Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My TCS Experience : 23rd - 24th October 2013

Hey friends,
First of all let me inform you by telling, if you don’t already know, I am a computer science and engineering graduation student and this is my last year. A few companies have visited our college; TCS was the first company to do so., definitely the gem out of the lot.

Disclaimer : I am not mentioning any names over here. I just don’t think that I should. I have however written all other things, very honest, to the best of my knowledge.

I was fortunate enough to meet the eligibility criteria for the company and to be a little self-boosting, I was one of the toppers of my batch. This year, the toppers had to go through a verbal exam but they were, thankfully, still exempted from the written (online) quantitative aptitude or the analytical reasoning papers.

One thing that I will never really understand if that a lot of people had huge expectations from me. It is not that I don’t try hard enough, but there are people who tried equally hard if not more. I find myself an exceptionally lazy but lucky girl and there is just a single God to thank for that. Thank you Lord. Anyways, as I mentioned that there were a lot of expectations and I was losing nerve with their burden.
To add to the pile, I lost my paternal grandfather on 25th of September, while the company was scheduled to come to our college on the 23rd of October. Again, I better tell you that I am a seriously emotional person. I wasn’t even allowed to visit my home (from the residential college about 300kmz from home) as my parents knew that the entire scenario would never let me concentrate. A few days later, my dad just told me a single thing - Don’t let grandpa become the reason of a failure.
I tried my best to do so. For an entire month I tried studying but that was hard. But honestly, I didn’t leave any stone unturned to prepare for my interview. I searched every possible question that I could find on the internet. I prepared answers for each of them and got them checked by professional interview trainers and english teachers. I attended classes by our TPO for the interview preparations and noted down everything that I could. I remember something that I had heard about our TPO; my friends said that he told them if Shruti (I) didn’t get through TCS, his faith in the company's recruitment process would shake. This was definitely a huge thing to say and I think I am definitely going to nurture this in my heart as one of the best memories of my life, forever. Having said that, it was also another form of expectation that made me shudder in secret.

On 1st and 3rd of October, we had a little session with people from TCS. The general interaction was great. Though the personnel never left a stone unturned to make us feel that it will be tough, it was definitely a relax to talk to him. In  a way, he really did boost up a lot of confidence, especially in me. The other session was about 'Big Data', an upcoming technology in the field of computer science, especially Data Management. It is also a technology that TCS works on. To anyone preparing for the company, this is one thing you definitely don’t want to miss. And yes, if you can remember TCS has research centres and domain labs all across the nation. In the Delhi research centre, we have the Big Data domain lab. This little tip helped me, I hope it helps you.
On the 3rd, we had an HR and MR expert, who had visited our college the previous time. Being a part of the training and placement cell, I had had the chance to interact with him the last time and it was an amazing thing when out of a group of more than 100, he pointed towards me and said - I remember you were coordinating last time. That was amazing. Even though the man successfully scared the life out of each and every one, I felt much more confident. If he was going to come for my interview, I felt that I would be handling them quite confidently. The great that the first session went, in the second session, I really did realize that I could never get through with my technical. There were not one, not two but three people in front of us. One the person from the MR session and two TR experts. Let me also tell you, none of the three looked or sounded anything sparing. I started doubting whether it was even worth the shot.

There was just a week or ten days before the actual date when I finally could get myself to prepare for the TR. I prepared a list of all the subjects I wanted to study. Being in the toppers doesn’t help at all! Whenever I talk about TCS, I say it can never be complete without me mentioning that I had to change my resume SIX (I used words instead of numerical so as to use CAPS to emphasize :P) times before my TPO finally approved it. I am very lazy and a little hesitant to spend in such things but because he denied checking a soft copy, I had to get so many print outs for every little mistake he pointed in the previous one. Honestly, happiness is when he finally approved my resume!

