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Each year, over 15 lakh engineers graduate in India, out of which a mere two lakh get employed. The startling conversion rate could be a reflection of the low job demand or poor employability of candidates, but most importantly it highlights the fierce competition that young tech graduates face today.
But, however dire the situation may be, through planning and preparation techniques, one can stand out from the crowd – be it a fresh graduate looking to land their first job or an engineer seeking growth in career. To take you through an engineer’s growth plan, Analytics India Magazine got in touch with Vipul Bharat Marlecha from Netflix’s engineering team.
Bengaluru boy Vipul works as a senior data engineer at Netflix where he works with the open connect team. Having completed his BE from PESIT (Bangalore) and a master’s degree in computer science from New Jersey Institute of Technology, he has essentially worked with data engineering teams, in companies such as Twitter and DoorDash. However, like the majority of engineers, knowing one’s interest in the field was no easy feat, and it happened only along the way. “When I was a software engineer working on test automation frameworks, I chanced upon the role of data engineering and wanted to try it for three months. I loved what I was doing and decided to make a career out of it.”
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Vipul has noticed that the interview process for fresh graduates across companies is similar, and the focus changes as you get into senior roles. “As a young engineer, 70% of what you prepare is standard across tech companies.” Two major rounds in big tech companies are: the coding round that takes care of data structure and algorithmic knowledge, and the system round which is more of a current theoretical system knowledge for freshers where the expectations are not as high as that from a senior person. The remaining rounds are company specific, like HR and culture rounds to see if the candidate is a fit for the organisation. The weightage for these rounds varies from company to company.
“Companies like Netflix and Amazon give more weightage to culture round to understand how you work as a team, how you lead a team, and lead the vision.” Fresh graduates can prepare for this round by understanding the company’s vision and work culture beforehand through their website.
Interview Preparation as a Student
As an engineering student, preparing for interviews should start as early as possible. “No matter how smart you are, how much knowledge you have or what GPA you score, cracking interviews is a different ballgame. I would recommend starting preparation in the final year itself, and have a proper strategy in advance,” he said. Being abreast with changing technology and reading technology related books on coding and system design helps.‘Cracking the Tech Career’ by Gayle Laakmann McDowell is one that can help understand interview processes at big techs.
Vipul also believes that mock interviews will help prepare a person. “Always try to find a mentor, friend or someone experienced to conduct a mock interview. There are a number of platforms that offer mock interviews.”
Traits That Stand Out
Being open to first understanding the problem an interviewer poses before jumping in to solve it helps. “As an interviewer, I would prefer a candidate who has a conversation about the problem and tries to explain the trade offs. Even if he is unable to solve the problem, it is clear that he knows what he is doing, rather than one who solves the problem without telling me anything.
Networking is the Key
“Networking matters.” Vipul believes that when we are young, we need to talk to as many people as possible. “Don’t be shy, and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.” Networking is not just for opportunities, and not every conversation has to be useful right away, but it can be helpful in the long run. “Today, there are multiple opportunities for networking — conferences such as DES, career fairs, forums, and college events such as alumni meets, hackathons, etc provide opportunities to network.” Vipul considers it a two-way street. “Today someone might help you, and tomorrow you will be helping another.” The key is to connect with as many people as possible.
The effort however, does not end at landing the first job. It is a continuous process and one needs to keep working in order to grow in their career.
Growth as an Engineer
Vipul has worked with various companies, and each shift required planning and preparation. Most importantly, the willingness to explore. “As an engineer you always need to be open-minded. When you are studying for your course, say Masters, you wish to get into a specific role, but it does not necessarily happen, either because you don’t get that opportunity or you get selected for a different role. However, that’s okay because as you work you will slowly realise what interests you and you would accordingly shift to get there. When you apply your knowledge is when you realise what you like to do.”
Vipul also spoke about how shifting jobs in engineering roles as a junior is much easier. “You have basic programming knowledge, and coding, which will help you switch, and as a beginner, the expectations are low which means that you have huge opportunities to learn and grow, as opposed to the expectations from a mid- or senior-level engineer.”
Vipul strongly believes that having a good mentor and manager has always helped with his career growth. “You need to be open about the conversations you have with your manager about your career goals, and how you want to navigate through your career. Having regular feedback sessions with them will help with your growth. In case of bad feedback, you can have deeper conversations to know what the problem is and set a plan to improve yourself.”