It’s been awhile since I’ve written an entry into this blog. Been quite a busy time for me at RIT. Quarter is coming to an end, assignments are coming due, and all other kinds of fun, fun stuff. A lot has happened, but I’ll keep it down to a few points to keep this entry (relatively) short.

First off: Ben Folds concert. Recently, the artist Ben Folds gave a concert at the Gordon Field House here at RIT. One word can describe his performance: Exceptional. I haven’t been to many concerts in my time, but this was a great time. Folds is funny, interesting, and incredibly talented at what he does. It was an awesome night of humor, random vulgarity, and great music. The openers weren’t that great for the show (The first one, a female vocalist, was fairly good. The second opener, hip hop artist “Black Violin” was awful), but Folds brought it back and the night was an incredible time. I could devote an entire entry to the concert, but that’s for another time.

Second: I finally found a co-op. Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America (TEMA) has hired me for a summer and winter co-op (the second term is not sure yet, but it will be two terms). At the co-op I’ll be programming in Visual Basic .NET and SQL, two languages which I’m not horribly familiar with, but I feel I could learn very quickly. If anyone has any experience with either language, please feel free to give me some hints or tips in the comments or my e-mail.

Kentucky’s a far way off, but it’ll be fun to finally get off the East Coast (kinda) and live in a new place. Plus, the co-op is located in the town of Erlanger, KY, which is about a half hour from Cincinnati, Ohio. Maybe catch a Reds game or something over the summer.

I think a co-op will be a great change of pace from the normal term at school. Being able to focus on one or two topics that are (hopefully) closely related will be a lot better then focusing on the menagerie of topics I’m required to focus on during school. And plus, no homework. And also, getting paid.

That, my friends, is a true winning combination.

Finally, the last topic I will talk about will be trying to intimidate people. I’m not at liberty to mention any names and such, but one as myself and two friends were leaving class today, another student grabbed my friend by the shoulder and said “You better watching your [fornicating] mouth”

This was in response to said friend speaking to the prof. in class, and when being interrupted by this student, my friend more or less told him to shut up. Which was, of course, hilarious in its own right.

However

If you’re going to try to intimidate someone, you must meet a few criteria:
1. You must be physically imposing.
Do not try to intimidate someone if you are not either A) Very strong/muscular or B) Much larger then the other person. I don’t care if you know akido or karate or anything like that. If you don’t look intimidating, you can’t be intimidating (easily)

2. Don’t do it in front of their friends
Seriously. It makes you look stupid. And it also takes away any advantage you may have alone.

3. Don’t run away afterwards
Leaving the situation makes it look like you gave up. And it gives the other people/person time to laugh.

And most importantly, don’t do it at all. Trying to be intimidating or aggressive makes you look like a little child who just got his toy taken away. If you’re offended by something someone says, talk to the person or just cut your losses and live with it.

Don’t be an idiot. Period.

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The Spring Career Fair (or Job Fair, or whatever) ar RIT happened last Wednesday, the 28th. This was the first job fair that I (and a good amount of my friends) attended. I forget how many companies were there, but according to the RIT co-op website, “over 2,000 of you attended, with 685 interviews the next day!”

I’m no math major, and while that’s a large amount of interviews, it translates to about 34% of students getting interviews; and that’s best case. That didn’t happen, because some people were able to get multiple interviews. I was lucky; I snagged two job interviews. More on that later.

The fair took place in the field house, with all manor of companies attending. Big-name companies such as Microsoft, nVidia, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, AMD, and Toyota (had to mention Toyota) as well as a lot of smaller, lesser-known companies. Most of the people at the booths were nice, friendly, pleasant people.

And then there was Microsoft.

I think I just had bad luck at that booth. The person I spoke had a very palpable “I’m better than you” manor about him, which really, really pissed me off. I like to think I’m not an angry person, but something like that really, to quote Peter Griffin, “grinds my gears.”

I don’t care who you are. The fact that you have a job at Microsoft does not make you better than me.

This event won’t, of course, stop me from applying to and trying to get a co-op or job at Microsoft; I just didn’t like one of the representatives they sent.

Oh, and on a side note, it’s kinda interesting which companies know what Computer Engineering is and which don’t. Most don’t realize we’re a CS and EE mix, some have never heard of us, and some believe we’re Information Technology majors. I don’t fault these people, and I realize that some of these companies are non-engineering firms. I just thought it was funny.

The interviews scheduled the next day were nice. The field house was converted from a bunch of booths with fancy decorations to…. a bunch of booths without fancy decorations. All the companies interviewing had their own table or two, and they called their interviewees up when the time came.

