Ramblings on code, startups, and everything in between
Interviewing, and getting hired, in the tech industry is exceptionally difficult. From multi day interviews, ridiculously difficult coding tests and recruiter third-party assessments, this process can take months. To provide more insight on this strenuous practice, I have interviewed three specialists in the industry who have experienced the technical interview first hand. The three interviewees are introduced below.
How long have you been working in tech? What is your role?
Brian Hurst: Since 2016, my role has been in an aspect of technical customer support.
Georgie Cooke: I have been working in tech for about eight years now, having started while I was studying my Masters degree. I’m currently a User Interface Engineer at Campaign Monitor, a company that provides email marketing software for companies and individuals to communicate with their customers. I’ve maintained largely the same role over the course of my career.
What types of projects do you typically work on?
Moriah Maney: I work at Cisco Systems, I work on the Webex Team’s platform (chat and video service platform, similar to Zoom.) I am on the developer experience team, I specifically focus on Open Source software and the Webex Team’s Widgets.
Brian Hurst: My current role is at Constant Contact, I answer inbound customer calls relating to software and digital marketing. Additionally, I have contributed to social media, template design, and innovation.
How familiar are you with the technical interview process?
Moriah Maney: Super familiar, approximately 20-25 interviews.
Brian Hurst: Fairly familiar, most of my interviews haven’t dabbled into the technical space requiring whiteboarding or an in-depth technical assessment (ie. coding)
Georgie Cooke: I am most familiar as the interviewee or person being interviewed. I have not been an interviewer in the technical interviewing process, but I am aware of the process Campaign Monitor goes through with potential hires.
What was your worst experience interviewing in Tech?
Moriah Maney: I had an interviewer speak to me in an accusatory tone, not believing my knowledge of subject matter due to my age. I have also had challenging interview settings, like open office interviews, which were distracting and noisy. Once, I was interrupted during a technical screening and told that my work was incorrect, which was extremely off-putting. I later found out that my work was correct.
Brian Hurst: I find it frustrating when companies do not follow up, or keep candidates in the loop about the status of their job opening.
Georgie Cooke: I struggled having to do a Hackerrank test, which is set up online like a timed quiz. It was to test my technical skills and I was given a very brief description of what to expect. The timer was visible on the screen while doing the test and I found it rather stressful, especially because a lot of the test content was not what I expected from the description. I struggled and felt very unconfident because some of the questions were beyond my skill level.
Additionally, I applied for a job through a recruiter. This position did not work out. After moving on, and finding a job on my own, I was still receiving calls and hassled by the recruiter with questions about my new role, and the recruiter still offered me new roles, which I found inappropriate.
What was your best experience interviewing in Tech?
Moriah Maney: Technical assessment was collaborative with their team, was asked to do an implementation, a current engineer provided a code review, then was asked to make the adjustments accordingly
Brian Hurst: Interview at Constant Contact, efficient process, got to meet the team before accepting the offer. Also, was able to observe the role in real time that I was interviewing for.
Georgie Cooke: My best experience was with the company I currently work for. I was made to feel very welcome when I arrived on-site, and prior to that, the communication between myself and the company’s recruiter was fantastic. On-site for the interview, I was offered a cup of tea or coffee and this made me feel comfortable. I was shown around the office a bit as well, everyone I encountered was friendly, and this really eased my nerves.
After the interview, I was kept up to date on how things were going with the process, including the fact that other candidates were being interviewed. I did not feel like I was left in the dark.
What advice would you give for people preparing for this process?
Moriah Maney: Easy to get discouraged, go in with low expectations and that it is okay to fail and it is okay to not know how to do something and tell your interviewer that. Do not take the rejection personally.
Brian Hurst: Try to provide a few different statements and examples of work in advance, so that you can demonstrate your skill set and experience. Also, use specific language in your descriptions to paint a more detailed picture of yourself as a candidate.
Georgie Cooke: Make sure you do your research on the company you are interviewing for, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You want to make sure the role is right for you, so ask anything about the role or the company that you are not sure about, because they might help you make a better decision.
I would also suggest going over your best skills and make sure you are able to talk about them verbally or talk about yourself with confidence. While actual coding tests can be difficult, being able to talk about your skills and the work you do can leave a good impression, as the interview is not always solely about the test.
