Microsoft

Vampires, we’re. Bright screens are our sun. In broad daylight, we love to stare at the geeky characters under shiny roofs. Caffeine is our rescue in times of exhaustion.

Before I begin with my journey at Microsoft, let me tell you that the views and opinions expressed are completely mine. Please bear with me as I speak, for my style is pretty inconsistent. Drowned in the pool of experiences, I am reinventing myself while writing all this. This post is bit long even for me. After all, squeezing 5 years of experience is difficult to fit in one blog. Go and grab a cup of coffee. I will wait.

Where do I start? Sticking to one place is no joke and I don’t expect anyone to stay this long, unless they are really happy. My chase for money faded away long ago and work contentment, for me, has been the driving force ever since holding the utmost importance in this agile Tech world.

When you reach the stage where you can afford all the food you want, all the travel, the cars and the entertainment, you want, what else is remaining? It becomes a never ending battle to reach to the top. A rat race, I would say. A wise man once said, “Save nothing but experiences”. If not, you would end up having all the materialistic pleasures, but your life would be wrapped up in emptiness. It would lack the sense of fulfilment you seek. While slogging away in the name of money, a day will come when you’re gonna ask yourself, “Was this all worth it?”

It doesn’t seem long back when I set foot in the Microsoft campus. But when I look back over the years I spent here, I oftentimes, get overwhelmed. Microsoft, as a company, what has always seemed to me is a great place to work at, while leaving my imprints across the globe as billions of users get to use its products.

My fascination for Microsoft products goes back to as early as 2002. In those Windows 98 days, we used to have sixty minutes of computer class once a week with one PC being shared between a class of ten students. I used to wait passionately for just 5 minutes of my hands on the PC.

May 2009 – When it all started

Memories of the tough time and the difficult decision while joining Graduation college are as fresh as morning dew. 2008 recession had plagued the software industry and associated opportunities adversely. The sheer fear of decreasing market demand of software engineers had panicked young blood to not pursue engineering in Computer Science. Despite the risk involved in those times and an admission in not so famous university, my passion & optimistic mind entwined their wings and somehow worked together, and here I am, penning half decade of my experience at Microsoft, in astonishment and all flabbergasted.

July 15, 2013

Fresh blood joins. All the vampires rejoice.

5 years it’s been and it feels like it were only yesterday when I wandered the corridors of the humongous campus for the first time. Days bled off into years. I have seen people come. I have seen people leave. Life moves on. Everyone is replaceable. The higher, one is at the management hierarchy, lesser is the tolerance for mistakes.

The time I joined Microsoft, peers around me were celebrating 5 years of completion and I had one naive question. How come they never thought of a switch? Spending long time at one place is quite a thing and more than the place, it tells a lot about the person – Happiness, Patience and sometimes they just let life go with the flow. Well, for me, it never really occurred to me that there is a world outside Microsoft that also builds awesome products and has huge user base. Having worked on world class products like Microsoft Excel and its underlying complex architecture, I feel my existence in this universe is making a mark upon people changing their lives through technology.

In this short span of time, I got to work on 6 version-1 projects each having different complexity and its own problem space. The journey has culminated in a great experience, adding a check to my learning curve at every stage.

The world of flow-charts and diagrams – Office Visio

My career started as SDET in Visio team, a part of Microsoft Office division. It was embarrassing that I was going to work on something I never heard of. Visio is an enterprise software not so famous among students. It captures a huge market for clients looking forward to create flow charts and diagrams. In a nutshell, it is something that simplifies tens of millions of human life. As a test engineer, I designed test suites and wrote automation for various features to make sure the regressions are caught early and help stabilise the product.

January, 2014

K2 phase: It’s Android baby

When I had a feeling that I have learnt enough that would help fasten my deliverable, a reorg happened and devalued most of the things that I worked upon. As they say, only skills acquired through the process matters in the long run, skills to understand and solve a problem. New team and new manager, it was a tabula rasa. Satya’s vision to focus on mobile and services landed me in Android team. Familiar environment and some prior experience, starting was as smooth as butter. Nightmares begun when I was assigned a problem to apply effects on an image. The office codebase is huge, medieval and it’s an ocean if you don’t know where to start. I still remember those hard moments when I was just looking through the code to pick hints, searching keywords like pImage, IImage in the hope that at least the naming convention would lead me somewhere. It was one of the fastest paced project and I was (un)lucky to be a part of it. Learning was great and sleeps were compromised. My team owned low level Graphics rendering stuffs, everything that you see on screen.