As I mentioned before, I had two interviews. These interviews were with a semiconductor firm in Rochester called Vivace Semiconductor, and my second interview was with the aerospace defense contractor Northrup Grumman. These weren’t technical interviews. The one with Vivace was simply a half-hour grilling of resume (What did you do working here, how was this course, explain this project). The interview with Northrup was a lot different; it was mostly praise for me for doing well in school and how it looked like I was a good fit for a position that they had opening sometime in the winter. Which was cool. I’m just thankful that the interviews weren’t technical. I probably would’ve cried.

Anyhow, that’s all I have for now. I meant to post this earlier after the job fair, but I didn’t have the chance (busy week). [

It’s week 4/10 here at RIT. What fun.

Sometimes life tosses you a few curveballs, and it’s fun to see where those balls take you.

That didn’t come out right.

Even so! Two major events in my college career have happened this week, week 3 of Spring Quarter, 20063. First, and most importantly, I was officially accepted into the Bachelors/Masters Dual Degree program here at RIT. This is a big event for me, since one of my major goals since I came to RIT was to gain admittance into that program. Getting in is a lovely sign that I’m doing at least one or two things right here during my academic career. Sure, classes are going to be harder from here on out, but what CE major isn’t used to that? It’s going to be a fun journey from this point on. And by fun, I am course referencing the varying degrees of mental pain I am bound to experience for the rest of my time here. Can’t wait.

The second big event that occurred is referenced in the title of this article. During last quarter, I applied for a co-op position at Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing (TEMA) North America. Initially, I was rejected for this position, and I moved on and applied to other co-ops. My journey with them did not end there, however. Today (or yesterday, more exactly. It’s currently about 1 AM) I received an e-mail from Human Resources at TEMA asking if I was still interested in an interview. I, of course, replied that I was, expecting to get a reply asking for a time I could do a phone interview, much like the Amazon reviews I went through.

This was not the case.

TEMA is flying me down to their plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, for an in-person interview with (I think) a group of people from TEMA. A group interview, which I have never experienced, and should be fun. Even so, I’m getting a free flight down to a state that I haven’t been to in a long, long time. I think I’m going to pick up a small, digital camera to take some pictures from down there, which I’ll post here as well as my Facebook profile, where anyone vaguely interested can view them.

I leave Friday, April 13th. Not the best of omens, but it should be a good experience either way.

Keep fighting the good fight, you really never know what’ll happen tomorrow.

God, that’s probably the most corny thing I’ve ever said.

I stand by it.

Not such a winning combination

I had my third and final phone interview with Amazon.com last week sometime, and I am just now getting around to posting about it. This was the interview I tanked, and it is now why I hold a deep hatred for technical interviews over the phone. The phone interview consisted of one question.

One long question.

And I completely tanked it.

The question was “Given a string of digits, write a method that would return all possible combinations of strings that could be created using the phone number-digit thing”. I may have abridged the question a little; I forget the exact phrasing of the question. This wouldn’t have been such a huge deal.

Except I had to code over the phone.

This is something I’ve never experienced before, and is why I no longer like over-the-phone technical interviews. I probably wouldn’t like an in-person technical interview, but that’s besides the point. All programmers have their own little style to how they code. I, personally, like laying out a basic skeleton for the program or method I am going to write, and begin coding, adding variables and adjusting my algorithms as needed. This has always treated me well; and I find it a fairly acceptable way to program.

This style of coding, however, does not lend itself well to coding over the phone. I was told to talk the interviewer through my algorithm, which I did, and that is what brought to light the problems in my coding style. I kept finding things I should change or add, and I’m pretty sure I drove the interviewer near-insane. It didn’t really help that I was unable to find a solution to the problem. I was getting to a solution, but I ran out of time.

I’m not blaming the interviewer or Amazon or the interview process. I know that the responsibility for passing that interview fell squarely on my shoulders, and pass or fail, I was taking whatever was given to me. While I’m not blaming anyone, I feel I’m in the right to express my displeasure in the system. If anyone has any tips for phone interviews and coding over the phone, feel free to talk with me. I would greatly appreciate the chance to improve my interviewing skills.

Job fair is on Wednesday anyway. Plenty of fish in the ocean.

And a new quarter begins

March 13, 2007

This is one of the things that I find to be a negative of going to RIT for school. Pretty much everyone I know from back home is now currently on break, while I get to start the third quarter of classes here. It kinda sucks.

Also, does the first week suck for anyone else? Not in a “holycraptoomuchworki’mgoingtodie” type of suck (that’ll happen plenty later” but more of a “i’mboredclassesareboringwhattodowhattodo”. I’m in the second state of mind right now, but maybe that’s just me. I’m not a big fan of idling, but I guess I just need to enjoy it while it’s here.

