When lightning struck….

Nobody said it was easy. I knew I was aiming for the stars here. The biggest brand in the world. Rated as one of the best companies to work with. I applied in April. I got a call for an interview – two interviews, back to back actually – on the 9th of May in Melbourne in a hotel.
The interviews lasted 35 minutes each and I kinda felt positive that I had cleared this round. A couple of days later I was given a choice of May 28th, 29th, June 5th to 8th for interviews in their development centre in Sydney. I made my choice as any day after the 5th June. They booked tickets for the 5th!! Goof-up pointed out, they booked me for the 7th June.

The flight was at 7:30 AM arriving at 8:50 AM. The interviews were scheduled to begin at 10 and go on till 12:30 followed by lunch and then the return flight at 4 PM.
I woke up at 5 sharp. The cab arrived on time at 6:15, driven by a talkative Punjoo from Ludhiana.
I reached the airport at 6:45 and once inside the flight was told about congestion in Sydney airport and that the flight was delayed by 30-40 mins. There was a mention of adding more fuel as the flight might be in air longer. It finally took off at 8:20 AM. Sydney is 55 minutes from Melbourne by flight and I guessed I might be there in time if the flight lands by 9:15 at least.
Mid way through the flight however, it was announced that the flight might land only by 9:40 AM due to the congestion. Well, there was pretty much nothing I could do about it, so I resigned myself to it. Sometime later, around 9:20 AM the flight ran out of programs to air and went back to the usual display of the flight position, time to reach, time at source and destination, distance etc.(Not sure what’s the name for that).

And then things started happening. It started as mild turbulence. And then it became worse. Outside, we could hardly see a thing as it was pitch dark. I realized we were probably in the thick of a thunderstorm as I had checked the weather forecast for Sydney and had noticed it said thunderstorm. On the screen however, the flight seemed to be going more and more to the west of sydney, that is taking a left from the direct path. And then, there was a blast on the left wing.

The silence that followed was deafening. People started looking at their neighbors to see if they could shed any light and probably tell them it was not what they thought it was. Nothing came, but most people were generally cool. And then, a couple on the left, right above the wing, started laughing. Somehow that seemed to pacify things a bit. A couple of minutes later, an announcement was made “Am sure you must have heard a bang on the left side…rest assured, that was just lightning striking the aircraft. These things are common and aircraft are designed to handle that. We’ll be touching down on Sydney in the next 20 minutes.” The next 20 minutes were right out of a hollywood movie on flights. The flight landed, but not before making repeated sounds of a kinetic honda struggling to start on a Bangalore winter morning and the wings waving up and down as it approaced the runway. It sure was a thunderstorm in Sydney. Rain pouring with lightnings and thunder bursts. It was 10 AM when I finally got out of the flight and I immediately called up the recruiter and told him that the flight was delayed and I would be there in an hour or so.

Once I came out, I noticed something different this time. There were no cabs. Yes, there were no cabs waiting!!! There was a huge queue, and I joined it in the hope that there might be some coming. Everyone was on their phones, telling people about delays and rescheduling appointments.
One thing was, not a single voice of irritation, frustration or anger cursing the system or fighting with the guy regulating the cabs. Imagine the situation if this had been India!!

After a half hour wait I was finally in the cab and got to the city in near zero visibility. It was 11 AM and I was shaken, tired and sleepy. My usual wake up time is 8 and 5 AM was way too early by any standards. When I got into their office I was taken for my first round. The morning’s flight and airport chaos had taken its toll, and I could hardly concentrate. Sometimes I found myself having stopped thinking and had to remind myself where I was and what I was doing. The interview lasted 1 hour which seemed like a millennium. I so desperately wanted it over!

After that they told me it was lunch time. Only catch, not many vegetarian options except some salads and steamed vegetables. There were others which looked veggy, but there were no labels to say what they were and the recruiter who was next to me and was also told that am a veggy, wasn’t willing to help me either. I guess even he had no idea what each was. So my lunch consisted of pieces of steamed carrots and beans, followed by watermelon pieces (That fruit is a life saver, be it here or Shenzhen) and a bottle of pineapple juice. I was full, but not stuffed.

The next round was with their Engineering head, who wasn’t willing to let me complete my answers and ready to hint me onto the next possible point which I was anyway about to cover. But it was better than the previous one and he got the answers to the puzzles he had posed. One thing that surprised me was how all big shots end up like this. At the end of the interview when he asked if I had any questions, I started off with, “since you are the head, you must be part of all important decisions….” well the …s were because I was promptly interrupted and he went on about how the recruitment is a democratic thing. This time I interrupted him mid-sentence and told him my question was about the type of products that this development centre in Sydney would be working on in future and not recruitment. Well, so much for “big shots”.

The third round was the best. A middle aged Brit, who loved posing one-line questions, generic ones at that, and expected me to work on it. I guess he was more interested in how I get more information out of him to work on. I daresay I managed a decent job on this one, but then when the interview started it was 2:15 PM and my flight was at 4. So we had a strict 3 PM deadline to finish the interview. We ended up looking at the clock pretty often and finished at 3 dot.

The recruiter then accompanied me to the station telling me train is the best option as cabs might get stuck in traffic. The train arrived at 3:20 and it was to be a good 20 minutes to the airport. But well, when things go wrong, they go wrong, no matter what. At 3:30, the train stopped. And, not at a station! This was bang in the middle, between two stations and underground with no signal. For 10 minutes there wasn’t a squeak or a sound while the train operator announced that the train ahead had stopped and hence he too and he had no idea when we would move ahead. After 10 minutes the train finally moved. It was already 3:40 and the flight was in 20 minutes and I was only mid way. The rest of the journey was event-less and I reached at 3:50 and ran. I really ran. Only to know that the morning delays had delayed this flight too by 20 minutes. That definitely was a big breather. I realized that this was the same aircraft I had come by and the kinetic honda sound was still there. The rest of the journey home was thankfully event-less. I guess it was something about Sydney that got me this time.

Sitting at home now, there are certain questions I would love to ask the recruiters.
1. Why was the scheduling of flights so close to the interview timings?
2. Flights from Sydney to Melbourne run once every 30 minutes and are never full on weekdays.
Why couldn’t they reschedule me onto a later flight once they realized that I had been delayed?
3. Before the interview process they had harped about a relaxed interviewing atmosphere. Neither the interviewers nor the scheduling gave me any idea of this. While in interviews with another company, a competitor of this one, the interviewers were very friendly and were even willing to joke about things and laugh at mine, here the interviewers kind of gave the impression they were there to try me on a trial. Even my attempts at humour were dashed by weird smirks.

Well, so much for big companies. Will be knowing the result by Monday or Tuesday. So watch out for another post. Thought its better not to reveal any names here although am not sure if I have left any doubts here.