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A hypothesis about interviewing …

Imagine if, when you show up to an interview, neither you or your interviewer know the question in advance. Maybe the recruiter or another party tells the both of you what is the question or problem to solve at the start of the interview.

What would happen? This is my hypothesis, this is what I think would happen:

  • I, the interviewed, would not feel at a disadvantage. I would not feel like I have to impress the person that picked the problem, the person that has a lot of time to think about the solution and probably already has a preferred solution.
  • We would both be incentivized to work together. We would both get a much better idea of what would the day to day of working together be like.
  • They, the interviewer(s), would get a much more realistic view of what my work style is like. Instead of showing that I can memorize how to solve the contrived examples from interview question web pages. They would now how I learn new things and how I problem solve.
  • I would also get a much better idea of what it is like to work for that company and with that team of people. What their expectation is of what I know, how quickly I need to wrap up and how willing they are to collaborate.

A conversation with a recruiter and then the interview

I had a conversation with a recruiter where I explained my hypothesis, they brought up a good point: “I agree to a large extent, but this is the system we have to work with, how else can we standardize the questions and the evaluations”. This makes sense, but it is not really an obstacle, it just takes a bit more work to set up a pool of questions that the interviewers do not know ahead of time.

The recruiter also said: “We know senior developers have not hit the books in a while and do not have these algorithms fresh in their memory, we take that in to account.”.

That company invited me to a class of sorts to help me prepare, and their prep materials are excellent. What I remembered from that class was:

  • We want for you to solve 2 medium difficulty problems in 45 minutes
  • We want to hear your thought process
  • We want to see if you can take hints
  • We are more interested in completeness, that your code actually runs. We also look for optimal solutions if possible.

Then I had the interview with the company they represented, and I did not do well, I did not pass the interview. I answered the first question fairly quickly and wanted to go on to the next, but the interviewer asked me if I knew about “Priority queues”. I said I remember vaguely but I did not recall at the moment. I wanted to quickly move on to the second problem before I ran out of time. But we spent maybe 10 minutes talking about how I would implement the solution and/or how I would implement a priority queue, and by the time we got to the second question I was flustered.

At the end you get a few minutes to ask questions of them and what I found interesting is the interviewer’s response to one this question: “I am a generalist and as such I do not go very deep in any area, am I a good fit since I am a generalist?” in their answer was longer than this: “Yes, but I think the heap search is an algorithm everyone should know….”.

My conclusions from that interview

This experience only served to reinforce my beliefs, I am sure the interviewer had already seen the problem and I believe that:

  • they already solved the problem them selfs and probably did not take 20 minutes.
  • they already had the ideal solution in mind.
  • maybe they wanted to find a problem that uses a priority queue. Sometimes they already know what they want to ask and then look for a problem that centers on that topic.

Is that really what they do at your company?

Much later, I conversed with a hiring manager for another company and I finally got the courage to ask something I’ve always wanted to: “Does your day to day work really involve solving problems around data structures, optimizing algorithms that you learn at School and knowing the time complexity of a function?”, “When was the last time you said” ‘Thank God we hired this person that can answer interview questions in 20 minutes and knows the O notation for this problem’?”.

Basically I got the same answer, with a grin : “It is what it is…”.

The interview arms race

I use to say, half kiddingly : ” Engineers should write computer program manuals and documentation in binary! So that the users will need another engineer to get answers! or at the very least will need to buy a tool from us!”… I got this idea from lawyers! I am convinced that Tax and Immigration law is written in such a way that lawyers guarantee them selfs some job security.

The interviewing process has created an industry of engineers training other engineers, know about more than 15 of these: Interview preparation pages.

Much like the military arms race, someone comes up with a better bullet, so someone else needs to come up with better armor. I’ve noticed that in this industry of interview preparation they are needing to find more and more contrived puzzles to disguise the fact that you need to cleverly employ the same tools, data structures and algorithms, that have existed for decades now…I can not think of any truly new data structure in the last decade or so.

Interviewers go to the same pages to select a question, take as long as they need and then expect the interviewed to answer in 20 minutes. That is an ever shrinking pool of questions and not all problems around data structures or algorithms can be solved in 10 minutes or even 2 hours, specially the real-world and really interesting problems.

A friend of mine told me: “I can tell when candidates have prepared in LeetCode庐 … they start answering all the same way! They take the same approach”.

I found this video of a young engineer that left a FANG company because they discovered their passion for solving puzzles and helping others solve puzzles, well, prepare for interviews. This other video is of a very young, very mature engineer and I liked what they had to say.

