Life experiences

If you are wondering how I ended up at Microsoft, well, it’s a long story and if you have got some time, you can read it here:

Journey of a boy from small town to Microsoft – An untold story Part 1

If you like to read about dreams and goals, you might like my journey. I won’t claim it to be inspiring and motivating. Neither would I claim it to be struggling and unique. I will leave it for you to decide. But everyone has a journey and a story to tell. And this my friend, is my journey.

July 15, 2013

Each year when I wake up in the morning and find Facebook reminding me of this very date, I can’t stop myself to feel happy and grateful. I thank god who has graced my life with all the opportunities & happiness and given me an ability to be good at what I do.

4 years it’s been since I joined Microsoft and it feels like it were only yesterday when I wandered the corridors of the humongous campus for the first time. Days bled off into years. I have seen people come. I have seen people leave. Life moves on. Everyone is replaceable.

Continue reading Life of a Microsoft Engineer

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I am a CSE Graduate from KIIT University. I joined Microsoft straight out of college. Usually, Microsoft doesn’t visit there, but that year I got lucky.

2 written tests + 3 F2F technical interviews + 1 Skype technical interview

 

Written test 1 (Objective), 30 minutes

First written test was conducted by some third party company. It consisted of 15 objective questions from C, Sorting, Data Structures, Big O, compiler and state machine. We were given 30 minutes. Cut off was 12 out of 15 questions. 77 out of 400 students made it.

Written test 2 (Coding), 60 minutes

Three problems to be solved in 60 minutes with no use of compiler. One problem on Linked List, second on heap and third on array. I coded all problems from scratch including main method. I also wrote flexible methods that could work on any kind of inputs (instead of deleting nodes from 4 to 6, it would delete nodes between ‘M’ and ‘N’ ) and handle all corner cases. The result was announced after 20 days. 30 out of 77 made it.

F2F Interview #1, 60 minutes

We were interviewed in groups of 6. Each one of us in a group was given same problem to solve. I couldn’t code the perfect solution in an hour. All I had discussed 6 different ways to solve the problem. I was afraid that I might be rejected in first round. The interview lasted for 60 minutes.

14 out of 30 were selected.

Continue reading My interview experience at Microsoft

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Every single day you make a choice

So you had a bad day? What did you do? Did you corner yourself in a room and cried like it was the end of the world?

A bad day is just another day which would pass. The question you should ask yourself is how can you avoid such circumstances in the foreseeable future. There are certain things in life which are beyond your control. You can’t do anything about them. But few things if taken action at the right time can save you from experiencing another bad day. Let’s say you arrive office a bit late and a mail from your manager is sitting right in your mailbox which reads “Urgent! Meet me when you are in office”. Suddenly you realize that you made a blunder last night at work and while you knew this, you procrastinated to proactively inform your manager in advance. Now you are screwed. You get comments like such kind of mistake can’t be tolerated from a person at your level. You either come back and keep cursing your manager while comforting yourself with excuses like “Well, this was only first time. How can he be so mean?” or you focus on improving yourself, take a note of the incident, analyze what sort of actions lead you to do this mistake and how do you plan to not repeat it. You see the difference. While the first choice won’t add any value to your personal and professional growth, the second choice not only makes you a better human being, but also helps you to see and tackle the situation from a different perspective. This is called as “Not going below the line”.

There is no secret ingredient. It’s just you

When I was preparing for Joint Entrance Exam (the toughest exam for engineering in India), I observed a very common pattern. About 70% of my friends gave up that they can’t clear it right before few months. To succeed in life, you must first believe that you can. There is noone in this world who knows you better than you know yourself. Your strengths, weaknesses, your skills and what are you good at.

Planning and Execution will keep your life stress free

I worked on two important projects at Microsoft. Both were critical for two reasons. One, tight deadlines. Two, to make Microsoft mission come true.

While working on these two projects right from the beginning to their completion, I realized how important planning is. If you don’t plan well, chances are you would freak out sooner or later. People usually tend to procrastinate when it comes to planning. They think that it will just happen as time progresses. Successful people spend a lot of time planning and less time on execution. That’s why people with huge experience are given the planning phase of the project. Sometimes, a decision tree is helpful to make calls and minimize risks in future.

Continue reading 7 important lessons to hack your life

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Have you ever felt that you are not able to do something because of less time? Have you ever wondered that why few achieve so much in the same 24 hours while you struggle to be good at one thing? It’s not always because you are comparatively less efficient than other guys . Efficiency is nothing but a measure of productivity against time. And if you learn to manage time efficiently, the productivity would automatically bump up. The question you should ask yourself is,

The most successful people are the busiest and they can still find time. Why can’t you?

