Why Microsoft is an awesome place to Intern: Part 1

Arush Shankar
Jul 21, 2015 · Unlisted

Landing the internship


Let me start off with why I’m writing this.

When I received an offer from Microsoft, I, like probably every other soon-to-be intern, scoured the internet to find out how the experience was. Sadly, there was little information to be found except for some sparse Quora answers from interns in 2008 and 2012. Thankfully my good friend at USC(the one in LA) had interned at Microsoft last summer. He told me about his experiences and said it was awesome.

So in light of the fact that I have interned here for 6 weeks, this is my total recount of my experiences, from the process of securing the internship to my daily Microsoft routine.

Interviewing and Receiving the Offer

Microsoft recruits on-campus at my school, so I got selected for an on-campus interview in October/November. My interview had one coding question, however the interviewer also asked questions to gauge my interest and fit into the culture. He asked me what projects I had built and what team I would like to work on. I said Azure, Microsoft’s Cloud Computing solution.

My next and final round took a very long time. I waited until February for my on-site interview, and through the interim, you can bet I emailed my recruiter multiple times asking on the status of my app. After all that waiting, one could easily say I was frustrated. I assumed that since I was a rising Junior, I was given less precedence over rising Seniors. Finally, I got the call-back at the beginning of February and was flown up in the middle of the month.

My on-site interview accommodations were better than expected. I was flown up to Seattle for TWO nights, given a Marriott hotel room near their campus in Redmond WITH free room service, a good sum of money to spend on food, and a rental car to drive around.

The interview consisted of 4–5 distinct parts. I first met at their recruiting building, and was then given the chance to roam around in the lobby. It had everything. From Xbox ones to Surface Pros to a TV hooked up to a Kinect, it was a very cool display of Microsoft products. Games aside, from 11 am to 5 pm I had four grueling interviews.

My first interview was a lunch “get-to-know-you” interview asking about my experience, previous work, and hobbies. My interviewer was a Software Engineering Manager. I felt confident going into this interview as I had a couple projects under my belt that I could talk about. as well as other extra-curriculars like being a TA for USC’s data structures class and being involved with ACM. I talked about 3 of my projects and then we had a casual conversation about CS theory. I think he was pleased that I had taken the intiative to build things and use my CS skills outside of academics.

The next three interviews were all coding questions.

  1. My first interview consisted of an easy Linked List problem, and then a harder Binary Search Tree question. I was pretty fresh on Data Structures so I was able to solve them quickly and efficiently. My interviewer seemed impressed.
  2. My second interview had a Multithreading problem and a Dynamic Programming problem. I hadn’t done either yet, but the first as easy enough to stumble through. My interviewer seemed was nice but I don’t think she was as impressed as the first one.
  3. Finally, my last interviewer asked me a Recursive Backtracking problem, and then a design problem that was also a trick question. I didn’t fully understand the design problem, so I had to fumble through it. He was super positive and amicable but I did not feel as confident after the interview.

According to standard interview etiquette, I was given the opportunity to ask the Azure team some questions at the end. I asked a multitude of questions, but the biggest one was “What is the work culture like here at Microsoft”. The interviewers loved Microsoft because it had resources, talent, mentors, and a good work/life balance. The culture was changing and I felt like Azure was at the forefront of that change.

The coolest part of the Azure team was that it did not feel like a big corporation team. It felt like a startup. Multiple stand-ups a week, constant iteration, and the team pushed builds multiple times a day. I would not be on a long release cycle, like a team like Windows. I guess you could say I liked the Azure team.

I felt positive after the interviews even though I struggled on the last one. On February 18 the offer was extended. I was extremely relieved and excited.

Decision Time

Now I had two offers in my hand.

The first from a startup in the SOMA district of SF called Fivestars. When I interviewed with them, they had asked challenging, thought-provoking questions, and I had a great time during my interview with their team. I had never experienced such a culture where you could have fun but work extremely hard at the same time. Where you could wear different hats. Where it was make or break. It was a fantastic culture.

So then, why Microsoft?

My biggest reason for going to Microsoft was because I had been given the same advice from 3 of my mentors. They all said that starting in a structured, regimented intern program would give me invaluable access to mentorship, knowledge, and networking. They all recommended that I accept the Microsoft offer given that it was my first internship. Working at a startup teaches you a lot, but I didn’t feel ready for it given my experience.

So I chose Microsoft.

Shameless plug for fivestars.com they’re a super cool company and their office is in the old headquarters of Heroku — its super sweet!

More in Part 2!


Thanks to @jyan, @dpcbod, and my sister @kaitnashankar for editing this.

This blog post and related images are not endorsed or sponsored by Microsoft.

    Arush Shankar

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    Life.

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