My style goes against the grain

I’ve recently concluded that the reason why solving puzzles is so counter intuitive for me: I like to take my time… I like to solve complex problems, that is what makes my job interesting. For example when I was told that the problem to solve was: “How do we track our stuff all over the world, through all the different processes, databases, services, etcetera” or ” How do we scale our infrastructure” or “How can we monitor and restart our services”.

I love to take my time and look at the problem from different angles, think of corner cases, process improvements and documentation. Some may consider these things grunt work, it is not as sexy as solving a problem with a new algorithm no one has seen before.

This reminds me of how young folks that grew up seeing tv shows about police and detectives, they go in to that line of work expecting to have car chases and solve interesting cases using the latest DNA technology… but then really shocks them… the day to day is quite mundane.

I see my self more as a chef than a short order cook. Very different approaches to basically the same thing, food preparation.

Companies do not look for creative people

What are you really know about the candidates?

When you hire an engineer that can solve puzzles in 20 minutes and give you the answers you expect in the way you expect, are you really hiring someone you want to work with? You know very little about:

  • how they handle long periods of stress, ambiguity, work that is not very interesting.
  • are they easy to get along with or are they toxic? Remember there is also training on how to pass the culture fit questions.
  • Their overall work ethic, this is another thing that is hard to gage from interviews.

The success story of someone that studied hard to get hired at google.

What I see in the near future

I have interviewed with companies that contract Karat庐, and I like what they do but there is more that needs to be done. To start, they are engineers that are specially trained to interview, not your employee that does interviews on the side. I thinks that is a very good step in the right direction.

They are an independent party, which means that they can be neutral about your approach and solution. They can focus on your approach and seeking out your true level of proficiency, that is their job!

I think there is more that they could/should do, but these ideas I will keep to my self 馃槈 I may want to start my own business.

Staying sharp

Some interesting videos

What I learned after tons of interviews at Google

The End.

Good Advice! — Follow Opportunity NOT your Passion

I recently have been contemplating making a slight change in my career, but I am finding it hard to do. 聽The recruiters in the areas they are looking for people that already have experience. in the area that I used to work, straight development I can go back to it, but I need to brush up a bit.

I am now contemplating, as much as I thought I did not want to, the area that seems to have a lot of demand in our industry. I think this is good advice:

–Mayel ><>

El Dios que no existe

Escuche un sermon por Andy Stanley聽 聽done hablo acerca de los Dioses (o versiones de Dios) que no existen, y me fascin贸 el tema. Explico que es normal que alguna gente no cree en Dios, 聽porque la imagen que tienen de Dios es incorrecta e inexistente. Por ejemplo:

  • El Dios que depende de la Biblia
  • Menciona otras versiones que no recuerdo, pero estas es lasque mas me llamo la atenci贸n.

El Dios que depende de la Biblia.聽Esta version en particular me abri贸 los ojos. Hay mucha gente, inclusive cristiana, que cree que nuestra fe depende de la infalibilidad聽de la Biblia. La realidad es que nuestra fe, como dice en 聽1 Corintios 15:14 : ”聽y si Cristo no ha resucitado, vana es entonces nuestra predicaci贸n, y vana tambi茅n vuestra fe. “. 聽La verdad es que nuestra fe se basa en la resurrecci贸n de Jesucristo, un evento hist贸rico!

Un聽punto importante aqui es que La bibla, como la conocemos nosotros, no fue accesible a los creyentes hasta聽despu茅s de聽1450 cuando Gutemberg imprimio su bibla. Y aun en 1450 solo hab铆an unos 200 ejemplares los cuales eran demasiado costosos para que los creyentes comunes uno. Antes de esto la gran mayor铆a de los creyentes ni siquiera pose铆an su propia copia de la bibla, las ten铆an solo algunas iglesias y creyentes ricos.

En que se vasaron los creyentes de los primeros 13 siglos, para cree en Jesucristo? No contaban con las escrituras, entonces? El testimonio de los creyentes! Si estudiamos como creci贸 el evangelio despu茅s de la resurrecci贸n de Jesucristo, esto explica como sigui贸 creciendo hasta ahora. En el primer siglo todav铆a viv铆an testigos oculares de la resurrecci贸n.

Yo creo que la bibla es la palabra de Dios y mi 煤nica norma de fe y conducta. Creo que es infalible, y que nos gu铆a a Cristo, nos da testimonio de su resurrecci贸n. Y la bibla misma nos dice que es la resurrecci贸n de Jesus, como evento hist贸rico es la base de nuestra fe. Hechos palpables, historicos. Aun si alguien no cree en la bibla de la misma manera que yo, aun si encontraran una inconsistencia o falla en la bibla, no cambia el hecho historico de la resurrecci贸n.

