Off Campus Internships: Lohit Marodia’s journey to Microsoft

As the internship season continues to be a major talk of the campus and the Placement Unit has kept the better half of third year and fourth year students busy, there are a few who despite not being eligible for the internships, due to CGPA cutoffs, not only secured internships in some of the biggest names in technology, but were also offered a PPO (Pre Placement Offer). One of these names is Lohit Marodia, who is currently in his fourth year. DoJMA caught up with him to know more about his experience of interning at Microsoft, during the summer.

 

DoJMA: What importance does an internship, such as yours, hold for an undergraduate student before entering the final year of study?

Lohit: The primary importance of doing an internship is the opportunity of getting a pre-placement offer by showing your skills to the company, in the term of the internship. You also get hands-on industrial experience, which is difficult to get while studying in college or by doing projects.The other added benefits are increased networking with like-minded and skilled people and having the satisfaction of contributing towards an industrial project.

DoJMA: What, according to you, are the basic requirements of one’s profile in order to appear for an internship?

Lohit: For internship tests, students need to be well versed with some industry preferred programming language, preferably C++ or Java, along with a good understanding of the concepts of Data Structures and Algorithms.

Having worked on some Computer Science projects also adds points to your resume that could interest the recruiters. The projects need not have been under a professor, and could be self-initiated.

DoJMA: Which qualifications helped you in gaining an edge over other applicants?

Lohit: Almost all the companies have a coding round, in which one’s fluency in DSA is tested, and I think being a regular competitive coder helped me immensely, there. Also, having done some basic projects like developing a text editor, developing a small game in Python added points in my favour. At least, the recruiters of Microsoft seemed to be impressed by it, though they didn’t question me extensively, on the same.

DoJMA: Which companies did you apply to and what factors did you consider while doing so?

Lohit: Due to CGPA cut offs (mostly being 7.0), I wasn’t eligible for any company except Uber and DirectI, on campus. So, I didn’t have much choice there. I got selected for the interview rounds of DirectI, but got rejected in the final round.

I appeared, off campus, for the coding test of CodeNation (CodeAgon) on Hackerrank, and got selected for the interview rounds.

Also, I got a referral for Microsoft from an alumnus of our college, Krishnan Govindraj, from the 2012 batch. The main criteria I had kept in my mind while applying to companies was the brand value of the company, as well as the fact that the company was product based.

I also gave Morgan Stanley’s Coding Round (CodeAthon) on Hackerrank, and cleared the first round of interview, but later dropped it because I had received an offer from Microsoft, by then.

 

DoJMA: How did a working day look like at Microsoft, for an intern?

Lohit: I would generally reach the office between 11 AM and 11:30 AM. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we had a team meeting from 11:30 AM to 12 during which we gave updates on the tasks completed. After 12, we went for lunch and played table tennis or pool. Most of the work was done between 2 PM and 4 PM and  between 5 PM and 8 PM.

 

DoJMA: How was the project work handled on a day-to-day basis?

Lohit: My mentor arrived around noon, and I would update him or my manager daily, on what I had done. They guided me on what was supposed to be done next, and also gave me the freedom to choose my own approach. My teammates were more eager to try out my solution rather than imposing theirs, which was one of the best parts of the project.

First two weeks of the project were mostly about acquainting myself with work that had already been done and understanding their platform. The next three weeks were spent on working with my solution and presenting it. In the sixth week, I incorporated all the feedback given to me for my work, and I finished the project. In the 7th and 8th week, I worked on documenting my project work and ideas and presented my work.

 

DoJMA: Would you like to discuss some of the projects that you took up while you were there?

Lohit: I worked as a part of Cortana [Windows AI] Notifications Team. My project was to design and implement an algorithm that will restrict Cortana’s notifications to users’ active devices, rather than sending notifications to all devices of the users(the feature, at present), and will ensure that if the users didn’t engage within a certain frame of time, the notification will be sent to all devices. The idea was to provide a proof of concept that such a thing is practically feasible and is needed to avoid spamming of users’ devices. It will also save the cost of sending redundant notifications. Finally, I had to provide ideas/solutions on how to scale up the algorithm to support a large number of users and devices.

DoJMA: Having applied for internship on your own without the campus placement unit’s aid, how different is the selection process, when compared to the campus interviews?

Lohit: In my opinion, off campus internships for Microsoft were slightly on the difficult side in terms of selection rate, as nearly 120-150 applicants had come for the interview round, after giving the coding test, and only 4 of us were selected finally. Back in campus, around 20 people were selected after the coding test, with 5 of them getting selected. But the level of difficulty of the questions asked in the off-campus interview seemed to be at par with the ones they had asked to people for on-campus interview rounds.

I had also appeared for 1 round of interviews at Morgan Stanley, and from what I heard, it was more difficult than the on-campus interviews.

CodeNation doesn’t do on campus drives, and their process of selection is through CodeAgon/ACM-ICPC. Their interviews are also quite grilling in terms of knowledge of Computer Science and projects.

 

DoJMA: Do you intend to pursue further studies or apply for placements after completing your BE degree?

Lohit: As of now, I don’t have an answer to this. I already have a pre-placement offer from Microsoft, so I won’t be sitting for placements, for sure. I haven’t thought much about further studies.

 

DoJMA: In either case, how does field exposure by way of an internship, in a company such as Microsoft help?

Lohit: Microsoft is a big company. Working there taught me how such an organization works and keeps itself up to the expectations of its customers, and how a project moves forward.

DoJMA: Is there any other message which you would like to convey to our readers?

Lohit: Doing an internship in a company is a great boost to your resume, hence anyone who is writing those tests, shouldn’t take them easy. But at the same time, it is necessary to understand that not everyone can get an internship, due to limitations, and this doesn’t mean that those who fail to secure an internship are less capable than those who get selected for the same. The main focus should be on learning and growing in the field you are interested in. Getting or not getting an internship doesn’t define your expertise. It is more important to have fun in the process of learning, rather than worrying about results.