The interview!

In my first post, I’ve written about my goals and the plan to reach them during the next 10 months. As described earlier, my dream is to land an internship at a big company. But first, like any other candidate, I need to deal with the interview preparation process. Preparing an interview is really important and having an idea of what they could ask you can make the difference. Anyway, this process could be harder for some kind of internships than some others. For example, if your goal is to land a software engineering related job, you’ll find a lot of information and stuff around the web:

But if you are a poor networking dreamer like me, you’ll find no book like “Craking the DAMNetworkIsDownAgain Interview”, nor lots of blogs. Eventually, you will find some resource on Quora or Glassdoor, but most of them are focused on senior positions.

Why is it so?

Well, the “problem” is that networking is a key feature for every kind of business (if the network is down, business is down) and most of the companies require experienced guys to deal with networks (and their businesses). So internships are not that common (or at least not that common compared to SW roles). Anyway, there are few of them around but too few information about them. Because of this, especially if you’re still studying, I think it’s useful to gain experience interviewing at companies you’re interested in, even if you don’t feel completely prepared for it. If you fail that single interview, you’ll still gain experience and you’ll be better prepared next time once you finished your studies.

My experience

I set my goal. I’m drawing the way to ace it. But, where am I right now?

In the last 2 years I’ve applied to several jobs and I’ve done several phone interviews:

  • Cisco, November 2013: I applied to the Associate Network Consulting Engineering (ANCE) program, a graduate program from Cisco. Few months after my application I received a call from an HR manager who asked me if I was still interested about the position and scheduled an interview two days later. It was my first interview ever and I was so nervous. Two days later I received the call from my interviewer who, after a brief introduction of the program and the selection process, started to ask some general question about me, my studies and my interests. After this, she asked some behavioural questions and finally she moved to the “more” technical part of the interview, asking questions about IPv6, cloud computing, security and other basic stuff. It wasn’t hard at all and at the end of the call she told me I passed this first step. She also said I’d be contacted by a colleague of hers to let me know something about the next step (a full day of interviews at their assessment center in Milan). But, sadly, no one ever contacted me back (no matter how bad I tried to reach them). Duration: 45′
  • HP, November 2013: I applied (in July) to the HP graduate program, to the track whose focus was on networking. In November I received a call from an HR manager and together scheduled the interview the next day. This time, the interview was mostly focused on my experience, on my studies and on my plan for the future. The technical aspect was pretty easy too. At the end of the interview, she said I’d be contacted again if they will be interested in moving on to the next step of the process. About a month later, they did so. I received a call from a member of the networking team inviting me to a full day of interviews at their assessment center. After some thought I decided to refuse the offer because the position was heavily sales oriented and I was not that interested anymore at that time. Duration: 30′      
  • Facebook, February 2014: I applied to a Network Engineer Internship through an employee referral. I was contacted by an HR manager less than a week later and together scheduled the phone interview about a week later. I was so excited to have the chance to be interviewed by such a wonderful company. Unfortunately, I never did that interview due to some personal issues. (I still think about it quite often 😦 ).
  • Amazon (AWS), March 2015: This time I didn’t apply to the job; instead, I was contacted by an HR manager on LinkedIn asking me if I was interested about working at Amazon (sure I was 🙂 ). The next day, a colleague of him proposed me a Network Engineer Graduate position and together scheduled my interview 3 week later (I knew it would have been a deep technical interview so I wanted to take my time to prepare). When the interview day had finally come, I was really nervous. My interviewer was a Network Engineering Manager and he immediately started asking questions: ping, traceroute, TCP, UDP, subnetting and DNS were deeply covered. But the largest part of the interview was focused on OSPF. Oh guys! It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. I was pretty confident about most of the questions, but I completely missed some of them. At the end, he asked me about some personal project on Python and I told him about my network inventory project (here and here). I was optimistic and I thought to pass this step, but a week later they told me I didn’t. Nevermind, I consider this interview an important part of my learning process. Next time I will know what to expect 🙂 Duration: 65′
  • Cisco (again), May 2015: I was contacted by an HR manager proposing the link to apply for a System Engineer summer internship. One month later, she come back to me and planned an interview for the next day. The interview was pretty easy, competency based and focused on my knowledge about Cisco. Two week later I received the wonderful news: Cisco made me an offer! Wow, I was really excited and I accepted it (really good pay + accommodation + flight reimbursement). But maybe it was too good to be true: few days later they told me they didn’t register me inside their payroll system in time and so they couldn’t pay me anymore. Obviously, I was forced to refuse the offer since I’m not able to maintain myself for 2+ months without any salary or help.

Even if the above interviews have taken me nowhere (even if I passed 3 out of 4 and received one final offer lol) I still consider them an important part of my experience that would be useful in the future (for sure!). Because of this, I’ll try to post interviews to some ex-intern, in order to know how they prepared for the “big call”, and professionals, in order to know what they look for during interviews.

This will not be like having a “Cracking the Coding Interview” look-alike book for networking interviews, but I still hope it would help someone 🙂

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