Life is all about setting priorities right and if you do not learn to focus on what is important and what is urgent, sooner or later, you will find it slipping out of your control.

I often get questions on how do I get time to do so many things. To summarize, I do fashion photography, play piano and write blogs apart from my full time Software Engineering job.

Since last few years, I had been living the life of a night owl. I used to sleep late in the night and wake up in the early noon. It’s hard to believe but I used to be proud of myself for a such a crazy schedule. I followed this insane routine for 7 years and then I thought for a change. Months of efforts didn’t work out well for me. Our body is not a robotic machine which can be changed to work in a different environment as easily as the tap of a button. t adapts slowly to the changes we wa It must be given proper rest to function it well.

Waking up early morning can do wonders

Sometime back, I got a chance to visit US on a business trip. People who visit there often complain about the jet lag for days. My bad schedule in India worked there like charm. I woke up at 5 in the morning and slept at 11 at night. Every morning, I felt charged up. I was way more productive.

Continue reading Manage time like a boss and become more productive

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In the life of every person, there is someone who (s)he looks up to. It is the human psychology. We tend to choose a hero whom we appreciate. Why? The reason is obvious. Sometimes, we love the way our hero lives. Sometimes, it is his popularity. Sometimes, it is just because his dreams were what  ours is now. He kept on improving each day, each week until one morning he became what he always wanted. And we start seeing the perfect version of ourselves in him. Each time we come across his story and picture, our inner self echoes, “Yes, this is who I would like to be one day”.

But the question is, does it help by just following them. Sure, it is motivating. It elevates your desire to do something. It boosts up your will to achieve what you wanted. However, until and unless you do not work freaking hard, improve yourself day by day, that chosen hero remains in pictures. Like we see Hulk in Marvel movies. Remember not all people are blessed with quick learning abilities. We have to keep trying hard to know what works for us best.
I personally had many heroes in my life so far. When I was learning programming, I chose a hero who knew infinity as compared to me. When I was doing photography, I chose a hero whose shots just made me feel wow. When I was playing piano, I chose yet another hero whose fingers seem to turn into bots.
What I observed while following my passion is that even though, I chose my heroes, I made great progress in one while very little in other. What were the things that went bad and I couldn’t do well? Was my execution plan wrong? Was it the lack of motivation? Did I not have enough passion? Well, it was about my devotion and the efforts I needed to put.
To fix this, I made an execution plan. I set an achievable goal. Like, at the end of this summer, I would shoot at least 10 great photos. Or by year end, I would learn to play a song X on piano in melody and arpeggios. And I keep on checking myself every two weeks or so about the progress I make and the areas where I lag. This trick is working great for me so far.

Don’t follow a person. Follow your dreams. Chase your passion. That is going to define who you are. Be your own hero.

Who knows, by doing so, you will become someone so unique that people will start looking up to you. That said, we can’t compare between Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. All of them have made significant contribution in the music realm.

Let me end this writing with a small inspiring video of Matthew McConaughey at the 86th Oscars® in 2014 | Best Actor for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club. Whenever I feel low, watching this speech of him helps me a lot.

In his words, this Oscar goes to my hero, that’s who I chase. Now when I was 15 years old, I have a very important person in my life come to me and say, “Who is your hero?”. And I said I don’t know I gotta think about that, give me a couple of weeks. I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says “Who’s your hero?” And so I thought about it and I said you know who it is, it’s me in 10 years.

So I turn 25, 10 years later that same person comes to me and goes “so are you a hero?” And I was like, not even close. No, no, no. She said “Why?” I said because my hero is me at 35. So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero is always 10 years away. I’m never going to beat my hero. I’m not going to obtain that, I know I’m not. And that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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There is a part of us which reacts to a situation or the behavior of a person in very specific way. This happens more often when the person happens to be a very good friend or a close one of yours.

There are times when we wish we had a magic wand so that we do some miracle to make the person behave the way we want her to be. More specifically, we want her to be like us. We never think twice that that unique difference defines us.
Irony is we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

A small encounter in my life forced me to rethink and correct my perceptions about the things I visualize, behavior I observe and the way I react.
After a small phone conversation, we decided to meet on dinner as it had been quite long since we talked about the world around us.
It was hard to believe that she was the same girl I met 18 months back, crying over her life, her selfish friends, her bank balance, her big dreams, her having no supporting friend blah blah blah. The problems just never seem to end for her. I always thought that no matter how much good happens in her life, she would always be a crying baby. Each time we talked, ninety percent of our conversation was about her and her problems. There were times when she irritated me like hell.

