Mike’s Dump

June 26, 2005

RE: Looking for Clues about Culture in the Hiring Process

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 4:20 am

I was reading this post this morning and it got me thinking about my the hiring processes of my first IT job and my current job.
My first interview for a full time position in IT was horrible. I was brought past the reception area to the “board room”. The vacumm cleaner was sitting in the corner (I don’t think they had used it in a while). There were about four book shelves each half full but for some reason there were books and loose paper spread out on the floor. The table looked like something stolen from a fastfood resturant. The photocopier was also in this room. You’d think for being a “board room” with all of this stuff in it it would have to be a fairly big room but it probably about 12′ x 12′. When I tried to sit down I had to squeeze into my chair.
With the length of the interview that I had we could have stayed standing. The questions that I remember:

  1. Where did you go to school?
  2. Do you know dBase? (no)
  3. Do you know Visual Fox Pro? (no)
  4. Do you know how to write SQL statements? (yes)
  5. But you don’t know dBase, eh? (umm, still no)

“Ok I think I got all that I need. I’m going to do a few more interviews and I’ll get back to you”
So after that interview I figured nothing would come of it and I wasn’t too worried because I had a contract position that I was working on at the time. Two weeks later I got a call and he wanted me to start the next day. The catch of course was he wanted me to almost work for free ($10/hour). I figured it was a full time position and the contract was going to be ending fairly soon so why not.
Thinking back on this now, enough of this organization was revealed during the hiring process that it would send a developer with any kind of experience running for the hills. I just wanted to get some experience so I took the job. I’m really glad I did too because my vacuuming and trash removal skills were pretty week before I got that job (I’m sure my wife appreciates my experiences there).
At my current job I have had the opportunity to participate in the interview process (with my manager and another team lead). What I think is great about our interviews is they are a pretty accurate representation of our culture. My manager probably for about two-thirds of the year is in shorts and sandals. Our most important question that we ask most interviewees is “do you drink beer”. We do manage to ask some technical questions and find out a little more about them other than the beer question. The interviews, I think, are a lot like the way we do are work, we get the job done but still make time for fun.

June 23, 2005

Worst Job Ever – Live Hang

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 1:56 pm

Ahh Rory. You had me hooked with The Liars, scared me a little with Naughty, naughty, naughty, and opened old wounds with crappy jobs.
My crappiest job ever was working for Lillydale Poultry. For those that haven’t heard of them it is a poultry processing plant which takes chickens and turkeys from the farms all the way to being frozen and shipped to the local grocery store.
The first thing you might ask is, didn’t you know that would be a crappy job going in? I guess at the time I thought how much worse could it be than pizza delivery (I’ve had a few crappy jobs).
I have a pretty weak stomach so my biggest concern at the time was I’d puke all over the place once I saw what went on in the building. The smell in the office area alone had me thinking about making a run for it. I’m sure they expected a few people not to last to long (I was hired in a group of 35) so on the first day during orientation we received our plant tour. Before we walked through the plant they said if you can’t handle it just leave and a few people did.
Later that day I found out that I was going to be in packaging. Which for me and my weak stomach I thought this was great because everything is in a state that you’d be buying it in the store anyways.
On my first day I underdressed. I didn’t know that they keep the temperature a couple degrees above freezing and with high humidity. I was always cold and damp. I would go to work in the middle of summer wearing long underwear because I didn’t want to be cold at work.
Here was an average day:

  • Cutting whole turkeys into parts on an assembly line
  • Removing the skin from the from thighs and breasts and putting everything in boxes
  • The more exciting days involved putting the meat on trays instead of boxes which were wrapped individually. (I got to put stickers on them!)
  • Taking chickens from a conveyer belt and putting them on an assembly line for automatic cutting
  • Throwing the chickens onto the conveyer belt

