Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell
Date Finished: May 26th, 2018
Reading Time: Tens of hours over four years
I’ve been through this book, front to back, many times, and, this time, I’ve shelved it with great optimism. So here’s to you, Gayle. You’ve helped mediocre students like me to chase their wildest dreams without concession.
Reviewing CtCI has traditionally been considered the best way to test Software Engineering fundamentals among those entering the industry. With the popularization of interactive platforms like HackerRank and Leetcode, it has become a rite of passage among undergraduates to grind practice problems for hundreds of hours. The result of this leading to highly-desireable career outcomes is that 1. You have a lot of people studying Computer Science for the wrong reason (E.G. CS is the new pre-med) and 2. Most other skills that are important for those working in the industry are deemphasized. 3. There is increased homogeneity in an almost exclusively negative sense.
I don’t place the blame on Gayle for what has happened nor do I blame companies that use permutations of these classic problems to screen tens of thousands of candidates. Many people who studied Computer Science did so because they saw it as the best way to satisfy their desire to solve interesting problems and hate it if you must, but this is just a book filled with fun little problems to solve. You signed up for it! Getting toasted in a Facebook interview doesn’t mean that the candidate evaluation process is broken!
Anyway, it’s a classic book. People probably recommend “better” things now but, as you can probably imagine, most of the problems you’ll find elsewhere will be similar if not identical. I’m getting a bit old for this now, though, and I’m hoping I never have to open the book again.