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Global Economic Turndown

Been looking for a job since I got laid off last Tuesday. Found this one on Seek, Mid-Level C#.NET and PL/SQL which looked alright, so I applied, got a phone call at 3pm asking me to interview at 2pm the following day. Great! An Interview! But only 23 hrs to prepare minus sleep, travel and looking after the kids. Can I possibly revise two entire languages plus humanity’s collective wisdom on Web Development in one day ?

Crammin’

The C# should be alright but I haven’t done any PL/SQL for 2 years. Gawd. How does it work again ??? So I flog Google for Interview Questions and try to bone up on RDBMS basics as well. The known unknowns start to seep back into the frontal cortex from the subterranean layers where I sequestered all the PL/SQL from last time I worked on it. What are the Transaction Isolation Levels again ? How many kinds of Collection classes does PL/SQL have ? What’s an Anonymous Block ? For crying out loud don’t slip up on the C# either. I find Scott Hanselman’s blog article on what he reckons every C# Web Developer should ‘just know’. Hells Bells, it reads like a NASA Specification for a Robot-Controlled Desalination Plant on Mars. I start to realise just how much I don’t know. Am I going to crash and burn ?

Cool it. Just keep revising. Try to prioritize. Forget the DBA related SQL. Strewth, they listed Javascript as the #1 requirement – no time to revise that too – just cover the other stuff. Oh cool, so that’s a REF_CURSOR yeah squirrel that into the memory banks. Forgot the difference between Response.Redirect and Server.Transfer, DECODE and CASE, TRANSLATE and REPLACE, Primary Key and Unique Key, VARCHAR2 and VARCHAR. Not hard though just keep moving.

Interview

So I get to the interview. I’ve been trying to prepare for a set of random questions on anything I may have done for the past three and a half years. It’s a hopeless cause. In the end I just tried to cover the basics so I don’t embarass myself on something straight-forward. I need to get lucky.

Question 1: “Tell Me About Yourself”
Answer: “I’m your typical hyper-motivated genius.”

Question 2: “Given a REF_CURSOR (aargh REF_CURSOR I’m going to burn…) which returns a result set containing R, R’s related tuples X, X’s related tuples Y and Y’s related tuples Z (diagram attached) [I knew it I’m going to crash and burn] all of which can repeat N-times giving an overall result set S, how would you return this result to .NET ?

Answer: [Silence] Ermm. I don’t get what you mean by ‘return it’.

Them: You know. Show it in .NET as a report.
Me: [Report??] Do you mean, what data structure would I use ?
Them: Yes.
Me: DataSet ?
Them: Yes. What else. How would you report the data ?
Me: [Report?? It’s just text..A row of TextBoxes?? No. No. Think, Boy] I guess… let’s see. So maybe R is a Student and X is a Course and Y is a Subject and Z is Grades.
Them: Yeah. That’s a practical way of looking at it.
Me: So. Maybe [Taking a Stab] X,Y and Z are DataTables and you use DataRelations to navigate between them.
Them: Yes.
Me: [Jagged It!!!]
Them: Now how will you report it ?
Me: [Report It???] [Light dawns] You mean what kind of .NET control will I use to display it ?
Them: Yes.
Me: [Gold!] Drill-down DataGrid..no too much work.
Them: Drill-down. Not a bad idea.
Me: [I had a good idea? Cool!] Has to be a hierarchical. Use a TreeView.
Them: Yes. Exactly right. Well done.

And That Concluded Festivities

That’s right. Fully two questions.
I had been trying to commit the Ye Olde Encyclopedia Brittanica of Code to memory and they asked me ONE technical question. Freakier than a Fruit Bat at A Cranberry Convention.

Sudden Weird Sensations Of Fear
Catching the train after the interview I was gripped by sudden weird sensations of fear. One technical question. That can’t be right. Maybe they flunked me after one question…no it seems right…But just ONE question…

Well Done Me
They offered me the job!

Acknowledgements
Fruit Bat analogy courtesy of the US Version of ‘Life On Mars’.

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