The Anti-Interview for Introverts

A recent article on Forbes, titled “The 10 Best Jobs For Introverts“, got my attention –  I found it curious that software developers were not on list, but I also wondered: How do companies interview Introverts for Geoscientists or a Court Reporter positions? It got me wondering if people tend to have pre-conceived notions about what the interview process is and how it should work? Does it vary much by industry?

Over the years I have had the opportunity to work for some great companies and with amazing people, each workplace unique in its culture and industry. While the process varied in the initial email or phone screening,  eventually the one common step was to bring me in for that formal interview.

Ugh. Take the entire day off. Shave, shower, put on the suit and tie, parade into a conference room and fend off the barrage of questions that run the gamut from theoretical to why you left a company 5 years ago. I’ve come to dread it. I know, it is a formality, eventually you have to show up and let folks get to see you in real life. But does the process have to be so stressful? Can it be relaxing? Fun? Educational? Can I be the one asking most of the questions? I have to sell myself but so do you.

Here are my 5 key items for what I call the “Anti-Interview”:

  1. First, you have to understand that I’ve done quite a bit of research already about the company, the products and services, and the people who work there. Sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn can have a wealth of information on what your interview process is like, if your employees are happy, and whether or not compensation expectations match up. I’m going to have questions. Lots of them.
  2. Let me show up in the same level of dress my future co-workers do every day. If they are rocking flip-flops, shorts, and a t-shirt, I want to as well. Chances are you won’t see me this dressed up again. I’m going to feel more comfortable dressed casually and hopefully you are too.
  3. Conversations during informal meals and activities are ice-breaking and ground-breaking. There’s no pressure to provide definitive answers to questions, and the conversations can flow more freely. Interested in a challenging project I’ve worked on? That goes well with a burger and a beer. Want to know if I’ll be a good fit for the team? Pair me up with your weakest Foosball player and lets do best of 5 tournament.  Want to pitch me on your next big product? I’ll do best with a large whiteboard and a couch to kick back on.
  4. I depend heavily on “knowing where to go to find the answer” if I don’t know if off the top of my head. My strength is problem solving not memorization. Recalling parameter orders for PHP functions is a exercise in futility and I always get inner and outer joins mixed up when writing out  SQL queries.  I’ve been working in the industry for 15+ years but the code flows from my mind to fingertips, not from my mouth.
  5. I feel much more comfortable in one on one sessions and small groups. When I come to work with you If I run into a roadblock it’s more likely I’ll swing by an individual’s office or desk, not round up the entire team into a conference room for 20 questions.

So I pose this question: What do you call this informal process? Are companies doing this? Do you feel this way too? What are your thoughts on Anti-Interviews for Introverts?

Lone Star PHP 2013 – An introduction to the Secure Software Development Lifecycle.

This June I attended Lone Star PHP 2013 in Dallas, Texas, and presented “An Introduction to the Secure Software Development Lifecycle”. The presentation was an introduction to the Secure Software Development Lifecycle, including requirements and design, development, testing, and acceptance. I also covered topics such as implementing ‘Least Privilege’, ‘Policies and Standards’, and ‘Defensive Coding Practices’.  We also discussed operational aspects and risk mitigation.

Here are the presentation slides and sample code.

Insight into getting conference proposals accepted..

Recently in a conversation on Twitter the topic of what a successful conference proposal – one that gets accepted – looks like, came up. I thought I would expand upon the conversation and the “3 key takeaways” advice I gave, by providing the raw submissions I entered, in this case, to PHP Tek 12, as well as some lessons learned and additional commentary.

What it takes to get accepted.

  • Luck – Yes this is a huge factor, and in the case of PHP-Tek, they make a concerted effort to include a percentage of new presenters each year.
  • Exposure – You need to flush out your ideas at your local user groups and online. Build up not only your presentation skills, but hone what you present to your audience.
  • Relevance – Stay recent and don’t be afraid to cross (programming language) boundaries.