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It was an exhilarating roller coaster ride as I had never worked on a project of that urgency before. K2 is the second most dangerous mountain to climb and so was this project. Satya’s leadership and his vision for the company was as clear as a bell. We didn’t want to box ourselves in the Windows world. This was a big leap from our past rusted thinking and it was the beginning of reinventing the company. In Satya’s words, we needed to Hit Refresh. Even if we lost the war in Mobile Operating System, Microsoft could make a mark by releasing products on other platforms. SaaS (Software as a Service) was on the top of mind and Microsoft wasn’t behind. But to truly unlock its potential, we needed to annihilate the platform barrier. The world was transitioning at steep pace and the way users used the computing devices was reshaping. Desktop PCs and laptops were no more in trend and to succeed as a company, users needed to feel connected wherever they go. What is the benefit of all those technologies when users can’t edit a document on mobile while going to office and resume on laptop? Delaying this project could have been catastrophic. Decisions are good as long as they are taken at right time.

The idea of Shared code had always fascinated me and I got a chance to see how it works. The biggest challenge of developing apps on Android was device fragmentation. Apps you build might work like a charm on one device, while it might be completely screwed up on others. This project literally boosted my confidence as I was really quick when it came to building something on Android. It was an honor to be recognized as Subject Matter Expert. When I got empty hours, I contributed to Android community on StackOverflow and earned many medals. As of now, I hold 12 gold, 48 silver and 89 bronze medals.

July, 2015

Apple, A costly affair

Satya’s vision for efficient engineering annihilated the concept of tester & developer and rendered everyone a Software Engineer. I moved to Graphics team for iOS where I made core design changes and wrote code to be shared across various apps cross platform. The biggest challenge was to think of design that could sail well across multiple platforms and apps. Making changes at such a lower level was risky, heart throbbing and required solid understanding. Tolerance for mistakes was minuscule and the impact was so huge that making even a small mistake had big ripple effects breaking many features across the apps. Some of the nasty bugs gave me nightmares. It becomes worse when you have to fix the bug overnight and when you do it, you get response on the top of your fix mentioning that your change would be impacting twenty millions customers. Even 1 millisecond of performance regression raised eyebrows asking critical questions related to the design and the solution. I have learnt that this is part of life and as long as the learning curve is steep, things would just work fine. It has taught me the skill to never give up. Perseverance and grit are great virtues to survive in this industry.

Before the release of K2, shared code was a myth. As much fantastic as it may sound when discussed, it was practically not possible given the platform differences, language barrier at different end points and the engineering cost involved to bring the complex humongous codebase together. With the release of WXP on Android, we proved it to be doable and sealed it after moving iOS codebase to the same shared codebase.

Having got familiarized with both Android and iOS, I must say that I would choose Android over iOS any time of the day both as a developer and a user. Apple’s developer tool XCode hangs and crashes every now and then and sucks. Things that can be achieved in a straight forward way in Android can be pain when it comes to iOS.

October, 2016

Recalc or Die – Excel

About 30 years ago in a place far, far away, when C++ was still in diapers, Microsoft Excel was born. We even shipped Excel on floppy. We didn’t have much of C++ that time. So we wrote our own wrappers.

Shared rendering was over and I moved to Excel iOS team where I worked on Excel rendering component. Excel is one of the most complex projects and there are dozens of layers of architecture. Few of the bugs literally drove me crazy. I remember frying neurons of my brain for days without a clue on where in the code the problem might be. Some bugs were in the Apple library itself.

March, 2017

Excel on Mac

Another year, another project. Some familiarity with how Excel works, at least a part of it, landed me into another Excel endpoint. This time, it was Mac. It was way more complex than iOS. The quality was super important, for most of the people with big names use Mac, all of them being paid customers. A simple screw up could motivate one of the journalists to write and given how powerful social media are these days, it could have gone viral in no time. We did get good detailed feedback from a NASA scientist which reemphasized the impact we had been making.

February, 2018

SharePoint

While working on Excel and rendering technologies was fascinating because of the huge mass reach, lack of opportunities to add much design and code in Excel troubled me. The Data Structures and design used were fascinating. But they were written in 90s. Another good thing was that I never had to explain Excel to anyone. I remember meeting a college friend in Seattle who was widely surprised when I mentioned that we are fixing bugs in Excel. She always thought Excel to be super stable.

My restless mind, always looking forward to swim out of comfort zone to try and learn new things, found its medicine when a new SharePoint team in IDC was formed. I never realised the sheer potential of SharePoint until I started working on it. New technologies & tools, two decades old product, unknown territory, ownership of core components and never ending challenges, I couldn’t have asked for more.

