Interview by CSI on my placement in Microsoft

CSI - VESIT
This interview was taken by then CSI-VESIT's Sr. Web Editor, and my good friend - Sameet Singh in Sept. 2007, who ended up taking a telephonic interview of around an hour. Published with permission from the owner - CSI VESIT. All rights reserved.

Sam: Congratulations on making it into Microsoft.
Me: Thanks.

Sam: Let's get to the point straight...How to get into Microsoft ?
Me: There are a number of ways actually. Mine was the easiest, but the longest. I only had to give a telephonic and a single one-on-one interview, as compared to the aptitude tests and multiple rounds that take place at campus interviews. I didn't have to go through all that. As a result, there was less stress and hence a better chance !

Sam: What are the different ways ?
Me: Broadly - there are two. First - study hard, know your subjects really well, have strong basics and then hope you perform well on day. Second - study well enough, have a good enough hold on your subjects, be clear enough about the basics, have decent practical knowledge, have a strong project-base, participate in project-based events, specially those organized by Microsoft, earn an internship if possible and then you'll need to perform just well enough on day, because your resume with the strong project base will do the rest for you.

Sam: You got in through the second way ?
Me: Yes.

Sam: " A decent percentage is important no doubt...you can't expect your projects to help you if your aggregate lies in the low percentage bracket. But frankly, today, percentage is just an eligibilty criteria "

Sam: Isn't that a little too demanding ?
Me: It's lengthy as I said, but if you are genuinely interested, you enjoy the process and that makes it easy. It's also an unusual way, in the sense - it's not usual...it is unexploited, rather under-exploited. Not many students, as students, have a strong project-base to go along with decent academic results. There are Microsoft events such as the Imagine Cup, Student Rockstar, Web Rockstar, which students aren't really aware of, or feel aren't important enough. But according to me, they surely help...helped me at least.

Sam: Percentage or Projects ?
Me: A decent percentage is important no doubt...you can't expect your projects to help you if your aggregate lies in the low percentage bracket. But frankly, today, percentage is just an eligibilty criteria. Microsoft asked for 65 % and no KTs and once you prove you have that, you aren't asked about percentages again. It's then you on that day, perform well and you make it, a bad day and you don't. Projects help in a way, create a good impression, an impression that makes you stand apart. Of course you are tested with respect to the projects you claim to have worked on or the technologies you claim to know. You can't say you have made Windows Vista and get away with it. (smiles) But if you know what you are talking about, you give yourself a better chance.

Sam: No projects, no "better" chance?
Me: No. You can still stand apart on the basis of your creativity, which is hard to develop I feel. You are either born creative, or you choose to be a hard worker. I am not too proud of my creativity, but I have 4-5 projects that I'm very proud of...so I am a hard worker.

Sam: So who has the best chance - a creative person or one with good projects or a university topper ?
Me: A creative university topper who has good projects. (smiles)

Sam: And do they make those any more ?
Me: Rarely. (pulls up his collar and laughs)

Sam: Which Microsoft events did you take part in?
Me: I took part in the Imagine Cup last year.

Sam: What sort of an event is Imagine Cup?
Me: Imagine Cup...is all about imagining ways and means of making the world better, using technology. It's a global event which consists of a number of competitions like Software Development, Web Development, Embedded Development, Algorithms, Short-films and a few more. Every year, there's a common theme for the event, based on which, we need to apply technology to improve the world. Last year, the theme was education. We were supposed to "Imagine a world where technology helped in improving education". I took part in the Software Development competition and my team reached the India Finals. So we were amongst the top 11 teams of India.

Sam: What inspired you to take part in Imagine Cup?
Me: A few years back, a team from our college took part and won a prize in the Imagine Cup. That was the first time the event caught my eye. Then again, I was always interested in Microsoft technologies and all my interests combined together kind of perfectly fitted the Imagine Cup requirements. I keep repeating it because it is so very important - it's all about the interest. If you have the interest and you get such a platform, then you must grab the opportunity with both hands. I did that.

Sam: Who is it for? Only the T.E.s and B.E.s? Or the S.E.s as well?
Me: Why leave the F.E.s out (smiles)...it's for anyone and everyone interested.

Sam: Don't you need to be technically proficient?
Me: To an extent, yes. But the most important factor in Imagine Cup, is the idea you go in with. If you have a strong idea, a different idea, an idea, that actually can make a difference, then you are much better off than technical geniuses with weak ideas. Consider this - we didn't have to write a single line of code to clear the first two rounds of the competition. Both were based on documentations and presentation of the idea...it was only in round 3 that we needed to present a working model. So even if you think you are technically not good enough, the experience is still worth it...participating, working with a team, brain-storming about ideas, giving telephonic interviews, presentations, interacting with the competitors and people from Microsoft...it's too much to miss.
I was in third year when I took part, but that was my mistake. There was a team from second year as well that reached round 2. So it's not like you need to be a .NET expert to participate.

Sam: So should the VESITians look for you if they have questions with respect to Imagine Cup?
Me: I'm always willing to help. However, they have a better choice - why not ask your doubts to someone from Microsoft itself...how about getting your queries solved by the very person who interviewed me before the finals of Imagine Cup - Mr. Tejas Shah.
Mr. Tejas Shah is an ex-VESITian and an Imagine Cup prize winner! He was the guy who inspired me to take part.
And he is coming to VESIT, at CSI's request...to help students once again. I hope all students make full use of this golden opportunity...it's coming there way on the 9th of October, when Mr. Tejas Shah will be at VESIT.