Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Showdown with Directi

By now I have given four interviews involving tricky technical questions from "The difference between a void object and a null object" to "explain how internet works to a layman". I have given two interviews on the phone with contrasting results. The first proper interview that I gave was to Birlasoft for an internship during summer of 2011. I had applied for a software programming and got a call from one of their employees.

Initially the questions were pretty simple and I could answer them with no difficulty whatsoever. But as they became difficult, I couldn't answer them alone. I was sitting in front of my laptop and occasionally had to use Google. He was asking standard textbook questions, I could hear him flickering through pages. Explaining the difference between C and C++ was easy, but soon NULL objects started to ruin the interview. Finally he said, "I don't think you know C++". That was that.

I had never wanted a software programmer job. Even in my CV I had highlighted computer network as my strength. In the evening I received another call from an employee in Birlasoft. "So you are into computer network and you've attended a few hacking workshops?". I was completely unaware of another interview. So standing in front of a chicken tikkawaala, who was scrubbing and scratching out each and every single piece of chicken biryani from his kadhai I answered some of the most strange questions you might come across.

"What is hacking?How can someone hack?". You might say this is an abstract question. Well, hear the other ones out, "How can I tell if my organisation has been hacked?", "Can you build a software which will prevent hacking? Or better a simulator which will hack someone's PC and then show steps how to unhack?"

I give you a moment to figure it out.

In the madness around me, I had to explain him a lot of things with a lot of patience. It was certain that I was not going to be an internee in this company.

The third real interview happened with me when I sat for DirectI which had come for campus placements in our college. I had cleared the first two coding rounds and was waiting outside a room allocated for interviews. It was a hot, dry, typical Ahmedabadi afternoon and I was sweating. Inside my heart was pounding. I was called in and offered some water by the HR as if I was the outsider. My name was called again and it was time to give a technical interview.

The interview began with telling something about myself. I quickly played out the standard template that I had stored in my brain. Perfect. The next question was to describe the company and it's product. Fortunately I had done my research and stored another template which I played out with ease. The next question was to describe how the internet works and the role of DNS in it. I pounced upon the question but while describing I realised that it's impossible to explain everything. It is so vast that to describe each and every aspect of it would take hell lot of time. Thankfully the interviewer interjected and asked the next question, "What is a MAC and how does it help sending packets?" A few questions about Linux and operating systems were also thrown in but we both were interested in talking more about computer networks.

When I was asked, "Do you follow any blogs, or forums, like hackernews?" I was sure this was going to go just like Birlasoft. Fortunately that did not happen. Finally I was asked about workings of the humble traceroute. A simple yet versatile software, it iexploits many network fundamentals. A brilliant question to ask!

I felt ecstatic. I had cleared the first interview round. A final round remained. The final showdown remained! The last round was supposed to be a telephonic round. The problem that comes with it is that you cannot see the interviewer's face, his reaction to your answers. I had no way to judge whether he understood what I told him. The last round with a faceless person sounded very daunting. I was given a Blackberry and instructed to answer a call in the next few minutes. Waiting alone in a small cube it felt as if I was being put under interrogation,and that a dark, shady figure would soon be putting an end to my misery.

Author's imagination of the FacelessTelephone Interviewer
Suddenly the Blackberry came to life and started vibrating. I quickly pressed the green button and a voice came to life from the other end. I was asked to introduce myself. I quickly ran the template. A few questions about Linux and Operating Systems in general followed. "What is a virtual memory?", "What is Swapping in Linux?" I was fairly comfortable answering such questions. Things became interesting when questions related to network programming came up. Things became difficult when questions regarding public/private key infrastructure and salting in hashes were thrown at me.

I must say I fought valiantly and defended my knowledge to the best of ability. The interview had went for more than an hour. Infact when I came out of the room someone joked that I should have used my own phone since they had to wait for me to return their Blackberry.

Me after the interview was over
I think you know the rest of the story. I got an approval from the interviewers, signed a bond which said that DirectI will sue me if I didn't follow the terms and conditions and got a place to sit in Directiplex. Although, I still wait for my nameplate.