Thursday, May 13, 2010

So What Are You Doing This Summer

Caveat: Long rambling post about very personal experiences and views

The most common was "I'm still looking". Or sometimes a blunt - "I don't know". And on rare occasions - "I have applied for this job and am really hoping to get the interview invite"

Then suddenly, first year got over. Toasts were raised and year end parties were hosted. I was still as far away from the answer as I was in August. Did I 'trust the process' or 'believe in myself'. I don't know. I was just waiting for something to happen.

Take 1

So I went in to the interview last Friday with a very uneasy mindset. It was in an industry and function I never thought I would end up in when I started B School. At the same time, it was exciting to be working with a startup in Charlottesville. Add to it that it wouldn't require me to move and I was more than willing to take the internship. And he gave it to me. Just like that. 

"So you're from IIT and have a good GMAT. You also seem like someone who's comfortable in interviews. So why is it that you don't have a job?', he asked.
I almost laughed at it and blabbered something on the lines of spreading myself too thin and actually having no clue why nobody wanted to employ me.
"See, I'm a first impressions guy and I like you. And we need people. So we can shake hands and you can begin working from the Monday after."

I wasn't prepared for this. I requested him to give me a couple of days to think about it and decide if I wanted to take it up or pursue another final round interview.

It felt like a burden had lifted off me. I had something to do this summer.

Take 2

After a series of emails and phone calls over the weekend, I managed to extend the offer acceptance deadline and pull back the final round interview date with the other company. I had to fly out to Dallas on Tuesday and interview back to back with four people. They would tell me their decision on the same day giving me the chance to take either of the offers if I got it. Perfect.
So I fly out at 5:00 PM from Charlottesville and after one of the most uncomfortable and boring 6 hours in 2 tiny, 70 seater planes, crash into my bed at the hotel at around 12 at night.

The first interview is with the same guy who interviewed me on phone earlier. It goes really well. He talks about the team and the long term strategy, his crazy schedule, what kind of manager I would like, what languages I coded in while working, what's my view of the wireless space and people's habits when it comes to consuming media on the go, what excites me. He goes out of the room saying "Hopefully I'll talk to you again" and I know I really need to screw up from there on to not get the offer.

The next two interviewers, however do not give me any such signal but instead grill me about everything from strategies to launch a product, to ways and reasons to prioritize one over the another. 4Ps of marketing, first mover advantage, technology adoption, iPhone, Kindle, consumer surveys, analyst reports, how many mobile phones were sold in the US in 2009, why people change phones, AT&T, Netflix - we touch upon almost everything in the Digital Media / Wireless Telecom space. It's the one thing which excites me and I make sense most of the time.

The last person supposed to interview me is stuck in a meeting, so another guy from his team comes in. We have a very casual conversation. We talk about the food in the cafeteria, housing options in Dallas, wearing jeans to work (yes, you can do that),  having an iPhone, and cultural differences between Nokia, Motorola and Samsung.

The day gets over. I take the flight back to Charlottesville with a stop at Philly. Reach the Philly airport and get an email from the HR. I had got the offer. And it was as close to a dream job as it could be.

what has this process meant to me. 

Has it made me know myself better? No. I knew my strengths and weaknesses and I still have the same beliefs. I suck at faking conversations and being passionate about something which I like but not love. At the same time, I can very easily talk about the fact that I am CS grad, I listen to Pandora, I blog (though I hate Twitter), I like downloading apps on my iPhone, the "cloud" is really just another client server model, Darden's been great because it has made me aware of so many issues while looking at businesses and I want a job which has a little bit of all of this.

Do I understand this process better? Not really. Getting interview invites has been the toughest part for me. And it could be because I've just worked for 3 years and in a field which really didn't involve making business models or revenue forecasting. 
On one hand, it was this small exposure to software development in a telecom domain which I think got me this interview in the first place. On the other hand there were internships which said having such a background is a big bonus but I never heard anything from them. So it's anybody's guess but I'm inclined to believe that 'relevant' background does have a huge role to get your foot in the door. What is relevant, though, is the tricky bit.

Has it changed my view of Darden as a school? No. I came here for an experience. An experience in which getting a job formed just one part. Yes, I would have been disappointed  with something else. But I would have blamed it on things not working out for no apparent reason. That's the way I am. It's too late to become objective, I guess!

Have I learned anything from the process? Yes. There are a host of immensely interesting jobs out there. Whether you get them (in fact, even get to know about them) is dependent on a host of factors which can be grouped under networking, google skills, timing, plain luck and a dozen other. What worked for me, though, is to convince myself that no matter what, I won't go into anything related to Banking, Corporate Finance, Health Care or CPG Marketing. Yes, there were a couple of exceptions but I never got to interview with them anyway!

So finally on Tuesday night, I had my answer. Samsung Telecom at Dallas. 
Calcutta, Bokaro, Delhi, Bangalore, Charlottesville and now Dallas - the cities I live in always seem to begin with a B,C or D. Clearly I shouldn't be looking for jobs in San Francisco, Seattle or New York.