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May. 20th, 2005

The PayPal interview was so-so. I had some problems answering some questions and a few mental blocks as well. There was one coding question that I was trying to think of an efficient, non-clumsy way solution to, but I couldn't, and time was running out, so I had to pretty much go with my clumsy solution. On another question, I could write out/talk through a description of what I wanted to do in English, but I had problems formulating the algorithm for it.

On the way home, I was trying to think of how to solve the coding problem and also why I got stuck. When I got home the missing step came to me and I was able to write the code. It was very similar to some other things I'd done before, but because my mind immediately locked in on the clumsy solution, I couldn't reorient it in time to come up with a better one.

It is possible that having to work under a lot of pressure at AV has caused me to lock in on suboptimal solutions (perhaps even more so than when I had trouble in classes). I know that there were times when I was working on things and thinking to myself "maybe there is a better way to do this," but I was afraid to spend too much time trying to think of the better way, lest I not complete the task in time and risk some more serious problem as a result. OTOH, I was worried that at some point someone would come along and criticize my code. In my defense, I would have said "well, I wanted to spend more time thinking of how do to things more efficiently, but in that time several other things might have broken, and people would have been unhappy that I wasn't taking care of them."

I didn't really get much of an idea what it would be like working at PayPal. If I make it to the next round of interviews, I'll get to meet people from groups that are looking to fill positions.

About an hour after getting home from the interview, I took my blood pressure at my local supermarket. I wasn't too thrilled to see that both readings averaged to about 150/90. (I usually take a couple of readings, with the second usually coming in as normal even if the first is high normal.)

Later that evening, my piano teacher had another of her master classes. I played the first movement of Sonatina Romantico, which I have almost memorized and can play reasonably, although somewhat slower than the suggested tempos. I made some mistakes but avoided serious train wrecks. The other students gave me some nice compliments. One student said that he liked the way I brought out the different themes, which pleased me very much.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 20th, 2005 12:18 pm (UTC)
Since you now have the missing step, can you include that in your thank you note?
May. 20th, 2005 02:39 pm (UTC)
Ooh, good idea.

I do hope that interviewers take into account the added stress of (1) an interview and (2) lack of a usual development environment (even a text editor!) in evaluating the code they ask people to write. We ask for pseudocode (or "code in any language") and focus more on the reasoning the person's using than what he actually writes on the whiteboard; I hope that's typical but don't know.
May. 20th, 2005 09:20 pm (UTC)
I don't have any of the interviewers' email addresses. (They didn't give them to me, and I forgot to ask ...) I did thank my contact in HR and asked her to pass on my thanks to the interviewers.

I guess I'm not so concerned that they know that I can solve a problem as I am over these mental blocks that occur at inopportune moments (tests, interviews ...).

More later ...
May. 20th, 2005 08:20 pm (UTC)
Consider working for Google. What do you do, exactly? Can I see a resume?

May. 20th, 2005 09:48 pm (UTC)
I sent email to what I think is your Caltech address. If I don't hear anything back, I'll assume it wasn't and make a link to a public copy. (I don't like to put it online because I don't want to get any more spam than I already do.)

As for what I do/did, for the last four years at AV, I was working in the business ops group, reducing the web server logs so they could be loaded into the corp data warehouse, and generating some ad hoc summaries on an as-needed basis. I also worked with some other groups, such as site ops and the web server group, on matters that concerned the content and delivery of the logs, and sometimes on other infrastructure-related things. If you take a look at awstats, the code I wrote performed a similar function, although mine didn't generate any HTML.

As a personal preference, my dream job is to work on network congestion avoidance or something network protocol/algorithm related. I actually wrote about this before, remember? My attempts to find such work have been unsuccessful thus far. I have several friends and acquaintances who did protocol work who are around my age (mid-40s) who are in similar situations, either out of work or fearing a layoff.