If you could do one thing to change this process what would it be?
Moriah Maney: I would take out whiteboarding because no one does their best work in that position and it does not depict how you would work from day to day in that environment. I would also make tech more accessible, provide more/multiple options, especially for people who are on the job search while employed full-time.
A technical assessment often requires multiple hours of work which applicants do not always have. Instead, assign a paired partner challenge with a current engineer, where you solve problems together, or each solve half. By increasing flexibility and options in a technical interview process, your company is facilitating applicants in showcasing their best work.
Brian Hurst: I think that the interview itself should be more two-sided, so the applicant asks questions as well. Essentially, it would be more of a conversation where both parties exchange back and forth.
Georgie Cooke: It is very important for companies to give feedback and let candidates know if the answer is “no,” and what they can do to improve, or where they missed the mark. It can feel awful to be left hanging. I understand companies go through many, many candidates, but a quick email or phone call would go a long way.
Providing feedback can help the individual improve for future interviews, possibly even re-apply for the same role in the future.
Have tips on how to improve the technical interview process? Comment below or checkout our suggestions here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2019/07/26/how-effective-is-your-technical-interview/#74ff59e6b0c0.
Posted In: Interviews
Remember what websites looked like before they became so interactive and graphic savvy? The World Wide Web- in the early 2000s- was not aesthetically pleasing. So, we decided to recreate it. Out with the new, in with the old.
Below, we have provided an example of a modern-looking website. Specifically, we used a Bootstrap template. Then, we have listed the changes we made to the current website code. We discovered that the key to making an old-looking website is not using specific technologies, but using the styles and the aesthetics that your site embraces. Let’s take a Bootstrap template, Clean Blog – Bootstrap Blog Theme, and how we retrofitted it!
The current, modern version looks like:
To make it “look old” I made the following changes:
The final Product:
Some other options for replicating an early 21st century website include: the venerable marquee HTML tag, animated GIFs, and of course, anything neon.
Of course there is always the all time GOAT retro website, the original 1996 Space Jam website, which is still up!
Have additional suggestions for how to make an old-looking website, or any formatting requests you’d like to see? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted In: Tips n' Tricks
We watched an AWS Cloud webinar, so, you don’t have to. (But if you want to, it’s attached below.) Here are are three aspects of the AWS cloud that make it both unique and useful, particularly for ISVs (Independent Software Vendors.)
Posted In: Amazon AWS
Open Data is defined as: “data that can be freely-used, shared, and built-on by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose” (Open Knowledge Foundation Blog.) Open data provides many benefits.
In a similar manner that it is essential to record a nation’s history, recording open data has comparable advantages. Keeping a running log of statistics and information can be used to analyze changes in patterns and sequences. With a measurable starting point, as well as updates, each community can stay informed and up to date about their surroundings. It is useful for the affected society not only to be aware of the changes in their government’s policies and implementations, but also the consequences. With mandatory government submissions and access to open data, local businesses have the ability to develop custom business plans tailored to their company’s surroundings.
Open data often includes demographic statistics in addition to employment information, salary, income, and spending. With open access, local engagement is welcomed and encouraged. Also, there is room for the public sector to make digital and technical transformations, implementing social progression and efficiency. Through this evolution, statistics on unemployment high school dropout rates as well as crime and violence can be targeted and countered.
To insure political justice, reporting open data is mandatory. This is essential for two reasons, it prevents the government from concealing certain statistics and information, and it is not gathered for a specific purpose. What this means is that the options for interpretation, analysis, and creativity are unlimited. People can use this data to make assessments and conclusions that the government may not have wanted to publicize. Additionally, this data can be used to measure and reinforce financial and economic status. From a technical standpoint, open data is very useful and endless in its opportunity for building.
Some examples of projects that have been produced with open data include: a school selection device, a flood print, online voting at events, home health and safety report, traffic and accident browser, damage from disasters assessment, a mobile voting ballot, etc.. The chart below provides the Greater Boston regions that have open data readily available. With this data, endless projects and tools could be designed, so, what will you build?
Posted In: General
How did you end up where you are today
I started in accounting, I worked in the CPA world with a real estate background. Over time, I drifted away from the CPA path. I knew it wasn’t for me. After CPA, I got an agent license and I thought my background provided a unique skill set to the industry. Thus, I went on my own and failed A LOT along the way, looking for a tech market fit in real estate.
