Read, send, delete, and manage? Isn’t that basically everything I can do?
Uh yeah, coupons and savings and all… Thanks but, no thanks.
This blog post is the result of a combination of the original post here (February 2016), a very similar post on Linked-In, and the comments and conversation resulting from them.
For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m a development manager. The most important part of my job is to interview and hire software developers. With mediocre software developers, you get mediocre software. No one wants mediocre software.
I like to believe I’ve become pretty good at identifying talent and weeding out less-than-desirable candidates. During my career I’ve interviewed many candidates, possibly in the hundreds, and built successful development teams from scratch more than a few times.
Last week I received an email from our HR recruiting manager about a young, fresh out-of-college candidate that we really didn’t have a position available for, but had an internal referral and really wanted the opportunity to talk to us.
Our resulting conversation, or rather, the fact that I’ve had this conversation at least 3 times in the past year, is why I decided to write this post.
Here was my feedback to the recruiting manager:
This was a nice conversation, he’s a pretty smart kid. As I expected, his answers were wordy and rehearsed, pretty standard for someone fresh out of school with only scholastic experience.
That being said, after a few softball tech questions I drilled into his knowledge a little bit and really uncovered how junior he is. When I asked him about Agile, he recited a Wikipedia definition that most likely would get him a “B” on a test, but he couldn’t give me any specific examples of how he and his team used it or why it was “better than waterfall for modern projects” (his words).
We spoke only briefly about his PHP experience (it was on his resume), but after he couldn’t tell me how to concatenate a string or name any of the methods for dealing with databases I assumed he’d fall short on design patterns and implementation standards outside of what was written in a book.
Education is important, but more important than what you know is how you’ve taken what you learned and used it. I don’t care if you got an ‘A’.
When I talk to programmers, especially young ones, I’m looking for eager curiosity and self-taught experience. You can’t get this in a college classroom, it’s a personality. You either have it or you don’t.
As I interview more and more of our millennial generation I am finding that interviews like this are becoming more common. And that concerns me greatly. Somewhere along the line, our formal educational system evolved into a series of rewards for memorization and regurgitation of facts and definitions. Practical application and self-paced (self-motivated) curiosity have been replaced with the promise of
“Good grades = Good career”
To add complexity to the issue, the interview process itself is flawed. I could write a book (probably not a very good one) on interview questions and techniques and still not scratch the surface of every candidate’s true potential or knowledge. The sad fact is, I have 60 minutes (at best) to try and extract the complex answer to a simple question: “Should I hire this person?” I’m judging talent and aptitude, while trying to avoid knowledge and vocabulary.
As a software engineering student you are exposed to projects and deliverables, just like you will be in the working world. You were educated, ad nauseam, about waterfall, agile, branching and merging, and continuous integration. How did you use them in your project? Which of them worked for you, which didn’t, and why? How will you change your approach for your next project?
Everyone knows what a stone is. We can describe a stone and draw one, but only the great minds saw it as a building material and constructed great castles and cities. This is the skill I’m looking for, and it often hides itself well.
What I really wanted to say during the interview was “An interview and an exam do not share the same purpose, therefore they do not have the same answer. I’m not asking you about agile SDLC because I want to know if you know the definition. Frankly, I don’t care if you know the definition.” But I did not. Maybe I should have.
Many of the best programmers I’ve worked with have no formal college education, and many of them have no certifications of any kind, but they are still brilliant developers. Getting a degree in Computer Science does not make you a programmer any more than wearing feathers makes you a chicken.
Walk into your kitchen, unplug the toaster, take it apart and find out what makes it work. If this activity doesn’t interest you, maybe you should pick a field outside of engineering.
Today marks my final interaction with Comcast, the devil’s cable company! Well, maybe, on second thought I’m sure they’ll be calling me in 3 months with an unexplainable bill for some silly shit.
We’re moving out of Comcast’s service area, and all I needed to do was shut off my service. As you’d expect, my interaction with them was agonizingly long, and painfully over complicated.
But, at the end of my two chats and a phone call, I got the usual survey. Here was my input:
First agent did not understand my need, although it was explained in plain English. Second chat agent (after transfer) claimed “I don’t know why she transferred you to me… you need a different department”. Finally, after 20 minutes, I received the customer service phone number for the department I needed. This is my last interaction with you, I’m moving out of your serviced area, and I couldn’t be happier about it. In 20 years of home ownership, your company’s customer service is the absolute worst. Congratulations, you’re #1!
