Have you had this phase in life where your focus was narrowed down to just two or three activities? Where all you can remember about the time was the work you did? And everything else seemed to blur? That’s how I feel about last two months, and about the final semester of my Master’s in general. Few days back I was thinking about how the best takeaway from Columbia was not the subjects I learnt, the opportunities I got or the people I met. All of that matters incredibly to me, but I would say the top takeaway is the shift in mindset and perspective, an increase in clarity on how to move forward and definitely becoming more mature (What is maturity though? Subject to opinions).
I was occupied with three activities over the last three months.
While getting the interview seemed like the biggest hurdle last year, this year things were different. Since I had a built a sufficiently strong network, and knew the companies I wanted to apply to since summer, I targeted a selective few and applied to them. Fortunately, I got the chance to interview at many of them.
I only wanted to work as an Associate Product Manager – it was the perfect role that fit the spectrum of engineering, business and design (do you want to know what an APM does? Check this out to get an idea!), and a role that fit well with my interests and strengths. However, the interview process for an APM was exhaustive and comprehensive.
There were 5 rounds that I needed to prepare for – Design, Strategy, Estimation, Technical and Behavioral. I plan on writing another article in crucial detail to tell aspiring APMs how they can prepare, so Follow Me below for more updates on that!
I prepared from a variety of resources, read many books and learnt new concepts in detail. But my biggest takeaway would be the 30+ people I met from around the world through mock interviews. There is this Slack group (a blessing!) created by a former Google Product Manager named Lewis Lin which has 5000+ people looking for practice partners.
I’d like to keep the details of the companies and interviews that I had private, as the questions are supposed to be confidential. However, I realized that apart from sincere practice, there are other ways you can stand out in a PM interview – ranging from reading novels on the company to redesigning a company product to show the interviewer. As my hands itch to write more on this topic, I’m going to conclude now and keep it all for the main article, coming soon.
You would think, ‘Academics has always been an integral part of people’s lives, right?’. Not really. I felt that academics took a back seat specifically in my Spring semester. But, this being my final few months surrounded by students and Professors, I wanted to take courses that challenged me.
If you read my previous article, you would remember that I took courses surrounding Machine Learning, Big Data and Data Science. All were alien topics to me. Although the classes itself only took away 9 hours in a week, the assignments would take even up to 3 days at times. I still remember the day when I was working on my ML assignment, and I didn’t move from this position on my bed for 12 hours – neither to eat nor to relax. It is one of the most frustrating feelings, when you cannot find an error that’s sitting right in front of you – a reason why I knew since childhood that I would not venture into being a Software Engineer.
If you’re going through a similar phase where academics is taking up a chunk of your time, and you feel frustrated or exhausted all the time, consider yourself lucky. It symbolizes the peak of a roller coaster, which makes the going down so much more fun!
The last medical treatment I had was back in December 2016 when I fell down while riding my scooter and had to be bed-ridden for a week. I have been lucky enough to circumvent the deadly possibility of getting a serious illness or an injury. I still am.
A couple of weeks back, I had a very bad toothache which I assumed to be a cavity initially. This turned into a root canal treatment when I met the first doctor. And that turned into an extraction when I met the second doctor. For anyone who has been in a country other than the US, you would understand the exorbitant costs involved in dental care here.
To give you a glimpse,
Whatever you see above is true, and I can attest first hand to it. An implant costs $4000, root canal $2500, bone graft $400 and an extraction $200. Not to mention the cost involved in taking scans and visiting the doctor.
If I had needed a root canal, it would have been cheaper for me to go back to India, get the treatment and return than to get it done here. That’s how bad the situation is.
Fortunately, I needed an extraction. However, unfortunately, I needed an extraction. While it was saving my money, I was incredibly disappointed that I did not take good care of my teeth and had to lose one now. If you ever plan on getting a tooth extracted, know that the extraction itself is not painful. They give you a strong numbing gel and anesthesia. You feel a lot of pressure though, similar to the feeling you get when someone keeps pulling your hand.
The worst part begins once the extraction ends. You cannot speak, you cannot eat and you cannot do anything too stressful to your body. Unless you want a severe condition called dry socket. I would say in my case I was quite unlucky as my healing process took more time than normal. Most crucially, all this happened when I was still interviewing. Not being able to talk equaled not being able to have mock practice. After 10 days of dormancy, finally things came back to normal, and I am sincerely grateful for having no other major medical issues. You should be too.
One point that I did not expand upon was how the past few months majorly shifted my mindset and perspective. I started learning more than before, reading more than before and having more ideas for the future. If I get lucky, I will write about some of them soon. Until then, I hope whoever is reading this, you should feel blessed and fortunate for your health, education and people around you!
P.S. Some fun pictures!