I wish I had a more technical topic to talk about. That keeps me from progressing into any emo-type downward spiral of blogging with I plan to avoid like the plague. Oh, I’ve got one.

I’ve been working on a Mac recently and have noticed a bunch of differences between the Windows environment and the Mac OSX environment. Most of these changes are large, but they’re fairly easy to get used too. I’m actually enjoying a good amount of the functionality that the OS provides. It does seem to do a good deal of things in a more power-user type way, whereas Windows (in my eyes) seems to want to hold your hand most of the way.

Also, after working with the Solaris machines in the CS department for so long, I really can’t seem to function on a computer well without a terminal. I understand the Windows now has some “Powershell” type program, but I have yet to use it. I hear it’s functionality resembles that of the Bourne-Again shell, which is wonderful, but again, I haven’t had the chance to use it. Anyone who has, feel free to comment and tell me what it’s like.

The little thing that bugs me about the Mac is that it seems that almost all of the functionality of the “control” key in windows is switched to the “Apple” key on the Mac. Now, mind you, there still is a “Control” key on the standard Mac keyboard. I can’t really think of a good reason for this, other then that since OSX is UNIX based, utilizing the “Control” key could get a bit hairy (Especially with using “Ctrl C” to copy, which is the UNIX command to kill a running process, for those who don’t know).

Oh, and to my knowledge Macs don’t have a real “Lock Screen” ability like Windows. I do enjoy being able to hit “Window – L” on my Windows machine and locking the screen and leaving. That’s nice. I can’t seem to find an equivalent function on the Mac, which makes me a tad upset. All of the Linux distros I’ve used (Well… Ubuntu) and also Solaris have this, so why can’t the Mac? Although, it could be a little hidden function that I’m completely missing.

Anyhow, that’s all I really got. Passed the second Amazon interview, and now I get a third and final Phone Interview (It’s final, the e-mail I got even said “Final phone interview”) which is kinda exciting. Wish me luck.

Phone interviews are something. They’re essentially quizzes of the entire breadth of your knowledge of the position for which you’re applying. In this case, I’m applying for a Software Development co-op at Amazon.com. This was my second interview of.. I don’t know how many are possible. Either way, this interview went fairly well, and I’ll put some of the questions asked below.

For anyone applying to a co-op at Amazon (or to any CS type job), take a look at this blog article.
The above link takes you to a page of Steve Yegge’s blog (Special thanks go to Noah Richards for the recommendation of that blog. Go check out Noah’s blog at noahsmark.com ). Yegge was (and may still be) and employee of Amazon.com, and that page gives a good breadth of questions that you may be asked for an interview. One of the questions in my last interview was taken directly off that site (the contact/grep question). It’s a good read, and is really helpful for preparation.

Now, for my interview.

Started off with a question about projects I’ve done. Just an open-ended question. Be familiar with a project you’ve done. No big deal.

My second question was a logical thinking question. I’m not going to get into what it was (if you want to know, just say it in a comment and I’ll explain it), but if anything, make sure of the limitations they put on the question. I spent most of time of the question with a false assumption, which I was able to recover from, but still, ask a lot of questions. It can’t hurt.

I then had two simple coding-type questions, one with working with a string and the other with shuffling a deck of cards. Again, no real deal.

The final questions I had dealt with Object-Oriented programming concepts. I was actually able to pick one topic to explain (I chose polymorphism) and the other the other I was given to explain (Virtual and Pure Virtual methods, as well as Virtual destructors).

This interview, unlike the last one, did not have an involved coding question where I was to submit code. The code questions I was asked covered this. I don’t know which is preferable; I find it a little hard to code over the phone (I tend to start writing code and then realize I need a variable which I didn’t declare, which is easy to fix in an editor, but can be confusing over the phone).

It seems that the phone interviews have a time limit. This time limit seems to be, for Amazon, about 45 minutes long.

Now I get to see where it goes from here. They’ll eventually contact me regardless of what they decide. Which is nice; waiting for something that’s not going to come isn’t fun. Hopefully, I impressed the interviewer enough to get me to the next round, so I can make a new article, called “Amazon Interview, Round 3 of ???”

Maybe this is just me, but I wasn’t aware of the multiple-interview format. This is probably how any large company screens it’s prospects. I’ll just have to get used to it.

Attached to this post is the code I made for the question I mentioned below. Feel free to point out any changes you would make or any suggestions. Let me just say that again, I was under the gun for this, and it’s also been a good deal of time since my last real Java problem solving experience.
Code