Monday, January 08, 2007

My Trip to Seattle

Hey everyone, I'm back! Miss me? No? Well fine then! I have a post for you anyway. It was delayed because I was watching Florida put the hurt on Ohio State, and they gained a well-earned national title. Anyway, my trip was much more exciting than the game. I left around 11:42 AM last Wednesday only to arrive at 5:40 PM in Seattle, and I was a little giddy on the drive to my cousin's place (despite being in a V4 Chevy Cobalt) to finally be in Seattle and couldn't help but notice the city and all its greenery staring back at me. I didn't need daylight to notice the city, but I didn't pay too much attention or else I surely wouldn't be here today ;) So after a warm reception we (I stayed with my cousin's family, and her brother was visiting as well) had a nice homemade steak dinner that night and just vegged out (I brought a video of my christening party, which had them as kids and other fun stuff):

Here's the desert we had (homemade bread pudding and homemade whipped cream):

The next morning, I was playing with my cousin's son (he's 2 years old), and he's pretty much the cutest kid I've ever met (and I worked with a lot of kids back when i was a TA) so I just have to share a couple of pictures of him:

We drove to Pike's Market the next day. I got a shot (albeit, less-than-ideal) of the famous space needle you most likely associate with Seattle:

What really struck me about the drive was that it was a city city. As in, it felt like you were driving through New York City, not Houston. Which means no strip malls or cookie cutter neighborhoods, but rather old, unique houses and nice local shops (or locally started chains) with housing above them and such. It's hard to describe, but I'll just put it this way: it felt nice driving around, like it feels nice driving around Austin and looking out your window. Here are some shots of downtown. The big building in the middle of the first one is the corporate headquarters of Washington Mutual, and it looked really awesome.

You could see the ship channel (and the cloudy skies) from where we parked:

Oh, and here you can see the stadiums:

Here's the famous clock typically associated with Pike's Market:

On the inside, it was basically just a strip of local vendors. Another famous site at Pike's Market was the Flying Fish, where they basically throw around your fish before selling it to you.

Nearby was also the very first Starbucks coffee shop! A true tourist attraction that I'm sure many of you are interested in (though I'm not much of a coffee drinker myself).

We ate lunch at a nearby, family-run Turkish restaurant called Turkish Delight. Here's a picture of my meal (a bowl of awesome chili and a cool Donner Kabob plate):

We saw my cousin's husband office afterwards (Headsprout, which is a very cool company) and stayed at home the rest of the day. It did rain, hail, and snow that day though. I went to the hotel that night because it was close to Microsoft campus and my interview was on Friday morning so I didn't want to have to risk fighting any traffic and being late.

The room was just a normal room with two king-size beds (the sheets were soft, Jenn), and the breakfast service was standard fare. I enjoyed making some waffles, though I probably ended up eating too much breakfast because I didn't know I'd be eating lunch at Noon. Anyway, I had to meet with the recruiter at 11AM, who directed me to my Noon lunch interview. I felt that that interview went quite well, and it was the position I liked the most. Their group is responsible for important bug fixes and immediate feature releases for Office, as determined by major clients (i.e. big companies), but it sounded like a very versatile position with very little overhead, which is great. Plus, Office is currently their best product and you'll recall that the newest iteration has received much critical acclaim. Being a lunch interview, only about 20 minutes was technical, and I felt that I did pretty well on it (a lot of dealt with binary and then writing a method on an array).

My next interview didn't go as well, but was with the head of a very similar team. The first half of it went fairly well, and he tried to keep it relevant to my resume, which was nice, even poking at my knowledge of Latin by asking me to design an editor for Latin. The white board question was related to binary trees, and I tackled it head-on with recursion, but I don't think I thought out loud enough, and I ended up having a couple of bugs due to not fully realizing the question, one of the bugs not being resolved by the end of the interview due to time constraints. But who knows, maybe he did end up liking me.

After a 30 minute break, leaving me to ponder what I did wrong, I had my last one with a group that worked with an XML plug-in, which is only used for the enterprise version of Office. XML is interesting, but this was the least interesting position of the day. Still, I bounced back and I felt had a great interview. I think the guy liked me, and I nailed the first white board question on arrays while doing fairly well thinking out the second array question despite being considerably more difficult (he even admitted that the solution was not simple). He had to help me along quite a bit, but I did catch on, and I think that was what he was looking for.

Overall, I think I couldn't have done a whole lot better (i.e. couldn't have prepared any more). I don't know if more interviews were planned, because you find out your schedule interviewer-to-interviewer, but 3 is a pretty good number of teams to see. I should know the results by the end of this week, and I'm pretty anxious. I can't believe I'm saying it, but I'll actually be pretty sad if I don't get an offer. I have my hopes up because of how the interviews went, and I just love Seattle so much that I'd jump at the chance to stay there for the summer, even though I haven't interviewed with any of the companies that were my top 3 choices at the start of this school year. The positions I interviewed for at Microsoft were much better than I was expected, and seemed like respectable work to me. I'll obviously divulge the news here when I know, sans the offer details (if applicable).

It rained like crazy that evening, and I met up with my cousin and her brother near Bellevue to grab some food (I also checked out the mall there while I waited for them, and it was just a standard mall). We had brought back some Chinese food, and how cute is this:

We meant to go snow tubing the following morning, but we stayed up too late watching Little Miss Sunshine (which was a stellar movie, I highly recommend it), so we ended up going to the beach instead. Despite the sand being wet and the weather being cold, it was still nice to be out there.

And you could see the Olympic Mountains from there:

Later that day, we went to some mountains to the east of Seattle (don't know what they were called, but it was about a 45 minute drive), and it was awesome because it was my first time seeing real snow! I don't count that fluke we had in Houston two years ago. Check out how pretty the mountains were:

People weren't skiing, but they were sledding:

Feeling the snow was cool; it was like fluffy ice. And look at all the trees!

You can see the snow actually falling here:

Then, that night, the Seattle Seahawks beat the Dallas Cowboys! My friend thinks I have a knack for going to cities when they're in the midst of playoffs (I was in Dallas last summer for the NBA finals, and of course UT won the Rose Bowl for the last two years). Sadly, the next morning, I had to leave. I was very sad to leave, especially to say goodbye to my cousin's son. That's another selling point for me to come to Seattle. Fortunately, on the flight from Seattle to Atlanta we had our own personal TVs with satellite television, a trivia game, music, and some short films all for free (plus pay-per-view movies and games), so it wasn't too bad. I also got a couple of cool shots from the plane:

And so concludes my second vacation of the break! This has probably been the most eventful Winter Break I've ever had. It'll be sad to leave it behind, but I do still have a few days ahead of me to get some work done for NSC. Anyway, I've definitely fallen in love with Seattle, and it's definitely a possible place for me to settle down at after college. Too bad I didn't have a similar experience with Kansas City or else Cerner would totally be the ideal place for me for the summer. It is pretty pricey to live there, but I hope to find a pretty nice job there. And who knows, if Microsoft doesn't give me an offer, maybe I'll try my luck at Headsprout. It seems like a pretty fun place to work at. My summer is still up in the air.

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