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A Google phone interview

Funny thing is, Google goes to great length to put you at ease about the whole process. Theyre nice to you, send you friendly sounding email and at the same time everything lookssobureaucratized you cant help but feel ever so slightly nervous.

Google Google refrigerator (Photo credit: Aray Chen)

Man, I love your way of writing these newsletters. Often very relatable and funny perspectives about the mundane struggles of a dev. Lightens up my day. ~ Kostas

They agreed to give me a call a month later, when Id be done with exams. Yes, Google is in fact that nice. No rush, whenever you have time, you dont want to even consider working before September? Fine with us. Please just let us talk to you kthxbai.

Heres how it works ?Leave your email and Ill send you anInteractive Modern JavaScript Cheatsheet ?right away. After that youll get athoughtfully written email every weekaboutReact, JavaScript,andlessons learnedin my 20 years of writing code for companies ranging from tiny startups to Fortune5 behemoths.

Sometime in January one of Googles recruiters sent me an email; whether Id be interested in talking with him. That my online profile looked interesting and so on at first I almost dismissed it as spam surely they send these out by the hundreds every day?

I spent four or five attempts climbing myself into a wall and deleting all my code before finally producing a cool looking algorithm a lovely non-recursive solution; simply because I couldnt think of a recursive solution, just knew that the simplest solution is supposed to be arecursive algorithm.

This is whiteboard python. The syntax for calculating a power is wrong and Im fairly certainbinisnt an actual function in standard library. Im also not sure converting a binary number to a string works quite as I envision it here, might need to use%d % blahsyntax.

There was some coding involved a very simple task.What is a powerset,blah, yes you got it. Now code something in your favorite language to turn a set into its powerset.

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And the email saysdont you dare type on your laptop, theinterviewerwillhearyou!Of course the interviewer spent the entire conversation happily clickety-clacking away at his laptop itisin fact slightly annoying.

After I changed the agreed date of our video chat a couple of times even forgot to respond to an email for two weeks we finally got together. That was just your run of the mill blahblah with an HR person. What kind of stuff I like, what Google is all about, the fact they have shiny new offices inLondonand are looking for people to fill them with and so on.

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Not even in my worst nightmare could I imagine coding live, with somebody looking directly at my output, would besodifficult! Its amazing, you go there and you thinkah! yes, I know this! This is simple stuff!

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Theres even detailed instructions for making sure you can be called viaGTalk!

Another interesting moment was when I was explainingmemory leaks. He was looking for an answer inside theJavaor C++ world (even made sure I knew them beforehand) and instead I explained that a cool way of getting memory leaks with javascript is through closures that are left hanging. I did also give the answer he was looking for, but off-handedly.

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The conversation had a light structure, felt like having a technical chat with a friend over some drinks:

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It took me forever to deduce the formula for calculating the size of a powerset from first principles. Couldnt remember it. Looked at the examples I generated in my head Ok, so every time you add an element, you double the size of the powerset. n^2 no thats not it could it possibly be 2^n? Damn it! yes, thats it!

I have no idea how well I answered the questions you know how these things are, you can explain at great detail what youthinksomething is and how it behaves. But you might well be completely wrong.

Yesterday I had my (hopefully first rather than last) technical interview with.

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If he got the same impression, the next step is a full day of back-to-back technical interviews at Googles London offices.

def powerset(set): binaries = [bin(a) for a in range(2^len(set))] power = [] for yeses in binaries: subset = [] yeses = str(yeses) for i in range(len(yeses)): if yeses[i] == 1: subset.append(set[i]) power.append(subset) return power

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Short story: That stuff is fun! Longer story follows.

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Andrew was a cool guy, very good with asking cool questions and letting me run amok undoubtedly making an arse of myself several times when I climbed into a wall trying to explain a concept I introduced to the conversation and then backtracking to where I still made sense and trying to explain it differently.

The funniest part was after I explained a recent project (time-series analysisfor predicting how much money Ill have in two weeks) and Andrews response was something along the lines ofOh thats really cool! Do you have any plans on making it into a service? wait, Im interviewing you for Google

First though, we wait for my recruiter to get back to me about how the phone conversation went.

But Andrew reassured me he loved the solution even though it needed a bit of fixing; and you can obviously see thats not the most elegantpython codeout there.

But hey, no sense worrying about this stuff until they offer me a job. Fuck it, lets give the interviewing process a shot looks like an interesting challenge anyway. Challenge accepted, I want to win.

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In general I think I managed to convince Andrew that even though my explanations often came with aI havent looked into how this worksexactly,but heres my understanding of what should be going onI know a fair bit about technology and if push came to shove, I could code my way out of a wet paper bag to save a life.

But hey, nothing to lose if I reply, right?

But the general idea is simple: take all binary numbers from zero to the powersets length, iterate through them and use digits as binary switches for picking elements to put into each subset.

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Over the years Ive helped over10,000 engineershone their craft. Engineers have used my books, articles, and talks to improve their technical skills, get promotions, change jobs, and ship their products faster.

people just like you already improving their skills.

That somehow sent me into a long explanation of what closures are and how the concept is neatly related to continuations and function curling. And whatthoseare. He generally let me wander around with my answers, probably trying to poke into what I do know and what I dont, even if its beyond the scope of specific questions.

Mind you, I dont know whether I actually want to work for Google. Theyre a huge company and working for them would fly right in the face ofmy principle to only work with startups! On the other hand, just being able to say Ive worked at Google, even for a short while, would lookincrediblywell on my CV.

PS: You should also follow me on twitter ?here.Its where I go to shoot the shit about programming.

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