Old dude/career change/G/FB/Interviews

May 21, 2018 51 Comments

I'm a career changer, was a lawyer for the first dozen years of my professional life, been doing tech support for the past 3 (never planned on being at my company so long, but got complacent). To begin, I took a few classes at the local community college and that was about it, started sending out resumes and took the first job offered. I've improved my coding skills quite a bit over the past few years just by practicing by myself and doing the occasional contest. I'm in the top 1% on HackerRank, which got me a Google phone screen. I passed it and have an onsite in a little less than a month. Also have a FB screen onsite the week before that (I'm local), which will be my first real whiteboarding experience.

So, I have a couple questions. First, and most relevant to the situation I'm in now, what exactly should I be doing to prepare? I'm working through Cracking the Code with pen and paper, and it's going pretty well. Able to answer most of the questions decently well in a reasonable amount of time. I'm also doing a little Leetcode when I'm too lazy to solve problems on paper. Anything else I'm missing?

Now the bigger picture question: I'm relatively new to tech, though at 40 years old I feel pretty ancient. I've had an interesting life, majored in math at an Ivy, was hardcore addicted to drugs and alcohol all through my 20s, finally got sober 7 years ago and realized I needed to start a career. I hated lawyering and wasn't particularly good at it either. Programming I like though. That said, all I ever do is solve old contest problems. I've never actually built anything. Is this terrible? Strangely, G and FB don't seem particularly concerned that I have basically no experience on my resume. But, assuming I miss on them, I'd imagine that the slightly lower-tier companies put a whole lot more emphasis on what you have done. If you were an old dude who likes contest problems, what technologies or projects would you concentrate on to build your expertise?

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TOP 51 Comments
  • Amazon hanumaan
    This is inspirational
    May 21, 2018 0
  • Facebook TAKu77
    The world needs more courageous people like you. Don’t worry about experience building things, given your bent of mind, you will pick it up in no time. Make sure you spend some time doing algorithms (like leetcode easy, medium and some hard) and system design questions. If you want to focus on an actual app, write an android or iOS app and be honest about your experience there. Also think of interesting behavioral instances in your life which bring out your strengths. Will see you on the front lines soon. Good luck 👍🏽
    May 21, 2018 3
    • OP
      Thanks friend, I appreciate the advice :)
      May 21, 2018
    • New zhJx38
      Served 2 years in military.
      3 combat zone trips. F..g six months of my life living death...
      Then MS degree in Math/CS
      Then some 8 years working as a software engineer.

      Went on an interview loop recently (FB, G, +5 more)
      Passed almost all phone screens except Amazon's (too dumb)
      All on-sites behind - no offers yet (
      Was close in FB(and some others) but could not bluff my interviewer enough about stat vs fstat syscalls
      and > ls internals like getdents, etc (im not doing a lot of this on current job though).

      Do you think I should have mentioned to my interviewer I have real combat experience?
      Could that have increased my chances to get in if I did? )
      May 22, 2018
    • Intel Mandalf
      @zhJx38 Your experience sounds like it makes for an awesome story. Unfortunately, I don't think anyone cares about work experience, cool projects, life stories anymore. It is all about Leetcode now.

      I think your experience will probably come out in your communication style--aggressive and tactical, strategic-thinking. This is most likely a good thing especially if you go in for a PM role. But for Dev, it's only matters if you can first Leetcode your way in.

      Thank you so much for your service and good luck to you.
      May 22, 2018
  • OP
    Update: Approved by Google HC. Incredibly humbled to have made it this far and to be given this opportunity :)
    Jun 25, 2018 2
    • TuneIn Spelmanson
      Cool man, this is inspiring. Was hard interview?
      Jun 25, 2018
    • OP
      Thanks!! Yeah, I thought it was pretty hard. I mean, the questions were reasonable, but I felt I had to stay totally focused through the whole thing or else risk losing the thread.
      Jun 25, 2018
  • OP
    Brief update though I'm not sure anyway will see it in a thread this old: found out today I passed my FB screen! 😀

    Google onsite next week. My brain is dead tired from all the studying and practice, but going to push through until the day before and then have a day of rest.
    Jun 12, 2018 3
    • Amazon Jexx
      Congrats! That’s great!
      Jun 12, 2018
    • Honeywell / Eng that1guy
      Congrats! That’s great!
      Jun 12, 2018
    • Microsoft JDwb49
      Keep up that good work!
      Jun 13, 2018
  • Amazon Flows
    Old Amazon/Microsoft guy here. You’ve totally got a chance. You sound really upfront and honest, which will serve you well in the interview - you aren’t trying to snow them. You’ve also got grit, which looks good. Most of the big companies also have some behavioral questions in interviews - these are important. Look up info on interviewing for the Amazon leadership principles for some examples.