But today, I met a new girl in her. She was mature, talked so much sense and beamed with confidence. Her life was very happening and full of exciting things. She had big plans for future and she was very positive about them. Her patience level had gone stronger.

But this change didn’t come overnight. It was the result of consistent effort of weeks, months. I remember all the hard work she did to get a better life, a life that people appreciate and want.

But, why am I writing all these things? Well, it was only after meeting her that I realized that I liked the older version of her more when she used to share every single detail of her life. It’s not that I am not happy with what she is today. I always wanted her to be happy. It’s just that she has become independent enough to not need me anymore and this is what hurts.

You realize the value of something only when it’s gone. There are some things which should not change.

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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It’s been 8 years in row when I last laughed on the day of romance. Every year, I had a belief that may be I would be lucky to get a chance to smile again, lucky to meet special someone to share my feelings with again. With years, my thoughts matured as I grew up. I know if someone is meant to be with you, to love you, to smile with you, to go nuts with you, there won’t be a valentine’s day to decide this. A valentine’s day is just another day. People have found extraordinary love on ordinary days.

I now spend the day in peace. It has become more of a habit now. I wake up in the morning, brush my teeth, take a shower, talk to people, like statuses of people falling in love, close my eyes for a while and wonder if anyone special is there out for me, dine and go to sleep. With each passing year, I have grown stronger in matters of love. Now I am careful because I know at the end of the day, it hurts. Breakup is painful. It cripples your brain and breaks down your nervous system. You just can’t think straight. You keep on asking the same question over and over again, “Why me?.

You must be wondering if I am optimistic about this year. Well I am not. It’s not because I am looking for the perfect girl. I am looking for someone I can spend next 50 years of my life with irrespective of all her imperfections. Perfection is a myth. A perfect girl doesn’t exist. I am looking for someone with whom I can talk to for hours without getting bored. A girl who can understand me when noone will. A girl with whom I can share my craziest of thoughts without worrying about her reactions. A girl who is as weird as I am. A girl who has passion, confidence, is willing to take chances and explore the world. I find confidence a terribly sexy quality in girl. When I see her, it feels like fireworks are going off. And and… style. She should really know how to wear a dress. Finding such a girl would take time. A day won’t change a dime. I would prefer to wait than hurry. The secret formula to be happy is to be with someone who makes you feel alive every single time you see her smile. It makes you realize that you are the reason behind her pretty smile and whatever you do, is worth it because moments like this are precious.

So this year also I will pass the day silently pretending that it is just another day. I will wake up in the morning, brush my teeth, blah! blah! blah!, dine and go to sleep.

Happy valentine’s day in advance! If you have got that special person, you are the luckiest 🙂

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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Every evening on the roof top of my hostel in Delhi, I used to see the shining airplanes going off into the thin air and wondered when I would get a chance to fly in one of these with my own capability. While that dream was fulfilled the moment I joined Microsoft, I started wondering to fly to United States in the best of airlines to feel how is it like to be in the most powerful country in the world..You can say that my dreams always get upgraded.

Being at Microsoft has its own benefits

I owned an important piece of project in Microsoft. There was a talk going on to fasten the velocity of work we were doing. Given the complexity of the project, its architecture was written in many layers few of which was coded by team at Redmond. Due to time zone difference and the critical timing, we had to act on it quickly to enhance quality of product. They decided to send me over to interact with people, understand different layers and their communication.

A sudden plan

I hardly remember traveling somewhere in such a big rush. It was 4 O’ clock in the evening when I was checking flight tickets and changing date in the calendar on the online portal to finalize which day to travel. 6 O’ clock, my friends found a flight that was to take off the next morning to Seattle and I spent next hour mentally preparing myself to fly so unprepared. It was just hard to believe that I would be traveling to US, one of my dream destinations without any preparation. My parents were asking me every other day if I bought winter apparels. I usually prefer to plan everything in advance and this time, without have a flight ticket in hand, I didn’t want. With support from my friends at Microsoft, I finally decided to give it a chance. There are few things in world for which you need not to be prepared. After all, traveling somewhere without much thinking has its own share of fun. And this was not somewhere. This was what I dreamed of long enough.

It all started with a joke. I was worried I was not getting any ticket in good airlines next week. I was tired, exhausted not a clue on what to do. “There is a flight next day at 4 in the morning. You can catch that.”

“Holy cow! This would be too early. How on earth would I be able to catch that?”

