New Grad Finale: 2023
Read the 2022 prequel [here]
Northeastern has a co-op program where upperclassmen spend 4-8 months working full-time instead of taking classes for a semester. But I need to graduate and start working full-time eventually. How does it all end?
After months of being tested on algorithms, API design, culture fit, C++, debugging, distributed systems, full-stack web development, Linux, logic puzzles, network protocols, operating systems, probability, Python, SQL queries, and system design - it works out.
(Hey, at least I never got asked to write Assembly!)
The Application Process
I’ve been playing a turn-based RPG called DragonFable for 15+ years now. In DragonFable, you can opt to play in Adventure Mode or Doomed Mode, which are easier and harder settings respectively. If last year was like doing normal quests in Adventure Mode, then this year was like doing the Inn Challenges in Doomed Mode.
New grad interviews typically surpass the complexity of internship interviews, with an increased number of rounds and a more diverse array of questions. Coupled with the recession this year, they became insane.
Compared to other graduating seniors, my situation was more comforting. I had a return offer from Duolingo as safety net should my other pursuits fail. The one issue was that Duolingo would force me to stay in Pittsburgh at a time when I was intent on staying in NYC.
The beginning of every past cycle has always sucked, and this year was no exception. After Duolingo ended, I scheduled an entire week of interviews with five different companies that I all ended up failing, which you can see here:
In some cases, I could have just gotten rejected because headcount ran out before I could finish interviewing. This happened at Pinterest, where I both aced the questions and built rapport with my interviewers.
Past this, it was also tough balancing interviews with my internship at Meta as I had to take days off and work remotely excessively.
The Remaining FAANGs
In past years, I succeeded in the interview loops for Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.
I seized the opportunity to apply to Netflix, in what was probably its 2nd or 3rd year of offering new grad positions. After sending in a good CodeSignal score (>800), I received a phone interview. Unfortunately, an honest misunderstanding during the interview about the question asked resulted in my application landing in the rejection pile.
I interviewed with Apple through cold DM’ing an engineering manager on LinkedIn. After a tenuous interview with a team member who wasn’t welcoming of Python, Apple was gone from my prospects now too.
As for Google, I was ghosted yet again even with a referral from my good friend Luke.
Some trading firms have a policy where if you fail their interviews in previous years, you’re blacklisted for a period of time. This got me immediately rejected at a few well-known places after reapplying.
One firm, Old Mission Capital, stands out in particular because it was my first and only physically “onsite” onsite interview. I enjoyed my all expenses paid trip to Chicago for a day, staying in a 4-star hotel and getting $$$ meals by Millennium Park reimbursed.
The most formidable contender was Headlands Technologies, reputed to put candidates through a grueling loop of 10+ interviews. I faltered after about six rounds of intense C++ questions, but at least got an Uber Eats voucher for making it to the onsite.
During late September, I cold-emailed the new grad recruiter at Scale AI with my resume, earning an online assessment.
One technical and recruiter phone screening later, I happily scheduled a two-day onsite.
After what was about seven rounds of interviews, I received my first external offer by a thin margin - happily situated in NYC too! It’s always amusing how receiving offers work, since right after Scale I received two more from Atlassian and TikTok.
I accepted Scale on the day my Duolingo deadline expired.
All offerees were flown to Welcome Day in the SF office and it was a joyous time. That day, Alexandr Wang himself gave a spicy Q&A for us (with a LOT of almond milk next to him).
However, almost instantaneously, Scale rescinded a new grad’s offer due to overhiring.
As the economic climate worsened, Scale resorted to a round of layoffs in January. Following that, the incoming NYC new grads were forced to relocate to SF in March.
I had no better options but to comply.
Despite this setback, my interview experience at Scale made me feel it was the right fit on my end as well, and that feeling was what I needed to end my new grad hunt.
My biggest takeaways this year were in figuring out what I was and wasn’t a fit for. Even if I demonstrated adequate technical ability, some companies didn’t feel like my interests were right for them without me even realizing it then.