    Most importantly - if you don’t succeed at the first or second interview, don’t draw the conclusion that this isn’t for you. MOST people don’t get in, and a large fraction of those are not because of coding reasons, but because they aren’t a fit for the company or the team. Try again elsewhere (different team even in the same company).

    You say the FB screen will be your first white boarding experience. I highly recommend going through a practice interview if you can - like if a friend in tech could give you a mock interview.
    May 22, 2018 1
    • New / Eng
      Luffy, M.D

      New Eng

      PRE
      Facebook
      BIO
      Prematurely grumpy old man
      Luffy, M.Dmore
      ↑ this.

      For that matter, if you can get some calls at other companies, I always recommend getting some throw-away interviews under your belt before the ones you really want.
      May 22, 2018
  • Qualcomm / Eng
    sdca1

    Qualcomm Eng

    PRE
    Intel
    BIO
    ASIC
    sdca1more
    not sarcastic?
    May 21, 2018 2
    • OP
      No, not at all
      May 21, 2018
    • Qualcomm / Eng
      sdca1

      Qualcomm Eng

      PRE
      Intel
      BIO
      ASIC
      sdca1more
      you are smart man
      May 21, 2018
  • Intel Mandalf
    Super inspirational story. Just remember you're only out of the game if you quit, so keep plugging along and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

    You can try to code up some side-projects to have some stories to tell in the interviews. Put everything up on GitHub to show you're a collaborative member of the software community. But just remember, in the end it will be mostly about Leetcode. Now and forever. In a world without end. Amen. 🙏
    May 21, 2018 1
    • OP
      Thanks, lol :)
      May 21, 2018
  • RaaWee Inc. Aka365
    Your a inspiration for me. Given that you already landed interviews with G and FB shows that your already ahead in your game. Keep up the good work.
    May 21, 2018 0
  • New / Eng
    Luffy, M.D

    New Eng

    PRE
    Facebook
    BIO
    Prematurely grumpy old man
    Luffy, M.Dmore
    They're going to love you if you can pass the interview bar. They can pay you a junior salary, train you to do things their way rather than having bad habits from the rest of industry, and you'll be a great token to demonstrate that there's "no age discrimination"
    May 21, 2018 2
    • Amazon hanumaan
      are you in HR? you talk seems BS
      May 21, 2018
    • New / Eng
      Luffy, M.D

      New Eng

      PRE
      Facebook
      BIO
      Prematurely grumpy old man
      Luffy, M.Dmore
      Nope, just a cynical old guy who's been in industry a long time
      May 22, 2018
  • Honeywell / Eng that1guy
    Please come back and update us on what happens. Otherwise I’ll write this post off as a bot :) jk.

    But seriously.
    May 22, 2018 1
    • OP
      Sure thing :) If I somehow manage to pass, I'll have to ask for salary negotiation advice (which I've already managed to bungle a bit with G before even having the onsite).
      May 22, 2018
  • Lyft 8008
    Leetcode is your friend. Not sure if recruiter mentioned about design round - if they did, you could google “high scalability blog” and “system design primer”. I found those two sites pretty useful.
    May 22, 2018 3
    • OP
      Google said no design problem, but FB will have one if I pass the screen. Thanks for the resources!
      May 22, 2018
    • Marvell MD_Terp
      @mooncalf: may I ask why no sys design problem w google?
      May 22, 2018
    • OP
      @md_terp Yeah, I'm not sure. There's 5 interviews and when the recruiter was going over the possible content, it was basically all DS and algo stuff. So I asked specifically if one of the questions would be system design, and she said no, they would all be standard coding interviews. No insight into why though
      May 23, 2018
  • Microsoft JDwb49
    Read the Grokking the System Design Interview just in case.

    Plus leetcoding. I'd focus more on solving all Google/Facebook problems ordered by frequency. I won't waste time doing them all on paper.
    May 22, 2018 1
    • OP
      It's my Saturday night tonight (have off Mondays and Tuesdays), and y'all have inspired me to be leetcoding into the early morning hours. I hadn't bought the premium yet and have just been doing random problems. I will buy that subscription now and take your advice. Thanks so much for the advice and I'll also def check out the sys design course!
      May 22, 2018
  • Amazon odVN70
    Maybe front end (web, app) for breadth, but that would just to be a little more appealing for job hunting. It might be better to revisit this later, though, and just focus on interviews for now. That is if you do actually fail your interviews. If you do get in, your chance to build experience is right there
    May 21, 2018 1
    • OP
      Thanks for the advice! Yeah, I think you're exactly right about focusing on front end stuff if I don't pass the interviews. In the FB recruiter's initial email to me, she said that they were looking for full stack engineers. I was very upfront with her that although I can use c++ to solve silly problems, I've never designed anything with a UI in my life. She didn't seem too concerned though :) It would be nice to have some little app that I've created from front to back; both for the experience I would gain making it and for the discussion point
      May 21, 2018
  • New / Eng
    Luffy, M.D

