Thursday, August 5, 2010

Congratulations... You're fired!!!

After long hours of thinking, about writing a post on human evolution, my mind evolved into a creature that was so clear in its idea that I'm totally incapable of thinking, let alone writing. So, with this purity i thought, i gulped down 2 weeks of classes of my last year at college, when i was made to face something i despised very much- interviews.

Interviews are one of the very few things that remind us that there exist intelligent beings in this universe besides humans- HRs. HRs are those organisms which look like humans, speak like humans and almost think like humans, but differ from humans in that the questions they pose to the students is totally out of the limits of human comprehension.

Example:

HR Question [asked by a recruiter of an IT major to a Civil engineering student]-
Give me the characteristic equation given by Einstein on the theory that explains the prevention of the phenomenon that turns the hair inside the nose white?

Discrepancies:
  • Does hair inside the nose really turn white?
  • Even if it does, how do we actually find it out?
  • We know that Einstein had a lot of hair all over his head. But did he really have hair in his nose?
  • If what Einstein proposed is a theory, why does it contain an equation?
Answer expected:
We know that Einstein invented the theory of relativity. So, relatively speaking, even if the hair in his nose turns white, its relatively less significant than the problems the world faces today, like unemployment, signal problems in Apple iphone 4.0 and Vijay movies, even to Einstein's relatives.

Anyone who doesn't give the correct answer is rejected and those very few who cook up the exact words are selected... for the next round [which involves more complicated questions on hair- in other parts of the body].

My interview wasn't that bad. It was the first professional interview of my life. The name of the company is COMMVAULT. When giants of Indian business take up almost a semester and about 15 venues for the entire recruitment process [for the record, Saint Gobain has its preliminary tests at Coimbatore, GD and 1st interview at Mysore and the final interview at San Francisco and the workplace is in the MOON, with an expanse of 1 month between each other, time enough to forget the name of the company itself], commvault just took one venue on one day.

It was a bright sunny day at 10 am on 18th July 2010, but since I was inside the auditorium at about 8 am, the weather wasn’t particularly sunny. Also, my friends and I were flanked by Swetha, a WELLWISHER, who, well, wished us just before we entered the audi. The crowd in the audi was not much, so it would be a pity calling it a crowd. There were about 100 students- 10 from EEE, 10 from ECE, and about 40 each from CSE and IT branches. We presented ourselves in formals [The last time I remember wearing formals was when I was admitted to this college] and we occupied our seats.
 
At 9, came our placement officer Mrs. Lakshmiprabha and about 15 minutes later, came 2 delegates from COMMVAULT- one, short and plumpy- a Ms. Suma Seshadri, and another, tall and plumpy- a Mr. Amitosh Misra. They shook hands with our placement officer [and by the size of Mr. Misra, I could’ve easily guessed that it would have taken him no pains to have crushed frail Mrs. Lakshmi‘s hand anyway] and took turns at the mic.
 
Mrs. Lakshmi: Good morning to one and all present here [This is the standard dialogue of anyone who heralds a mic in GCT]. First of all, I welcome you students for actively [it should be noted here that 3 students of the first row had already fallen asleep] participating in the campus recruitments, and I wish you all the best. I’m very glad to welcome Commvault and its representatives to our campus [I could see the representatives, but there was hardly a sign of Commvault anywhere]. We actually missed Commvault last year, and we’re very happy to have it as our first recruiter.
 
Then Ms. Seshadri and Mr. Misra took turns in explaining to a 100 persons, who the other person was and what the person does at the workplace and with the thinking cap of a 6-year old, I can very well claim that my presentation at MIT was way better than theirs at GCT. Mr. Misra began with thanks and said that with Mrs. Lakshmi around, we students didn’t have to worry about placements and that we were in good hands [I wanted to double-check her hands]. Commvault is basically a data management company that creates software that, well, manages data [which the programmers at Commvault fail to do].
 
