Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I had my big interview today.

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog post, I had replied to a Craiglist posting that was looking for a computer programmer with my qualifications. They wanted to interview said programmer about programmer stuff for an hour and the gig paid $200. Seemed like easy money, although I was baffled why anyone would pay that much just to talk. Still, as long as I stuck to my principles and didn't kiss them on the lips, I figured it was worth doing.

Turns out the ad was posted by an advertising agency here in San Francisco that was trying to figure out how to market a new piece of software to computer programmers. Since they knew nothing about programmer "culture", they sent two fresh-faced and earnest gentlemen to my house, equipped with notepads and a video camera, to try and get into the mind of Mike, Alpha Programmer extraordinaire.

They set up camp in my office and started to ask me questions:

What does a programmer do?

I did my best to give them a non-technical answer to this. They seemed like sharp guys so it wasn't like explaining calculus to dogs, but I still did a pretty mediocre job of it.

How did you pick the tools that you use?

I talked a lot about a program I use called Eclipse and they were really curious about what made it special. I think my answer (that it was free (as in "free beer" and "free speech"!)) wasn't really what they wanted to hear. In hindsight, since they were trying to learn how to market a commercial product, I can see why.

Where do you get your information? What websites? Which magazines?

They actually videotaped me showing the bookmarks menus on my browser. Thankfully the one bit of cleaning I did before they arrived wasn't the bathroom, or vacuuming, or straightening my desk, but rather I organized my bookmarks. So, when they wanted to see my browser "favorites", I proudly showed off my menu. When they asked what was in my "blogs" folder, I was a little more hesitant.

Where do programmers hang out? Either online or in person.

Hang out? Hang out?!? I stumbled on this one. For the "online" portion of the question, I talked a lot about how much I love instant messaging. For the in-person part, I was stymied. Is there a Peach Pit for programmers? Eventually I just explained that I had a kid and a wife, and if programmers wanted to come hang out with me, they'd pretty much have to do so in my living room.

How do programmers talk to each other? Is there special jargon? What do they talk about?

I really felt like screwing with them on this one. "Yeah, guys, when we really dig something, we say, 'Whoa! Nice Dirty Sanchez!'". In the end, I just explained that I wasn't one of those guys whose IM messages looked like "c u l8r, u l33t hax0r", but I browsed one of my chat sessions for them. They videotaped me paging through a detailed discussion of last week's Battlestar Galactica episode. That pretty much cemented my geek credentials

Then, they wanted to get some "day in the life" footage. They asked me to pretend I was working for a few seconds. That was easy since I typically pretend for about 7.5 hours a day. Then they wanted to shoot some footage of "me coming home". I'm sure top marketing analysts will spend hours pouring over the footage of me taking off my shoes, getting a drink of water, and checking my blog stats.

Finally, they peeled off two crisp $100 bills, thanked me for a wildly informative session, and off they went. And I never had to kiss them on the lips.


Will said...

I think you did a good job. Hopefully, they'll listen and make their stuff free too /: ) Did they ask for your feedback on their product?

Mike said...

They implied that the product they would be advertising (Flex by Adobe) would have a paid component.

Tasty said...

Rock on with your earned money, Alpha Programmer. I'm happy for you.

Mike said...

Oh, fear not, Tasty. There will be much rocking. Frankly, I hardly know how not to rock.