Should I quit to prep for interviews?

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Data Engineer at Financial Company8 months ago

I’m currently working as a Data Engineer for a mid-sized (1500 people) investment-services corporation. The company has been around for a long time and makes money, but it definitely isn’t a tech-first company (e.g. it refers to the software side as “I.T.”, has tons of meetings, approvals needed to install almost anything on my computer, including VSCode).

I want to get into FAANG as a software engineer because I want to move away from the business/data side of things and closer to the engineer side of things. On my current team, I’m the lone data-engineer (will be joined by another in a few months) and as someone with <3 years of experience, I know that my growth is being stunted.

I’m currently grinding AlgoExpert to prep for interviews.

How should I think about the circumstances under which it would be worthwhile to quit in order to prep (full time) for FAANG interviews? Here’s what I can come up with in terms of current pros/cons of quitting:

Pro’s of quitting:

  • A LOT more time to prep for interviews, can probably increase my output of questions by 3x
  • Can do a lot more interviews without worrying about my job and scheduling
  • Do less business/data stuff which I plan on moving away from anyways
  • Get closer to a FAANG salary faster, which will likely be around 2x of my current salary

Cons:

  • Don’t know how long it will take me to get a job
  • Don’t know how easy it will be for me to get interviews without a job
  • Psychological benefits of having a job
  • Some learning on the job
  • Low-stress job, nice manager, no overtime
  • Already take an hour or two of my current job time to do AlgoExpert
  • Make some money right now

How does the answer change (if at all) if I manage to land interviews with a bunch of different FAANG companies (say 5+) and I’m struggling to schedule all the time for interviews, prep for them, and do minimal work at my current job?

Thoughts are appreciated!

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Discussion

(4 comments)
  • Alex Chiou
    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    8 months ago

    I'm heavily leaning towards not quitting.

    Here's why:

    1. The market's not great right now - If you aren't coming from a FAANG/FAANG-equivalent background, it's going to take you longer, on average, to land that opportunity. Even if you pass the interview, there's no guarantee that you'll get an offer with these surprise hiring freezes - I know a couple people who have passed Google and have been languishing in team matching for literal months.
    2. The failure mode is really bad - If you take a long time to find a job after quitting (>3 months), you lose a substantial amount of income and the resume gap is awkward. On top of the money, there are other benefits lost from working like networking, learning, and community from coworkers (though it looks like these aren't huge for you in your current situation).

    #2 in particular is why I've generally seen people not quit their jobs to job-search and interview full-time. I would say maybe 2-4% of people I know have done this (to varying degrees of success).

    All that being said, the real answer is to work backwards from where your gaps are:

    • Are you getting interviews and not passing them due to a lack of preparation? - If that's the case, the extra time from quitting could be the answer.
    • Are you just not getting these top company interviews? - In this scenario, things will get even worse if you quit: The more work experience you have, the more appealing you are to recruiters. Something else you can do here is to build side projects, which is what I did to get interviews from Uber, Instacart, Square, and many other top-tier companies.
    • Are you not passing the interviews due to anxiety and nerves? - I feel like mentality problems are generally not solved by throwing a bunch of time at it. I think this is more solvable with introspection and finding a community to interview prep with (which Taro Premium can help with!).

    How does the answer change (if at all) if I manage to land interviews with a bunch of different FAANG companies (say 5+) and I’m struggling to schedule all the time for interviews, prep for them, and do minimal work at my current job?

    It depends on your current job. If you have a lot of PTO and/or are at a pretty chill job (which seems to be your situation), you can use the PTO or just take the interview during your lunch break or something (easy with phone screen, not really feasible with onsite though). If your job is extremely demanding and you have 0 PTO, then it's near impossible to do this without quitting.

    12 Likes
  • Data Engineer
    Data Engineer [OP]
    Financial Company
    8 months ago

    Thanks!

    Great point about working backwards from my gaps. The (slightly embarrassing) truth is I haven't applied to a single job yet. I've done all the easy and medium questions on AlgoExpert but I don't feel like I'm at a level where I'm confident I can do well in interviews. Imposter syndrome, I know. I will ask a follow-up question about how to know when you're ready to interview.

    In the meantime, I'll stay at my current job, at least until my inbox is overflowing with interviews.

    2 Likes
  • Alex Chiou
    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    8 months ago

    The (slightly embarrassing) truth is I haven't applied to a single job yet. I've done all the easy and medium questions on AlgoExpert but I don't feel like I'm at a level where I'm confident I can do well in interviews.

    This is a very common trap I've seen from people in tech: Lack of confidence. It leads to inaction, which is one of the worst things to flounder in as the tech industry is all about learning through doing. This applies to interviews as well.

    Something else important that's very important to understand here is you shouldn't optimize for problems that don't exist (yet).

    In order to make it to the onsite, you need to pass the phone screen. If you have done all the easy/medium problems, that's enough to pass the phone screens tactically, but there's more to an interview than pure tactical material like mentality as mentioned before. The failure mode is you spend a ton of time grinding through hard-level DSA problems and it turns out that you can't even pass a phone screen yet. With Big Tech, you can generally space out the onsite several weeks after the phone screen as well (I did my Meta onsite ~5 weeks after my phone screen), so it's not like after passing the phone screen, you need to immediately do the onsite. You can learn more about this in this Q&A here.

    All that being said, here are some action items I recommend taking up right now:

    1. Start applying to jobs - You can start with companies on the lower-end of your wishlist that probably aren't FAANG/FAANG-equivalent. The best way to get better at interviewing is to do some interviews. Also, this might unveil another problem: You can't get the interview to begin with. If that's the case, we have a completely different problem to solve.
    2. Do mock interviews - On top of your existing network, there are already folks in the Taro Premium community who say they can help here in #member-matching (and think about how you can help them too in return of course). Studying and doing the real thing are 2 completely different things - Mock interviews help you get signal "on the real thing".

    The cycle of being in tech is doing stuff, messing up, and then learning. It's important to start the "doing stuff" step, so we can start understanding our weaknesses and mistakes as soon as possible.

    16 Likes
  • Data Engineer
    Data Engineer [OP]
    Financial Company
    7 months ago