Getting to Silicon Valley (My Internship)
This is the first in a series of 3 blog posts about my past summer. My wife convinced me to do it in 3 sections as it may be interesting to others.
DISCLAIMER: This post is not thorough and is my own views and does not represent views by Meebo.
The Road to Meebo
New York Tech Meetup
After attending the New York Tech Meetup (NYTM), in November 2011, I got really interested in the technology startup company culture in the United States. It's not that I was not aware of it before but being and barely presenting at the NYTM kindled a deeper fascination with it. It quickly boiled down to finding out about the great Silicon Valley experience that people at NYTM or the NYC tech scene keep on saying their trying to replicate. I thought it might be interesting during my PhD to actually take an internship with a tech company. Initially I did not know how I would accomplish getting an internship but I started thinking about it and thought I would get information as time goes on.
Initially I used my network of friends and lab mates to get information about internships and got to know more about their experiences. As always seems to happen in life, I got contacted by one of the recruiters from Meebo (a great old startup) on LinkedIn. I initially had an informal phone conversation with the recruiter and we settled that I would contact them again in the future to interview for an internship. While this was going on I also interviewed with some bigger companies. I started thinking of just staying in the New Jersey/New York area but that changed as time went on.
I interviewed with Meebo in February and visited their offices for my final, intense interview. Meebo had an interesting interview process. I initially had 2 interviews, one with my future mentor and another with another Machine Learning engineer. I was then asked to fly into Mountain View for my final interview. The final interview consisted of a simulation and 3 back to back technical interviews. The simulation basically was a project I was given to design and code up in 3 hours and later discuss the product with some of the engineering team at the end of the day. Every potential employee at Meebo (full-time/intern) goes through this process. It was a whole day affair and I was pretty nervous especially during the simulation part. I enjoyed the whole interview process and it was really insightful about Meebo and alternative ways to find talent and look for fit into a team. I flew back to New Jersey and then waited.
I did get an offer from Meebo and even brownies to sweeten the deal. You read that right brownies :). They were from Colorado, but they weren't that type of brownie 😀
In the end I did accept the offer from Meebo and had to turn another one down. Even though the internship would not be in the North-East I saw it as an opportunity to be on the west coast and be at the heart of "The Valley". Meebo did have an office in NYC but most of the ML engineering team was in Mountain view and they did convince me that it would be a better experience, especially after getting to know about my interests and previous work/projects. I am really appreciative of all of the experiences and offers I got during the "searching for an internship" phase. I learnt that there are many opportunities out there and it was a challenging experience to prepare for all of the ones I ended up going for.
My thoughts on the process
My advice for those looking for interesting internship opportunities is to actually look for them. Also mine your social networks (physical and virtual). It is sometimes as easy as asking people if they have openings in the future on projects you might be interested in. After setting up the opportunity make sure your resume reflects who you are. Most universities have career service centers where you can go and get your resume up to standard and find out more about interviewing in your field, use it. Rutgers has a great facility which is Career Services. Finally in the interview phase, prepare. Some companies will give you a heads up on what to expect. At the same time don't believe all that is littered on the internet about how company X or company Y interviews. Some of the information turns out to be false or outdated. It is not a bad idea to ask your recruiter to information on what to expect for your interview. For technical interviews there are great books out there and internet resources. Example for Google: How to land a job at Google. You also have to practice your programming there are also multiple resources out there. I used http://projecteuler.net/ as I really enjoyed the puzzles. Finally read The Five Essential Phone-Screen Questions and Why Can't Programmers.. Program?
At the end of May I flew back from South Africa to the US after a short visit. I then flew to California to start my internship not knowing that a storm was coming. End of part I.
Wait wait, one more thing. I have to put an oatmeal reference in here about technical interviews:
I never got one of these brain teasers, but it is funny. Now on to the next post,