Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Facebook.... Part 4..... The final part?

I think I've been avoiding the last part of my story.... it's all been really positive so far but the evening of the technical test came and I had a phone call from a software engineer in California.  The strong american accent booming over the phone and I felt like I was talking to a movie star.

He asked a few standard questions, like "why facebook?"  I, of course, had thought through this question, after all if I'm going through the process to work for them, then there has to be a good reason.  Well it's facebook for a start, it's changed the way we communicate with each other, it's become the centre of many social groups.  Not only that, I create software and then I don't often hear what the users themselves think or see how they use it.  Now with facebook, it would be something I actually use myself and see instant feedback from friends.  Something you see the benefit of straight away.

I heard myself saying this, and I could hear a wobble in my voice that I have never ever heard before.  The nervousness had caught me.  I tried to steady my voice, but then I just sounded arrogant, instead of my normal telephone interview voice, which I think comes across bubbly and confident.  I started to concentrate on trying to keep my voice even and then started to hear myself waffle.

I have never known nerves like it.  I'd built myself up to these nerves, it was something I desperately wanted and the sheer pressure was now playing on me.  I'd put myself under this pressure no-one else.

So we brought up a web page for us both to share and he put to me an algorithmic puzzle for me to solve.  The problem was clear enough and while I tried to buy some time thinking about my problem, I started by outlining some unit tests I would normally start with.  I was stopped in my tracks by the interviewer, as he said "I get what you're trying to do there, just move onto the algorithm".  I'm a test driven developer, I can't quite remember how to write code form scratch... I write it from a test!  Anyway I tried to move onto the algorithm, and started by putting in some boiler plate stuff.  Yes you've guessed it the interviewer stopped me in my tracks and asked me to carry on with the algorithm.

OK, so write the code.... write the code..... oh no my brain had stopped working and all that was going through my mind were tumble weeds.  Then "Think-Think-Think-Think" were the only words scattered through my mind, and my brain suddenly became incapable of thinking about this problem.  My cheeks flushed with embarrassment.  This is what I'm good at, I'm good at these kinds of algorithms.  My cheeks flushed more.  I'd just lost it.

The interviewer was kind enough to offer that I spend the next hour finishing off the algorithm and then email it, so he could include it in his feedback.  He then said I could ask him anything I liked about working at facebook and his experiences.  I asked some random questions, thanked him for his time and hung up.

My cheeks were still red with blushing.  I made a cup of coffee, calmed my nerves and finished the algorithm in 10 minutes.  I sent this on and didn't really await an answer.  I knew I hadn't got any further in the process.  (An hour later I could still feel the heat form my blushing cheeks!)

A week or so had passed, and I thought it would be worth getting some feedback in case there was anything I could learn about how to improve my interview performance for future reference.  So I emailed the recruiter, who phoned me back a few days later.  It was no surprise when the words she spoke was "we won't be taking it further at this stage."  She told me the algorithm was correct, but I just hadn't done it in the time.  However.....

She told me that they thought I was right for the culture and clearly smart, so they'd like to come back to me in 6 months time, to give me time to prepare and practise.  So there we have it, it was a no for now... but not forever.  So now I have a good few months to prepare and practise.

Keep your eyes peeled for part 5 in a few months........................................ xx

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Facebook Part 3 - The Technical Test..... (Prep)

Back by popular demand, I am carrying on my exciting tale of trying out for a job at facebook!

Now how do I say this modestly?  Oh there is no way!  I think I impressed the recruiter, and she started to tell me about the next stage, which would be a technical test over skype with one of the Software Engineers in California.  She suggested as I wasn't used to their style of technical tests that I prepared and practise, she told me that the interview would involve me doing an algorithm.  Ohhhh a proper test, the kind of thing I do every day - writing code!  How exciting!  She told me another HR type person would be in touch with the details.

So that very evening I started googling and I found an interesting book about cracking the Silicon Valley interview.  This is where it all went wrong for me... the book scared me!  Oh did this book scare me!!  It started off by saying that it takes a year to prepare for a Silicon Valley interview.  A YEAR?  I had 2 weeks, at best!  OK, so time to knuckle down and read this book.  As I started to read about linked lists, binary trees and the like, it all started to come back to me from uni, but I was getting through the book slowly as these things were quite rusty in my brain.  I didn't get round to practising many of the exercises and I kept going off on tangents when I came across something that interested me and spent time researching it on line.