Dios bendice a todos, menos a mi…

1 Jes煤s y Juan el Bautista
Cuando Jes煤s termin贸 de darles esas instrucciones a los doce disc铆pulos, sali贸 a ense帽ar y a predicar en las ciudades de toda la regi贸n. 2 Juan el Bautista, quien estaba en prisi贸n, oy贸 acerca de todas las cosas que hac铆a el Mes铆as. Entonces envi贸 a sus disc铆pulos para que le preguntaran a Jes煤s: 3 鈥驴Eres t煤 el Mes铆as a quien hemos esperado
o debemos seguir buscando a otro? 4 Jes煤s les dijo: 5 los ciegos ven, los cojos caminan bien, los leprosos son curados, los sordos oyen, los muertos resucitan, y a los pobres se les predica la Buena Noticia. 6 Y d铆ganle: 鈥淒ios bendice a los que no se apartan por causa de m铆鈥
. 7 Mientras los disc铆pulos de Juan se iban, Jes煤s comenz贸 a hablar acerca de 茅l a las multitudes: 8 驴O esperaban ver a un hombre vestido con ropa costosa? No, la gente que usa ropa costosa vive en los palacios. 9 驴Buscaban a un profeta? As铆 es, y 茅l es m谩s que un profeta. 10 Juan es el hombre al que se refieren las Escrituras cuando dicen:
鈥淢ira, env铆o a mi mensajero por anticipado,
y 茅l preparar谩 el camino delante de ti鈥
. 11 禄Les digo la verdad, de todos los que han vivido, nadie es superior a Juan el Bautista. Sin embargo, hasta la persona m谩s insignificante en el reino del cielo es superior a 茅l. 12 Desde los d铆as en que Juan el Bautista comenz贸 a predicar hasta ahora, el reino del cielo ha venido avanzando con fuerza, y gente violenta lo est谩 atacando. 13 Pues, antes de que viniera Juan, todos los profetas y la ley de Mois茅s anunciaban este tiempo; 14 y si ustedes est谩n dispuestos a aceptar lo que les digo, 茅l es El铆as, aquel que los profetas dijeron que vendr铆a. — Mateo 11:5

El a帽o del favor del Se帽or
1 El Esp铆ritu del Se帽or omnipotente est谩 sobre m铆,
por cuanto me ha ungido
para anunciar buenas nuevas a los pobres.
Me ha enviado a sanar los corazones heridos,
a proclamar liberaci贸n a los cautivos
y libertad a los prisioneros, — Isaias 61:1

La alegr铆a de los redimidos
1 El desierto y el yermo se alegrar谩n, y se regocijar谩 el Arab谩 y florecer谩 como el azafr谩n; 2 florecer谩 copiosamente y se regocijar谩 en gran manera y gritar谩 de j煤bilo. La gloria del L铆bano le ser谩 dada, la majestad del Carmelo y de Sar贸n. Ellos ver谩n la gloria del SE脩OR, la majestad de nuestro Dios. 3 Fortaleced las manos d茅biles y afianzad las rodillas vacilantes. 4 Decid a los de coraz贸n t铆mido: Esforzaos, no tem谩is. He aqu铆, vuestro Dios viene con venganza; la retribuci贸n vendr谩 de Dios mismo, mas El os salvar谩. 5 Entonces se abrir谩n los ojos de los ciegos, y los o铆dos de los sordos se destapar谩n. 6 El cojo entonces saltar谩 como un ciervo, y la lengua del mudo gritar谩 de j煤bilo, porque aguas brotar谩n en el desierto y arroyos en el Arab谩. — Isaias 35:1-4

Recientemente escuche una predicaci贸n de un pastor llamado Matt Chandler聽, dijo algo parecido a lo siguiente: ” Jesus contesto a la pregunta de Juan el Bautista con un par de passages de Isaias, que hablan del ministerio del Mesias prometido. Notablemente Jesus en su respuesta omiti贸: y libertad a los prisioneros… con esto Jesus le estaba diciendo a Juan: Si soy el Mesias y tu vas a morir en la carcel.”

El pastor Chandler paso a otros puntos en su sermon, pero este punto en particular me impacto a mi mucho. Que es lo que hizo a Jesus, Dios en persona, decir de Juan :”de todos los que han vivido, nadie es superior a Juan el Bautista“?

