10+ Know your industry Q&As

Insights into what your prospective employers are looking for. What skills are required for you to go places? Do you know your industry well enough to impress your prospective employers?

Prospective employers will be judging you on 4 key aspects

1) Do you have the right technical “know how”? Can you not only develop solutions to the functional specifications, but also can you build robust solutions by asking the right questions relating to non-functional requirements. For example,

Is this information sensitive enough to require encryption? Will my stakeholder be happy with the response time of 2 seconds? Is there a potential race condition here? Should these transactions execute atomically? Will my solution scale if the number of concurrent users are doubled?

2) Will you be interested in the company, project, role and the technologies used? What are your short and long term objectives? What are you expecting in your next role? What motivates you?

3) Will you fit in with the team? Do you get easily annoyed? Do you handle criticisms well? Will you be interested in learning a new language, framework or tool? What is your view on TDD, BDD, continuous integration, etc? What is your take on agile development practices?

4) Do you have the right skills and the attitude to get the job done? Do you get frustrated when the requirements are not clear or take the initiative to get them clarified? Do you prefer being glued to the keyboard and churn out code or taking part in the team sharing sessions to understand the real business driver and propose more effective solutions? Will you be able to communicate your thoughts effectively?

Q1. Why are you leaving your current job? What do you like and dislike about your current job?
A1. Firstly, never be negative about your current or previous jobs. Also, don’t bring salary into the discussion.

Likes:

  • The team of 6 with varying strengths complimented each other to get the job done, and learned a lot from each other.
  • Enjoyed solving business problems and learning new languages (e.g. Groovy & Scala), paradigm (e.g. Functional Programming), technologies (e.g. Apache Spark & Hadoop), and tools (e.g. Cloudera Manager Server and AgileCraft to manage the Scrum process)
  • Took pride in identifying gaps and getting them rectified in a collaborative manner.
  • Pro-actively identified and fixed performance issues using JMeter, VisualVM, thread dumps, and GC logs.
  • Increasing the unit tests coverage to 85% with Mockito for mocking, SonarQube for coverage, JBehave for BDD, JMeter for load testing, and “Metrics Core” for capturing through-put and latencies.

Dislikes:

Reasons for leaving:

  • Not challenged enough at my current job. The company offered a great opportunity as someone with 2-3 year experience, and appreciate the skills I acquired there, but now with 5 year hands-on experience, and having completed 6 projects through the full SDLC, I am ready to take on more challenges.
  • Looking forward to expanding my domain knowledge in finance, especially in “high frequency trading”.
  • Looking for an opportunity to get more involvements in mentoring & applying my leadership skills.

Q2. What was the biggest accomplishment and failure in your current or past jobs?
A2. Reflect back on your career achievements and provide quantified answers.

Achievements:

  • Successfully completed a full stack online trading system written in Java 8, Spring, and AngularJS, which handles 400+ concurrent users and integrates with 4 other back-end systems .
  • Designed and developed a Java based non-blocking server that communicates with 4500+ EFTPOS outlets with a latency of 20ms
  • Spearheaded a “Quick-Win” program that improved the site ranking from 24th to 9th within 5 months in terms of user experience, responsiveness, and reliability.

Failures:

We all learn more from our mistakes or failures than from our successes or achievements. When you mention your mistakes or failures, make it a point to mention what you had learned from those mistakes.

  • The team was using a cut down database in the development environment and the technical solution I provided worked well for the low volume of data, but when was moved to production like data, it caused some performance issues. Learned a valuable lesson of validating the solution with more production like data set early on in the SDLC. I quickly provided the revised & tuned solution within a week and got the big thumbs up from the testers.
  • Wrote some JUnit based integration tests that were bit fragile due to data fluctuations. The failing tests were causing the builds to fail. Took the initiative to fix this problem by performing the integration tests via more stable data sets that were populated via DBUnit during the set up phase and the data were removed during the tear down phase. Also, introduced other strategies for integration tests by using in memory databases like HSQL DB as opposed to the actual database.

    Q3. How do you keep your knowledge current?
    A3. Via online articles, blogs, and books.

    • http://www.infoq.com
    • http://www.theserverside.com
    • YouTube videos by Venkat Subramaniam, Martin Fowler, etc and following the channels like “Java Brains”, “Cave Of Programming”, etc.
    • Following Twitter handles like “@BrianGoetz”, “@joshbloch”, “@AdamBien”, etc.

    Q4. How do you know what technologies, frameworks or tools are in demand?
    A4. Some  technologies/frameworks don’t even make it to the mainstream. So, do your research before learning.

    1. Through online job portals like “Indeed.com”, “IT Jobs watch”, “Glassdoor.com”, http://www.google.com/trends, GIT commits, Stack overflow tags, etc to understand what the prospective employers are looking for? what problems are they trying to solve? what are the modern trends? E.g. ETL vs ELT, MVC vs MVW, BigData vs Data Warehouse, Actor based concurrency models? and so on.

    2. Through personal interests, experience and networking with the fellow professionals via LinkedIn. For example, fascination for writing concurrent programs due to the challenges the concurrency presents and tuning the design, code & the JVM to achieve better throughput & lower latency.

