July 31, 2012

This is how I do et

Yes, anyway. Today I'm gonna talk about my experience with CS. Mostly I've just complained about it. Today I'll try not to. ;)

Last week a guy I graduated with gave a nice talk on campus about his experience interviewing with several large companies. Very prestigious jobs in the CS community. He was offered several and accepted the coolest job of all. Bravo, you.

I went to the presentation mostly to see my friends and hear what this guy's experience was like. He was wanting to give students a peek into what the CS job hunt is like. Now, I already have a job. Yes, it's in CS. :P I really freaking love it, too. I get paid well and have (at least so far - I've only been there about 2.5 months) a pretty high level of job satisfaction. But listening to him talk about his interview experiences still freaked me out.

He told people about these super intense interview sessions and programming questions they had to solve on white boards. Said he spent weeks doing nothing but sitting in his room studying everything he had ever learned. On and on...if I had heard that as an undergrad I would have wet myself and changed my major. ;)

Don't get me wrong - I'm a lightweight Computer Scientist. Although, I'm starting to think my low programming self-esteem is due to some negative influences in my life. Even still, I'm never going to be the type of person who is going to interview with Amazon or Google. I just don't care enough about programming to try that hard, frankly. If that's bad, so be it.

What I found most interesting about his talk is the fact that I did everything he said not to do! I worked with a contracting firm - TEKsystems, actually. I love those guys! I got a great contact who got me a great job and everyone I interacted with was extremely friendly and helpful. I know the negative aspects - I'm a glorified temp worker, I don't get sick leave or paid vacation, to TEKsystems I'm just a product and not a person, blah blah blah. But it was perfect for me. Also, I only interviewed at one business and accepted their job offer immediately. Ha! In your face! Someone...

So here's my story:

A friend of mine was working for a company through TEKsystems and contacted me a few weeks before graduation, saying he could give someone my resume if I wanted. Now, it should be noted that since then he has dropped TEKsystems like it's hot, but still. He recommended them. He has a child and I think the lack of paid vacation/sick leave was not good for the family life he wanted. But anyway - I sent my resume off.

Not too much later I was contacted by a lovely lady who wanted me to come in to discuss interviewing and resumes. She had a copy of mine and pointed out a few things to change, delete, or flesh out. (One thing she said that was a direct contradiction to the talk on campus was that she encouraged multiple-page resumes. If you have the experience, tell them! What the guy on campus did, though, was provide a link to an online resume that went into greater detail. So that was pretty cool.) We also discussed basic interview rules - how to dress, act, etc. She gave me a couple of sample resumes and told me to email her an updated one as soon as possible.

Since it was near the end of the semester, I didn't have a lot of free time. So it took me awhile. But I finally got my resume to her, and she said it was great. She told me about a few job openings and discussed how the contracts would work, how much I would make, and what kind of work it would be. I graduated on Saturday, May 5. My ceremony was supposed to be over around 11:00, I believe. I was walking out the door at noon. As I stepped out of the gym I felt my phone vibrating. I look down - it's the TEKsystems rep. It was too noisy to answer, but when I listened to my voicemail later that evening she told me the main company we were looking at wanted to interview me!

I believe my interview was on Wednesday? Or maybe it was Tuesday. Hmm...probably a Tuesday. Anyway, I had an interview the week after graduation. When I arrived at the location (my current office), a TEKsystems rep met me. Not the one I had been meeting with, but the liaison between the company and TEKsystems. He was also really nice and sat with me prior to going up to the interview, reviewing some interviewing tips and calming my nerves. He rode with me up to the office and stayed with me until someone showed up to take me to the interview location.

I was interviewed by three people - an HR rep went over basic questions such as what type of personality I worked best with, how the office worked, etc. Then the guy who is now my supervisor came in and asked me some basic programming (very, very, basic) questions and those "tell me a time when you <did blah blah blah>" questions. I could sense he had never interviewed someone before - I was right. I'm his first underling! :) After that, the man that I now call my grandboss (my boss's boss) - the CIO of the company - came in to talk to me about how the company has a whole worked. Fascinating stuff, really. He's a really personable guy. Actually, everyone at my office is great. And they all freaking know my name! It's awful... I'm so bad with names!

After the interview, my usual TEKsystems representative called me to ask how it was and said she would let me know as soon as she heard back from the company. The company asked TEKsystems to test me over C# and SQL, since that would be what they focus on, programming-wise (it is not a tech company). This was by far the worst of it. TEKsystems has these multiple-choice tests you take online that have incredibly (incredibly) specific questions about programming languages. They are made so people claiming 10+ years' experience can show they really know what's up. So I did terribly. :P But my rep emailed me with my results (they really did look terrible) and said that, for my experience level, I had done really well.

Then I had to wait for forever two weeks. Apparently things got busy at the office and they put off making a decision. It was dreadful. They kept saying "next week" "tomorrow" "by 5:00" and then finally, finally, I was offered a job. (!!!!!!) Now, I am married and was a GTA for two years. My last summer as a student the job I took only lasted 1.5 months. My husband is a tattoo artist. So...money was tight. And I was offered a fairly impressive amount of money. It's not $100k or anything, but for someone who was making $1k a month...it was Heaven. So, if you have the luxury, I would definitely recommend shopping around for a job. Me? If I had waited another week or two we would have been screwed financially.

My first day the liaison met me again and again went to the office with me, dropping me off with my now-supervisor. An HR rep took me on a tour of the office. The company itself is fairly large - global, even - but the HR, where I work, is relatively small. There are probably less than 60 of us in the office, but I'm running into the CEO, CIO, C<insert letter here>O, in the break room every day. Everyone is super nice, and everyone FREAKING KNOWS MY NAME!

As far as my work goes, for the first couple months I was just making minor changes to the company's 20-something Web sites. Everything is Windows-based, so .NET in VS with touches of HTML and CSS to tweak the minor details. These past couple weeks I've been updating some software in C# to prepare for a new insurance company they're using. I have learned waaaaay more about insurance than I ever cared to, for the record. Today I began testing my code - 20 functions and ~1400 lines. And (after a few stupid mistakes corrected) it worked! We will run a few more tests, and then we need to send the generated files to the insurance company for them to test, but the bulk of the work is over. And that is an amazing feeling. Your first actual "real world" project....it's an amazing thing. :)

We have also begun the process of switching all 20-something Web sites over to a WCMS we purchased. So I've been watching a ton of Webinars, especially during my first few weeks when I didn't have any actual work. But before I can do that, I have to finish up the testing on the project I mentioned before, as well as make some fairly extensive changes to their Open Enrollment (more insurance stuff) Web site.

So. I've kind of lost the point of this post. I started it, then Mr. T and I biked to a bar and I had a drink. Now it's my bed time (another downside of being an adult - I need to be in bed before midnight) and I just don't care to read back over this to see if I've left anything out or left a story incomplete. Let me know if you want to know more! I think what I was going for was not to say that le presentor was incorrect, but that there are many roads to travel upon graduating with a CS degree. I did pretty much everything he said not to do, and I turned out fine. But, if you want to get a job with Google you should probably listen to him.

I'm going to bed now.