What my proposals looked like:

The format for PHP-Tek 2012 consisted of a web-based submission system which allowed you to enter proposals under the following inputs:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Notes (for the organizers)
  • Keywords
  • Talk Type (regular or Training)
  • Difficulty Level (Beginner, Intermediate, Expert)

Here (from the text file I used to gather my thoughts) are my submissions:

Moving in for the kill – how to position yourself for the job market, what to focus on, what to look out for.
desc: Moving in for the kill – how to position yourself for the job market, what to focus on, what to look out for. This will be a talk covering the current state of the job market (with a focus on PHP developers) and a walk-through of how to super-charge you job search, including some tips and tricks, and also what to watch out for. I will also focus on the social networking aspects and working with recruiters.

notes: Discussing some tips and tricks and things to look out for based on my experiences while looking for a job on the market.

keywords: job, recruiter, tips & tricks talk

type: Regular Talk (1hr)

difficulty level: Beginner

Graphing real-time performance with Graphite –
desc: Graphing real-time performance with Graphite – This presentation will take an existing open-source project (done in php) and cover how to integrate performance monitoring to identify areas that could be improved through code refactoring or database tweaks.

notes: Going to take a open source project and show how to integrate graphite to identify performance bottleneck

keywords: performance, graphs, integration

talk type: Regular (1hr) difficulty

level: Beginner

php://memory and streams for scaling
desc: php://memory and streams for scaling This presentation will be an overview of using php://memory to store data during application runtime. We will cover the benefits over traditional methods and also some drawbacks.

notes: Would like to play around with php://memory to show how it can be used to improve performance – just thought this was a neat feature that most folks wouldnt know about.

keywords: php, memory, performance, streams

talk type: Regular (1hr)

difficulty level: Intermediate

Devops: Silver bullet or pending disaster? – What to lookout for.
desc: Devops: Silver bullet or pending disaster? – What to lookout for. DevOps is all the rage in many circles but is this approach a silver bullet or a Titanic failure for your organization? We will cover some of the pros and cons of integrating cross-functional teams and how it can help your employees and your business grow – or fail miserably.

notes: Thought I would take my previous experience from the ops/support side and highlight things to consider when building out teams, how to integrate monitoring and performance, etc.

keywords: performance, monitoring, devops, support

talk type: Regular (1hr)

difficulty level: Beginner


You’ll notice that the details are very high-level. That is for two reasons (In my case):

  • You don’t want to overwhelm the organizers with too much information.
  • In some cases your presentations might be still be in the ‘idea’ stage.

Conference Jitters.

One of the lessons I came away with from this experience was:

  • Have material ready. You can *never* have enough.
  • Be prepared to show up and rework your entire presentation.
  • If you think your presentation is too ‘code’ heavy then have high-level slides ready.
  • If you find yourself coming up with time left over, have code ready.
  • Engage your audience with every slide. Ask questions, take questions.

Feedback and Postmortem.

For me the most inspiring aspect was being “on the other side” of the conference. I’ve always been an attendee and this was my first time presenting. Be prepared to take (critical) feedback and be humbled by it all. Also: Remember, In most cases you are there on the dime of the organizers and the attendees. They came there to see you and others like you. Make sure you are accessible not only to the feedback you give during your presentations, but during the conference as well.

So how do you get accepted?

The best advice I can give is to practice, practice, practice. Get out and present at local user groups, do a screen-cast or online presentation, expand upon an idea. Attend other presentations not only for ideas but for hints on what works and what doesn’t.  Contribute to an open-source project. Blog. Tweet. These are the in-roads to being successful in the (php) community and at conferences.

php://memory Redux

I recently had the opportunity to speak at my local Baltimore PHP User Group and gave a presentation on php://memory and php://temp along with some demos, including one on frequency analysis. Below are the linked code samples and presentation..

php://memory Redux

Code Samples:

“Geeking On”: How to speed-up your career transition.

Paul Merrill from “How To Geek On” shares tips, advice, and offers services to those who have been laid-off or looking to make a career transition:

  • We prepare you for a focused and efficient transition
  • Identify your skills, goals, and realities
  • Learn how to target companies and network into them
  • Learn how to get your Resume to the top of the stack
  • Mock Interview and Critique

Make sure to sign-up for the free newsletter, and if you are in the area, attend a “Coffee and Helping Each Other Out” session.

Photos from the 2008 AMA Big Kahuna at Virgina International Speedway

As my first post to the photography section of my blog I thought I would share some of the photos I took last August up at the Virginia International Raceway for the 2008 AMA Big Kahuna.

The entire slide show can be found here. You might also be interested in the CCS Race I shot earlier that year as well.