Sunday, June 20, 2010

Shopping with Leena in Dream City

Had an interesting variation of a regularly recurring dream this morning, between the first time I woke up and when I finally woke up and got up… For years I've dreamt of a city, a bit like Portland, Oregon, but not exactly, but many of my dreams take place there. And they're mostly about shopping (being that the dream city is mine, there's a disproportionate number of bookstores, of course).

This one had Leena joining me…

We began somewhere out in the suburbs, each on our own scooter. Leena, of course, had no trouble negotiating the freeway (for those familiar with Portland, this would be like coming from Hillsboro into Portland on 26) on hers, while I struggled, getting confused over driving on the left side or the right side. Every so often I'd realize I was on the wrong side of the road, and facing oncoming buses and cars, forcing everyone to screech to a halt, or me to swerve off the road. And then confusion again about which side of the road to go on…

Leena got into downtown Portland way ahead of me, and was already in the small, classy mall by the time I parked and want in. I caught up with her in a store selling miscellaneous stuff, but where I've usually bought toys in past dreams, including a kitty cat stuffed animal (which in the real world I actually bought at the Oregon Historical Society museum gift shop, which looks realistic enough that kittens who've wandered into my Beaverton apartment in the past when the door was open have seen it and started crouching down and moving towards it slowly). She bought a white hat there and was just paying for it when I arrived, so she handed it to me and I stuffed it in my white backpack.

From there we went to one of the other stores, a store selling lots of feminine sorts of things, lacy tablecloths, candles, scarves and what-not, with dark, antique-style wooden display cases and matching benches and framed mirrors all around. I'd been in there before, but mainly just to walk through on my way somewhere else.

This time, however, the store was closing and most of the display cases were empty. Leena was enjoying browsing around and picking things up, while I just watched, more or less thinking about the bookstore in the mall.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My 1997 Job Hunt

After the company I worked for in 1993-1996 went out of business I relaxed for half a year before I began looking for work... This is my job search from that year. Unfortunately, I don't have my written diaries handy for me to get the exact dates of each of the interviews. Most of these are copy/pasted out of emails I wrote after each one of the interviews, but I compiled this as one document so long ago I don't have those emails handy, either...

Doing a little editing, and getting to the bottom, the last few interviews aren't here...

By the time it was all finished I ended up at First Insight where I stayed for nearly a decade...

Well, on Thursday, July 24th I got the first interview, with Telemark, over, done with and gone... It took around 2 hours to travel there (NE part of Milwaukee, a totally dead area, boring), and three to come back! I got there about twenty minutes early, and the guy interviewing me was running about half an hour late due to emergency stuff to do...

I had plenty of time to observe the reception area and compare it to PC-Kwik. What I noticed is it was more formal than PC-Kwik's as far as decor and stuff. Everyone was dressed more professionally than most people at PC-Kwik. But, the receptionists (there were three) horsed around a lot more, even while there were "outsiders" in the office. When not on the phone they would talk babytalk and really, really silly, and most of the time cut it out on the phone, but often when one was on the phone, the other two would loudly horse around...

Anyway, the interview didn't go great, but it didn't last long (guess that was my fault). The guy wasn't the one who wrote the questions, and didn't seem too comfortable asking them, and they were ones I wanted to answer. I don't really want to expound on where I want to be in five years (like I know... and I think "I'd like to be reading sci-fi books on the couch full time" isn't a correct answer). One question was "what sort of people do you enjoy most, and don't say 'everyone'?". Dumb, dumb questions.

The job turned out to be different than I was expecting. It was mostly running reports and converting data (like from mainframe to Excel) and distributing the reports to others in the office and to clients, etc... It was a night job, from 5:00pm till 1:00am most nights, which would include about 5 hours of being the only one from that department in the office before the graveyard shift comes in...

That probably wouldn't work for me due to transportation problems. The busses don't run that late, and the job includes Sunday night work, and I know for sure one of the busses does NOT run on Sunday's. I'd have a lot of trouble getting there.

I goofed filling out the application, and missed a whole page. I didn't have good answers to a lot of his questions, like "tell me about youself". I didn't have a list of references with me... Yeah, I wasn't totally prepared, but I didn't care. Also, my hair was extremely obnoxious... I couldn't decide if I should shave or not, so I went halfway an did a goattee. Looks pretty silly.

One good thing about working there, though, is one of those receptionists was wearing what must be one of the shortest miniskirts I've ever seen!

Getting home sucked. Except for in Pioneer Place, where I stopped to get a frozen yogurt, I might've seen Staci (a nice Jewish girl I met in college who I've been unsuccessfully chasing for about seven years). I saw her car at the HealthFirst on Cornell on my way downtown in the morning. I didn't say anything in the mall because she was with another guy. I don't know which scared me more, saying hi and finding out it wasn't Staci (despite looking like her exactly) or saying hi and finding out the guy was a boyfriend. So, I just discreetly stared for a while...

After I got home, I called her at home and she was there, but on her way out for dinner with an aunt and uncle. We talked for a couple of minutes, mostly I told her about the job stuff... She didn't mention anything about being in teh mall an I didn't ask. She said she'd call me "later" whenever "later" is. She also emphasized asking a couple times about if my Tuesday interview was on the coming Tuesday, which was her birthday.

I was waiting for a bus downtown, tired, bored and sweating in the blistering heat, and pondering the manhole covers. I was wondering if it's really true that circular ones are the only shape that won't fall through. I tried visuallizing other shapes and turning them around in my head and most seemed like they could, so I think it's really true...

I'm sure you're thinking what a fascinating thing manhole covers are... Such a major mark of civilazation... But there is significance to the story.

In any case, Tuesday's mail had a rejection letter from Telemark, which is fine, I didn't want to have to commute out there anyway...

Friday I had an interview with Community Action Organization out in downtown Hillsboro (SW 10th and Baseline, at the edge of town) for a data specialist position. That interview went okay. It was with two people, but wasn't as stressful or harsh as multi-person interviews I'd been to before or since. It was short, about ten minutes (gee, I guess that was my fault). Nothing was really interesting or outstanding about it.

I was way early, so I wandered around Hillsboro a bit, the first time I'd been there. I was amused by some business names, like Fairly Honest Dan's Machine Gun Parlor and the He's Not Here Saloon... Otherwise, it was a dull, drab looking place.

Monday I got a rejection phone call on my answering machine, which is fine, as even though the CAO and people there seemed okay to work with, I didn't really want to work way out there...

Then I got a break for the weekend. Saturday night I went downtown for a little brain surgery. That was awsome...

The last time I saw any live music was in like 1975 or so, when I went to a bunch of folk concerts in Central Park with my parents, so this was a real treat. It was the first time the Brain Surgeons were playing west of New York. They're currently one of my favorite groups (the main Brain Surgeon was the original drummer and major songwriter for Blue Oyster Cult in the 70s).

They were playing at Berbati's Pan on 3rd & Ankeny. I got there early, and it was the first time I'd been to a bar by myself, so I wasn't too comfortable, but that wasn't a good excuse to miss the Brain Surgeons... I saw the opening band, which were okay, and I figured that's what live music was like. After the Brain Surgeons came on, though, I re-evaluated and decided the first group sucked...

The big excitement was when Albert, the drummer, was doing an intense drum solo, and left the stage with his drum sticks. He ran around the bar like a maniac, drumming on every table, the floor, the ceiling, the walls, and any hard surface he could find (including some guy's bicycle helmet (he wasn't wearing it at the moment)). Yeah, it was wild.

