Finally, it’s all over. After a tiring three months, I am glad to say that I have accepted an offer from Amazon for the summer of 2020.
An obligatory Sankey diagram is below, but quickly summarizing, I applied to 136 companies in total, received 15 coding challenges, 5 final interviews, and 3 offers.
Also, here’s a link to the table I used to keep track of all my applications. You can see exactly what companies ghosted/rejected/accepted me there.
I feel like I had a better-than-average season this year. Although the only other season I have to compare to is last year’s, and last year’s season did not go so well (spreadsheet here). I applied to a total of 116 companies over a period of five months, from November 2018 to March 2019. However, on top of my late start date, I had a pretty unattractive resumé, despite some previous experience and personal projects. See, I was a freshman (or as UVA, my school, calls them: a first-year), so I’m pretty sure a large majority of the companies I applied to just instantly threw my resumé in the trash after seeing that 2022 graduation year. Although notably, Google gave me a chance, sending me a coding challenge, though I absolutely bombed it because I had not studied algorithms or data structures at all.
This season, though, was different.
Not only was I ever more motivated, but I had committed to graduate a year early, setting my graduation date to May 2021 (which I have now amended to December 2021 due to course credit issues). I had also gained more experience through a couple hackathons, one even granting me a prize which I made sure to mention on my resumé. I also started grinding Leetcode (not too hard though, some people do way too much, I did at most 10 different problems), began watching YouTube channels like Kevin Naughton Jr. and Back to Back SWE, and even bought and (kinda) read through EPI, a book that I heard was much better than the classic CTCI.
Immediately, I began to notice that I was getting more replies back. Coding challenges, phone interviews, random surveys and games (cough JPMorgan cough) that some companies made you do for some reason. I made sure not to stress too much, though, as I see a lot of people do on /r/CSCareerQuestions and /r/CSMajors. There are so many posts asking the same things: “how do I prepare for x company coding challenge/interview/onsite?”, “how long does y company take to get back to you?”, “does anyone else feel [insert common sentiment here]?” The answers are almost always the same: grind Leetcode, around a couple weeks if not more, and yes everyone feels stressed/tired/inadequate at times.
To be honest, though, I think I was incredibly lucky this season. I was never asked anything above a Leetcode easy in my phone/video interviews, and all the Leetcode mediums I was asked, I had seen before.
I ended up having to decide between three offers in the end. Well, it was really between two since the other one—from Red Ventures—was definitely a no. Nothing against the company; in fact, I loved interviewing with them. They were the only company that flew me out to an on-site—my very first, and treated me to dinner with some of their engineers along with a tour of their campus the next day. The interviews themselves were actually quite fun: no Leetcode, just a code review session of the take-home project I completed, a workplace simulation, and two behaviorals. It’s just that they’re located in North/South Carolina and thus pay much lower than companies in the Bay Area, Seattle, New York, etc.
The other two offers were from Honey and Amazon, and to be honest, I was quite conflicted.
I really wanted to go with Honey. Their aesthetic is simply beautiful, they work with a pretty nice stack (React, Python, all on Google Cloud Platform), and being a startup, I would be able to have a lot more impact on their product, which I also absolutely love.
But I knew what the logical decision was, the decision in favor of my future career opportunities. Amazon was too big of a name to pass up. No matter which way I spinned it in my head, I knew that Amazon would attract a far greater amount of recruiters. Not that Honey wouldn’t attract any recruiters, mind you, but come on, let’s be honest: far more people have heard of Amazon than Honey.
Fortunately, in the reply to my decision email I sent Honey, my recruiter stated that she’d love it if I “circled back after [my] internship” and reached out next year. Could this be a guaranteed internship for the summer of 2021? I mean, it doesn’t really make sense for them to want to interview me again, especially since I would have more experience then. I guess I’m pretty hopeful 🙂
So there it is. All in all, I think I had a pretty great experience. Was I lucky? Yes. But did I work my ass off? Yes.
Success really seems to be a combination of both.
To those still struggling: I feel you. I was in a pretty bad spot too last year, around this time. I’d recommend… well, the classics: get your resumé checked out, grind Leetcode, but also, EPI is a really great book, Back to Back SWE is an amazing channel, and sleep is important too.
Also, I did notice my mental health degrade quite a bit during the times I would constantly check /r/CSCareerQuestions and /r/CSMajors. Some of the posts and comments on there can be quite toxic and not at all representative of reality. So I would advise, if you’re not doing too well, to avoid those places when possible. They can be really good sources of information at times, though, just not all the time, or maybe even most.