Ismail Marmoush

Part 2 What I learned from 60 Interviews

Disclaimer: I’m not a writer, and English is not my first language, if you find errors let me know.

Table of Contents

“My turn, :(){ :|:& };:

So as I promised in previous article that I’d be talking about the experience I had doing lots and lots of interviews.

Graduation

To know what got me to do 60+ interviews in first place you’ve got to know the story behind it. In July 2010 I received my bachelor degree and I was really happy I finally got free (Since I didn’t believe in education systems, we’ll talk about that later).

I’m now free from any burdens set by family or society “I’m not just a college graduate, I’m a Computer Science graduate the road to hell is paved with arrogance”.

I thought I’d be finished with building my Robot the next year, and be on my way to HONDA helping building ASMIO the year after, or I’d be even working with Ray Kurzweil.

I was naive and I had what’s worse than ignorance; the illusion of knowledge. Late 2010 I was job hunting but since Army recruitment is forced by law in Egypt after graduation I waited for another salv
ation, luckily I had flat foot and they didn’t want much people at that time.

Revolution

So I’m now free again. But 1 month later 25th Jan 2011, Revolution hits the roads of Egypt and all business plans are cancelled, even the job offer I got after successful interview at EL Swedey Cables as presales was cancelled. I don’t care Egypt is going to get better, it’s revolution and that’s a tiny price I shall pay and I’d pay it gladly again.

So I stayed home and did some private work (private instructor) and some volunteer work (helped my friends build their Robotic Arm by building kinematics script over MATLAB for the robot control).

Also during that period I’ve also worked on my resume much I started studying for Oracle Java Professional exam, and just before taking it, my girlfriend was breaking up with me. She had every right to be honest; being unemployed sometimes gets the worst out of you on the people you expect they’d be fine getting hurt by you, and that’s of course wrong, those are the ones you should actually appreciate being beside you. I was in a total mess just before a very stressful exam.

Depression

I remember when everybody was telling me except my father, you’ve got to look for another job/career or you’ll end up a unemployed loser sitting at home doing nothing, family “you’re free why don’t you help with this and that” friends “you’re sitting at home why don’t you hang out with us in the weekend” some would mock me for spending too much time in front of my PC studying in my room, and telling me to go out explore the world.

I was given all the good and bad advices, mockery, and encouragement. I’ve been given the look from many people including relatives; yeah the look, you will not know it until you’re unemployed and getting older, that look of impatience empathy and sometimes pity.

Survival

But I passed, with 85%, and I still look back and wonder how I did it, it must’ve been some divine grace to endure such time.

From that period I learned:

  1. “Your best revenge is success” that’s my quote, I actually invented it, and it’s copyrighted :D
  2. Never do what anyone tells you to do except yourself, cause you’ll never be able to successfully blame anyone for what happens to you except yourself.
  3. Second rule doesn’t mean you don’t listen to advices, but it means you only do what an advice says when you’re sure 100% it comes from inside now, you’ve believed in it and you are sure and have gut feeling it’s right.
  4. Do what ever pleases you, but remember priorities.

So now I’ve gained some momentum, I’m now Oracle Certified Professional, because I don’t have work experience, I will use this as a cover up.

The Software

I had bunch of row data and many emails, websites, and company names, I wanted to process all of it, and do some Data Mining so I can get as many email addresses I can and start sending them my resume. I will not go through what was done in the software and the output since it’s not the scope of our talk, you can find more about it over the website, but I can tell you that the results were thankfully great, I got around 6 interviews in one month or less, and afterwards I got many.

And so it started the slow process of hope, and stress tests by Team leads, HRs and CEOs.

The Process

I was fresh graduate to almost everyone, I haven’t done professional work and I gained no experience, I was a small fish.

Interviewer: “But you have no experience, Right?”
Me: mmm, no actually I worked as volunteer in…, and I taught
Interviewers: “yeah, I know all that I mean not a professional work experience”
Me desperately: “Unfortunately I haven’t, but I want to work, and I’m eager to learn” and bla bla bla…

And here I’m, spending some amount of modesty and humility and of course what I didn’t know is that he/she was testing my confidence. It was a way of saying are you ready to clean the shit and be paid half the price of what we pay for anyone else to clean the same shit ?

And my answer blindly without knowing the question was yes!.

