Archive for March, 2014

Over the years, I’ve gotten used to the reality that the vast majority of people who work in the technology field only do it for the money. The cab drivers who have told me they want to “get into” computers because “it’s easy money” don’t phase me. Similarly, the sea of “recruiters” who contact me spouting techno-babble get a pass for their cluelessness. As the embodiment of evil would say, they “are mercifully devoid of the ravages of intelligence.”

Every now and then though, an email comes to my in box that begs the question, “How does this person not get fired?”

Let’s look at this tremendous work of ignorance and hypocrisy. We’ll say that it can from M at Foo (a major technology corporation). I’ve colorized the text in blue. All other styles applied to the text are original.

Let’s begin.

Hi Charles,

I recently found your profile in our database, and your background is impressive. The [Foo] Media Division will be flying several candidates in for interviews at our Seattle headquarters in April and considering you. The roles we are filling will all be located in Seattle and a full relocation package and immigration support would be provided if you are selected.

Someone did a database keyword query and it included my name. Spiffy. If only there was a single thought in the first sentence instead of two. The grammar goes down hill from there. The deluge of prepositional phrases in sentence two points to a completely disorganized mind. Once again we see multiple thoughts presented. This time, however, the author neglected the second verb. One would assume that it is “are.” Forgiving this error as a typo, one is left with the distinct impression that (1) people are ignorant as to the location of Foo and (2) they will be available to go to Seattle on short notice. Although it is nice to know that the positions will be in Seattle, the fact that immigration support “would be provided” indicates that my resume has, in fact, not been read. Additionally, following the trend established in previous sentences, multiple thoughts are present. Finally, why should I care that I would be relocated when I don’t know what the position is yet?

We are looking bring on board Senior (7+ yrs. industry experience) Software Developers with experience designing and architecting highly scalable and robust code in Java, C++ or C#.  Strong OOD skills and CS fundamentals are required. Working with big data or machine learning can be a major plus.  In addition we have roles for Principal Engineers, Software Development Managers, Software Developers in Test and Technical Program Managers. If you fall into one of these categories we offer a different interview process independent of this event and eager to support you in learning more about these roles.

It appears that the fact that the position is senior merits both bolding and underlining, lest I miss it. It also seems that what is meant by senior is up for debate. I ask you, gentle reader, why would you abbreviate years by dropping two letters only to add a period? Here we see a neglected preposition (of). I will refer back to my unread resume as the reason for my assertion that this sentence is unnecessary. Let use press on.

These ever senior software developers (bold, underline) must have experience designing and architecting. I am reminded of the George Carlin sketch about the kit and caboodle. Redundant anyone? Moving on, let’s consider “highly scalable and robust code”. I have yet to see code which is highly-scalable (note the proper use of hyphenation) generally demands that is also be robust. This is my opinion, but I would imagine that people would generally agree that non-robust code tends not to be very scalable. As to my languages of record, I will again refer to my seldom read resume.

Obviously, the next sentence is of critical import as it is bolded and underlined in its entirety. Now, if anyone out there knows a developer who can architect a highly-scalable system and yet is lacking computer science fundamentals and strong object-oriented design skills, please introduce me.

Slogging along we have an obvious statement regarding a working understanding of the two biggest buzzwords in the heap today. That these can be a plus makes for a fairly nebulous statement. Is experience in these disparate areas important? Will it be part of the job?

Now we wander off into the weeds by telling me that they’re also looking to fill other positions. So, if they’re completely off the mark, not to worry?

If interested in exploring Development opportunities with us, the first step will be to complete our coding challenge ideally within the next 3 to 5 days.  If you need more time, please let me know. After the hiring manager reviews your ‘successful’ code, we’ll contact you to confirm your onsite interview where you will meet key stakeholders from the [Foo] Media team.

Back in multiple-thought land, let’s begin by ignoring the subject of the sentence. And now that you’ve bothered to read this far, here’s the catch. You have 3 to 5 days to complete a coding challenge. The plot thickens. But it’s not really 3 to 5 days. You can ask for special dispensation. It is nice to know that my code will be successful and that I will be contacted to confirm my onsite interview. But wait, we have another thought here. at the onsite interview, I’ll meet key stakeholders. For the less techno-babble encumbered, those would be the marketing and project manager.

Please click here [link removed, sorry] for the coding challenge and include your full name and email address in the tool. The application works best in Firefox or IE. There is no time limit, but if you do take breaks it counts against your completion time. Please expect the challenge to take between 10 – 90+ minutes.  The KEY is to write your absolute BEST code.  Additionally, be aware that should you be selected for interviews, you will also be asked to produce code on the white board.

Here’s a puzzling set of instructions. If they have read my resume and managed to send me an email, why is it that they need me to create an account in “the tool.” “The tool?” Seriously? I don’t recall moving to The Village.

Not so fast, now it’s “the application” and it works best in Firefox and Internet Explorer. Best? How about telling me the required version of browser to keep from getting half way into this “challenge” and having “the tool” spew like a unicorn doing the technicolor yawn.