I knew they were serious when my manager said. “Actually, I think you can go.”

“But I haven’t done any shopping”, my forehead was shining with worry lines.

“It’s alright. What are the things you need? You can borrow them from me.”
My friends helped to prepare an itinerary. I literally got only 2 hours to dine and pack my bags. I usually never take more than 30 minutes to pack, but since this was my first trip to US, I didn’t want to take any chances.

It’s Emirates, baby

The moment I stepped into the flight, I got the answer why it has been coined as the best airlines in the world. The service, the infra and the experience was just amazing. It is very unlikely that you would be left unhappy after an Emirates travel. It was a 22 hours long journey with a 3 hours layover in Dubai. Being a movie buff and their huge collection of movies, I didn’t find it difficult to spend time.

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Hello from Redmond!

The flight was just on time. You might find it funny but the first thing I missed at Seattle airport was no taxi driver asking me where would I want to go. I didn’t have US Sim Card and it was freezing cold to stay for long in the open weather. There are two Marriott hotels in Redmond and I missed to mention which one I wanted to go to the local taxi. Even with a 50% chance of landing at the correct hotel didn’t work for me. Redmond is kinda a developed village. It’s hard to find anyone on the road. It was near difficult to ask someone for navigation. Luckily, the second Marriott was just a few blocks away.

Few of the pictures of the hotel:

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I learned that labor is costly in US. The gorgeous lady at the business center handed me over a map which had directions to follow my room. It’s very unlike in India that you would have to carry luggage to your room on your own in a decent hotel.

My first status update from Facebook on the arrival night.

It’s been only 11:00 PM here and I am done with sleep. It’s quite chilly outside and the roads are empty. A grave silence is there in the winds. Next couple of nights, I am gonna spend as a night crawler. I wonder if the new government would encourage vigilante. All of a sudden, I feel like I have all the time in the world and I have very less to do.
If I was not able to respond to your chats due to my busy schedule, Let’s catch up now

Being a hobby photographer, I found everything very interesting and screaming at me to be clicked.

The view outside my hotel room. As you can see, cars are parked in the open air. In the morning, the car windows are covered with a thick layer of ice.

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Just by the first look, I can say that discipline and patience flow in veins here. I never saw anyone rushing, everyone (well almost) greets you with a wide smile, cute children laughing on pavements and the most important thing – punctuality. People prefer to be on time. They dine by 8, sleep by 11 and woke up at 6.

Good morning Redmond

It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You don’t realize it until you skip dinner and have a heavy breakfast in Indian style dinner. Good morning Redmond!

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!JetLag

I was under impression that I won’t be getting sleep at usual time because of all the jet lag stories I heard. To my surprise, jet lag did magic to my schedule which I couldn’t follow even after trying for 10 years and many apps claiming to help you do so. I slept at 10, wake up at 6 and rushed to office by 8. It was just an amazing feeling. It was refreshing. I was way more productive. I never knew a good schedule can do miracles in your day to day life.

US Diaries – Part 2

 

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.
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A feeling is hidden when someone says “I don’t care”,

A truth is hidden when someone says “I am kidding”,
A pain is hidden when someone says “It’s okay”,
A need is hidden when someone says “Leave me alone”,
A secret is hidden when someone says “I don’t know”.
A lot of emotions are hidden. Few just choose to hide them behind a fake smile. Sometimes, it’s good because not all people who ask how are you would really be interested in listening your story. People are busy and until & unless you are not their priority, they won’t care.

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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I wanna explore the world. I wanna go on a road trip someday with that beautiful girl I love. I wanna capture a lot of pictures, of her, of us, to cherish those happy moments when I will be sad. Listen to my favorite songs in the long drive.
I wanna stop in between just to enjoy the view and to see the cute smile on her face. I wanna get lost with her. Wake up, step out, wander in any direction with her on my arm while enjoying the mesmerizing views, keep walking until we feel so terribly weak on our knees that we are left with no choice but to rush to the nearest cafe, order some exotic food and a glass of wine. And then get back, wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.

I wanna see sunrise. And a lot of sunsets. Listen her all night while lying under starry sky. Sit on the brink of waterfall for hours and feel the charm of water droplets on the face. Run through a lush green forest. Feel the wind rushing in ears. Get lost in gentle breeze filling my nostrils with crazy fragrance of flowers. Pen down the experience while sitting in the colorful garden. Spend hours admiring the beauty of nature. Meet people on the way. Make memories. Purchase memorabilia. I wanna get surprised. I wanna feel alive. I wanna live my life.

Copyright © 2016, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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