One day before the big day, the team arrived and the HR addressed all the students. The HR had been coming to our college since the very first visit and there was no student who didn’t know him. Knowing him, wasn’t anything good either. He is a man of few words and we have hardly seen him laughing. Not that he is all boring, I can't say for I don’t know him outside the small professional window through which we interacted. He was the person who called us all at 7:30 in the morning and was there himself before then; even before our teachers arrived.

Like I said, the next day we were asked to come early for the test - at 7:30 am and we reached just in time. Abhishek sir, the HR was already there with his technical staff, readying the systems for the tests to proceed. Our coordinator sir came first and then our TPO. I might never do it otherwise, but that morning, I touched both their feet, not to seek luck but in a way to pay respects for all their belief and support towards me in the past 3 years. It wasn’t more than 5 minutes that he asked us to wait outside but it seemed more than an hour of nervousness. When he walked us into the room, there was a killing silence. We all took our places and followed the instructions to open the portal and then log in. With the new pattern, everyone is supposed to give the verbal test. The verbal test never bothered me, but at that moment, I kept hoping not to make any stupid mistake.
The verbal test is a simple letter/email formation question where we are given a few words/phrases and we need to construct an letter/email using the words. As it was the first year of such a pattern, there was nothing concrete or let's just say that I was too reluctant to believe. There was confusion regarding if all words are to be used and if the same order, in which they are given, is to be followed. Also there was some conflict about the number of words but before starting the test, the TCS personnel gave us clear instructions for them to be < 50. To be on the safer side, it is always advisable that you use all the words and in the same order as it is given, unless stated else wise. Even though we were given instructions before starting the test, luckily, my question was a very simple one. It was about having taken leave and asked a cousin to send message to the boss and he hadn't done so. The words/ phrases were given in the exact order that I could use them. What I really felt was the trick to ace this section is to have a continuous flow of thoughts. If you ask me, one should definitely read the question twice with all the words given and think over what to write. As soon as you have a picture in your mind about how your email will be, start writing it immediately. Once you have finished writing, spend a few minutes to check if you have used all the words in proper order and then reread the whole thing to see if it makes sense grammatically.
You needn't have an amazing vocabulary or brilliant command over the language for this. Honestly, if you have been able to read and comprehend this blog entry so far, you will do fine, as long as you don't neglect it completely. It might be a very simple task but devote a few minutes on it at least once a week. No formal practice papers are required and you can just take any topic and write on it.

We waited for around half an hour before the results for this round for the 14 of us came. There were a lot of superstitions associated with the toppers in my college and therefore, we all feared these results more than anything else. However, it was the first milestone when the HR announced that we were all through. There was a little moment that our TPO had. Because of the previous year performances, there was a lot of pressure on the top 14 for this round (God willingly, I was one of them). He had committed to the company that this time there will be a significant change and a change this big, was amazing. This is another moment that I will remember for a lifetime - even though it wasn't entirely up to me but I did play my part in making our TPO stand true to his words and stand proud in front of one of the leading pioneers of the IT industry.

I was very happy having cleared the first round and then eagerly waited for the interviews. Now, I haven't explicitly mentioned but I was in the top 5 students in my batch in my college and therefore, I was exempted from the Quantitative and Reasoning tests. Honestly, if I had to give those two as well, I have no idea what the results would have been. Anyways, I took out some last minute revision sheets I had prepared and went to the farthest end of the corridor (it wasn’t as far as it might seem) and started revising. Just for the information, DBMS is my favourite subject and that is what I was revising. Our college Director saw me revising and he seemed quite glad seeing me study. He smiled and wished me luck. My course coordinator, is a very dear person to me; he has been a constant support for me throughout these 3.5 years I spent in the college. He has been to solve all my problems, consider all my requests and listen to everything that I have to say. Also, recently I have been told that apparently he even knows something that I wish he didn’t and he jokes about that as well (reference to future self : (coded) About his roommate in college and me ;P)… Well, he passed me and asked me to relax. I tried my best to concentrate but honestly, what I did at that time was remember everyone who had been super kind to me and wished me on my big day - right from my parents, Nani, Prerna, Devna, relatives who wished my parents, roomie ;P, Pooja, Yogita, Kalpana, Dipika, Koshish, Bhavisha, TANU (that's well I should be calling her but I don't), Gaurav sir, Deepa, Vandana, Taneshaa, Monika and so many more - Guys, I know I should have said that in person but truth is that I can never thank any of these people enough. Also, never to forget - my few sweetheart angels who are looking at me for like always - my angel, Nanaji, Eja, Bua and recent addition - Bauji - I just wish I could see your faces when you would be blessing me. I wish that bad!
The main point remains, how much hard I tried, I didn’t study much, just brushed up a little.