Dificilmente me puedo imaginar lo que Juan pens贸 cuando escucho la respuesta del Jesus. Se alegro? Quedo satisfecho? Le dio miedo ? Sinti贸 desilusi贸n? Yo se que en su lugar estar铆a deprimido y decepcionado! Mirar que Dios cumple sus promesas a todos menos a mi. Sanar a pecadores que solo se interesan en Jesus por lo que Jesus puede hacer por ellos. Anunciar las buenas nuevas a personas que en los tiempos dif铆ciles聽abandonar铆an聽a Jesus. Y en cambio yo que le he servido fielmente, me contesta muy duramente y deja que me suceda lo peor que me puede suceder! Ni siquiera una muerte honrosa que le de gloria a El, 聽en vez de morir en lo obscuro de una celda y pronto ser olvidado.

Que diferente es Juan de mi! Y que gran testimonio tiene Juan… no me alcanza la imaginaci贸n para describir como recibieron a Juan en el cielo, que tan orgulloso estaba el Dios de el (Padre, Hijo y Esp铆ritu Santo). Si Juan reneg贸, se arrepinti贸 de servir a Dios, exclamo al cielo con angustia un reproche… seria muy humano, muy f谩cil de comprender y aceptar… Lo que sabemos con seguridad es que 聽Juan muri贸 ejecutado como un animal o un criminal. Que Jesus sabia que Juan seguir铆a fiel al final de cuentas y que morir铆a honrando y confiando en Dios!!

Si existe un salon de la fama de la Fe, estoy seguro que quiz谩 el lugar de mayor honor ser谩 para Juan.

Hebreos 11
36 Otros experimentaron vituperios y azotes, y a m谩s de esto prisiones y c谩rceles.
37 Fueron apedreados, aserrados, puestos a prueba, muertos a filo de espada; anduvieron de ac谩 para all谩 cubiertos de pieles de ovejas y de cabras, pobres, angustiados, maltratados;
38 de los cuales el mundo no era digno; errando por los desiertos, por los montes, por las cuevas y por las cavernas de la tierra.
39 Y todos 茅stos, aunque alcanzaron buen testimonio mediante la fe, no recibieron lo prometido;
40 proveyendo Dios alguna cosa mejor para nosotros, para que no fuesen ellos perfeccionados aparte de nosotros.

Mi oraci贸n ahora es que pueda you ser mas como Jesus, mas como Juan y menos como yo. Precisamente lo grande de Juan es el ser mas como Jesus! No le importa tanto lo que le esta sucediendo a si聽mismo, en este momento, lo que realmente le importa que que El Padre logre su plan, de salvarnos a todos, de rescatar a sus hijos!


El rechazo es bueno

He recibido muchos rechazos, cuando al buscar un nuevo trabajo o una nueva relaci贸n. Por otra parte, he obtenido trabajos y relaciones que resultaron muy muy malas. Ahora me doy cuenta que que el rechazo es bueno.

El rechazo como el dolor es algo que evito a toda costa. Al pensarlo bien, todos los rechazos que he recibido me han evitado algo mucho peor.

Despu茅s de mi divorcio, quise ir a visitar a todas las se帽oritas cristianas que me rechazaron para decirles… gracias! El que rechazaron ustedes nos evito a los dos algo mucho, mucho peor!

Igualmente con los trabajos, ya deje de preguntarme el porque me rechazaron, he concluido que no importa cualquiera que sea la raz贸n. Para ellos es una raz贸n valida para cree que no soy lo que est谩n buscando. Al final de cuenta nos estamos evitando los dos alg煤n problema peor.

El dolor fisico es semejante en este sentido, nada placentero, pero necesario para evitarnos mas da帽o o un da帽o peor!

Rejection is good

I’ve had a lot of rejections, when I look for a job or a relationship. Haven gotten some jobs and some relationships that I should have not, I now realize that rejections are good.

Rejection like pain is not welcomed, I avoid it at all costs. However upon reflection, I think all rejections I’ve got so far have avoided something worse.

After my divorce, I wanted to go back to all the christian ladies that did not want to be my girlfriends … and say “thank you”. Saying no to me spared the both of us from something much much worse.

Similarly with jobs, I stop asking my self why I got rejected for a position, when I though the interviews had gone great! … I’ve concluded it does not matter, for what ever reason they have, it is valid for them to conclude I am not a good match. And again, they are saving the both of us a lot of a lot of grief.

Pain, physical pain, is the same way. Not pleasant at all but for our own good, to avoid more damage!

Gracias a Dios por los cuervos…

Desde hace tiempo he usado la frase: “Gracias a Dios por los cuervos que puso en mi vida..” para agradecer a Dios por la manera tan especial y peculiar en la que ha provisto para mi, siempre. 聽Estoy pensando en el pasaje de la biblia:聽1 Reyes 17:2-6.