I hope they come back again soon. Though if the turnout there was typical for the whole tour, it's unlikely, as there was hardly anyone there, which is too bad because they were really good live, real energetic and enthusiastic, and skilled.

Sunday I just did the resume thing, got a ton out in the mail for Monday.

Monday I was just hanging around, with nothing planned, when in the afternoon someone from The Kemtah Group called, saying that were trying to fill a PC Technician job at Intel for a six month project and liked my resume. So, she said if I sent her an electronic copy of my resume, she'd have her boss call to arrange an interview.

Before I got the resume emailed to her, her boss, Dave, called to set up an interview. This was around 1:30. He wanted to do it that day, saying if he didn't have someone in 24 hours, another company would probably fill it. So, in a panic I ran around my apartment changing clothes and trying to shave off a few days' scruff and wash my face...

I made it a few minutes early and hung around the lobby for a while. I seemed to be the only one not wearing Nike shoes. Even businessmen in Dockers and shirts with ties were wearing dressy Nikes. They had a short, written test for me to take about my PC hardware and software troubleshooting and configuration skills, to get an idea of where my experience and knowledge is. I did okay on the hardware and Windows 95 part, but nto so well on the Windows NT and Netware parts (PC-Kwik's Netware LAN was too small for me ot really get good experience, and too reliable to often troubleshoot).

The interview went great. It was very relaxed and informal. I think the guy had done a lot of interviewing, because he didn't have any questions written to read off but seemed to know waht to ask to get a good feel for my experience and skill and attitude. We had some friendly, personal type chat going on as well, so I was pretty comfortable interviewing with him.

So he said he'd submit my information to Intel, but it could take around a week for them to get back to him, and he'll let me know. That sounds okay. I think working in the suburbs would be better at a large company than a small one, just because there'd possibly be a social scene there, which might make up for being so far from the center of stuff... Maybe I don't have a clue...

Tuesday afternoon I had an interview with PacifiCorp for an Entry Level IT Analyst position. I'd stay away from IT Analyst type stuff, but this one said entry level, so I assume I'd qualify, and they'd train me to suit their needs... Anyway, downtown Portland is my dream job location.

The interview was nasty. I was pretty nervous, and the hassle I got with the building security didn't help (they said the guy never called down that I would be there, and they didn't seem pleased about having to call him, preferring that I just went away, but they did call him, and gave me a temporary badge...) Three guys interviewd me at once, and I couldn't see all of them at one time. One guy was definitely the ring leader, so I mostly focused on him.

They fired questions off at me, mostly about how I work. How do you handle deadlines? What if you have more than one top priority task, and a few more than top priority? What kind of worker are you? Are you a starter or a finisher? Do you work in bursts or steady? Why are manhole covers round? What's you favorite HTML development tool? If there was a problem and you weren't happy with work, what would you say to me (from the point of a supervisor (he didn't like my answer, which was I'd say what I thought the problem was, rather than something else, but that didn't seem to answer what he thought he was asking, and another guy told me he'd heard it twice already and still didn't know what the question meant))? How do I like Teleport's service (that was a personal interest question from one guy who also has a Teleport ISP account, he was just curious what I thought of them)?

I was early, so I chatted for a few minutes with the ringleader, and he said they had a bunch of stock questions, but had come up with a few weird ones to toss in since their boss was out for the week. He made it sound like wicked fun... I only detected one weird question, the one about the manhole covers... It's really ironic that I was pondering it in a heat based stupor last week, and fortunate, probably, that I knew the answer. I asked if that was one of the weird ones he'd warned me about, and he said it was, but then another guy said, "well, it might not be that weird, we ARE a utility company after all..."

The whole thing was shorter than they expected (guess that was my fault). One of the marked it down to "Kevin just gives succinct answers". But I was nervous talking to three strangers at once, trying to sell myself (not something I'm good at under most circumstances) so I kept things short, wanting them to talk more. I was sweating bullets in there getting grilled. At least they were real friendly, though, and not nasty (not like teh HP interview I had a few years ago, which was with only two people that I couldn't see at one time, but they were much, much worse than the PacifiCorp guys).

They did say that they had 55 resumes, and I was one of three from the bunch they wanted to interview. So, I guess that's good to hear, as I'd expect more than a few of those 55 would intimidate me (when I hired a tech for PC-Kwik, who left long ago, some of those resumes I read made me feel really inadequate and insignificant).

At home thinking about the interview the phone rang, and it was someone else wanting to interview me for a tech support job. So, I had that one Wednesday morning at 11:30, somewhere in the area of St. Vincent's Hospital (not the hospital, just that neighborhood).

I got to the interview early and hung around the office building lobby. It was hardcore 70's high-tech business look. I was the only man there not wearing a shirt and tie, waiting for the building security to kick me out for violating dress code. I had fun in the bathroom, though, since this is the only interview I didn't put my hair in a ponytail. I was at the urinal when a guy came in, looked shocked and apologized for entering the wrong bathroom... This happened regularly when I worked at PC-Kwik, and I got a kick out of it... Doesn't happen much at home.

That one didn't go really great, but not really bad. I definitely didn't get the job I applied for, which was Windows 95 support. He said he wasn't sure he would be comfortable sending me to his client, since I didn't have much formal training or experience with large networks. However, he said they had a ton of computers in their office that needed to be made operational within a month, but were short of people to do that. He said he'll pass my resume on to the main tech for their office and see about possibly getting me a 30 day contract for doing that. It could be possible that it would extend or I could be made permanent. That could be fun if I got it, but they haven't called yet...

This guy was kind of fun to interview with (though it would've been better in a room without the harsh flourescent light and noisy air conditioner). He started off pretty on-track and seemed inflexible (my first impression was this guy was totally no-nonsense), but I think once he decided I wasn't going to fit that position he loosened up a lot, and we chatted about Macintoshes (He used to sell them at The Computer Store in NE Portland). I think he was impressed by my reason for buying a Macintosh, that I didn't know anything about them and thought it would be fun to learn.

When I got home I found two messages on my machine from people wanting me to call them back about interviewing... *sigh*

Rereading the ad for one of them, I'm not sure why I applied. I don't have the NT or Netware experience to actually support them.

Thursday morning, I just set up two interviews for next week, Monday and Tuesday. The Monday one is in downtown Portland, for some kind of support specialist job. The Tuesday one I'm a little uncomfortable with, as it's with a medical software company, First Insight, where my ex-boss's wife works (and he's one of my main references). She's already said how great I am, which makes me extra nervous about it, but I'm not real intersted in working there...

Thursday evening I set up another one, for Friday afternoon with a company called New Horizons Computer Learning Center. They do classes on using computers.

I got to that interview pretty early and wandered around the business park looking for a friend's office, but didn't find it. In the whole place I only saw one bench to sit on, and it was near some workers fertilizing (or I assume that's what that smell was) the yard.

That interview didn't go great. An ex-coworker told me she interviewed with them and that she didn't think it would be a good place to work, so I had some negative expectations when I went there. I got there and the receptionist was real gruff and unfriendly, she put me in a small conference room with a class schedule to read. People kept walking past and looking in, but no one said anything. The receptionist never came back to say anything like, "Diana will be with you soon, she just delayed".

Eventually, Diana did come in, and she was one of the people who'd wandered past a few times and looked in without saying anything. Mostly she talked, explained about the company and the position.

Then she asked a few questions. What's your idea of customer service? For this position, who do you think the customer is? Why did you leave PC-Kwik? (my answer is that it's more like PC-Kwik left me) What attracted you to New Horizons? Why should New Horizons hire you? Are you comfortable driving to other New Horizons sites?