The interviews started soon after and they were faster because the technical interviews took place parallel in two different rooms but two different people. One of them took relatively much shorter interviews than the other and luckily, I was in the room with the shorter length interviews. I was the fourth person to go into that room and everyone who went before, told that it was somewhat fine but the scary bit was that they had internet access on which they kept looking for something. Now this was cheating, why would they look up google to ask us difficult questions?
When the person just before me (Akanksha) had gone in for her technical interview, I waited outside, as nervous as possible and kept revising all the points in mind that our TPO had told us regarding interviews, communication, body language and soft skills. Even till just before the moment I entered that room, I was processing a lot of things in my mind. I have myself been a member of the Training and Placement Cell of the college until last year and it was really difficult to let go of the habit. They say bad habits die hard! So even on my interview day, just till the moment that I had to walk into the interview room, I kept on talking to the other Placement Cell students on duty that day, kept an eye on the written tests that had started, asked my batch mates to come for the written test, offered information to those seeking it and also took some time to be shaky for the big thing!

Once I was inside the room, it was a different world altogether. I didn’t remember about the Placement Cell, our TPO or anything he had said… all I saw was the person in front of me and myself, who had just this one chance to prove herself to this complete stranger.
But frankly, not wanting to recall whatever happened later, to me, the Technical Interview personnel was really nice. He was a little uncomfortable because he was visiting the hills for the first time and he had apparently caught a nasty cold. He mentioned that to me but otherwise, he was very genuine. He asked me few questions and when I got stuck on one question and he would ask me to keep thinking. Everytime I came up with a new solution, he encouraged me more. I also told him my strong points. Questions where he thought that I was lacking somewhere, he explained me the concepts. All in all, it was a nice session, I believe.
Technically speaking, I was subjected to questions mainly from C and Data Structures. First, he saw that my percentages were falling and he asked me why that was happening. I told him that from 10th to 12th, I had another subject - Economics, which I wanted to venture but it turned out more of a nightmare. And it was my fault that due to one blunder, I couldn’t concentrate enough on the rest of my subjects. However, this was a lesson learnt and I hadnt done any similar mistake since. [Always include positivity in your answers. No one wants to hire a person who keeps on repeating a mistake.] Then he asked me a few simple questions from Economics, and honestly, I knew they were coming. Even then, I hadnt brushed the subject. But those questions were so easy that I recalled most of the concept and I was able to explain him with an example. Next, he asked me about C and DS. He asked me to explain Queues. Then he asked me to write a program for circular queues and he would ask me to draw out cases of insertion and deletions, he asked me the concept of the different pointers used [front and rear] and then he started moving onto trees. Honest confession again, I hadnt even touched DS and so I wasn’t much comfortable with the growing questions, so I cut him saying that I have done DBMS nicely so I could explain him the tree implementations in DBMS. He wondered a little over DBMS and then asked me the different locks. I answered to the best of my knowledge. Finally, he asked me a puzzle - (which I still havent found on the internet either, so if you know, please let me know) - There is a room and a window to lit the room well. There is a chain hanging to the ceiling and a man walks in. The man is tall enough to reach the chain tip. There is a clock in the room and nothing else. Find the height of the room (exactly). I tried and tried but I don’t know the correct answer.

Well, I felt glad after the technical round was over and then I waited. It was a long wait. In the meanwhile, the written tests were carried out in 2 sessions and the first one got over.

