See what Students & Instructors are saying about Interview Kickstart

Dwarak Nath Bakshi

September 3, 2020

Hmmm I have never answered on Quora before. When I saw IK in the question I jumped up as though like reflex to answer this question.

I was one of the cohorts in IK last year. Like any other cohort, my intent was to be able to find some kind of a secret pill there to “magically” ace through the “whiteboard” interviews, land in a You-name-it top-tier company, with a handsome sal and live happily ever after. A fairy tale indeed.Well, I was in for a surprise.

Rewinding back.. A telephonic interview with Amazon..

Interviewer: << after all the initial nice talks>> Given a root node of a linked list and an int k , can you reverse every k elements in the list.

[[ I was elated, exactly the same question I had studied in Narasimha Karumanchi book. What a luck! Then.. I keep my pen on paper, drew few nodes.. then… then what??…!@###$

Me:<< buying time>> let me paraphrase the question for you….

3 minutes later

Interviewer: We have not heard from you. Are you still there?

Me: <<Hiding my struggle>> Yes yes, I am drawing a picture in my notebook to manipulate the pointers ( Sadly( Or fortunately?), this was when all the coding interview platforms were not available).

10 minutes into the interview

Interviewer: If you could think aloud , it can help us understand your thought process

Me: Sure sure.. what I am thinking is …

[[ Damn! I am not thinking anything to think “aloud”..Then I pull up courage to spit out words like “node”,”next”,”swap” etc which I myself did not understand, let alone explaining it to the interviewer.

25 minutes passed on a virtually muted phone call

Interviewer: Okay, looks like we lost you. May be lets look for sometime in future

..

..

Fast Forward to a recent past- telephonic with Facebook

Interviewer: Given that letters are encoded like 1-A 2-B..Z-26 , Given a number , can you give the number of possible encodings possible? Given 123, it can be abc or lc,aw.

Me:<< Again paraphrasing the question, this time with a better understanding- Enhanced the example to 5 digit number>>

Interviewer:<<answered in approval>> Sounds good.

Me: I think we can look at it recursively, if I can take the input as a string, I could either have a substring of size 1 or 2, If I take substring of 1, then I know that the number of encodings possible is 1+ number of encodings possible from rest of the string) If I take a substring of size 2, the number of encodings is 1+ number of encodings possible from rest of the string.. Sum of these two gives me the total number of encodings possible

And I typed out a quick mathematical representation.

<<25 min into the interview>>

I have a working recursive solution

<<35 min>>

I have explained a small recursion tree and identified repeating sub problems and memoized the results of the past

<<40 min>> Interviewer: If we have to do bottom up…

Me: Yes, we can build the cache bottom up and eliminate the recursion

Interviewer: Can we optimize on memory?

Me:<<Really thinking this time>> As the solution depends only on the outcome of n-1 and n-2, we can do the same in constant space

Interviewer: Thats exactly what i was looking for.

..

..

And I got a call onsite!

You might think, I am going to rave about IK for the transformation above. I actually want to. But let me keep it as objective as I can. I did not come out the polished piece just by attending the 2 month bootcamp in IK. After the bootcamp, I had to struggle, I had a lot of “mind freezes”, embarrassments and sometimes questioned my self-worth. I kept practicing, one easy problem a day, to one medium problem , to one hard problem.. and I am still practicing… **Irrespective of where we get the knowledge from, it is our practice that can move us forward.**

I have still not switched companies. **So what did I gain out of IK?**

- A
*Satsang*of like-minded people , trying to overcome the same fear of “what is out there?” - A holistic approach to approaching a problem, to not to get scared away by the problem
- A mindset, rather an obsession to look out for any new problem and get my hands dirty to try and solve it. This readiness was never there before.
- Loads of practice to break a problem , slowly to a level you can solve them individually and to cumulatively solve the whole problem and communicate the solution effectively
- Think through alternatives and evaluate the alternatives before even keeping hands on code( This is an immense take-away, that I still benefit from in my day to day work)
- Mock interviews with different styles of interviewers to limit any surprises out
- Some key concepts, well explained .. example I can never forget Spundun’s DP classes. I have got a love for DP after his way of simplifying it.
- Someone already pointed out Geeta Chaudry. Her sessions on recursion was an eye-opener to understanding recursions.
- Lots and lots of discussions on scalability, how different companies are built, how to systematically approach system design questions. What an interviewer looks for when he asks a open ended question like “ Design twitter”
- My network has grown. Folks who come there are very talented and I have made a lot of Friends there. Soham Mehta has turned into a very good mentor for me to bounce my ideas with.
- Above all I have become a better engineer. I am not actively looking out but I am confident to give my best shot at any interview. Outcome is not in our hands but we are performers we will do what we can do best.”Perform!”

I realize now, I had paid thinking I will get a “instant weight loss”, but I got myself a muscle trainer to get fit than to lose weight, the right way and lasting!

Hope you found this useful.