As I reminisce my time here, I worked with 6 managers in 6 different projects. Lots of learning, challenges, obsession to achieve the best and never ending work. The journey has been no less than a roller coaster. I have sailed unfamiliar ships to unknown territories. I wrote and debugged code in more than ten languages (C, C++, Java, C#, Objecttive C/C++, Javascript, Typescript, Python etc).

Normal days at Microsoft

If you wonder how normal days as a Software Engineer at Microsoft look like, well it can be summarized something like:

  • You get a feature and are asked to come up with a design and various approaches to develop this.
  • You discuss various pros and cons and why one approach should be preferred over others.
  • You write code to develop the functionality. If the code is not shared, Bingo! your life just got easier. If it is shared across apps and platforms , you have to make sure it doesn’t regress anything. There are tons of test cases your code must pass.
  • If you get a bug due to your code and it is hi-pri, a hot mail thread starts overnight stating it impacted ‘X’ millions of customers.
  • If you get a bug not related to your code, well happy debugging. There are tens of millions of lines of code and you don’t have slightest of clue in what layer of architecture, the issue might be. I remember debugging a bug for 8 continuous days and at the end, I found that it was a race condition issue. The bug reproduced every once in 30-40 attempts.
  • Your code performance is super critical. I remember being part of a burning mail thread once because my code regressed the performance by 1 millisecond. I couldn’t see the difference manually as 1 millisecond is something your eyes can’t perceive.
  • You think you’re smart. Well think again. There are smarter people talking to whom is so much fun. You are stuck debugging an issue for 2 days. You don’t see anything working. You are pissed off. You send a mail to the people asking for help. They read your issue on phone, respond with a fix and it works.

In a nutshell, the emphasis is more on reading and understanding code than writing a new one. If you can’t understand well what is written, how are you going to modify it? This varies from team to team. Since office was released in medieval time when C++ was still in diapers, making changes in the code becomes a bit difficult, especially when you are making changes to an existing feature.
Microsoft is full of smart people. You can learn something from almost everyone.

Why I chose to stay at Microsoft?

There were many times I thought of a switch. The thing that always seemed to hold me was the thought that I would be doing the same kind of work that I am doing here. Besides, I am happy here, living life as I always wanted, trying out different things, exploring the world around me and pursuing my hobbies one after the other.

While we’re busy in earning money, life is busy in deducting time

If you ask me if I’m happy with the salary I get here. I would probably say, Yes. And I will shortly explain why. Pay is decent, but it is lesser than what competitive companies offer. Many of my friends have switched to other companies for higher pay. There was hardly a day in my 60 months of career at Microsoft that forced me to think of a switch, because of following reasons:

Work-life balance

The best thing I like about Microsoft is the work-life balance. The timings are flexible. If you get a good manager who knows how to handle pressure well, you won’t have to work overnight unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Company culture and vision

At Microsoft, we strive to build products that amaze customers within thirty seconds of usage. If we fail to wow them, we lose them for life. That’s the underlying principle behind every Office product. Productivity and efficiency are taken very seriously. Effort is important, but knowing where to make an effort makes all the difference.

Pursue hobbies

I chose to stay at Microsoft because while working here, I can pursue my hobbies. You get plenty of time for things you want to do. I travel, do fashion and landscape photoshoot, play piano and write blogs, all while writing code in week days.

Money is a good servant but a bad master

The money I earn here is enough to survive and buy things of interest. If I would earn more money, I would buy bigger car or dine in more luxurious restaurants. The standard of living will improve. But the question is, how far are you willing to go for the sake of money. Run for money never ends. Having lived my fair share of life, I realized that life should be made up of moments. As long as you are happy with what you have, you are living a good life. With more money, comes more responsibility. Yes, there are times when I regret not being able to afford a Grand Piano, but I can settle with a smaller version of it.

Brand value

Although Microsoft pays lesser than few startups, I love it. My granddad proudly says that his grandson works at Microsoft. Microsoft is one of few companies that has survived four decades while staying relevant. People are still crazy about it.

Impact

Products that I work on are used by billions of people. I can say that the part of picture manipulation code in Word/Excel/PowerPoint has been written by me. This kind of huge impact can only be felt by working at some of the biggies like Google and Facebook.

Hit Refresh

When Satya Nadella took over, the change was visible sooner than we had anticipated. The company was at the cusp of transformation and is going through a significant transition phase as we speak. It’s not just a Windows company anymore. The focus has gradually shifted to its mobile first, cloud first business. The reason is simple. With so many technological advancements and automated home & car systems generating a lot of data, the humongous data has to be stored somewhere. 90% of the world’s data has been generated over last two years. Microsoft is pushing hard to make a dent through providing cloud services and thereby, stay relevant.

