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Interview Kickstart Reviews

See what Students & Instructors are saying about Interview Kickstart

Derek Chung
June 18, 2020

This is my review of Interview Kickstart, a interview bootcamp located in Santa Clara.

Background

I started IK right before SIP (shelter in place 2020) happened, so my options for companies decreased due to industry wide layoffs and hiring freezes. However, that did not stop me from getting multiple offers from top tech companies including an offer from Facebook.

I always struggled with interview questions. I struggle with Leetcode questions, strategizing my interview preparation, understanding all sorts of algorithm problems, and understanding how system design even works. This lead me to a couple years of continuously being rejected by top tech companies. Most online materials are not really good and to get access to receiving help from a FAANG engineer attuned to the interview process is difficult. IK helped relieve me from all those issues and helped me finally snag a top offer for my level. I am really thankful to the IK team.

Initial thoughts:

At first I was skeptical about IK because I thought that they would take my money and leave me in the dust, but I was wrong. Ever since signing up, I have felt like a valuable customer and that the team is out there cheering me on to succeed.

Staff:

The staff includes various veterans from FAANG companies as coaches and instructors and some regular staff and interns who run the operation side of things.

Most of the coaching instructors moonlight for IK. They are recruiters for career coaching and SWEs/managers for technical coaching. Most of the time you are taking the class is after work hours. Hence, it is possible to take the camp while having work.

The staff at IK made me feel very comfortable. They are very accommodating to my needs and gave great feedback both technical and non-technical. The staff is absolutely wonderful.

Camp Breakdown:

This camp will teach us 3 different skills: algorithms, system design, and behavioral/soft skills.

Algorithms: very typical Leetcode stuff. I think the benefits of this is to go through each topic and to understand deeply on how it works. They have a portal to do some handpicked hackerrank questions. After each class, with a bit of work, it is easy to start completing the medium Leetcode questions. After a bit more work, hard questions will be easy to come buy. They will assign homework problems that are pretty much leetcode questions.

System design: teaches you how to perform a system design interview. This is mainly for individuals with a bit of system design experience at least. I didn’t have any experience designing systems so I fell a bit behind. I highly suggest looking at Grokking the Coding interview to supplement your studies along with the system design if you haven’t done system design before.

Soft Skills: There are mainly 4 classes that teaches us about resume building, behavioral interviews, negotiations, and company searching (something along the lines of that). These classes can happen during your technical semesters (algorithms/system design).

For each of these semesters, they also have test days where you have to complete 2 questions within a time limit. Afterwards, the class will get together and have a zoom meeting to go over the some select questions.

They also have office hours for technical and career coaching to ask personalized questions. These happen pretty much everyday.

Prerequisites:

From my experience, I believe this camp also expects you to have an intermediate understanding of coding. I am not sure if I would have been able to survive if I didn’t know big O complexities, data structures, and coding basics.

From my experience, I believe that the camp expects you to have some system design experience. I didn’t have any and I fell behind very quickly because I just got lost in the get-go. I had to pause my class and study up on my own before resuming.

How I found success:

I completed most of my homework and I put in the extra work. The camp is not a magic pill. I didn’t get an offer just by putting money down. However, it did provide a lot of support which lead to my success.

I went to office hours whenever I had a question that I wasn’t able to solve for a long time. The technical coaches are very adept and are able to answer the questions very thoroughly and well.

I understand that the customer is always right. If I wasn’t happy or have some special needs, I let them know. They are usually very accommodating and quick to respond.

Be proactive and follow their success plan. I used the resources that I needed and studied when I had to. I tried my best to not lean too far away from their success plan. They know what they’re doing and have a lot of success stories to prove it.

I have no system design interview experience. I used Grokking the Coding interview as a good/necessary supplement to the system design classes. I suggest doing that before taking the system design class if you have no system design experience. Go through a good amount of system design problems before attending the system design portion of the class. Grokking by itself is not enough to pass the interview.

I recommend this to everyone.

Edit: I was asked to include my overall experience with Interview Kickstart. I will oblige. Here it is below…

How Interview Kickstart Lead Me to Success:

Like many other engineers in the industry, I struggled with technical/behavioral interviews. However, with IK, was able to land my dream company and sign a top offer.