The interview was relatively short (guess that was my fault) so I was out of there quickly.

She was the only one I've interviewed with so far who gave me something to take home, a New Horizons class schedule and a business card.

At home after the interview I set up another one for Wednesday with Bank of America in downtown Portland.

Monday I had an interview this morning with a couple of guys from Pacer Infotech. It was in the 1515 Building downtown, at 1515 SW 5th (which if I was naming buildings I would've given a more puzzling name of say, 1434 Building). I got there early and wandered around downtown for a little while, used the bathroom at Pioneer Place mall to wash my face.

Once I got to the 1515 Building I didn't see Pacer Infotech listed in the directory. But I followed the directions I was given to the fifth floor, adn didn't see Pacer Infotech listed on that floor, but kept with the directions. The doors at the end were locked with a combination lock, but there was a phone that I was supposed to use to call the guy who would interview me. I called, and didn't get any answer. I called the Helpdesk number that was supposed to be for backup, and didn't get any answer there, either.

Another guy came and I let him go ahead and use it, and he dialed some number and a couple of guys came to the door and took his application. I guess I looked puzzled, because they asked if they could help me. When I said who I was looking for they smiled and said, "oh, that's us. Come this way".

The interview was relatively short, about twenty minutes (guess that was my fault). The two guys, Paul and Keith were very friendly, and okay to talk to. Keith was Paul's supervisor, and was definitely in charge. He did the main talk about what Pacer Infotech does, and had to prompt Paul to ask me his set of questions. I could handle their more specific questions, but the more general ones left me without anything to say. There were a lot of awkward silences that I suppose were up to me to fill, but I couldn't think of anything to say.

I think I did okay on the question, "do you consider learning new technologies to be a challege or work?" I answered that it was a challenging game.

When we finished they gave me a four page application to fill out in the building's atrium and return. The atrium in the center of the building was really fancy, with fountains and plants and a view of the glass elevators.

This is one where being Hispanic might actually help, since they do almost all their work for the federal government, and in this case I'd be working on their team that handles the computers in the BLM office (which is where the interview took place, why I couldn't find Pacer Infotech on the directory).

Where I finally ended up...
My Tuesday interview with First Insight went really well. I went with a relatively bad attitude, not interested in this one at all, so I did not go early (I didn't even shave off a day's scruff). I checked the bus schedule and picked the bus that would get me there real close to on-time, giving some leeway in case I got lost. Which I did...

I looked at a map before I went, but once I got there the few streets seemed somehow different. After a little walking I found the right one and at the end of it were a bunch of buildings, not all of which had numbers. The one I was looking for didn't have a number, and was further east than one with a lower number (numbers rise going west). I also had trouble getting in the building. All the doors were clearly labelled "Emergency Exit Only - Alarm Will Sound" and at the first four I went to I didn't notice the small print "alarm hours 7pm to 7am".

The office, too was tough to find. Suite 224 was not even in the same hallway as 222, 223 and 225.

The interview wasn't real long, but not real short, either (guess Robert gets credit for it). Most of it was with Robert, but about halfway through one of the technicians, whose name I didn't get, came in. Maybe it was the way they asked questions, but I was able to answer them pretty well, and not just short answers, elaborating on points and talking a lot. We also had some personal chatting about computers going on, and at one point Robert broke the law and asked my age (when asking if I drove there, when I said I didn't drive). I didn't bother mentioning that it's an illegal interview question (along with marital status, race, etc...).

Robert also did a great job selling the company to me. Beforehand I wasn't interested in it, and I was mainly going to the interview because my ex-boss's wife recommended me highly as soon as she saw my resume on his desk. I didn't have any interest in what they were doing or supporting it, but Robert made it sound like it could be fun, and that the company was growing rapidly, taking on new technology, which interested me. So now I'm kind of hoping he'll call back...

The only question I had trouble answering was "tell me about GPFs" which I'm familiar with, but couldn't think of a good thing to say. But on the technical side, I might've made up for it when he asked me to talk about memory architecture. Although that was off to a shakey start because I didn't know what he was looking for until he clarified and said I should describe base memory and that sort of architecture, which I know well. He cut me off before I was done saying, "I think that's enough, you definitely have a grasp of that, which I was looking for."

He asked about my HTML experience and I said I had a web page that I'd been tinkering with for a few years. He chuckled and said, "well, you can guess where I'm going to go after this. Hope there's nothing there you wouldn't want a potential employer to see..." I offered to give him the URL, but he knew it based on my email address.

At some interviews I feel like I'm getting grilled and just sit with my hands folded on the table, but this time I was comfortable and doing my typical, wild hand movements when talking.

When I got home there was a message from someone at CFI Proservices asking me to call back about an interview. Maynard Rigby did their accounting consulting back when I was there. So, I left him a message and he called back a few hours later while I was napping...

We did a short (guess that was my fault) phone interview (I didn't shave for this one either...), which went well until he asked what kind of work environment am I looking for. I used "laid back" in my description which he took to mean slow, without much work, when I really meant where the boss isn't looking over my shoulder constantly, cracking the whip, but lets me do my work. He sounded sceptical after that, but set up an interview for Thursday morning, in one of the fancier office buildings downtown.

Wednesday I got downtown with plenty of time to head up the Bank Of America office where I had my 11:00 interview. It was about a 25 block walk from where I got off the bus. 25 blocks without even a faint breeze, the sun like a blazing fireball in the sky (well, okay, it is one). I thought I would melt by the time I got there...

The building is one I've walked past many times but never been in, so this was kind of a treat. The inner hallway to the bathroom is real small, and the door opened into it, and I got smacked by it after I finished washing my face in there.

The fellow I'd talked to on the phone the other night said I would be interviewing Sean in suite 120. I went to suite 120, labelled "Telecommunications" and nobody was there except one person on the phone. Finally after he got off I said I was here, but early, and he just said, "sorry, you're in the wrong office". I asked, and he pointed me in the right direction, to "PC Support".

My interview with Sean went real fast (guess that was my fault) but terribly bad. Before we started he also told his boss, Eric, so that I could interview with him afterward (two for the price of one, an unexpected bonus). I did okay on his technical questions (he asked me to explain PC memory architecture and had to cut me off before I was done saying, "okay, I think you definitely understand that, most applicants don't have a clue" which led to a short discussion of memory managers), but it was obvious that I didn't have the corporate and project experience he was looking for. He was friendly, though, and I'm not sure he was real comfortable doing interviewing. When we were finished and I didn't have any questions he commented, "boy, you're an easy one".

Interviewing with him was like a slightly uncomfortable, but friendly conversation about my computing experience.

After Sean (only minutes after the scheduled start, since I was so early) left Eric kept me waiting a few minutes. He was a bit older, and definitely not into doing the interview (but it was short, which I guess was mostly my fault). He went over my resume, asking questions.

He was pretty puzzled by the five year break between my high school job and my first job at Maynard Rigby, which I explained was my time in collge. He said, "well, you need to put in that in here, this is too big a gap".

Then he started on his sheet of paper which about ten questions. He read each one, and asked it, with almost no inflection to his voice, like he wasn't at all interested. My answers for some were okay, none were technical.

But for some I really sounded clueless. Why did you decide to apply for a job at a bank instead of some other industry? Why should we hire you?

Interviewing with Eric was like being questioned, or accused of incompetence, having to defend myself.

This sounded like the most rigid company I've interviewed with as far as work atmosphere. Sean explained in detail which parts of the network which department handles, and that there is no overlap, that's not authorized... I'm not sure if I'd be comfortable there, but after the interviews, I don't think I need to worry about that...

