Seperis (seperis) wrote,

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because work sometimes is awesome like that

So, to renew my habit of posting here more than once every three months (other than for fic):

I applied for a promotion at work, interviewed for it a week from last Friday, and got offered the position today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Yes, I accepted after staring at my manager and sub-manager like 'what?' Because I am really smart like that.)

The hilarious part is that during my interview, one of the interviewers (who is my lead) asked a question off script.


For most interviews I've been to with the state (and heard about, etc), there are a few very specific types of interviews (most, not all). One is the verbal+written, the quiz (over job functions, basically to see if you know what the job is and a vague idea of what it does)+verbal+written, the written+verbal, and more rarely, the pure verbal.

Pure verbal isn't easier; you're given a list (front and back) of questions (from eight to fifteen, depending on length) about what you have done when X happens, what you will do if X happens, and examples from your work career of X, get fifteen minutes to review them on your own in the deathly silent meeting room, and then the interview begins.

(Also, I think pure verbal tends to occur most often either when hiring from within the department or unit, though this is a guess from experience and other people's experience: there's a general feeling if they already hired you in the first place and you've worked there for X time, some things don't need to be re-verified. What they want at this point is to figure out not if you have any idea what the department does or the programs they use (they know that) but if you understand the job itself.)

The questions tend to be essay level, and not short essay either, and rarely have any "have you ever worked with x program' or 'do you know how to do xy'; most if not all require an answer based on experience. The ones that don't literally have the words 'from/in your experience' textually but are very deceptively rhetorical are the most dangerous ones, because those are the ones looking for something specific and there is no way on earth to tell what. (Best guess: they really want to evaluate your choice of experience to relate and why you chose that one.) For reference, my interview--the verbal part after review--took an hour and a half, and I was talking the entire time; they did no soliloquies in there other than to read the questions to me since they took my question list back when they came in).

(I also think a part of it was to see by answer what you focused on in importance (and therefore talked a lot or a very little), but the ways of interviewers are a mystery to me.)

The reason we get a question list at all is because we not only cannot be generic, we have to basically do the equivalent of the written in extempore speech. It's not necessarily about being super articulate (though that helps, but less than you might think, since we're tech and there is no expectation a tech can give good speech) but get into specific, relevant detail about what you did during x or what you would do for x, etc, which--at least where I work--is the one place tech people (coders, designers, testers, dev, everyone) will talk until they die given the chance (we all love explaining what the program did and how we punished it for crossing us, it's a thing. My personal favorite was the eight page defect backed with screen recordings because I had a vendetta going on there).

Having done these a lot, I finally think I worked out what the primary grading is on: knowing what you're talking about, as in, actually knowing, not throwing buzzwords or vague theory or even good theory. Once you go to interview, they've verified education/skills/job history already and you passed that, and while some people go in with a higher margin to work with based on those, with a lot of the jobs with us, the imperative is 'how badly will you fuck up on the first day' because yes, you will (it's a new job) and faking it will just piss everyone off (those you interview with will nine times out of ten be responsible for doing the work you couldn't/didn't do or fixing your mistakes: they are motivated). And even with interviewer bias (and all interviewers have biases), there's an even stronger self-interest bias: they are (probably) doomed to do the job they're interviewing a person for until someone is hired for it (the penalties of leadership), and they don't want to do it anymore on top of everything else they do (or get called up to their manager to explain crappy work of their subordinates).

(It also explains why I didn't get the second to last job I applied for: note, I'm very articulate and interview very, very well (I may do nothing else right in life, but standardized tests and interviews, those are mine). After doing this one--which was very similar in some ways--I realized the biggest problem was on at least two of the questions in second-to-last interview, I didn't have the knowledge, just theory, and I didn't know enough to give good theory (and being interviewed by people who have practical experience). And on a guess, at least one of those was necessary job functions and someone else nailed all necessary job functions or hit more than I did.)

