Question: What has your job (or internship) interview process been like? What surprises you? What frustrates you? What excites you? How did you prepare? How did you perform?
What is your overall impression of the general interview process? Is it efficent? Is it effective? Is it humane? Is it ethical?
Since I am not a computer science major, I have not had experience with the whiteboard interviews discussed in our readings. Although I have not had the same experience, I can relate to the feeling of frustration surrounding whiteboard interviews and the apparent obsession some companies have with memorizing useless information. One interview I had asked me what MOSFET stood for, no other questions on how they are used or how they work, just simply asking if I knew the acronym. Although I answered the question correctly (metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistor), I could not help but feel some surprise that my interviewer really though that knowing this acronym was a good indicator of how well I’d do at my job. In this way I share the frustration of those who have felt that their whiteboard interviews did not adequately represent them. Especially in engineering, I’ve come to realize that most job skills are learned on the fly rather than in school, and that it is much more important to be an adaptive and ambitious learner than have a lot of knowledge coming out of college. For this reason I get most excited when interviewers ask me questions about myself, what motivates me, and try to determine if I would fit in with their work culture. In these types of interviews I feel I do the best because I consider myself to be a great teammate on any project, and I believe my ambition and eagerness comes out when employers try to find out about the real me. For these kinds of questions I do not need much preparation because my answers come from the heart, instead I spend most of my interview preparation reviewing basic electrical engineering principles in case they ask more technical questions, and I also do company research to demonstrate my interest in the company.
I think the interview process for many companies is very sound. Although there are factors such as the confirmation bias which supposedly dictates the success of an interview in the first five minutes, these sort of things are also indicative of how people at the company will view a prospective employee if he/she is hired. If an interviewee cannot impress an interviewer at the start of the interview, how will he/she be able to impress a client that he/she is meeting for the first time? As far as ethicality, I believe the interview process is both ethical and humane. At the end of the day the person who is perched to be the most qualified will get the job. Whether a company’s criteria for determining the superior candidate is flawed or not does not change the fact that there is always good faith. In every interview I’ve been in I’ve always been treated respectfully and humanely, and I cannot imagine any other companies acted differently towards potential hires. I also think the general structure of the interview process is fairly efficient. When presented with a pool of maybe 30 or more applicants, an initial first round interview is often necessary to weed out the good from the bad. After that there is a second round where the best of the best are interviewed to find the perfect match. I personally cannot think of any way this could be made more efficient other than simplifying the process to a single round, which would likely make it difficult or impossible to find the one candidate who is truly best for the job.
Question: From the readings and from your experience, what exactly is a hacker? That is, what are the key characteristics of the hacker archetype? Do you identify with these attributes? That is, would you consider yourself a hacker? What is your reaction to this characterization?
I think the hacker archetype is something which has evolved over the years as computers have become more and more a part of our everyday lives. At its core, though, many could argue that the hacker mindset existed long before computers. Examples such as John Draper using special tones to make free long distance calls, or African tribes learning to fight through “dances” exemplify that hacking is much more a mindset than something which is done on a computer. My characterization of a hacker before reading these articles was likely the same as that of many other people, unsociable tech nerds who sat at a computer for hours trying to use code to steal money or inconvenience someone. This personality was partly reflected in the “conscience of a hacker” manifesto, where the author claims all hackers are alike, that they would rather sit alone at a computer than interact with classmates, that they see themselves as smarter than those around them and feel some resentment towards non-hackers because of this. However, through the other readings I came to realize that this only represents a small faction of hackers, and they are not “all alike” as the author would have it. I have come to realize that at its core, having is about breaking down barriers, overcoming obstacles put in place by an authority to control or make money off people. Hackers are also driven by an extreme passion for what they do. They are curious about the world around them, and choose to explore that curiosity to find out what makes something tick. I also do not think that hackers and yuppies are incompatible, as one article claimed. Hackers are not required to have a disdain for authority, but rather just need to realize that things should not be taken on face value, that everything should be explored and tinkered with, just as John Draper was driven by a curiosity on how the telephone industry worked, yuppies are driven by a curiosity in how business works, what makes a stock price raise or what makes a consumer pick product X over product Y. In this sense, hackers and yuppies don’t seem too different at all.
I do not know if I would go so far as to consider myself a hacker. I think I certainly have a lot of curiosity about the world around me, but I also find that in many cases I choose to do things conveniently rather than devote myself to “hacking” certain processes. While a hacker may take time to find the most efficient walk to class I would simply take the route I am most familiar with. In many ways I accept the ways of the world, and this is something that I believe hackers refuse to do.
Question: What is your interpretation of the Parable of the Talents? How does it apply to your life and your computing skills and talents?
The Parable of the Talents is an extremely interesting passage from the Book of Matthew the has a great number of implications on how everyday life should be lived. The first thing I found interesting when reading this passage is that the master did not give his servants an equal number of talents, but rather distributed them based on who he likely perceived as the most trustworthy or intelligent. Life is unfortunately not fair. Some people start out life at a disadvantage to others, be it through wealth, social status, or even coding ability, no two people are equal. While you may not have any influence on where you start off, your work ethic determines where you finish. Although the two talent servant was not given as many talents as the one who received five, he still worked equally hard in investing his masters money, and was able to double his talents, just as the five talent servant doubled his. While he may not have earned the same profit, he still had the same percentage increase as the servant who was given more than him, and both were able to earn the master’s gratitude. Likewise, in school and in the future, I may not always be the smartest person in the room. Although I will not be doing very much coding as an electrical engineer, this still applies to the skills and knowledge I will have going into the job market. Just because I may not have as much knowledge as those around me, that does not mean I will not be able to succeed in my work. Just as the two talent servant was able to do well with limited resources, I know that through hard work I will also be able to earn praise and achieve success.
Another important part of this parable is that it stresses accountability, since the servant who chose to do nothing with his talents was condemned by his master. This accountability is especially important for programmers, as the article by Andy J. Ko emphasized. People put their trust in their technology; we use it to store important documents, plan our finances, and communicate with the world. The common theme behind all of these interactions is that they are facilitated by a programmer. If computer scientists lacked accountability, the internet would be a scary and dangerous place. It is important for programmers to be able to stand by their code, and to always be ready to answer to their own masters.
Answering to your own master also demonstrates an ability to see the greater picture. The servants in this parable were not working for their own benefit, but were instead working for a higher authority. This is something that every single professional worker must come to terms with. Instead of thinking selfishly on how to get yourself ahead, people should be working to please that higher authority, whether it be a boss, stockholders, or customers. Knowing that I am working to please a higher authority will motivate me in the professional world to do as good as possible, which will in turn give me further opportunities to do right by that authority.
My name is Sam Blanchet, I am a senior Electrical Engineering student from Wyomissing Pennsylvania. I have always been interested in technology, and this interest inspired me to take study electrical engineering in college. I enjoy that my major reaches into many different fields within the technology industry, and gives me the capability to work a variety of different jobs in different industries after graduation. Outside of school I enjoy hanging out with my friends, playing interhall sports, and watching tv. I originally took this class because I have already learned a lot of technical skills through my major, but I have not seen very much on how those skills are applied in the real world. This is a very exciting time for computer science, and I thought it would be extremely interesting to see the other side on how some of these exciting advances need to be monitored to assure they are brought into existence in an ethical way. Hopefully by the end of this class I’ll have gained skills that will help me in my future professional career to deal with technology ethically.