Go with a smile!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Great Job Hunt part 2

I went into the third interview thinking that I had blown it.

There was that first interview which took place over the phone. I had been contacted over email regarding that phone interview: I probably gave them a resume in a job fair, but I couldn’t remember that booth. The first interview was relatively easy, he just asked me about my experience.

This is what happened during the second interview: I didn’t feel exactly 100% at home when they brought me into the room, but I looked at the question they had on the table for me, and after a few minutes, I wrote them an answer. They looked at it, and then they said, hey, that’s a really neat way of solving the problem. I probably did it in 2 steps, while everybody else’s problem would take 4 or 5.

I’ve never been totally comfortable with Americans, especially white Americans. Never been totally comfortable among the hipsters and the geeks although I will totally take them over a bunch of ah bengs or a bunch of jocks. That place looked a lot like what you’d find in a typical startup: quite bare of furnishings, spacious, concrete everywhere. Austere, probably a lot of kiddie toys lying around. It was an office downtown, not far away from University of Mexico, with a nice view.

After a while, the conversation drifted to Singapore. The founders had visited Singapore once and were quite intrigued about Asia. One of them was an Asian-American, although he wasn’t there at that time. I felt a little uneasy talking about Singapore and after a while tried to drag the conversation back to the real stuff, asking them about their technology. But they said that they were curious about Singapore.

After the conversation ended, I was ushered out. The main thing they did impressed me: over 10 years, and working with a team of not much more than 5-10, they built a product which probably takes as much work to build as Microsoft Word. That was remarkable. I flipped through a few things in my mind that I probably shouldn’t have said, for example: I said that “Mexico” reminded me of Singapore 20 years back. I meant a more laid back, easy going Singapore and a better place to live in. Would that be misconstrued? I said that if you wanted to do real machine learning, you’d probably have to hire a PhD. Was that an open invitation to reject me? When they told me that they were setting up a new analytics department, I said that decisions that you make early when you are setting things up will come back to haunt you later if they are the wrong ones. Was that a reminder that they had to think very carefully before they hired me? I even repeated a joke cracked by my archenemy Edna Mode: how 前人种树,后人乘凉 got parodied into 前人种树,后人遭殃

I thought that they were going to send me a polite note thanking me for my time after that. To my amazement they invited me back for another round. This time, I met both co-founders, including the Asian American. (Parents were Taiwanese). We talked – this time the interview was tougher. I had to explain what I was doing in my project. (Of course I tried to make it sound more important than it really was). Tried to sell the point that my previous experience was in line with the capabilities they were looking for. In the email inviting me to the third interview, a founder told me that he was attending a big data conference. The interview took place after another less successful one: there was a class where the enrollment was restricted, because it involved Big Data and plenty of computing resources. I told the prof what I previously did, and he did not allow me into the course. I thought this was a bad omen for the third interview.

But towards the end of the third interview, they told me that they were seriously considering me. What followed next was a glimmer of hope. For me it was 50-50. They even walked me all the way to the bus stop: it was 5 blocks away from the lunch place.

Something bizarre took place when I was waiting for the bus to take me back to the university, when a woman 10 years older than me in a summer dress came up to me. She had a heart sign drawn on her forearm, and she said bizarre things like, “isn’t today a beautiful day? Don’t we all want to be ourselves today? Do you want to be yourself today?” I muttered that mostly we don’t really have a choice but to be who we are. Thankfully the express bus (which actually arrives only every hour) came within the next 5 minutes, otherwise I would have to suffer the indignity of seeing her work her middle aged feminine charms on me. However, that overaged manic pixie dream girl did ask me one salient question: "Is this your lucky day?"

Next 10 days was thankfully finals week. I had to force feed myself around 20% of one course’s material over 3 days. It was pretty intense, and operating systems – you didn’t understand half of what the papers were being talked about. I felt like a total blur fuck. To my great surprise, I was able to write the exam afterwards. Then right after the exams, it was the usual routine – scrambling to have your papers written, I had set up your experiments to run some time ago, but somehow procrastinated on writing the report. Then after that, the last homework assignment for another course. Then after that, a project that my partner was supposed to finish on his own, but he didn’t because he wanted to help me with the other project when I didn’t want it.

Finally, after everything was done, I sank back onto my own bed, exhausted. When I woke up, though, there was an email waiting for me. It said that I got the job.

At the same time, though, I still had a few replies from the people I sent my resume to in the job fair. I wasn't close friends with hippo when we were both colleagues, but I remember something he said: Job applications teach you a lot of things. Keep on applying for jobs, even if you don't need one, because the process of applying for jobs keeps you in touch with the job market.

I spoke with the boss the other day. He told me that I'm the first foreigner to work for that company. He had never procured a work permit visa for me before, and it could be a problem. Now the job offer is the job offer, and the way it works is that I get an extension on the student visa, and in the meantime they get the work permit visa for me. And if it doesn't work - well let's really really hope that it does work. Now I know what Shingot feels like. But difference between him and me is that if I want to go back to my country it's OK. Maybe less so for him if he were to go back to his country.

There will probably be a part 3 because I'm still going to shop around. Unless what follows this is dismal failure all around.


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