This job (this is how I figured this out), I know. I've been basically doing a lot of it since our lead got a promotion and another person in our area took over as lead (and very highly qualified, by the way; I do not grudge her at all), but our former lead had been in testing since the unit was created so literally knew everything and all things, while the new one was weaker in the areas I had concentrated on for a while (and this isn't a knock against her; 1.) no one could do everything First Lead could do because she had to learn it at a time when there was literally no one else, 2.) First Lead wasn't an idiot; when she got enough people she farmed shit out like anyone sane, and between her hire and leaving, our responsibilities increased by a huge margin with non-corresponding increase in staff: too few people, and 3.) New Lead's responsibilities can't and shouldn't be just to what our group tests; she has more admin duties and more working with other leads in other groups with our units and she's taking on more admin stuff (and miserable meetings) that don't leave her time.)

(I seriously do not want her job. Maybe when she retires I'll think differently, but if it's less than three years from now, hell no. I get tired just looking at her sometimes. So. Much. Admin.)

My Interview

So my interview was serendipitous in a.) I was qualified in general by knowledge and to a lesser extent tenure in testing, b.) I had the detailed and specific knowledge the job required, and c.) since I was doing at least part of the job (though not in a leadership capacity), all my answers were both relevant to the job itself and based on experience they'd also observed (so yes, I couldn't fudge much(or at all), which means I set them off in hysteria when I explained very clearly how I'd totally screwed up x (they knew alllll about that) but how it prepared me for y (which they also knew about).

The one thing I think they were wary on--and rightly--is that I haven't before had a leadership role without First Lead supervising (as that was her job), and as I said, First Lead was super-competent and liked me. OTOH, they also knew First Lead wouldn't have given me those responsibilities if I couldn't do them (or liked me at all if I increased her astronomical work load) so the real worry was not if I would be able to do it (First Lead evaluated me last summer resulting in a merit bonus, let's put it that way), but if I knew I'd be able to do it without a safety net (since First Lead rarely needed to do anything other than point and say go, so very psychological and honestly, a terror of having full responsibility for something; with her there, there was still the comforting illusion that I could just hand it to her if I failed (Note: I would rather have jumped off a cliff that faced her with failure of anything she gave me to do. I once logged into work from home and worked until two am on a Saturday to fix something it was my responsibility to get done just so that wouldn't happen)).

That's--actually valid, because honestly, when First Lead got the promotion, I panicked, and I spent about a month really anxious (New Lead was patient and let me check in about every little thing ever and just nodded confirmation I was doing x correctly until I burned it out and realized, hey, I can do this. (And didn't kill me either: in retrospect, I'm not sure how she managed to abstain.) And I think that came through in the interview; both the earlier uncertainty (since trust me, they saw it as well, and New Lead was one of my interviewers) and my certainty now that yeah, I can do this.

That Last Damn Interview Question

New Lead told me a week after the interview that my interview was impressive, and that her one concern was my willingness--not ability, but willingness--to take an official, active leadership role.

Which is related to what I said about getting a question off-script, and now I know why she asked it: the question was obvious: "Why do you want this job?" The answer they were looking for however, was anything but; what I said, in this instance, was much less important than how I said it.

I'm pretty sure it helped that somewhere in my mind, probably since I first started testing and very much as of when I started working on mobile testing and SSP testing, I'd been making a list of all the things I wanted to do to help us in testing. It's not like I didn't know I was doing it--I literally do have a list of things--but they were all very much in the vein 'if wishes were horses, beggars would ride' without specific expectation of ever having them happen.

Some--the ones that required only me--I did: I learned VBA to create searchable spreadsheets for usernames and passwords and TOA codes in multiple testing environments, wrote javascript word counters and adapted an open source javascript stopwatch for testing time-outs, built a generic VBA based spreadsheet for users to put business rules in instead of reading word documents and being able to search through them and put your tests names in to verify what test covers which business rule easily (and search that, too), and my most prized achievement, the most complete set of documentation for SSP in creation over three workbooks, searchable and filterable, with all screens and all questions a client is asked and the formulas used to calculate income per program, one which the developers asked me for when they came down to help with a defect and saw me using it, since mine was entirely based on literally adhocing tons of scenarios to make sure theory matched experience.