Anonymity|Confidentiality Drama Queens

Those companies that want to stay behind recruiting firms/websites as Anonymous or Confidential; are the ones I really hate and disrespect.

Esnad BPO

I was tricked into one of these interviews, when I got there I discovered it wasn’t Esnad which was hiring me they were just recruiting for their confidential client.

My instant response to such drama queens is that after I knew that, I asked the interviewer to give me back my application form of which I just filled, and told her sorry my information are confidential too, and I have every right to know what I’m being interviewed for.

RMGS.co

This was also different but not new, they had a client and they didn’t want me to know him in the process. Ok fine no problem, you have the right to protect your business (even though I see if you can’t trust neither your client nor me now, how about later ?).

Anyway so I agreed not to know him since I already told them I’m exploring my options and not interested.

After that I asked three simple questions,

  • What are the technologies I’m supposed to be working on?
  • What is the business scope of the project ?
  • Where is the rest of the team ?

I was replied with nothing, When the HR manager called from Canada, I told her I met the HR executive and your tech leads and I asked them some questions and they didn’t give me an answer. She told me I’ll ask the team to answer your tech questions in an email. And of course later I got nothing.

Worst Interviews

Hindawi

One of my earliest interviews August 2011, was in a Publishing company called Hindawi,it was just right after I got my certificate, the interview process was quick and I was really happy.

After couple of interviews and in the next week, I had an interview with the CEO Hindawi (obviously), beside him was another man I guess VP, and a young foreigner.

So Mr Hindawi introduced himself, and asked me what I was doing since graduation. It was first time for me to meet the CEO of such big organization. I was a bit excited and I didn’t expect any trouble, I was in my comfort zone since previous interviews went smooth and I thought this one would go well too, I even thought I’m already hired.

Me: I spent two months writing my resume after graduation (ERR, What! wtf did I just say ? )
Hindawi oh really only your resume I said yeah of course and couple of other things.

Then I began a series of mistakes, He asked me to describe ANN (which I was quite beginner at it and I presented myself as a savant in my resume), so I failed to describe anything, mumbled and got more nervous.

He interrupted me and said “the reason for this is that we want you to work as an Analyst

“Analyst ?!” I asked, he said Yes, you’ll be sitting in a room reading a book and you’ll apply that book to a code.

I asked “How big is that book” (What !! what am I fricken saying!)

He said “Does it matter? a big book 500 pages”

I said “Yeah I’d be finished with it in one month I’m a quick learner.” Or I said something stupid like that, (Damn!).

So at that moment, the his face was saying something like,”I’m gonna fire the HR team” and he said with a bit of contempt :

Hindawi so how much do you want ?,
Me I really don’t know,
Him You really have to tell me,
Me I don’t know I’m a fresh grad, look into the salaries of fresh grads and I will accept their average salary.

Then he began a series of insulting talk:

OK I’ll give you 3 pounds, 5 fine ? then he throw my resume on the table and said this is isn’t working !.

At the moment I felt very much insulted and shocked, it was the first time, I get such rejection, but I said “Ok no problem,” and I was ready to leave, when the other man interrupted asked some questions then they told me they’ll call me back, but of course I knew it’s over.

My greatest blame wasn’t just my stupid answers, I was young and foolish already, and I’ve worked on that later. I blamed myself for not offending him like he did. At least end it right away. Instead I froze and was polite, cold or in shock.

Anyone would argue and say “oh man that’s nothing, I had worse” yes mate I believe you, but I think you read about my state in that time I was fresh, (one year no actual work experience) and rejected by many, and when the moment finally comes, … this is what I get.

Lesson Learned

So I’d like to thank Mr Hindawi, for teaching me that no matter how far you get, you should never ever be in the comfort zone, and you should always be in good state of mind.

You should know when to shut up, and think before you answer any question, take your time and talk slowly.

I also learned to forgive myself, but not to forget.

Another variation of the proverb:

Insult me once, shame on you. Insult me twice shame on me.

Sphere Consulting

She was the Aggressive go getter HR executive, with the worst fake british accent you could ever hear.

I had this interview after I left a company and stayed home in 2013. I was a bit getting much interviews at that moment, but this one was what I wanted.

She called me over the phone and I didn’t get the company name at the first time, signal was poor so I asked her to send me an email with all the details before we have the interview, but she said “That’s all I know, I don’t think there is more information that require me to send you an email.”