How did you first incorporate tech in the real estate space?
With the help of engineers, my buddy and I built a pretty cool property search platform for buyers. There was a messaging feature, between agents and buyers, that we thought was state of the art at the time. After building a ton of legacy code that nobody wanted, we realized that we weren’t really solving a problem. The buyer search was occupied by major sites, like Zillow and Trulia, it didn’t make sense for us to compete there.
As you faced these challenges, what was your outlook?
I think many people perceive life is this perpetual climb to the top of a mountain and then you finally reach the top, raise your hands in the air, and scream “I made it!!” When in actuality, life is more like walking up 10 feet of the mountain, and then falling into a 30 foot drop off, meaning there isn’t a linear climb to the top. There are a ton of ups and downs. For me, it’s all about persistence and surrounding yourself with talented people, engineers and creatives especially.
So, what do you do now?
I currently own a real estate brokerage in South Boston. I work with a rockstar CTO and a talented digital team. We’ve built a proprietary database tool which helps us stand out from the rest, it basically tells us who is more likely to sell their home.
What inspired you to leverage tech/data for real estate?
I didn’t just want to be a traditional agent/broker and sell places. I felt I needed to add a ton of value in what I was doing and building. When I look back on what really started things for me, it was on the tech and data side. I’ve owned a place in Southie for some time now. I frequently get mailers from real estate agents, enticing me to sell. I actually received one yesterday! After collecting so many mailers, I thought to myself over the years, this can’t be the best way to reach owners. I mean I’m a broker, myself, receiving these mailers with no analytics on them. So, how many of these are actually read and converted into sale? A very small percent.
How do you identify a potential opportunity to use tech in a non-traditional situation?
I try to look at things from a high level and ask where the most value is added. In my industry, Redfin, the discount broker, has gained a lot of market share because buyers/sellers are getting smarter. They have begun to question the value of an agent. There are many agents covering too much territory in order to survive. When this happens, there is very little value add to the consumer. (i.e. if you have an out of town agent repping a buyer in South Boston, often times, there is very little value add for the buyer.) Whereas, if I was representing you as a buyer, I’d be able to give you neighborhood knowledge along with off market opportunities outside of MLS.
And for sellers, I can create an unmatched amount of bandwidth (targeting buyers) for your home because of our database technology.
What are some challenges you face building as a non-technical person?
Where do I start!? Haha. I actually want to write a book about this, maybe I’ll call it, The Technical Guide for Non-Tech Founders. I haven’t seen anything like it out there, have you? Would you like to co-author with me? Making the right hiring decisions is a huge challenge, ALONG with building something a bunch of people actually need. Finding really great engineers to buy into your work can be tough. I’ve spent a lot of time in my early days on Elance (which is now UpWork) and you can get burned on there. I’ve always been bootstrapped, and when you make a mistake, it really really hurts.
Why do you think real estate is one of the last industries to adapt to new software and technologies? (calculations by hand and not through a database)
Great question! I think it is mostly because the business model has stood the test of time very well, even with the internet disruption in many other industries. 2005 and 2015, saw a wave of change. But, even with all the advancements on the home buying front, there is still a complicated and mostly analog process after the online search occurs. An end to end platform is coming and this will be interesting. Currently, there are some really talented people working on this.
Overall, how would you characterize the adoption of new technologies in the real estate space?
Real estate literally touches everything we do, because it defines our environment, our physical space. Think about this: of all the tech changes we have seen in our lifetime
ex. Amazon(goods), Facebook/Apple(communication), Google(information), Uber/Lyft(transport). Paypal/Venmo(Capital space.)
Real estate is larger than all of these categories combined. Real estate will evolve more quickly than people think. Venture Capital has poured a ton of money into the race, recently. The new wave startups are tackling a wide range of areas — building management, financing, co-working, appraisals, building amenities and empty retail space, even tech-enabled construction, management, and maintenance.
Do you think the future of real estate will evolve as they adapt to using new technology?
Yes, with the rise of technologies like autonomous vehicles, the drone, robotic delivery, decentralized workspaces, and other macro trends. These inventions are likely to lead to a complete transformation in how we utilize the spaces in which we work and live.
Posted In: General