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Archive for April, 2010

Interviewing Tips: The Interview Anti-Loop and the Warren Harding Error

April 22nd, 2010

A couple non-traditional considerations when preparing for a software development interview.

Prepare for the Warren Harding Error, Thin Slicing, Snap Judgements, and rapid cognition.

The Warring Harding Error as described by Malcom Gladwell:

Many people who looked at Warren Harding saw how extraordinarily handsome and distinguished-looking he was and jumped to the immediate – and entirely unwarranted – conclusion that he was a man of courage and intelligence and integrity. They didn’t dig below the surface. The way he looked carried so many powerful connotations that it stopped the normal process of thinking dead in its tracks. The Warren Harding error is the dark side of rapid cognition. It is at the root of a good deal of prejudice and discrimination. It’s why picking the right candidate for a job is so difficult and why, on more occasions than we may care to admit, utter mediocrities sometimes end up in positions of enormous responsibility.Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

As Developers (and Generation X / Yers) we tend to buy into the ideal that “on the internet no one knows your a dog”, an ideal that’s been seared into our minds by Sesame Street and the like. An ideal where sunny days, chase the clouds away, where knowledge, technical skill, and communication should outweigh appearance – a place where being a dog, human, or giant harry elephant should be irrelevant. Unfortunately that’s not reality. Clean up for your interviews, put away those circa Cobain sneakers, and pack in the facial jewelery. Warren Harding (considered one of the worst US presidents) may have been elected based on his appearance. First impressions matter.

Beware of the Interview Anti-Loop

The Interview Anti-Loop as described by Steve Yegge:

when I was at Amazon … We eventually concluded that every single employee E at Amazon has at least one “Interview Anti-Loop”: a set of other employees S who would not hire E. The root cause is important for you to understand when you’re going into interviews, so I’ll tell you a little about what I’ve found over the years.

First, you can’t tell interviewers what’s important … they believe they are a “good interviewer” and they don’t need to change their questions, their question styles, their interviewing style, or their feedback style, ever again. …

Second problem: every “experienced” interviewer has a set of pet subjects and possibly specific questions that he or she feels is an accurate gauge of a candidate’s abilities. The question sets for any two interviewers can be widely different and even entirely non-overlapping. …

The bottom line is, if you go to an interview at any software company, you should plan for the contingency that you might get genuinely unlucky, and wind up with one or more people from your Interview Anti-Loop on your interview loop. If this happens, you will struggle, then be told that you were not a fit at this time, and then you will feel bad. …

And then you should wait 6-12 months and re-apply. That’s pretty much the best solution we (or anyone else I know of) could come up with for the false-negative problem. – Get that job at Google

Don’t Trash Former Employers and Employees

One final bit of advice that’s often overlooked. Avoid talking badly about past employers and coworkers. If you had an unfortunate string of bad career experiences, consider hiring a therapist, or telling your Mom about it. The job interview is not the place to retrace or reflect on past personal struggles, and it’s not the place for trashing former coworkers and employers.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Interview, Musings Tags:

Please, Call Me Señor Developer Not Senior

April 20th, 2010

This March marked my fifth year of working in the software realm and five years since graduating University, and this year (according to industry standards) I’m now considered a Senior Developer.

Funny enough. Today, I don’t consider myself a Senior Developer, but a couple years ago I would have told you to “Call me Senior”. Back in those days I may have been a Senior Developer within the monocultured context of the domain, language, and environment I was working with, but certainly not within the larger context of the software realm. I had surrounded myself with homogeneous tools, like minded colleagues, and had fallen into the trap of thinking I was an expert when I wasn’t – we all thought we were Senior Developers.

“When you are not very skilled in some area, you are more likely to think you’re actually pretty expert at it … The converse seems to be true as well; once you truly become an expert, you become painfully aware of just how little you know.” – Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware

Over the years I’ve observed that Experts and true Senior Developers are collectively regarded as such by their peers, not by corporate credentials, not by job titles, or duration of employment. Experts and Senior Developers are more preoccupied with getting things done, improving themselves, improving their environments, and helping others – not worrying about job titles and status.

“The people who are best at programming are the people who realize how small their brains are. They are humble. The people who are the worst at programming are the people who refuse to accept the fact that their brains aren’t equal to the task. Their egos keep them from being great programmers. The more you learn to compensate for your small brain, the better a programmer you’ll be. The more humble you are, the faster you’ll improve.” – Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction

Please, don’t call me a Senior Developer, I’m Mr. Developer or Señor Developer.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Musings, Personal, Software Tags: