Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Death Interview

After a long hiatus, I am back.

Twitter takes up most of my time. In between reading and absorbing all the information posted on Twitter, I am left with no time to write on the blog. Well, a lot has happened since I last wrote. Um..let's start with a very interesting interview I had in March. After pursuing my dream company (and dream job!) since 2008, I finally got an opportunity to interview with IDEO mid-March.

I absolutely hate phone interviews, because I never do well for some reason! It is a fact. I would rather drive for 2 hours and meet up with people for 15 minutes, rather than talk on the phone. And, I do like to put faces behind people's names. Till date, out of 5 phone interviews that I have had in my entire life, 1 has converted into an offer.

Around the 1st week of March, I was scheduled to speak with two very bright business design minds from IDEO. I wish I could have met up with them instead. But, alas! one of them lives in Boston and the other in New York City. I wouldn't have been able to speak with both of them at the same time. In retrospect, perhaps, I should have suggested that I'd rather fly over to to NYC and Boston :(

I prepared so much for the interview, because my career was hanging on this one interview. I was extremely nervous as well, which is strange since rarely get nervous in my interviews (I guess because they are in person!). I guess you can not be prepared for everything in life, because it did not work out for me. On a lighter note, and in retrospect, IDEO's interview sure gave me some laughs and future learnings. I realized that interviewers tricks to make the candidates nervous can actually work very well in some cases.

The interview started with one of the interviewers telling me," Shalu, this is called a death interview!"

He repeated that twice so I understood it correctly. As you can imagine, I was so god damn nervous, starting at that point!

When it was my turn to ask questions, they answered one of my questions about the culture at IDEO,"We throw you in the deep end of the pool, and you make your way from there".

Wow! What if someone does not know how to swim? Literally!

I think both the interviewers knew how to swim. You know it sounds as if you'd need to make your own way through the culture of the company and have an entrepreneurial spirit if you get hired, but let me give you a little context about what I heard:

I started to learn swimming in 2008 in Toronto. Yes! In 2008, I would be considered in my late twenties. I want to Surf in Costa Rica in 2010. And, therefore, all this planning. I digress...

Well, so here is what happened to me in late 2008. After level 2 lessons, on the very last day, our instructor asked the class to jump in the deep end of the pool. One by one, everyone jumped and came back up. I jumped, and I started to come up, but only to go down again! And, boy! those 3-4 seconds were the most scary seconds of my life. I tried to reach out with my hand, my breathing stopped, and then I closed my eyes (obviously, thinking that I was going to die)

People who know how to swim will definitely not understand this (I have been laughed at before by my friends who know how to swim), but people who do not, can probably imagine the trauma that I felt at that time. My life flashed before me in those 3-4 seconds.

Back to IDEO's analogy...when I heard that comment, I flipped out. Not because I could not have handled the culture of the company, but because I remembered those 3-4 seconds of my pool's deep end traumatic experience. It is amazing how I let my past experience flash before my eyes in a very important interview of my life :(
It just goes on to say that we should tackle what we are afraid of sooner than later, and not let those experiences haunt us.

Well, I did learn how to swim in 2010. I can swim and do all sorts of tricks in the deep end.

Regardless, I had a good conversation with some very bright folks. I hope our paths cross again. Also, I wonder, could they have meant "depth interview", instead of "death interview" eh?

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