Another run in with our cable company, another two and a half hours on the phone, and another complete failure in every conceivable way.
So three weeks ago I get a call on my cell phone with promises of “the X1 operating system, free HBO, free Starz, and upgraded internet speed” all for the low, low price of $130/month. Not only that, we’ll get to keep both of our DVR’s and no other changes in our service agreement. I thought it sounded too good to be true. Turns out, as usual, I was right. Honestly, this one is on me. I knew better and every time, every damned time, I make a change to my cable service, I get screwed. But, I blindly believed what I was being told and signed up.
Two weeks goes by and no equipment, no email, no phone call. I even logged into my credit report to ensure I didn’t get taken by some scam artist who promised me he was Comcast only to talk me out of my personal information. Thinking back on this, maybe an encounter with someone trying to steal my identity would be less painful.
The website never seems to have agent chat available anymore, so I did what I always regret and called Comcast customer service.
After being half-helped and hung up on, twice, and holding for a total of at least 45 minutes, I got someone who had an IQ higher than that of a cucumber (only just) and we started the dance of agony that is Comcast’s verification process. I beat her to the punch: “my name is ——, my address is —–, and the last 4 digits of my social are —–. Can we please move forward?!”
I explained that I agreed to a new 2-year contract in exchange for the HBO, Starz, DVR boxes, wireless internet, blah, blah… Nothing had arrived, no one had contacted me, blah, blah, etc.
The agent pulls up my account information and explains that although the order was “put in but never shipped”. Thank you, captain obvious. He went on to explain that we were not, in fact, receiving two DVR’s, we were getting one X1 DVR that would record up to 5 shows at the same time, and a “companion box” that would be able to play those shows in any other room (wherever the companion box was). I was disappointed and asked to be contacted by a manager and to put the whole order on hold until I could get answers.
Fast forward three days, and the fucking package with my new equipment shows up at my door step. So much for the “hold”. Add to this that the DVR service stopped working in every room of our house, so holding off on installing the new equipment was basically pointless.
So the hell with it, I’ll eat the 2 year agreement and stay with the X1 companion box thing… I can’t imagine we’ll record more than 5 shows simultaneously.
Let’s plug in this stuff and get to it. Internet modem fires right up, living room box is SLOW to start up and load working channels, but eventually it gets working.
Last step was to instal the bedroom “companion box” that had caused all the kerfuffle. “Please enter your account number and phone number”, I click continue and… “This box needs to be added to your account. Please call 888 blah blah blah” FUCK MY LIFE.
3 customer service agents, one hang up, 54 minutes on hold. I was asked to “verify my account information” 4 times. FOUR FUCKING TIMES for a series of people to send multiple “reset signals sent to box”, and “can you please read me the error code again?”. And let’s not forget: “Sir, Starz isn’t included in your package, I’m not sure why the agent told you that it was”. “Of course not” I replied. “Of course not…”
After all of that, I’m awarded with nothing. Box is still broken, and a technician has to call me tomorrow between 5 and 9 PM. $100 says I get no call. I wonder how many times I’ll have to validate my information, unplug and re plug-in my box and receive “reset signals” before I get transferred to yet another asshat who can’t help me after I decide I’ve waited long enough and call the god damned 800 number. Be sure to tune in the next time I get my Xfinity internet service restored so I can blog about how pissed off I am about the 40 year contract they forced me into.
When the last big retail hack took place, ironically I think it was Target, I signed up for a Google Wallet card so I could put a layer of protection between my checking account and would-be thieves. So far the card has been pretty handy. You can add funds directly from your bank account with no fee, and even transfer money to friends via email. Pretty snazzy!
Earlier tonight I tried paying for my beers at the local World of Beer here in South Florida only to be declined. Not that this was a new development, my Google card gets declined all the time. So, I pick up my phone, open the Wallet app, and move over some funds.
But when I pulled up my transaction history, there was a $140.02 charge (the exact amount in my account, down to the penny), posted today, from a Target in Kissimmee, FL (home of Disney World, and surrounding shitty neighborhoods), which is 150 miles from here.
So, someone managed to get their hands on my Google account information. Looks like my paranoia paid off! Anyway, time to call the Google Wallet support line at 855-4-Wallet (how professional!) and report my issue.
And, here’s where the Google monster falls down. Had my bank identified a faulty transaction (which they have a few times in the past) there would be an immediate lock-down on my account, an investigation, and a full refund, all before I hung up the phone. But, that’s not what happened.
“Sir, I’m sending you an email with a link to our dispute form, which I encourage you to fill out right away.”
