Reflections on my trip to the Google campus, and other unimportant stuff

I went to Google last week for an on-site interview and have just heard back that I failed fair and square. I learned quite a bit of what a company like them looked for so hopefully I will look more intelligent in the future. This was my first interview with a big company and missteps were to be expected and there is no shame to fail. If you’re curious about the interview itself, what I can say are:

  1. Everyone should apply to Google. It’s actually easier and than expected, and more importantly, to me it feels more like acing the SAT than, say, getting admitted to Harvard.
  2. They won’t ask you nitty-gritty details such as rotating a imba tree, but they care about good practices, for example, running the code in my head with corner cases, which I missed quite a bit in my interview.

One of the highlights of the visit was that I decided to email my old lab mate, Michael Butler, before the interview. Michael and Anna were phenomenal hosts, they took me to an awesome sushi place and treated me with lots of surprises, and stayed with me until 11 PM to make sure I understand the interview process. We also visited the Computer History Museum which is full of cool computers (what did I expect?). I could find neither the Enigma or the Analytical Engine, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. I also met with another former labmate, Daniel Li, who is working for Facebook and took us inside the campus and it was the Diagon Alley in real life. I really enjoyed it to the point that I almost missed my flight back.

I also met Thai Duong aka vnhacker, the renounced Vietnamese hacker who is now working for Google Security. Unlike Michael and Daniel whom I worked with in real life before, Thai was someone whom I cold-contacted. I noticed him since he published the BEAST attack (if I recall correctly) where his exploit slowly decoded each character of the private key. It has to be one of the most satisfying and magical moments – it shows how cool Computer Security can be. We talked (in Vietnamese) quite a bit about how life took us to where we are now and what to do next. Despite being a genius and is leading an important team that controls “the Internets” right now, Thai is incredibly humble and open about who he is and what he does. We talked quite a bit about the Vietnamese identity, and what it means to be a global citizen. Not only doing good to himself, Thai is full of ideas to help fellow Vietnamese hackers – in his words, lots of “duyen no” (affinities) – with our motherland. I hope all of his ideas will eventually materialize so the younger generations from Vietnam could go faster and farther than we did. I cannot be more glad that I contacted Thai for a lunch date.

By the way, as a person who finds introducing myself irl very awkward, the internet has been a wonderful medium to share and know people. With my little blog, I get 1-2 emails every month asking for help with Chromebook recoveries and router work. I absolutely enjoy email conversations and love to have more content in the future (regretfully I don’t have a lot of good ideas). I also check my analytics metrics (I just decided to install Google Analytics not so long ago) and don’t see a lot of visits from VN. I don’t think I have the mental capabilities to maintain a separate blog in Vietnamese, but I definitely would love to see some interests like-minded people from Vietnam. If you have some ideas or just want to connect, please don’t be hesitated to send me some email or comment below what you would like to see or hear from me, or just simply to say hello.

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