Friday, February 25, 2005

Interviews

While surfing the web last night, I came across this article by Joel Spolsky. As usual, he has given me something to really think about. It is spring, and many of this year’s CS graduates are writing blogs about interviewing and trying to find jobs. I am glad that I don’t have to worry about it at this second, but Joel’s essay did give me some time to think about my resume and job history.

I can’t say that I have had a lot of interview experience; I suppose that in reality I have only interviewed three times. Four years ago, I interviewed with Datamark for a marketing research position as an intern, and with the University of Utah as a photographic darkroom technician. I received offers from both companies. Two very different jobs, but I could have done either just as well. As it turned out, Datamark looked like it would be more intense than I needed as a first time college student, and the University of Utah had a better offer. At that point in time, I thought I wanted to be a medical doctor; both jobs had nothing to do with medicine. Maybe it was a sign of changes to come.

I spent a little over a year and a half with the University of Utah. In six months, I learned a lot about photography, made some friends, and bettered my skills in the darkroom. The job was great as when things were slow I could always work on the homework. As it turned out the budget for the darkroom job evaporated 6 months after I started working. At that point in time I had just purchased a brand new car, so unemployment was not an option. The University offered me a job in the same department as a courier, of course at a pay deduction. However, I was so stressed with the pre-med stuff that rather than looking for a new job I took the position. It was interesting to feel overqualified, and underpaid. Maybe everyone feels that way, but for this particular job, it was particularly true. I showed my supervisor that I could be of more use than just delivering equipment around the campus, and shortly I was doing a lot of the monthly billing for our group, and helping to implement a new automated equipment tracking system called web-checkout.

At times during the courier employment I often wondered about what my life would have been like had I accepted the Datamark position. Looking back on it now, I don’t think I would be where I am today without having had the courier experience. Not so much the courier job per se, but the accounting, and work with web-checkout. We were the beta-site for this new software, and it really peaked my interest regarding software development and testing. Though I knew nothing of computer programming, I could get around a computer pretty well, and the design/testing was a blast.

My third interview came about while I was working for the University as a courier. Eventually it lead me to the job that I currently hold. A neighbor thought that I would be an asset on one of the teams that he directed. He invited me to visit his office, to get acquainted with his business associates. What an interesting day that turned out to be. I had worked for this company before as a teenager doing odd things like data entry and creating budget spreadsheets, and working on a massive systems upgrade that involved medical records. Seeing the same company from a different angle several years later, I learned how privileged I was to gained the experience that my teenage job provided me. As my neighbor introduced me to each of the project managers they would ask questions about my experience in programming languages, applications, and past work experience. It seems that nothing could have prepared me for that. I was still a pre-med, and none of my classes to that point had to do with computing or IS. The final interview was a lunch interview with the CIO and my neighbor. The questions asked were all about problem solving, creativity, and my plans as a student. The whole thing was an interesting experience to say the least. I left the campus that day feeling completely inadequate, but comforting myself that I still had my job at the U, and that I was really going to be a doctor, so it didn’t really matter.

Six months later, in February of 2002, my neighbor called again and said that they had a position for an intern and that I should submit my resume again. The pay increase would be substantially more than I was making, so I decided to give it a try again. The job description was vague, but I knew that it would have something to do with financial systems, software development testing in RPG, and process reform. I was offered the job, and have been there ever since.

Accepting that internship has turned into a real position with that company as a quality assurance tester with their financial and administrative systems team. In January of 2004 I changed my major, left biology and medicine behind, and moved on to Computer Science. I feel good about the change, and being a bit over a year into CS, I can say that while it is challenging, it is the right place for me. It is interesting to note the set of jobs that I took as a student, and to see the influence they had upon my career decisions.

While my current job is good, I would like to start expanding my horizons again. Hopefully this summer, I will be able to dedicate more time toward experience gaining. QA/testing is great, but I would really like to try my hand at development, if not with my current employer then maybe elsewhere.

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