February 1

Amazon Interview Experiences

I have been asked the Amazon story too often, so here goes. ( I have added the interview questions at the end ).
It started with one lazy friday evening. I was busy with work ( including 3 chat windows over Facebook and Gmail ). I got a call from some consultancy services asking whether iwould be interested in a job. Not with Amazon, but some unheard of company. Obviously i wasnt interested, but then asked the person to drop me a mail. I decided to forward it to friends who might be interested. 30 minutes had passed and no mails in my inbox. I got bored, so opened up spam. There among the top 10 mails was one by Amazon. But this was for a opening in Chennai team, and i was simply not interested. I junked it and was about to go to inbox.
Something in me prompted to search spam for other job related mails maybe. I searched career in my spam, and got another mail from Amazon in the results. I opened it, and the first word that i could comprehend was Pricing. It caught my attention, and i read through the mail. It was for an opening in the pricing team based in USA, and expanding to Bangalore. Seemed like an heavenly match for me. But i felt that as it was in spam, it was probably fake. But i went ahead and replied.
20 minutes later i got a call from the HR and she asked me to come attend the written on Sunday. Are you kidding me? I never thought i would get through in 2 days prepration ( if i did some ). But i said a yes, and thought should i go or not? Whats the point wasting Sunday morning going some place 20KM’s away for a job that i wont get. I took the risk and went ahead. The written was basically about solving 3 problems. Not solving but rather coding the solutions of the 3 questions. They appeared easy, but were tough when i finished coding the solution. After that it was waiting time.
An hour later i was informed that i would be going in for the first round of interview. The interviewer ( a young guy not too older than me ) came in, and had a friendly discussion which involved asking me about some of my college projects and the usual algorithms based questions. It went rather well, much better than i had expected. I kept waiting for the next interview, until it was around 1.
Suddenly a lady came, and introduced herself as one of the people from pricing team. She has come down here, possibly to start the team. And then she took me for lunch ( i wasnt expecting that ), and then the interview. The interview was just a bit shaky but prolonged. I didnt really was able to code the solution, but did manage to work out one for the first problem. The second question went better, and i did write the code.
The wait was shorter for the third interview. I was expecting it to be the last one. The HR came to me and asked whether i am comfortable with Computer Fundamentals. I was like computer fundamentals, whats that? I guessed it to be OS, networks etc. I wasnt to brushed up, so she said that you can give it a shot and if you dont do well we can give you time and go through the interview again. I was like “Wow Amazon! Tussi great go ( You are great )!”. I went in for the interview, and did really really well in the interview. I managed to easily exceed the interviewer’s expectations for Computer Fundamentals, and mine too. The algorithm based question i tried out a new approach which didnt work out, so i went to the usual method after half hour of trying to hit the ball without a bat. I gave him the solution he wanted and that was it.
Now again i waited for like 10 minutes, after which the HR came. I was tensed, hoping this was it. All she said was, you have cleared these rounds and now there would be 2 more rounds. In my mind i thought WTF! But well thats ok, i am still in the game. She had the usual HR chat with me, and when i explained my reasons to quit, she asked me not to mention the money related things to the next 2 interviewer’s. There were 2 more rounds, one with the Hiring Manager in US ( videoconfrencing ) and the other was a bar-raiser round. Both were scheduled on Tuesday morning beginning at 8am.
So i went back, tired and exhausted mentally. The next day i did a bit of googling on the company and bar-raiser round. What i could gather was that this round was meant to raise the average talent quality of company continiously. So you need to be better than an average employee to get through. Also it seemed that this interviewer had the veto power. All yes and his/her no means a NO! It did scare me because i was still not sure i could do better than an average employee.
Tuesday morning came, and i reached the destination. The videoconfrencing started with the usual questions about how, why etc. Then came some really tough HR based questions, which rattled my mind. But i managed to give suitable answers. Then came the technical questions. Again a question and after a bit of stressing out i managed to get a decent solution. This was the only round in which i felt “Its over”. But i still had the last round. I was expecting it to be a videoconfrence too.
Turned out to be a face to face interview with a very senior person in Amazon Bangalore. It went really well, and all his technical and reasoning questions were interesting. I managed to do well, and waited for a result. Again they said it would take us 2 days to get the feedback and take a call. These were 2 tortorous days, and when finally Thursday morning the phone rang i was really anxious. “Pranay, we were just in a meeting discussing you. And we have decided to make a hiring call. Congratulations!” I literally fell down!!
That was the story! And a true one. And pretty soon, i would be a part of this company. They exceeded my expectations in terms of the compensation and take it from me, its the best compensation a IT company gives in India. Microsoft, Adobe fall behind somewhat! So my life changed. In short my salary increased considerably in my first six months of work!
Q1: Given a sorted array which has been rotated unknown number of times, find a number k. For example: 23579 after random rotations becomes 57923. Find 3 for example in less than O(n) time.
Q2: Given 2 binary search trees, find whether they contain the same set of numbers. This was an extension of what is inorder traversal.
Q3: Given a string of characters ( not just number or ASCII ), find the first unrepeated character.
Q4: Implement a function to find the min of a stack . At first i was allowed to change the push/pop function. Even after that i was asked to implement all 3 functions ( push/pop/extract_min ) in O(1) time. I couldnt do it!
Q5: Given a lined list representation of a string, find if its a palindrome in O(n).
Computer Fundamentals: File Handlers, PCB, priority scheduling, thread management, semaphores and locks.

I have been asked the Amazon story a bit, so here goes. ( I have added the interview questions at the end ).

It started with one lazy Friday evening. I was busy with work ( including 3 chat windows over Facebook and Gmail ). I got a call from some consultancy services asking whether I would be interested in a job. Not with Amazon, but some unheard of company. Obviously i wasn’t interested, but then asked the person to drop me a mail. I decided to forward it to friends who might be interested. 30 minutes had passed and no mails in my inbox. I got bored, so opened up spam. There among the top 10 mails was one by Amazon. But this was for a opening in Chennai team, and i was simply not interested. I junked it and was about to go to inbox.

Something in me prompted to search spam for other job related mails maybe. I searched career in my spam, and got another mail from Amazon in the results. I opened it, and the first word that i could comprehend was Pricing. It caught my attention, and i read through the mail. It was for an opening in the pricing team based in USA, and expanding to Bangalore. Seemed like an heavenly match for me. But i felt that as it was in spam, it was probably fake. But i went ahead and replied.

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August 17

New Job, New City, New Home

Its a new start once again. I have come a long way from where i thought i would be in middle of August. To think of it, i would not have dreamed remotely of being here and now 6 months back. But that is why i believe in Destiny. An analogy of Destiny that comes to mind is Air. It is omnipresent, and yet we don’t really feel it. Its only when it becomes turbulent that we realise that destiny can blow us to any path it wants.
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June 24

Split second decisions: MBA or Job

Are you kidding me?” This is the reaction to the events of past few days. I dont really know, what i have done. I needed to make a decision, and i had made it over the past 2 months. And yet at the last moment, i changed it. In just a split second. All through June i had been thinking, should i go for MBA at MDI Gurgaon, or go for a job.

The thing was before coming here, even till a day before, i was to join, i had decided in favour of MDI. The logic was that even after such a CAT fiasco, i had got admission to MBA. It wasnt the best college for finance, but i could make a compromise, and work hard, and get into finance and move up from there. And i would not have to spend time here and there, looking for a financial job off campus. But somehow, the decision was still hard and uneasy.

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April 4

MDI: Interview experiences

Well giving an interview, when you know it could be the most important one for you, sure is tough. To add to it, having the last interview is even weirder. You are surrounded by sea of emotions. So was the case with me, the last interview and quite an important one too (if not the most important yet). There were 2 people a Lady Prof (LP) and Male Prof (MP), and of course me.

I entered the room, and was asked to sit down. Said the thanks, and sat down.

