What are the things that come to our minds when we think of interviews? They’re scary and they’re hard, but with the right technique and amount of preparation, they can be conquered.
However, my in-office SocialCops interview convinced me that interviews can throw you off your game and reveal who you really are. That’s because the in-office SocialCops interview is not what you would call a typical interview. But I’ll leave that to you to judge once you’re done reading this.
A Short Back Story
Back in June 2015, I was working as a Market Risk Analyst at a big investment bank. It was a great first job for someone fresh out of college, but it left me wanting more. I applied to a similar role in a competitor bank, thinking it would spice things up in my career. Since this bank is notoriously famous for its stringent interview process, I did a lot of technical reading and preparation. Over the next month, I had to go through ten grueling rounds of technical interviews (five on the phone and five in office), of which no two interviews covered the same topic. Each interview was more difficult than the previous and each interviewer seemed more determined to push my limits. I was proud of myself for standing up to this onslaught, even before the final result was out. Unfortunately, I was told a few days later that I was rejected for the role.
Over the next month, I decided that, although the technical learnings of this experience were great, I should be thinking carefully about what the part of me that wanted more actually wanted. I was always keen on centering my career around making a difference. Maybe getting rejected for the fancy investment banking job was a sign that I should be trying for something closer to my heart? I spent the next month researching awesome startups that were solving important problems and gaining clarity on what I really wanted to do.
But wait! One day, I got a callback from the investment banking firm I had interviewed for, asking me to fly down to Bangalore in two days for an in-person negotiation on terms for the job. So I did crack those monstrous interviews! However, it was too late. I had already made up my mind. I turned down the offer and continued exploring my network for startups doing great work.
A few months later, I learned about SocialCops through a close friend. He introduced me to its co-founder Prukalpa and, by the end of the week, I had an amazing conversation with her about the work that SocialCops is doing and where I thought I could add value. This was it, exactly what I was looking for. I decided to pump my best efforts into getting this role.
What followed were two action-packed weeks of working at my job during the day and working on SocialCops’ two challenging hiring tasks at night. Then came a series of phone interviews and finally I got this mail!
I was excited, booked my tickets to Delhi, and thought I knew what was about to come. But when has life ever been that predictable?
Here are some awesome things that unfolded during my trip.
I walked into office on Friday, slightly groggy after my early morning flight. The first thing that Dharmik (from the Talent team) asked me to do was to solve the WiFi password cryptogram. Data-driven that SocialCops is, he also told me that historically people have taken between 15 minutes and 2 days to solve the cryptogram, with 2-3 hours as the average. I love puzzles and happily shrugged away my sleepiness to solve it in 25 minutes! I was already comfortable and looking forward to what was up next.
Next, Christine (from the Growth team) came over and handed me the task I was supposed to work on over the next two days. I had to pick data from an open data source and gather awesome research insights. This seemed doable since I was pretty comfortable crunching numbers in spreadsheets. But hang on! I quickly realized that these data sets were huge and needed plenty of background reading. If I planned well, I could probably do this just in time by end of the next day.
Before I could wrap my head around this and pick my data set, Richa (from the Partnerships team) walked up to me and asked me to tag along with her and our co-founder Varun to a meeting with the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD). Never before had I attended a meeting with government officials. Yet Richa and Varun were treating me as one of them already, asking me to take notes and fearlessly ask questions in the meeting. I walked out of the meeting with so much new learning. But that wasn’t it. On the way back, Varun asked me what I thought about the meeting, how it could have been done more efficiently, and what I learned from it. It was heartening to see the team place so much trust in me and let me work with them on real-time projects as a part of my interview process. I remember texting my friend, “The shark has tasted blood.”
We returned from the meeting and reached the office at 5:45 pm. The office was bustling with activity before the Friday demo. I had read a bunch of articles on the SocialCops blog, including the one on Friday demos, and I was excited to see it in action. One by one, people from different teams walked up to the big screen and presented what they had been working on over the week, or the roadmap for an upcoming project, or their profile and hack after their first week in office. It was beautiful to watch how such diverse work added up to the big picture.
But I was not to be a mere spectator at the demo either. I had to demo the highlights of the meeting with the MoRD that I had just attended. I was nervous as hell, but I got more confident as I kept talking. Finally, after I was done talking, Prukalpa asked me to teach everyone something they didn’t know. What?! I thought for a quick few seconds and decided to explain to everyone the physics behind acapella singing. I even made Prukalpa and Udit sing for the demo! It went well and I even got a compliment or two for thinking on my feet. I was already feeling at home in this place.
Interviews, Interactions, or Discussions?
The next day was all about working full throttle on my research task and interacting with different people in the team. All of these interactions made me realize that my SocialCops “interview” lasted for two whole days without me realizing it.
I have been through tough interviews before, but never as unique as this one. It put me in real-life situations and tested me on my ability to think quickly, my hustle, and most importantly my motivation to do all of this in the first place. In the two months since I joined SocialCops, I’ve come to realize that it is these three things that tie us — a diverse team ranging from an American IoT engineer to a field-data specialist hailing from Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh — together into a team of highly-committed individuals.