But I insisted and I think that made her a bit angry, since she didn’t call me again or send anything. So I called her and told her “Are you from Sphere Consulting which I just posted to ?” she said yes, I told her “ok ok I got the job description and I’ll be there on time.

So most of Software developers no longer wear a suit to interviews we prefer less formality and simple work outfit works fine. This time I was wearing a jeans.

I guess her assistant gave me some look when I entered (too paranoid here, but I’m kind of sure, you know when someone takes a good look up and down at you). Also since I didn’t get quite good reception afterwards, I was sure she did.

The meeting with the CEO was canceled by telling me he’s not there and she left me waiting outside for sometime.

Then when I entered she started asking questions and showing off her accent. She asked the same stupid question, “So, tell me of your weaknesses”, and then she said “So are you going to come to work wearing these Jeans ?” (pointing her finger up and down with long nails at me).

I was shocked ! I said “what ? she said “We only wear formal here!”, I told her “But you’re not wearing a dress or any formal clothes”, she said “No this is an exception for me and we only allow casual on thursdays”, I told her “But I’m not wearing casual” she said “Yeah, your shirt isn’t and your shoes is ok, but your jeans!”, with a grumpy face.

In my mind “WTF ? why are we having this conversation”

Then, and since this is not my first interview I knew she was trying to pick a conflict. I asked her and I knew the answer “so who enforced this rule ?” she was easy to fall under my simple trick she said Me.

I told her Mmm I see, ok, I don’t think this will work for me she was a bit astonished, “what why ?” she asked, “Cause I don’t like to be told what I should or shouldn’t wear” she acted like she now figured me out this guy is a trouble maker and not easy, so I got up and told her “bye, we’ll meet again”

Lesson Learned

What I learned from it, was sometimes you’re just lucky to pick the wrong jeans and save yourself dealing with the aggressive go getter.

♫Ironic isn’t it ? “it’s like raaaaaiyyyynnnn in your wedding day, a free ride whe ♫♫ ….. Sorry, Guys from Being John Malkovich were playing it.

Funny one

GET Group

Once I was in a company called , it was one of the earliest interviews I got, for a technical writer position (Remember I was a bit desparate so I applied to any positions), after couple of interviews, a manager told me actually you’re over qualified for this position we want you to be a .NET developer, I told him but I’m a Java developer, actually I said this in my mind, I told him I don’t know but maybe why not thanks for your offer, he said ok there will be a small .NET exam, if you pass it then we’ll talk again. I went to the exam, of course I did miserably. But they called me again, I went and I was astonished by meeting the HR where she began the process all over again !

I was like, what’s going on ?, and asked her haven’t we met before and you asked me the same questions 3 weeks ago ? she stared at me and began to apologize, I told her no problem, :) thank you and bye.

Lesson Learned

From this I learned, yeah sometimes they just call you twice :) for you to enjoy the dejavu.

The Best Interviews

ITWorx

It wasn’t all bad, there were good ones too. For example ITWorx was really professional. I appreciate I had such experience which gave me some hope in the whole HR system.

I’ve met some nice people there too, the VP Mr Sherif Amer, and Ms Amal Khalil Lead Architect. What was a bit sad is that their way of communication runs from one-side, meaning I wasn’t able to reach them out and ask about updates, they’re the ones who call. (Obviously to save themselves lots of time, answering phones).

* learned*

From this I learned SQL, yeah till that moment I didn’t, I had really narrow view of SQL. They told me they’d give me a chance to learn it and interview me again, so I went and read a good book Chris Fehily SQL Visual QuickStart Guide 2008 and came back I guess I did good, since we continued the hiring process.

Bright Creations

I joined BC, for two main reasons:

First the tech interview was me sitting on a terrible PC with a Tank game and it’s API and I was supposed to do 8 requirements in 1 hour, and thankfully I did it, made 6 or 5 out of the eight.

Second was meeting Moe El Tanahy the company CEO. I think he has one of the best communication skills between all the CEOs I’ve met, he listens and takes notes.

He was nice and was asking really critical questions with a smile which for me was indicating “I’m not attacking you, just tell me how good you are” and I think that’s a successful and friendly interview.

You’d agree on many unpleasant terms afterwards, just because you think I’d like to work with this guy, he’ll not make my life a living hell.

