3 YOE - 5 Offers - Seattle

Sep 12, 2019 483 Comments

I’ll lead with this: I’m a straight white guy with a neutral-American accent and US citizenship, so I have a lot of unfair advantages in life that not everyone is lucky enough to get.

Blind was a big part of what inspired me to seek out higher compensation and gave me confidence in my negotiation, so thank you! This is me trying to give a little bit back to the community. I’m not looking for input, per se, as I’ve already accepted an offer to work at IMDb/Amazon.

I spent about 3 months studying in preparation for these interviews. It was about 20 hours a week (0-4 hours per day) and I was pretty consistent in my time investment. 85% of my time was spent on DS/A, either via Leetcode or EPI. 10% of my time was spent on system design, and 5% on rehearsing behavioral questions with friends.

Elements of Programming Interviews - I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough. I credit it as the biggest cause of my success on the algorithm interviews. I read every chapter (not in order) and solved every problem presented as part of those chapters. I did not solve any ‘ninja’ problems at the back of the book.

Leetcode – In addition to the EPI problems, I solved 67 Leetcode problems. I did these problems in parallel with my EPI readings, picking problems based on tags. 6 hard, 23 medium, 38 easy. If I ever failed to solve a problem, I would invest hours ensuring that I fully understood the problem and solutions approach. I did that via Leetcode discussions, YouTube videos, and random articles. Then I would complete that problem before moving on.

System Design – I already do a decent amount of this at my current job, so I didn’t have to invest a lot of time into this. I used the free, YouTube version of “Grokking the system design interview”. And I occasionally followed some ‘related video’ links if there was a technology I wasn’t familiar with.

The Interviews:
As part of my prep phase, I took 2 weeks PTO in August and planned to fill that with back-to-back onsite interviews. This also kept my lazy ass motivated to keep to my study plan, because there was a tangible deadline.
About a month before my on-site block, I starting applying for companies via their website. Simultaneously, I sent a quick message to a Seattle-area recruiter for each company and mentioned that I had just applied online and wanted to reach out to them. This really helped because a lot of companies auto-rejected me due to keyword filters(?), but the recruiters that responded were able to pull my resume out of the trash and move me forward!

I was ghosted by: Lyft, Facebook, Tableau, and Dropbox.
Insta-rejected by: AirBnB, Zillow, Nordstrom, Splunk

Withdrew my application after the phone screen. Their interviewer was really, really bad at interviewing. The questions were too easy, technology-specific, and it felt like the interviewer was making it up as he went along (and this guy was a Principle MTS!!). To their credit, the recruiter seemed to take it seriously when I cited this as my reason for withdrawal.

Fuck Disney. It took 4 weeks from the time of on-site to getting a response from them because their hiring manager was on vacation (why even schedule me…?). Additionally, they contacted my current company before even making an offer!!! WTF. They ended up rejecting me because they got mixed feedback from the toxic team I’m leaving, despite “stellar feedback” from the on-site, according to the recruiter (well before the rejection). Because of that, my team and manager knew I was interviewing after I got back from PTO.

Passed the phone screen. It was a pretty difficult question. I eventually decided I didn’t want to leave Seattle, so I cancelled the on-site.

The interview process was pretty arduous, and I didn’t really like it. 1 hour HR phone screen, 1 hour manager phone screen, 3 hour take home project (more on this later), 1 more hour manager phone screen, all-day on-site. The take-home project seemed pretty big considering a hard 3 hour deadline. I was told I would complete the project, then get on a call with an engineer or manager to discuss my decisions and trade-offs, but that turned out to be a lie. I was rejected (by that team) with the feedback ‘not senior enough.’ The recruiter sent that project around to other teams and eventually found one that liked it. I talked to that new manager and had an on-site. Offer below.

I was surprised with how interesting and competent this team felt. The interview process was pretty standard, and the questions were Leetcode easy. Offer below.

I bombed the online test because I didn’t memorize the syntax for sorting based on two fields. Oh well.

Standard interview process. Team seemed pretty cool. Offer below.

I was initially opposed to Amazon due to WLB issues and overall culture, but I managed to find a team that seems really healthy and interesting (IMDb). Their online editor for the code screen is the worst I’ve ever used. The on-site DS/A questions were somewhat easy, and half of each interview was based on the leadership principles. Offer below.

Fairly standard interview process and I enjoyed meeting the team. Offer below.

I passed the phone screen, but the team I was interviewing for moved to Boulder, CO mid-interview-process and I didn’t want to relocate. I had to withdraw my application due to time constraints with other companies.

Passed phone screen, but they ended up having no headcount available for Seattle, so I can’t move forward unless I want to relocate to the Bay Area.

An arrow “->” denotes negotiation. I just used the standard negotiation tactic of not giving a number first. From there, it was just bidding companies up since I had multiple competing offers.

Zulily: SDE II @ 184k

Salesforce (Bellevue): MTS @ ~170k -> SMTS @ 236k -> SMTS @ 267k

Qualtrics: SDE II @ 198k w/ 20k sign-on

Amazon/IMDb: L5 @ 226k -> L5 @ 261k
[Amazon breakdown]: 160k base, 115 RSUs (212k vests 5/15/40/40), sign-on of 101k year 1 & 78k year 2

Pinterest: SDE II @ 247k

Final Decision:
I accepted the offer to work at Amazon/IMDb. I was really impressed with the team’s enthusiasm during the on-site, and I feel like it’s a super healthy part of Amazon, culture-wise.

My Expedia TC was 140k as an SDE II.
I’m happy to answer any specific questions, but I’ll probably respond slowly.


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TOP 483 Comments
  • Apple darkMod
    Wait how does being straight and white and male confer advantage? I can understand US citizenship and neutral accent tipping job odds in your favor though.
    Sep 12, 2019 19
    • Expedia Group Kennewick
      @yomamatb I see a lot of groups that continue to add more to whatever majority already exists: I worked in one place where the majority of the BI team was Russian. I worked in another place that had a higher than average number of Muslims. A third place had a single Tamil Indian that felt quite excluded among his Hindu-speaking peers.

      Even if we exclude bias, the reality is that we’re most likely going to get referrals from people in our peer group. I don’t believe any of those groups deliberately discriminated but I’m sure that each group’s minority felt left out and more likely to leave.

      I’m curious if you’re lumping all Caucasians in a single bucket or if you’re implying “white American” because I don’t see a lot of the former and I see even less of the later.
      Sep 16, 2019
    • Expedia Group Kennewick
      @muffin man: I think it’s a problem when we assume diversity means “non-white people”. If you give majority to any minority group (or majority group) you start to see failure in group thinking.

      Diversity only works when there’s a good balance of people. That means we put Russians, Americans, Chinese, Indians if different regions, Germans, and Mexicans in a group. That DOESN’T mean you have diversity because you hired 20 of (any one group).
      Sep 16, 2019
  • Amazon Xode
    Congrats and thanks for this detailed post.
    Sep 12, 2019 0
  • Twilio / Eng

    Twilio Eng

    Twilio Inc.
    The level of SJW pandering in that first paragraph is priceless.
    Sep 13, 2019 20
    • Twilio gGt55
      Right? Life changer for sure.
      Sep 13, 2019
    • Facebook ytho?
      *gently pats you both on the head*

      aww, that’s adorable.
      Sep 13, 2019
  • priceline.com / IT top_phodu
    Disney contacted your current employer!!. Seriously. Only a lame company/person would do that.. I had similar experience with GrubHub, the idiot recruiter contacted some of my team members via LinkedIn chat inorder to gather my feedback...
    Sep 12, 2019 6
    • LinkedIn / Eng ipopoi
      Now, I know which companies I'd never interview with except when I'm laid off :)
      Sep 14, 2019
    • Apple bogle
      how does this work? how can they find out what specific team you are on and who your teammates are?
      Sep 21, 2019
  • Sage / HR

    Sage HR

    Coca-Cola, The Home Depot
    East coast
    Hey stupid millennial s stop with the “I need to make excuses for my privilege “ - we understand you have been indoctrinated by the PC culture and everyone over 30 thinks you are cult meme eta regurgitating diversity and inclusion nonsense that tour small brains have been programmed with.
    Sep 13, 2019 4
    • SolarWinds AnEngineer
      You should be apologizing for your inability to type a single sentence without spelling and grammar issues.
      Sep 13, 2019
    • Google Mr. Glass
      @AnEngineer stfu and listen to what he’s saying. That advice probably applies to you too.
      Sep 13, 2019
  • New mUGK41
    When you were at the beginning of your 3 month prep, how good were you at the algos and DS? Did you struggle of were you pretty good front he beginning?

    I've done about 25 easy ones and get disheartened when I get to one I struggle with. I work on it for about 20 mins and if I can't get it I check out the discussions and check out YouTube videos but then the next question seems as hard if not harder.
    Sep 13, 2019 4
    • Apple bogle
      how common was LC hard in your interviews? Were they mainly just mediums?
      Sep 21, 2019
    • Expedia Group / Eng 72ja9ak
      Some ventured into hard, but it was a 'thinking' hard, not a '10k edge cases and 80 lines of code' hard
      Sep 21, 2019
  • AT&T / Eng GOFb61
    Why do you have to begin your post with an apology? Man up
    Sep 13, 2019 2
    • MoneyLion / Eng

      MoneyLion Eng

      General Atomics
      Nice toxic masculinity undertones. What are you overcompensating for?
      Sep 13, 2019
    • AT&T / Eng GOFb61
      Man up, includes women too.
      Sep 14, 2019
  • Microsoft sklounch
    I would hire you due to the quality of this write up, alone.

    Also, you should get an attorney and sue Disney for needlessly harming your current team relationship thereby destroying your ability to remain where you are without future bias, etc. Do this for the rest of us. They may just settle and you make a few extra bucks off their liability. (Whenever I’ve interviewed and have to sign permission to contact current employer, I always write in “only after acceptance of offer” or something to that effect, if not already stated in contract.)
    Sep 14, 2019 1
    • Expedia Group / Eng 72ja9ak
      I briefly considered it, but I don't have actual damages since I still received a lot of other offers. Arguably my team/Expedia would have the liability from the slander, anyway.

      Hopefully, calling out Disney's poor behavior will cause them to lose a few candidates anyway
      Sep 14, 2019
  • Amazon / Eng pawUI
    THANK you for posting this and congrats!!! IMDB can be known as rest and vest but that beats the hell out of burnout.
    Sep 12, 2019 0
  • Flagged by the community.

    • Hallmark yomamatb
      Could not have said this any better. They are fucking assholes and they should probably stay in Indian tech. There's enough of it there anyway.
      Sep 15, 2019
    • Amazon troubletkt
      I have a QAM who became sdm (probably by sleeping arnd) and doesnt know shit and is screwing the team
      Sep 16, 2019


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