Fog Creek Interview
» 28 Oct 2008
Last week I was flown up to New York City by "Fog Creek Software":http://fogcreek.com for an interview for a summer internship. The whole trip was amazing. Fog Creek took great care of me, I like the city, and I got to see one of my cousins while I was there. The actual interviews were grueling, and I didn't get the job, but I still have nothing but the warmest feelings about Fog Creek as a company.
This all started about three weeks ago when I sent in my cover letter and resume. I saw Fog Creek as pretty much the ultimate long shot internship (read about the intern perks and the reasons will become clear), so I basically expected to be condescendingly dismissed for even attempting to apply to such an elite position. Within a few days, I had a response asking for a phone screen. The next Monday I was on the phone with a developer being brutalized over data structures and the like.
The phone screen was a rather grueling hour. I walked around in a daze for the rest of the day. I felt like I did somewhat acceptably, but figured that this was where my adventure ended. I was just honored to have gotten that far. I woke up the next day to an email inviting me to interview in person at their Lower Manhattan office. After much celebration (including a few misguided attempts at dance), I rushed to Barnes and Noble to pick up a copy of K&R C to study for the interview.
My schedule is fairly complex due to the general expectation that I attend class and don't fail exams, but I had a surprising free spot in my schedule after my Sanskrit midterm last Monday afternoon. A week after my phone screen, I was on a small airplane from Charlottesville Airport (CHO) to LaGuardia (LGA).
Charlottesville Airport really is a nice airport. The view into the mountains is wonderful. It is a clean, modern, convenient facility. My biggest complaint with it is that I scheduled a lot of extra time for dealing with the usual crap of modern air travel, so I had a huge amount of time to just sit around after I picked up a boarding pass and cleared security in under ten minutes. The fall is a quite nice time to fly from the mountains and over the East Coast.
I arrived in New York and found a limo waiting for me. I felt pretty pimp. I arrived at the hotel and checked into my beautiful suite with no incident, though I did fear that the jig was up when I was asked my age (18, which is less than 21 which is probably what hotels say they require). I then headed out to Greenwich Village to meet up with my cousin.
The next day I got up early, cleaned up, and hit the town. My interview was not until 10:00, so I took the opportunity to explore the financial district. Fog Creek's new office is a block or two away from Wall Street. I slicked back my hair, put on suspenders, and started my corporate raiding because greed, for lack of a better word, is good. After those shenanigans, I headed up to the 25th floor of 55 Broadway to get interviewed.
They really have a nice set up with a great view. I met with two people in the office and one guy for lunch. The first interview was on data structures. It took a little while for me to get my brain in gear and I was too slow starting off. I gradually improved as I got into the right mode for it, but I wasn't exceptional at it. A lot of this was my general inexperience with data structures and a lot of it was my nerves. I know the fundamentals of data structures, but I just don't practice with them too much. I get a little lazy and generally hide behind my abstractions. Going forward, I will definitely work on my DS chops as that seems to be a good investment.
The second interview was on pointers and recursion. One section of it involved de-obfuscating a bit of C code. Generally I'm pretty good with pointer arithmetic and foolishness, but I was way off that day. I think I just got overwhelmed initially and tried to depend on idioms that I only half remembered rather than actual thought. I stumbled through it and mixed up silly things, but I was eventually prodded to recovery. It was completely embarassing. I beasted the recursion though, so that was decent.
For lunch, we went to a nice Italian place, and I had a nice conversation with a member of the Smalltalk cult. I quite fancy Smalltalk myself, but I have not really walked the walk. This conversation convinced me to give GNU Smalltalk a shot. It was actually a really fun lunch.
After lunch, we went back to the office and I was told that I was done and could go on my merry way. I pretty much knew that I was still on the job market at this point, but I was only a little bummed. I walked back to my hotel room and watched some daily show and family guy. Then I hit the streets and just walked around soaking it all in. I managed to, through Brownian motion, make my way from just south of TriBeCa to somewhere in Greenwich Village. I wandered for a while looking at things. At some point my cousin called and I happened to be a few blocks away from his apartment, which was an odd bit of chance. One of my cousin's roommates is an entrepreneur and founder of "BigThink":http://bigthink.com, which is pretty cool.
The next morning, I got into a limo headed to the airport and prepared for life back in Charlottesville. A few days later I got the email from Fog Creek telling me that I didn't get the gig, but I was neither surprised nor disappointed. It was a pretty amazing couple of days and a great trip regardless. I do hope to find a cool internship this summer, but I am not dreadfully worried about it (yet).