A week has passed and I still didn't have a date for the technical test and I eased off the studying for fear of wasting my time.  I gave a gentle nudge to the recruiter, who asked me to contact her again if in a couple of days I hadn't heard anything.  Those couple of days passed and I sent her an email to tell her that I still hadn't heard anything and was starting to think that they'd changed their mind and didn't want to take the process any further.  However that evening I received my date for the technical test.  Just 3 days away.

By this point, I was extremely nervous, felt vastly unprepared - by a total of 50 weeks worth of under prepared-ness.  I'd got myself tremendously excited, this was an opportunity to be taken seriously.  It had gone from a good experience that would also look fabulous on my CV and would open further doors for me in the future, to this company is amazing and I'd like to work for them for the rest of my life.  It wasn't just the free canteen for breakfast, lunch and dinner or the fact that you can drop off your laundry in the morning and have it delivered to your desk.  But the whole ethos of the place.

I was reading about them moving into Sun's old offices (which on another level is kind of sad, as it really brought home to me that Sun are no more and not coming back - RIP Sun!  We all now hate Oracle for what they did to you!)   Anyway when facebook moved into the offices they knocked down all the walls, removed all the offices and had a nice open plan space, to innovate and communicate.  They pulled down one wall to reveal the pipes behind it, to remind everyone that their work is never done and there is always room for improvement.  Everything they seem to do, is to enthuse and try and bring a natural creativity to the organisation.  Black boards coat the corridors with every employee given a box of chalk.

Maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but it seems the right colour and temperature for me to want to take a sip and see if it tastes as good as it looks.

I had hoped to get to the technical interview in this blog.... seems I'll have to leave that for part 4!!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Facebook (Part 2)

I had arranged for one lunch time for the facebook recruiter to phone.  I headed out to my car and sat waiting for the call.  I waited..... I waited..... I waited..... I sent an email from my phone asking if he had my mobile number (which I knew he did!) and went to get myself a sandwich.  My phone did not ring that day.

I came home and looked at linked in and checked out the recruiters page.  Interestingly it stated that he worked at facebook from September 2011 - March 2012, not to present.  Had I been head-hunted by someone that no longer worked for the company?  Was that the dream over before I even had chance to mess up my own interview?  A little disappointing!

I emailed my friend at facebook to find out what had happened, and he in his professional way being true to facebook, yet giving me the details I needed, he told me it was an internal matter and someone else would contact me.  Sure enough, another facebook recruiter contacted me via email and I arranged another phone call during my lunch hour.

I nervously waited for the phone call and I almost jumped out of my seat when the phone did actually ring!  The recruiter I spoke to apologised for the mix up, and she put me at ease right away as she was the kind of person you find in my group of friends.  We spoke in detail about every job that I've ever had.  Now if you've seen my CV you know that isn't a quick task.  I'm quite amazed these days about how positive I am about every simple one of my previous employers where I would pull out what I gained from the job and what I enjoyed.  Maybe I am just grateful for the vast experience I've had, and without everyone one of those jobs I wouldn't be in the position I am now (there I go again on the positivity malarkey!)

She asked me where I saw myself working at facebook.  A difficult question to answer, and I waffled something about team work.  She then went on to describe a job that couldn't have matched me better.  A role where they needed someone who could see the whole process from end to end, as while they need people to specialise in one area they also need people who are able to see the whole picture.  Someone who could pick up a new technology quickly and constantly moving from different areas, improving quality of code, and from the sounds of it sometimes just refactoring so it was readable clean code.  (I'm jumping up and down at this point with a hand raised saying "Me, me, look at me here, this is me").

For this jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none-geek-girl over here it sounded wonderful!  Forever wondering if I was hindering my career by never specialising in one area, and always jumping around from technology to technology, from language to language, here was not only the proof that it hadn't hindered but here was a job tailor made for me.

She then started to tell me about the rest of the process would go..... and of course I'm going to leave that for part 3......