Sam (jevim) wrote,

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The Interview Trip

Okay, it's time to get down what's happened the past few days. It's been a fun trip, an exciting trip... and a worrisome trip.

So Monday was when I headed out to Cali for the interview. The flight was slightly delayed leaving Roanoke due to the airplane arriving late to the airpot from Chicago. So after the plane was serviced, we were all on board and caught up to schedule in flight to Chicago. However, when we arrived in Chicago, the pilot came on the intercom to say that we had been sent to the "penalty box" because all the gates were full due to some snow that had fallen, preventing the planes from pushing back from their gates. I don't know how long this actually took, because I just listened to my music until we were at the gate.

Of course, the continuation flight to Orange County was on-time when I looked at the first departure information screen I found... so I started booking it down the F concourse, from terminal 2 to terminal 1, halfway down the B concourse to the walkway to the C concourse, and then down halfway the C concourse to my gate. I was checking the time as I got into the C concourse, and it was just inside the 30-minute boarding time for the flight... but the flight had been delayed. So I was able to grab a few cheeseburgers from the nearby McDonald's stand before getting on the plane, which only had a "snack" food service.

So the plane was loaded, we pushed back from the gate... and just sat there. It seemed very unusual to me. And then the pilot came on the intercom to tell us that the right-side engine wasn't starting, and he went on to explain how they turn the engines off for push-back, and then the engines can't start themselves from a dead stop. So there's supposed to be some type of "starter fan" that pulls or pushes air through the main engine to get it spinning a little, at which time the engine can actually start. And the right-side Starter Fan was either not moving enough air or not running at all. So maintenance people replaced the fan or added another fan, I don't know which. But then we had to go back to the gate because a passenger was having allergy problems and needed to debark. There was also a bunch of paperwork stuff the pilot said needed to be done; in total, it was about a one hour delay. But then we were in the air, and the pilot said they were trying to catch up some time, but that there was a big headwind that was really preventing them from gaining any time.

So I was there an hour late, and then went to get my rental car at Thrifty. I called their shuttle bus (as they don't have a counter at the airport itself), and got to their office. And then I couldn't find my driver's license. I went basically ever place I could have put it and wasn't finding it. The counter agent suggested I just completely empty my wallet onto the counter to make sure I didn't miss my license. This succeeded, thanfully; my license ended up stuffed in a little plastic sheet flip-book that I keep my social security card and selective service card, and the plastic of the driver's license didn't stand out against the plastic holder.

So that taken care of, the agent then taked me into paying $5 more per day ($20 to $25) to go from a Suzuki Swift to a Saturn L200. When I heard "Saturn" I knew I wanted it, just figured it'd handle more like my car (a Saturn SC2) and maybe be more comfortable for that reason. So we did that, and then went into getting some final driving instructions. This is where I should have just said, "No thanks, just give me a local street map and I'll be fine." But the counter agent knew I was in town from Virginia, and she was from Massachusettes and therefore was "having sympathy" for the poor kid who was so far out of their normal life. They looked at the driving directions I had gotten from Yahoo! for driving from SNA to my hotel, and they just said that the directions were bad. I was like... the map shows me where I'm going, it's not that bad. But the counter agent insisted on calling the hotel and getting new directions. The only thing that changed was the direction to turn on El Toro road. Okay, whatever, on my way... I had to get to babyraver's!

So I take my directions and do the original turn onto El Toro... and can't find the hotel. So I turn around, crossed back past where I had turned, and voila, there was the hotel. No wonder we had problems getting phone number for the place... my e-mail said "Ayer's Hotel" but it's actually the "Ayres Hotel". Oh well... really posh place though. Big bed, soft and thick comforter, and a funky electric system where you have to drop your room key into a holder on the wall to turn the main electric lines on. Anyway, I got my stuff situation, and headed on the road to the opposite end of L.A. to see babyraver.

Her directions were a lot easier to follow, although the rain made it hard to read building numbers. I missed her building the first time, but a quick u-turn and I found the building. But I didn't remember her apartment number, so I had to whip out the cell phone and call her that way to get in. It was definitely a cool evening, even if the chinese place didn't want to deliver past 9:30 that night. Not a problem, though: off to Subway! It was only like two blocks away, but those Cali people melt in the rain so we drove up to the shop to get our subs. It was a cool time, not that I really remember what all we talked about. But babyraver was right that we would have a fun time together, and it made me really look forward to Tuesday night. I headed out from their place a bit after 11:00 IIRC, and was back at my hotel just past midnight. A quick call home to Lis, and I was in bed, technically on Tuesday morning.

I had set my alarm for 7am, to allow time to shower and get all spiffed up good. However, around 5:30am I woke up, and didn't really get back to sleep. Around 6am, I just got up and started getting dressed. Spent a lot of time just watching TV and the like, and I called Lis again. But I followed the directions to get from the hotel to the company office, and again these directions were much better than what I got from Thrify (Good Cars. Bad Directions. (tm)). When I checked in at the hotel, there was a message changing my interview from 10:30 to 9:30, but I was in the parking lot of the office at about 9am, but I was unsure if I was in front of the right building, as the parking lot had a few buildings in it. So I called home to Lis to get confirmation, and then at 9:15 I headed in. But... the door was locked. No ringer, buzzer, or the like. The "outside" building door was open, that wasn't the problem. It was just the inner door. I called the HR guy's cell phone to see if he could let me in, but I just got voice mail. At about 9:25, I just tried knocking on the door. Well, it got someone to answer the door! Amazing this low-tech stuff ain't it? But I was in my interview suit, and everyone else was definitely in business casual. But I wanted to put off a professional view of myself, even if it meant I was overdressed.

