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

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