I've walked past the CFI ProServices building lots of times, intrigued by the modern style. This morning I got to walk past it a bunch of times because I was early for my interview there. Scott said I should get there about 15 minutes early to fill out the application, but it turned out to take even longer. I sat in the 2nd floor lobby, next to the window that went all the way to the floor writing and watching people walking below.

The interview itself was mediocre. We finished up pretty quick (guess that was my fault) but actually got a lot said. While I didn't do a really great performance, I didn't do bad enough to leave knowing I didn't get the job. Otherwise, there wasn't much outstanding with it , good or bad about it.

Later, taking a nap I got woken by the phone. It was the supervisor of the three guys who interviewed me at PacifiCorp. He wanted to say they gave the Entry Level IT Analyst job to someone else. But also they were impressed by my computer skills and asked if he could forward my resume to their PC department, where they're looking for a Desktop Support Specialist.

After a few day's break at the beginning of the week, I'm back into the swing of the job search...

Thursday's interview with McLaughlin Computers in the Hollywood District wasn't real good. I expected to get there early after walking from downtown all the 36 blocks up there, but most of my spare time was used going past the place, over 84 to the next light to cross Sandy, only to get most of the way back and find there was no sidewalk there and having to redo it and dash across the street where there wasn't a light. By the time I got there my clothes were soaked with sweat, which was just pouring off me.

I was still about five minutes early, and the interview was so short (guess that was my fault) that I was out of there by 2:00, when it was supposed to start...

I walked in and the guy (who's name I've already forgotten) was sitting in a small office. He looked at me and asked, "what do you want?" He must've been having a bad day because he was a real grouch. I told him what I was there for and he said "get in the kitchen, I'll get your resume". I waited for him since I had no idea where the kitchen was. We went past a room full of computer parts, with one technician in there, and he got my resume from the tech.

Everytime he asked a tough question he had a smirk, like it was a trick question that was going to trap me. Why'd you leave your last job? What are you doing now? Can you repair printers? Do you like fixing hardware? What's the difference between SCSI and IDE? (I think I explained enough for him to realize I knew the difference, but my descriptions sure weren't award winning sales comparisons). What makes you better than the next guy I'm interviewing? Ever used Netware?

By this time it was plain to me that we didn't click at all. After I explained the SCSI/IDE thing he asked how many IDs on SCSI. He said my description missed, that you can't put an IDE CD-ROM and a SCSI CD-ROM in the same computer and we got into a short argument over that. I've done it a few times before, and if I was more interested in the job and company, I would've asked, "you got the hardware here? I'll show you, it's a piece of cake".

This was also the most I've asked questions at an interview. I asked what the company did, and he explained they sold hardware to large corporations, and supported the hardware, never the software. He said the position I was interviewing for was to work on-site at a hospital to support the hardware this company sold the hospital. I asked if there was a dress code. He said his men are required to wear shirts and ties on-site, "you got a problem with that?". "Yup," I answered. The final question he asked, "so, you're not interested in the job?" I told him I was avoiding ties, and I didn't think I was qualified to repair printers (mostly mechanical work that I've tried and did not enjoy and did not do well). We thanked each other for the time and I was gone.

So then I had to walk all the way back. The sun had moved so there was a lot less shade. Going past a car deal I was staring in at the cars and forgot they'd blocked the sidewalk there for construction, so I was just moseying along, dazed from the heat, not looking forward and walked right into wood barricade. Fortunately I wasn't going very fast, and that shook my daze for a few minutes.

Later, at the intersection of Sandy, Burnside and 12th I was standing at the split of Sandy and Burnside, on the little island, staring straight at the oncoming cars. A huge truck was right in front of me, with it's left turn signal on, but it kept coming straight, accelerating at me. I knew it was going to turn left onto Sandy, but it filled my vision before it did and I was practically in a panic when I stepped backwards a few feet...

So, I stopped in Pioneer Place for pizza and a huge cup of water before taking a bus home. All that for a bad, five minute interview.

Before I left in the morning I got a call from the Kemtah Group, which was one of my best interviews about two weeks ago. It was a different fellow, since Dave had gone back to the head office Phoenix. This guy, Vernon, said he got back from his vacation and found Dave left my resume on the very top of the stack of resumes, as the first person to try to stick in technician slots, but they didn't have any open at the time. He wanted to meet with me and chat, so we'll do that over lunch on Wednesday.

Friday, My interview with Sequent went surprisingly well. I didn't get there too early, since I've walked between my apartment and Sequent over a thousand times (I just never actually stopped at Sequent, but was only passing through their campus (and I've had a lot of close calls, nearly getting hit by cars outside the Rhein building where I interviewed)). But I was still a few minutes early and sat inside after some women going in let me through (the doors are always locked and need a keycard). Patrick said he'd be delayed a few minutes because they were having phone system problems he had to work around. So, I relaxed and watched all the blinkenlighten visible through the computer room windows.

When he was ready he gathered Jon and Kathy and we went to a small conference room. This was the longest interview I've had so far, around an hour and fifteen minutes (and I guess it was a team effort). Patrick, Jon and Kathy were real friendly and easy to talk to.

Patrick asked the kind of general questions about me, and how I work, as well as gave the explanation of Sequent and department organization. Kathy asked questions about my experiences, as far as which operating systems I've used and what not. Jon asked the more technical questions, including several short role playing scenarios. Some of their questions overlapped and they slipped and asked ones someone else was supposed to ask.

There were a lot of the usual. What do you want to do in five years? What did you like best about your last job? What did you like least? On a scale of 1 to 5 how would you rate your experience and expertise with UNIX, Windows NT, email programs, spreadsheets, software support, hardware support?

More in-depth were questions about specific programs. Which email programs have you used? What web browsers have you used. They asked for some details about them, such as how would I configure which editor to use in the email program, Elm (and said I did good by remembering the directory had a . in the name). What's a Domain in Windows NT? What are FAT32 and NTFS? What does a UNIX shell do? They asked a trick question about Netscape, how would I delete a helper application from it's list? I've never done it, and started to describe where, but Jon said it's a trick, because Netscape doesn't support removing helper applications, except by Registry manipulation (however, I checked at home, and the Macintosh version does).

One role playing with Jon, he pretended that his computer wouldn't boot, and did a good job playing a dumb caller. We walked through, me asking him what kind of computer, is there anything on the screen at all, any error messages...

He asked, "I try to run a program on a UNIX system and it doesn't run". I first suggested checking if it was in the path, then if the user had executable permission. They said that was good, because permissions are the basis of most of their UNIX related support calls.

Another one he pretended to call and said, "my mouse stopped working." I walked him through some quick stuff, like pressing the buttons to see if they do anything. If not, I suggested rebooting, and checking to see if the ball was still in the mouse (in an office that's a common practical joke). He called it off there, saying that was real good. He said most people interviewed try to show off their technical knowledge on that one and their first action is to walk the user into checking out the registry for mouse information, before even rebooting or checking if cables are tight.

The toughest role playing was when Jon turned around and I had to pretend I was talking to him on the phone to teach him how to tie his shoes, with no eye contact and not being able to see what he did. This turned out to be really tough, and I had a hard time not taking it as seriously as I suppose I should've (but I didn't get so loose as to say use tape or superglue...) I guess it was timed, because we stopped when I had him with one end of the lace in a loop, before wrapping the other end around it. He said women almost always do better than men at this one, but I got farther than most men do. I think if I took it more seriously at first and jumped right in, I could've gotten further. After I realized it wasn't a joke I untied my own shoe and walked him through the steps while doing it myself (which from another question is what they all agreed was the right thing to do, when helping someone with a problem that I don't KNOW the solution to, to try to do it on my own system and walk step-by-step).

