I’m not sure if the interview process I went through is very typical, but my day was scheduled to start at 11AM on Friday and go until 5PM. I generally do my best when I’m fully relaxed though, so I took the effort to wake up extra and walk over to Fisherman’s Wharf to relax. The result? I had a full clam chowder bread bowl at Boudin’s,the place to do it, before going in.
I then took an Uber over to the company site. Over the course of the following six hours I had a total of five 45-minute interviews, tea with the CTO of the company and a lunch with the company. My interview lineup was pretty scary, including the seventh employee at the company, the VP of engineering and the aforementioned CTO. The appeal of such a small company is that really everybody gets to know each other. The atmosphere was also incredibly informal; when I got back from tea, my recruiter took a look at the drink in my hand and got really excited since she did not know of this tea shop close by. Overall it just felt like a pretty nice and relaxing experience.
Of course, I can’t actually talk about the interview content, so we must skip that part. But I got out of the company at 5, cautiously optimistic about my chances since my interviewers seemed to like me. I took public transportation back to the airport and worked there for two hours until my flight. I even got back in time for Friday night festivities!
It turned out that I did well enough on the interview to be provided a formal job offer! I did not receive any other offers at other companies and so didn’t have much negotiating power. But the bigger question was the same one that has always loomed in the distance these years at Caltech: industry or grad school?
After a lot of deliberation and consulting various friends and professors, my final conclusion was to accept the job offer. I’m not exactly sure where I’ll go next, but the company seems like a cool one and I’ve always been somewhat curious what a non-academic career would feel like. While I love research and academia, to the point where I would not imagine myself never returning, I think going to work at a small tech company coming out of undergraduate is is an experience that I will not have in another few years. I want to capitalize on this chance and see things on the other side. Many people have told me it’s hard to get back into academia, and I realize I must make my decision with some caution, but I’m confident that I’m too curious to “sell out” for too long.