Monday, December 6, 2010

Thoughtworks interview - the dark side

"Hello, This is Manisha, from HR at Thoughtworks ...".My heart leapt to my throat but i was ready. Fate had written this script for me and i have rehearsed it well and finally this was my big moment under the arc-light. The entry was true to the script, "How/what do you know about thoughtworks ??","how good are u at OOP/design pattern ? .. etc". Then she explained about the coding assignments , code has to be written for any of the 2 (famous) problems viz. the mars rover problem or the sales tax problem and had to be submitted in 2 days time.
The next 2 days (it was a weekend) were among the happiest and most intense of my life, i had written code for the mars rover problem some time back as a practise , it was time to pull that code out and take a long hard look at it. I had lived the last 4 years of my professional life preparing,in every thing i did big or small , in every line of code i wrote , in every bit i thought about design , in my beliefs and readings , conciously or subconciously , for these 2 days.I had to give it my absolute best but nothing seemed to be matching up to the moment , finally i was done on the Sunday night , uploaded the code and mailed the HR. The intensity of the 2 days finally gave way to the string of expectation.

I had lived through the first act of the script and now was the time to watch the sand and wait for the call for the second act if there is to be any, what was dischordant though was that the HR did not acknowledge my submission, this was pure bad manners at the mildest but i decided to flow with the dominant mood of the moment. A little subplot here though was a consultant from Wenger and Watson, who spoke glib and claimed to have got me the call , though i had uploaded my resume on Thoughtworks career site the day before i got the call, i thought it won't hurt me if they too have their bit of fun out of this.

From expectation to apprehension to despair to acceptance , i watched the sand to trickle out when almost after 2 weeks, there was another call. The consultant called to tell that i have made it for their face-to-face rounds .Fate had longer plans.Once again HR was cold. I demanded atleast a mail acknoledgement of this from the HR . I was told to take the day off as it is going to be a day long affair . I had some idea of what that might be like from the 36,921 results of google search for "Thoughtworks interview".

So there was I ,all prepped up in their office at the appointed time . I went to the front desk asking for the HR and they requested me to wait , a wait that was uncustomarily almost annoyingly long. I chose to look away from this ominous start. The HR finally showed up , explained me the process. The first bout was to be a written aptitude round of about 12 flowchart based questions in 3 or 4 flavours , this was to last for 1 hr 15 mins. The set was doable but requires absolute and intense concentration. Good warming up. After this was that part of the day i was looking forward to, a person came in with my code opened in his laptop. I was to pair with him for an assignment he had . This was joyful, the person was an absolute treat to talk to, we discussed about the problem and i explained how i was planning to attack the problem, he presented his opinions and i talked out my approach as i was driving, he seemed to be satisfied with the proceedings. It was lunch time by then and the solution had been fleshed out to quite a detail, did not have to finish the full coding though as he said it was good enough and we broke for lunch. So far the script was gud and i thought i was one up.

Post lunch came the part that was hard to chew and gave me heart burn . There came 2 uninterested looking guys for my first tech interview with a copy of my resume, scanned it in detail about the technologies i had used in different projects, then hard pressed to have to ask a question started with db representation of a graph ,they obviously had no direction in mind and it was a grapple match. This could have been an easy deja vu except for the fact it isn't , something was seriously wrong here because in the thoughtworks i fantasized about nobody talks like this. Ultimately this round was over and i was tasting chalk and sawdust in my mouth. Then came another gentleman, an agile coach and a thorough thoughtworker and it was another delightful talk about clean code, Uncle bob, joshua bloch, my views on software craftsmanship, joshua bloch , the kinda stuff that makes everything else worth it and makes feel life good. The script was back.