I've been checking Google's job postings, mostly looking for things that are related either to what I did at AV or networking. I think based on recent history, I might have the most success being an AdWords/AdSense developer, but I don't know as much about core search as most of what I imagine Google's applicant pool is. (I never did anything like information retrieval, clustering, computational lingustics, etc.) I know a little bit about web acceleration, but haven't really studied it in detail and never worked on a development project. In my 20% time, assuming I was hired, I don't know what I'd do ... come up with better anti-click fraud technology, perhaps? Also, my guess is that I probably wouldn't do much better on a Google interview as on my PayPal interview, unless I just got lucky and was asked questions I'd already seen or thought about.
May. 21st, 2005 05:01 am (UTC)
http://www.urchin.com/ is now part of Google.
May. 21st, 2005 04:16 pm (UTC)
I heard about that. Before the acquisition, I actually checked them out to see if they had openings. There weren't any listed. The emphasis of the company seems to be on the UI more so than the data, understandably so, since the typical users of such tools want easy-to-understand pictures and graphs.

Speaking of awstats, one thing I found odd about it was that it won't take out of order (by timestamp) data. It considers it "corrupted" and doesn't include it in the summary totals. So if you wanted to use this on sites where the logs don't always arrive on time, and you wanted to somehow pipe the logs to it, you'd have to sort them by timestamp first.
May. 20th, 2005 10:03 pm (UTC)
Oops, forgot to mention that I actually applied to Google about four years ago. I had a phone screen but that was as far as I got. I had trouble answering some questions for similar reasons (got stumped, couldn't remember stuff I'd done in the past, etc.). Actually, it was as a result of this interview that I started to become seriously concerned that I was slipping technically. I was going to transfer out of the business ops group into the index build group, but I had to stay in business ops because there wasn't anyone in business ops who could pick up all of my responsibilities.
May. 21st, 2005 12:37 am (UTC)
Sounds like stress, not "losing [your] ability."

I'd say you need a contract to feed your wallet while you look for something better under less pressure.
May. 21st, 2005 04:48 pm (UTC)
Fortunately, I have enough money saved up that I'm not currently under any financial pressure. When the bubble burst and companies started laying people off in droves, I reached the conclusion that I would probably get laid off eventually. So I decided to reduce my spending in case it took a long time to find a new job. For example, I went from two to one dance lesson per week, and eventually stopped taking dance lessons altogether. (I don't even go out to dance much anymore.) I rarely eat out. I've only needed to buy a bit of new clothing, in part because I lost enough weight to be able to fit into things that never got worn much a few years ago because I gained too much weight to wear them.

I have looked into contracts a little bit, but have been focusing mostly on full-time employment. At present, the type of contract I'm probably most qualified to do is helping people understand their web logs to see if they have click fraud or some other kind of discrepancy. For example, take a look at AlchemistMedia and read the description of what she does. Part of my job at AV involved that because we were victims of click fraud, and thus so were some of our clients (the ones who advertised on our sites). The types of things she has written about I warned AV management about many years ago when they started talking about wanting to capture clicks, etc.

For now, I'm just answering questions on usenet and a few other web sites. There's a guy in my chorus who took out some Google AdWords and Overture PPC (pay-per-click) ads who was concerned about click fraud and asked me about it. I sent him pointers to several articles (some of them I have also commented on in earlier journal entries). I also told him that I would look into the possibility of click fraud on his site, but I would need access to the web server logs. He doesn't know anything about them (he is not into computers) so he has to talk to his ISP about getting access to them. We haven't gone any further with this, in part because he's been busy with lots of other things such as the upcoming visit of our French friends. I figure I will do the work for him for free, and that if he's satisfied, he could refer me to other people, and that would be the start of my "business," so to speak. (But in general, I would say I'm more oriented towards finding full-time employment.)

Since you are in the broadcasting biz, I'd be interested in your opinions about Internet advertising, especially PPC advertising, from a business and technical standpoint.

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )