Microsoft Leap: The Interview

March 15, 2019

Time to read: 6 min

If you've made it to the interview stage, congratulations! Getting this far is already a huge accomplishment. Since I did the Software Engineer track, I'll be sharing my interview experience from that perspective.

This is part two of a three part series
Part One: Microsoft Leap: The Application
Part Three: Microsoft Leap: The Experience

Interview Basics

Your interview will be about 2 weeks after recieving the email to move on to next steps. The round will consist of two interviews, 45 minutes each with a 15 minute break between them.

If you are not local to Redmond, WA, you will have your choice to conduct your interview by Skype. You will not be remimbursed if you choose to travel to Redmond, but there is no advantage to doing your interview onsite so if you need to do it remotely, that is totally fine.

Prepare for your interview by studying the fundamentals. Do not get distracted reading about the interview process for tech jobs because it really is not the same. They are not out to push the limits of your knowledge or see how you react under stress.

Here is where its important to be completely honest in your resume. At this point, they are interested in you because of the skills you said you possess and the interview is to confirm those skills. As long as you are honest in your resume you'll be totally fine, I promise!

Eventually, you'll recieve a link for a Skype call for both of your interviews. As soon as you get it, make sure to test it out and make sure everything is working ahead of time. I use Linux, so had a couple things to do to make sure it was all good.

Interview Tips

Fun Fact, the LEAP interview was my first real tech interview and first experience whiteboarding. In my research, the big thing that was emphasized over and again that I will pass on to you is share everything you are thinking. Don't ever have your interviewer sitting there in silence and clueless. Communicate! They need to know whats going through your head to understand how you think and you need them to know where youre thoughts are so that they can help you and also formulate thier thoughts about your skills.

When you get your question, don't just start coding. The WORST thing you can do is start coding. First make sure you understand the question and repeat it back to them in another way. Ask questions and confirm what the input and output will be so that you know exactly what they expect your code to return. Express your ideas for how you think you should solve it, psuedocode if you need to, and once you've got a plan of action, then you can finally start coding. Stop and pay attention when your interviewer says anything because theres undoubtedly a hint in there.

I learned a lot more about how to interview once I was in LEAP and can make that into a post of its own, but the key things to keep in mind right now, that certainly helped me is plan and communicate.

Interview Day!

Get a good nights sleep, calm your nerves and be on time! They are amazingly prompt. About 5 minutes prior, I signed into the Skype call, had my headphones in and was at the ready.

For my first interview, she signed in on the dot. I was a huge bundle of nerves, but no kidding, the moment she started talking, she put me at ease. I was relieved with how easy she was to talk to and in awe of her experience. My interviewer had been a SWE at Microsoft for about 18 years and had worked on some really cool teams. We only took about 2 minutes for a bit of "tell me about yourself" then she asked me what language Id like to use (I chose JavaScript) and we got down to business. My whiteboarding was in a coding environment she shared with me in Skype.

My brain went blank for questions to ask, so I threw out obvious ones like if the numbers would be ints, negative, will I be returning a string or number..and this quickly helped me think of more intelligent questions. I typed in requirements so that I woudlnt forget them and also had a notebook to jot down random thoughts. Once I started coding, there were points where I was having trouble, so I admitted I was stuck and explained what I think I need to do. I really liked her style of asking questions that opened up my mind to see the problem from another angle. I felt on top of the world when I was able to complete it, with time for solving complexity she added. We finished up in time for questions. I was really interested to learn more about her and her career and asked her a lot about that.

I was super pumped for my second interview, but when the time came no one connected. As the minutes passed, I started to get really worried and was just about to email LEAP when my phone rang. Turns out, my interviewer was told I would be on site! I think its super impressive that he was on it so quickly and only called me about 3 minutes after our interview time. Since he didnt have a link to our Skype call, we did it by phone and he gave me a link to go to for the whiteboarding. We jumped right into coding to make up for lost time. Pivot and adapt :)

Unlike my last interview, once I started coding he said nothing and gave me no hints...at...all! I got zero feedback, so I just kept talking out loud and was so relieved when I finally solved it. Once I was done, he asked me to go through my code line by line, and I completely freaked out. I was so worried I got it wrong, that when I got the expected result I was still trying to figure out how to fix it. He said its fine then added complexity for me to solve. I didnt get too far before we were running out of time, and he wanted to leave some time for questions.

I felt like my nerves got the best of me and figured I bombed it so may as well ask how to improve to learn from it. Surprisingly, he was very positive, told me he was impressed by how thorough I was with the questions I asked, that I had a plan before starting to code and talked through my process. He let me know that so many others would hear the question then start coding right away even though they dont have enough information, and in the end would have to start all over again because they didn't take the time to find out what he wanted. So yeah, don't do that!!! Know what problem you are trying to solve before you set off to solve it!

He suggested I read Cracking The Coding Interview and offered some advice for how I approached problems. I also asked him about his career and he was super cool to talk with. After this interview, I didnt feel so pumped anymore, but I came away from it learning a lot from our conversation. Both of my interviewers were amazing and a left a great first impression of Microsoft on me. Even though at the time I felt like I could have done better, I still felt great for having done it.

Next Steps

What comes next is the longest week ever to find out if you are accepted into LEAP . The day the emails went out I was getting updates from others who had interviewed saying whether they got in or not. I was super excited someone from Wyncode, my bootcamp made it in, but into the evening, my heart sunk so low because I thought I had my answer. When I finally got my email at around 8pm, I'll admit, I burst into tears. Im seriously not emotional at all, but man, the full magnitude of how life changing this is and that I was being given this opportunity overwhelmed me.

Almost instantly afterwards, I was hit with the realization that I had 3 weeks to pack up my life and cross the country with my family from Miami to Settle. I was not remotely prepared for that!

Parting Advice

I'll write another blog about my experience from this point forward, but for now, my advice is as soon as you find out you have an interview, start figuring out what you will do if you get that acceptance email so that the day you get the news, you can start putting those plans into place. I went through 3 weeks of unbelievable stress and one set back after another right up to moment kiddo, my dog and I were checking in for our flight.

If you don't get that acceptance letter, do not get discouraged! There are only a limited number of spaces, so even if you did amazing and have what it takes, there just may not have been space this cohort. You wont get interview feedback to know how close you came, so try, try again. Your determination got you this far, and it will continue to take you further as long as you keep up your focus, continue to expand your skills and don't give up.

This is part two of a three part series
Part One: Microsoft Leap: The Application
Part Three: Microsoft Leap: The Experience

Featured image by DeborahNigbur from Pixabay