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Master Data Structures and Algorithms While Having a Full-Time Job

Last updated on: 
September 6, 2023
Dipen Dadhaniya
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About The Author!
Dipen Dadhaniya
Dipen Dadhaniya
Engineering Manager at Interview Kickstart. A passionate and versatile web developer packed with full-stack development skills and a curiosity to explore computer languages.

Mastering data structures and algorithms is an excellent way to uplevel and set yourself up for success. There are lucrative jobs for those who sharpen this skill well, and you can be one of them! The most critical factor in managing this task is time. And time becomes even more vital if you learn while having a full-time job.

In this article, we’ll look at how you can best use your time to master data structures and algorithms while having a full-time job.

If you are preparing for a tech interview, check out our technical interview checklist, interview questions page, and salary negotiation ebook to get interview-ready! Also, read Amazon Coding Interview Questions, Facebook Coding Interview Questions to Nail Your Next Interview, and Google Coding Interview Questions for specific insights and guidance on Coding interview preparation.

Having trained over 11,000 software engineers, we know what it takes to crack the toughest tech interviews. Our alums consistently land offers from FAANG+ companies. The highest ever offer received by an IK alum is a whopping $1.267 Million!

At IK, you get the unique opportunity to learn from expert instructors who are hiring managers and tech leads at Google, Facebook, Apple, and other top Silicon Valley tech companies.

Want to nail your next tech interview? Sign up for our FREE Webinar.

In this article, we’ll cover:

How to Manage Your Time?

Time is of the essence when preparing while having a full-time job. Completing all your work-related responsibilities within a set time will help your work-life balance and give you time to improve your skills. Here are a couple of ways to do this:

  • Set some time aside each day for upskilling.
  • If you’re having trouble starting, start small — take 15 minutes out every day to learn and 20 minutes to solve a problem. Build up from there.
  • If flexibility is important to you, have a target number of hours set for this task per week, not per day.  

How much time each person may have is different, but the things you need to be good at to master Data Structures and Algorithms are not. Let’s see how you can best use your time for the preparation.

Learn Data Structures for Interviews

All data structures are powerful, but they are not created equal and offer different advantages. 

For example: If you’ve not learned array, bit, and string manipulation, jumping to advanced data structures like a tree, heap, hashmap, and graph is likely not good. This is not just because you might not be able to solve an original question, but also because array, bit, and string manipulation are highly relevant to a plethora of real-life problems in one way or the other.

Make sure you master data structures and algorithms. Do not attempt rote memorization of patterns in sample problems. Also, begin with a basic understanding of space and time complexities. We will build on them later.

Here’s how you can plan your data structures learning: 

  • Try to learn data structures and algorithms in the following order:

    1. Arrays
    2. Linked Lists
    3. Strings
    4. Stacks
    5. Queues
    6. Tree
    7. Binary Tree
    8. Binary Search Tree
    9. Heaps
    10. Hash Table
    11. Graphs

    Learning in this order will ensure that each data structure you learn will aid you in understanding the next.

  • At the end of each topic, learn some simple algorithms and practice them until you’re comfortable with most problems at the easy to medium level. 
  • Learn the concept, basic operations like insert, delete, search, and traverse, along with their complexities for the following data structures (preferably in order).

Take a look at 55+ Data Structure Interview Questions here.

Learn Algorithms for Interviews

When preparing algorithms, it’s best to learn them as soon as you’ve learned associated data structures and are practicing them. Just as we started from simple data structures and built up the complexity, we’ll do the same with the algorithms preparation. In the first phase of your preparation, till you’re done with Queues, you should also be done with the following algorithms:

  • Sorting algorithms like insertion sort, bubble sort, merge sort, quicksort, heap sort, bucket sort, counting sort, radix sort, etc., come first. Practice the data structure learned immediately after the conceptual learning. Choose algorithms to practice based on the level of complexity of the algorithm you can appreciate.
  • Search algorithms like linear search, binary search, etc., come next.
  • Number system-related algorithms for prime numbers, Fibonacci numbers, matrix multiplication, Pascal’s triangle, etc.

Once you being the second and last phase of your preparation with trees, you should also simultaneously focus on the algorithms associated with the data structures you learn while you practice them. Some algorithms you should learn in this phase include:

Lastly, revisit time and space complexities and understand how they’re calculated and what they are for the most common algorithms and operations on data structures.

Learn about the Best Data Structures and Algorithms Course to crack FAANG interviews.

Algorithm and Data Structure Problems for Interviews

Here are some sample data structures and algorithms programming problems for interviews; see if you can solve them all:

  1. Reverse an array in place.
  2. Remove duplicate nodes in an unsorted linked list.
  3. Find the fifth node from the end in a singly linked list.
  4. Find the sum of two linked lists using a stack.
  5. Check if two strings are a rotation of each other.
  6. Print all nodes of a given binary tree using inorder traversal without using recursion.
  7. Implement bucket sort, counting sort, and radix sort algorithms.
  8. Check if two rectangles overlap with each other.
  9. Check if a list is cyclic using a Hash Table.
  10. Check if a graph contains a cycle.

For more problems and solutions, check out the Problems page.

Best Way to Learn Data Structures and Algorithms for Interviews

Here are some additional notes on the best way to learn data structures and algorithms for interviews:

  • It depends on where you’re starting from. 
  • Focus on improving your weaknesses and sharpen your strengths simultaneously, don’t let your strengths go. 
  • Build up from basics for tasks that are too daunting initially, then add on complexity.
  • Practice and consistency are essential. 
  • There are many resources out there, and ratings are widely available. Decide what you need to learn and go after it.
  • Learn to struggle with a problem but don’t stay stuck for too long.
  • Pick a few problems to work on for a more extended period from each topic, but that’s it. So make sure they’re good ones you can learn a lot from.

FAQs on Best Way to Learn Data Structures and Algorithms for Interview

Q1. How do you get good at Algorithms and Data Structures?

Understand the basics, practice, understand and condense advanced concepts, practice more! Coding and consistency are key to confidence in data structures and algorithms.

Q2. Can I learn Data Structures in 1 month?

It depends on how much time you give per day, how consistent you are, what resources you use, and how targeted and optimized your preparation is. If you have these things going for you, you have a shot. Even if you shoot for the sun and miss, you’ll land on the moon. If one month is all you have, take your best shot!

Q3. What is the Big O function?

Big O notation helps us measure an algorithm’s time and space complexity, which represents the algorithm’s resource efficiency.

Q4. Are data structures and algorithms hard?

No, but it is an advanced skill. And like all skills, it takes time, consistency, and practice to get good at it.

Q5. Which data structure should I learn first?

You should learn a basic data structure like an array first, then build on the complexity.

Ready to Nail Your Next Coding Interview?

Whether you’re a coding engineer gunning for a software developer or software engineer role, a tech lead, or you’re targeting management positions at top companies, IK offers courses specifically designed for your needs to help you with your technical interview preparation!

If you’re looking for guidance and help with getting started, sign up for our FREE webinar. As pioneers in technical interview preparation, we have trained thousands of software engineers to crack the most challenging coding interviews and land jobs at their dream companies, such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Amazon, and more!

Sign up now!

Posted on 
March 30, 2022

Dipen Dadhaniya

Engineering Manager at Interview Kickstart

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