In my 2nd year, I had no clear idea where my interests lay. So I kept things going as my seniors would advise from time to time. I believe a research intern or SURA in the second year is a good opportunity to gather experience, learn new stuff and discover more about yourself. SURA gave me a glimpse of the research environment and learning on the go. I practised almost all the standard questions present on InterviewBit and LeetCode. That was adequate for several tests. However, I started to see some ad-hoc problems in tests as well. What I’d suggest to the readers is that you should have a decent CP background. CP focuses more on ad-hoc problem solving, expanding your thinking process. Find difficult problems, give them sufficient time (I spent 2-3 hours on some), and then explain them back to yourselves once you solve them. That helps identify if some aspect of the solution isn’t clear to you. Some of them involve several concepts, so you can learn a lot from them. I feel the Expert level on Codeforces is decent enough to crack maximum interviews.
When the season started, I applied to pretty much every company that offered SDE or Quant roles. A lot of things are out of your control in this process. Your dream company might not visit that year. The shortlisting process is also perplexing at times. In some tests, I answered nearly all the questions and was still not shortlisted. The questions on the Microsoft Test were similar to the standard questions that I had practised. Some of the other tests certainly had more complex questions. Luckily, I cleared the Interview and HR Rounds and secured an internship at Microsoft!
Almost all the big companies come to our campus for internships and placements. That certainly helps and provides an edge over other institutes. However, once you clear the interview and get in, it doesn’t matter explicitly. IIT teaches you how to handle pressure, deadlines and urge you to push your boundaries. You’re able to learn faster and train efficiently. Software roles are predominantly problem-solving oriented, which is a skill you build upon in IITD especially.
Work at MS:
With 15 different projects to choose from, I was thrilled to work on the backend of their Cloud Service Azure. The project domains covered backend, frontend and machine learning. On the first day of my internship, I received a call from my mentor, who guided me to the page where I had to register. There were specific access issues in the 1st week, which were resolved without much discomfort. Unfortunately, online internships are shorter than their offline counterparts. Instead of 10, we just had 8 weeks to complete and present the assigned deliverables. They had already taken that into account by the respective teams at MS. Our last week involved interviews and short discussions with the company seniors.
Online v/s Offline
Living in Bangalore has a personality growth associated with it. As new interns, you’re fresh faces in the company. People around you are interested in a conversation. All that networking and learning about the company culture was missing in an online intern. I learned that there are pool and foosball tables at the campus, where teams gather in the evenings to have fun. As a substitute, there were dedicated fun virtual meetings, and the interns appreciated them.
The entire time was diametrically opposite to college. Despite working in a high priority team, the deadlines were less strict. The environment encouraged me to learn and absorb at a reasonable pace. Plus, the weekends were recharge days. You have no obligation or responsibility to work on weekends. That was indeed refreshing. Being a WFH intern, we had Flexi hours, enabling us to choose our intervals at our discretion. My mentor had some pretty relatable talks and experiences, and we had some fantastic late-night conversations.
Not everything was smooth sailing. I had to redo a core part of my work just two days before the final presentation. How did I find out about the shortcomings in my project? By asking for feedback from my manager. As an SDE, it’s your responsibility to ask. Managers are looking for that confidence. The team I worked with was always there to help me when I asked for it. So don’t be shy.
The dogma about cooling off. I stopped feeling guilty about taking time off. I realized procrastination is when you mix work with rest. One should alternate between periods of 100% work and 100% rest. You can improve your efficiency considerably. Work is most fun when you want to do it. Find a team that shares mutual interests and values, and you’ll surely enjoy your time at any company you work for.
Interviewed by: Avi Patni