A dear friend, Priyanka, was very nervous. Everyone was, but she shared it with me. And when the results came out, she made through. I hugged her to congratulate her and she cried. On the other hand, Deepa, who should have made it but didn’t, she was crying. I tried to be there for the two of them, resulting in me crying. Everyone in the placement cell started asking me to stop for there was no reason for me to cry. But that is another moment that day, that was precious.

There were some nasty things that day - double TR and rejection of Lovedeep, TR-MR conflict for Sukriti and many more, but I don’t want to write them down. It's not that I don’t want to accept the bad memories associated to that day, I just don’t want them to be a constant reminder of failure for anyone. To the concern people, let it be a day passed and to someone who is just reading, let it be an experience.

Akanksha (Akku) and I, must have cleared our TR at around 11 and then we waited. We waited for a long time but no luck All of the other 14 of us, were given a verdict (if not dealt with). We kept bugging our TPO but when it was just the two of us and it was already 4pm, even he grew a little worried and decided to act. As a result, within next few minutes (before 4:30pm), we were both called in for the MR round. I asked Akanksha to go in first and she also wanted that. It wasn’t more than 10 - 15 mins and then I went next.

Very honestly, I really doubt if there could be a better MR session. The person was radiating comfort and a positive aura that made everything so easy. He asked me if I knew why I was there and I answered - for my MR round. He asked me what if this was TR again and I said, that I have another chance to prove my technical proficiency. He then asked me how was my TR and I lied. Most of the complications had taken place and honestly, we all hated what was becoming. But my personal opinion were not to come in between of my professional life. I kept on repeating how nervous I was and how comforting and encouraging the TR sir was to a fresher. He then asked me why TCS? Now this is one question I had done well and I kept on emphasizing on the points that are relevant to me. I am not mentioning everything that I said, but if you want help, feel free to message me anytime. But the important tip will be, give good 7 - 10 days to study the company (nothing more, nothing less) and try to answer every question asked in MR and HR from what you know. Don't fake it. You know it or you dont know it. It is a little difficult to formulate different answers but it is worth it. He saw that I was interested in Research and Development job and said that he doesnt want to dishearten me but it is a very likely possibility that I dont get into the R&D section of the company. I replied that my long term goal was to be in an R&D firm but my short term goal remains that I would love to learn something new each day. Having no knowledge of working in a leading IT firm, any project allocated to me, would be new for me. He said that it would be but for say 15 days, then it would be repeating. I said that eventually the project would end and I would eagerly wait for the next project, for more to learn. Finally, he asked me if I have future study goals and I said that initially I want to find out what I am worth with all the expertise and knowledge that I have gathered. Maybe later, if my job permits me, I would definitely want to go but nothing now. He kept insisting and asked which institute if I were to choose and I said IISC Bangalore, which again is a TATA initiative. He asked me if I had any questions, and I know I should have asked, but I just smiled and denied.

Immediately, the HR, who also was present in the room for my MR, called me and Akanksha. Again, we both went together. 

The HR, Abhishek sir, was the only one we knew and he had already done a great job in scaring us. Akanksha's HR round got over very quickly and I went in. The HR took place in our hall where we enter and Abhishek sir was seated as far as possible. I asked if I could come in and he allowed. I wished him from the distance and he asked me to take a seat. Even before I could touch the seat, he asked me to tell something about myself. I had revised this very question a number of times but I got so scared and nervous with this pseudo rapid fire, I couldnt find words. The words still found me. Like I said, I had prepared this question so well that it automatically kept flowing out of me. Meanwhile, he checked my file to calculate the percentage. He then asked me to tell 5 points about TCS and 5 about the IT industry in the country. TCS was easy, so I started with it. After TCS, I am sure he knew that I was just buying time, so he asked the next question. He asked me that I sound confident and so would I be able to address a huge mass, of maybe 200? And I said, yes sir, I have been on the stage quite a lot of times in my school as well in college, so that was not an issue. He then just asked me to go.
Everytime people just kept reminding me NOT to break eye contact, Abhishek sir never allowed me to make it. Yet, his authority was so huge that I never dared look away for a second, or even think of it.