If you didn’t perform to the foreman’s satisfaction you got yelled at. If you took too long in the bathroom someone would check on you. If you felt sick and wanted to go home they tried to give you drugs and get you to lie down for twenty minutes. If you talked to much they found you a worse job. If there was overtime to be done and you are lowest on the totem pole you had to stay. When they had an ammonia leak fans were brought in so we could keep on working (isn’t that thoughtful?). There were days that my hands hurt so bad I couldn’t make a fist. Remember I was in packaging and this was one of the best areas you could work in.
A few times I was sent to evisceration (gutting the birds). Yes, it is as gross as you can imagine. Before I started I thought this had to be the worst place I could be sent… I was wrong. “Live Hang” is by far the most disgusting thing that I’ve ever done and hopefully ever will. Imagine a truck bay large enough to enclose a semi with a trailer. It is kept very dark to keep the chickens or turkeys calm. It seemed like there was no ventilation whatsoever. There were thousands of birds on each truck and six guys to hang them upside down by their legs on shackles at a stupid pace (You’d often feel the legs snap if they didn’t go in just right).You had to where a mask to keep all the dust out of your lungs but there was nothing for your eyes. Being a new guy in the area the others thought it is funny to squeeze the chickens to make them crap on you. After you finished unloading the truck you went down and picked up the birds that got ran over or chased the live ones down to hang on the shackles.
I did this for a year almost ten years ago now and it still makes me sick to my stomach thinking about “Live Hang”. I guess the mind numbing experience in packaging gave me enough time to figure out what I wanted to do. One of the happiest days of my life was giving my notice and going back to school. Thinking about this also helps put some things back into perceptive. If a project manager is trying to push an unrealistic delivery date, it could be worst; I could have s-h-i-t in my eye.

Word Error Message

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 12:11 pm

I’ve seen my fair share of “great” error messages. You know the type, error messages that leaving you thinking what the hell was the developer smoking when they wrote that?
This morning I tried opening a design document that I’ve been reviewing and I got the below error message. I’ll admit it isn’t an instance classic but I thought it was worth the screenshot anyways.

The document that I was opening was probably based off the Design Doc template.dot but it was not the file that I opened. Things usually get to me pretty easily when I’m tried and I’ve been pretty tired this week. But if the error wasn’t serious would you tell me about it? I’m also pretty sure there was no error when I opened this document last time so what was the error that Word is talking about? If I decide to open it what is the worst that could happen… “a very serious error” could occur?
I was feeling lucky and decided to take a big risk and say yes. I grabbed the mouse a little tighter, sat up a little straighter in anticipation… would the document open? Well of course it did. It’s a Word document opening in Word 2003. With that many versions under their belt you’d think loading a file wouldn’t be too difficult.
Some might say just click on the Show Help button Mike and stop your whining. Office help, you mean that stuff with the stupid paper clip? Don’t get me started on that.
Goodnight!

June 22, 2005

Five Rules for Better PowerPoint Presentations

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 12:08 am

Great tips for better powerpoint presentations at Working Smart

June 19, 2005

Father’s Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 7:00 am

This is what it is all about. This is why I attack shampoo bottles
without fear. This is why I can be covered time and time again in every
body fluid that a child can produce and keep a smile on my face. It’s
the days like these when my daughter looks up at me and says, “Dad I made
this for you” that I realize it doesn’t matter how difficult things get, I can always come home to my family.

Here is what Isabelle did for me.

Placemat
Card
Isabelle's Card

Hard Drive Failure

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 6:55 am

Argh! It looks like I’m about to experience my first hard drive
failure. I noticed the other day that my DNN site wasn’t working. I
checked the error and first it was complaining something in the
web.config (I hadn’t changed anything). Then I started getting some
really strange SQL Server errors. After investigating the errors it
said it was most likely a sign of failing hardware. I checked the event
log and there were some paging errors when trying to read from one of
my drives… that can’t be good.

I managed to get my Community Server and DNN databases backed up (only
DNN gave me grief). I finally just dropped my DNN db and restored from
backup and it appears to be ok… for the time being. Oh well, it’s
time to upgrade that computer anyway.

June 18, 2005

Set database to single user mode (SQL Server/MSDE)

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 6:56 am

For example, to set pubs database to a single user mode, you can use the following statement:
EXEC sp_dboption ‘pubs’, ‘single user’, ‘TRUE’
The database has to be in single user mode to try and repair it.