Afterward they gave me a short tour of their department, then I guess they all had to get back to work. I think it went okay, though with three people at once I had a lot of trouble maintaining eye contact, but tried to keep looking at whoever asked the question, with glances around. And my throat got really dry by the time we were finished, in particular with the shoelace problem because I wasn't at all ready for that...

Willamette Industries, August 19, an interview in three parts...

I got downtown a little early, with enough time to wash up in the Pioneer Place bathroom before wandering back up to the Wells Fargo Center (formerly the First Interstate Tower, second tallest building in Portland). Walking into the building I didn't see anyone else dressed like me and I kept expecting some one to stop me before I got the elevators. There were more elevators in this building than in Waldport! And they didn't even all go the same place...

While waiting in Willamette's lobby I had to keep swallowing to get my ears to pop after the ride up. I didn't see anyone else walking around the office wearing jeans.

The first part was with Eva, who explained about the company and the benefits and stuff, and didn't ask me very many questions. Some of the benefits sound really good, like the company will match the amount of company stock you invest in, up to 6% of your income (Eva said, "I've worked here for 31 years, I'm going to retire rich"). She gave me a copy of their annual report so I can see for myself that they're a very stable company (if I knew how to read an annual report, which looks mostly like gibberish to me). She was real friendly, and we finished up quicker than the alotted half hour, so she gave me a tour of the floor. It was a bit hazy, so there wasn't a far view, but what there was was still spectacular from the 36th floor. She asked what I thought of interviewing and sympathized when I said I was nervous and didn't care for that part of the job thing.

Next was another half hour interview with Greg and a woman from the help desk, who would be Greg's "expert ears and eyes" for interviewing. For some reason my memory of this part is hazy, kind of surreal, like a half-remembered dream. Eva told them I was pretty nervous and not to scare me too much... My mouth and throat were real dry, making it tough to answer their questions, which were mostly about my tech support experiences, with a few specifics and a few minor technical questions. They were real curious about my experience with support call tracking software. His desk was too far from the window for a great view from where I was sitting, so I just saw the hazy sky to the east.

When they were finished with me, Greg took me down the stairs to a conference room on the south side of the 35th floor for the "board interview" with three older women, and told them I was nervous about interviewing. They reassured me they were freindly, and lived up to that real well. This part lasted about forty-five minutes, and they mainly asked me some general questions about my background and ideas and goals. For the most part it was the usual questions.

The final part was when they asked a bunch of required questions about how I would feel working for a company that does forest harvesting. They also emphasized that they do replenishing and everything they can to be environmentally sound about their business, but they still need to ask because a lot of people are offended by what they do, which is wood and paper products, starting from growing and cutting trees to all the processing.

The whole thing seemed to go okay. I don't think I did really horribly and I don't think I did really great. Eva said it would be about three weeks before they come to any decisions, with a lot of interviews between now and then. I don't know a lot of the stuff needed for the job (AS/400, RS6000), but I can learn it quickly, which I said a few times. But I do have the required people skills for it.

The next day I had a lunch interview with Vernon from The Kemtah Group. I'd already interviewed with Dave from that company and left a good impression, so Vernon wanted to meet me. We went to Stanford's, a nice place not far from my apartment, where we talked for about an hour and a half, about a wide range of computer and job related topics.

As we were about to leave I spotted Bob, my supervisor from PC-Kwik at a nearby table. He came over and gave me a good reference in person (as he's the first person listed on my reference list). It's the first time I've seen him in quite a while.

After lunch Vernon drove me to his office to give me a company information packet, then drove me home so I could print out a clean copy of my resume (his copy was marked up heavily by Dave at the previous interview I had with The Kemtah Group). He's into collecting computer parts and enjoyed checking out all the junk in my apartment, and seemed impressed that I actually use some of the ancient PCs in my apartment.

So, that went well, except he doesn't have any positions right now... The Kemtah Group fills technical position at larger companies (their only client in Oregon is Intel) but doesn't currently have any openings. He said I'm first on the list when one does come up, and thinks there should be a bunch in the very near future. So, I'll just have to wait and see what happens... I did make it clear that I'll probably take the first job that comes along, and he said, "well, hopefully that'll be with us".

After a week break, I already had an interview set up for 10:00 in the morning with CH2M Hill on the 13th floor of Lloyd Center Tower, on the NE side of Portland. Then yesterday Vernon from the Kemtah Group called because he'd gotten an interview slot for me at 1:00 in Hillsboro. I told him I couldn't make it, there was no way I could get to Intel's Jones Farm facility (I keep thinking Kool-Aide and cults when this name comes up) by 1:00 after leaving the CH2M Hill interiew, and I wasn't comfortable committing to that. He said it would be the only chance for now, and that the time was set by Intel and was immutable. I told him I couldn't make it.

A while later someone else called from Kemtah's headquarters in New Mexico, saying Vernon was upset, imploring me to go to the Intel interview, and skip the first on if I had to. I told her that I wasn't comfortable doing that, but I'd call and see if I could make the CH2M Hill one a little earlier. I did, but I couldn't get hold of the fellow I was interviewing with.

When I called Vernon back he was still adamant about wanting me to go to the Intel one, and came up with the idea of sending Bobbi, the new Kemtah employee (who'll run the office when Vernon goes back to New Mexico), to drive into Portland and pick me up after the CH2M Hill interview to take me to the Intel interview. I guess it's kind of a confidence booster to know they want me there bad enough to drive me halfway across town.

So, with everything all set, after nutritious breakfast of fried fish, fresh spinach and a tomato, I headed out at the crack of dawn for Lloyd Center Tower...

I got to the interview a few minutes early and waited while the receptionist talked to someone before saying who I was. She said, "oh, that was Alan just in here a moment ago telling me he was expecting someone, I'll tell him you're here". Then I went to the restroom to wash up. The restroom was right next to the bank of elevators and it was very strange sounding, like subway trains running up and down through the walls.

After a while of waiting (and watching more people go through the reception area (mostly for Mike's meeting in the adjoining conference room) than worked for PC-Kwik the whole time I was there) Alan came out with his supervisor from the Corvallis office and introduced them to me. Alan was pretty jolly and said he noticed I'd worked in Newport (must've had it confused with Waldport) and we chatted about that while heading toward the small conference room. He stopped in front of the room's window and said, "uh oh, we've got a problem". Some other people had appropriated the room without authorization, as Alan signed up for it for the time period. They saw him peeking in and opened the door to invite him to join them, especially since he was signed up for it... After a couple of minutes of freindly chatter with Alan they left to find another place so we could use the room for the interview.

The interview didn't last as long as they expected (guess that was my fault, partly because I was worried about taking too long and missing the second one) but still was around forty-five minutes. I did okay on more specific questions that actually had answers ("if someone calls and says their program stopped working, do you immediately reinstall the program?" and "usually hours are 8 to 5, but sometimes things come up that require techs to work late, can you handle that?"). But I blew it bad on "tell us a little about yourself." I told little... And I stumbled over what I did say. With more abstract questions I'd answer and they'd have stoney faces that didn't tell me if I was on the right trail or if I'd said enough and I had no idea what else to say.