So I sat down with the first guy who put me through the technical part of the day's interview. A bunch of sheets of paper, each with a coding problem. He said that we'd spend up to 10 minutes on each, and that we probably wouldn't get through all of them. Well, after the first three we were way under 10 minutes each, but we were doing them by random draw... he spread the sheets like a deck of cards and I'd pull a test. We got through them all before we ran out of time. The problems weren't so much "write a bunch of code" but "explain what happens if..." or "does this work? why or why not?". I think I was able to defend myself well (which I later found out to be a bit of an understatement!). After this, he showed me around the office a bit and then we were joined by two other employees for a bit more discussion and another logic test, "the coin". I guess I did reasonably well, even if they did catch one flaw in my sequence. I guess it proves that I was human, and probably more importantly that I could deal with a slam on my thought processes. Not that I intended to allow it...

Anyway, we did all this and the HR guy came in and explained that the next step would be interviewing with them again later, and spending some time with the VP of Software Engineering, who is one of the founders. It was, maybe, Noon at that point. Before I left at 1, I was asked to be back at 3pm to talk with the VP, as he had made time for me since I was from the east coast and another trip would be a major headache. The HR guy also said that I didn't have to dress up, and that he was sorry that he didn't make that clear to me before hand. So while I was gone, I went to lunch, and when I came back I took my tie off and undid my top button on the shirt. This got some favorable reviews from the HR guy when I came back at 3. I talked with two of the founders. When I was done with them (or they were done with me! ^_^ ), they left me in the conference room that was my interview home, and went off "to discuss". At the time, I felt that the founder was not entirely impressed with me. Of course, it could simply be his style of interviewing to continuously be a devil's advocate, and that I misread him. But they came back to me, with a packet of information.

Honestly, while I was waiting, my mind was running like... are they going to just give me an offer? Are they deciding if I should just be blown off today because no matter how the other guys turn out they don't want to hire me? I just pulled my Clie out and started playing solitare. When I saw the packet of information, the first thought was... Damn! an offer! But that quickly changed to, nah, they're just keeping me in consideration and giving me more corporate propaganda to go through. Well... it was corporate propaganda, but also a job offer letter. They want a decision by next Monday, though, and for me to start work in the near-term, basically to give two week's notice and then move ASAP and start working out there.


Anyway, so I got back to my hotel about 5pm, got out of the rest of my suit, put some normal clothing on, and headed out at 5:30 pm to babyraver & f0rge's for Buffy night. I didn't expect so many people to be there, 7 in total... so 5 guests. Lots of cool people there, and some good discussions over dinner. But I neglected to take my Prilosec and didn't bring it with me, so I passed on most of the food stuffs just to try and keep my stomach happy (and it was a success, btw). But it was definitely cool. I tried to get the webcams working to home with Lis, but it was really uncooperative, so I settled for a phone call. But... with all the other people there, I felt really awkward running off to the bedroom to talk to Lis without so much background noise. *sigh* I think Lis will really go for babyraver & f0rge, and there won't be the awkward decision with her there in person.

But I stayed a lot later than I should have... I was the first guest there and the last one to leave. I hope f0rge & babyraver didn't mind that. They are really mellow people, and it's not really what I'm accustomed to. I thought people in L.A. were supposed to be meaner than everywhere else! ^_^ But I got home safely, after deciding to take I-5 back to the hotel instead of I-405, mainly to just try and see some different stuff!

Anyway, I got up at about 5am this morning (local time), but I had set my alarm for 6am. (Maybe I need to start setting my alarm one hour later!) Got everything together, took stuff out to the car, had breakfast, checked out, and of course there wasn't a convenient gas station on the way to return the rental car. Over $2 a gallon by the gas station close to the rental car place... but it's better than the $3.99 they would've charged if I didn't return it full. I had the hardest time dealing with the "vapor recovery" nozzle--not something I've ever dealt with before. But got the car returned, got to the airport, and navigated the long lines in plenty of time before the flight. Of course, while waiting, I realized that I had not gotten Lis any See's chocolates like I had said I would. I called her from the airport to say Hi again (I had called from the hotel before checking out) and to make sure she wouldn't be too upset if she didn't get her chocolates. Thankfully she forgave me :-).

I slept for a lot of the flight from Orange County to Chicago. The flight landed almost a full half-hour early, which meant that I now had a 3 1/2 hour layover! Oh well... I wandered around a bit, took my Prilosec, and had a burger at Chili's Too. Everything to this point has been written while I'm sitting at Gate F1 waiting for my 6:10 departure to Roanoke... that I've heard some people chat about being cancelled due to bad weather in Roanoke. I don't know if there's a later flight (I don't expect so), so if it's cancelled I could end up with a night in Chicago. Dunno how I'll explain that one at work, missing an extra half-day, but then I'm going to have to "correct" them on why I was gone Mon-Wed anyway if I give them a resignation letter to take the Cali job offer.

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