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I had a phone interview yesterday with someone from Cisco looking for a broadband termination person. Unfortunately, he didn't think I was a good match because I don't have any recent network software development experience. Oh well.

I sometimes think that the only job I'm likely to get in this depressed tech economy doesn't exist any more. If AV was reconstituted in its old form on its old infrastructure, I could just step right in and resume what I was doing before I was laid off. I wouldn't require any training because I would know exactly what to do. Although there might be other job candidates who are better than me, none of them would be able to just walk right in the door and do the job; they would have to learn their way around the infrastructure and learn a lot about the front-end servers.

The other day I was reading alt.internet.search-engines and saw a guy was having trouble with click fraud at AV and ATW (AllTheWeb). The contacts he has in Overture have no idea how to help him; they do not know how to track down the problem on the AV or ATW end; they probably don't even know who to contact. It is a sad commentary on the lack of communication among people who, IMO, ought to be communicating, but for whatever reasons, this doesn't happen. But I only need to see the post to know where to look for the problem and form a plan for dealing with it. Of course, dealing with this type of problem was very stressful ... but I could do it.

If I get a job at Cisco or some other place, I'll have to come up to speed quickly, and learn the infrastructure, code, customers, etc. Hopefully, I'll be able to do that before anything serious happens. I sometimes wonder what's the best thing to be in this depressed tech economy -- is it better to be brilliant (enough to perhaps get to work for someplace like Google Labs where you get to work on pet projects), or to be able to learn something really well that people depend on so much that they depend on you to do it, thus giving you job security (assuming your company stays in business).

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
nhowells91
Aug. 21st, 2004 11:56 pm (UTC)
The really odd thing about this is that, in the one position they do have open in my husband's division right now, all they're getting is crap resumes. Apparently, they've got people they've caught in lies about what they can and can't do, people who just are incredibly illiterate, and the list goes on.

I wish there were some easy way to help everyone who has skills find the position deserved.
likablenerd
Aug. 22nd, 2004 01:44 am (UTC)
If you want to send me a link to your resume, I'd be happy to take a look at it and perhaps submit a referral to Google. They respond very quickly.
gregbo
Aug. 22nd, 2004 10:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I can't work for Google now because as part of our Y! employment agreement, we agreed not to work for a competitor for a year after separation. I suppose I could try to fight it, but I might lose, and wouldn't want to risk paying expensive legal fees.

More to the point, however, I don't think I'm a good fit for Google, in terms of my background and current level of expertise. Of all the projects Google seems to be involved in, the closest ones to my recent experience are AdSense and AdWords, which it seems will be eventually outsourced to a third-party provider. Everything else requires a lot of knowledge of clustering, information retrieval, machine learning, etc. I never did anything like that, not even in grad school. (BTW, I knew some people in UCLA's AI program who did that sort of thing, but it was over ten years ago, and most of the work was theoretical in nature. The department couldn't afford to build or buy the kind of storage systems that are commercially available today.) The background I have in linear algebra and queueing theory is somewhat applicable to machine learning, but it's been so long since I've done anything with those that I just can't compete with people who are fresh out of school or a research project.

Finally, as I wrote some time ago, I suspect most, if not all of the Google engineers (and especially the people in Google Labs) are good at IQ-oriented problem solving, which I've identified as a weakness. I don't have a problem with admitting that I need work in certain areas before taking certain types of jobs; I would rather not take a job where I would embarrass myself or drag down my project. And even if I were able to bring myself to the point where I was a top talent, given what happened to Brian Reid, there's no guarantee that wouldn't happen to me.

I actually interviewed at Google about three years ago. I may not have written about it here, but the experience was similar to other interviews I've written about. I couldn't remember how to do some things, and there were other things that at one point were second nature but now I have to think about before answering. For example, I was asked to describe the order of Unix system calls necessary to establish TCP connections. I gave both the client and server sequences, but I had to stop and think about them. The guy said that I had the order of listen() and accept() wrong, which just didn't seem right to me, and I said so, but he insisted. Turned out I was right, but there was a time when I would have been very very sure of my answer, because it was something I was engaged in on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps the interviewer was testing my ability to justify my answers; I have read in Poundstone's book that some interviewers do this.


cellio
Aug. 23rd, 2004 12:21 am (UTC)
This makes me wonder if Amazon would be a good fit for you. (Of course, they're in Seattle, which might be a problem for you.) I'm thinking particularly of their "people who bought X also bought Y" technology, which is a different kind of clustering/data-mining. Maybe I'm way off base, but it just sounded like something that might resonate.
gregbo
Aug. 23rd, 2004 03:48 am (UTC)
I've seen some job openings there but haven't applied. The noncompete might apply to Amazon. Also, based on what I've seen that's available, the same situation applies; it's stuff I haven't worked on in a long time. I'm not sure if I'd like living in Seattle, because I'm more of a warm/dry climate sort of person.

The type of data mining that's done at Amazon is similar to what's done at Google. In fact, Amazon is integrating A9 search technology into their site, and using it as their web search tool (replacing Google).

BTW, I have started using A9 a lot, and so far, it's given me good enough results that I don't have to try any other search engines. Some people might be put off by the preponderance of Amazon links in search results, but it hasn't bothered me yet, possibly because I use Amazon pretty often anyway. It's interesting ... as a business model, partnering with an online bookstore might be viable for a search engine. Rod Schrock (the infamous former CEO of AV) wanted to buy Amazon at one time. Assuming he could have afforded it, perhaps it would have been a better investment than shopping.com, etc.

A9 is hiring also, but the positions involve things I haven't done in a long time. I know of one person who was at AV who's now at A9. I can't remember his name but I can picture his face and his office. He was briefly the head of the advanced research group before going to A9.


gregbo
Aug. 25th, 2004 12:26 am (UTC)
The guy at A9 whose name I couldn't remember is Bill Stasior. He also went to MIT.
figmo
Aug. 22nd, 2004 04:04 am (UTC)
I keep wondering the same stuff. I'm trying to find a tech writing position. I keep sending my resume to Google; only once have I gotten a response, and it was a "no." Feh.
likablenerd
Aug. 22nd, 2004 05:25 pm (UTC)
I'd be happy to take a look at your resume for you. I can also probably increase your chances of getting in by submitting a referral.
figmo
Aug. 22nd, 2004 08:38 pm (UTC)
It's at http://www.rahul.net/figmo/resume.html. I also have .DOC, .RTF, and ASCII (.txt) versions available.

Thanks!
likablenerd
Aug. 23rd, 2004 03:29 am (UTC)
Did they explain why you didn't get an offer? For instance, I just put a friend through the process and they said he wasn't "technically strong enough."
figmo
Aug. 23rd, 2004 03:55 pm (UTC)
I didn't even get an interview. They just said they didn't think my skills were a good fit for the position -- even though my resume and skill set had a 1:1 match.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )