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Andrei in the office


Andrei's Universe

One man's journey from infinity to nothingness

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Andrei in the office

2 day catch-up

Well, in a few hours I will perform in my first musical since... er... um...I'm thinking 12 years. Ughh... This is what happens when you put your theatrical emphasis into directing.

But first I will rewind the clock

The day of the interview started with a bit of a hiccup as previously mentioned.

The flight to Oakland was delayed about 10 minutes which left me about 10 minutes to get from Airport to interview. On the flight I met a business man who seemed interested in my 'sidekick' mobile device and we started talking IT. He works in acquisitions and I was doing my typical mac advocate thing. "No, they aren't going bankrupt." "No, they have new hardware..." "Yes, it's the fastest thing out there." He was utterly blown away by the concept that Apple had a firewire vid camera for $130. He asked me to contact him in about 2 weeks to set up a consultation for his company to experiment with new video-conferencing concepts. Oh, how far I've wandered from the days of TGCC.

The company and the interview were really cool. The guy that I made first contact with at WWDC was the first engineer I spoke to. He's currently being dragged to SCA events by his GF. One engineer is originally from Holland which really gave me something to chat about. (I was an exchange student in High School to Holland for a summer) One of the more entertaining discoveries passing a cube was a "Cleveland Browns" mug. I commented that it might be in my best interest not to talk to that person. (Pittsburgh n' at.) It turned out I was interviewing with her as well.

I met with the VP of engineering and the Lead engineer I'd done a phone interview with. Then I met with one of their Windows algorithm jockeys (who reminded me a bit of John H. from SYMC) and I interviewed with him and the Brown's Fan. He asked me what I felt made me unique as a developer. I told him that I enjoyed the seemingly unsolvable problem. Inevitably I try to explain the problem to non-tech people in other terminology and parallels and often find my answer in the re-examination. I explained that I had training in Theatre, so I'd often use theatre, media, performance, sports... And I looked to her... "But I probably shouldn't have mentioned sports." She looked up. "But hopefully you didn't notice that on my resume." "Oh, no, I saw that."

At which point the talk became football for a few minutes. We agreed and tried to explain to the engineer that it was a football thing and that we have a high respect and love of the rivalry where we get to hate each other. But the one thing we absolutely agreed on was that we hated the raiders.

For some reason I felt that the grin I gave as they left and I shook hands felt a little to forced and 'smarmy', but then again... I am always overly particular about how I play any scene. Yes... I do two things in my life... theatre and software engineering. And lets face it... Interviewing is far closer to the former than the latter. An interview is a sales pitch and once you get in the door, the idea is to sell yourself. Period.

The interview seemed to go along swimmingly with me commenting about my knowledge of the company, my appreciation for the multi-platform development system they use, and some positive spin ideas for technologies the company can move into. It was 4:00 and I had 30 minutes to survive. I was in the HR mgr's office trying to take care of last minute forms and the like... Then the Windows guy poked in again. He wanted me for 15 more minutes. For the first time a feeling of dread crept in. "Yeah, I got a room with a white board in it." There are really few engineers that like this part...

"Write code for me." I'd hoped that I'd gotten out of this segment at lunch by bringing up a coding topic for debate. But this guy hadn't been at lunch. He asked me in C or C++ (which I've used but not recently) to do a string search. As in find the first instance of brown in the string, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy interviewer." Casually I asked if I could just pipe the request to grep with a carefully designed 'regex'. He seemed weakly amused (Great... one of those).

Coding is like any creative process. Sometimes you can sit down and make like Mozart dictating a concerto to Salieri in complete form from the word go. Yeah... but most of the time you yank out the books and files and ask yourself, "What the hell is that call in the standard C library." Please also note that my dad was a Shrink and my mom was a Calligrapher. This means that genetically, my handwriting was doomed before I was born. This is why I type.

I started putting up some basic variables. Pointer for the string, pointer for the search. Pair of ints for counters. By the way, Interesting story why most people use I and J for integer loop counters. (It's from Fortran) Making loops, chomping thru the string. For loop has a drop out Boolean. Blah blah blah...

Then the heat got turned up...Well, what if the string is a million characters and the search string is a thousand. "Well, I'd ask the guy why the hell he'd want to do that." This is a wrong and a right answer. It's wrong because it sounds like I'm saying "There's no point" but in fact it's right because with more details of the problem I can find a more optimal way of handing it. I talked about random search looks, threading it for multi processing, indexing the string... trying to only slightly step into the realm of "make it up as you go."

In the end I said, "To be completely honest, I haven't done deep algorithmic work in a while. I'd pull my books, and ask people in the department if they've hit something like it recently and have an ideas." I know my limitations, I know where to look if I need to and I'm not afraid to say, "I'm really not sure." In interviews it's a crap shoot on how the person will react to that. sometimes a 7 sometimes a 12. I guess I tried to channel Royce and threw the dice.

HR came in at that point and told me the cab had shown up. (Saved by the Bell?!?) Off to the cab. It was a tight schedule from interview to flight. About 90 minutes. I got to the airport and the line for security was all the way to the baggage claim area. Ugh. I get to the gate with about 65 minutes until the flight... or so I thought. The flight wound up being delayed about 90 minutes. There is a story yet to tell about this flight home.

However, thru the marvel of technology (SMS msging on my sidekick as T-Mobile and AOL weren't talking to each other for the day and also flytecomm), Heather managed to park 3 minutes before I arrived and she wound up parked at Burbank for less than 10 minutes and there is no charge for an under 10 minute park. Have I mentioned that she's a goddess?

I didn't report on this yesterday as I got home at about 10pm and crashed very quickly. Overslept and then was pretty much out the door for rehearsal for tonight's musical from noon until 12:30 this morning.

Heather is hovering over me because I told her I'd be finished with this post by the time she grabbed the laundry. That was me talking about the cab. So... we are off to lunch... If there is time later, I will comment about the musical tonight in detail. Also... the flight home had its own entertainment.

But as for now:

Arrival time: 6 pm
Place: Raven's Flight Occult Shop
(5042 Vineland in North Hollywood)

I have to sing. Be afraid, be very afraid ;)

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wish i could be there..."break a leg!"

I hate those guys who ask to write code.

But I know why they are doing it and I am glad I am not them :)
Anyways, don't let that spook u. I screwed up on my interview on that part with SYMC and they still hired me.

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