Saturday, August 28, 2010 Interview time
If you've read part one of the series, you must be giddy with anticipation and can't wait to find out what happened next!
It was finally time. Interview time.
The conference room was ready and awaited us. Six of us, and only one other girl. All in one room, all competing for the same job. Awkward..!
The first one to greet us was the HR guy. He explained how this was going to happen. We were to spend the first 45 minutes with him, talking about general company stuff, then we'd have 45 min with the CEO and founder, 45 min with the VP of engineering (complete with facility tour), and finally after that we get to begin the round of interviews. We would each have 5 one on one 30 minute interviews with engineers from the various departments. Yikkes!!!
I was scared, and I couldn't understand how no one else heard my heart pounding.. sounded like African drums.. I just wanted to get the interview part over with, so I could relax. But the one thing I learned, which I think is the most important thing to know when facing such interviews - Listen to what they say, these people will tell you exactly what they want to hear from you, they will tell you what they are looking for and what they expect you to be. I was so so happy to have heard those talks by the VP and CEO and HR guy to begin with, it really made me realize how to tailor myself toward them. If you ever have that kind of experience, use it, listen to them, ask questions, it's a great way to really know what it is they are looking for. Also keep in mind, they're looking for more than just GPA, they want people who are team players who they can get along with. After all, they're going to be spending far more time with you than with their own family and friends.
So I was learning a lot listening to the HR and CEO guys speak. The VP of engineering though, he was the coolest. He took us out to the machine shops, electronics shop, clean room, and showed us scaled models of the satellites they built, along with the coolest thing ever - the motor case with whatever fuel was left over from SpaceShipOne. Soo Awesome.
Rocket race car
The VP then told us about an Australian race car driver who was talking to them about outfitting his car with a rocket, he said they use new hires to sit behind the wheel and test it out, and asked if there were any volunteers. My hand went up. Then I realized oh, everyone else is laughing, that was a joke. Ooops. But hey, nothing
wrong with showing some extra enthusiasm and motivation right? Moving on..
Interview time was upon me. I was a little more calm by this point, the African drums in my heart seemed to be toned down a bit, which was nice, cause now I could actually hear the questions directed at me. The first dude I talked to was on the propulsion team, he seemed cool, asked general questions, nothing really technical, more about what I'm looking for and what I would want to do. Next I spoke with the head of the software dept. Very cool dude. He asked the dreaded "So tell me about yourself" question. My reaction was "Oh no, not that!", we both laughed and chatted more freely after that. I thought it went well. By this point I had already repeated my intro a couple of times and felt more confident about it, it seemed to flow pretty well.
I spoke with a satellite guy next. I knew nothing about satellites. He was interested in seeing sketches of stuff I had worked on, he asked detailed questions but nothing super technical. After him was the Controls guy. He was young, and seemed chill, until he pulled out that notepad and wrote down equations! He talked technical. Equations. Missing terms. Plots. Real stuff. I had to get this right, after all I was the TA for a lab class on this topic. He also asked why I had no accent, to which I replied "you know I'm surprised no one else has asked me that" he immediately retracted that question and said "maybe that's an illegal question to ask, don't answer that" this was apparently his first time interviewing.
I had gone over the allotted 30 minutes with each one so far.. I thought that was a good thing. I was feeling pretty good right about now, it had been a long day, all was looking pink and rosy, and I had one more interview to go.
Finally, a woman engineer! The only one there too. She was a sweetheart. Good hearted, caring, one of those people you just want to give a hug to. She loved me! She said stuff like "Wow, you can do anything, this is great, you're just like your buddy, we can fit you in anywhere". I was really happy to hear that.
She walked me out to the main entrance and gave me the wink, a firm hand shake, and said "I look forward to speaking with you again". I was melting with joy at this point. The long day was finally about to be done. Just a few more minutes of the wrap up and off to the bars!!
I walked into the conference room. The only other girl was standing there, she asked how it went, I said "I think it went really well, how about you?" she gave me a scared negative look and said nothing. The other 2 candidates did the same. The rest of them finally joined and the HR guy gave some closing words and that was it. I walked back in the cube farm to say goodbye to my buddy. On the way out the HR guy pulled me aside and asked "how serious are you about this job?" I said "100%" he then said "let's talk away from the other candidates" OMG, OMG, OMG, I couldn't believe it. He continued "I can't give you an official offer of course, but 3 of the people you spoke with already came up to me and said they loved you. How soon would you be able to start?"
So yea, it went well. Of course this being me, something had to go wrong.
It's beer thirty
There I was happy as can be, huge smile plastered on my face, cruising down the highway headin' to the bars at the beach when that buddy of mine, yea, he called me sounding all panicy and not so happy. He asked "How did the interview go?" I said "Well, I think it went great!... Why..?" ... "Oh no reason, it's just that, well how did your interview with the controls guy go?" he asked. Me- "Well, I think it went ok, buuut he did pull out the notepad though, and asked about equations, and I did forget one term.. oh no... what did he say..?" him- "Ok, how many girls interviewed today?" Me- "Just one other than me. Again, why?" him- "He wouldn't tell me which, but he said a girl he talked to was UTTERLY USELESS. She was terrible, didn't know anything." My heart sank. I was no longer a happy camper. I begged my buddy to find out if it was me or the other girl, but he said he couldn't ask him, he had only been there 8 months himself, and didn't want to push his boundaries.
Of course everything ended up fine and a mere few days later I got an offer. But it was a rough weekend! And, after all that, when I moved out there, I came to find that my buddy and controls guy were drinking pals and he probly could have asked him all along. Turned out that other girl had shit on her own resume she couldn't talk about, all of her interviews ran out of questions in about 10 min.
Anyway, so I got the job. One other dude from my round was hired, and 2 from the previous group. I of course could not turn it down. This was the reason I was going to grad school. To be part of this. This was the exact thing I wanted to do all my life. So I did what I had to do and I quit the MS program. Packed up my shit, and drove across the country, stopping at every NASA center along the way. Annnd the French quarter in New Orleans, Moody Gardens in Galveston TX, and quite a few bars.
I don't regret leaving, but I do wish I had the time to take classes while working. Of course now I'm interested in so many more fields, I wouldn't know which one to pick as a major.
You never know where stuff will lead you. As cliche as it sounds.. listen to your heart, and your gut. They seem to know best. I certainly didn't know I'd be coding fire/abort sequences for rocket testing. I'm still amazed they let me press the fire button, I mean it is only fair, since I did put the button there, but still. You just never know.