperately looking out for a change at this point in time, but appearing for the selection process of different companies, for an information security role, has always been a brutal teacher. And although I was fortunate to crack some of those, I am particularly more delightful about the other kind, for those have been the real fun ones. And then of-course, some names have always struck a keen desire in me, even before I was eligible to be employed full-time, to get an opportunity to work with their teams to experience the brilliant and that culture and values. And trust me, for names like these, I don’t really need to be ‘desperately’ looking out for a change. It’s roles/companies like these that help me understand the term ‘best’ (which is otherwise quite vague and relative) that I like to call a dream job.
LinkedIn happens to be one such phenomenon, that I would readily be very positive about, from an employment perspective, unless of-course I am already into something that’s analogous to ‘saving the world’ or am already working with people like the above. Having like minded friends is always a boon. Thanks to one such friend (Avradeep Bhattacharya), my profile caught the recruitment team’s attention. What follows now is a narration of my personal experience with the entire selection process.
It might get a little too melodramatic. But that’s how it was. You have been warned !
My friend confirmed about forwarding my profile to the respective hiring team on a Wednesday. The following Thursday is when I received an introductory email from the recruitment team at LinkedIn which was soon followed by a call to discuss the opportunity and my interests further. A sweet mid 20s voice with an absolute professional tone acknowledged my ‘Hello’ and off we went to the very first step of the selection procedure. I was briefed about the role, the kind of people that I would be working with, the location etc. And I think, I blabbered a lot about my experience and why exactly was I keen on this opportunity. (It was the excitement speaking, not me ! :)) But I guess I did a fair job at it, because at the end of it, the lady at the other end seemed convinced and we ended on the note that the ball was now in the hiring manager’s court and that if the manager sees my profile a fit, I would be contacted back soon.
I ‘chillaxed’ while waiting for a call. And the general idea is 2–3 days, or more sometimes (or sometimes no intimation at all), before you get the next call. But LinkedIn takes ‘soon’ literally seriously. ‘Ping’ ! within the next 30 minutes of the previous interaction and acceleration in beats per second. The next thing I knew, was that the next round had been arranged as the hiring manager seemed interested in giving me a shot.
‘Soon’ again, there was a challenge that was shared with me. I was supposed to solve it and send back my thoughts about the same and possibly the solution too. I was given around 48 hours to complete the challenge. Now although the instructions in the challenge mentioned that ‘ideally’ it could be done within 2–3 hours at max, I wanted to take all the time available and, being the stubborn me, give it one shot after the other aiming at making it a little better each time.
Because it was and still is confidential as I understand, I may not be able to share the exact details of the challenge. However, I would like to share whatever I can being in the scope of the non-disclosure. Getting started with the instructions file, the requirements and expectations were crystal clear. The challenge itself, was quite opposite, at least from it’s first looks. It was not before some some 30–45 minutes of dedicated poking and playing around that I got a basic grasp of what exactly was I dealing with. Dinner break. Later that same evening, between shots of dark caffeine, it was another 3–4 hours it took to finally come up with a working PoC that satisfied the bare minimum expectation. Sigh! “That was cool” is what reverberated till I guess I slept it over. The following day, since I had all the time till the final hours, there was war on Stack overflow, Facebook, numerous blogs and discussion forums etc. around things I kept exploring and asking and debating to make the solution better and achieve what I wanted to. The challenge was not the challenge itself, it was the fact that the exact thing itself, being confidential, could not be shared. The questions had to be very vague and abstract and generic. And there was lot of criticism and down votes around the questions I was asking. I could not have expected for more. I mean, I was asking X in my questions and was trying to get an answer for Y. :) But at the end, although I did not receive the answer I was looking for, what I did come across through all the research etc. was n number of ways of attempting what I was trying to do and finally realize that whatever I was trying to do, was not feasible at all given the problem statement at hand. Cool right ? Anyway, the solution was finally submitted in the 11th hour. And as all the 11th hour things ought to mess up, my submission was no exception either. First I missed the attachment in the email. Then I sent the wrong attachment in the second email. And the final submission, witht the right PoC attached, had a little ambiguous instructions about how to run the PoC. :) But, it soon hit, that 3 iterations for one mail is more than enough. And I just left it there.
‘Soon’ once again, my solution sailed me through into the next round.
A late night phone call was arranged with a senior engineer in the team, whose LinkedIn profile was shared across beforehand. (The call was actually rescheduled for later that night, at my convenience, as the interviewer had to attend to some urgent stuff at the previously scheduled time) The profile was pretty impressive. The intimidation was intense and so was my eagerness about the call. It was the high school exam days revisited when you feel that you are prepared, yet you are all apprehensive.
It’s a quality I think a lot of folks have picked up at LinkedIn (or maybe it’s just a character you build with maturity), the guy’s voice was extremely polite and humble, yet absolutely professional. He gave a small introduction about himself and his role. I followed his cue and gave mine as well, this time ensuring that it’s me doing the talking and not the excitement, trying to pick up something from the demeanor of the interviewer. Mostly the discussion revolved around an in depth understanding of some very basic technologies. I was not very fast in answering them, because frankly I had to think about the questions and cross-questions that were thrown depending on my answers, but I guess I could cover most of them at an ok pace. There was one question though that I could not answer despite my making an attempt at it, because I did not know about that technical aspect at all.
It was a good discussion I would say, for I was forced to think through problems given and not just produce an answer by the books. I could easily relate to real world problems through the situations that were presented by the interviewer. The questions all made perfect sense such that they were encapsulating real world issues and were not just theoretical out of thin air.
This time it was a long wait. I was 80% sure to get back an affirmative call and an entry into the next round of the process. Alas! LinkedIn had plans otherwise. :) Being an extended weekend, I received a mail on the first working day following the long weekend informing me that the hiring team did not see me fit at that point in time for the opening. I am not certain now where did I miss it. As much as I would have liked to be promoted to the next round, I am certain there was reason enough to believe that I had something missing for that role. Upon request, I also received a feedback from LinkedIn hiring team about the areas I could improve on. But overall, I think the entire experience was really smooth and fun and above all pretty fruitful.
And of-course, I would still be looking out for one of these dream jobs, for if nothing, it is such experiences that really count.
Cheers ! :)
PS: Now that it's been almost 3+ years since I interviewed for this position, I would try to post a tech blog post as well around the challenge itself.