June 17, 2005

I’m not alone. ‘My’ ‘That’ is really silly

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 12:04 pm

I was blogging the other day (Microsoft takes the �my’ out of computing) that I thought the whole “My” namespace being added to VB.NET 2005 was well, silly.
If you haven’t heard “That” has been created for C#. It is nice to see that I’m not alone in my thinking that this is questionable.
http://blogs.geekdojo.net/ryan/archive/2005/06/15/8503.aspx
http://www.secretgeek.net/MeMyThisThat.asp
Here is “that”
http://blogs.msdn.com/danielfe/archive/2005/06/14/429092.aspx
Looking at the glass half full I guess both languages are being polluted equally 🙂

June 15, 2005

Dad, It’s Floating

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 8:57 am

Being a dad I’ve always expected I’d have to fend off evil closet
monsters, big spiders or something under the bed. I never imagined I’d
have to rescue a daughter from a scary floating shampoo bottle. Erika,
my youngest daughter (22 months), will not get into the bathtub if
there is a shampoo bottle in there that will start floating as the
bathtub fills. She doesn’t actually say, “dad, it’s floating”, she just
points, screams and fights to not go into the bathtub. Recently she has
even started throwing some of her toys out of the bathtub (the
ones that float of course). I should probably find a way to work this
into a punishment; eat all your vegetables or I’ll put you in the
bathtub with the bottles.

June 14, 2005

Communication

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 1:22 pm

Communication is hard. I mean good communication is hard. Actually communicating in a way that accurately describes what you are thinking or feeling so that others understand you is hard. Did I get it that time? Do you know what I mean?

A long time ago I had on my resume that I had excellent oral and written communication skills. I probably saw that on a sample resume, thought it sounded good and put it on my own. When I need to get a point across I wouldn’t say that I’m incapable but describing myself as an “excellent” communicator is stretching it. I removed this statement from my resume a few years ago but it something that I’m working on so I feel comfortable putting back on. The main motivation to improve is just so I don’t embarrass myself by stepping on my own tongue when trying to talk or worse it comes out wrong and my foot ends up in my mouth (my foot tastes like crap).

There are three main ways that I communicate with others; by phone, by email or face to face.

I have never been a phone person. I short I really hate the phone. I feel most of the time that when I phone someone that I’m interrupting them… and I am. It is pretty unlikely that the person is on the other side just waiting for me to call. Ever notice how telephone solicitors always seem to call when you are eating. They call at this time because there is a good chance that you are going to be home eating. They want to interrupt you while you are eating! The other thing that I hate
about the phone is you can’t read body language. If the same person came to my door while I was eating I would most likely be just as annoyed that someone is trying to sell me crap while I’m eating but the difference is the person at the door is going to be able to pick up on this pretty easy (if they care or not is another matter).

When I got into IT I fell in love with email. Email was great. It can be short and too the point with very little fluff. A lot of times this works very well (quick question on a task) but if any sort of debate starts in an email chain watch out. If you get into a heated debate on the phone you may not have the visual queues but you can pick up on changes in tone in someone’s voice, which can dramatically effect how you may respond. Unfortunately this gets lost in most emails. I CAN TYPE IN ALL CAPS to get someone’s attention, but when I do, at that point am I so pissed off that I’m ready to come over and kick some butt or am I just trying to emphasize a key point that is important to me? Any of my emails that I send now-of-days that are of a more serious nature end up being quite long. I do my best to be very detailed, pick my words carefully and do whatever I can so that I’m not misunderstood. I’ve had some success this way but a lot of times I find myself sending a follow-up email trying to clarify that I wasn’t pissed off when I clicked send or no I meant this and not that. The other downside is these long emails normally take me a long time to write.

So, I don’t like the phone and email is a hit and miss. Avoiding face-to-face communication is one of the reasons that I got into software development. I thought being locked in a poorly lit room, having food pushed under the door and a paycheck direct deposited sounded great (I thought it sounded better than the commission life insurance and mutual fund sales that I was doing at that time). After the sales job I had a number of jobs that allowed me to stay fairly silent most of the day but I was normally board to death. Getting into IT gave me the right mix of being able to use my head while still keeping to myself. Over the past couple of years I have changed a lot and I’m looking for ways to become a more effective communicator (one of my motivating factors for starting a blog). Instead of just keeping my head down and sticking to my own tasks I want a more active role in shaping how things are done from a higher level, which requires more communication. It has taken me a number of years to realize this but excellent oral and written communications skills are one of the most important skills a person can have. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll realize that the phone isn’t that bad after all 🙂

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