I disappeared from school for three days for a tech interview! I didn’t tell anybody except for a few friends (my roomie, our friend who we had stay over at our apartment whilst I was gone, and another friend) because I was so nervous and didn’t want to get overhyped. I had never done a tech interview before (or any interview, to be honest… I’ve somehow managed to escape them), so to be flown out for my first one was completely mind-boggling! Before getting this interview, I did a phone interview where I talked about myself for a bit and did two coding challenges. I was so nervous for that phone interview. The guy who was interviewing me told me that he had worked in China for a bit, so when I was telling him about myself, I said that I used to live in China. He asked when, and that was where I stumbled a bit. I couldn’t for the life of me remember which year I had moved to China. When people ask me, I usually just say after 4th grade, but that means nothing to him! After a few miscalculations, I arrived at the conclusion that I lived in China from 2006 to 2014. As we continued with the interview, I got more comfortable, but I was still on edge. Which is why I was completely surprised when I got the email about the final round of interviews!
Julia was kind enough to drive me to the airport on a Monday at 6:00AM. The few friends who knew I was away for an interview have been so incredibly supportive!
I always get my Jamba Juice fix at the Philadelphia airport. This time I even treated myself to a hearty bowl of oatmeal, since I got a meal budget from the company haha. For lunch I got Panda Express at my layover. When I arrived at the gate with my Panda Express, there were a ton of people at the gate boarding the plane before mine. I wanted to take a picture of my Panda Express but was too embarrassed to. So I started eating it whilst waiting for the gate to empty before snapping this janky shot.
I had one layover. During the first flight, I slept for a fair amount, read a bit from my iPad, and practiced some basic coding. During the second flight, I got really anxious–to the point where I might even call it an anxiety attack. I had never felt like that before so I didn’t know what it was supposed to be like, but I feel like people who really have anxiety attacks completely break down, and I don’t think I got to that point. It was still bad though. My heart was racing so fast and my head was beating so hard. I tried my best to sleep through the whole flight in order to cope with it.
Arrived at the hotel! The dude who was checking me in to the hotel asked me what my home zip code was and I completely blanked. I also asked him to set up a taxi for me the next morning (interview day!) and he asked me where to and I also completely blanked. Good thing I had all that info in my phone. Then I started freaking out about how all this blanking out was a bad omen about the upcoming interview. Earlier when I was checking in at the airport in Philadelphia, the ticket machine asked me which city I was flying to, and I said San Jose, and then it asked me if I was flying to SJO or SJC and I had no clue. Luckily there was also the option to check in by flight number. So much blanking out. As you can see, my anxiety was riding high.
But on a happier note, the night before my flight, I looked up places to eat near my hotel, and I found The Tea Zone and Fruit Bar right across the street from my hotel. After checking in to the hotel, I headed straight over to grab some bubble tea and study some more.
I consider myself a seasoned bubble-tea-drinker who knows what to order right away, but I took my time checking out their menu. The shopkeeper saw me having a hard time making a decision, so she offered me taste tests of various flavours. I ended getting half Thai tea and half jasmine milk tea with tapioca.
I tried to be productive in the tea shop for a little while, but I started feeling nauseous. That damn anxiety. I’m never like this. I decided it was time to head back to the comfort of my hotel, but I needed to grab dinner first, even though I wasn’t hungry. I popped by Satsuma Sushi and got some sushi and gyoza take-out to split between dinner and breakfast the next day.
I didn’t end up eating any of it that night. What I experienced that first night reminded me of how I felt during my first competitive swim meet. I remember sitting in the gym in my wet swim suit, my mom trying to wrap a towel around me, me refusing, me shivering, me unable to eat. Now here I was, sitting in this hotel, head and heart pounding so hard that my teeth were chattering.