Data, in computers, is organized in digital form [0’s and 1’s] primarily because the other numbers are easier to memorise [Try to memorise your 10110th crush’s phone number in binary]. Also, such data is present in servers, instead of stand-alone PCs so that it offers a saving of space in their hard-disks by negotiating the office workspace in the form of gigantic towers. These servers have the dual advantage of being the potential disaster hotspots- destroy the server and the clients have no one to pester. This called for an abnormally beautiful idea of having many servers installed- one in each continent, thereby having ready alternatives and more importantly, saving IBM [which thrives by selling servers, which do not actually serve any other purpose].
 
Now, the work of Commvault is to find data effectively, remove redundant data, save disk space and optimize memory usage. A simple suggestion of mine would be
Ctrl + A -> Shift + Del -> Enter
But corporate law prevents people from using the Del key. So Commvault invented a software suite called Simpana [a probable merger of the words simpleton & banana. You can imagine what a simpleton does to a banana]. In a similar fashion, the software ate up all data in a particular server and sent crash reports to the clients. By the time the error was fixed, the server is cleared of data and so precious TBs of memory are saved. By doing this, Simpana was able to save more than 40% of memory space in servers of Commvault’s clients and the process is proposed to be extended to control the population of China and India as well! Simpana has won quite a number of awards from many award-giving organizations so far and by august this year, they’re gonna release Simpana v9 [I don’t believe this is good news, but on a package of 4.5 lacs, it’s something to think about]!
 
Coming back to the presentation, after the last head in the auditorium dropped to sleep, Mr. Misra concluded his speech with his descriptions about the company exaggerated to a level more than my blog posts. He also gave us a quick-tip saying, “If you’re not likely to work at Commvault, please don’t attend the interview. Save your time and ours too”. I looked at Kailash. He looked at me. With a genuine smile, we planned to get out of this commvault business, when finally he urged me to take a try.
 
We went to an empty drawing hall where we were supposed to answer atleast 25 out of 40 questions which included C, C++, Data Structures, Operating Systems and a lot of other computer-related words. My classmates and I had almost no answer to any question. So we used the scientifically proven formula- Guessing. It took me about 10 minutes to answer 21 questions. 20 more minutes and nothing to do. I looked at my classmates, I looked at my cousin, I looked at my examiner [who, by the way, was a beautiful lady in a skimpy outfit] and finally answered 6 more questions.
 
Finished my prelim test and I changed to dhoti. Outside my room, my friends were discussing their performance- post mortem… ஒரு வாரம் படிச்சது ரொம்ப useful-ஆ இருந்துது said Chinna. Selective-ஆ தான் answer பண்ணிருக்கேன். C program -எல்லாம் கரெக்டா தான் இருக்கும். Exact-ஆ  25 questions answer பண்ணிருக்கேன் said Ananth. 24 தான்  answer பண்ணேன் said Kailash. At about 1 o clock, I went to mess and sat with Kailash to stuff myself with what they called biryani. When I was about to have my first handful, Nair came to where we were sitting. “Achyuth Menon! You have a call…”. Usually it’s Nair who gets calls from his mother via my cell. “Who could that be?”, I said. “Shilpa!”, replied Nair. Hmmm… Shilpa… Who the hell is Shilpa… Shilpa Shetty? “Shilpa called Dilip to inform me that you’re selected for the next round, you fucker!!” , Nair exclaimed. “Congrats da. Nalla pannu…”, Kailash extended his left hand to me. Nair ordered me to get to the interview hall immediately. சோத்து வாயில மண்ணு…
 
I called my mom to inform her of the matter. I didn’t have a tie, so I had to manage with just a shirt and a mouth. I went to the auditorium and waited for about 5 minutes, when my room -mate Ananth came to me and said, “The interview is at ECE dept. Not the audi da. Go!”. I ran and ran and reached the spot. There Dilip greeted me with a smile and said,” மச்சி, cool-ஆ இரு, tension ஆகாதே… இதுல select ஆன ஒரே non-CS student நீதாண்டா. நல்லா பண்ணு, all the best”. Mr. Misra wished me the best as well. I went in on Dilip’s signal and inside the interview hall was Shilpa.
 
Shilpa is an alumna of GCT now working at Commvault. She called me into the room, offered me a seat and said, “Hello Achyuthan”. I said Hello in return [A “Hello Shilpa” would have thrown me out of the room instantly].
Shilpa: Now, Achyuthan, tell me about yourself.
Me: …
S: What? Are you nervous?
M: Me? No, mam… I’m just panting. I didn’t get the venue of the interview so I went to the audi and ran back here…
S: Ok, give me your resume…
M: Sure.
S: Oh… You play the piano?
M: Uh, yes. I took piano lessons for over a year.
S: And what is this ‘learning accents’ in your hobbies column?
M: Oh, that? You, see, I’ve been attracted to English movies lately and in that interest, I’ve always tried to put myself in a position where I speak the same language in different accents.
S: Interesting… Show me what you’ve got.
[I spoke a sentence in British, American and French accents]
S: Nice! Do you speak in Spanish?
M: No mam. But I’m learning that too.
S: Oh. Now you’re cool. Can we get to the interview?
M: [Realising the situation] Yes mam.
 
Shilpa’s questions:
1.    Write a program in C that uses a function.
2.    What is the use of the #include statement?
3.    What is a stack?
4.    Determine the flow of control in the program [given].
5.    How do you rate yourself in C?
6.    What is the preprocessor?
7.    When does the preprocessor work?
8.    Find the output of the program [given].
9.    Find the error in the program.
10.    What are the different stages of program execution?
11.    Describe the memory flow in stack during the execution of a program.
12.    What happens when the function called inside main() has a declaration but not a definition?
13.    What are the different types of errors?
14.    How do you implement heap in a program?
15.    Write a program with malloc and calloc.
16.    What do you like about C?
 

I answered all questions except for the 9th, and was too nervous to write programs for questions 14 and 15. Besides, I forgot what malloc and calloc are used for.
 
S: Fine Achyuthan. I see that you think logically, your programming strategy is good. You do have good skill. But I believe you are a little incompetent to be a developer at Commvault.
M: Oh… What’s that supposed to mean?
S: I’m trying to say that if you want to work as a Programmer, your interview session stops here. But if you like being a QA [Software testing], you might qualify for the next round.
M: Hmmm… Ok, this is it, mam. This morning, I was very confident that I’d not clear the first round. Just as everything works out to be the opposite of my expectation, I made it through. I don’t know how, but it just happened. I’m happy and surprised to be here now. I wanted to be a programmer, so it’d be wise to call it a day.
S: Are you sure?
M: Yes, mam. I can very well understand your organisation’s expectations, and I’m sorry that I can’t fit into it. Besides, a EEE-ian of my [pea-sized] programming cap, would be an unnecessary inclusion to your company…
S: Oh, no. You see, the Chief of operations [or some high position] is a mechanical engineer. So it’s knowledge that matters.
M: Yeah, right. So, if you were to grade me on a scale of 10 in programming, what would you give me?
S: Just like you said… A little above 5.
M: And what exactly do you think that I lack.
S [smiling]: Almost everything…
M: Thank you mam. It was a nice 10 minutes.
S: Sorry to see you go, Achyuthan.
M [Smiling]: No mam, it’s ok.
 
Outside the interview hall was Mr. Misra, who looked at me and said ,”I’d like to see your name in the finalists”. I just smiled at him again.
 
I came to my room with memories of my first interview, told my friends about it on the way, and finally called my mom and broke the news to her. Then I went to CIT to write a crap-filled PeP test. My grandpa talked to me in the evening and told me not to get disappointed and gave me a citation of my cousin who had also failed in her campus placements. But she seems to have secured a job at Polaris a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t care.
 
It was only then I decided what companies I should attend and what not. MuSigma came and it went. I didn’t want to go [coz the workspot is at Bangalore]. A job in Chennai would be my top [or for the better case, only] priority. So here I am now, awaiting TCS and i-Nautix.

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