Sundar Annamalai, a graduate of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering shares with us his experience in maneuvering the graveyard session of the placement season and bagging one of the highest paid jobs on campus. Read on to find out more about his experience with Uber.
How was your Placement experience?
Placements was a really exciting experience. I still cherish the 4 hours of back to back interviews I had late in the night and putting in weeks of preparation just for those 4 hours. It was really nice to see a lot of my dual degree friends who already had offers going out of the way to help those preparing for placements. I was lucky enough to have friends who did most of a course project for me who offered to do any help needed like teach me basics of some course which they know well. Once I heard that I got my most preferred company, I was ecstatic. I ended up not sleeping for 2 days at a stretch and the whole day after results I was on the phone with all my friends.
Tell us more about your Personal interviews?
I had 3 technical interviews with Uber. All the interviews were algorithmic in nature and focused on my problem-solving skills. The first interviewer was from the US and he had asked me a question about predicting words from T9 keyboards. I was initially stuck and going in the wrong direction but after a few hints I got to the expected solution and coded it. The other interviews were also similar and I was asked problems on tries and some other algorithms. The main emphasis was on the ability to solve the problem and the ability to implement whatever solution we come up with and handle corner cases. The interviewers seemed really smart and interacting with them gave a really good impression of the company.
How important are Positions of Responsibility, CGPA, and extra curricular activities?
This is a bit subjective depending on the person’s interests. Most CS companies I think, value problem-solving skills the most. CGPA is important too as some of these companies have a hard CG cutoff for tests. I don’t think any CS company looks at PORs/extracurriculars for SWE role though I would recommend doing it just for personal development.
Why did you choose this area of work?
I always had a strong inclination towards algorithms and data structures. I am really interested in the idea of solving real-world problems and making peoples lives better through solutions which involve algorithms at some level. Working at Uber would give me the required skills and exposure about how a startup evolves which would be really relevant if I am going to join a startup a few years down the line. I also really liked the amount of impact we could create at the entry level itself. And of course, the pay being relatively high makes it even better.
What are the job profiles offered by Uber?
Uber usually offers a software engineer role for freshers from college. This is the standard entry level role similar to the ones given in other software companies. This would involve writing code to build products.
What does your work involve doing?
I work on the maps team. My goal is come up with solutions which improve the ETA(estimated time of arrival) accuracy for Uber all over the world. I am working on a tool to detect issues in maps and then fix them leveraging the amount of data Uber has. This involves writing scale able code using distributed systems, big data analysis, algorithms and some machine learning.
How has your perception of Uber change from before the placement to within the company?
The first reaction which I had and most people have, is that the workplace will be really hectic. Uber is definitely a fast-paced company where the products are built much faster than other companies but the environment is pretty chilled out. Work-life balance is given a very high priority. I was also pleasantly surprised looking at the really chill culture present in the company and employee friendly policies. There is no dress code, unlimited vacation, unlimited work from home and no timings or a minimum number of hours.
What has your experience at Uber been like?
My experience has been really positive. The work is super interesting and challenging and the office is relatively small(50 people) which gives you a chance to know everyone personally. We often have site dinners at awesome restaurants and a lot of fun activities in office. I really enjoy the amount of responsibility and impactful work I have been given.
What does Uber look for in its potential employees?
Uber looks for smart people who have good problem-solving skills, coding skills and cs fundamentals. There is not much emphasis on CG/Resume but a really stud project/internship can give a slight edge over others. Problem solving interviews would have DSA based questions, coding rounds would have questions that test how well the candidate can write modular and scalable code and cs fundamentals interview tests things like networks, OS, DBMS etc. Having a strong foundation in these would go a really long way in getting through Uber more than any CGPA or internship.
How has insti helped with your work?
I think the foundation courses in insti (core CS courses and some math courses) are useful in the job. Courses like DSA, Networks are useful in the job. I have personally some content from ML, data mining and some other courses in my job so far. More than the content of the courses, it is just the ability to learn a new framework/concept which is useful in the job which I think people from insti are really good at. Another nice thing is that IIT tag does help even after you join the company, people tend to take you seriously and your suggestions are taken note of.
Authors: Priyanka Joshi (DD-ED ’21) & Vineet Gopakumar (BT-CH ’19)