My Interview Experience with D.E. Shaw (Full-time)

So, I have been thinking to share my interview experience with D.E. Shaw for a while but, procrastination crept in so, it’s been quite a struggle to defeat lazing around and finally sitting on the chair to be somewhat productive!

But anyways, 6th August’21 has been one of the best days of my life as I got my first full-time offer from such a great company. The mental turmoil I was going through just before that is really hard to explain and only my family knows how those couple of weeks have been like from completing my internship to getting this offer. The reason? I wasn’t prepared at all for the placement season! I know, many won’t believe it because after all, I was able to clear all the rounds but trust me, I didn’t prepare for the placements.

It happened so, that I was fully engrossed in my internship. Within a duration of mere 6 weeks, I had to do a lot of work and it was a bit too hectic. Plus, my focus was to perform my best so, I was giving 200%. However, all this time I ignored the fact that ‘placement season is waiting to literally drain me!’. And, trust me, not managing my time to prepare for placements has been one of the worst decisions ever.

Nonetheless, ‘it’s never too late’ so, I could have prepared something in those couple of weeks at least but I wanted to take a break! No, not just a break, a good long break! LOL!

And why was I so chilled? Because I thought I will anyway get a PPO so, why do any more hard work? But, lesser did I know that the PPO result wouldn’t make it till the time I expected but would rather take its own sweet time. By the time I realised it, the placement season had already arrived.

So, I started sitting for the placements blank-minded and with absolutely no expectations. At this time, I was like, ‘let fate take me to wherever I belong’. However, luckily, I got selected for the interview rounds quite early on in the placements season, that too of D.E. Shaw. But, I was happy and sad at the same time. Happy, because obviously I got shortlisted for the interviews and sad because I had no idea what was I gonna speak the next day in front of the interviewers. So, to relax me, my dad ordered some pizzas (my favourite!) and the atmosphere was comparatively light. I ate the pizzas and, guess what… slept because I got too relaxed :P

And the next morning, once again I was scared because I didn’t prepare anything the previous night and all my hopes just died in a moment. But one thing, that I had learned from my previous rejection experiences was: ‘Be the best version of yourself, no matter what and don’t do anything that you later regret doing.’ So, panicking instead of not making the best use of the knowledge would have been a regret so, I decided to put in everything I had and I guess, I did it pretty good job!

Now, the most awaited part, how were those 2 hours (2 rounds, one hour each) for me! So, let’s get started:

The Interview Day

Online Assessment

There were basically 3 sections: Aptitude, CS fundamentals and Coding. The aptitude round had easy-medium questions, the CS fundamentals were again easy-medium and the 2 coding questions were on the easier side.

I believe, I did well in the aptitude and CS fundamentals section, plus, did one and a half coding questions.

20 students were shortlisted after this for further rounds.

First technical interview round

I was comparatively relaxed for the interviews because as I said, I had no expectations at all. I simply got ready, putting on my forever same formal look and sat in front of my laptop, half an hour prior to my interview. I had my interview scheduled at 10.00 am. By 10.05, my interview started.

There were 2 interviewers. One of them first asked about my experience in the online assessment and whether I understood the profile completely. Then, I was asked to introduce myself and explain my summer internship project. This discussion went on for around 20 min.

After this, the interviewer asked me to list the differences between an array and a linked list. I explained each and every difference in detail, also told them the various scenarios where these structures are best applicable. Then, after this, the first interviewer gave me a question on binary search. I told him the brute force approach first and then optimized it using binary search. He was satisfied! Then, the second interviewer asked me the next DSA question which was based on DP. It was a variety of the coin change problem. I told him my approach and coded the whole solution on the Hackerrank code pair platform.

After this, the other interviewer gave me a scenario, following it with a couple of questions. He asked me what data structure shall we use to most efficiently answer these questions. The answer was a map (C++), but some adjustments were needed to be made to accommodate all data and efficiently answer those questions. This was the end of the first interview.

Second technical interview round

This was at 6.00 pm, the same day. There was only a single interviewer in this round. Actually, there were supposed to be two, but the other one was busy taking someone else’s interview. Anyway, so this interviewer was reallyyy cool! He tried to strike a light and fun convo with me to make the atmosphere less scary (I wish, every other interviewer was like him).

So, he asked me about my previous rounds and then we had some discussion on my internship project and other projects that I had mentioned in my resume. After that, he gave me a couple of situations and checked my CS Fundamentals thoroughly (yes, you have to dive deep into it and not just definitions!). He then asked me how to use a stack as a queue. This discussion went on for half an hour.

Finally, a coding question was thrown. I just was praying, I am able to crack the logic! By God’s grace, it was a standard question (Largest Number: question 179. on Leetcode) and I had seen that question earlier, some 4–5 months ago. I was pretty confident that I will solve this question smoothly. But somehow, halfway into the solution, I stuck at a point. However, the interviewer had already understood my approach because I was constantly communicating my thought process throughout. He helped me a bit and I was able to solve the problem completely.

He further asked me some follow up questions on my code that involved OOPs concepts. He then asked me some more OOPs questions like abstract classes, overriding, and overloading.

The time was about to over, so he asked if he should ask one more question or conclude it right there. I wanted to choose the latter but, I left it to his will. Finally, he again gave me a situation and asked me how would I test the algorithm written to implement this scenario, efficiently. We had a pretty good discussion on this where we brainstormed different scenarios to be taken care of. It was really fun!

The final fun discussion on company

At the end of the interview, as per the custom, I asked him questions on D.E. Shaw’s work culture as I hadheard a lot about it. He told me every interesting thing about D.E. Shaw and we further had a little chat on what major technologies are used and the challenges that he has faced all along!

Results

I was assuming that there’s gonna be another round, the HR round. It was already 10.00 pm and no updates! I thought, maybe the next round will be the next day (secretly praying for no further rounds :P) and so, to confirm, I asked the drive coordinator. She herself was not so sure and expressed a possibility of another round the next day. So, I got on my bed to take some rest. At 10.27, the girl called me and said, there’s not going to be any further rounds and then congratulated me. I asked her, why is she congratulating me, am I in? She said a ‘YES’! I immediately checked my email sent by the placement cell and 2 students were selected. I was one of them!

I know, you might be thinking about how did I manage to grab this offer despite not preparing anything at all for placements. So, this was only possible because of my thorough preparation during the internship season and since I was so clear with everything I studied, I could do this!

If you would like to read about my interview experience at Goldman Sachs, go here. At the end of this blog, I also have provided the major resources I used during my preparation.

Also, if you are curious about whether I got the PPO or not: “Does it matter anyway?” :P

Wanna know anything else related to this? I’m happy to help. If you have any questions or just want to connect, reach out on LinkedIn.

Hope you enjoyed reading my experience and learned about the whole process! So, keep learning, stay happy and stay fit!

A learning enthusiast.