All this was accompanied with a few more heartbreaks and more tensed faces. My parents were more worried than I was. For rest of the evening, I resumed my duty in the placement cell. It was weird but it was fun.

The interviews were initially supposed to be over by 1:30 am, then by 2:30am and finally we had our results at 3 am. Throughout there were people who made stupid mistakes but it wasnt their fault. Anyone who waits for 12+ hours for one interview is bound to make mistakes. There were disappointments and many things.

Just a few moments before the result, when Abhishek sir was in the room with our TPO and we were outside with the TR and the MR personnels, those were the seconds hard to pass. Finally, 16 students were selected!

To simplify the things a little bit, yes, I got selected into Tata Consultancy Services!

I was the first one whose name got called out… this is again one memory that will never elude me for the rest of my life.

Once I was back, I went straight to Kalpana's room and banged hard until she woke up. On the way, I met Deekshika Chandra and she was so happy to hear the good news. I felt great meeting her that time. Kalpana and her roomies, got up, feeling all surprised, shocked, annoyed and a little scared. I went and hugged them and it was definitely a great thing to have someone to share your happiness with. Thank You guys (gals) for being there!
Anyways, so well, Deepika was awake and she heard my commotion. She messaged me her warm wishes. Then I had some pending messages to respond to - my 2 brothers - Gaurav sir and Subodh sir, who probably waited long enough but had finally slept. I called my parents, who were way more excited than I was. Honestly, I felt like calling the entire world and telling them, but well, I never had that much balance :P.

Throughout all this post, I never mentioned one little thing. On 25th of September, I lost my grandfather and my parents didn’t allow me to even come back home. Obviously the last rites didn’t require my presence (because I am a girl!!!) but I wanted to be here, for my parents, for my family, for my grandfather. Yes, I have lost other people as well but I have never been asked not to cry for them or grieve over their departure. Few days hence, my dad asked me a little thing - he asked to not let my grandfather's death be the reason for my failure. I might not be the best granddaughter but I definitely am not the worst. I didn’t cry or atleast tried not to, as hard as I could. That night, after the results, I cried. TCS is not only my first job, but that day, I was free to feel and mourn my loss. With one announcement, I was allowed to acknowledge all the pain and the sadness I had kept hidden.
I cry as I write this and I know I will cry whenever I read it next. I really wish you here Bauji. I wanted you to see that I got a job and I wanted you to call me on 24th to congratulate me and I wanted to see you once after I have been selected for a job. I wanted to see you when you look at me feeling proud.
Wherever you are, I hope I have made you smile, a little if not much… I hope you werent totally disappointed in me… I hope that you be remembered forever as my grandfather. Please give me that strength to prove that I am your blood and your descendent.

This post can never be complete, or even thought, without a sincere thanks to the Training and Placement Cell (Students) of Birla Institute of Applied Sciences, currently in 2013 - 2014…. Thank You - Udit Pathak (sirjee), Tarun Sahni (the wise one), Shashank Joshi (the witty one), Hemanshu Joshi (the sincere guru), Vasu Bansal (hidden talent), Priya Singh (never tire out), Rakshita Belwal (the little master), other members from second year, Aakriti Singh (), Tinna Joshi (), Priya Khurana (), Medha Joshi (), Poonam Joshi (), Shipra Pokhariyal (), other members of first year [First Years - titles under construction :: lemme know you a little more fist :P]… the late additions Shashwat Tiwari (Indian Army) and Gagan Kumar (the silent charmer)…. And definitely Udit sirjee ke boss!! Guys (and girls) Thank You very much! If I were to write each and every bit that you did, there would hardly be any space left in my blog but there will still be instances left… so I am going with a simple but heart-felt - 'Thank You'. I can never repay for what you guys did and if anything, I will always remember what you did that day (and night) for me, my friends, the college and more importantly for all of us.

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