Tips and Tricks for Applying to Winternship 2023

17 October 2022
By Stanimir Simeonoff, User Account Management Dev Team Lead
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One perpetual challenge for any company is finding new talent. The inflow and outflow of workforce is a normal occurrence - you may call it the ‘circle of life’. Incentives to retain acquired talent are similarly ubiquitous; the “spice must flow” (a quote that was never part of the original Dune trilogy but made it famous) is just as true when it comes to recruitment. Employee’s mobility is a prime reason for competitive and rewarding remuneration. 

Each year, Playtech embarks on a new journey (nay, quest) each year to find extra additions, new blood. The most visible manifestation of this quest is our intern programme and its recent extension the Winternship. With great power (and lots of candidates), comes some responsibility, however: providing an equally-enriching experience and objective evaluation of all candidates is a non-trivial process. You know, the usual.  

Playtech is one among a veritable ocean of like tech-companies, all seeking the sweetest of treasures: young talents. To distinguish itself, Playtech’s need to present a fascinating, exciting, and - it must be emphasized - objective application process has become of utmost importance; a goal in and of itself. In the simplest of the terms - this “application process” consists partially of a candidate’s application but chiefly from the candidates deftness at solving a coding challenge. The requirement for candidates’ applications merely sets the lowest of bars: a lead, signal of modicum interest. The coding challenge is what separates Playtech from the rest in this proverbial ocean; and is also what separates an applicant from an interview participant. 

It’s all about the coding task. The fairness of the review process is paramount. We put a marked effort to devise tasks that can be examined, run, and tested in isolation with no other details, e.g. age, gender, previous experience, even names. 

The Wintership of 2021 featured a dubbed ‘Tinder clone’. Unlike Tinder (where finding a match is bad for business), the task required finding perfect matches of dwarves and elves who wanted to date one another. It was a classic variant of ‘stable marriage problem’, with a twist. The ‘twist’ allowed for multiple correct solutions. We had our own solution [verified to be correct(!)] and compared the stability of the results. It was an entirely automatic process, with some notes about code style (manual check). Yet, everyone who managed to score well, got invited to an interview.

An important characteristic was the lack of any 3rd party libraries, so the setup was approachable to everyone. All the source code, testing harness and some comments are publicly available at: https://bitbucket.org/playtech-test-assignments/edm2021/src/master/  

One of the sought-after components of any task is the need for self-research, it’s an extremely highly valued feat. The coding task was not intended to be an exam in front of the class. Any tool available could be used. At work there are no such limits, either. In the aforementioned 2021 task, there was a link to a Wikipedia page mentioning a relatively recent Nobel prize for economics for the algorithm, solving the dwarves/elves misfits. We hoped the lead would be sufficient. 

Now imagine: the submitted task works and performs reasonably, the successful candidates are to be invited to a technical interview process. It involves basic questions, plus live coding(!). The latter can be daunting, scary or intimidating… yet we (the interviewers) do try to make it fun for all parties. It’s a common reaction - “I wasn’t prepared for this”. Yet, coding is the crux of the developers job, we do expect the candidates to be able to code, be able to use some developers tools, too.

One important part to keep in mind about any job interview - the company that organizes it, wants to hire you, it costs quite a bit and tends to involve people whose time is precious. Another even more important part of any job interview is knowing why you (the candidate) are there.  

“I am going to do a three years therapy in three minutes. I am going to give you what patients have been asking their shrinks for hundreds of years, I am going to give you the answers”. Here is your ‘successful candidate’ trope:

  • Be willing to work. Nay, want to work. It’s hard to stress more. It’s the single most important feature, aside from any competence prowess.
  • Self-research during the homework task, and not only. Unless explicitly prohibited, always use all tools available, always “stand on the shoulder of giants”.
  • Be honest, and don’t cheat, e.g. having somebody else do the coding task for you. The latter’s called “delegation” - with “higher management” written all over, not a developer.
  • Be easy/cool/chill. I know, I know: telling someone to relax stresses them even more. Still, we do want to hire you, prime reason for the interview invitation.
  • While ‘fake it, ‘til you make it’ mantra does apply even to developers as well, be straightforward when it comes to interviews. When you don’t know the answer, just say so.

Overall Playtech’s winter internship programme is uncommon as it happens in the heat of all the university classes, in the winter. However the more uncommon part is that even as an intern, you are a part of the team, you are one of us, you are treated as an equal peer, you are given the same tasks that any other developer would do. You’re given all the support needed, even a personal mentor. 

So come join us, we need you! More information and application here: https://playtech.ee/internship

See you all soon!

"Be willing to work. Nay, want to work. It’s hard to stress more. It’s the single most important feature, aside from any competence prowess."