August 25th, 2007


More interview memage

xaviar_nl has asked me five interview questions, as per the rules of the game:

1. You've been working in IT for about 10 years. What is the most important thing you have learned?
I think the most important thing I learned, is something I learned from our old boss RW. It is to treat everyone (and their opinion and skillset) with respect. When working in IT, this takes two forms:
- I stopped dismissing ideas from other software engineers out of hand, because they didn't match with my preconceptions of what the solution should be. Steamrolling over your colleagues makes they shut up and you get to do things your way -- but in the future, when you do need their expertise or advice, it won't be available to you. (As an aside, this is something some people at TNJ still need to learn.)
- I started to respect sales and marketing people. The only reason I have something to eat, is because salespeople manage to sell the software and services I can provide. Rather than treating them with disdain because they don't understand all the technical details (and be honest: software is hard, so it's not like everyone could know all the ins and outs), I try to help them tell the right story to the (would-be) customer. As with everything, communication is the key here. Most salespeople I have encountered are happy to get some assistance.

2. You graduated as a cognitive scientist, but you're not working primarily in that field. If the financials didn't differ, would you continue doing your current job, or would you rather work in science?
Right after my graduation, there was talk of me doing a few scientific projects. I did work at the university for a year, but that was rather 'light science' -- instead of producing new thoughts, I compared the techniques devised by others in a new way. Somewhere around that time, I decided that I am much more of an engineer than a scientist.
That being said, I would like to do more with knowledge engineering. But then again, I can (and do) make use of the techniques I learned for knowledge elicitation when talking to customers. Often, I manage to find the exceptions to the rules with my questions -- exceptions that always bite you in the ass later on if you weren't aware of them when starting out.

3. You can come across as very certain in your opinions and in what you say. Where does this certainty come from, and has it been there all along?
When you're always right, you never learn to entertain the idea you might be wrong.
I think I have tempered my certainty a bit when interacting with other people (see my answer to your first question) -- especially when I'm at work. I know I have been wrong in the past, even if I was certain about something.

4. What is the most beautiful work of art (painting, photograph, poem etc) that you know?
Tough one. It rarely happens that a single piece of art really jumps out at me and makes such a big impression on me. I guess it depends on my mood.
The one thing that still vividly stands out in my mind is an installation called 'A thousand individually created pieces of art' (or something like that). An artist had created casts of everyday objects, and had combined these to produce 'pieces of art'. All handcrafted and hand painted -- and yet, when they were lying on a large table, it seemed completely mass-produced. I liked the way you could enjoy the piece(s) on multiple levels.

5. What is the most delicious dish, ingredient or drink you know?
Dish: Ghost rogan josh. The taste of the lamb meat coupled with the spices of the rogan josh curry... It somehow fits together, and it's totally unlike western cuisine.
Ingredient: Red miso. Paste of fermented soy beans -- sounds appetising, no? And yet, it has a rich taste that is quite unlike anything else.
Drink: Tea. Black tea, with very little tannin. I like my tea just on the edge of bitterness. I keep returning to the Keemun, and it never bores me.

Want interview questions for your own? You know the drill!
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