Interview Fails

I’ve been looking for work.  Went in to my dream job and got to have the meeting where I was informed of a winning ticket of the layoff lottery.  So I get to interview for a new position.

Unemployment is a package deal that comes with a treasure box of the unwelcome, and it is alarmingly easy to fall into the traps hidden inside.  A shaking of one’s confidence, concern for how to stretch out your cash on hand and keeping the bills paid, working hard to get an interview, having to walk in and fighting a sense of not being good enough, fear of rejection.  With all this is seems like depression is making a comfy bed for the unemployed and inviting you to lay down and sleep. I’d have to admit I’ve had a nap or two there.

Yesterday I had an interview.  I’m sure you have been there in this phase where you wait for a response and panic and paranoia come join you. Oh man am I gonna get this job? I totally screwed up on how I answered that question. I should have worn something else. Crap I didn’t sit up straight.  We take all these things as inputs to answer the question: “how did the interview go?”

Today, however, I find myself answering the question of how did the interview go in a completely different manner.  I don’t care about what I wore, or if was slouching at a particular moment or if I put my hands together in the right way to convey a sense of wisdom.  Today is a different day, and Today Is Great. I think about what this company was doing and I am just saying over and over again, “That’s pretty freaking cool!”  I’m enamored by the prospect of doing things I love: Python, Selenium, Robot, Django, etc.  I’m chomping at the bit thinking about the prospect of getting to test AI.  I don’t even know if I got this job or not.  I actually find myself thinking it doesn’t matter.

I find myself revisiting other interviews in my head and thinking of a company that has found a new way for customers to pay for their product that costs the customer nothing – and without going into details that are not mine to share; it is pretty dang cool!  I got to have just enough detail shared with me that I can walk away with a new way to evaluate problems and maybe I’ll get to use a similar technique someplace else.  I am the better off, simply for having been to the interview, even if it didn’t result in a position for me.  Our default assumption is to think of an interview that doesn’t result in an offer as a failure, and I don’t think that is true anymore. I think of the interview where I could tell the hiring manager was on a collision course with disaster, and I’m thrilled I am not taking a trip on the same train that is about to crash.

I’m convinced that none of these interviews have been a waste of time.  They all have benefited me.  Did I get a job from any of them?  Not yet, but I am convinced that one of the people I am interacting with will be instrumental in activities that result in a position that is a good fit for me and for the company I give my skills to.  Everyone else I have talked to has helped my by teaching me, exposing me to new things and sharing with me a bit of their day to day life that has left me better off.  There are no failures in interviewing, there’s a sharpening of the clarity that is needed to find the perfect fit, there is meeting other people in the same industry who share their perspective, there is learning about a different technology that might be helpful, there is learning about what another company does and I am sure there are other surprises that await me as I go to more interviews between now and my next role. For that I am grateful.

Tell Me You Want to Fail

I’m in the process of looking for a position as the one I was at was eliminated because of the company’s financial issues that they had thrust on them by a bigger client.  It isn’t exactly the most pleasant of experiences for anyone involved, yet it happens. I loved that job and the company and the people I worked with and all the rest, but it was time to let it go and just go look for the next cool opportunity and keep going.  On a side note, it proves the pint that the things written on this blog are my personal experiences and thoughts, and not my employers, because this post is written while I don’t have an employer.

The other day I had an interview with a hiring manager of a company that I am going to think of as a good company despite her telling me she was planning to fail.  No, she didn’t tell me she was planning to fail with the words “I/we plan to fail”, instead she described the job of the soon to be hired test automation engineer, and told me all the things in her plan that equaled a recipe for failure.

No existing automation

She told me that the currently there was no automation and that they wanted to have automation for the next version of the product.  In doing so she is telling me one of the biggest problems with automated testing, namely that it is an afterthought for an organization.  the best software efforts I have been involved with start with testing and automated testing in particular as a primary goal of the initial effort.  This isn’t to say that many or even most successful projects haven’t overcome the idea of test automation after the fact, it is just that when you start with success in mind and part of that picture is to use your tools wisely , you reduce the effort you need for repeated testing  and give yourself an advantage in achieving success, and let’s not forget that every little advantage helps achieve success.

Technologies already decided

This particular hiring manager went on to tell me that while she knew nothing about test automation that she already admitted didn’t exist was going to be done in technology X. I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to remind her in an interview setting that one of the first rules of solving programming problems is to find the best technology for the job at hand, not to force the problem into the favorite technology.  None of us in our personal lives thinks for a minute that using a word processor is the appropriate tool for managing our finances, yet on a professional level we seem to forget this most basic concept. We pick tools, we pick our favorite language, and we shove the problem into the solution, ignoring the needs imposed by the problem itself.

No commitment to automation

The last thing this hiring manager told me that the role would be divided up into manual and automated testing.  This is the same automated testing that she explained didn’t exist and that would need to be built by the new staff member.  This person would also been doing some manual testing.  I said that in order to automate well, one often needs to understand that application under test, and that manual testing is often an excellent way to acquire the requisite understanding.  She then explained that they were sprint driven and that automation could only be written in sprints that writing automation would be approved in, and that the manual testing would take precedence.  I am not sure why it was not as obvious to her that automated testing was never going to happen under these conditions as it was to me, yet it was painfully obvious to me that it wouldn’t.  She might as well have told me that she wanted to have automated testing, but didn’t want to pay for it or put the effort in to acquiring it, but if she could have it for free it would sure be nice.

You just told me you wanted to fail

As I listened to more and more of the development, testing and soon to be automation was second in importance to the process I was amazed at how clear of roadmap to failure was being expounded to me.  She might as well have said that she and her organization were planning to fail, and while she did stop short of using those specific words, it was very much what I heard.  I think I am a fortunate man in that when the pontification ended, I was asked point blank if I was still interested in the position. I didn’t want to waste my time, so in as polite and professional a manner as I could muster, I simply said “No, I don’t believe I am interested at this point.”