IK provided me with structure. Before, I heard from my many people that you just need to complete 200+ leetcode questions in order to land a top offer. Like many engineers aspiring to ace the technical interview, I went into the preparation using this strategy but I ended up failing because I didn’t have a gameplan. IK gave me a success plan that I followed. It worked for me and it worked for many other IK alumni as well. Don’t go too off track.

IK gave me a stronger foundation in algorithmic fundamentals. They asked me to watch foundational videos and then take an actual class each week. They go in deep on each algorithm and somehow just explained it so well that what may have seemed a bit foreign to me now seems so intuitive. IK’s classes allowed me to develop the foundational skills that eventual lead to my success. My tip with their classes is to take everything seriously. Remember the concepts (as intuitive as they may seem) and consciously see if you can apply it to the homework assignments that they gave you. Again, if you struggle with using basic data structures and understanding Big(O), I suggest you to get very familiar with that before continuing with your classes.

IK helped me perform strongly on behavioral interviews. I thought that the whole goal of a behavioral interview is to go in and be as likeable as you can. I was wrong. There is a way to perform these behavioral interviews. I was taught that with a lot of 1 on 1 coaching session with a fantastic recruiter and a mock interview with a FAANG manager. Absolutely necessary part of the interview experience and glad IK included this.

IK taught me system design. You can check if your code works if you run it, but how do you know if system that you drew on a whiteboard works? IK solves this problem by giving us coaches to provide feedback. I went to office hours to clarify some questions and had various mock interviews with great feedback. This is something that you can’t get online (although I do recommend Grokking if you have zero system design experience — check note above).

IK let me know that I am ready to step into the interview. IK provides us with mock interviews with FAANG engineers they have on staff. They will give us a mock, give us feedback, and then write a formal scoring report on what is going on. Before, I went into interviews blind…not knowing if I am fully ready or not…hoping that I would get some easy questions. When I failed I had to wait at least a year before re-intervewing. It is best to play this game safe…only going into the interview if I knew I got it in the bag. They have a certain system on letting me know whether I was ready or not. After a couple mock interviews, they will have a check-in interview to make sure I’m on the right track. My tip is to do the checkin before walking into an interview. Those seem unnecessary at first, but are actually quite helpful on gauging your level.

IK helped me feel comfortable for interviews. The mock interview also allowed me to feel comfortable interviewing. These engineers that mock interviewed me all do that for a living in FAANG. Mock interviews helped build my confidence and sharpen my interviewing skills. I would say that those mock interviews definitely translated over to my phone/onsite interviews. I signed for mostly algorithm, system design and ETL/data modeling mock interviews. However, I suggest taking at least one behavioral interview.

IK taught me how to handle the things outside of the interview. There were some great courses by the head of skill development at IK. He taught us how to brand ourselves, how to job hunt, how to negotiate and etc. These are extremely useful especially when trying to get the interview and getting that top offer. They also have career coaches everyday to provide personalized consultation. One good negotiation can pay for the whole bootcamp.

IK helped me be more efficient. When I do a problem on the homework or I have a question about a problem on Leetcode, I was able to ask a technical coach to review my code or to explain it. The coaches were all very coherent and explained the problem really well. This saved me a lot of time and guesswork in terms of finding the appropriate and most efficient solution on tough problems on Leetcode. This allowed me to understand the problem and immediately move on to the next, saving me time and stress. I attended office hours if I had any doubts on my code even if it is working. If I wasn’t able to complete a problem, I would stop and schedule a technical coaching session. My threshold was 2 hours.

IK helped me with my data engineering interviews. While this camp is mainly focused on preparing SWEs for interviews, I interviewed with various companies for a DE position. The founder mentioned that this is suitable for data engineering as well, but there are no ETL courses at the time. I was okay with it because DEs are asked algorithms in interviews as well. However, ETL/Data modeling courses were extremely difficult to guess what is going to happen. I found a mock interviewer who did data engineering at a FAANG and scheduled multiple interviews with him. I told him the outline of the interview that the recruiter told me about and asked him to mock me as closely to it as possible. I did around 5 of those. I got my top offer from doing that.

Final Thoughts:

I’m writing this because I am extremely thankful to the staff of IK. They are not paying me. They were just so professional and pleasant to work with that I wanted to write this review.

I have received and signed an offer from my dream company.

Working with IK maximized my interview performance, I highly recommend it to everyone.

I wish you the best. Happy job hunting.