Seattle Trip – Microsoft Interview Recap

#1) No excuses

#2) Recap

I heard back from from Kelsey, my recruiter.  She informed me that Microsoft would not be pursuing an offer.  She suggested applying again at a later date to see if it would work better with a different part of the company.  I tried asking for some feedback from the interview so I could apply it to my other ones, but she wasn’t able to give me anything.  Oh well, I’ve got a number of other prospects, here is the overview of my trip.

My plane left at 9am on Thursday, I didn’t have a ride so I was up at 5 to get ready and head out on public transportation to get to the airport.  It was fairly warm and rainy that morning and I figured it would probably be about the same when I landed in Seattle.  The flight wasn’t too bad, a nice 3.5 hr flight that turnes out to only be 1.5 hr because of traveling through time zones.  There wasn’t too much to see throughout the flight because of the cloud cover.  I did occasionally see some impressive clouds.  I slept through about the second half of the flight after I rand out of things to read (I need to remember book next time).  As we approached Seattle we dropped below the cloud cover and I could make out Lake Washington and Mercer Island was we came in for landing.

We touched down in Seattle on time at about 11:30am PST.  I was starving so I went straight for the burger kind in the terminal.  Then it was off to the Avis rental counter.  It seems Microsoft does much of their business through Avis because the lady at the counter knew exactly why I was there when I gave her my name.  Fifteeen minutes later I was rolling out of the parking garage in my nice Impala.   I was right about the rain, it made for a fun first drive to the hotel in a new town.

I stayed at the Courtyard Seattle-Bellevue, right down the street from Microsoft’s impressive campus.  I got all checked in and then went to do some laps in the pool.  The pool was great but the whirlpool wasn’t anything more than a mildly warm bath.  Then I was off to dinner with my cousin Cari and her husband Jason, at their house.  It was still raining out, so night driving was interesting as well.  Dinner was delicious, Cari made beef stew, and it was just great to meet family again and learn some more interesting things about the area.

I was getting tired pretty early since I still felt like I was two hours ahead so I was getting ready for bed at 10 when the fire alarm starts going off in my hotel room.  I looked out in the hall and there were just a bunch of people cluelessly looking around like I was.  I grabbed by coat and cameras and headed toward the lobby.  I got to the lobby and people were still just milling around, apparently noone really thought there might be an emergency.  It took a minute till one of the staffers got everyone to actually go outside at which point the firetrucks started showing up.  We had to wait outside for 20 minutes, there was no fire just a false alarm something went screwy with the sprinkler system.  Not exactly reassuring, but still better than a fire.

As if having a big interview in the morning wasn’t enough, I just couldn’t get away without something strange happening.  I spent a few more minutes reviewing things for the next morning and then it was off to bed by 11:30.

Friday

I woke up at 7 and spent an hour and half getting ready, I was too nervous to sit down and actually eat breakfast.  I arrived at the recruiting building, Building 19 a half hour early.  They have a few interesting things in the lobby to relax and entertain the candidates.  I played two songs on rock band before my recruiter, Ashley, came out.   We covered the general over arching HR type questions and whether or not I had offers from othe companies.  We talked for about 15 minutes, then she escorted me out to the recruit shuttle and I was off to my first interview.  A reminder, I was interviewing for an SDET position.

At the first interview we talked over alot of test scenarios, some of them rather off the wall.  As a theoretical question we talked about how to break a parking ramp ticketing system, ranging from physical attacks, cutting communications, messing with time stamps, interference, etc.  Another exercise was talking about designing a game for small children involving durability testing.  Finally there was a linked list problem where I had to write a function on the whiteboard that inserts a set position from the end of the list.  We then talked about different ways to test the function I had just written.  It went pretty well, I wasn’t nervous after we got into it either.

Then I was off to my second interview which focused more on discussing my schooling background as well as another coding exercise.  It was essentially rewriting the itoa c library function to turn an integer value into an ascii representation of itself.  That one went just alittle slower that I would have liked, got hung up on the math.  I felt great about representing myself as far as my college schooling went and what projects I accomplished, etc.  Finally I was off to my third, lunch (and final) interview.