Then they asked if I had any questions and I couldn't think of any, so they said most people ask about benefits and 401k. But I don't care too much about those, and wracking my brain came up with "would all the work be in this office, or any travel to other CH2M Hill offices?" They said travel was rare, but once in a while, and when I said I didn't drive they said that was no problem, the company would rent a car for me, and when I said I really didn't drive at all, with no license (but I could fake it) they said then I wouldn't be going alone.

They asked what kind of NT experience I had, and I said I'd installed both Server and Workstation on my home computer, but no networking experience. But they seemed pleased that I'd run through the install process with it, even I didn't do much else. They were also concerned with how many times I'd installed Windows 95, and thought "a few hundred, on about 25-30 computers with an ever changing variety of peripherals" was good. They asked about my laptop computer experience, and if I'd ever used any PCMCIA cards. I said I'd just gotten a PCMCIA card for my Macintosh, and Alan said, "uh oh, he said the M word". They explained that with around 6,000 employees, CH2M Hill probably had as many as five Macs. I told them I bought the Mac a few months ago because I'd never really used one and thought it would be fun to learn, which seems to be a good answer.

Their final question was about why I thought I would be the best person they could hire. Oiy Vey!

After we were finished they gave me an application to fill out, so I hung around the lobby and did that, and got out of there just after 11:00 and headed over to Lloyd Center.

Bobbi had said she'd probably get there in the 11:30 neighborhood and the plan was I'd call her cell number and we'd figure out where to meet. Originally I said we could just meet at an entrance, but she said I'd never see her in a crowd because she's too plain looking, but her car is unmistakable (two-tone green and blue 1993 Corvette). I waited till around 11:15 to call and she said she was on the street outside, hadn't parked yet. So she told me where she was parking, asked what I was wearing and I went out there. I left the mall, and was not where I expected to be, but nearly a whole block further east. First I went toward where she said she was, but their was no way to walk there without hopping fences, so I went back and out to the street and another block north, and then I saw her car (her landmark of "a semi with something on top" actually turned out to be a minivan with a boat on top) but there was still a fence between us, which I did climb over, after waving to her and hearing her start her car in acknowledgment, so she wouldn't think I was some punk coming to attack her.

I got in the car and she said it turned out Intel cancelled the interviews, but she still came to get me rather than leave me hanging over there. Which was real nice, so I thanked her for that. She said her husband was one of the guys I would've interviewed with... The reason was some kind of corporate thing, where someone hadn't given the manager all the information about the hiring/contract details and they wanted to review that. She and Vernon gave me a lot of information about Intel's corporate structure over there and most of it has gone straight over my head, it's way, way more complicated than any computer system.

So, we chatted all the way out to Aloha, and then she dropped me off at my apartment and went on to run her errands, the afternoon work having been shot for her because of the cancellation.

Friday I called Patrick at Sequent to ask about the job, and he said that while I was well qualified, they decided to hire another fellow who had a bit more UNIX experience.

Tuesday I was just sitting around in the morning, trying to decide if I should bother with breakfast when the phone rang. It was John from Volt Technical Services, and he asked me a few questions, about my salary range and my experience. Then said for most of the jobs he had open he'd need me to come down and interview with him, and wanted to do it today! So, we set it up for 3:00.

I got downtown before 2:00 and wandered into Pioneer Place to relax for a few minutes in the air conditioning, then headed out to walk slowly to Volt's office. I figured I'd walk slow and not overheat, which would kill some of the time needed to get there. I managed to walk slow in the shade, but as always hurried past the sunny spots to reach the next shady area. I ended up outside Volt's office before 2:30 and relaxed in teh lobby, doodling abstract designs in my notebook until about 2:50 when I went into the office.

I'd already unknowlingly seen John take another interviewee outside to interview in the sunshine. When it was my turn, though, we only went to the lobby, and kicked back on the soft, comfortable couches...

The interview went pretty well, and didn't seem to last very long (guess that was my fault) though we covered a lot of ground, except when he asked if I had any questions... I told him that was the problem I've had at a lot of interviews, I never have any questions...

He asked a lot of the usual ones... How much testing did you do? How much Netware experience do you have? Have you used NT much? How much have you used UNIX?

When I said PC-Kwik went out of business he asked if I stuck it out to the end. I told him I didn't, I left about two hours early on the last day. Which got a chuckle from him.

John said he has a few positions that he thought I would fit into, the biggest one being a PC Technician job at OHSU. Another one as a tester for The Palace. And when he asked if I'd ever worked or interviewed with Volt before I mentioned the Sequent interview, since that job would've been to work at Sequent, but working for Volt, though the interview had been arranged for me without Volt's involvement. After I said that, he seemed surprised and said he asked about my UNIX experience specifically because he wanted to know if I'd fit into the Sequent position, which I've already been rejected from by Sequent without Volt's involvement at all (Sequent said I was really qualified, but another applicant had more UNIX experience, so they went with him).

He seemed really interested in me and said there shouldn't be much trouble getting me into a job. After I got home he called and said he set up a time for me to go to OHSU on Thursday to take their skills test, which he thought should be relatively easy based on my experience.

Wednesday I got up way before dawn to get ready for teh Manpower Technical interview at 9:00am, and left the apartment around 8:00. It wasn't too warm so I figured I'd walk, but I wasn't sure how long it would take. This is teh first time I've walked on 173rd during daylight hours, and I saw a paved trail leading into the woods, so I figured I had time to follow it. It ended up leading to a wooden bridge-like walkway taht went for some distance before abruptly ending, so I turned around and continued my walk to Manpower...

I got to the office campus around 8:40, with plenty of time to spare, but had trouble finding their office. I found a map, with a bit You Are Here dot on it, but it didn't seem correct... According to the map, I was near building 1, with building 2 behind it followed by building 3. I was standing next to a building without a visible number, and the next building back was clearly labelled 3, so I was confused. The map only listed the larger companies, and Manpower wasn't there. So, with plenty of time I wandered around looking for them, and found it easily, by 8:45.

With some effort I found the restroom in the building (it was hidden very well) and went to wash my face and hands. The light was a horrible flourescent, and now I can make an educated guess what color my corpse will be after I'm dead (at least, I hope after).

Still having plenty of time I sat for a while on a bench outside the building, staring at my skin, which now looked okay again...

I went in to their office and Greg was out, so the receptionist gave me an application to fill out, which took me longer than the five minutes I was early. It was the usual application that every place has. When I finished I turned it in and a few minutes later Greg came and got me.

We sat at his desk, with my chair facing the window, making it hard to see him without squinting because the backlighting. He asked the basic, standard questions, and didn't deviate at all. If I tried to expand a little on what he asked he didn't go along. He was friendly, but definitely didn't seem too interested in the interview. I don't think he was very technical, so anything I said beyond names of software didn't mean anything to him.

He said he only had one job currently open, but it was paying less than I specified I wanted, a few dollars an hour less. It was also very temporary, only two months. He expected another one to open soon, though, paying more than I asked for, but it's paperwork hadn't been finalized yet.

The whole thing didn't last too long, about half an hour (guess that was partly my fault, but I think mainly his) and I had plenty of time to walk a bit in the opposite direction and do a little shopping.

I wasn't sure just how to get to Claremont for my 2:00 interview Wednesday afternoon. I knew exactly where it was, but couldn't decide if I should go up Walker Road, the short route, but most dangerous, without sidewalks, or go the further way, up Cornell which has sidewalks the whole distance. Once I got to Walker and saw the construction, I decided to go the further, but safer way.

I ended up at Claremont's building around 1:30, with plenty of time to spare. Since Bob, my ex-supervisor from PC-Kwik, works for a different company there, I figured I'd pop in, but I just missed him going out to lunch. So, I stood around outside for a while, Watching the Goodyear blimp fly past, then I waited at a bench inside the air conditioned building.

