. . .
It’s really hard to convey to non tech people, your best friends, even your close family, the shock effect of receiving a rejection from Google. They will be sincerely supportive and understanding. They’ll actually go, “It sucks. Sorry, dude. Let’s go eat.”
But one doesn’t just “go eat” after getting rejected by Google!!!
Regular folks just can’t understand, and I even sometimes can’t understand why every software developer is going so crazy for Google. Google offer, Google on-site, Google phone interview, Google everything. Even the hiring process gets its own hype at Google!
Chapter I. That day
After two weeks of waiting, I finally received an email from my recruiter that the results were in, “Are you available for a call?”
“Unfortunately,” she started as soon as I picked up.
My thought process: (There’ll be a lot of thought process in this)
Unfortunately? Unfortunately, we will be paying you lots of money? Unfortunately, you will be stuffing your face in our world food cafeteria?
“Unfortunately, we will not be moving forward,” she said.
Her mournful voice… I thought.
Yeah, I was right about my code.
But you know, sometimes I write great code. I find great solutions. I really do.
That’s it. Cut online shopping now. Cut Instagram.
I feel worthless. Like a flat tire.
I think I was a rockstar developer once.
If I’m so off about my coding skills, I probably am delusional about everything else…gasp…screenwriting…movies…the whole writing thing…heart skips a beat.
“You had a couple of strong points,” she continued rather unenthusiastically, “Sure, you got great reviews on your frontend interview, but…”
“But you, guys, can dismiss it because it was conducted by a transgender woman?” I finished in my head, nastily.
I should’ve put my phone on speaker, put my Iron Man suit on, with clanks, and zoomed out, crashing through the roof. That’d be a non pathetic exit.
Instead I was clinging on to those precious final seconds of interaction with Google.
“What was the feedback, so I can improve next time?
When do you think I can reapply?
I’d definitely love to reapply. When do you think is the earliest I can do it?”
Her voice was very weak like she was far away:
It was, basically, like one second ago she was so invested in me. Like I was her best friend from grade school. Only a few days ago, she’d fuss over me over email: “What did you think of the interview, Marina?” “How did you like the experience, Marina?” “Just to give you a heads up, Marina,” and the next second she moved on.
“Slower code, weaker than what we wanted to see, with a few bugs.”
She sounded bleak:
“And systems design interview.”
. . .
“i got rejected 😐”
“slower code, weaker than what they wanted to see, with a few bugs yada yada…and systems design interview”
“Hang in there,” said my sister, the recent UC Berkeley computer science grad. “I know how you feel.” In the months leading up to her graduation, she applied to some of the biggest Silicon Valley companies. I felt so much respect for her now that I walked in her shoes!
“Nothing I feel,” I cut off.
I wasn’t really surprised, though.
. . .
“We heard a lot of good things about people from Belarus,” was the first thing my recruiter said, when she sat me down in the cute small interview room at Google’s office in Venice, California. “They are smart and academically skilled. They take prizes in Google programming Olympiads. They dominate international coding bootcamps.” I nodded and laughed,
“I’m not that person, though.”
She laughed too. She thought I was joking. I wasn’t. I am the person that moved to Los Angeles from Belarus seven years ago, and when the consular officer asked why I’m coming I replied “to be a famous film director”. His only question. He chuckled and stamped my visa immediately.
What am I doing with my life?
Sure, I love Math, but something always gets in the way of me and Math Happily Ever After. And algorithms. It took me two days to solve the tower of Hanoi problem. But guess what, I solved it, and I’m pretty proud of myself for that.
That’s why deep down inside I kind of knew.
. . .
“And systems design interview.”
The guy in my second interview. That type of guy who is, um, like a brick wall, and air balloons, like myself, just don’t go through these very well. He showed up to my interview with the sweet, fresh-faced girl, whom he introduced as an intern. She was writing things down about me enthusiastically throughout the whole thing.
He started, “Imagine, you are implementing Google search.” The stern look on his face implied that he was very important around here. Or maybe he did mention his title when we shook hands? Anyways, I missed it. I was thinking about Quicksort from my first interview. Advice: Don’t think about Quicksort at your Google interview.
“And imagine that as you search, results pop up instantaneously.”
I looked at him and kept thinking about Quicksort. Advice: No! Wrong move at the Google interview. I made him repeat his question because of the Quicksort storm in my head.
“Ermmmm,” I said when he did. “Isn’t it, like… already implemented? I used it, like… yesterday.”
We stared at each other like a bull and bullfighter that waves the red rag. It all went downhill from there.
. . .
