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Interviews at Waterloo

  • 11th Feb, 2005 at 6:09 AM

This was the most novel interviewing experience I've ever had in Waterloo. I have helped with them two times previous, but never before has the trip been so notable.

In fact, I wasn't really planning to go at all. After cloquewerk returned from Amsterdam, he's been wanting to do interviews again. So I let him take my spot interviewing Human Cannonballs. However, another co-worker feel horribly ill a week before, and didn't look like she'd get better by the time she had to do interviews. So I volunteered to talk to Evil Death Rays in her stead.

I spent last Friday booking travel and lodging and then read up on testing jargon (which I never used.) On Saturday, I ironically got a cold, but got over it. On Sunday's train trip, I must have caught something because I suffered for the next couple of days.

It's amazing how little difference it takes to make a train trip enjoyable as opposed to just tolerable. Sitting in first class, they will bring you snacks, drinks, and a pillow for your back. You have extra room to stretch out your feet. Your seat-back reclines another 20°. Actually the seats alone in second class would make travelling better.

On the way down, I chatted with the gentleman seated next to me. He is an American Federal employee working for the Food and Drug Administration. He seemed to have very many opinions, and a rather rambling style of conversation that went all over the place. I think I used to talk like that, but I have enough discipline now to string a thread of continuity through it all. When he got off the train, he left behind a car magazine with his name and address on it. So if I ever want to write to him, I can. What an odd idea.

I got into Kitchener a little after the Superbowl finished. This was sub-optimal, since it meant that there were no taxis to ferry anyone at all. A bunch of us waited outside the train station for about an hour. A couple taxis that we called came by, but none of them actually stopped to let anyone on. Bizzarre. Finally, a Waterloo Taxi pulled up, and I shared my cab with a girl. She's in first-year Anthropology at Waterloo, and has no idea what to do with her life. She is, however, interested in Tibet. Instantly, my mind associated with the Tibetian prayer flags hanging in the NitiHouse. After I told her why I was in Waterloo, she mentioned a friend of hers in Software Engineering. I tried to find my business cards, but eventually resorted to ripping out a page of my notebook and scrawling some information there. I later discovered my cards were in my wallet.

I spent most of my time interviewing students at some level of drug-induced insensitivity. I spent a large portion of the time gobbling ibuprofen and decongestants. What I found interesting about the Evil Death Ray position is that people self-select for one of two reasons. Either they apply because they feel unqualified for the Human Cannonball position, in which case we have people with few skills whatsoever. Or they apply because they have lots of experience with testing, in which case we have people who have little programming experience.

Strangely enough, the Evil Death Ray job is actually best suited for a programmer-type. To be more specific, the particular programmer sub-type that enjoys breaking things. Which means we're hoping to draw from the same small group of people that generate security consultants. This is not a large pool. There has to be this mix of malicious abuse of the software itself, combined with the ability to write automated test-cases that will generate this abuse day-in and day-out. Because really, who wants to do grunt-work? But it does mean that we have to find some way of attracting people who can do this job well.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
11th Feb, 2005 14:08 (UTC)
Evil Death Ray: So that's YOUR company! Cool!
11th Feb, 2005 22:33 (UTC)
Consider writing a "what Software Test is REALLY like" pamphlet. People have no idea, most times. And hey, consider hiring a tech writing consultant to do the job :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )