June 13, 2018

Coding Interview Prep Roadmapping

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I had a student email me a while back saying:

I have been working hard preparing for interviews for almost a year now.

I’ve had other students tell me they’ve been studying for 2 years or more.

But here’s the kicker. Read this line in the context of the email.

I have been working hard preparing for interviews for almost a year now. I wont say I haven't progressed at all but the effort that I put in is not paying off.

Imagine that. Studying for a year and not making progress. A year?! That’s a long friggin time to be doing something that isn’t working.

I can’t tell you how often I read stories like this. I’m not sure what it is about software engineers, but they seem to really like pushing harder when something isn’t working. Why bother changing course when you hit a wall?

hitting a wall

What if, instead of hitting you head against a wall, your studying was just easy?

What if you could wake up in the morning, take a look at what you have planned for the day, and just focus on execution? No need to worry about doing the “right” things, because you already planned everything out.

What if you conquered you procrastination by knowing exactly where to spend your time?

What if you could skip whole chapters of Cracking the Coding Interview because you know for a fact that that material won’t come up in you interview?

What if you could confidently solve any problem, even ones you’ve never seen, because you had a clear strategy for solving them? No need to memorize solution to 500 different practice problems.

The problem is, most people are never going to get here. And that’s because they don’t have a plan. Or if they do, it isn’t a good one.

Developing a clear roadmap for your interview journey is absolutely critical if you want to succeed. Not putting together this detailed plan is like setting off a roadtrip across the country without a map. Yes you know you need to travel west, but there is a huge range within that.

When setting out to interview, it is exactly the same. We know the general direction that we are headed in, but if we don’t know any of the specifics, we can diverge pretty far from where we actually want to go, even if we’re headed in the right direction.

When I start working with new clients, many of them are overwhelmed by the amount of material out there. There are so many things that they could learn that might help them in their interviews. They have no idea where to start.

For these students, coaching is a godsend. In our initial call, we will sit down and talk in depth about what their goals are and why they have those goals. We start to develop clarity around why they feel the way they do and what paths will ultimately lead them to their goals. 

Then in our next session, we go through some mock interview questions to develop a clear picture of where they are already strong and where they need help.

With these data points, we start to develop a plan. Whether their interview is coming up in 3 weeks or 3 months, by looking at where they are and where they are trying to go, we can put together the best possible plan with the time available so that they are focused and confident.

Having a plan means that you don’t have to think about random stuff. No worrying about what materials to use. No worrying about what topics to study. If you have a plan, the thinking is already done so you can just focus on your studying.