Things I’ve learned about Interviews…

Always always have a copy of your resume in front of you during a phone interview. When they suddenly surprise you with a rather expected first question like “tell me about what you did at your last job” and you momentarily you blank in panic, you can stop and take a breath while you glance at your resume and remember the “better” words you carefully chose about how to articulate it.

Always have questions prepared to ask the interviewer. They will ALWAYS ask you if you have questions. And from everything I’ve read and heard, “no I don’t have questions” is never a good answer. You need questions to show them you are evaluating the fit of the job/company to your needs. I’ve found useful questions for initial/screening interviews are usually along the lines of “what would I be actually be doing at this job”. eg: Continue reading Things I’ve learned about Interviews…

Sometimes its the Little Decisions…

Its funny sometimes to think back how some of the seemingly trivial decisions make a big difference in the path your life takes.

Like, one that stands out, for example, senior year of college, when I was at the spring career fair applying for summer jobs, and I have two versions of my resume, one tailored for defense contractors and one generic resume for other industries. There was that moment when I reached into my folder of resumes and decided to hand the recruiter my defense resume… That particular company actually had two divisions, one doing defense contracts and the other in the transportation industry. In fact, I was slightly intrigued by their transportation group from my prior experience doing an internship for another company in the transportation industry. But I was running low on generic resumes, and had a good number of booths left to visit. So I pulled out a copy of the defense resume. Spur of the moment decision. That innocuous choice ended up shaping the first four years of my career after I got the interview for that company’s defense division, and henceforth accepted the position I interviewed for. In the end, I was happy with where I’d ended up, but it’s funny to think how such a small decision could have caused me to end up somewhere completely different.

Job Seeking Advice

Assorted job seeking advice from SDForum JavaSig attendees:

  • At your experience level (5 years), you should start to “sound professional”, the more you can articulate yourself professionally, the more hire-able you will be.
  • Use job agents on major job boards to track statistics on major programming languages and libraries to identify which ones are most in demand. The libraries worth the time or money to learn would be the ones that are increasing in demand
  • Take a class on networking to gain practice and skill at how to do it…and remember its about relationships, not passing out business cards
  • Be able to confidently pitch what you’ve done…the companies are not looking to hire the team you were part of, but you specifically
  • In your elevator pitch, make sure you’re sharing the business results of what you’ve done, not just that you’re a programmer (what you do)
  • You can’t just sell that you can program, that’s kind of like saying you can type, kind of necessary, but not the selling point. The selling point is higher level, the other stages of the process…Architecting level. how did you make sure your code was bug-free? What goals were you programming for? (eg: performance, ease of programming, etc). How did what you did help the company make money, etc…
  • Be BOLD and be PREPARED (information and tips helps with the prepared part, but you still have to do the bold part yourself, things like contacting people and showing up at events like these and networking, etc)
  • Networking opportunities: SWE, TBP, SD Forum Women’s group, IEEE Women’s Group, Well-known relatives, alumni association, etc. SDForum tends to get a lot of the engineers with an Entrepreneurial spirit
  • Take advantage of UC Alumni resources–check out what your UC Alumni Association membership perks are that you can use at local UCs (Berkeley, SC, but esp. Berkeley)
  • Seriously, you need to know people inside the companies you want to work for, that’s how most people get hired
  • Establish credibility. Later on this might look like being a presenter at a forum like this or publishing books (what some of the others do to lend credibility to their consulting work), now could get involved in the steering committee for a group like this that finds presenters and coordinates the catering and stuff
  • Stuck in an unemployment rut? One way to gain specific relevant experience in the software industry is to volunteer for a startup (like an internship). Why? Two reasons: (1) Gain experience at a specific technology they work with (2) to get a reference. Most startups don’t have a lot of money so unpaid interns = something they’ll probably be willing to do.
  • Talk to former coworkers to get help with how to articulate the business results of what your previous project was doing
  • Been on board asinking ship? Be prepared to overcome the “cootie factor” (the project got cancelled/downsized/etc? it must have cooties)–be able to articulate why your project mattered or would have made a business impact