Runaway Future

31.12.2012

Reflecting

Filed under: The Daily Grind — forbes @ 18:23

They say that how you spend New Year’s is how you will spend the rest of the year.

Last year, I was a train-wreck on Chris’ couch and in a way, that chaos was mirrored throughout the year of 2012.

It was a roller-coaster, it was a challenge, it was a year I don’t wish on anyone. But I never quit, I never lost hope and that paid off.

In the same way that last New Year’s was an embarrassment and a regret, it was also spent surrounded by friends, who were willing to offer a helping hand when I was at my worst. And that too was a theme common throughout 2012. I struggled at times and those struggles are hardly unique or super important, but I am fortunate and proud that I am surrounded by awesome people.

12.12.2012

jobs and schemes; questions and dreams

Filed under: The Daily Grind — forbes @ 1:48

This post has been percolating in my head quite a bit. It’s about jobs and the interview process. That whole dance of employment.

For a number of reasons, I’ve found myself on the interviewee side of the table on a number of occasions over the past two years and I’ve definitely had some good experiences and some pretty poor ones.

Right at the top of the list of the poor ones are knowledge exams. I came against these primarily with a number of federal government competition processes. I don’t have anything against confirming knowledge, especially special skills, but the specific knowledge exams I wrote were a bit more academic (?) and less practical (?). So I had to answer questions about Windows key shortcuts and the number of pins on RAM sticks.

My issue with all this is that there I was sitting there, trying to guess what pressing the Windows key and the F key would do (it opens a search window), I was also trying to think of how I would ever really need that knowledge. Any actual job situation would have me either have a computer in front of me and be able to try the keys or have the tools to research these shortcuts on my own. I’m not trying to be difficult, it’s simply I had over five years of job experience and situations like “how many pins does a stick of DDR2 desktop SDRAM have?” (240) simply never came up.

It’s tough, because I know the knowledge exams are intended to filter out a lot of people who may or may not have the know-how, but I don’t know what sort of people they end up with? What kind of candidate passes these exams and how does their experience and skillset match up to mine?

It’s obviously sour grapes now, but that path of finding a candidate never seemed to make sense to me.

Which kind of brings us to the flip side of this: recently I found myself on the other side of the table and was the interviewer and not the interviewee.

At this point, I think it’s a good time to share what I felt was my favourite interview (spoiler alert, I didn’t get this particular job in the end). I went to lunch with a guy, he took my resume at face value, assumed that for me to be doing the job I was doing for five years, I would need to know something. So, he told me about the job and then I told him about myself and it all just seemed like that was how things should be done.

This aligns to a recent Guy Kawasaki AMA on Reddit where he said the best interview question is “tell me about yourself“.

This also aligns to a couple other cool techniques I came across, one being the 37 Signals advice on hiring the best writer and the other being from an interview where the interviewer asked me to explain the sport of curling to him because he had never player it. That all boils into how a person communicates, how they’re able to explain things and how relateable they are.

I wish I could say I took all these lessons and techniques and applied them flawlessly to my own spin in the interviewer chair, but that was hardly the case.

I actually felt a little guilty, because the guys we were interviewing were pretty junior and so in terms of giving them a good interview to have even that experience under their belt, I’m not sure if we accomplished it. But it was reflective of us and reflective of the company, a little more freeform, a little less structure, more collaborative and sharing of ideas.

There’s a lot can be learned through the interview process, through sitting down and talking about expectations and experiences. I don’t agree that it should simply be a confirmation of the information already provided on a resume and cover letter (I still believe at least some of what’s on those documents just has to be trusted), but it’s definitely quite a process and it’s a learning experience for the people on both sides of the table.

3.12.2012

Advice falls like snow

Filed under: The Daily Grind — forbes @ 0:59

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Or I guess, more to the point, what’s the best advice you can recall?

For me, there’s a few: there’s the guy I went to college with that once told me to “never settle”. To this day, it applies to so much in my life. Always aim and reach for a goal and never be satisfied for anything less.

There’s also the story, which I can’t remember how I ever got exposed to, where the ancient king asks for all the knowledge in the known world and continues to ask for it to be smaller and boiled down until it results in “this too shall pass”. A valuable lesson as well and one that has been a guiding light at times. Something to anchor some hope to.

But oddly enough, when I think about advice, it always comes back to a plumber.

When I was in college, in first year, I stayed in the basement of a house owned by a woman named Doreen. I never really saw eye-to-eye with her, but I can distinctively remember one day when there was a plumber in the house to fix some problem and instead of being at school and earning an education, I was hanging around the basement. So a conversation struck up.

In the conversation, two key pieces of information were passed to me. This was almost 10 years ago, but they stick with me to this day.

This first was this: Halifax always supports a winner. Which makes sense, given my experiences with sports over the last decade. The city, as a whole, seems to be tied to the idea of ‘being on a map’, attracted to success. This is why the Mooseheads make money and university hockey doesn’t, one of them is a pipeline to future big league domination, and the other is essentially what happens to those who don’t end up being sucked down that pipeline. This is also why the Rainmen aren’t particularly successful, but the arena will fill when it’s university basketball or a Raptors training camp. It’s a shame, but it rings so so true. The city loves a winner and is full of fair-weather fans. Halifax has arguably the best CHL team in the country this year and no surprise, the arena is packed and jumping each night.

The second piece of knowledge is a bit more personal. To understand it, I need to share a bit about where I was when I had this conversation. As I mentioned, this was first year of college and it was shortly after I interviewed George Davis, a Mooseheads player who was drafted by the Ducks. It was the first interview I ever did and it was the first time I really considered journalism as any sort of serious possibility. At the time, I wasn’t necessarily satisfied with my college program in computer programming, but I hardly had any idea what to do with my life as an idiot 18-year-old.

So hanging out in the basement with a plumber, he threw me this nugget: “I figure, if you’ve got most of that stuff figured out by the time you’re thirty, you’re in pretty good shape.” He went on to explain the checklist, which is something that, I can admit, I’ve been chafing against a bit since then: the whole idea of getting a job you can live with, an idea on what you want to do with your life, maybe an idea on who you want to spend your life with, where you want to live, what kind of person you want to be.

I don’t really subscribe to the checklist idea, the thought that you get the job, get the girl, make her the wife, then the house, the picket fence and the family. Maybe, eventually I will, but for me, right now that’s not what I’m about. But that in itself is also a self-realization I didn’t have 10 years ago.

Which brings us to now. Now all of the sudden, I’m 28. I’m not a computer programmer, because I was right, that wasn’t for me. I’m also not a journalist, because that’s not a viable path either. But I feel like I’ve found some direction (this is the point where I gush about my job, I guess). And to me, that’ s a bit of a relief, because it harkens back to the plumber too. Here I am, two years away from a silly arbitrary deadline and yet, I think I know my path and as long as I keep running, as fast as I can, along that path, I feel that nothing can touch me, let along stop me. At the very least, I know what kind of person I want to be and perhaps even what I want to do with my life.

The past two months have been extremely busy and in many ways they’ve been the culminations of work that I’ve done over the past five years, if not the past decade. But it feels like it’s all worth it and it feels like as long as I keep sprinting, keep going down this path, everything else will start to untangle and figure itself out as well. It’s all at an unsustainable pace and I know that, but more importantly, I appreciate that it feels like it’s the correct path, which is some direction I think I’ve lacked for quite some time, and  at the same time, it’s also the precise sort of direction that a plumber once told me about, when I was just a kid, sitting in a basement, not wanting to be a computer programmer.

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