Interviewing at Google – Part 2

If you hadn’t read part 1, check it out here: Interviewing at Google – Part 1

It took a couple of weeks for the hiring committee to make its decision, but my recruiter informed me that they were extending an offer. Offer in hand, I had a hard decision in front of me… and my wife. Accepting it would mean leaving Denver and moving to California. My wife and I looked into what it would be like to live there. Housing is insane–we knew it would be expensive. For our money we were expecting “nice but small” not “small and also a shit-hole.”

Looking at photos of houses on Zillow, there was a house with 2 bedrooms, trash strewn about on the floor, dirty bathrooms, stains everywhere on the carpet. I think this house was inhabited by feral children or a lady that owned 600 cats. It was disgusting. It was also— over half a million dollars. Anything that didn’t look like a complete dump was at least an hour away from Google.

I mulled it over for 2 weeks. Each day, I would change my mind on what I wanted to do. On one hand, working at Google represents the symbolic pinnacle of achievement in my industry. On the other hand… working at Qualys is comfortable and relatively easy. Eventually, with the help of my wife, we made the decision. 

I told Google “no”.

The exchange with my recruiter was interesting. He said, “That’s not something I hear very oft… ever really.” He asked how I felt about the Boulder office, and I told him I was interested. Boulder is a little under an hour away from Denver— it wouldn’t be worse than moving to Mountain View. So, he put me in contact with the recruiter for the Boulder office.

Google, Boulder

My new recruiter had open positions for the Google Drive team, and the payments team. I indicated I would prefer the Drive team. Of course, it’s not that easy– my recruiter informed me I would have to interview again!

…I just got done with the most grueling interview experience of my life… and now I have to do it all over again…

This time, at least, it would just be 2 interviews. A couple months had passed since my interviews in Mountain View and I didn’t review the book: Cracking the Coding Interview again. I wish I would have.

I made the drive up to Boulder on the coldest day in Denver in 10 years. It was about 8 below zero… during the day. I even made a video of me shaking a bottle of super cooled water to watch it freeze instantly. It’s the kind of cold that no matter how many layers you put on, it still grabs hold and rattles your bones.

I was waiting in lobby behind the glass in the lower left

I was waiting in lobby behind the glass in the lower left

Google has 2 buildings in boulder. I waited for my escort in the lobby of one of the buildings. From my spot I looked into the atrium where I could see a ping-pong table, pool table, rock wall, and an xbox 360 with rock band. My escort took me on a brief tour of the building. Upstairs there was a coffee bar / kitchen area, and a large outdoor deck with a grill– of which I was happy to just observe from the warmth behind the windows. There were a couple of people who had brought their dogs to work in which passersby always stopped to pet.


Coding by the fire

She then led me across the street to the other building where most of engineering is housed. It was a really cool space. Climbing ropes were used as railings, an old VW bus was hollowed out with a couch inside– with a couple of people coding in it. There was a large fireplace with lounge chairs where developers were happy to sit and code on such a cold day. There were massage chairs, a relaxation room, a gym, and everywhere you turned– refrigerators with any kind of snack or drink you can imagine– especially beer. Lots and lots of beer. One team had built a bar with beer on tap in their section of the building. It was very neat to be able to see the differences between the Mountain View and Boulder campuses. This campus is definitely distinctly Boulder.

The Best Interview, the Worst Interview

Finally, I was led into the interview room. It had a large window– and was extremely cold. Unpleasantly so. I kept my coat on through the entire ordeal. The first interview question dealt with Java concurrency. I had to implement a data structure which required the use of locks and conditions with wait-notify semantics. When I finished, my interviewer said: “Wow, that’s literally the perfect solution.” I felt really good— and then came the second interview.

To say that I didn’t do well is an understatement. My brain shut down. I can’t really explain it other than my thoughts drained into a spiral of despair from which I couldn’t recover. Every thought was interrupted by self doubt and second guessing. I just couldn’t get through a single train of thought. And with a dynamic programming question— this spells disaster. I did terribly, and the worst part is, I actually knew how to solve the problem. I choked.

Google, Boulder cafeteria with sound stage

At least it was just the 2 interviews. I ate lunch with a manager from the payments team and we chatted about various things at Google. Nothing too interesting, just various bits about how things work at Google from an organizational standpoint. I was mostly in a daze from the realization about how poorly that last interview went.

The cafeteria was quite small compared to enormous food court in Mountain View, but the food was good. There was a stage with instruments. Apparently there is a Google band that plays concerts weekly.

The Conclusion

I remembered something my first recruiter told me– “its better to have some really great scores and a bad score, than all average ones”. My performance was apparently good enough– Google was extending another offer.

Scene from "The Interns". Noogler hats!

Scene from “The Internship”. Noogler hats!

This time, I accepted.

I leave for New York on April 7th to attend Noogler training. I will be working on the Google Drive team in Boulder, Colorado. I feel a mix of excitement and terror– but its a good kind of terror. I hope that I will learn a lot of new things.

Also… I better get a Noogler hat, or this is all for nothing. A mug isn’t going to cut it. ;-)

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