After this they wanted to make sure i was not suffering from Alzheimer's 50 aptitude questions in 12 min and a personality test. Ohh and one more thing , their power backup sucked and i was on more than a few occasions left in dark, once again i chose to look the other way. It was 5 and i could feel individual tissue in my head . Overall it was a good day and when i assumed that it was done for the day , was the shocker , a sick looking person from the hr came with a paper saying , that i did not do well in the aptitude test , i got only 35 out of 50 correct (70% whoa!! they were greedy) so i have to re take the test, my head hurt , i was stoical , i wanted to go home see Mom, i wrote the test wished them well and came out.

It was a good day but not perfect and what was niggling was a little thorn somewhere, something was not right. Counting on all their body languages i would say i would have made it , but the Final act is what made fate Fate.

*The Final Act*

This was the final week of notice with my then employer and my other suitors :) were getting restless, i have held them up all in bay all i needed was 1 word from thoughtworks and i would leave it all and come. I requested them before i left that day that they have to get back to me with their final words in max. 3 to 4 days under the circumstances.
3 days went off , deafening silence , i pinged HR several times and by now i had given up on positive civil behaviour from this particular HR, not a single line in a mail was what amazed me , i knew it was thoughtworks and i had stars in my eye all right but this was pure arrogance that i have not seen in any other company that i came across so far in my professional life. The word finally came, from the consultant , "you did not make it".

This story would not have been written if it finished in the line above. As you have guessed it did nto finish there, a call came just when i had finished picking up the pieces , the call came . The consultant greeted me and told that i had actually made it but there was no vacancy(1) for the Bangalore office , hence my options were Chennai and Gurgaon !!.
A shock and a thud , i am recently married , my wife works in bangalore, right now relocation is difficult for me , this was the most cruel,sick joke from a company like TW when they have 2 offices in bangalore and AFAIK serves customers outside of India!!, this was more bizarre then i could have ever expected , she spiced things up from the really juicy:-
" the sex ratio in their bangalore office is pathetic (2), so they have suddenly decided to let only females in their bangalore office , (for all ye moron) males Chennai is the option " to the more lame duck " They have suddenly decided to recruit architects at bangalore with 9+ yrs(3) of exp, since you don't fit the bill got Chennai". To top it all was the conspiracy theory " we just probed the HR(mythical animal in thoughtworks)on this and she told your grades in interview were not good enough for Bangalore hence Chennai".
This was rape of something i absolutely adored, worshipped hence to put things in perspective the following points :-

1. TWI interviewed me for the purpose of an opening with Bangalore office. They never communicated with me that this was for any other location.

2. the HR adamantly and inspite of my several endeavours just REFUSES to communicate (Manisha Naik). There is absolutely no clarity or transparency about their entire process.

3. They take inordinately long time at least by Indian standard where till middle level positions have notice period of 1 month most companies closes the hiring process with offer rollout typically within 2 weeks , they go on for 2 months or dont care/give a damn.

4. Apparently, they use services of hiring agencies like Wenger and Watson, but these people give out all sorts of info that are misleading to say the least , as evident in 3 stories they told me . These explanations/stories which i take to be actually sourced at TWI point to darker malady.

5. **Thoughtworks apparently follows an internal grading system whereby in India the best people are in Bangalore , and the 2nd grade people are at Chennai or Gurgaon** , the implications are grave so anybody accepting an offer from TWI for Chennai or Gurgaon is going to be a 2nd grade citizen in TW with obvious implications on salary, career prospects. This also mean that the software/solutions developed by TWI Chennai and Bangalore office are only 2nd grade as are its people.

As a desperate effort to bring in closure on the event i told the cosultant that i may consider Chennai, and based onthis surety from me she arranged for a further round of interview :) , this time it was GM of chennai branch Mr. Ketan (HajarNiwas ??) and i explained him my position regarding shifting base . He was courteous, apologies for HR's callousness and promised that the HR will get back to me shortly to provide a closure on this. As expected the HR never called back , but the consultant called to say my candidature has been dropped.

It is difficult to see your heroes die and tragic to see them raped this way, my cupboard is empty. It will take sometime for me to figure out what is there for me to do now , but i am glad that i will not have to bear this again.