Conversations with My Father: The Google Interview Day

I read a few story books this month - non-stop really and their way of writing made me want to write a blog post in a story-book manner. I'd say, read this as a chapter in my book of life - one of the most important days in my recent past. There will be a couple follow up posts.

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I was looking outside the window from my hotel room that Google had booked for my night before the interview. It was a sunny post-summer day in August, and it was warm enough to walk out in a t-shirt, but would get cold enough later on in the night to have to wear something on top. 

A couple rings on the phone and my father answered with the regular pleasant "hallo puttar". We always greet each other with a hallo rather than a hello, probably something we picked up from living in Switzerland.

"So today's the big day Pops! I didn't think I would be this nervous, but I do feel it", I said. I'm a confident person in most situations - well except when I have to talk on stage - I still feel those butterflies in my stomach every time. But this time there was no stage, and yet the excitement, nervousness, and discomfort in my stomach was far stronger than it's ever been. 

"That's only natural. It happens to each and every one of us. Do you think Armstrong sat on that rocket and didn't feel nervous? But like a muscle, our response to nerve wracking situations can be worked on, and this is just another small step into that.", said my father in the usual composed way that he speaks. He knows I understand best through analogies, and that's how he always talks to me.

"That's correct. I imagine they probably put all these astronauts through some really challenging situations", I chuckled a bit before I continued, "compared to say a moon landing with less than 15 seconds of fuel left, what I'm facing isn't even close to nerve wracking". My father was absolutely right. I started thinking about how they train astronauts to cope under pressure. 

"And remember, you have worked towards this interview like there is nothing else in the world that was as important. You've given this goal every hours of yours. You now have to go and give the interview without thinking of the outcome - walk in with no expectations, and do not fear what might or might not happen. Ancient Indian philosophy covers this really well - कर्म करने मात्र में तुम्हारा अधिकार है, फल में कभी नहीं", he quoted. "It's interesting to see how they figured out all of this, having lived through entirely different experiences, yet cause the same response to human emotion, and have captured the best way to live through these experiences". My father is evidently a fan of our ancient scriptures and Indian philosophy. To me, they are the closest form of merging the human experience of emotion, which is not based on logic, with logic and science. 

"Hmm, but that's such a weird state to be in, and such a contradicting thing to do", I pondered, "because to get yourself motivated to do something you must really have a strong sense of will to do it. To motivate yourself to get something done, you have to bribe yourself with its outcome. But when the time to prove yourself comes, you must take it without any expectations."

"It is. But that is what differentiates the best. Federer and Nadal are world class players who have equal talent, have equal hours of hard work put in, the best of the world's training facilities, and yet when it comes down to the match day, what wins games is the man with nerves of steel. And the control over your nerves comes from setting no expectations, putting all thoughts aside, and concentrating only the task at hand".

"That is true. Thanks Pops.", I was looking out the window and I saw the world bustling around just as usual. Something caught my eye, a person dressed in a deep blue business suit was crossing the road riding his city bicycle, and from the other side was a woman with a pocket dog sitting in her open air Audi A5. Just as I was about to continue, my father spoke. 

"Beta, do you remember when you gave the JEE exam and you thought that this was the most important day of your life? You soon realized that it was just another day for the rest of the world and soon after once you got into your college, you've had far bigger days. And here we are again. Look around you at the world outside and see that for everyone else around, there is nothing particularly special about the day. The reason you are nervous however, is because you've convinced yourself it is the biggest day of your life."

I nodded, and I smiled, surprised how he knew exactly what to say.

"Now go give that interview with a big smile on your face!"

And that's exactly what I did :)
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I wish I recorded that phone call, and could hear it again. I can imagine the angst in my voice was immediately obvious, but also it was only a small blanket under a strong sense of strength and belief that I can do it - of course strongly strengthened by my father's encouraging words and my mother's love. I also wish I recorded many of my phone calls with my father and mother, as every conversation gives me so much to learn from.

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