I woke up quite a bit early for interview day, but imma attribute that more to time zones than nerves. I crammed some more and even knelt at my bed to say a little prayer. I’m terrible; I almost never pray, except when I need something, like now, a miracle. Making it this far in the interview process was already a miracle in itself. Do I deserve another miracle?? But ya know, best to cover your bases and say a little prayer. (But also wow I’m a terrible human being and should either pray more often or not deserve to pray at all!!! I know that’s not how it works but)
The taxi arrived and I gave him the address to take me to, and he was like, “Oh *company name*?” And I was like omg yeaah! He didn’t even need to pull of Google Maps. Such is the Silicon Valley life. We didn’t talk much during the ride, but he was on the phone and I was cramming on my phone anyway. When I got off the taxi, he wished me good luck (even though I didn’t even mention I was going there for an interview, but he knows that Silicon Valley life) and gave me his business card to call him for a ride afterward.
Now for the meat of the trip… The interviews! I did three interviews and one lunch interview that turned out to be more lunch than interview, which was completely fine by me.
The first interview was the worst. The interviewer was pretty aggressive, but if I were smarter/better at explaining things, she probably wouldn’t have been so aggressive. She was asking me about online applications, and I was saying how they’re great for group work and that’s what almost all my classmates use, and then we got into talking about group work, and before I knew it, I was talking about a group project that I really didn’t want to talk about, but there we were. She really got into the specifics of that group project, and what I thought was going to be the behavioural part of the interview turned out to get quite technical. Then we moved onto the coding challenge that she had prepared. I did it fine, she gave it a once over, and asked me if I could implement the function in a different way (a specific way). I gave it a try but didn’t have too much time for it (which I blame on the nightmare explaining-my-group-project part). I mean, I deserve that right? I should know my shit.
The second interview was the best. The interviewer was chill and definitely my vibe. We talked for a bit and I felt pretty comfortable. Then we moved to the technical part of the interview and it went pretty smoothly. I did feel like I was a little slow going, but I used the time that I had, so I think I was reasonable.
Lunch break! Thankfully the chill interviewer was the person I was having lunch with. I even got to see his more sarcastic side, which I appreciated very much. We sat with a bigger group of people and I had a great time meeting and chatting with them. A little bit about myself, but not too much. Just some good ol’ lunch conversation and banter. Talked about green living (there was some green event farmer’s market going on), tote bags, whether the excess of tote bags was actually going green, never having tote bags when we needed them, dumb programming languages, our love for Stack Overflow. Ugh, I love the people here.
Then came the last interview. It was a problem solving question that wasn’t difficult, but I just couldn’t see it. When I did, it became so obvious and wow fire me right now even though you haven’t hired me. It was a technique/skill that I had even implemented during the technical challenge of my previous interview, so, like, I knew it, but, ughhhh. I really liked the last person I interviewed with as well so I was a little heartbroken.
It was a day of ups and downs and it all ended at 2:00PM but I was exhausted. I didn’t get the job. But despite the outcome, despite all the anxiety throughout this trip, despite having a hell of a lot of work to catch up on when I got back to school, I think it’s good that I came here and had this experience. I’d been running away from how uncomfortable interviews (especially tech interviews) are. But I just need to do it. And get better as time passes. I’m glad I got to see the campus, hang out with cool people, and get properly challenged. That almost makes it harder though.
Something I learned about after arriving at college was “best-fit.” I had heard that term countless times throughout high school (a conversation about college is not complete without the word(s?) “best-fit”), but I didn’t really get it until I got to college. Understanding best-fit will help you be at peace with whatever happens. If you don’t get something, it just wasn’t the best fit, which means that it wasn’t best for the company or for you. The “not best for the company” (or college) is the part that I used to dwell on all the time, but it’s also about best-fit for you. The way I used to see it, not being the best fit meant that I wasn’t good enough for them. But now I understand that if I was thrown into an environment I was so underprepared for, I would be too busy scrambling all the time to learn.
I can say all the positive things I want, all of which are completely true (at least for me), but I can’t hide the fact that despite knowing all this, I don’t feel any relief. I really had a great time there and I wish it wasn’t cut short!