experiences

If you haven’t read previous part, it’s right here –  US Diaries Part 1

US is a country of dreams. I could see it shining right through everyone’s eyes. I met one person in taxi who played piano and released his own music album. The other guy Chad writes pilots for TV series and is a good photographer. There was another guy who had done some coding. He knew what python and C++ is. He wanted to work at Amazon or Microsoft. Another guy was a lead manager in an MNC and drove Uber just for fun. They don’t care much about the social status. They do what they love to do.

A really nice country where people greet you and don’t expect anything in return. Everyone you meet is so much open to talk without holding any grudge. Believe me, I had some of the best conversations in just a span of 30 minutes or so.

Redmond = Microsoft

I had heard that Microsoft has humongous office in its headquarters, Redmond. Well, it was true. I was amazed by seeing the area in which it was spread. If I say Redmond is Microsoft, it won’t be wrong. 135 buildings.

Microsoft, US culture

Unlike India where people tend to stay late in offices, Redmond is just the opposite. People come early and leave early. You would hardly find anyone staring at work monitor after 6. People are punctual and highly efficient. Well, I could see where that efficiency comes from. They don’t talk much and confine their conversation to mainly professional stuffs. The hours they put in work are really productive. The culture is so well defined that if you stay late, you would have a feeling that you are working in a zombie village. I, personally liked this culture and I easily embraced it. I had free evenings where I could catch some friends over dinner in classy sounding restaurants.

The world is small

It really is a small world we live in. It is not very unusual that while dining or taking a walk in busy streets, I stumble upon someone who happens to know me. Well, it has happened many times in India. But when you face the same in US, you start thinking that the world is really small. I met an old friend while crossing a street in Redmond, stumbled upon another known face in Seattle while dining with a college friend and had a short chit chat with a guy on shuttle, I used to see in dance classes in Hyderabad.

Seattle diaries

One of the exciting thing about Seattle is incessant rains. Rainy season is something people either love or hate. You will hardly find anyone being neutral on it.

Space Needle

If you’re a Windows user, you must have noticed the tall tower with a big circular head on lock screen. What if I tell you, it is much more beautiful when you look it closely? Well, it is a marvelous piece of human architecture. Standing tall at a height of 184 meters, you can see the whole Seattle view from the top. I could manage to get some pics from my DSLR even though it was freezing cold. My finger nails had turned bluish.

The head of tower

The Seattle view point

Standing on the top of Space Needle and experiencing this view was a treat to eyes.

I always wanted to dine at Skycity Space Needle restaurant. Well, who won’t? After all, dining at such a height has a unique magical feeling. You are sitting and eating exquisite food while the restaurant rotates to show you every angle of the city. Sadly, I couldn’t get a booking. It had 2 weeks waiting time.

Chihuly garden and glass

You can’t miss Chihuly garden and glass if you love art while being in Seattle. This place is mainly famous for its exceptional glass arch, mostly attracted by photographers. I met many photographers there and got a chance to flaunt my skills. Visiting Chihuly wasn’t easy due to shortage of time. The place opens at 11 in the morning and I had return flight on the same day at 5. On the top of that, it was raining like crazy. Well then it’s Seattle. Rains are not supposed to crash the fun. Thanks to Hotel Marriott for making special arrangements.

This picture has its own story. Chihuly Garden and Glass attracts a lot of tourists due to its marvelous, eye popping glass arch. I had a chance to interact with many photographers there and it was fun discussing about various aspects of photography. I wanted to capture whole 25 feet long arch in one frame and for this, I had to wait 30 minutes to capture this due to the huge crowd. Funny to say, due to my corporate ID hanging out of my pocket, few of the tourists asked me if I worked there.

1/50s at f/5.6, 18mm, ISO 1000

North-Bend

Situated at a distance of 30 miles from Redmond, North-Bend is a bliss to eyes. No matter if you are a nature and mountains lover or love long driving on beautiful roads or a shopping spree, North-Bend has got a charm in its own. Built near mountains which are covered with snow in winter, there are many shops where you can enjoy buying stuffs.

