AlaaShaker's Weblog

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Job Interview @ MentorGraphics

with 5 comments

It was May. It’s getting closer to our graduation date, and I should be “job hunting“.

MentorGraphics, Egypt, announced having job vacancies. I do have a couple of good friends there who informed us right away. I sent over my resume and I was scheduled to have an interview on Wed, 22nd of May, 2008, at 3:00pm – middle of my finals!

The 1st Interview …

Anyway, I made it to the interview. It was easy going there, I was glad the company was near-by. First, I sat with Eng. Dina, who was very friendly. She explained what the company does, and what the Egyptian branch does, what products do they work on, and so on and so forth. She asked me afterwards a few questions about my military status, grades at college, graduation project and a few HR questions like “What are your criteria of choosing a company to work for?”. Then, we moved on to the technical interview – a technical phone interview!

The technical interview wasn’t that hard itself, I mean the questions and problems. It was the interviewer himself! At first, Dina started with “Alaa was telling me about his graduation project.” So, he said, “Mmm.. Why don’t you tell us more about it?” and he does have my resume in front of him. I told him what the project was about, and in usual cases they go on with something like “Really? Good! Let’s move to the first question!” Well, NO! He started asking about details, which if fine. I replied back so he asked for more and more details!  It ended up by asking me questions, the easiest was like “What if you build those two modules on multiple threads, how would that affect your performance?” LOL, God, I was being interviewed in my project!!!

Anyway, we started the technical part after that. I was given an Object-Oriented question, a few functions to be written in C to test my problem-solving skills and my knowledge about algorithms, complexity and testing (string containing another string, reverse string, reverse order of words, etc.), and finally a few open-ended questions like “What’s the difference between C++, C# and Java? What do you know about Memory Management? What is a Memory Leak?” and so on …

I had to write my C functions on paper, then dictate them over. I didn’t really get how could I “dictate” code, so I started explaining it: “Integer p, where I’ll be keeping my current position ..” and he was like “Alaa, could you please stop explaining and just read out your code?!” The functions weren’t hard to code, especially I’m used to that as I used to participate in ACM ICPC Contests. The hard part was the tricky questions; he tried convincing me to change the condition in my for-loop to another one, and to fix my code to work with that. I tried my best until the point I decided to tell him “Sorry, but your condition won’t work!” and was like “Ahh, correct!” … Awww!!! LOL

He finally asked me about mentioning in my resume that I do a lot of design work, how do I place that in my priorities and what are my plans for that. Also, he asked me about our Touchwork logo and if I designed it – I was so happy he liked it!! He asked me whether I minded having a second technical interview or not. After the call, I asked Dina a few more questions about the company and the job I was applying for, and that was it.

In conclusion, it went fine, I hope! If I pass this one, they should be calling me for a second interview, isA, by June, with the Engineering Manager of the “Capital Logic” team – that’s the job I applied for – who will be coming from the UK to Egypt at that time.

The 2nd Interview …

So, they did call me for another interview on the 10th of June, at 4.00pm. It was hard to make it to the interview this time as well, for I’m having my obligatory, exhausting Military Education subject at college that ends close to that time of the day. Anyway, I made it to the second interview, just to meet with this Engineering Manager I previously mentioned.

He was a very nice, descent guy, calm, smiling. I still have to mention that I saw my resume printed in his hands. Having a glimpse at my resume, I realized that the guy has literally studied every corner of it – I found lines, scribbles, marks, circles and even side-notes, everywhere! It was another an-hour-and-a-half interview, where I spent almost more than half of it questioned about the very details of my resume. I was asked about every project, every course, every language, and every skill I had.

Then we moved on to the second part – the technical test. Most of the questions were oral. I wasn’t asked to write any code except a pseudo code for a sorting algorithm. I feel I need to be honest about something – I didn’t quite give the best answers if it were an exam. In other words, my replies proved I understood the problem, I was somehow familiar with it, I know how to solve it – but not an exact, details, specific, to-the-point solution. I can assure you that if I had an Internet connection available, man, I would’ve rocked! I could have solved every question seriously. Perhaps it’s because I’m not used to “memorizing” answers to specific problems, rather than fully understanding them so I could solve more of that type.

For instance, I was asked to describe how Dijkstra’s Shortest Path Algorithm works. A computer sciences graduate should know such algorithm by default, especially if he has studied an Algorithm Analysis and Design course. Even though, you won’t ask me about it and I’ll just spit out “For integer i equals zero, …..”!!! I tried explaining how it works to the guy, he didn’t get me at first, so I simply asked him if I could show him how it worked using an example on a piece of paper. He liked that and gave me an empty sheet of paper and a pen. I started right away by drawing a few nodes, edges, weights and solved it in less than a minute. Then I added “Now after I’ve done that, I could write you down the pseudo code if you want to …” and he said, “No, it’s not necessary anymore!”. Add to that another question about sorting algorithms, and another few about Object-Oriented Design, Design Patterns and debugging techniques (since I’ve boasted about giving a course about those topics).

Other questions were about what are the stuff that excite me more about programming, the thrill, the passion what I’ve learned most of the X course I studied, what I found the hardest to study at college, testing techniques, etc. There were also some questions like “Let’s say you have a program, you run it, and you discover that there’s a memory leak. How would you find this memory leak?” – and that’s the whole question!!!! Another one was “You have word processing program, and the user opened a really huge file, made a few changes and decided to save that document. Now, all of that took a large space of the memory such that there isn’t any space left to do the saving and closing operations. What would you do?”. Let’s say that I gave all the possible solutions you can imagine, to prevent such a situation, rather than providing a solution to what is actually happening now! He told me so, and I started improvising. LOL.

Generally speaking, I did fine I guess – especially knowing that only three passed the first interview. I was told that this second guy was much “easier” than the first one, but after I told them what happened, they said most probably the first guy gave the second one a course in squeezing interviewees. I don’t think it was quite squeezing as much as that the guy was calm. The first one squeezed me out but was talkative, so there was a dialogue somehow, and he helped me a little in between the questions so he could see if I could move on. The second time, the guy was very calm, so he left me to do all the talking. I had to pull out more information from him so I could proceed.

We’ll see how it goes .. isA .. 😀

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Written by AlaaShaker

June 13, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Posted in Personal

Tagged with ,

5 Responses

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  1. thx Veryyyy Much Alaa …..Very Important and Very Nice Post

    TeCNoYoTTa

    June 14, 2008 at 8:38 am

  2. woooow i think u did agreat job in this
    i hope to see the next post isa
    thanxxxxxxxxxx alot Alaa

    kate_aj

    June 14, 2008 at 9:08 pm

  3. Great post with great Information, “Alaa”
    Thanx a lot …

    Tamer Usama

    June 15, 2008 at 6:53 pm

  4. That was helpful man!! keep posting.
    Did they reply btw ? :p

    Ahmad Farid

    July 16, 2008 at 11:33 am

  5. […] thats how an interview might go there, i didn’t get it this way as i was an […]


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