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Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! | Reply
TC got me in for a stage one phone screening with a certain, unnamed financial institution that's sponsoring the TCO06. ;) It's this Friday. My recruiter was unclear; I think I'm being considered for their mid-to-senior Java developer position.

I really want this opportunity and I'm petrified that I'm unqualified.

Has anyone else met with them? What are they looking for? I don't even have an undergrad degree; the one I'm pursuing is in Business Admin. My experience is all business intelligence: no hardcore IT. I'm a self-taught programmer, and am self-taught in algorithms, with no formal math or science exposure beyond pre-college calculus. I've never done real Java server work. I don't think I fit their mold.

I'm assuming that the job will be on a team that develops the plumbing components for their trading platform. It will be multithreading and I/O heavy, with a huge focus on latency. I've devoured 1200 pages over the past 2 days on concurrent programming, I/O, and Java NIO. I've even picked up 2 quantitative finance texts for good measure, and am starting on those.

Is there anything that I'm missing? Should I be looking at JVM console/administration type stuff? Maybe testing platforms? How about getting a handle on the FIX protocol?

I really want this opportunity, and am willing to study my butt off to catch up. Is this enough? Or will they only take someone who can hit the ground running?

If anyone who's met with these guys (especially if they were successful) can shed any light, I would REALLY appreciate it.

Thanks!
Re: Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! (response to post by entaroadun) | Reply
One thought. If you want this job you shouldn't post things like " I don't think I fit their mold" here, it's likely they read this forum too. :)
Re: Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! (response to post by slex) | Reply
Definitely don't mean to hijack this thread, but if I were him, I would hope they DO read these forums, because that post would DEFINITELY drive me to hire him! I mean, just judging from the work he's put in the last couple of days, not to mention his obvious willingness to learn, and desire to perform well for the company... I think he's a pretty good fit. ;-)

Good luck!
Re: Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! (response to post by entaroadun) | Reply
Don't panic.

Don't cram - this is not an exam!

Be confident in what you know, what you can learn, and how hard you can work. Oh and how smart you are - but don't be cocky.

Just accept that they may be looking for someone who can learn what's needed, and who's smart enough to fill the position. And they may not.

Remember, an interview is also for you to determine if the company and position is a good fit for you. (In other words, for you to decide whether what's on offer is acceptable to you)
Re: Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! (response to post by tolkienfan) | Reply
Thanks for the feedback, guys.

I don't mind telling everyone that I don't think I'm quite ready for this. I'm being honest. They'll figure it out in the first 15 minutes anyways.

What I'm effectively trying to do is switch careers, from business intelligence to hardcore Java server developer. Traditionally, I'd have to take an entry-level dev job, go back to school, work on getting certified, and work for several years to get back to this level. School is expensive, and I can't finance it on a paycut.

If it weren't for TC, I wouldn't even have this interview. This is an amazing opportunity, and I want to convince them that I'm a good fit. Even if they want someone who hits the ground running, I'm willing to do whatever it takes in the two-week timeframe between offer letter and acceptance to be able to hit the ground running.

But I want to make sure that I'm covering the right bases. I'm not even sure if I got the right job description from TC. Can anyone help clarify what this job is?
Re: Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! (response to post by tolkienfan) | Reply
I agree that being confident in your abilities but not cocky can help a lot in an interview (especially a technical interview, which I'm not sure that this will be).
Re: Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! (response to post by entaroadun) | Reply
If they're interested in hiring from TopCoder, they are not the kind that hires buy "most checked boxes". They will be looking for someone talented for sure, but not necessarily experienced. Someone willing to learn, with an edge.

I do believe in being prepared - so find out all you can about who they are and what they are looking for (especially).

But I wouldn't recommend trying to learn a ton before you interview. If they want you to be experienced in an area, they will ask what projects best demonstrate your abilities in said area.

If it's a Java developer position, get familiar with a broad spectrum of the APIs. Don't try to learn all the details, just try to pick up what's there, so to speak.
Do they want client, Swing/AWT? Servlet? JDBC? DOM/SAX? RMI? JNDI? Threads and synchronization may be differentiators rather than requirements. Familiarity enough to read UML diagrams might be useful, and a quick glance at the main design patterns will help you communicate.

But as I said before, they probably want to know how you think, relate to them, and communicate; and how much effort you bring, rather than how much experience you already have. (I could be way off base - best to get as much info from the recruiter as you can).

Best of luck.
Re: Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! (response to post by tolkienfan) | Reply
If they're interested in hiring from TopCoder, they are not the kind that hires buy "most checked boxes". They will be looking for someone talented for sure, but not necessarily experienced. Someone willing to learn, with an edge.

I think this is a very important point here. Remember, that if you've been setup for this interview by a TC recruiter, TC has already been working with the company for some time, and the company well understands what TC is, and who TC members are, what a rating really means, etc. They already understand the value inherent by looking to hire from within the TC member base. They know it's a little different than the traditional "send in your resume, and we'll call you" kind of hiring. And they want it to be different. They want someone who has that 'talent', to be able to think quickly and learn.

Moreover, being a part of TC already speaks volumes about what interests you... it means you ENJOY programming... a lot! Though intangible, that's very valuable on the job... and something you probably won't learn from a book, or in a class, or even with experience.

Don't worry, just know that you want this job because it's something you like to do, and it's a company you want to work for. That's a good starting point.
Re: Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! (response to post by entaroadun) | Reply
How did it go?
Re: Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! (response to post by tolkienfan) | Reply
It was a first phase phone screening, and the job description turned out to be different than what I was expecting: no multithreading and NIO, data warehousing and J2EE instead. All of that cramming wasted (well, not really wasted...). Anyways, I was on more solid ground with my BI experience, though my data warehousing isn't as deep as I would like, and I have no professional experience with J2EE.

It must have gone well, because I made it to the next round, and actually had a second phase onsite today. It was a 6-hour long gauntlet, and I met with 7 people.

They're actively deliberating over the next few days, so I'll hold my tongue. I think my raw aptitude and willingness to work and learn impressed them. My fingers are crossed...
Re: Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! (response to post by entaroadun) | Reply
Thanks for sharing. I wish you luck and hope to read more after the end of the process.
kfas
Re: Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! (response to post by entaroadun) | Reply
Cool. And best of luck!
Re: Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! (response to post by entaroadun) | Reply
Whatever happened with this? I'd like to know!
Re: Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! (response to post by EmperorofUnivrs) | Reply
Did u now know which company was this??
Re: Interview on Friday - Panicking!!! (response to post by S_A_R_O_J) | Reply
Probably UBS.
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