The cheese mountain.
I clicked this amazing shot in North Bend, US. Seattle is a beautiful city. Incessant rains, chilly wind, snowy mountain and golden sunshine. A serene heaven for photographers.
It was a sudden plan. The moment I arrived there, the sun was about to set and its dusky golden rays falling on the snow over the top of mountain was giving a perception of molten golden cheese all around.

I am quite fond of keeping a collection of perfumes. When I saw Perfumania shop at the North-Bend, I got a chance to try out all the perfumes I had been researching for years. At the end, I got one of my favorites, one what everyone in US uses, and one which was the choice of the woman who sold me all this.

Heroes of my wardrobe  Recently I have got an urge to keep a collection of perfumes.

From left to right:
Caroline, Armani Gio, Invictus, Playboy, Calvin Klein

Chocolates

A trip to US is not complete until you get chocolates for your loved ones.

To be continued…

In the next part, I would be writing about my trip to Los Angeles and San Diego. Please stay tuned.

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.
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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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Being a travel photographer, lush green nature and hills have always attracted me. I find peace in the lap of nature, walking across flower blooms while enjoying the gigantic fresh smell filling my nostrils giving me a sensation of another world. A 3 days trip to Kodaikanal was a much needed getaway to take a break from work and relax.

Kodaikanal is a city of hills located at a distance of 462 kms (8 hours bus distance) from Bangalore, India. It is called as the Queens of Hills.

This trip was all about witnessing the cool weather, seeing nature through a different perspective and clicking photographs.

March 30 – April 1, 2017

Stay

We booked a hut through Airbnb in Misty Mountains. The location and the hut were eye popping and situated at the highest altitude in the city.

Day 1, March 30

We arrived Kodaikanal at 6 in the morning and booked a taxi to our stay. It was 2.5 kms away from bus station, Naidupuram. The view was so amazing and refreshing that I kept wondering why did I not visit this place before.

Our stay in Kodaikanal:

We planned to cover Kodaikanal lake, Bryat park and Coaker’s walk on first day as they were 3 kms away from Misty Mountains.

Continue reading A getaway to the Queen of Hills – Kodaikanal

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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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My contribution on Quora on cracking technical interviews:

 

  1. What should I do in the next 6 months to get into a company like Amazon/Google?
  2. How do I go about preparing for interviews on GeeksforGeeks?
  3. What are the top 20 websites for interview preparation?
  4. What are some useful websites for a CS student?
  5. How does one become good at problem solving?
  6. Career Cup or GeeksforGeeks?
  7. Should I do competitive programming or learn GeeksforGeeks, from a placement point of view?
  8. Which is the best book to start learning algorithms?
  9. Which books should I refer for data structures in C?
  10. I suck in competitive programming but I wish to make a mark there. I’m improving my skills by practicing on GeeksforGeeks. Is this the right approach?
  11. Should I learn algorithms and data structures in my vacation or learn any other thing? See details.
  12. How many academic projects should be mentioned in the resume while appearing for big companies like Amazon, MS, Adobe by a fresher?
  13. What are your reviews of Data structures and Algorithm made easy by Narasimha Karumanchi? Should it be used and when?
  14. Is it neccessary to put subjects of interest in our resume, we dont get good job at big tech companies if not added?
  15. Do we have to mention our Data structures skills in our resume in subjects of interest part ?
  16. Does the bloggers get paid when they write article on geeksforgeeks?
  17. How can one contribute to GeeksforGeeks and become one of the moderators?
  18. Studying Algorithms and data structures cover similar topics in c,c++ and Java languages?
  19. What is the difference between dynamic programming and recursion?
  20. What is easiest approach to tackle Dynamic programming problems?
  21. How should I explain dynamic programming to a 4-year-old?

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.

2e5e596100000578-3315070-emirates_new_a380_has_two_classes_business_and_economy_and_will_-a-4_14473313834311

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:

16112518_1402536169766187_7154495049550897719_o[1].jpg

16114143_1402536173099520_2625156290256392395_n1

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.

dsc_0380

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!

20170124_154027797_ios

!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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