Entonces la palabra del Se帽or vino a El铆as y le dio este mensaje: 3 芦Sal de aqu铆 hacia el oriente, y esc贸ndete en el arroyo de Querit, al este del Jord谩n. 4 Beber谩s agua del arroyo, y yo les ordenar茅 a los cuervos que te den de comer all铆禄. 5 As铆 que El铆as se fue al arroyo de Querit, al este del Jord谩n, y all铆 permaneci贸, conforme a la palabra del Se帽or. 6 Por la ma帽ana y por la tarde los cuervos le llevaban pan y carne, y beb铆a agua del arroyo.

Dios pudo usar 谩ngeles, siervos humanos, 谩guilas, leones…. pero no, en este caso Dios uso una ave que creo que era considerada inmunda… y me encanta聽la idea que de que Dios usa lo que menos espero en mi vida para darme justo lo que necesito, justo cuando lo necesito. En la forma mas聽inesperada, mostr谩ndome as铆 que lo que espero de El esta muy limitado, mi imaginaci贸n al igual que mi vision es muy limitada聽.

David VS Goliath

I really like it when science or secular philosophy analyzes a biblical story. This particular TED talk is about the story of David VS Goliath and how we often, perhaps mistakenly, we assume that the giant (Goliath) should be the favorite to win.

[ted id=1831]

Malcom Glaldwell makes some interesting points:

  • Goliath probably suffered from giantism, which gave him some disadvantages:
    • He was slow
    • He had poor eyesight
    • He probably probably was not very agile
  • On the other hand, David had some important advantages:
    • He was a slinger, and a good slinger could shoot a projectile with the same stopping power as a 45 caliber revolver.
    • He was agile and had been tested, killing some large predators in his job as a shepherd.

To me, this makes the story even more interesting, and gives it a fresh new perspective. Some may think that Gladwell’s points take away from the story, making it less of a miracle or requiring little or no devine intervention.

I think that to the contrary, this enriches the story, here are some points to consider:

  • Wether or not, if the giant was agile and a credible threat or not, there were an entire army or hebrews that were convinced they did not want to fight him.
  • There was an entire army of enemies who were convinced that Goliath was a good enough worrier to bet on him to win.
  • This is typical of Satan, he presents us with problems, trials or enemies that seem to our human eyes as insurmountable, impossible to defeat. In fact they might be just a facade with no substance.
  • We christians don’t 聽recognize that what abilities and trials God allows in our way train us for something epic, we will all get an opportunity to face a Goliath, or hide like the rest of the army. Human abilities are still God given, and makes what we do with them not in small part a miracle, when we act in his will.
  • God did not ask anyone to defend his honor, and only David loved God so much that he felt ofended and wanted to defend God. I do not know how much of a motivation it the reward was, but from what he says in the bible story, his first and main motivation was to defend God’s honor. This is what I think this was at least in part why God called David: “A man after my own heart”.
  • David was raised in a home and a culture where there were stories of miracles, where God had done even more amazing things for his people. David believed these stories, and could get God’s heart for us through them.

I hope these observations help,

God bless.

Proverbs II

My posts titled Proverbs are a collection of quotes that have impacted me in some way and that I like to share with friends when I get a chance. In some cases they are profound, in some others they are just funny 聽and not so edifying.

Here are some manly quotes from movies, I selected a few that I like:

“To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.” 鈥擜rnold Schwarzenegger, Conan the Barbarian (1982)
“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?” 鈥擟lint Eastwood, Dirty Harry (1971)
“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I’m all out of bubblegum.” 鈥擱oddy Piper, They Live (1988)
“This life’s hard, man, but it’s harder if you’re stupid.” 鈥擲teven Keats, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)
“You’re a disease. And I’m the cure.” 鈥擲ylvester Stallone, Cobra (1986)
“Pain don’t hurt.” 鈥擯atrick Swayze, Road House (1989)
“Say hello to my little friend!” 鈥擜l Pacino, Scarface (1983)
“You’re so ugly, you could be a modern art masterpiece.” 鈥擱. Lee Ermey, Full Metal Jacket
“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” 鈥擪evin Spacey, The Usual Suspects (1995)


“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo da Vinci
“When people ask God: Why do you not do something about the state of the world?… God says: I did, it’s you…..” — Erwin McManus

“do not tolerate brilliant jerks. The cost to teamwork is too high!” Reed Hasting CEO Netflix.

seek respect, not attention, it last longer.

Not everyone that criticizes you, hates you…