Microsoft is in right hands. Its stocks are soaring all time high. Investors have confidence and they’re betting in its bright future. It’s far from pinnacle of success and there is a long way to go. But I believe in the company’s vision. And as an employee, it’s a great feeling and amazing place to be at, while being part of the major transformation. I can either watch it happen or be a part of it. Well, the former doesn’t excite me enough.

You might like my other posts along the same line:

Journey of a boy from small town to Microsoft – An untold story Part 1

Copyright © 2018, Aashish Barnwal, All rights reserved.
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Clock didn’t tick for long since my first visit to US and I got a chance to visit Redmond again. Another high priority work, short deadline and huge expectations.

August 11, 2017

Hot summer evening and snacks break. A kind of perfect time to gossip about things around you. I was discussing entrepreneurship journey with my friend who was in Hyderabad for a startup conference. His zeal and passion to build something was making me go crazy and it hooked me in no time. Suddenly, my phone rang. It usually flashes name of the person at the other end only when something important comes up. Last time it did was when I had a trip to US and the second time, I got promoted.

“Hey Aashish! How are you doing man?”, my manager asked.

“It’s good”. While I was talking, another thread in my mind was trying to find clue on what might be the reason for this urgent meeting.

“Some urgent work has come up. We have to start on this immediately. Before I tell you the specifics, let me warn you that the timeline is quite aggressive and you have to be really efficient in delivering it. We have carefully chosen two engineers with strong debugging skills who can fix and unblock issues quickly.”, he explained the situation in one deep breathe.

“What is the ETA?”, I asked.

“YESTERDAY”, he smiled. “One thing that can be of your interest is that there is an opportunity to visit Redmond. I know that you love traveling. Based on the peer feedback and the work you have been doing, you have proven yourself to be the guy who gets the work done.”, he continued further.

“You can think over the weekend and tell me if you are interested in taking up this opportunity. I would like if you say yes”, he was done with talking.

Well, I didn’t know if I had a choice to press the NO button. Nevertheless, there were multiple reasons on why I wanted to work in that area. There was high visibility and sole ownership. I wanted to work on something new. Plus visiting Redmond was the icing on the cake. I didn’t need a weekend to make up my mind.

“I see it as a fantastic opportunity from the visibility perspective. I am in”, I was excited.

“Thanks man! I will let you know the dates”, he looked happy.

August 25, 2017

I wrapped up the work I was doing and started getting myself familiar with Applescript, a Mac automation language. 2 weeks later, I came to know the exact date to travel.

In my last visit to US, I missed shooting Seattle the way I wanted because of last minute ticket booking and not bringing the right gear.  Two things I did over the weekend. I started a mail thread in Microsoft Photography Club about the best places to shoot and if anyone wanted to accompany me. Second, I booked tickets in my favorite airlines, Emirates.

Technical bugs can snatch away your happiness. Just before 4 days of travel, I received mail from American Express Travel Agency saying my ticket in Emirates was not booked because of some technical glitch. The front end and back end were not in sync and there was a problem communicating my ticket booking request. What I received was the itinerary and not the flight tickets. They were in continuous talk with Emirates folks for 2 days. But no luck. I, finally booked tickets in British Airways.

Based on recommendations from my friends in company, I created a list of places to shoot in Seattle. The list topped with capturing Space Needle from different view points.

September 1, 2017

“Good morning, Mr Aashish!”, the gorgeous lady at the Checkin counter greeted. “Would you like a more luxurious and comfortable journey.”, she asked and explained the business class etiquette.

“Is it a free upgrade?”

“I’m sorry. But No”

“I think I will do just fine”, the happiness was gone in the split of a second.

The same lady was wandering around after an hour looking for me.

“May I see your boarding pass please”, she asked.

“Is there a problem?”, I asked and handed over my pass to her.

“Not if upgrading is an issue for you. Make sure you travel business next time by yourself”, she smiled.

I couldn’t believe it. Last evening I was reading some blog for free upgrade and their tips worked. This was first time I was traveling with British.

It didn’t feel any different until she asked, “Would you like to have some Champagne sir?”

Their menu never changes

I stayed in the same Marriott hotel I chose last time. I must say, they don’t like a change. Nothing had changed in 8 months. Same California grapes, juicy pineapple and waffles with chocolate chips.

My schedule in US was simple. Wake up at 4:30 in the morning, take hot water bath in bathtub, reach office by 8-8:30. Mornings are best when you want great productivity and efficiency. I got 5 free evenings dedicated to photography.

Day 1 – Kerry Park and Alki beach

I met Vijay, a Microsoft engineer and a wildlife photographer. We planned to shoot sunset at Kerry Park and skyline at Alki beach. It was a sunny day and there were chances to get good drama in sky and Mt Rainier in the behind.