Around 1:55 I headed upstairs to find Claremont. To get into their office, I had to walk past a long wall of windows looking into their reception area. It was a very interesting site, very corporate formal, almost powerful looking. The receptionist was behind a very tall wood and marble desk, busy juggling four or five phone calls. When she finally got a break I told who I was and that I was there for an interview with Luke. She tried to page him, but didn't get any response, so I sat down in a chair to wait.

Eventually she got hold of Luke for me and said he'd be about ten minutes because he was finding a place for us to interview.

Once he came and got me, we went to another office on the same floor which had an empty room and interviewed. I don't think he does many interviews because he seemed to be struggling to think of what to ask me, and asked a few of the same questions over and over, without even rephrasing them. He seemed a little uncomfortable with it, but was still real friendly.

It seemed to go fairly well. The only question that I had to give a not so great answer to was when he asked if I was comfortable in a corporate environment, that he often wears ties to work, though he hadn't that day. I told him I wouldn't want to wear ties, but I was fine in a collared shirt and nice jeans, and as far as the rest of corporate culture, it would be a new experience, as I'd only ever worked in small companies. Even after that, though, he still kept going, so that may not be a big factor in his decision.

The interview didn't last too long (guess this time it was mutual, he said, "I usually keep them short"). After he ran out of things to ask he left me there so he could get another technician to talk to me. The other guy, Michael was nice, but seemed not to have a clue about what to ask me (sort of like when I interviewed someone for a job at PC-Kwik, though I think Michael may have done a bit better...)

And then we were finished and I left.

Never having been to OHSU I allowed a lot of time on Thursday to get lost there, which turned out to be a good thing, since the campus was huge! I always thought it was about the size of OIT or a bit smaller, so I wasn't prepared to find myself among buildings that rivaled the size of the whole OIT campus...

With a bit of wandering around, I found the right building and took the elevator up to the sixth floor. The Campus Services building must be pretty old. The elevator looked like a historic piece of machinery, and the sixth floor felt like a generic school building. I had a lot of trouble finding room 620 and wandered all over the floor until I was back by the elevator and saw a room with 620 written lightly in pencil on the wall...

There were two people inside, neither one was John or Marcel, the people I was supposed to meet. They said, "they're out to lunch and should be back around noon." So, I wandered around campus for a little while longer and went back to room 620 just moments before noon. John and Marcel still weren't back, but were due very soon. When Marcel came in he said in an almost scolding tone, "you're early" like it was a bad thing (and John from Volt told me on the phone that Marcel said I should go early).

Marcel gave me a large written test to take, with up to an hour time. It had 80 possible points, and he said the highest score ever was 60% and the average was a little under 50%.

Some of it was easy, stuff I knew real well. Some of it I'd forgotten, like what the IRQ is for a mouse (I know where to look it up and haven't needed it yet this year). Some of it I really didn't know, like LSL and ODI under Netware, or DTC vs. DTE, or most of the Macintosh networking issues... Some stuff I'm not sure I know well, like explaining the differences between ethernet and token ring (which I know th basics of).

I had trouble explaining the difference between IDE, EIDE and SCSI, which I know well, but not how to explain them in general. I know most of the specific issues, but not all, and I certainly know how ot hook them up and use them...

The only question I think was a trick question was to explain the differences between PCMCIA and PC Cards, which as far as I know are knew and old names for the same thing.

One tough one was "is Windows 3.1 an operating system"? The answer depends on how one defines operating system and where the line is drawn between operating system and shell, disregarding that "operatin system" is printed on the Windows 3.1 box... This also tends to be a "religious war" issue, based on whether people like or dislike Windows 3.1, regardless of technical issues.

The most abstract question was "what are the componants of a computer and given boxed componants can you build a computer system?" I had no idea what exactly was being asked and could think of too many different interpretations, taking far more than a mere hour to write the answers. I didn't know if they wanted a computer science list of componants, which would basically be three, CPU, Storage and I/O, or a list of what in a PC makes thoes (which can be very flexible, just look in any computer parts catalog for a list...) I gave a short combinatio of the two and added "given the right boxed componants I can build a computer system".

Just before my hour was up I gave my test to John, and he flipped through it, then gave it Marcel who just came back in. Marcel sent me to wait outside while he scored it, then he came out and said he wanted to set up an interview with me for the job, for Friday.

Then I headed back downtown for a bit of lunch and to catch a bus home. While waiting near the train station for a bus I actually saw a fistfight for the first time in my life... I was just standing there in the shade (trying to ignore the drunk woman across the street screaming obsceneties at her friend who she'd appearently caught cheating on her) when a guy came around the corner and stopped by the bus stop shelter. Moments later another guy came quickly around the corner and whalloped the first guy, who hit back. The second guy yell's "leave me alone, stay away from me." And the first guy leaves, going past me, the second guy is yelling obsceneties and "go ahead, tell your friends, go get you friends, tell your friends all about me...." and he waves at a passing bus that stops, "hey man, no problem here, everything's cool" and goes back to cursing out the other guy who's nearly a block away by now... Then my bus comes and I head out to Beaverton...

Friday morning it was much easier finding the right place at OHSU, since I'd been there yesterday... I still got there about half an hour early, so I wandered around campus a little bit to kill the time.

I interviewed with Marcel and John in their office to the side of the computer room. There was one other guy at the table, but he didn't take an active part. I guess he was just working in the room and was curious to see how the interview went.

Before we got started, Marcel asked a few questions. He said I did well on the hardware part of the test, like a real geek, and asked, "so, what are the chances you have a CP/M machine at home?" I told him I had one, and he sounded surprised, like he was just making a joke and didn't actually expect me to have one. So we talked about computer parts and he asked how many machines and I told him about the dead Pentium and the Mac being my main computer for now.

He hadn't seen my resume until I gave him one then, and he was surprised to see that I worked for PC-Kwik. He was a fan of PC-Kwik software, and was disappointed to hear that it went out of business.

Once John got there we got down to business... First they had five stock questions, then they asked questions about my resume and the test I took, then a free form question period.

First John said they might no be able to hire me because my name was Kevin, and there wasn't already a Kevin there, joking about how they're department has huge amounts of duplicate names among workers.

John said OHSU has what's supposedly the second largest LAN in the state of Oregon, with over 7,000 nodes! He said there were about 1,400 Macs, 4,500 PCs and most of the rest were printers and a few miscellaneous other things.

The questions I really screwed up were about prioritizing simultaneous tasks. And I really messed up... I made too many assumptions based on the little information given in the scenario. John listed three emergency type situations and I was supposed to pick which order to do them in. I came up with an unexpected answer, though, "there must be a formal policy document for those cases," and the other two thought about it and said, "you know, I'll bet there is, I never thought of that" so John had to add "there is, but it was in the policy office, which just burned down and was still smoldering when these three things happen". I forgot the step of calling the people to confirm and get more information, before jumping in and doing them one at a time...

John also asked me to describe an experience of handling an upset customer, and I just couldn't think of one particular experience, I've had hundreds and they've all blended together. I only remember small bits and pieces of individual ones.

Marcel's questions were generally more specific and I could handle those. On the test, one of the questions I couldn't answer was to describe the use of a DDO, which I'd never heard of. One of his questions today made me say I'd use the special partitioning software that comes with most drives, and he said, "that's what a DDO is".