And what about my account? You know, the one connected to my checking account. Was it closed and locked? Nope. Disabled, or suspended? Nope. Customer service lady (who was very nice) told me she couldn’t do it. I had to do that from the app, on my own. Thanks Google!
Definition: 3 great cartoon shows followed by 6 hours of live-action shit jokes and random screaming we’ve told you is funny separated by commercials about nothing written by 6 year-old mental patients.
Like many others in the non-NYC area, I skipped over an article on CNN talking about cat-calling and street harassment aimed at women in the city. Like much of the rest of the US, my “left vs right” internal argument falls somewhere in the middle but I still managed to imagine the thinnest of liberalized arguments making a few uneducated, third-world-transplant construction workers generalized as everyday Americans. “Oh, stop fucking crying” I thought.
Then I watched this video, and I was mind-blown.
After you get past the stupid shit people are saying, and even the mind-boggling rate at which it is being said, there still remains a creepy and obvious threatening overtone. This is most apparent when watching her eyes as a barely-controlled panic sets in, darting from side to side and back to the camera in the man’s backpack for some kind of reassurance that she is safe from pending attack.
Although it is clear from the video that this approach is likely not resulting in “hook-up’s”, this has become an issue and reportedly is getting worse. This can only lead me to believe that it is either working (these me are actually getting dates with this behavior), or the power-shift is so addictive, men are willing to take the chance of being pepper-sprayed to continue it. Either way, the story is compelling (albeit, disgusting) from a psychological point of view.
Another hour and a half out of my life, wasted on the ever-sucking ass-hats of Comcast. Due to the seemingly reasonable rational of being completely exhausted of paying over $240 a month for cable that I barely use, I contacted Comcast-Xfinity via web chat. I should mention that this is my preferred method of contacting them as I frequently feel the need to stomp away angrily and scream obscenities back at the agent who is trying to “help” me. My original purpose was to remove all of my premium channels and stick with the basic cable line-up. What I didn’t realize was that the “basic cable” line-up is far from what you’d expect.
Anyway, the channel line-up options are in what basically amounts to three flavors:
As you’d expect, the price difference between the first and second options is massive while between the second and third is actually pretty reasonable (once you get past the ass-raping of the pricing).
Now, if you add the home phone service, which even my grandmother doesn’t use, you’ll “save” even more. The chat agent mentioned to me, more than once, that I had the option of just ‘not plugging in a phone’ even though I was receiving (and paying for) the service.
Anyway, at the end of my “experience” with the chat agent, I was asked (as I usually am) to take a “quick survey”. If you’ve read my other Comcast blogs, you know I can’t resist. Here is the actual text of the “comments” at the end of the survey:
Firstly, I’m convinced that no one reads these, but whatever maybe I’ll feel better after I type it out. The cable channel combinations are obviously set up to suck every last penny out of your customers with no concern for offering packages that people actually WANT. What the hell is the tennis channel? SERIOUSLY? I had 200 channels I never watched before the chat, and now I have some 140 channels I’ll never watch just to save a few dollars while keeping the ability to watch the few shows I actually DO want. And, that was no small feat, only accomplished by spending the last 1 and a half hours on a chat with your basically useless agent. This is the last time I’ll be changing my service. Once I’m used to using services like Hulu and Netflix, I’m leaving for good. I hope, truly and faithfully, that Comcast goes out of business completely. You know what? I DO feel better now. 🙂
In what I can only guess is an attempt to continue the stereotype that Americans are either too stupid, too removed from reality or both, Infinity has created this TV commercial featuring what, by all accounts, can only be described as “that guy who is the cause of every traffic accident, ever”.
The commercial shouldn’t include the disclaimer “professional on a closed course“, maybe more like “fucking idiot trying to kill everyone else on the road“.
Touting this car’s ability stop you from running soccer-mom-vans full of sticky-fingered children into a roadside creek is insulting and irresponsible. Congratulations Infinity, the only one-up to including anti-dumb ass technology in your cars is this commercial showing it off with captain-crash-a-lot.
In 2000 I bought an MR2 Spyder. I’ve written about it so frequently because it is probably the most reliable car I’ve owned. Especially when you consider that I drove it to work, 100 miles every day, and auto crossed on the weekends for over 130,000 miles. The only thing that ever broke on that car was the plastic thing that holds the hood prop when it is closed. I literally raced that little economy engine every weekend, at red line. I changed the oil and tires at almost the same rate, modified the holy hell out of the suspension, and that little bastard kept ticking with it’s little 138 hp smile.