I met my final interviewer and we headed to the cafeteria which was alot better than anything I encountered at school.  Right away he mentioned that he hadn’t had a chance to review my resume, I just so happened to have a copy (10 actually) on me which I gave to him as we ate.  I gave plenty of great answers and explanations to any questions he had.  We also ended up talking a decent bit about photography, something it turned out we both enjoyed.  Then it was back to his office where we discussed more overall testing questions as well as group dynamics, working with other people, how things worked in his area.  Again I thought things went really well, we were talking right up until we ran out of time and we had to go.

At this point I didn’t know where my next stop was, and he directed my back to the recruiting building.  This made me a little uneasy as I read a number of conflicting opinions on how the Microsoft interviewing process worked.  But I thought that things had gone well, and certainly not horrible so I thought that if they made up their minds so quickly it must have been positive.  (I was wrong, lol).

After I got back to the hotel I spent about an hour calling and emailing family to let everyone know how it went.  I was then planning on heading downtown to see some sights until it started getting dark too early, the rain had picked up and the prospect of getting trapped during rush hour changed my mind.  So I spent some time in the Hotel lobby to see if I could recognize any of the other recruits that I met in the morning.  I didn’t see anyone so I ended up going to Applebees for a steak and beer by myself.  Yea, I could have just done some delivery service, but I wanted to drive the car some more.  After I got back I went to do some more laps in the pool and then just soaked in a nice hot bath.  I went to bed early again so I could get up in the morning and go do some sight seeing before my flight home.

Saturday

I got up and enjoyed the breakfast in the hotel restaurant, it was delicious.  I haven’t had a nice warm breakfast in a while.  Then I packed everything up and checked out to head down to the Pike Place Market for a few hours.  To my surprise it had actually completely stopped raining (the first time since I was there) and that the clouds were actually parting reveal the sun and a beautiful blue sky.   I made it downtown without dealing with too much traffic and found the market without getting lost.

Before heading into the market I walked down to the waterfront near the Seattle Aquarium and out onto one of the piers.  It was really nice since the clouds finally parted, more were definitely coming though, only a few hours out across the sound.

The Pike Place Market is an amazing place, there are so many vendors, people, colors, and interesting things happening everywhere.  Especially great for photographing.  I tried a number of times to get a photo of the Pike Place Fish guys actually throwing a fish, but there were just too many people in the way all the time.  It was really funny when they threw a stuffed animal fish into the croud.  People scattered thinking they were going to be clobbered by a real, big fish. The market is such an interesting place to explore passages leading off to other shops and stairwells decending from the Main Arcade to the Down Under part of the market.

I explored around for a few hours, then I decided it would be a good idea to head back to the airport early in case there were any traffic problems on I-5.  I was sort of right in my hunch as well, I didn’t run into problems, but traffic going the other direction was crawling for a couple miles.  I could really get used to doing the rental car thing as well, getting to drive right up, hand it off to someone else and walk right on over to the terminal.  You just need to make sure you grab everything I had to sprint halfway back from the terminal because I almost forgot my camera.

After getting through security I had about an hour till my flight departed, it went pretty quickly after getting another bite to eat.  On the way home the time zones were against me, a 3.5 hr flight magically become a 5.5 hr flight because I’d be losing two hours to the switch.  I left at 3 and arrived in Minneapolis at 8:30pm.  I slept for much more of this flight after running around all morning.  I was pretty good at the sleeping while sitting up thing as well since I was in the middle and I never one slumped over onto one of my neighbors.

As we approached Minneapolis I tried to pick out where we were over the urban sprawl by looking for lit up landmarks since it was dark.  I had assumed we’d be approaching the airport from over the river (from the SE) I couldn’t figure it out forsure though till we were right on the final approach,  I could see the capital building lit up over in St. Paul.

I still didn’t have a ride home either so I was all the way back underground to the light rail station from whence I came and I was even lucky enough to catch my bus right when I got off so I didn’t have to wait around in the cold.  I was already missing the decent temperatures and rain back in Seattle.

For all of the photos that I took on the trip see my Seattle Trip set on Flicker.

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