The blue hour beauty

This is another picture from my Space Needle series captured in blue hour. 10 points to those who noticed Mt. Rainier in the background before reading this.You have to be really lucky to capture it from Kerry Park. The day has to be clear and sky has to be smoke free to frame the beauty of Space Needle and Mt. Rainier in one postcard shot. When I was in Seattle, due to some wildfire, whole Seattle was in smoke and haze. Mt. Rainier was visible on only 2 days.

Follow me on Instagram to see more of my work:instagram.com/aashishbarnwal/

Technique:
I took 3 pictures in different exposures when the sun was about to set. One, for the Space Needle, second for the Mt. Rainier, and third for the rest. I then blended these pictures in Photoshop to bring what I witnessed there.

PS: Did you know that Space Needle is the 8th most photographed subject in the world?

Lonely Space Needle under the moon

Kerry Park in Seattle is very famous among photographers for its postcard view of Space Needle. On a good lucky day when the sky is clear, part of Mt. Rainier can be seen too just behind the Space Needle. Vijay and I had planned for shooting sunset, blue hour and of course moon as we were shy of just 3 days from full moon. We reached Kerry 2 hours before sunset and found that there was some construction going on and it was making our frames look not as good as we planned. Making up early there came to our rescue as we were able to grab the best spot to avoid the cranes. We could feel the envy of fellow photographers.
The moon stood high above Space Needle at around 8:30 and I captured two pictures with different exposures, one with the moon in focus and the other with the Needle. I then blended those two pictures in Photoshop to get closer to what I witnessed there. Photography is about patience. We had to wait 4 hours for few good pictures.

Technique used: Exposure bracketing and blending

Day 2 – Waterfront Park

Serenity

This picture reminds me of the serene beauty, I oftentimes wish to visit. The place where there is a bridge and a big lake around. A fusion of man made and nature. Waterfront park in Seattle is quite pictureque and you can’t go wrong anytime in evening. I wanted to shoot sunset, but ended up capturing blue hour as the sky was not dramatic that day because of smoke.

Technique:
I shot two pictures at different exposures, one for the bridge and the railing on right and second for the rest. Due to dark, there was noise in picture which was corrected using longer exposure. I then blended those pictures in Photoshop.

Day 3: Columbia Skyview tower

The Great Wheel teleport

Seattle Great Wheel from 73rd floor of Columbia sky tower looked like a toy. I wondered what would it look like if it were to be teleported. I pulled out 35mm, slowed shutter to 13 seconds at f14 and pano’ed while capturing. It took 20 minutes and multiple shots to bring the wheel to perfection. The result was no less than what we get to see in sci-fi movies.

Technique: Single capture pano.

Day 4: Waterfront park

Waterfront Park was something I fell in love with. I visited there again to shoot the beautiful fountain.

Tomorrowland

Capturing this frame was like a dream come true. Ever since I owned a camera, I had this routine of checking famous photographers’ portfolio and their work. The smooth flow of waterfall and fountains always intimidated me. Their gigantic beauty and mesmerizing views has the power to render anyone spellbound and speechless.
The moment I set foot in Waterfront park in Seattle, I had this composition in mind where the fountain would be in foreground hiding part of Great Wheel in the back. I wanted to shoot sunset. But due to some wildfire, whole Seattle was in smoke and haze. The sunset was very dull and unfortunately there was no drama in the sky. There were two challenges in capturing this picture. One, the wheel rotates every now and then. Two, the wheel changes color thereby casting different color shade onto the fountain. I shot two pictures, one with 25s exposure to give smooth flowing feel to the water and brighten the foreground and the other with 10s exposure to lit the wheel. To make sure this blends in a perfect one picture, I waited for the right moment when wheel was not rotating and there was enough time to capture two pictures without the change in color of lights.
Follow me on Instagram to see more of my work:instagram.com/aashishbarnwal/

Day 5: Gasworks park

Guns in the air

Gasworks Park in Seattle is famous for its cylindrical structures. One can get one of the best views of Skyline there. A part of it looks like big guns pointed to the sky when shot during sunset. This is a composite picture. Birds have been added in Photoshop.

Love birds

Seattle is the most beautiful city I have visited so far. From magnificent skylines to gigantic mountains, from beautiful lake to green valley, from big shopping complexes to small huts, your eyes can never stop wandering. Sunset would make you wonder if this is real. I have just fallen in love with the city. I had plan for visiting Gasworks Park to shoot skyline and the large gas cylindrical structure. What I didn’t know was that it also offers a clean green valley where you can see a lot of couples roaming around. This looked like a perfect spot for photographers and love birds alike. When the sun was about to set and the sky changed its color, I saw this lovely couple holding hands and walking towards the sunset horizon. Although the park was full of people, I got lucky to frame only what I wanted.

