Making the Change

So I’ve finally been and gone done it – I’ve resigned from Scottish and Southern Energy!

Rather than some long term big processes to move jobs, it’s actually come about initially quite by chance. One of the agents who put me forward for a couple of interviews before I got the job at SSE included me on a general e-mail circular last Tuesday asking for help filling a role. Having re-written my CV a few days before I sent an e-mail back saying that I couldn’t help with the particular role he was looking to fill, but that I’d just updated my CV, and added pretty much what I put in the posting – that I would be interested in any roles that cut my commute.

Anyway, the next morning, when I turned on my phone, I had a message from one of his colleagues, who was looking to fill a role just down the road in Wokingham. As with most roles, the skills match wasn’t exact in that I had no relevant C++, and I had C# for my .Net rather than VB.Net. However talking with the agent I said that I was happy to cross-train for a more local role, and also highlighted that I had cross-trained a number of times before, and also that using VB.Net as opposed to C# was not a particular jump as the underlying .Net framework is shared between the languages. As a result she said she was happy to put forward my CV, as long as I provided a covering letter explaining my willingness to cross-train, and why I believed that my skills were relevant. I have to say that I wasn’t massively confident, as I expected that there would be plenty of people with a better skills match.

However it was with some surprise when within an hour or so of the agent passing on my CV and covering letter, she called back to say that her clients were interested, and then a few hours later asking if I could come for interview on either Friday afternoon, or Monday, as one of the people who would want to talk to me was going to be out for the rest of the week. I opted for Monday morning, and booked the day off work.

So yesterday I went down into Wokingham for my interview. The first part was a general chat with one of the directors of the company, which apparently lasted a lot longer than with previous candidates. Then I moved on to a more technical interview with one of the senior technical staff, and finally a technical test.

The technical test is usually one of the most unpredictable parts of any software development interview process. What seems to happen a lot (and I admit I’ve been guilty of putting candidates through one or two of these) is what is essentially a quiz about key parts of whatever language the role requires. Mostly this is covering basic, fundamental concepts of the language, so for a VB 6 developer I’d often ask a candidate to explain about ‘Option Explicit‘, and the use of Variants. However it all to easily turns in to some sort of trivia test, indeed I still have a copy of a thirty question nightmare used by one company that I got sent at one point. The basic issue is that it doesn’t test whether somebody can actually program. Hi-Q used to supplement the interview with aptitude and then a psychometric test, which seemed to work quite well, in fact the DISC profile they did for me proved frighteningly accurate!

Anyway, the test yesterday was a straight practical test of my programming ability. Essentially I was given a choice of standard programming environments, including VB 6, Visual Studio 2003, and even Excel. I was then given the task, a limited time, and left to get on with it. The task was one of those classic programming exercises that you tend to get in any programming course – something that seems pretty simple on the surface, but has a lot of subtleties. I chose to do it in C#, and to do what was basically a quick and dirty solution, and then gradually refine the solution, commenting up the code in the places where I knew that it needed work, or where I was aware that it was inefficient. For example I made use of a Hashtable, but stored integers in the table, which would result in a large number of boxing and unboxing operations. It certainly seemed to be the right technique, as when the technical interviewer returned he seemed pleased, and actually commented that a significant number of people who had taken the test, hadn’t got something that worked – even incorrectly -by the end of the time.

After the technical test, I was then called back in to see the director I had met initially, who made me an offer!

All in all, I was quite surprised. From a point less than a week ago when I thought it was a bit of a long shot, I’d actually found a nice role at a small but growing company, that could make good use of my skills. On top of that, rather than being forty-four miles from home, it was barely four miles away, wiping almost eighty miles off my daily driving – that works out as about four hundred less miles per week, a massive difference. Certainly whilst I’m looking forward to the new challenges of the role, I’m also looking forward to not having to spend more than two hours every day driving the back roads or motorways of Hampshire. My last day at SSE is 24th February, and whilst I’ll be sad to leave the friends I’ve made there over the past few years, I’m really looking forward to getting started with my new job on the 27th.

It’s worth saying that, as before, since this is a personal blog, I specifically won’t be blogging about anything directly work related, hence why I have been careful not to mention the company by name, or give many details. Also, as I’ve now got a new job, I think it’s probably sensible to remove my CV from the site too.

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