The One With The CDC Internship Process


Disclaimer: This is not any how-to-guide to cracking an internship. This is just my experience. Yours can be different. Life is not that deterministic my friend :)

A little about me

Anyone who has interacted with me knows that I am not really a fan of competitive programming aka CP. I am more of the person who enjoys building useful and fun stuff rather than helping some unknown chef get out of a maze. So naturally when almost everyone I know advised me that CP is absolutely necessary to land a CDC Internship, I was sad. I simply didn't want to have to do that one thing I didn't want to. I even wanted to drop out of college internships just so that I don't have to go through this ordeal of numerous coding rounds, shortlists and most importantly, THE COMPETITION. It took a whole summer for my family, my friends and me to convice myself to just go through it. To just sit and get the experience of what it is. And as a matter of fact, I did. And thinking this a year later, I am happy I did.

Hold on. Ofcourse, I did not fall in love with CP and became a regular customer of the chef. I am happy simply because I was able to come out of the other side with an experience which was different. It was different for me; different than the numerous other CDC stories I heard of.

Before the D-Day

By now you should have understood that it would take a very reluctant me to practice coding questions. It was indeed the case. I am very much grateful to my friends here, especially Sarita who helped me with a lot of resources required for my preparation. I also had an offline internship. So it left with limited time for me to prepare but it was fine. I did some medium level questions in leetcode in various topics throughout the summers. I also did a small side project with my friend Rajiv.

I went back to campus pretty early (15 days before the interviews were supposed to start) so as to prepare better and the more reliable internet. There were very few people in campus at that time and fewer friends. That was undoubtedly the hardest time for me. There were company talks and coding round tests every now and then. The tests were a real pain-in-the-a** because each had it's own rule and some other coding platform. I remember one such platform flagged that I was talking because it detected some dogs barking outside 😆. But to be fair, these tests gave me a lot of practice which was a good thing.

One such particular sad days was 27th of July. I felt really empty and din't want to do anything at all. I went to my senior and he whole-heartedly lent me what I needed - A camera. I took the afternoon off and went on to click pictures of random things just to keep me distracted. I didn't really click any worthwhile photos but needless to say, I enjoyed every part of it. I'll share some photographs after this blog.

The end of july saw more and more of my friends return to campus and it meant a much needed relief for me. Afterall you could finally go out after a 10pm test, meet with your friends and share every bit of frustration of the day. That I think was the most important silver lining in the whole process. And this silver lining expecially meant a lot on Day-1 of the interviews. Some of these helpful people being Chhavi, Nandini, Ikshita, Pratyush, Dev, Ananya and Gunjan just to name a few.

On Day-1 I was not shortlisted for a single company. I was not devastated or something but I was definitely sad. That unwanted mental itch of "how not even a single one" remained. Now you can say that you never felt it just seeing some of your friends getting offers and not you, will definitely make you a tad bit jealous and sad. You can be jealous about the offer itself or the fact that it's over for them and you still have to wait. I realised I had it and tried to make peace with it. Talking to my family helped and the long walks I had with my friends were the best. And interestingly, when I returned to my room from such a walk, came the notification. I was shortlisted for Day-2 interview by American Express. It was 1:43AM at night. And it said I had my interview on 9AM that day. After only seven freaking hours.

I was ofcourse very happy. But there was no time to lose. I told my friends and then made them find and give me contact of any senior who had given an internship interview for Amex. Silver linings are more than just emotional support right? And I asked every single senior the same question: "How was your interview experience ?" I had not expected anything but as the KGP culture had it, I got very helpful responses at even 3AM. After that I decided to sleep off to get that much needed freshness.

The interview

I ofcourse did all the boring typical stuff of wake up early, remove that beard, iron the white shirt, etc. Then I sat down with some much needed music and mused on the question of the hour, How do I sell myself ? Thankfully I had some cover letters and I modified them to make up for an intro I found good enough. I still did not know how to handle DSA questions in the interview because as you know that is my weak point. With little knowledge of what's gonna happen, I joined the interview.

The first interviewer was a developer and I was quite interested to talk to him. I was glad he was interested in my CV and jumped straight to my projects just as I needed. We talked at length about what I did in each project and past internship and my contribution to everything. Seeing that I am a frontend developer, he tested my knowledge on the working of react. Everything went pretty great. Oh yes, he did ask me about my views on Competitive Programming or the modern fashion as he put it. I simply explained to him how development meant more to me and I think he was pretty satisfied.

Soon after this ended, I was called for the HR round. The interviewer was also in Technology but she was more of in a Leadership role. There came the questions like working as a team, greatest achievement.... you know the drill. I knew they admired and used Open Source software and I being a member of KOSS was able to create a very positive connection.

Now did you notice something here ? There was no DSA question in any of my interviews. That is contrary to all other intership interviews I had heard about as all of them contained some DSA if not all. I was very much surprised and happy about the fact that I could talk to the interviewer about my past works (something I am passionate about) for such the whole length of my interview.

I got the offer few minutes after the second interview and finally, finally I was relieved. It was over. The thing I had feared and was so much doubtful about was finally over. I remember the first thing I did after telling my family was go to the market and drink Mazaa to my hearts content. Afterall, the ordeal was over.

Concluding thoughts

CDC internship is not that important as people generally put it. Ofcourse not worth the tremendous mental and physical pressure students unknowingly put themselves in. But other than that, it was a pretty worthwhile experience for me. I had my support systems active and I talked to people whenever I felt bad. Also I would like to refer to Parth's blog. I remember reading this more than 5 times during that whole time and it gave me that much needed assurance I needed. The assurance that CDC, afterall, is just another experience. Maybe the first of many.

Signing off,