The Piano Store

Being a Piano fanatic, I visited Classic Pianos in Bellevue. More than anything, I wanted to own a Piano since quite long. I tried many Pianos, ranging from 5k to 25k dollars. I really liked one from Yamaha and longing to get it.

Photography or Shopping?

Last day in US was annihilated in shopping at Seattle Premium Outlets. It was a tough decision as I wanted to visit the majestic Mt. Rainier and shoot the Paradise and Reflection view points. But due to some wildfire, whole Seattle was in smoke and haze. Parts of Mt. Rainier were closed until the wildfire settled down. I heard that there was some view point which was open and I was desperate to go there. But my friend wanted to buy things for his family. Premium Outlets was 35 miles from our stay and we spent whole day shopping stuffs for our families.

I will visit Mt Rainier for sure in my next trip.

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved. 
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If you are wondering how I ended up at Microsoft, well, it’s a long story and if you have got some time, you can read it here:

Journey of a boy from small town to Microsoft – An untold story Part 1

If you like to read about dreams and goals, you might like my journey. I won’t claim it to be inspiring and motivating. Neither would I claim it to be struggling and unique. I will leave it for you to decide. But everyone has a journey and a story to tell. And this my friend, is my journey.

This post is retired. Please read Half decade at Microsoft and counting… for fresh content.

July 15, 2013

Each year when I wake up in the morning and find Facebook reminding me of this very date, I can’t stop myself to feel happy and grateful. I thank god who has graced my life with all the opportunities & happiness and given me an ability to be good at what I do.

4 years it’s been since I joined Microsoft and it feels like it were only yesterday when I wandered the corridors of the humongous campus for the first time. Days bled off into years. I have seen people come. I have seen people leave. Life moves on. Everyone is replaceable.

Continue reading Life of a Microsoft Engineer

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If you haven’t read previous part, it’s right here –  US Diaries Part 1

US is a country of dreams. I could see it shining right through everyone’s eyes. I met one person in taxi who played piano and released his own music album. The other guy Chad writes pilots for TV series and is a good photographer. There was another guy who had done some coding. He knew what python and C++ is. He wanted to work at Amazon or Microsoft. Another guy was a lead manager in an MNC and drove Uber just for fun. They don’t care much about the social status. They do what they love to do.

A really nice country where people greet you and don’t expect anything in return. Everyone you meet is so much open to talk without holding any grudge. Believe me, I had some of the best conversations in just a span of 30 minutes or so.

Redmond = Microsoft

I had heard that Microsoft has humongous office in its headquarters, Redmond. Well, it was true. I was amazed by seeing the area in which it was spread. If I say Redmond is Microsoft, it won’t be wrong. 135 buildings.

Microsoft, US culture

Unlike India where people tend to stay late in offices, Redmond is just the opposite. People come early and leave early. You would hardly find anyone staring at work monitor after 6. People are punctual and highly efficient. Well, I could see where that efficiency comes from. They don’t talk much and confine their conversation to mainly professional stuffs. The hours they put in work are really productive. The culture is so well defined that if you stay late, you would have a feeling that you are working in a zombie village. I, personally liked this culture and I easily embraced it. I had free evenings where I could catch some friends over dinner in classy sounding restaurants.

The world is small

It really is a small world we live in. It is not very unusual that while dining or taking a walk in busy streets, I stumble upon someone who happens to know me. Well, it has happened many times in India. But when you face the same in US, you start thinking that the world is really small. I met an old friend while crossing a street in Redmond, stumbled upon another known face in Seattle while dining with a college friend and had a short chit chat with a guy on shuttle, I used to see in dance classes in Hyderabad.

Seattle diaries

One of the exciting thing about Seattle is incessant rains. Rainy season is something people either love or hate. You will hardly find anyone being neutral on it.

Space Needle

If you’re a Windows user, you must have noticed the tall tower with a big circular head on lock screen. What if I tell you, it is much more beautiful when you look it closely? Well, it is a marvelous piece of human architecture. Standing tall at a height of 184 meters, you can see the whole Seattle view from the top. I could manage to get some pics from my DSLR even though it was freezing cold. My finger nails had turned bluish.

The head of tower

The Seattle view point

Standing on the top of Space Needle and experiencing this view was a treat to eyes.

I always wanted to dine at Skycity Space Needle restaurant. Well, who won’t? After all, dining at such a height has a unique magical feeling. You are sitting and eating exquisite food while the restaurant rotates to show you every angle of the city. Sadly, I couldn’t get a booking. It had 2 weeks waiting time.

