This blog post is some collected thoughts on my 3 days spent in California and my interview at Google, in no particular order. (If you’re only interested in my thoughts on the actual interview, you can skip to the fourth paragraph, below the picture of my In-n-Out order.)

First, if you’re driving in the Bay Area, always leave a bunch of extra time to stand still in traffic on the highway, or “freeway” as they call it, and then to drive around a parking lot looking for an open space. The 10 minute drive from my hotel to the Googleplex took 20, and then I spent another 10 finding parking. The “evening” rush hour apparently starts at 3 PM, and the morning rush hour probably starts at 5 AM, so leave lots of extra time driving to your interview and then to the airport.

Second, if you aren’t from the west coast, go to In-n-Out. Order your burger animal style. You won’t regret it. It was definitely the best fast food burger I’ve had.

Third, if you’re interviewing at Google, you should probably spend more time studying than I did. I was already very comfortable writing code on a whiteboard from my days teaching robotics, but you should be reviewing algorithms and data structures for probably 20+ hours before your interview, in my opinion (that’s an hour a day for 3 weeks). I had four 45-minute long technical interviews at Google, and I feel confident about my responses in 3 of them. Had I spent more time studying my algorithms, and not just the common ones, I think I could have formulated a better response in my final interview. Granted, the question I was unsure about was my last interview of the day, and fatigue may have also played a role in my poor answer.

Fourth, don’t be afraid to pull in knowledge from other areas into your interview response. I thoroughly impressed one of my interviewers my applying my knowledge of how data is encoded on CD-ROMs to a question that had nothing to do with CDs.

Overall, visiting California and interviewing at Google was a fantastic experience, even if I don’t end up getting the job. I learned a lot about what is expected at tech giants like Google, and I am better prepared to tackle any future technical interviews that I may face.

SF Bay panoramas taken from Berkeley, California, where I visited some family after my interview. This made getting to the airport in the morning more difficult, but did allow me to drive across 2 of the 5 bridges across the Bay: The Dumbarton Bridge on my way from Mountain View to Berkeley, and the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (which is lovely) on my way to the airport. I’m gonna have to try to hit the remaining 3 bridges next time I’m in the Bay Area :-)