Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Schrödinger's cat

A couple of weeks ago I closed my eyes and clicked on the submit button on ThoughtWorks website and down went my CV, too late to change, into the ThoughtWorks database. Imagine my excitement as the next day I get an email asking to ring back to organise a phone interview.

Seemingly the interview went well as I was asked to complete a coding test. I had to choose one of three tests and I spent hours agonizing over what angle I should tackle this at. Everyone knows the ThoughtWorks mantra on simplicity, but just how simple is simple? I believe I've kept my code simple but what if it's too complicated? And if I make it simpler what if it's then too simple? I can't describe the hours of agonising until I finally came up with a solution I was happy with which I zipped up, closed my eyes a second time, and pressed my shaky finger down onto the mouse button. I hadn't felt this nervous since jumping off the top diving board or, in my teens, ringing a girl I met in the club!

As soon as I went to bed that evening the code went round and round in my head and I cursed myself for the hundreds of dumb decisions I'd made, regretting the fact that I hadn't just slept on it before sending it. "But hey", I said to myself "this is like the real world: we can always go back over our code improving it - a good artist knows when to stop" and to my reading ThoughtWorks is as much about knowing when to stop as it is keeping it simple.

Because of the bank holiday I have been waiting a week or so for the feedback on my code and if I've made it to the next stage. When I first submitted for the job I genuinely wanted to work for ThoughtWorks but was open to the possibility that I may not be successful but as the process has gone on I feel a stronger and stronger desire to get this job and as such the potential disappointment grows exponentially with it.

As I face the twin prospects of elation and despair I realised that going for jobs is like Schrödinger's cat: your life becomes the cat in the box, the nucleus the job. Until I open the box (i.e. get the final result of the application) there exists two realities: the one in which I get the job and the one in which I don't. So from now until that time I live with the turmoil of flipping between the belief that my code was the most amazing they've ever seen and I am going to get this job and life's going to be groovy, and desperate self-doubt which tells me they are so disgusted at the poor quality of my work it'll take at least five years for them to scrub the horror from their memories!

As the French say "C'est la vie" and the First Noble Truth is "suffering exists". This is a period in my life with an outcome which, to a certain extent, is outside of my control: there is a reality on whether I have, at this stage in my career, what it takes to be a ThoughtWorker and no matter how much I may believe I do (which I really, really do) that cat in the box is either alive or dead: it is not both.


David Yeung said...

since my interview is a few hours away i've been looking for what google has to say about them. the first 20 pages were mostly about what thoughtworks said of themselves. not enough for me to validate their claims of reputation but enough to know that the probing and prodding of the selection process is far from over. anyway, i sympathise with your situation. the waiting plays with your head. when i was waiting for the code review results, i realised i really wanted to have their approval. wierdo. just so you know, the sydney HR team got back to me after 4 working days on monday. good luck mate.

JupiterMoonBeam said...

Hi David,

It is nice to know there are others out there. I got my code review back yesterday and it was very positive so I'm off to the big smoke for a series of tests and interviews tomorrow: I'm sure I won't sleep tonight!

I hope you have all the best of luck too: you never know we may even be meeting up as colleagues in a few months!

About Me

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West Malling, Kent, United Kingdom
I am a ThoughtWorker and general Memeologist living in the UK. I have worked in IT since 2000 on many projects from public facing websites in media and e-commerce to rich-client banking applications and corporate intranets. I am passionate and committed to making IT a better world.