(That may be bragging, but whatever: devguy asked me three times before I finally realized he was serious. It never occurred to me it was useful for anyone but testers to use as a reference and tool. Apparently, dev indeed would like to have a single comprehensive reference that shows (with admittedly a 5% margin of error, it's huge and due to physics--fuck physics--I can't know everything due to relativity and time or something) what the program is doing right now when being used and what users see (since dev even more than me must bow to eating and sleeping and can't know everything either). And not spread out over ten years worth of BRDs and BRD corrections and maintenance items (the number is astronomical, just put it that way); mine even has a 'last updated' date and 'as of Release XX.X' on it, and latest changes are red and cite the release number. By request, my next generation will have possibly have either a page or a separate workbook that documents what business rules were used or implemented for that update. I am proud of this spreadsheet, okay? It saves lives, and for that matter, my sanity, and it took me six freaking months of work outside my normal work to create and has to be updated every release (about once every two-three months), sometimes while I was testing something else.)

Returning to topic--whatever that was, ah, last interview question, got it--when they asked me why I wanted the job, I told them my wish list of everything I wanted to do and thought about and exactly how with this job I could start getting them done (or try, at least). I told them about trainings I wanted to get for testers that would help us understand more of the backend of development and how I wanted to delete regression tests over six months old because a.) possibly outdated and b.) doing the same exact tests over and over means testers will miss problems due to previous expectations (that's just how the brain works, its not like they do it deliberately) and how I felt that we should switch up more between writing long long tests and shorter, more concise and pointed ones, because it's too easy to try and have a single test cover too many things to be tested (and therefore have a single test have multiple runs because first run, failed at step three, defect, fix; second run at step ten, defect, fix; third run, step eleven, defect fix, etc), and for testers, having too many tests over fifty steps (hell, having all your tests literally forty steps and up) means all the effort and good intentions and work ethic in the world will do shit when you've been working the same test for three days and your eyes just glaze over (or doing the same three day test four or five times due to defect). I have a lot of thoughts on how to make testing better--or at least, less monotonous--and of course that wasn't a surprise to anyone, I bring up these things sometimes; the surprise was (to me very much) I had tentative (and sometimes unsettlingly detailed) plans on how to do it.

Then I told them how I evaluated different testers when I scripted with examples (XY was very good at this, so XY I assigned these kinds; XX was fantastic at this, so I assigned them these kinds; AA liked testing x a lot, so I assigned those to them, because hell yes if someone somehow finds some part of testing fun, encourage it, not like that happens a lot), and how with some I needed a hands-on approach, not because they were bad, but because they did well knowing I was paying attention, and some needed very hands-off unless they asked for help, and how I handled both, and some needed a combination of those things.

And I blithely used the words 'my testers' and how I tended to hands-off everyone the first week (when I was in charge of a particular SR and those tests) because first week everyone has a million tests and I felt riding them at all when they were still organizing and working the tests that had aging or ones that had to be done fast was unfair and made them feel insecure or hunted (or watched), but second week I'd start casual check-ins, and when I was impatient with them or short, I apologized for it immediately so they'd know I was wrong, not their questions (even if I actually did think the question was incredibly stupid and really? God knows I have done that more than once myself, so it's not like I got any high ground there). In a very weird way, I think I gave a speech on practical conflict management (it doesn't matter if they were wrong or I was; I was the one in charge of this, they depend on me for help, doing and saying anything that might make them hesitant to approach me later could cause huge problems, and could make them hesitant to approach others as well, and also they bring sweets to work and I like being told in advance to try them before anyone else gets to have any).

(Personal note: there is an unofficial not asking me anything before nine AM unless emergency/super time-sensitive because that was clear inbox, check status of tests and defects, and God I hate mornings time (and honestly, I am not at my most intellectually spry then anyway). Which means at random, they organize a surreptitious ambush in which all of them (All. Of. Them. At some point) come at least once to my desk before 8:30 to earnestly and sincerely ask me the stupidest question they can think of (I'm not kidding about this, some are the testing equivalent of 'what is the password to my computer?' and 'what does a mouse do again?' because subtlety is so beneath them) and do it with freaking doe and puppy eyes like "are you going to hurt my tender feelings because you are a mean morning person and don't have enough caffeine?" My answer: I will hunt you to the ends of the earth in about fifteen minutes (and one more cup of coffee) so start running. Everyone laughs smugly and sometimes to really grind it in, one brings me a cup of coffee and ostentatiously sets it on my desk.)

Anyway, it wasn't until I talked to New Lead and she mentioned my answer to that last question about why I wanted the job that it hit me: I'd taken the mental step (when, no idea) of not just thinking 'if I could magically make this happen' to not just 'if I were in a leadership position I could make this happen' but 'Here are the things I want specifically to do as a leader with my testers and this is how I'll get it done' and it came out in the interview, because my answer to that--all of those--weren't a surprise (though yeah, the ones wiht a detailed plan probably threw them a little) because I've said those things before in meetings or in private. What was important was how I said it.

What she told me was: the answer I gave was exactly the one she (personally) was looking for: not that I wanted the job because reasons, not because there was uncertainly on my ability to get it done (I was unofficially under First Lead as well as more recently doing a lot of it), but I not only said but demonstrated in how I answered (to her, to managers, and to myself) I knew I could do it and that I actively wanted to as well. And from implication (now that I have the position and think about that talk with her after the interview and before the offer) that was probably the deciding factor. The one thing they couldn't afford was for me to have the knowledge and skills--basically, that job posting could have been written as "All Seperis's strengths right here, in detail"--and freeze up using them because the official word 'leader' could now be applied to me.

Yes, I'm going to screw up and make mistakes as much as I ever did (and now in new and exciting ways, true), and that was the point; I'm not magically going to suddenly get worse at everything I'm already doing right now and all my experience and knowledge vanish because I'm doing those things (and other new things) as an official leader and example. No, I won't be watched as closely, but I never needed to be (with granted, exceptions); yes, I will have to take initiative, but I do already when I want or need something; just now, these things will be expected of me as a given, which shouldn't surprise me since I'd already set that kind of standard for them with my work. The only change would be those things are literally in my job description now. that is the stupidest moment of personal revelation in history. I assume I thought fairies would arrive and steal my brain or something. Best guess. I think part of it is, I'm always vaguely surprised anyone notices what I do or that I'm good at it or that what I'm good at is useful or needed to anyone but me.


This reminded me of when I got the job in testing, more specifically the interview. I was shocked I even got an interview, and when I went to it, I had no expectation whatsoever of getting it. I hit all the interview questions fine, the interview went great, and when I got offered the job, I was shocked and had to ask for a repeat.

The thing is--I didn't expect to get the job because I didn't have the tenure or the experience: I assumed that a lot of the competition would be older, more experienced, more tenure, etc. However, both before, during, and after the interview, I never doubted I could do the job perfectly well and I wanted very much to do it. I think like then, at this interview, that came through. Other jobs I've applied for between getting the tester position and this one...I could easily project confidence, security, cockiness, whatever worked for the interviewer, but I don't think during any of them I ever hit the sweet spot of not just performing but knowing I could do it and wanting to do it like this (especially the one before this one).

With my own manager, sub-manager, and New Lead--all who have known me for years--that's something I couldn't fake. They knew I could give great performance--most recently, this combined with my knowledge is why I'm the only attendant from testing at certain meetings because my skillsets include being able to talk on subject relevantly through people who try to interrupt or redirect a subject important to testing that they don't like (one day I will recount possibly the defining meeting for mobile testing that included so many much higher-ups, God)--but backing that up...that they needed to see me (and knowing me like they do) mean it.

Short version: HOLY SHIT HAPPY.

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