Frequent readers know that I’ve owned two Nissan Z’s. Neither of them ever even saw a race track, auto cross, Dragon trip, or drag strip. Not even once. My first, the 350 Z was an 05 that ate through a clutch master cylinder ($350), front and rear rotors (before the 50k mark) ($400), a power window motor ($400), a rear-hatch strut ($80), and other various items. I was stuck on the side of the road with a broken 350Z a total of two times. After about 5 years of not learning my lesson, I picked up an 09 370Z which is my current (soon to be last) Nissan.
I purchased the second Z in 2011 with less than 20k on the clock, and by the end of 2012 I had already replaced the clutch master cylinder, the clutch, a bunch of transmission seals, and all of the transmission oil because of its decision to explode and hemorrhage fluid all over everything. This occurred somewhere in the 30-40k range, and manifested during my drive into work cruising down I-4 in regular traffic. Again, stranding me road-side waiting on a tow truck. In 2013 came the brake/rotor replacement that we’ve all come to expect from Z’s at about the 40,000 mark (all four rotors!). And later this year I was again blessed with another road-side, phone-a-friend, couldn’t-happen-at-a-worse-time incident when the security system fouled up while I was visiting my parents 150 miles away from home which cost me another $1600 plus a rental car, and two days of my time. Fast forward to this weekend (it’s like a gift, every year!) and ye hath received the holy trinity of Nissan Z-bullshit. As we were headed to dinner, the engine’s revs dropped dramatically and the engine moaned bloody murder as the fan belt drive on the AC compressor started its painful and audible slow death. My first reaction was to shut off the AC, which managed to get us to and from dinner and me to work the next day. But, as the serpentine belt’s screeching became more frequent, I knew it was time for another visit to the trusty dealership. I barely made it into the service garage with the 3.7 liter engine fighting with all its breath to overcome the inevitable full seizure of the accessory belt. After which, I was immediately thanked with a $1700 bill.
So far, this “reasonably priced sports car” has left me stranded, road-side, 3 times and cost me almost $6000 in repairs to systems that should not wear out on a car with less than 85k on the clock.
Anyway, if you’re looking for me this weekend, I’ll be test driving Subarus and trying to forget ever owning a Nissan.
I’ve had a Craftsman 3/8″ torque wrench for about a year and a half, maybe two years. It’s one of my favorite tools in the garage. In fact, take a look at the photo on the left and you’ll see me using it on my bike with a great big smile. Every semi-serious shade-tree mechanic needs a good torque wrench, and generally they last forever. And that’s a good thing, because you’ll rarely find a good one for less than $100.
I buy Craftsman tools because Sears stands behind its products (well, usually). Craftsman hand tools have a lifetime warranty, and I’ve personally returned more than a few. Suspension work frequently results in broken sockets and ratchets and Sears has always been great about returning them. But not all tools are created equally, and some of them, like torque wrenches, are only covered for a limited time.
Last week, I lent the wrench to a friend who managed (somehow) to break it. The grip became loose and the wrench’s torque set was stuck somewhere around 15 ft lbs. Now, I know that Sears only guarantees wrenches like this one for a year, but I figured what the hell and brought it down to my local store. I’ve read mixed reviews lately about returns, but my experience was nothing short of awesome. While standing in line, a sales associate and a guy in plain clothes approached me and asked if they could help.
When I explained the situation, the sales associate told me that the wrench was no longer covered. It was clear he recognized the older model and knew its age. I thanked them and said, “well, see if you can find a trash can to throw this into, then?” and handed over the wrench. That’s when the plain clothes guy stepped in and said “let’s see if we can figure out when you bought this wrench” and smiled at me. We walked to the nearest computer and he looked up the part number, and then asked me if I was a Craftsman Club member, which I am.
He never asked for my name, phone number, address or any other identifying information. He said to me, “so you bought this no more than a year ago”, without even waiting for my reply he looked at the sales associate and said, “swap him out, and make sure this one gets labeled as a return”. On my way out of the store, I stopped and shook the hand of the plain clothes man (it was clear now that he was a manager or supervisor of some kind). He smiled at me and said, “thanks for coming in, it was my pleasure”.
The price tag on the wrench was $69.99, and for a one-time investment, Craftsman has created a customer for life. I’ve spent thousands on tools, boxes, and benches over the years, and when Sears had the opportunity to do customer service right, they nailed it. Someone from Sears seriously needs to call someone at Kay’s.
