Guus Bosman

software engineering director

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Work NC

A great, quick interview question

One of the most difficult decisions I make in my job is deciding on hiring a candidate. Make the decision well, and the team will grow with a productive team member and everybody's happy. Make a bad decision, and I'm in for a potentially long, difficult and distracting track.

There are many things I look for in a candidate, but for software engineers programming skills are obviously key. Over the years I've had good luck and bad luck when hiring new people, but I quickly learned that doing a good job interview is a lot harder than it looks. Now, years later, I feel competent, but finding a good candidate still requires a lot of attention and energy.

I always incorporate a little bit of coding during interviews, even during the phone interview. No matter how senior the job and no matter how many years of experience a candidate has, I'll always do it. It's amazing how a simple programming assignment can give you insight in how people think and write code. It's even more amazing that lots of candidates don't even pass a basic coding question. One of my favorite questions is this:

Given an array of integers, write a method that will return the largest number (the maximum value) in the array. The integers are: 4, 6, 2, 4, 11, 5, 3.

Yes, this is a real simple question, and yes, it has a real simple solution. I always make sure I carefully explain the problem, clearly state the assignment and ask the candidate if they understand my question. They can code it in Java or C or in the rare case that they know neither any other language. And yet, lots of them fail!

Clearly, this is only a first check. Beyond the first phone conversation and the simple coding questions there's a whole layer of other questions and coding assignments, but as a quick screening tool questions like this are hard to beat. If you're interviewing for technical positions, I strongly recommend you always incorporate such a quick test for basic coding skills.

Interviewing is hard, and it's an art I'm always working to improve. A book that helped me early on, and gave me a better understanding of the theoretical and practical aspects of interviewing is Hiring the Best by Martin Yate. I still occasionally re-read parts of it and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to improve his or her recruiting and interviewing skills.

(If you're in the market right now and are interviewing at my company soon: bonus points for reading my blog and mentioning it during the interview. Another thing I look for in a candidate is a genuine interest in the company and team that you may work with for the next years of your life).


Birthday Sasha

Happy Birthday!Today is Sasha's birthday!

Happy Birthday!

Work NC

Coding at the car dealership

We've driven over 28,000 miles with our car now, and this afternoon it's in the dealership for a maintenance service.

The dealership has a "customer lounge" which is pretty comfortable with nice leather chairs, CNN in the background and Starbucks coffee. And, of course, wireless internet.

I'm working on some Ruby on Rails code to generate an RSS feed. I like the framework, and it's great that I can run everything on my Windows laptop, even though in production we use a Linux distribution. In that sense I now have the platform independence of Java, but with the productivity benefits of a language and framework tailored towards web user interface applications.


Campaign videos

Campaign video.Most of you will by now have seen the popular Yes We Can video by about Barack Obama. The format of the clip is powerful but fairly straightforward, and it lends itself well to parodies. Here's on about John McCain for example: John He Is.

Of course, anybody can make these videos but there is now an official response by the Hillary Clinton campaign: Hillary for you and me.

From a public relations point of view this video is a remarkable failure. The comments on the video are all negative and the comments on YouTube have now been disabled after a flood of negative feedback. Even The Economist wrote: "Unfortunately, no one with any musical talent appears to have been involved in the effort. I must warn you, the following video is very creepy and probably shouldn't be watched if there are kids in the room.". Strange that a generally well-run campaign would release such a bad video.


Google street view Durham

Since a few days Google has enabled "street view" for the Durham/Raleigh area.

In the summer of 2007 this feature of Google Maps started with 360 degree photographs of New York and other cities, and now our region has been added. It's nice to see pictures of our neighborhood on-line.

(Thanks to Bull City Rising).


Run for the Roses 2008

Championchip for Run for the Roses, 2008.Today I ran my first race ever, the Run for the Roses in Raleigh, NC. It was great! I am very happy with the result: 26:46, a lot faster than I expected. The adrenaline and the people around made me run faster than usual.

The race started at 2.00 pm so I left home around 12.15 pm. It's a 40 minutes drive to downtown Raleigh, and I was well on time to pick up my Championchip, which is tied to your shoe and enables electronic measuring of the results. The next 20 minutes I sat down, drank some water and enjoyed watching the preparations. I did a 10 minute warm-up, and at 1.50 pm we all lined up in a big group. I'm not sure how many participants there were, but I'd guess at least a 150.

It was very windy but sunny. I'm very glad that I ran the route earlier this week because it made it a lot easier to time my effort. The big difference was of course that now the roads were blocked off. I knew that in the last mile of the race there are two roads after each other uphill, and I was ready for them. On the 1-mile and 2-mile markers there were volunteers yelling out the split times.


First 5k run

28!Tomorrow I'll run my first ever race, the Run for the Roses in Raleigh.

I've been running for a while now, and hope to run a longer race later this year. I want to get some experience with a real race before I do that so I signed up for tomorrow's 5k race.

I just came back from Inside-Out, a runner's store in Cary, where I picked up my race number. The run starts at 2.00 pm tomorrow in downtown Raleigh.

Don't expect any great results since I'm not very fast -- my goal is to run at least within 34 minutes (11 minutes a mile). I'm really looking forward to it... look out for number 28!


A simple pizza

Pizza.We had pizza tonight from the dough I prepared last Sunday. I placed the dough in the fridge and now, 4 days later, it still worked.

The pizza wasn't anything fancy: just olives with the left over Fontina cheese and a bit of mozzarella. It came out nicely -- I used fresh olives instead of canned ones and it makes a big difference. I underestimated the time it takes to make the pizza so we had dinner pretty late.

For the regular reader it no surprise if I say that I like cooking. Like father, like son: Jaap is experimenting with making camembert cheese. A very interesting experiment -- good luck!


Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday.Ah, another great night for political junkies -- the Super Tuesday results.

I had a meeting until 8.30 pm today but I received the first projections on my cell phone. During the evening we watched the results coming in. I had to look up the locations of some of the states (Idaho, Missouri) and it was interesting to see the differences between various parts of the countries.

Lots of states were still being counted as of midnight, but it looks like Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama are going head to head, with a slight edge for Clinton. Pretty amazing, compared to the polls only two months ago when Clinton was ahead it every state on the ballot this week. The contest on the Democratic side will go on for many more weeks, something that I believe is in Obama's favor.

The results on the Republic side were quite interesting. My prediction that Mr. Romney would win the nomination looks pretty shaky right now as became clear in the last week. Mr. Huckabee is doing surprisingly well -- better than Romney even. The only thing that caused the crowd to loudly cheer in Mitt Romney's headquarters was when he said: "...and we're going to end illegal immigration". Neither McCains nor Clinton's speeches were very inspiring but all candidates must be extremely tired by now. At the same time: Mr. Obama's speech was again very well delivered -- what a gifted speaker.


Four cheese calzone

Calzones.Yesterday afternoon I cooked a recipe from La Bela Vita, a book with recipes from Tuscany, Italy. It has a beautiful picture of their four cheese calzones so that recipe was the first one I tried.

It took a lot of work to make the dough and the stuffing but there is something very satisfying about making dough and baking. The recipe called for chopped thyme in the dough, that was a nice touch.

The main part of the stuffing was a mixture of different cheeses. I used Bulgarian feta cheese, a little bit of Fontina and Parmigiano-Regiano and mozzarella. In addition, I put fresh oregan, parsley and basil, chopped roasted peppers and meat from an Italian sausage. Lots of chopping!

The end result was very delicious. I don't have a picture of the inside of the calzone but there is a nice empty space in them, with a layer of the stuffing which looks white from the cheeses, and green from the fresh herbs.


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