Applying for Bloomberg

As part of my seemingly never-ending search for what to undertake after A Levels, I applied for a Software Engineering apprenticeship role based at Bloomberg, London. This is a brief recount of a very well put together and swift interview process.

The Pre-application

For anyone who has not used the government, the system works where any company can list under the framework of Post GCSE, Post A-Levels in the form of A Level equivalent, foundation degree, degree and master's degree. Bloomberg was offering a 4-year path towards a Bachelors Degree with the opportunity of full-time work after. As part of the pre-application,  Bloomberg asked for several written answers about hobbies, programming examples and motivations for the role.

After submitting the application via the website, 1 week passed with it sitting far in the back of my mind and I was landed with a pleasant surprise. Mainly due to my lack of self-confidence in the responses I had given due to doing a similar exercise for 5 other apprenticeships and being rejected, a video interview was lined up within a few weeks time, so the post-pre-preparation began.

Video Interviews and Hackerrank

As part of the process and video interview, Bloomberg employed a system called NEXI - an internal version of Skype - and online brain training style activity website "Hackerrank". Hackerrank was an interesting experience. I have used similar systems to learn languages such as Codeacademy and Project Euler; the thing that caught me by surprise was pair programming activity.  Not a skill I practice, the simple act of communicating and programming showed me how a much better thought process and a clear line of logic can be achieved.

There is a concept in computer programming called "rubber duck programming/ debugging" which involves talking to an inanimate bath duck to walk through logical errors. It acts as a simple way to help communicate ideas that may be on the brain but not currently in active processing. This method of pair programming acted as an animated version of rubber duck debugging and the duck could suggest knowledge outside the scope of my current thinking. It was a better system then talking to cold plastic one facial expression duck.

After the end of the video interviews, I was not in the best frame of mind over the weekend about whether I had been successful. Only answering two questions and trying to shoehorn in as many keywords, knowledge and humour as I could to convey the idea that I had some competence. To my surprise again, after only three days, I was invited to an interview at their new and shiny HQ in the Square Mile.

Interview Day

The idea of a London bound train in peak morning rush might seem a mundane activity for to a veteran commuter, however, I enjoyed the activity of people watching and the myriad of faces as a way to kill nerves and time. Between fumbling in trying to read a Python book to make sure I was up to scratch and being squished patt-a-cake style, my commute would only go downhill from there. The Tube - as I should have known - was packed at Kings Cross. I am not the kind of person to act as a gnarly sheepdog and force my way through the crowd to an already sardine tin train. A trip along another tube line, walking towards the wrong station for ten minutes, all culminated in being ten minutes late when I could have been twenty minutes early.

The interview itself was more successful. Firstly, a theoretical question themed around optimising a shopping service system to assign shoppers to a cashier and metric that would lead to more efficiency. Questions were raised such as; Who do you prioritise? How do you measure things you plan to use to inform decision making? As a result of making the decision, what effect can we expect to see? Secondly, an HR Interview about motivations and skills. I cannot attest to how at ease the recruiter made me feel, but I now look back and question whether I gave enough detail and spoke about myself enough. It is a semi-egotistical skill to have to try and shine yourself in a light that is favourable, but then be self-conscious with not having to say something so out of place that you are telling a blatant lie about your true character.

The final stage had actual programming. Starting with a theoretical exercise about reading flow charts that made a checker piece snake down a chess board. From there, the activity moved to alter the flow chart to achieve a different pattern of movement, then moving on to implementing a sorting algorithm. I tried and implemented, with help.. a lot of help, a recursive implementation of a Quicksort.

Lunch followed, mixed with infinite coffee throughout the day and some social interaction ended up a fairly successful day.

If you ever have a chance to visit the Bloomberg HQ, do. It is an art exhibit in itself. The entrance is dubbed the vortex, around every corner is some form of art. Food was within good eye line in most locations, technology was integrated into the soul of the building. Just do not try and enter via the Security entrance as you will be greeted with a scowl and a firm hand wave to go the other way.

In the end

The whole event summed up to no-offer from Bloomberg, however, I have picked up so many things to use in future applications. Better communication, how to un-apologetically sell yourself, better time management to arrive early, how infinite coffee is a better idea on paper, how to not follow a blue dot on a map to make sure you are going the way you should be.

If someone from Bloomberg happens to read this who was involved in the process, thanks for the experience.