Chihuly garden and glass

You can’t miss Chihuly garden and glass if you love art while being in Seattle. This place is mainly famous for its exceptional glass arch, mostly attracted by photographers. I met many photographers there and got a chance to flaunt my skills. Visiting Chihuly wasn’t easy due to shortage of time. The place opens at 11 in the morning and I had return flight on the same day at 5. On the top of that, it was raining like crazy. Well then it’s Seattle. Rains are not supposed to crash the fun. Thanks to Hotel Marriott for making special arrangements.

This picture has its own story. Chihuly Garden and Glass attracts a lot of tourists due to its marvelous, eye popping glass arch. I had a chance to interact with many photographers there and it was fun discussing about various aspects of photography. I wanted to capture whole 25 feet long arch in one frame and for this, I had to wait 30 minutes to capture this due to the huge crowd. Funny to say, due to my corporate ID hanging out of my pocket, few of the tourists asked me if I worked there.

1/50s at f/5.6, 18mm, ISO 1000

North-Bend

Situated at a distance of 30 miles from Redmond, North-Bend is a bliss to eyes. No matter if you are a nature and mountains lover or love long driving on beautiful roads or a shopping spree, North-Bend has got a charm in its own. Built near mountains which are covered with snow in winter, there are many shops where you can enjoy buying stuffs.

The cheese mountain.
I clicked this amazing shot in North Bend, US. Seattle is a beautiful city. Incessant rains, chilly wind, snowy mountain and golden sunshine. A serene heaven for photographers.
It was a sudden plan. The moment I arrived there, the sun was about to set and its dusky golden rays falling on the snow over the top of mountain was giving a perception of molten golden cheese all around.

I am quite fond of keeping a collection of perfumes. When I saw Perfumania shop at the North-Bend, I got a chance to try out all the perfumes I had been researching for years. At the end, I got one of my favorites, one what everyone in US uses, and one which was the choice of the woman who sold me all this.

Heroes of my wardrobe  Recently I have got an urge to keep a collection of perfumes.

From left to right:
Caroline, Armani Gio, Invictus, Playboy, Calvin Klein

Chocolates

A trip to US is not complete until you get chocolates for your loved ones.

To be continued…

In the next part, I would be writing about my trip to Los Angeles and San Diego. Please stay tuned.

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.
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I am a CSE Graduate from KIIT University. I joined Microsoft straight out of college. Usually, Microsoft doesn’t visit there, but that year I got lucky.

2 written tests + 3 F2F technical interviews + 1 Skype technical interview

 

Written test 1 (Objective), 30 minutes

First written test was conducted by some third party company. It consisted of 15 objective questions from C, Sorting, Data Structures, Big O, compiler and state machine. We were given 30 minutes. Cut off was 12 out of 15 questions. 77 out of 400 students made it.

Written test 2 (Coding), 60 minutes

Three problems to be solved in 60 minutes with no use of compiler. One problem on Linked List, second on heap and third on array. I coded all problems from scratch including main method. I also wrote flexible methods that could work on any kind of inputs (instead of deleting nodes from 4 to 6, it would delete nodes between ‘M’ and ‘N’ ) and handle all corner cases. The result was announced after 20 days. 30 out of 77 made it.

F2F Interview #1, 60 minutes

We were interviewed in groups of 6. Each one of us in a group was given same problem to solve. I couldn’t code the perfect solution in an hour. All I had discussed 6 different ways to solve the problem. I was afraid that I might be rejected in first round. The interview lasted for 60 minutes.

14 out of 30 were selected.

Continue reading My interview experience at Microsoft

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My contribution on Quora on cracking technical interviews:

 

  1. What should I do in the next 6 months to get into a company like Amazon/Google?
  2. How do I go about preparing for interviews on GeeksforGeeks?
  3. What are the top 20 websites for interview preparation?
  4. What are some useful websites for a CS student?
  5. How does one become good at problem solving?
  6. Career Cup or GeeksforGeeks?
  7. Should I do competitive programming or learn GeeksforGeeks, from a placement point of view?
  8. Which is the best book to start learning algorithms?
  9. Which books should I refer for data structures in C?
  10. I suck in competitive programming but I wish to make a mark there. I’m improving my skills by practicing on GeeksforGeeks. Is this the right approach?
  11. Should I learn algorithms and data structures in my vacation or learn any other thing? See details.
  12. How many academic projects should be mentioned in the resume while appearing for big companies like Amazon, MS, Adobe by a fresher?
  13. What are your reviews of Data structures and Algorithm made easy by Narasimha Karumanchi? Should it be used and when?
  14. Is it neccessary to put subjects of interest in our resume, we dont get good job at big tech companies if not added?
  15. Do we have to mention our Data structures skills in our resume in subjects of interest part ?
  16. Does the bloggers get paid when they write article on geeksforgeeks?
  17. How can one contribute to GeeksforGeeks and become one of the moderators?
  18. Studying Algorithms and data structures cover similar topics in c,c++ and Java languages?
  19. What is the difference between dynamic programming and recursion?
  20. What is easiest approach to tackle Dynamic programming problems?
  21. How should I explain dynamic programming to a 4-year-old?