MP: So how are you feeling? How are you feeling about having the last interview?
Me: Obviously it increases anxiety. People come out and give you so many opinions, insights etc. You get anxious what’s going to happen every moment.
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March 5

CAT 2009: The Pain continues…

Well its been a really amazing few days. I was out for a trip, and the CAT results, after being delayed for 2 months or so finally came up. I really was unsure of what to expect. I was scared of results being unfair. And everything about CAT that has scared me, comes true. This has truly been the Indian Institute of Mis-Management’s (IIMs) biggest blunder ever, supported fully by Prometric.

Right from buying the CAT voucher by going to a bank. ( This should have been online rather ). Then the totally crazy website to fill up your data, designed by people who have previously never designed a single HTML page i guess. The whole madness of buying new vouchers, filling up data, messing it up, new voucher and so on. Then the form filling got extended to cover up the madness. This was the starting signs of what is to come. Then the exam days turned disastrous. Papers canceling, Technical Glitches, Cheating, Computer shutdowns and hangs. Everything that could go wrong with CAT did.
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December 13

The Last Few Days

Its funny to have a life full of ups and down. It can be traumatic too. And the twists and turns, the play of destiny, the factor of LUCK all play their part. Just wanted to rethink my experience. So started writing about it. The priority list for me was CAT, placements, and passing.

I had registered to take CAT on 29th Nov. But then that sudden feeling at the last moment of giving the exam in the morning slot. I had decided to take it on 30th. I got it changed, which changed my test site code. That was in September. As luck would have it, one of the companies i was interested in appearing was Future First. And it would be taking its written on the eve of my CAT exam ( 29th/nov evening ) . I choose to focus on CAT and not appear for the test. My CAT as this new test site got canceled. So i lost the CAT and the company, which was quite frustrating.
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November 23

BTP presentation

Before it even started, it felt like a scary night. It was the not the first time i would be facing this person Mr.X, but then i shiver thinking of him. Today was the day of my BTP presentation. The BEE TEE PEE or the Bachelor Thesis Project. Yeah we are all Bachelors, but then does this warrant a thesis?

Anyhow so i was working under my guide Mr.Y . He seemed to me as a genuine person, and i banked on him to help me out of the issue. I had worked decently, and i had showed him my report too. So before me there was another guy giving a presentation. And he had it coming his way, as he had copied everything. X gave it to him, and gave it hard. Y joined in. They almost called the security. X was shaking with anger. Y had said get lost.
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October 4

If you’re not the One

It was the summer of 2003. I was in Class 10th that year. And perhaps it was one of the most beautiful summers i have ever had. There are a lot of sweet memories associated with that time. One of them was this song. I and a friend of mine used to like and listen to it a lot. I havent forgotten it, and have been listening to it lately. The best part of the song is the lyrics. There is something so captivating about the words, i cant stop thinking about them.

Here’s the song:

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May 21

Intern Life @ Bangalore IBM

Well its been a long time. And it has been, kind of tough too. I just started work. Work, for the first time in my whole 20 years life. And to be really frank it has not been so good. I just expected it to be a cakewalk. After all, after PintOS and Networks and Compiler Labs what more harder things could there be. But i have been proved wrong. And in a thumping manner.

Initially, after getting here i was very tense about how i will manage. And i took some wrong decisions, which cost me mentally and financially. But right now, things have stabilised. I am living much better and peacefully. So more about work then. The first day, Continue reading

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May 2

The end of Semester 6

Well the last week has been crushing and the next week seems to be even more so. This is after all the EXAM time, that point where all disasters seem to converge into a one week period. For those who have never opened the books or visited the classrooms, its like living an entire 2 months in a single week.

To add to this, the professors seem to find extreme pleasure in piling up the load just days before the finals. They seem to remember all the sundry exams that need to be taken, all the assignments that should be done, and all the reports that have to be submitted. All this, appears as if to be forgotten for most part of the semester, and suddenly appear like a giant baseball bat running after you to knock you down.

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