To some extent I was right, but of course you can never agree with anyone one hundred percent. After I left Bright creations I think there is still a huge respect from both ends no matter the differences.

Lesson learned
From this I learned to always keep an eye on respect as number one factor in my daily activities, and on the long run it will payback.

There are always limits you should never cross between you and colleagues even if you were close. There is also an amount of respect and professionalism when you deal with your managers and CEOs.

Wireless Stars

It was one of the best experience and series of interviews. Unfortunately I didn’t agree on two weeks of a “semi competition, android course, watch, or a training” where they’d pick between 5 candidates.

I don’t know if I was working at that time, it would have changed the equation or what.

Anyway I met really Intelligent and nice people over there, I remember Mr Dehairy, Ms Esra, Mr Qammorah and of course CEO Mr Adel.

Lesson Learned

From this I learned to, always negotiate before making a decision and that I should have came out with better terms intead of just rejecting them.

InCaptiva Egypt LTD now Cross Workers

It’s the company I’m currently working at. The process had ups and downs, the downs were fixed and I appreciated it.

When I had the interview with Eng. Islam and others, then when I met Mr Hans (CEO) and Mr Fouad (Partner, Managing Director) I gladly joined.

From this I’m still learning everyday thankfully :D

To sum it all up

All in all, my simple advice which I tell myself everytime I fail, Next time prepare for the worst and again “Your best revenge is success!” so keep going no matter what happens.

For the dreams!
4th of July 2014

Interviews List

I have terrible memory, so I keep lists of everything :D

  1. 2010-07-01-AviCenna
  2. 2010-12-01-GET
  3. 2011-07-01-United Ofoq
  4. 2011-08-30-Hindawy
  5. 2011-09-01-ArpuPlus
  6. 2011-10-1-Emerge
  7. 2012-02-01-Esnad
  8. 2012-02-01-Valeo
  9. 2012-08-25-IPmagix
  10. 2012-08-30-Bright creations
  11. 2012-12-01-ElSherkaElmasrya
  12. 2013-02-26-ITS.ws
  13. 2013-02-28-Vireton
  14. 2013-03-03-Cloudconcept
  15. 2013-03-04-Santeon
  16. 2013-03-15-Cloud Concept
  17. 2013-05-02-Active DD
  18. 2013-05-29-Sphere Consulting
  19. 2013-6-3-Egypt Networks
  20. 2013-8-14-IncaptivaEgypt
  21. 2013-9-4-Onecard
  22. 2013-10-7-Yat
  23. 2013-10-9-Cryptech
  24. 2013-10-10-Wireless stars
  25. 2014-1-23 Prosoft
  26. 2014-1-30 ITworx
  27. 2014-3-3 ISTNetworks
  28. 2014-4-24 RMGS
  29. Can’t say now
  30. Can’t say now
  31. Can’t say now
On board

On board

Native Guide to Egyptian Software and IT Industry From Developers To Companies

The following article is more focused on the core elements of the industry which are Individuals and Organizations or Companies.

Buildings

So, Who should be reading this?

CEOs, investors and of course software developers, who are looking for a closer and personal point of view from an Egyptian Software Developer.

Disclaimer: English is my second language feel free to point out any errors or typos.

Individuals

“Mostly Software Developers”

Some Demographics

In Egypt there are 42 universities (19 private) or more. With more than 500,000 students out of 6,846,000 in the whole education system. I couldn’t find exact average of IT graduates but I guess it’s not less than 5,000 a year.

Egypt unemployment rate is 13.4 percent. The rate remained unchanged in the fourth quarter of 2013 at 13.4 percent of a labor force of 27.3 million people, according to state-run statistics body CAPMAS.

Most software companies are located in the Greater Cairo (Cairo + Giza); this might relate somehow to the distribution of the population, but it actually does relate more to urbanization, governmental centralization in cairo, and modernity e.g communications infrastructure. But also there is a rising number of developers comunities in the south S’idi Geeks is one of them; The word Saʿīdi is hard to spell for a foreigner but it’s related to Upper Egypt residents.

Read More

Dystopia

Saw this over Wired+ which happens to be my favorite novels/fiction/movies genre; thought I didn’t have one :) here’s a list and comments mention better ones too, wired is not the best but it’s good stuff anyway.

konafa :D

konafa :D