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Apple phone interview

I had an interview this morning with a manager of a network products group (mostly VPN and configuration tools for mobility) from Apple.

"Do you use any Apple products?"

I told him that I didn't own any, but that I had used them in stores and was considering a purchase of either an iPad2 or a MacBook Air. (I was actually surprised to have been asked this question, because on Apple's job site, it's stated that it is not necessary to own Apple products to apply. If I didn't follow Apple technology as much as I do, I wonder how I would have responded ...)

"What has been your career focus over the last ten years?"

Development of network software and tools to facilitate its use in production environments.

"Can you go into a little more detail? What was your focus during your last job?"

I asked if he knew what route servers were. He only knew a little bit about them, so I proceeded to explain how route servers were used in peering exchanges in datacenters such as Equinix's. I gave an explanation of MLPE, the ways the customers submit their peering information, and how my provisioning tools translates that into the OpenBGPD configuration statements.

"Why did you leave Equinix?"

To take some time off.

"What did you work on while you were at AltaVista?"

I described how in the beginning I was part of site operations, doing various tasks, including porting some of the "firewall" (should have said "gateway") tools inherited from the Digital research labs. I added that this role became more focused on processing the traffic from the web server logs, and was eventually split off into its own group. I mentioned the various types of information collected (pageviews, BabelFish translations, etc.) and how it was used (to aid customization of the site UI based on web browser, to detect fraudulent or otherwise unsavory traffic, etc.).

"What did you work on in the Millicent project?"

I gave a short description of the payment model (using "scrip" which is digitally signed and contains various attributes such as value, etc.). I mentioned that the development was in Java and that I developed an MD5 module for signing the scrip. I then got a little nervous (don't know why) and said that the project did not last very long. (I later went back over my notes and recalled another thing that I had worked on – a quicksort-based method of sorting scrip based on timestamps. I wish I had remembered this.)

"Do you have any other questions for me?"

I asked if he could tell me a bit more about the types of projects his team worked on. He gave a bit more detail about the VPN and mobility work. I asked if the routing work was primarily tied to VPN or something else (e.g. WiFi or broadband). He said that VPN had its own routing but didn't say much about the other routing. (Not knowing the details about Apple mobile networking, I didn't have much of a point of reference for how their mobile routing products would interface to the MacOS or iOS routing code.) I also asked if there was a required changed in the TCP/IP implementation, for example, if his group would do that. He replied that another group, involved with core networking, would do that. I asked what the general level of interaction was between his group and the core networking group; the interactions are still quite high, even though both groups were once one group before it got too large.

I didn't have any more questions, so he thanked me for my time, said that he enjoyed speaking with me, and that the recruiter would be in touch with me. My overall feeling about the interview was that it could have been better. I've done better.

Update: Apple passed on me.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 30th, 2011 12:20 am (UTC)
Good luck! I have nothing really useful to say here, but there's an annoying flaw with Apple's DNS implementation when dealing with Cisco SSL VPNs, so I will optimistically assume that someday you might get to fix it. ;)
Mar. 30th, 2011 06:23 am (UTC)
At the "do you have questions for me" point in the program, I will almost always ask this: "Do you love working here? Why (or why not?)"

I like hearing people's responses to this. Sometimes it's a pat answer, especially if they haven't really even thought about it... I can often tell the difference between "eh, it's better than most jobs, but who ever *loves* a job" and "Yes! I totally love it and I know exactly why!"

But, something more important I have found with this question is that it turns the tables, just for a few moments, from me trying to sell myself, to where it is him, trying to sell his opportunity to me or explain what makes his company better. I'd like to think that because I've put him in the selling role for a few minutes, that he is naturally going to think of giving me the offer and (hopefully) to think in terms of wanting me to accept the offer. I *want* him to think (or feel, actually) that if he makes me the offer and I accept, that will mean he has done well!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )