I just got off from a call where I gathered feedback about my interview with a company. I didn’t pass the interview, but the feedback of why I failed is making have an immense smile in my face for the past hour.
This is the first company that I applied after I lost my job a few days back. So, this is the first feedback that I got in that sense. I think writing it down here would give me a solid place to refer to on a regular basis to up my game!
The feedback call was between me and the CTO of the company. Whenever I find myself talking to CEOs, CTOs and VPs (and some Engineers), I seem to get immense amount of “You are playing a different game, so game on!” level of energy from the conversation. This is nonetheless different. The way things were put infront of me is actually something helpful that I could act upon.
To give background, here is how the interview process went. It is an early-stage startup, recently funded, super-interesting to me (as it is in the Reliability, Observability space). I saw their CTO’s tweet that they are hiring.
We (@last9inc) are looking for a Software Engineer who can own our Reliability + Customer Integration pipeline.— Piyush Verma (@realmeson10) June 18, 2020
Key requisites are: Strong *nix skills, and being able to think ahead and automate mundane / repetitive work.
If that's not you, help spread the word 🙏
After doing my homework on what they are trying to do, I arrived at one of their interesting projects which is open source - https://github.com/last9/k8stream
Now I am fully convinced that I should definitely apply to them!
k8stream was written in Go, which I am currently focusing on. So I thought it might be good to contribute a feature to the project, that way I get a little bit better in Go programming and also it would help me break the ice with them while applying!
It is a project that uploads various kuberenetes events to AWS S3. It had this notion of Sink, which lets you store the data. For example, there was file sink and AWS sink. You can choose the sink in which your events should get stored. My initial idea was to add a GCS sink, which would enable storing events in Google Cloud storage. During the “exploring by reading the code” phase, I happened to notice a
TODO comment in the code base and I felt it would be more valuable to address it rather than sending code for feature that I wasn’t sure if they are interested in having in the software. So, here it is: https://github.com/last9/k8stream/pull/38 - a PR to validate input in file sink!
One of the other reasons for not going with GCS feature is that I didn’t have clear idea about how to use
context package in Go (this package was used extensively by the google cloud Go library). So, I did spin off understanding it parallely during the process and ended up digging deep into the source code of context package and writing a blog post about it
After sending in a hello email with a pointer to my PR, I was able to get an interview from them. It involved a introduction/get-to-know-each-other call followed by a take home assignment.
The call went well. Then I wrote and submitted the take-home assignment in a week. I chose Go as my programming language (as I was learning it and I thought it would be a fun exercise).
I learnt that I was rejected in some days after the assignment and after a week, I was able to get the CTO on call for a feedback session.
Always start with the good things! A few things that they thought I was good at.
- Good hands on coding skills
- Willing to accept feedback and act on it.
- Passionate and enthusiastic.
The following were somethings that went wrong.
- Overly engineered solution.
- Lagging in design principles.
- Parts of the solution was lacking in testability.
So, from the feedback, I understood that the following things need to be improved.
- Sense and knowledge of design patterns. (Totally agree with this!)
- Knowledge on basic functional programming constructs like Pure function, idompotence etc.
- Knowledge on system design and architecture.
Now that I know what needs to be improved. I am laying down what can I do to start seeing the results.
I also asked questions to the CTO like “If I were to apply back again, what are some action items that I can take to improve myself?” hoping that I could get some suggestions on improving.
First thing was,
Code more, a lot more.
Woah! that’s super straight forward. I love this. I just have to write a lot more code everyday. I had been missing it for a while. When I was in college, I could dump these mountains of code everyday that would teach me things I never knew of. So I want to get back on “that level of coding more”.
Next was my very favorite part in the entire of the conversation. It was about how to get good at design patterns. I find it very practical advice.
Build something with some assumptions and maintain it till you see your assumptions fail
This case naturally leads to refactoring of code and helps you understand why your code didn’t scale. In other words, it will get us started with thinking what kind of design pattern might have saved us from having to refactor.
That’s pretty much of what happened. In the end, I also got the suggestion of what kind of companies I should be applying for (got 3 names). They encouraged me in a manner that convinced me that I should definitely go (prepare and) apply at those “3 names” after this. The entire feedback session gave me a moral boost - “I got this!” attitude++.
With high hopes of working towards improving myself, I am signing this off with this wonder statement: “I really wonder how the tech interview process has evolved in the industry. From not getting any answer back in case of rejection to requesting and getting feedback in case of a rejection.” - I am really glad to see more companies adopt this style of interviewing.
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Also if you have some suggestions on how I can level up, do let me know. It would be great if you could point me to opportunities that you find interesting these days!