On the test question "describe and compare Ethernet with Token Ring" I'd given a good description of Token Ring, but very vague on Ethernet. During the interview it came out that I administered an Ethernet network, but never used Token Ring, so they wanted to know why I knew more about how Token Ring works... I just answered that I knew how to set up Ethernet, but not it's internal workings, and it seemed they thought that was a statisfactory answer.

Marcel saw my Teleport address on my resume and asked what I thought of Teleport. Then he asked what kind of modem I use to access the internet. When I said I used a 33.6k and a 28.8k he asked "why haven't you gone to 56k?" My answer, "Teleport hasn't gotten those yet" seemed to satisfy him. Then I added that I usually just use text mode UNIX dialup, so it wouldn't make much difference, and I think that scored some points with them for my being a good technical guy...

We also went over the test question, "is Windows 3.1 an operating system" which they seemed to think I got wrong, though my reasoning was good. But this is a shakey thing, because "operating system" definition isn't carved in stone anywhere. And Windows 3.1 certainly has "Operating System" in it's name, so as a proper noun it is an operating system. But they seemed to be of the mind that it isn't because it required DOS to start things up.

During the whole thing there were distractions, phones ringing and beepers going off (I don't have one, so I guess that's not my fault). People came in to talk to them or use some of the computers in the room. Sometimes I'd be answering a question and on or two of them would start talking about something else, to someone else and I wasn't sure if I should stop and wait or what...

The whole thing lasted about half an hour, which was probably a little shorter than they expected (from some of the silences at the end of my shorter answers, I guess that was my fault) but not too much. When I was getting up they said, "well, hopefully we'll call you back with good news" which sounds good, but they said they had a few more interviews. They also added, "watch your head when you leave" because while my back was turned from the entrance someone had stuck taped a sign across the door saying there was a meeting (us, the interview) and not to disturb it. I just chuckled and said I wouldn't worry, because the bottom of it was still over my head... So with that I left with all of us chuckling about that...

Friday, June 18, 2010

War Game Potential on Microsoft Surface

In a Skype based interview the other night, the interviewer wanted a quick idea of how I'd go about solving a problem so he asked me to begin designing a Monopoly game, asking what entities I'd make, what functions on some of them, etc.

For the Player object I said we'd need a rollDice() method.

But then I got to thinking about dice games. I've played a lot in the past and was a keen war gamer in high school, and the physical act of rolling the dice was definitely part of the fun. Even knowing that it won't really affect the randomness, there's still an aspect of blowing on the dice, talking to them, "oh yeah, c'mon 6, 6, c'mon!" and trying to throw them with a different wrist movement because you know you want a different result than the previous roll...

But with war games on computers, it's not as much fun to simply click a "roll" button on the screen. Even if the program makes a noise like dice banging together and shows the roll results like a pair of dice, it's just not the same.

So, then I realized, computerizing dice games would be great on Microsoft Surface. The game, board, pieces, etc. could be in the software, but with its cameras under the surface, you could do the physical rolling of the dice on top and it could determine what you rolled. This would work because nearly all six sided dice are standard with opposite paired faces:
1 : 6
2 : 5
3 : 4

That way, the cameras in Surface could read the the side that faces down and as long as you're not using weird, hand-made or nonstandard dice, it would know what came up on top.

As for the cardboard counters, sometimes they're fun to move, but not as much as hand rolling the dice, that's where the real action is. With Surface able to detect where you're pointing, having the counters computerized would still be fun because you'd still be able to use your finger to move them around between hexes. The computer, too, would be able to validate the moves and make sure you're not moving them too far or into the wrong hexes (my friends and I were friendly players and didn't cheat that way, but that isn't to say we never made honest mistakes).

Of course, a quick Google search turns up I'm not the first person who thought of it, either... Most of those hits are for Dungeons & Dragons games, but the same applies. And so this would work pretty well, too for things like my father's favorite game, backgammon and what-not.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I Pad, You Pad, We All Pad for iPad?

All last year, Leena kept asking "what you want for your birthday?" and I kept saying "I don't know" or "no idea" even as my birthday flew past in August. She kept asking me, a few times a week, often prefacing it with "I won't ask again, you'll tell me when you know," as August flew past, September, October, November and December.

Finally in January Apple announced the iPad and I said "I know what I want!" and she thought it was totally cool, too, and the perfect thing to get me for my birthday.

In February some of her Canadian relatives visited and she gave them the cash to buy the iPad when it's released in Canada or they make a trip to the U.S. and can get it there. There's a a friend of Leena's family who travels regularly between India and Canada and said that since his luggage is rarely full he'd be happy to carry it.

March came and went, the iPad released. Then April... Finally in May Leena's aunt said they'd ordered it and expected it to arrive at their house by the end of the month. In the meantime my mother bought an iPad from Cory Comstock, the local Apple dealer in Waldport.

Last week, Leena's aunt apologized for not getting hold of the traveling friend, but they'd been busy in Toronto with other things going on. The traveling friend's phone number isn't reachable to ask what's up. The aunt said she'll try to track him down.

Now it's the middle of June, no iPad yet. I keep seeing my colleagues in Europe mention on Yammer they've got them. None of them are saying they don't like it... The latest comment is making me even more anxious to get it. The conversation goes a little like this:

New iPad owner: Internet on iPad IS different!

Sarcastic response: Different like this: ;-)

New iPad owner: Nope, not in that sense (i have flash and ad blockers on all my browsers), internet on iPad becomes closer to you, even the same web based Yammer feels different

Future iPad customer: sound like a touchy-feely sort of thing, which is exactly the kind of "experience" Apple was aiming at. It changes everything when you actually "touch" the web with your fingers. Interesting.

Ooooh, I want one even more now that I'm reading things like this.

I'm not too worried about the missing Flash stuff, since I almost always leave pages if it looks like there's going to be Flash on them anyway, too much time for too little value (well, except for the Flash application I work on developing at work).

Maybe within a few weeks?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

2nd Class Citizens

Having worked in India for nearly a decade now, as part of distributed teams where the project is based either in the United States or the United Kingdom, I've just usually gotten the impression that the team in India is treated as 2nd class citizens.

One of the issues is communication. On a day to day basis, those of us in India are expected to inform the team in the "home" office what we're doing, what our status is, what our progress is and when we have holidays, etc. On the other hand, those in the "home" office don't. In India we're left to guess what's going on in the "home" office and are frequently surprised when they have a holiday and don't show up to work, since they never sent a team-wide mail saying "the office will be closed...".

Then, when it comes to meetings there's a huge difference. Whenever the team begins to be distributed the Indian team is told over and over about the importance of showing up to meetings (i.e. phone conference, video conferences, instant message chats, etc.) on time, as Indians have a reputation for not being punctual. And each time we're even a little bit late in India we're reminded of it.

However, it's the team in the "home" office that's more consistently late, at both companies where I've worked. The meetings are almost always in the afternoon, evening, or even late night, in India, and mornings in the U.S. or U.K. and those in the "home" office complain about how hard it is getting to work in time for the meeting, and it's even worse when there's snow or ice in those places.

The worst was at my previous company where our engineering manager worked from her home office in Alaska, and let us know that she was sorry about being consistently late, 7am was just too early for her to get up, get her coffee and get to meetings.

For other aspects, most of the teams' servers are always at the "home" office, the source repository, document servers, program installation directories, QA servers, email server and so forth. Even if there's a lot more people on the team in India, it can be a bit more inconvenient for us to access all of them, and a lot slower.

Some of it makes sense, since the "home" office is closer to where the customers are, and where the people who have the most experience with the customers' needs are. But some of it could run a lot smoother with more respect for the team in India.