Every once in a while, I get a nice cease and desist email from one of the companies I write about on my blog. This, however is not one of those. Hilariously, it is quite the opposite.
First, go read this blog post about Montel Williams and MoneyMutual.com
Then, read this email I received earlier today:
I’m Jay with MoneyMutual.com, and I wanted to thank you for linking to our site from these urls:
However, it has come to our attention that these links may have been acquired against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. It is important for us to bring our site into compliance. Would you please add a rel=”nofollow” attribute or remove our link from these pages and any other page on your site?
Thanks for the email Jay!
But, you didn’t even read my blog. Not a single word. At first, Money Mutual looked like an evil corporate predatory lending monster. And now… Well you guys still look that way and you’ve managed to add fucking stupid.
So, what the hell. As a former software developer I can see the importance of valid links for SEO purposes. Here’s my response to Jay:
Ever notice that there’s never anything on? Well, if you have Comcast you do. Because their fucking cable service doesn’t work.
That’s right… It’s broken again. Here’s the latest score:
Sunday, my cable box in the living room started freaking out. Blank screens, no guide information, sound would go out, DVR recordings wouldn’t play, etc.
So, on the phone we go… Again. After holding for what felt like 30 years, I hung up and went to the online chat. As usual the agent had me restart the box, read the serial number, restart again, hop on one foot while reciting the Greek alphabet and burning incense, but… No dice.
All I ever got back from the cable box was a lonely “0” on the screen and no sound or video.
The agent informed me that the box is toast, and they had to swap it out. Now I’ve had some experience with the repair jackasses coming to the house, so I opted for the “ship the new cable box” option. It arrived Wednesday.
I plugged in the new box, and went through the online activation instructions (http://www.comcast.com/activate/) which didn’t work. I know, I was surprised too!
The box reported via error message on the screen to call an 800 number. That number took me to a menu with no option for my problem. A second failure.
Finally, I went online and started another chat. After unplugging the box, a ceremonial fencing match with technology, and a great deal of “I’m so sorry you are having that problem, sir” commentary, it finally started working.
Today is Thursday. The very next FUCKING day. Now the cable box in the bedroom is freaking out. Won’t play DVR’d shows, no sound, no picture, random fucking broken bullshit.
This time I decide to skip the phone bullshit and go straight to the web. In a show of amazing patience and good nature, I don’t type in all caps and call the agent any names. Although, I must admit the lure of vulgar vernacular was almost too strong.
Long story, longer… One of their technicians will be at the house Sunday between 5 and 7. Which, when translated to Comcast technician-ese means Saturday at 11:00 AM when no one is fucking here… Again.
Whenever there is outrage, anger, or perceived injustice, the country reacts and we band together to make it all right again. Don’t we?
Yeah… Not so much. Let’s assume that you’ve been in a coma and let me take a minute and bring you up to speed.
The list goes on, and on, and on. Seriously, choosing only the ones above was a challenge. All of this injustice, all of this travesty… Surely someone must be doing something!
Truth is, no one is doing anything. No one. Nothing. Nothing is being done.
No super hero has come forward to save us, no justice seeking judge or famous-faced cop has stepped into the light to lead us to freedom. Nothing is being done. And we’re all so willing to turn the cheek and just go back to our lives. In fact, when you finish reading this we’ll shake our heads, and go back to ignoring all of it. And I’m just as guilty as the rest of you. The most I’ve done to fix the financial crisis or make a case against the TSA is blog angrily about it.
When Watergate came to light, the people called out the government and the President resigned. And that wasn’t enough! The scandal also resulted in the indictment, trial, conviction, and incarceration of forty-three people, dozens of them were Nixon’s top administration officials. (source)
When the NSA spying story broke, the ACLU started a lawsuit. Don’t let me spoil the ending for you, but… Best of luck collecting on that one. In the financial crisis of 2008, hundreds of laws were broken, billions of dollars funneled through falsely valued mortgages, and questionable (at best) methods were used by mortgage underwriters, insurance companies, and investors across the country. And as you may have guessed by now, no one is accountable except one random fall guy and a bunch of protesters: For those keeping score that’s ZERO bankers, and over 2,500 protester arrests. (source)
So, if I’ve done my intended job you are all riled up and pissed off like I am. But we won’t do anything about it. In 90% of the cases, we can’t. Neither you nor I can tip the scales of the elite vs the rest of the world. And in this time of a growing chasm between them, all we can do is step back and watch, and hope for some lubricant.