“You are a mess, aren’t you?” said Nik, also a film student at Los Angeles City College a few years ago, when I showed up at his place after her call. “You look like a Victoria Secret model.” I had my hair in a messy bun and zero makeup.
I started off by telling him that I had an unanswered email from the Google recruiter in my mailbox, maybe, like, from last year. I pulled it from the pile of other emails about a month ago and wrote back.
A few days later, she called to check in:
“Thank you, Marina, for knowing Java!” I haven’t programmed Java in over four years but assured, “Absolutely!”
Her “Green Card process initiation on the first day” was like music to my ears.
“Which would be the end of October,” angels signing.
“Our base salary is xxx,” angels singing some more.
“Why do you want to quit your current job?” she finally asked the Question.
For an immigrant, her visa, ugh, is kind of a big deal. I knew for sure that mine was expiring, and I was antsy to stay in US. Most importantly, I wanted to keep the promise that I made to the consular officer.
Speaking in the words of the “Bachelor”, I definitely wasn’t at Google for all the “right reasons”!
Instead, I rambled about my sister being a UC Berkeley grad and her getting that summer internship in Silicon Valley that had inspired me to apply. I literally said “inspired”. It would have been wonderful for me to come work at Google and “make an impact”. Literally said “make an impact”. Jesus Christ. I really should’ve laid it all on the line: “Green Card, dammit. I need Permanent Residence, and your, guys, lawyers are amazing and from day one… like you said.”
Here, look at the formulas for a minute:
N/¹⁰⁰ — N/¹⁰¹ — N/¹⁰² — N/¹⁰³ — … — N/10^x= 0
X = ln 10 N
. . .
“Good news, Marina!” Heard from my recruiter the day before interview. “The guy from your country will be your first interviewer for the day!”
“Zdravstvuyte,” smiled at me my fellow Belorussian when he walked in. He asked about Quicksort… I needed to use Quicksort to sort a 1TB array with a large amount of duplicates.
I was struggling with the left part of my nested binary search algorithm when I noticed that he pulled his phone out. He was about to take a photo of my code. “I’m going to run it in my IDE right away.”
Ouch. I waved my hands in front of the whiteboard:
“Hey, wait, can I have a minute to test my code?”
Then I looked at the clock above the whiteboard. But the time was up…
. . .
The third interview was with the guy, Taylor:
Taylor had red eyes from lack of sleep. Also, he was very smart. I knew this by the way he guessed what I was about to say, or write on the whiteboard, every time. He asked me the question from “Cracking The Coding Interview.” Boom! I knew you were trouble, Taylor:
I solved this exactly two days ago and worked through the answer in the back of the book as well.
What I did, my heart pumping, pupils probably dilated, I pretended to think. Then I gasped, “Ahhhh!” I said things such as “recursion”, “hashMap”, and “Why don’t we use trie data structure?” And just like that, I recited the entire thing from the back of the book verbatim. I even threw in a couple of “umm”s to make him believe that my brain just made this up a second ago.
Yes, I did! I’m only saying that out loud because I’m honest in my writing. And if you’ve never done anything stinking sad in your life, good for you!
“Or maybe, do your homework, dude, and find the problems that aren’t in the most popular book about Google interviews on Amazon,” I thought, powering through the voice of conscience.
N/10 n/100 n/1000 n/10^d c
Chapter II. Star Wars
“I feel like a loser,” I complained. My Belorussian interviewer was already at the door, carrying away pictures of my code.
“Don’t rely on what you feel,” he goes. “You don’t know what we are looking for. A lot goes into the decision process.” I was freaking out but also finding his speech strangely familiar.
My former colleague Eli, who referred me to Google, took me back to my interview room after our “lunch interview”. He picked up a piece of paper that my recruiter left on the table and studied it in silence.
“They may or may not focus on testing and code maintenance,” he said eventually. “What,” I said in awe. He looked at the paper. It was funny. “Questions may be asked about testing,” he clarified. “They may, but it’s not certain.” If he called me “young padawan” at that very moment I’d probably be like, “Okay…I guess”. I wondered:
Why does everyone here speak like Yoda from Star Wars???
. . .
I sat in the chair, exhausted, when somebody walked in.
They wore a black dress, but the keycard clipped to the waistband had a picture of a man in his 50s, “John”. I noticed large feet in flip flops and untouched by a razor legs. At this point I heard “Hi” and got up to meet the most smiling and sweet person you could ever imagine! His squinty eyes twinkled with laughter as they scanned me. We shook hands.
In my frontend interview I designed “Pinterest”.
I worked on the script to collect impressions/clickthrough rate when the user scrolls through the pins. I remember being horrified at one point when I accidentally wrote the real actual paragraph sign(§) instead of jQuery dollar sign. What if my interviewer noticed and was thinking, “Oh, that girl is a total fraud! What is she even doing here?” I quickly wiped it off with my thumb. Then, in my fourth hour at Google, I knew I was done. I was like, “Gurl, you need to get your shit together right now and get outta here!”
. . .
Sure enough, when I got out of Google’s binoculars shaped building, designed by Frank Gehry, I was loving my Google experience.
“So, Google is amazeballs!” I yelled on the phone in my car, talking to my family. “It’s crazy how they are so nice and talented in there!” I even felt like, perhaps, I could revive my pretty much dying passion for coding at the innovative and challenging US tech giant.
“I so want into Google!!!” I whined.
Chapter III. Obsession
It grew on me later, when I found a year old “Bud light” in the kitchen. In that moment I understood that my interview performance was very poor. The phone conversation with my sister went like this:
“Sup?” “Nothing” I said. “But,”
“Do you think he guessed that I knew the problem?” It was about the fifth time I called that night. “Go to sleep,” she said.
“No, listen,” I panted, intoxicated. “What did he really mean when he said, ‘A lot goes into the decision process?’”
The thought of my shitcode inside Google was hurting my brain.
The pain of when, you know, the thing is over, but you cling to the words in the impossible attempt to reverse time and bring the thing back to the thing’s happy and hopeful beginning.
But guess what I was not alone.
Chapter IV. Quora
On Quora (why the hell do all Google interviewees hang on Quora??) seasoned IT professionals, with years of experience, MIT diplomas, and wives and kids, sleeping in the other room, spent late nights, obsessing over the same exact thing.
“If she called, but only said that she wanted to check on me. What was she checking?” “She asked for a call. What does it mean? If they were to reject me they’d put that into an email, right?”
Then experienced Quora folks would explain to the novices that Google recruiters don’t usually give rejections over email for legal purposes, because their words could be used later in a legal battle, or something.
Uhuh. Mine didn’t come in an email either.
Chapter VI. BS
Some of the things I said after being rejected by Google:
- “I will just write a screenplay about my Google experience.”
Ugh. Just don’t.tweet.this. Please.
- “Read this article ‘What is the worst part about working at Google?’”
So horrible! I’m so lucky.
- “I like, so don’t care right now.” Yeah, right! Dude. Like we believe you.
I was, like, every person on the Internet ever that did not make it into Google. Only my former colleague Eli’s story was honest.
Chapter VI. ELI’S PAINFULLY HONEST STORY
“You made it to lunch,” he greeted me. “They’d walk you out already if it was that bad.” I grabbed my pizza and we sat down, making more small talk. Our mutual coworker from the old job was also at Google. Eli mentioned how the guy was very proud when he got to make changes to the Google homepage the other day.
Then Eli shared his own Google story:
“I didn’t get to Google the first time,” he opened up. “It was a huge blow.” He already had the job in his mind. “I wrote something on the whiteboard,” he made a wry face. “I thought I did well. Second time was much better… Maybe, questions were easier the second time.”
My other former colleague came by. He looked a bit chubbier, but very happy and content. We played pool in the game room and drank coffee from the cafeteria.
“I won’t be surprised if they hired you,” said Eli before he took off. “Always start writing at the top left corner [of the whiteboard], as stupid as it sounds.”
. . .
After a while, though, my mind gave up. It would be great to get hired at Google. Period. It would solve all my problems.
Chapter ??. Whatevs
I got my car washed. I cleaned the apartment and did laundry. It felt good to be all around clean.
At the car wash Vladimir Lenin González, the receptionist I knew, and yes, that is his real name, was like, “Oh, haven’t seen you around in a while.” And I was like, “Many things happened, young padawa…” I too, started conversing like Yoda.
“Anyways, welcome back” he said. I felt like I was back, in a way.
I finished my draft of this shortly after and felt pretty good about myself for a change: “Good job, dude! It’s obscenely long and some parts are just mental. But I kind of like it. I like it a lot!”
Actually, I felt a little too good about myself:
Time to become that Hollywood director! I thought.
Like after interviewing with Google, that was my silly boring epiphany. Actually, like interviewing with G hasn’t happened at all. As I went:
Time to become that.Hollywood.director.
Time to be who you were born to be, y’all!!! Unless you were born to be a couch potato. In that case, I salute your sexy rational mind.
. . .
Oh, congrats, you made it to the end of my saga. Even I sometimes have difficulty reaching the end, but you made it. I’m proud of you. If you are still breathing, read my other pieces. And if you talk technology, check out my #ShitcodeWednesdays series. Cheers! Yours always, Marina ~