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.


  1. Well written post, although its painful to see this state of affairs.

    However, at any given point in time, if you ask any software engineer about their HR, almost 99% will be able to tell their choice story about HRs completely inhuman way of dealing with things.

    We were all used to hearing about incompetence, or occasionally insolence, from departments like IT support, however that could really be explained based on the approach everyone took to staffing IT.

    Considering that human resources are what all of this 'intangible' industry is built on, its really incomprehensible why HR everywhere, is the way it is.

    I'm not sure what the future holds, but with these completely inept people handling human resources, the future looks bleak.

  2. @Tess, HR is the face of any company and really tells a lot about the culture of company as a whole. This is more true bcoz HR is not really autonomous in company so the way they present themselves has an implicit consent of company. I have seen some really good HR, a case in point is Subex , my past employer, HR there really stands out as an efficient department.

  3. Good to know about your TWI interview! I agree that HR is the first insight for anyone joining the company. It gives out a bad impression about the workings within the organization.

  4. @Naveen, the point here is HR is just a thin facade on the company.If you feel the HR sucks, that's bcoz the company sucks in its treatment to people.

  5. Its ok buddy.. the grapes are sour when u cant reach them :-)

  6. @shyju, i had the grapes in the mouth and i had to spit them out :)

  7. After reading several blogs about goods and bads of TW recruitment, I decided to give a try at TW. I got the first call and as usual got the choice of two problems to solve. I chose Mars Rovers as it was more challenging. I submitted it within the given time(spending few nights for arriving at the solution). There was silence for about next 3-4 weeks. Since I was trying out elsewhere I already got offer from other companies. I thought they rejected my solution.

    But after 4 weeks I got a call for next round of interviews. So I went there. There was a test of 50 questions in 12 mins to start with. It was pretty easy, but what they check is your correct to wrong ratio when you are under time constraint. I think I cleared that and next was pair programming with a TW colleague. The enhancement given was pretty straight forward, my initial solution already catered to 70% of the requirement. So we only had to do little coding, I struggled with the laptop keys as I am used to my personal laptop. I think I cleared that too..

    Next, there was predictability index test. Here you have to tick about what you think others will think about yourself in one sheet and what you think about yourself in another test. I think it was just to check some personality aspects of people, I don't think there were scores or elimination in this.

    Next, was a technical interview. The two gentlemen who took the interview gave a very good introduction about themselves(something unusual). This was followed by my intro and brief glance on various technology I've worked with. Then one of them picked up Hibernate and went a bit deep into it. They were expecting some deep concepts of hibernate, I told them I have the breadth of various technologies and frameworks. Depth is something than can be achieved on a need basis. Since I had experience in Cobol programming one of them went to the extent of asking how Inversion Of Control is achieved in Cobol. I was really confused. Then abruptly they asked if I had questions. Since I had asked some questions already in previous rounds, I did not had any.

    Then, came the SHOCKER... they ended the interview and first guy said " Well, it was NOT nice talking to you!".... I almost could not believe my ears... let me say it again "Well, it was NOT nice talking to you!". That's how rude these folks are!

    In my 16 years of professional experience never has any one told me something like this. So that makes me think that there are some arrogant (may be smart) guys working in this company. I did not believe some of the -ve comments some of you have written about, I thought it's the case of sour grapes... But after my experience I have reasons to believe.

    So, be careful with these folks. If they don't like you, they can be rude/arrogant/insulting....

  8. @Anonymous, sorry to hear about your experience. But one thing i like to to you and everybody, that i have better use of my time and intelligence then to blog about "sour grapes" with some company. In 6 years of my professional experience i have had enuf interviews and some very gud experiences at that. I am not naive to be crying foul over a rejection.
    A rejection is very powerful learning experience, which i hope somebody of your(@Anonymous) experience would know. Amazon was a case in point and it remains high on my aspiration list and my respect for those guys has only grown.
    Technical competence of a company and its people does and should command the highest degree of respect and in that context i still rank TW very high. What is also uncompromisable is the *unethical conduct* and no amount of technical accomplishment can make up for that and our experiences here go on to demonstrate just that.
    One serious issue that transcends even the question of mere ethics and ettiquette is their internal system of discrimination of one location rated as more competent then other and deliberately maintaining it that way has graver repurcussions then them just being a set of rude/brattish.
    The only reason i have written this blog is due to the fact that i was extremely passionate about this company, their work(and for their technical work i still have high regards for them and their ppl) and culture and revelation was really shocking.

  9. may i now the campus recruitment process of TW, and repeated question?

  10. Very well written. You should seriously consider writing as a career.

  11. I think the recruitment process sucks too... well, the wish of the fella above this comment may turn into reality... but he should be careful

  12. I was their refugee too! But I realized that its not the end of the world. I am sure the people working there are really proud and obviously they want to show their head power in the interviews. After all, we want to earn money by coding and I don't want to be a scientist. Good bye TW, life goes on.

  13. Most of the HR behaves like this in IT . By now you should have learned, when you dont here from HR in 2 -3 days , treat it as closed chapter. Looks like it your desperation to join them and their rejection ( Reason /Way of rejection) has annoyed you more.

    1. @Kam Just to clarify 1 more time, this blog is not bcoz TW rejected me, which they didn't, and even if they did I think there is no shame in a rejection from companies having as good recruitment process as them or say Amazon, Google etc. attending there interviews is always a learning experience either ways.
      It is not also for their HR not communicating or they adding additional riders regarding location midway. Although these are unethical practises but not very unusual or sinister.
      What is particularly harmful, sinister practice that TW seems to follow internally(a company that claims to be a model for a lot of goodness that is there today in this profession) is that there is a internal gradation from location to location for them. If you read the blog carefully what will be evident is
      ***TWIers @ bangalore > TWI ers @chennai, pune, gurgaon etc.***
      what does that imply for the projects at chennai, pune, gurgaon vis-a-vis TWI bangalore ?? what does that imply for the career , compensation etc of ppl at chennai, pune, gurgaon vis-a-vis bangalore ??
      Does this "caste-sytem" in TW extend beyond the borders of India i.e TWI is a second class citizen within global TW ??

      Anybody trying for TW or even somebody who has got an offer from any non-bangalore TW locations need to think about these and ask all the difficult questions first .

      These are things of practical consequence even if we discount the larger moral, ethical questions it poses.

      That said , i still have the greatest respect for the quality of present and ex-Thoughtworkers and their contribution to Indian startup scenario or the enthusiasm and skill, mastery over many aspects of this profession, industry as a whole.

  14. Let me tell you a secret. The decision takes time because, once the interview is finished they will call a meeting with 10-15 TWIns. There your case will be discussed and you have to get more than (60-70%) of voting from them..

  15. 3 years later and a lot of stuff changed.

    Have you applied again?

  16. Apparently, ppl are put through a lot of pain.
    Not sure why such EGO battles happen during interviews, finally both the company and the candidate suffer.

  17. Wow, similar heart ache here.
    This is the link to an interview review that was a terrible and a funny experience:

  18. Some years ago, I sent my CV to Thoughtworks and then HR guy called Matt Buckland called me and arranged a phone interview at 18:00 next day. I was prepared and was waiting for the call excitedly. You know what happened? They did not call. Then I sent an e-mail to remind him about the interview. Result: No answer!
    I'd like to warn everyone about this company. Their propaganda is cool, maybe this arrogance is part of this. But what they did to me was not polite, not ethical.