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Time management or programming skills?

 
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I was recently in a tech interview for a software developer position. My interviewer was more interested in my abilities to time manage myself rather than the programming skills I have. Is this common?
 
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Hi Leo,
The hidden question is: "Are you an organization person?". It is very common question. The interviewer wants to know how are you going to handle multiple projects or tasks. It is very common to find someone who organizes his tasks well, he will find the resource to solve the particular task very quick.
Cheers,
MCao
 
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Yes it is. Just about anyone can use a sort algorithm, or design a catalog in OO, not everyone can manage their time or communicate well.
--Mark
 
leo donahue
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This field is frustrating.
How are all the new computer science grads supposed to compete when you get an interview and the interviewer is not interested so much in your skills as they are in what software you use to time manage yourself? Not only are you doomed that you haven't any project time management skills, but now you have to have been using the right "time management software". What's next? Do I need a pet owl named Spotty?
 
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It looks like they are checking if you can manage your time when you work on the project. In other words can you apply project management skills to yourself. This is important because they probably want to make sure that you will deliver a business solution and not some wonderful framework which has no use to them. Most of the time your manager does not know how to write code and he/she has to rely on you to make sure you will convert company business needs into software solution.
If you are just out of college, and looking for a junior developer position, they should not expect you to know that, because they should put you on a team with senior developers who would help you with time management issues.
If they are looking for a sole player position, than they probably should look for somebody who has already 4-5 years in the field with a couple of complete projects under the belt.
If you are interested in the books, check the following topics on amazon and select appropriate books:
gathering requirements, project management, software modeling, database design etc.
If you want to use a software tool, check Microsoft Project. More than likely there are similar packages out there.
[ June 25, 2003: Message edited by: Michael Bronshteyn ]
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by leo donahue:
This field is frustrating.
How are all the new computer science grads supposed to compete when you get an interview and the interviewer is not interested so much in your skills as they are in what software you use to time manage yourself?


I don't know any software engineer who uses software for time management (aside from a calendar program). It's not about software, it's about your non-technical skills.
(The new CS grads are supposed to compete against other new CS grads.)
--Mark
 
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How are all the new computer science grads supposed to compete when you get an interview and the interviewer is not interested so much in your skills as they are in what software you use to time manage yourself? Not only are you doomed that you haven't any project time management skills, but now you have to have been using the right "time management software". What's next? Do I need a pet owl named Spotty?


Right now is not a good time for any software engineer, whether he is a newbie just getting started or a veteran with 20 years experience. Downtimes of 6 months between jobs are very common, and stories of good people who have been unemployed for 24 months are not unheard of.
Don't lose hope though. What you need to know is that not everything you hear in a job interview is completely true. Sometimes the interviewer is desperately trying to make a decision and seizes upon an apparent weakness. This may be the case here. It seems to me that if an interviewer goes this far to disqualify you, you must be pretty good. So it is just a matter of time and opportunity for you.
Another comment is that someone who talks of 'time management skills' is really talking about one of two things. He may be trying to guage your ability to make deadlines or she may be a software engineering boffin. Tell a story about a hard deadline you have met and what you have learned, or ask whether they mean software engineering processes like RUP.
I'm reading an excellent book about the RUP right now:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0321166094/qid=1056497448/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_2_1/026-8182323-5301239
 
leo donahue
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Thanks everyone for your replies, and Alfred - thanks for the book link.
Let me clarify a few things.
I'm not disappointed that I didn't get the position. It just seemed weird to me that this particular interview seemed to focus on my ability to manage time. My resume indicated that I was a new grad and I thought it was strange that the topic came up more than once in the conversation.
I agree that this is not the time to be a new grad and that more opportunities will eventually present themselves.
I was just curious to know from everyone if the topic of time management is a common interview theme, which I gather it is.
 
Al Newman
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I was just curious to know from everyone if the topic of time management is a common interview theme, which I gather it is.


Calling it a 'common' topic is definately overstating it. I'd say it might come up 5 to 10% of the time. Shit happenes. It's bad times, and you have to figure that you're going to interview 10 to 20 times before you get an offer.
 
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