The Goal

Get hired by Google, Facebook, Dropbox, or Zipline.

Result

Success! I started at Dropbox on August 6th as a “Senior Full-Stack Software Engineer”. I list my take-aways from the process at the bottom of the article.

Approach

The studying is more necessary for FB / Google / Dropbox, as they want to remove bias as they screen LOTS of engineering candidates each year. They’re actually more concerned with false-positives (accidentally hiring someone mediocre) than with false-negatives (passing on a good candidate). So, they ask more classic computer-science algorithm questions, which are slightly more standardized than typical platform-specific interviews, but unfortunately most people don’t deal with classic algorithms much after school… so, it’s time to study!

I hope to start the phone-screens in July.

Why Not Another Early-Stage Startup?

I want to re-train myself to think deeply & solve difficult problems, at scale, in a sustainable way.

It wasn’t an easy decision, because I loved working at startups & learned a broad spectrum of things by taking on responsibilities far outside the range of a typical engineer.

I’m also eager to surround myself with world-class engineers, learn the skills needed to impact change within a large organization, and grow my personal network. I hope the network will improve my access to better CoFounders, Investors, Clients, and Engineering Recruits for my next venture 5-10 years from now.

Why These 4?

Facebook, Dropbox, and Google are recognizable brand-names that most people associate with a good engineering culture. They work on difficult problems at scale & offer a decent work/life balance.

Zipline is sort-of a wildcard, but it’s just such an interesting company, and I would get to travel to Rwanda & work on a real problem at a point where I could make a significant impact. I think drone technology will be very important in years to come, and the one engineer I know there is certainly world-class. I would just learn so much!

I have only just begun the application process at these companies, and I’m not guaranteed an offer at any of them. In fact, there is a lot of variability in the hiring process at these places… 🤞🏼

Weeks Later

It’s been quite a month! I’ll avoid specifics here, but here’s how it went:

  • Callback from 3 / 4 companies
  • Passed every phone screen
  • Failed 1 on-site interview
  • Accepted better job offer

Overall, I didn’t love the interview process, but I learned a lot about all of these companies, and I can’t think of a better process that would work on the scale at which these companies operate. It never felt unfair – at the very worst, it’s at least fair in the Thanos sense! But really, even though I was upset after receiving one “thanks, but no thanks” call, I’m pretty happy about how things turned out. I got good vibes & a great offer from Dropbox, so that’s where I now work!!

Advice

I’m VERY GLAD that I interviewed at multiple places. My take-aways:

  • Interview lots of places (more than 3)
  • Be patient (process can take months)
  • Stuuuuudy (mostly LeetCode, some CTCI & CLRS)
  • Do mock interviews with people who actually do interviews at these companies, and solicit CRITICAL feedback.
  • Film yourself solving problems “out-loud”, and prepare for the cringe as you play it back.
  • RELAX. The best interviews were strongly correlated with the least nerves on my part.
  • Before coding a solution, talk it to death. Explain the crap out of the solution, until you feel like a broken record, THEN solve it.
  • State simple truths during the interviews, don’t assume anything is obvious or given – this was actually a challenge for me during practice.
  • Don’t try to put on a big show of professionalism – I performed every interview in jeans & a T-Shirt, and smiled / laughed at some questions.
  • When you receive an offer, DO NOT accept it immediately, but DO be genuinely excited about it. All deadlines from recruiters are imaginary, and they act like used-car salespeople whenever you discuss numbers (let me check with X department, I got these numbers from Y, they don’t change, etc…). You won’t lose a good offer by asking for more, ESPECIALLY if you ask with the right attitude.