As promised, I’m sharing my first two experiences interviewing for a technical position. I completed both of them mostly for experience. I have a strong sales/marketing background and while I excel at the soft skills portion of interviews (I can’t remember a bad interview in the last 6 years), I knew from reading a lot of blogs and articles that developer positions are different. There are coding exercises and inquiries into your experience working with new technologies and what types of personal projects you’re working on outside of your core work. Of course both the candidate and the employer are assessing for cultural fit, as with any other job, but I expected a completely different experience from previous interviews for sales and agency positions. I wasn’t walking into this experience blindly.
The first interview was with an email list management software company called L-Soft. I learned about them after attending a job fair hosted by DC Web Women in March/April. I signed up and paid for this job fair on a whim, it was sort of my leap of faith – it couldn’t hurt and I knew then that I wanted out of job I was working then. I met so many HR representatives, from small to large companies and shared my resume, knowing it would probably just be sorted through by the hiring managers of each group. We talked about my background and what I’m looking for in new positions as well as what they’re looking for.
A few weeks later I received an email from a recruiter inviting me to an office meet & greet. At the job fair, we’d talked about my experience so she was very clear about capabilities. I talked about my experience again at the meet & greet with different employees. The meet and greet went well – I met with everyone in the office including the company’s founder. Shortly after, I received another invitation for an interview. I prepped as best I could, installing the software to test out and reading up the role. The recruiter previously let me know that the position I’d applied only required a high-level understanding a programming languages and operation of a computer system. It was a support role, working as an intermediary between the sales person and the development team. I sent over an updated cover letter and resume with some technical skills listed as they related to the role.
I arrived the morning of my interview, a 9am interview (their idea, not mine) – and waited 15 minutes for the recruiter and the rest of the team to arrive because they were late. It was a group interview including the founder, the recruiter, a current support engineer, and the sales person (who was remote but present thanks to Skype). Everyone had copies of my resume and cover letter. I’d spoken with everyone during the meet & greet, so I was completely caught off guard when the founder of the company suggested that I did not know what I really wanted to do and should stay in sales.
Yes that is a thing that was said, verbatim. He needs sales people, but unfortunately I’m not interested in sales positions – something that I explicitly stated prior to the interview in my email to the recruiter. In no uncertain terms do I want to work in sales, but in that moment I guess he looked at my English degree and my sales experience and thought he could finesse me into that role.
He then told me that maybe, just maybe I could assist the group with updating their user manuals which their entire development team neglected for 15 years – YES, FIFTEEN YEARS! I considered it, only as a short-term role, because I can do that and it might help with learning the software, but then he looked down at my resume and said, “I know you probably regret getting your English degree..” My head jerked and I gave him the “bitch what?” look but luckily, his HR representative seated next to him interrupted saying, “I don’t regret my journalism degree.” LOL ya’ll. All of that really happened.
Just a few minutes prior he wanted to take advantage of my writing skills for his business only to try and shit on it later – something I’ve noticed among the “technical crowd.” Any consideration I had for the original role I applied for or alternative roles with the company went out the door. I don’t want to work with someone like that. We shook hands, I went home, joined Tinder to blow off steam, and tried to make sense of the foolishness that occurred.
Now I had all these questions in my head. Did I really want to switch careers? Do I have what it takes? Is that piece of shit founder of a LISTSERV right? I don’t know. I just have to keep pushing. Thanks to the jobs channel of the Women Who Code DC slack group, I found some roles that were perfect for beginners and applied to them, sending off emails to contacts providing them with my sales background information, to avoid any additional crazy interviewers acting as if they were unaware about my non-technical background.
I received one response back from a company out in Baltimore. That email led to a phone screening and then a coding exercise and then an in-person interview. Beginner’s luck, I suppose. I knew I really did not want to work in Baltimore. It’s not really far, but because the transportation infrastructure in the DMV is so bad, it is far. It wouldn’t hurt to show up, so I reserved a Zipcar and rode out to their office in downtown Baltimore.
This interview was so much better, but I knew walking in that it probably wouldn’t be a good fit culturally and as far as what I’m looking for in a company. I’ve worked with big and small groups and departments and with two very bad past job experiences under my belt over the last two years, I take finding the right team very seriously now. I don’t have time to continue jumping from bad job to bad job – at least I’d prefer not to. It was a very small office, very casual – one employee even told me he rolled out of bed and just came to work – so that gives you an idea of what we’re working with. I came dressed in my best work casual skirt outfit with a red lip. Even if I tried, I don’t think they would feel I could ever fit in there.
This role required very little coding experience. It was a QA role with the potential to grow into a developer position and they were just looking for someone enthusiastic about learning their programming stack, which included Ruby. Up until this point I’d learned only Python and JS, but I had to complete a quick study on Ruby to prepare for the interview and coding exercise. The team was great though and they assured me there were plenty self-taught programmers on the team, but I did not get the position. I didn’t hold my breath on it either.
Still I walked away with clarity on what I wanted to start doing and insight into what types of questions they’re asking for these junior level roles. For example, one of the things I’m working on is explaining concepts better. There are things I can do, have done for years, but I struggle to explain them to someone with or without experience. In this instance, I was not able to adequately explain how I went about trying to complete the coding exercise and that could’ve helped them understand my problem solving thought process.
Until next time!