The Jim Weirich Tech-Interview Experience

From Twitter back in June 2014

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It’s taken me 5 months to get around to writing this up. I’ve been too depressed to think about it, and that made it way too easy to procrastinate.  Then a couple days ago I realized that recounting this is actually a happy thing – the chance to get to share good memories.

Last Friday night, I went to the movies with some friends of mine. We happened to go the same movie where Stir Trek used to be held a few years ago. We walked by a bench. And my mind was taken back to the conference, and that same bench, and a memory of Jim Weirich sitting there with his laptop. I said hello to him as I walked by, and he asked me to stop because he wanted to show me what he was working on. I don’t recall exactly what he showed me. But I do remember just how very excited he was about what he was telling me, and he had such enthusiasm as he talked. I remember feeling like whatever it was, it was way over my head. Even so, I don’t remember “feeling stupid” about that – because the way Jim talked, you never felt that way around him.

That’s the kind of person Jim was.

As I walked by that bench last Friday night at the movie theater with my friends, I cried. One of my friends knew about Jim. I haven’t known the other friend as long, so he didn’t know. After the movie, I found myself telling my other friend who Jim was. I remembered how many good memories I had. And that even though walking by the bench earlier made me sad – talking about Jim later on made me happy. And that’s how it should be.

So I was reminded I still had on my to-do list to recount my tech interview with Jim. And maybe it didn’t have to be so sad.

Back in 2008 I had an over-the-phone technical interview scheduled to be conducted by Jim Weirich. At the time I was doing Java development full-time and had dabbled in Ruby on my own. When I called, Chris Nelson was on the phone as well, though Jim asked most of the questions at the time. I don’t remember a lot of the specific questions now that years have passed. I remember being asked some basic questions about my background in programming, how long I had been programming, what languages, etc. I remember being asked “How would you design a programmable thermostat?” That’s a good question, I think, because it doesn’t involve language-specific trivia, but it does demonstrate a person’s thought processes, design processes, and how well they can communicate their ideas and thoughts. I remember being asked what do I like about Ruby and Rails, and why.

There were things I said I liked that, I found out later, were things he once liked but had come to not like about Rails! But it wasn’t important to him that I agree with him. It was important to able to describe why I thought that, and that I had sound reasons. Likely the reasons I had were things he thought at one point – and with experience had come to change his mind – and it just demonstrated I wasn’t there yet, which was OK. In general, It was really cool how comfortable he made me feel. It would have been easy to be nervous being tech interviewed by someone so well-known and well-respected in the Ruby community. But I just wasn’t. I can’t even explain exactly why that was, other than that was just the air around Jim. You couldn’t help but be comfortable in his presence.

So, that’s my experience being tech-interviewed by Jim Weirich. And, for what it’s worth, I got the job! 🙂 I enjoyed working with Jim for those next several months; I’m fortunate that I got that chance.

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