    Q5. How would you go about learning a new piece of technology, framework, or a tool?
    A5.

    STEP 1: Get started with good online tutorials. Google for relevant tutorials.

    STEP 2: Read online articles, blogs, and books about a particular framework, technology, or tool to understand its high level architecture, core concepts, best practices, and potential pitfalls.

    STEP 3: It is a best practice to always keep the Java API Docs handy for the framework or tool. Also, accessing the Git Hub link for the open-source code.

    STEP 4: Watch a few YouTube videos on the topic to further improve the understanding.

    STEP 5: If you still have any doubts to be clarified by searching on Google for StackOverflow answers. For example, search string like

    Check with your mentors and networked fellow professionals via LinkedIn.com, quora.com and forums like JavaRanch.com.

    STEP 6: Find a way to apply or use a particular framework, technology, or tool in a commercial, self-taught, or open-source project. Nothing beats getting hands-on. All your previous efforts will go in vain if you don’t apply.

    STEP 7: Add this particular framework, technology, or tool to your resume’s or CV’s skills and experience section. Also, blog about your experience as you not only learn more by blogging as you have to research more, but also it will be very useful as your future reference material and for increasing your employ-ability by showing off your passion and the technical know how, only if done uniquely & properly.

    You can explore one of the following blogging tools.

    Q6. Why do you think good programmers are often lazy?
    A6. Good programmers

    • hate repetitive and monotonous tasks. They find the right tools and ways to automate these monotonous and repetitive tasks.
    • don’t reinvent the wheel. They will first look for the right tool, API, library, or framework to get the job done with minimal effort.
    • constantly learn and refactor the code with good code coverage. They start to dislike the code that they wrote an year ago.
    • ask the right questions. Is this code thread-safe? What if an exception is thrown here? Should this class be immutable? Is this class open for extension, but closed for modification? Would this logic require automated unit tests only, integration tests only, or both? Should this config be externalized? Would this be a good candidate to be written as a functional program?

    Q7. What qualities do you look for in an effective programmer? How do you recognize a good programmer?
    A7.

    General Traits

    Passion, continuous learning, taking pride in their achievements, ability to look at the big picture and pay attention to details, right attitude, and ability to communicate their thoughts clearly. For example, talk to the business and the stake holders without any technical jargon. Most importantly, getting things done.

    Specific Traits

    1) Ability to write quality code with best practices & good test coverage.

    2) Ability to break a complex problem into manageable chunks with relevant conceptual design diagrams, UML diagrams, ER diagrams, algorithms, and pseudo-code

    3) Ability to think and ask the right questions in terms of the 16 key areas?

    Q8. What do you understand by the term “hidden experience”?
    A8. Good programmers are mainly self-taught and they acquire lots of so called “hidden experience” through proactive and continuous learning and helping others solve their problems. If you just rely only on your experience alone, it can take a lot longer to learn the “key areas” and the “basic concepts” of programming. It is imperative that you bring out your “hidden experience” in your CV and at job interviews.

    Q9.When you are are coding, what documentation do you have handy?
    A9.

    1. The APIs for the relevant technologies used. For example Java API, Enterprise Java API, Spring API, jQuery API, JavaScript API, etc. Thes APIs can also be googled at will with the right search keys like “jQuery API”, “Java 6 API” , etc.

    2. The relevant reference manual and home web sites bookmarked for the relevant technologies. The home sites can be Googled with right keywords like “Spring framework home”, “jQuery home”, etc and the reference manual can be Googled with keywords like “Spring framework 2.0 reference”,etc.

    3. Often not knowing the key terms for a particular piece of technology is a major challenge for the beginners of a particular technology. This is where the “cheat sheets” come in very handy

    4.  Sites like Java Practices provide good working examples.

    Q10. Do you periodically review your strengths and weaknesses? if yes, what are your current weaknesses?
    A10. When you mention a weaknesses, make it a point to clarify as to how you are going about fixing improving your weaknesses. You can also flaunt your industry knowledge.

    Example:

    • Recently identified that I don’t have much knowledge or experience on scripting languages like Perl or Python. Hence, I have recently started working on some Python tutorials from site XYZ.
    • JavaScript based frameworks like Angular JS is gaining lots of adoption, so I have started learning JavaScript and Angular JS in my spare time.
    • Heard everyone talking about BigData, so downloaded the Cloudera express server on VMware, and wrote some basic Spark jobs to gain more insights into Hadoop.

    In some cases a weakness can be construed as a strength

    Example:

    • When I am faced with a complex problem, I tend to keep at it for a long time until I reach a resolution. This gets me into looking more within the square. Even though I know that taking a break from the problem or chatting to a colleague is more conducive to looking outside the square.

      So, I am currently working on taking a break from a complex problem after trying for say 45 minutes or so. Often I get a solution whilst taking a brief walk, commuting to work or explaining the problem to a colleague.

    • At times I tend to be less of a listener and more of a talker to add value or contribute. I strongly understand that a good communicator must be a great listener, hence I have been consciously working on this, and recently noticed a significant improvement.

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