Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wow, that was an ass-kicky week (or two). 

So, in addition to my daughter celebrating her 11th birthday last weekend, the company I work for is in mid-death-rattle.  I believe Larry referred to it as "end times".  We've still got a few months of money left in the bank, but our CEO is furiously looking for someone to buy us.  A couple of companies are in the running, but one of them wants to interview each one of our employees to see which are worth taking and which aren't.  To make matters worse, this company's interview process is rumored to be extremely rigorous and academic.

In other words, it was suddenly time for all of us, the physics majors, the english majors, the electrical engineers (like me!), and the computer science majors who graduated 20 years ago, to be knowledgeable of all the topics taught in an undergraduate computer science bachelors curriculum.  So, for the last couple weeks I have been studying and freaking out.  Mostly the latter.

My manager, Liz, sat us all down on Monday to review interview tips and etiquette.  She explained that it was important to come across smart and confident. 

"Don't tell them that you think you're an idiot, ok?  I'm saying that to TWO people in particular!" she said, glaring at Pablo and me.


Liz finished reviewing the other basic interview tips and asked if anyone had comments or questions.  I raised my hand.

"Yes, Mike?" she asked.

That's pretty much how my week has been.  It has alternated between stuffing information into my brain and lamenting that I didn't have enough time to stuff information into my brain. 

The interview was today, so last night I wrote my final practice program, watched a little TV, and then tried to settle down for a good night's sleep.  I felt tired, but my brain was racing.  I tossed and turned for an hour or two and then tried to use my standard relaxation technique where I breathe deeply, clear my mind, and count to 10.

The furthest I ever made it was 4.  Twice I didn't make it to 2.  Every time my brain got railroaded into sorting algorithms or imagining myself staring blankly at an interviewer.  Brutal.

Anyway, the interview was today.  I sat through 4 45-minute technical interviews back-to-back where I attempted to answer various questions about computer science theory, and I wrote snippets of programs on a whiteboard.  I felt like a complete idiot 3 times, competent twice, and completely mediocre the rest of the time.  I walked out after 3 hours of this, found my coworkers, turned around and asked, "Is my ass bleeding?"

It's been a rough week.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad that's over. At the very least we are now over-prepared for pretty much any other interview for that kind of job. Um, yay?


Velvet Sacks said...

I'm sure this is a stressful situation, but please keep in mind that your ability to communicate in complete sentences gives you a distinct advantage over many of the twenty-somethings. Good luck!

Sue said...

You mean you don't read all the current programming books as they are published? Tsk. Tsk.

Did they ask you asinine logic questions? My hubby always gets those.

The good news is that the computer science geeks are in pretty high demand these days.

Bones said...

A recognized interview technique:

(nsfw ... which seems contradictory now that I think about it.)

Mike said...

Pablo, I hope you're right. I suspect I didn't pass this last one.

VS, that may be true with some employers, but this employer is pretty damn focused on computer science academics. Complete sentences can be generated algorithmically.

Sue, no, I do not, although that probably wouldn't have helped much since it was the classic education that I lacked. I'm more up on the modern tricks than the basics that they're based on.

Mike said...

Bones, no fair making me watch a 6 minute video before I can respond to your comment.