I came across a blog post recently provocatively entitled “I Cheated on My Microsoft Interview”. The gist of the story is that the author got a chance to interview for a software development job at Microsoft. He approached a friend who had successfully been through the process before, and his friend said to expect “a random programming question that [he] would need to solve on a sheet of paper” and told him the programming question he had been given in his own interview. The author practised that particular problem and, against the odds, that was the one he too received. He went on to get the job and had a great time working for the company.
The author says he feels like he cheated, and puts his success down to luck:
My preparation, plus a crazy coincidence, made me feel like I had cheated on my interview. […] I don’t think I would have made it past the first round of interviews at Microsoft if I hadn’t gotten so lucky. So pretty much, my entire career is built on one amazing stroke of luck.
I think he’s being unfair on himself. Yes, he was very lucky, but he tipped the odds a bit more in his favour by doing his research. In other words he made his own luck.
There is a lesson here for all of us. We have our life, and work or a career, and along the way we read, we embrace different experiences, we talk to people and hear their stories, and maybe think about how it all fits together. Perhaps we use our time to read particularly relevant things, embrace related experiences, seek out particularly interesting people and ask them about pertinent experiences. It all adds up. And then one day something will happen that allows us to use that accumulated experience, whether we realise it or not, and things turn out well. Partly we were lucky. But partly we had spent a long time preparing for it.