    New Eng

    PRE
    Facebook
    BIO
    Prematurely grumpy old man
    Luffy, M.Dmore
    Have you tried getting on one or more of the "developer speed dating" platforms? I've tried five of them TripleByte, Hired, Indeed Prime, Vettery, and Woo.io in rough order of the number of quality contacts I got (as a senior person who got laid off) and while I can't speak for their value to someone junior I would expect that if they don't screen you out that they would be valuable for connecting you with smaller companies that otherwise you might not find and which it would be hard to stand out of the initial resume screening but where you might shine at if F or G doesn't work out OR if you need interview practice before the big game.
    May 22, 2018 0
  • Facebook
    Build some CRUD web apps. Every business needs several.
    May 22, 2018 0
  • Amazon / Eng
    PitChai

    Amazon Eng

    PRE
    Earth Index, Heavenly Couture
    PitChaimore
    Great news!! You are rocking it. See you soon in Google. Which location are you joining?
    Aug 13, 2018 1
    • OP
      My team is in Sunnyvale. Hope to see you over there soon 😀
      Aug 13, 2018
  • Microsoft JDwb49
    Congratulations!
    Do you know the level?
    Jun 26, 2018 1
    • OP
      Thank you! Not for sure, but I'd be shocked if it were anything but L3
      Jun 26, 2018
  • New / Eng
    noskillz

    New Eng

    BIO
    Java SDE1
    noskillzmore
    Almost my situation. Good luck man
    May 22, 2018 1
    • New baQn60
      Youre a drug addict too??
      May 22, 2018
  • Microsoft / Mgmt
    Бабушка

    Microsoft Mgmt

    BIO
    https://youtu.be/6xckBwPdo1c
    Бабушкаmore
    Others suggested similar things, but I wanted to chime in too.

    Write an app. But do it properly. Set up a bit repo on GitHub or VisualStudio.com, define v1, file a set of tasks to track your progress, outsource ui design visuals to a proper designer, then publish the app, monitor, update, experment.

    This will give you a significant experience boost
    May 22, 2018 0
  • City of Springfield, Massachuset revsfan
    You probably had more life experience than 40 years then some people twice your age. don't stop hustling
    May 22, 2018 0
  • Microsoft kangyu
    Inspiring...Any company will be ready to hire you if you can articulate your journey this well...
    May 22, 2018 0
  • Twitter Onceaday
    just be aware all the people interviewing you will be younger than you. And all the people working with you in tech will also be younger than you.. by a lot. A software engineer career peaks around age 35. Then they start to move to mgmt because they realized a 22 year old kid out of college can do their job.
    May 22, 2018 0
  • Glooko / Other
    localgrown

    Glooko Other

    PRE
    Stanford Health Care
    localgrownmore
    I think you'll be fine. If a company can't see the value you bring they're not a good fit for you anyway. Safer to leave out that bit about the addiction during the interview, though.
    May 22, 2018 0
  • New aneemz
    I'm really curious as to what FAANG employees here say in terms of the chance of somebody of your age wwith limited development experience getting an offer from their company, it sounds like you'll have no problem passing the interview process, especially behavioural. The age aspect is interesting through, It would seem odd for somebody with clearly a lot of experience outside of SWE to be hired as a junior developer. I hope there's a position somewhere out there that someone is looking to fill which matches your unique talents and work history.

    Best of luck mate.
    May 22, 2018 1
    • New / Eng
      Luffy, M.D

      New Eng

      PRE
      Facebook
      BIO
      Prematurely grumpy old man
      Luffy, M.Dmore
      I think Facebook and Google are likely to have zero problems with his age. Their process is very standardized, and as I said up-thread, assuming he can pass the hiring bar once he gets to management they are likely to look at him as something of a bonus since he improves their age diversity while still only commanding a junior salary.

      No idea how the less centralized companies would handle him, nor do I have any insight into Netflix, although I'd imagine his career outside of SWE might give him some really good material towarss the Amazon behavioral question BS.
      May 22, 2018
  • Amazon / Eng
    VdeQ78

    Amazon Eng

    PRE
    Google
    VdeQ78more
    Your current goal today should be passing an interview, so Leetcode and such. When you are through, your daily duties will be totally different than what was asked in an interview. Also, there will be enough time and support to get on with such duties, and most important skills will be writing emails and presenting yourself. So concentrate on competitive programming skills for now
    Jun 16, 2018 0
  • Microsoft Mutex07
    Is this real? This can’t be real. Saul Goodman, is that you?
    May 22, 2018 0
  • New baQn60
    Tc? Married/single? Indian?

    Just getting it all out.

    Luckily g and fb both give people a chance to start fresh...
    May 22, 2018 0

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