Friday, April 25, 2008

Ten things that will help you land your first tech job

  1. Show up for the interview. Arrive on time or even a little early for your interview. If you are late, the message is that you are not interested.
  2. Inform the relevant person that you have arrived. Don't hide in some corner trying to blend with the wallpaper. With so many "No shows" nowadays, nobody will come looking for you.
  3. Introduce yourself with a bright smile. Don't behave as though you are doing the employer a favour by attending the interview.[You may be nervous, but try and be cheerful]
  4. Keep a copy of your resume ready. If you are confident, say that you intentionally did not print your resume on paper because you want to be carbon friendly. Take your resume in a pen drive or a CD instead.
  5. Have some favourite (Academic) subjects which you are comfortable with. Since you are fresh out of college, you obviously don't have any work experience. So the only thing that you can be questioned on is what was taught to you in school/college. Better that they question you in the areas of your strength than on other subjects. So state clearly the 2 or 3 subjects that were/are your favourite areas so that the interviewer asks questions around these topics.
  6. Know your subject in these areas. If, after several years of education, you cannot answer basic questions in your favourite areas, nobody will believe that you can be taught anything, ever.
  7. If you know, answer. If you don't know but think you can guess, say so and then try your answer. If you haven't a clue, make that clear too.
  8. Be aware of the latest happenings in your industry. Know about blogs, twitter, techcrunch, social networking, SAAS, AJAX, or whatever else is the latest craze.
  9. Have other active interests and hobbies. Show that you are having/pursuing an interesting life. Browsing and watching TV are not hobbies.
  10. Keep your phone on silent during the interview. Don't answer calls. I have had people answer their phone in the middle of an interview and saying (to their current boss, presumably) that they are having lunch with a friend. No one will recruit a liar.
  11. Bonus: Stick to the truth, always. This is non-negotiable.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Why am I talking about my son's education here?

Last week, I went to my son's school and collected all his books for next year (he is going to class 6). Yesterday, I happened to look at his science text book. Every page has typos and grammatical errors. There must be over a hundred errors in that book alone! I am yet to see how many factual errors there are (Will post on that too, later). In one place, for "insulating tape" they have printed "insulting tap". Despite the anguish I was feeling, my son and I were rolling on the ground laughing. Imagine opening a tap at home and it says "idiot"!

But this is no laughing matter. The book is called "Learning elementary science - For class 6", published by Goyal Brothers Prakashan, New Delhi. Its in its fifth edition. My son and I are planning to collate all the mistakes and write to CBSE, NCERT and the publisher. If you are reading this and are concerned, please take some time and do the same.

But why am I writing about it in this blog? What relevance does it have to the job market?

Well, as employers we are all constantly bemoaning the lack of qualified engineers and employees. But can we expect any better if the fundamental education is so bad and the attitude so lackadaisical?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dis-education begins early

Human intelligence is largely dependent on pattern recognition. The very survival of the cro-magnon man depended on his ability to recognize repetitive patterns. Much of our scientific discoveries and inventions owe much to our innate ability to recognize patterns. The solar calendar, identification of agricultural cycles, Mendeleev's periodic tables, genetics, theory of evolution, most(all?) of mathematics, and most(all?) of science have come about due to the human brain's ability to ferret out repetitive patterns in everyday occurrences.
So, pattern recognition and learning how to do that in a scientific manner with checks and balances (lest you end up with superstitions which are the result of over-active pattern recognition with no cross checking) is very important.

Last week, I was going through my son's 5th standard math text book and there was a section called "complete the sequence". The following problem, lifted out of that text book, really stumped me:
Find the next three numbers in the following sequence:
1, 17, 22, 12, __, __, __
While I was wracking my brains, my son filled it up quickly with 28, 33, 23. When I asked him how, he said "Oh! that's easy. Take 1, add 16 and you get 17. Add 5 and you get 22. Subtract 10 and you get 12. So with 12 add 16 and get 28. Add 5 to that and get 33. Subtract 10 and get 23. Done. That's how the teacher taught us!".

They are teaching children to see patterns where there is not enough data. Had to coin a new word for what our education system is doing - Dis-education! Hereafter, if someone says "school did not teach me anything", I'll say "Aren't you the lucky one!".