Agile interview preparation

S. G.
8 min readDec 25, 2020

This is a follow-up to my previous article “The LeetCode Phenomenon”. While the article is targeted at folks who are struggling with converting interviews into offers, I’ve covered several tips/strategies that will be useful to anyone who is in the process of interviewing or curious about interviewing.

In the fall of 2019, I took a sabbatical from Software Engineering and spent a semester teaching interview preparation at the University of Puerto Rico. I co-taught and co-trail-blazed the course with a well loved and competent Professor.

I remember looking into the warm, curious eyes of the 30 students who had taken the elective. In their eyes, I saw excitement and expectation. Surely, there was no instructor better equipped to lead the course than a Software Engineer from Google?

In my first class, I made a mistake. I played this video. Then I told them that the only thing that stood between them and a juicy tech job offer was practice. “Let’s see how many of you can solve over 150 problems on LeetCode by the end of this semester”, I challenged them.

I do love the energy and delivery from the video. The crux of it is in this single line — “when you want to succeed, as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful”. When I was practicing for a half marathon, and struggling for motivation, the video inspired me. Showing this to a class of students who were already motivated to get better at interview preparation was a mistake. I was telling them to do a million push-ups.

Some students from my class did offers from big tech (Microsoft, Google etc) but many were unsuccessful in spite of having solved over a hundred questions on LeetCode. Friends and colleagues have share similar experiences- they just aren’t seeing success in interviews in spite of having solved hundreds of questions.

I was raised to believe in hard work. My parents worked long hours, and as a kid I saw cause and effect in action. I studied harder than my class-mates and so I did better than them academically. I’ve had a simple mantra — to master something, you need to practice till you are perfect. Do it over and over till it becomes a part of your muscle memory. 10,000 hours was the magic number proposed by Malcom Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers’. Do something for 10,000 hours…

S. G.

I write about programming, people management, interviews or anything else that I’m obsessing about. 12+ yes of experience across big tech and some in academia.