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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My interview with GeeksforGeeks: Geek on the top – Aashish Barnwal

My contribution on GeeksforGeeks over the years:

  1. How to prepare for top MNCs?
  2. Implementing Iterator pattern of a single Linked List
  3. Curiously recurring template pattern (CRTP)
  4. Opaque pointer
  5. Factory design pattern
  6. K Dimensional Tree | Set 1 (Search and Insert)
  7. Design an efficient data structure for given operations
  8. Ternary Search Tree
  9. Print unique rows in a given boolean matrix
  10. Implement LRU Cache
  11. Sort numbers stored on different machines
  12. Find the k most frequent words from a file
  13. Given a sequence of words, print all anagrams together | Set 1
  14. Given a sequence of words, print all anagrams together | Set 2
  15. Generate integer from 1 to 7 with equal probability
  16. Graph and its representations
  17. Median of two sorted arrays of different sizes
  18. Iterative Quick Sort
  19. Magic Square
  20. Comparator function of qsort() in C
  21. Copy elision in C++
  22. Playing with Destructors in C++
  23. Casting operators in C++ | Set 1 (const_cast)
  24. DFA based division
  25. Counting Sort
  26. Space and time efficient Binomial Coefficient
  27. Efficient program to calculate e^x
  28. Greedy Algorithms | Set 2 (Kruskal’s Minimum Spanning Tree Algorithm)
  29. Greedy Algorithms | Set 3 (Huffman Coding) – GeeksforGeeks
  30. Greedy Algorithms | Set 4 (Efficient Huffman Coding for Sorted Input)
  31. Greedy Algorithms | Set 6 (Prim’s MST for Adjacency List Representation)
  32. Dynamic Programming | Set 27 (Maximum sum rectangle in a 2D matrix)
  33. Dynamic Programming | Set 28 (Minimum insertions to form a palindrome)
  34. Dynamic Programming | Set 30 (Dice Throw)
  35. Dynamic Programming | Set 31 (Optimal Strategy for a Game)
  36. Dynamic Programming | Set 34 (Assembly Line Scheduling)
  37. Find minimum elements after considering all possible transformations – GeeksforGeeks
  38. Check whether a given graph is Bipartite or not
  39. Maximum of all subarrays of size k (Added a O(n) method)
  40. Linked complete binary tree & its creation
  41. Print all permutations in sorted (lexicographic) order
  42. Lexicographic rank of a string
  43. Union-Find Algorithm | Set 1 (Detect Cycle in a an Undirected Graph)
  44. Measure one litre using two vessels and infinite water supply
  45. Random number generator in arbitrary probability distribution fashion
  46. Iterative Postorder Traversal | Set 1 (Using Two Stacks)
  47. Iterative Postorder Traversal | Set 2 (Using One Stack)
  48. Boundary Traversal of binary tree
  49. An in-place algorithm for String Transformation
  50. Morris traversal for Preorder
  51. Construct Full Binary Tree from given preorder and postorder traversals
  52. Two nodes of a BST are swapped, correct the BST
  53. Check if each internal node of a BST has exactly one child
  54. Largest subarray with equal number of 0s and 1s
  55. Check if a number is Palindrome
  56. Given a number, find the next smallest palindrome
  57. Construct BST from given preorder traversal | Set 1
  58. Construct BST from given preorder traversal | Set 2
  59. Flattening a Linked List
  60. Find the largest multiple of 3
  61. Count numbers that don’t contain 3
  62. Check divisibility by 7
  63. To find sum of two numbers without using any operator
  64. Find a pair with the given difference
  65. Add two numbers represented by linked lists | Set 2
  66. Longest Palindromic Substring | Set 1
  67. Longest Palindromic Substring | Set 2
  68. Count the number of possible triangles
  69. Find the number of islands
  70. Pascal’s Triangle
  71. Stack | Set 1 (Introduction)
  72. Heap Sort

Mentions:

  1. Find a pair with the given difference
  2. Sliding Window Maximum (Maximum of all subarrays of size k)
Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.
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