And in a fit of verbal vomit worthy of a Willy Wonka legal contract, we are told that (1) there is no time limit, (2) the amount of time you take matters, (3) the estimated time to complete is somewhere between 10 minutes and God knows how long, and (4) [this is the big one] we are expected to write “your absolute BEST code.” And as an afterthought let’s tack on a comment about being able to produce code on a white board “should you be selected for interviews.”

Let’s think about this. Okay, you really didn’t need to, but it’s a nice way to slow down the pacing of the post.

In case you hadn’t figured it out, the fourth in this set of nonsensical requirements is what inspired my title. It comes from a scene in “Men in Black.”

James Edwards: Maybe you already answered this, but, why exactly are we here?

Zed: [noticing a recruit raising his hand] Son?

Second Lieutenent Jake Jenson: Second Lieutenant, Jake Jenson. West Point. Graduate with honors. We’re here because you are looking for the best of the best of the best, sir!

Zed: [throws Edwards a contemptible glance as Edwards laughs] What’s so funny, Edwards?

James Edwards: Boy, Captain America over here! “Best of the best of the best, sir!” “With honors.” Yeah, he’s just really excited and he has no clue why we’re here.

How do I create my best code? [aside from not intensifying absolutes] I think about the problem. Solving a problem in 10 minutes or less implies to me that the person (1) has solved the same problem so many times that they have reached the level unconscious competence with regard to it, (2) did the first thing that came to mind, or (3) guessed. You know the best way to not create high-scalable systems? By not thinking much about the problem.

Lastly, please send your updated resume directly to me: [M]@[foo].

Should I do this before I embark on the “challenge” or after? Who else would I send my updated resume to? And why bother restating your email address (incompletely) when I could simply reply this email?

NOTE- If you are currently interviewing with another [Foo] group, we ask that you finish that process. In the event you are in college (at any level) or graduated within the last six months, we invite you to directly apply to positions via this link: www.[foo].com/college.

Note is followed by a colon. And what happened with the whole lastly thing? He we have indication that Foo’s recruiting system can’t track who’s taking to you. So much for robust. We again see that no resumes have been read here. More than that, why would this even enter into the equation of an email to someone who is expected to have 7+ years of industry experience?

Thank you for your time and look forward to receiving your code challenge response.

There can’t possible be more you say. Not so dear reader. The great two-for-one sentence wrangler strikes again.

Warm regards,


At least the closing was without incident.

For a company that claims to be seeking the very best, they have a funny way of showing it. If you would like to offend the highly-educated and technically experienced developers you seek to hire, send them emails that simultaneously say that they (1) aren’t worthy of a proofread email and (2) aren’t deserving of a phone screen with a person.

After I’d read this email several times, I looked M up on LinkedIn. Their profile is private. That was a first for me with regard to an internal recruiter.

Well done Foo. Well done.

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I’ll be the first to admit that I obsess over security. My internship in college dealt with Unix security. I’ve created encrypted protocols for wireless data communication. And for my master’s thesis, I created a highly virus-resistant computer architecture (AHVRC – aka Aardvark). I wrote it in 1993. I put it up on the web in 1999.

So, what to my wondering eye did appear a few days ago? None other than the latest installment of Apples “iOS Security” document.

Personally, I like reading Apple documentation. But then again, I read owner’s manuals. Anyway …

So, I find myself reading iOS Security and keep thinking, “that’s what I would have done.” Wait, that’s what I did do.

I was casting about for a thesis topic and my department chair noted that no one was doing anything in secure architectures. So I spent a chunk of time thinking and put a little 124 page missive together. Now gentle reader, you having taken it upon yourself to read a few pages in begin thinking, “this can’t be serious, it’s got animals instead of sub-systems.” True, true. The master level is supposed to have a certain level of awe and wonder associated with it. Boring. Here’s a little secret. In a traditional master’s program, you devote the equivalent of three courses to the research and writing of a document (thesis). The point of the thesis and its defense demonstrates mastery of the discipline. The defense is done publicly. Anyone may attend. You must advertise it to the student body. Some number of professors, typically in your discipline and of your choosing, make up the group who decide if you and your work are up to snuff. Question may be asked in any area of your studies, but primarily the discussions will revolve around your thesis. Hence, being called a defense. Once the professors have had at you, the gallery gets their shots.

You already knew that didn’t you. Well, that’s not the secret.

The secret is that the defense is conducted within the context of the thesis. They attack, but you get the build the world. Think of it as a duel. You get to choose the weapons.

Nothing warms the cockles of my heart more than to see the distinguished faculty discussing a highly technical matter in the context of dolphins, gophers and kinkajous.

I even applied (with Rose-Hulman generously funding) for a patent. Had I had more patience and a more informed examiner at USPTO, I probably would have a patent for the work.

I’m not sure if the developers at Apple ever read my thesis or referenced my patent filing. I do find the similarities in the two architectures interesting.

I hope everyone who reads this posting takes the opportunity to read both documents. Apple’s because they present the state-of-the-art in application security model implementation. Mine, because I think I’m pretty well pleased with myself about it.

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