At 34, LeetCode enough for FAANG SWE?

Jan 6 45 Comments

Happy New Year!

I’m 34 and a former Berkeley BS/Stanford MS in MechE. 10 years ago after a year as an ME at a medical devices company, I made a career switch to mgmt consulting (top3) and later bizops roles at 2 startups. I am considering switching to SWE (details on why below) at FAANG.

Primary question is whether being very good at LeetCode is enough to make the switch with my background, and if yes, what level SWE would I be recruited at. Secondary questions: would a bootcamp be useful for me, and should I consider Data Science as well?

Some more important things that might be relevant:

1 – At Stanford I was a PhD candidate and earned two major fellowships NSF and SGF. At Cal, I got the ME Dept. Citation ( highest GPA in my class). 

2 – Over last month, I picked up Python and have been LeetCoding the official interview collection easy questions (arrays, strings, trees, lists, search, sort etc). I get optimal time and space complexity 75% of the time, but they take me around an hour and my code is not concise and buggy. I think in another two-three months of dedicated effort I could get quite good at leetcode (let's just assume this is true, if not no chance of becoming SWE anyway).

3 – While at Stanford (a decade ago), I took CS106b, the first level algos and data structures class and did very well in the class. I was one of the first 5 people to finish every midterm and final and got an A.

4 - In my 10 years in consulting/bizops I have interacted with every part of the business side of a startup, which may be useful for understanding customer needs or collaborating with other non-eng teams. My primary responsibilities were sales and marketing ops, but I also touched customer support, HR, finance, M&A and more.

5 – The primary reason I want to switch is that I have found that EQ and managing politics trump IQ on the business side. When I was an MechE, I thought my EQ was high, but when I switched to business side I realized I was wrong. Worse, EQ is even more important with seniority. It only took me a decade to recognize that my most valuable asset is my technical abilities! I should have made a change 5 years ago, but at the time I was very eager to join my second startup, which I really believed in at the time, and BizOps was the only role for which I could join. Then after I realized startup #2 wasn’t going anywhere, I got married and started a 2.5-year complete rebuild of my house, which I am just finishing.

6 – Not sure how important this is, but I have many friends who work at FAANG so can definitely get warm referrals. BTW - these friends are all making much more money than I am and are probably getting ready to retire =P.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts! Have a great new year!

#leetcode #career #change #switch #faang #sde

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TOP 45 Comments
  • Northrop Grumman wiz🧙🏻‍♂️
    Dude unless you’re applying to be a CEO, there shouldn’t be an issue getting a position.
    Jan 6 2
    • OP
      I hope you're right! Thanks for the reply
      Jan 6
    • LinkedIn pWnw37
      👍
      Jan 6
  • New —/
    Only concern would be getting noticed by a recruiter. Other than that you sound capable of any tech job.
    Jan 6 5
    • OP
      Yup will definitely do some "practice" interviews at lower tier companies before I try my hand at FAANG. Good to see another former ME made the transition! If only I had made it 5 years ago too :). Thanks for the reply and well wishes!
      Jan 6
    • Riot Games GDNy18
      Those educational credentials will get the attention of every recruiter on the planet...
      Jan 10
  • Google bighead2
    Yes Leetcode is enough.

    I started coding when I was 30. Did a bunch of Leetcode and landed FANG at 32.

    I did a bootcamp but you don't need to with your background. I'd say be prepared to take a new-grad level role.

    You will love Leetcoding if you enjoyed that CS course.
    Jan 6 2
    • OP
      Thanks for the reply! Appreciate knowing I wouldn't be the first to take this route. I am wondering if I could convince the recruiter to come in as a fresh PhD (even though I don't have a PhD). I believe that is one level higher than a fresh undergrad at Google/Facebook (can't remember the terminology). I did enjoy the cs class and am feeling good about leetcode so far.
      Jan 6
    • Google bighead2
      Awesome! You're on an exciting journey -- good luck!

      And I wouldn't stress about the level of your first SWE job. There's a lot you'll need to learn, so it wouldn't hurt if you're company has lower expectations for a year or so.
      Jan 6
  • Amazon qSCE75
    You seem like a beast. I think a better question is what you want for yourself. You definitely have the experience, but if you are switching to SWE, you might have to start all over, which I assume is a risk you want to take? But in general, you should try to get to do medium problems on leetcode in 30-45 minutes consistently and I think you should be fine
    Jan 6 1
    • OP
      Thanks that's a good benchmark. And yes have been thinking a lot about what I really want. Also need to consider what is possible!
      Jan 6
  • Snapchat / Eng Fabby Mike
    Leetcode is enough to get an offer for an entry level at least. You may get more. Now, the job is different, but if you learn everyday you should do great. It's not hard for someone with your background.
    Jan 6 3
    • Snapchat / Eng Fabby Mike
      Yes, a fresh undergrad would get entry level. The offer you get depends on whether you woo your interviewers, but since you don't have experience as an SWE, it will probably be entry level and then you can get promoted rather fast if you perform well.

      To get a higher position, you'll definitely have to show some system design skill. Not sure LC has that. You can read "Designing Data-Intensive Applications" for that matter, and design systems as practice. Of course solve the typical SD problems, like tinyurl and friends.
      Jan 6
    • OP
      Thanks for the tip - I'll check out that book!
      Jan 6
  • Google muDb40
    Why not try a biz ops role at Fang to get in, and then you can do SWE rotations etc. TBH if I were you (MBB + Tech/Coding), id shoot for PM roles
    Jan 6 5
    • Google muDb40
      Just curious. What do you do in Biz Ops exactly ie what are your deliverables
      Jan 6
    • OP
      My bizops activities have always stayed close to sales and marketing ops at both startups I joined. I'm currently focused on the lead generation and follow up processes. So deliverables include setting up, integrating and managing the martech stack, KPIs and analytics, and business processes related to leads.
      Jan 7
  • Boeing Oppai
    Don't forget the personality and behavioral portion of the interview process. You can easily fail because of that. You can be the best coder in the world and fail the personality portion because noone would want to work with you.
    Jan 6 1
    • OP
      👍 thanks for the reply!
      Jan 6
  • BCG Ayan32
    I feel you dude, thinking about doing the same
    Jan 6 1
    • OP
      Yeah I totally got sold on the big3's marketing that you "solve the hardest problems." In my experience the most technical thing you will do is create an excel model and slide deck that looks complex but is secretly so simple you can do the calcs in your head to impress the client and convince them to hire you again.
      Jan 6
  • F5 Networks deadc0de20
    Yeah, I don’t think you will have a problem being a SWE. The question is what level. You will likely get lowball. Best bet is to get multiple offers!
    Jan 6 1
    • OP
      Yes for sure since I don't know my own value I would apply to many places and try to get multiple offers. Thanks for the reply
      Jan 6
  • Amazon bakchod
    You can move to managerial role if you are interested. Not a lot of coding questions are at asked at some companies
    Jan 6 1
    • OP
      I'm open to this in the long run but would be concerned about getting taken seriously as an eng manager if I have no real experience
      Jan 6

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