Monday, 29 April 2013

April Interviews - Part Two

And barely needed any of it. The test was entirely about the spotting and correcting syntax errors in DATA steps and drawing very simple-minded conclusions from some toy data. Most of the interview was about the kinds of issues that a mid-level account manager with some basic data skills would handle. Exactly, in fact, the kind of person that the other two candidates were. The interview and group exercise were entirely focussed on what we "insights" we might sell to the clients. Since their product, if indeed you could call it that, was not about using personal data to communicate with people, but selling aggregated data to corporate and state users, I was frankly struggling. The commercial use of "big data" is exactly about communicating with individual consumers, even if there is the occasional attempt to hype applications to economic and social trend-spotting. (If that stuff had half a snowflake's chance in hell of yielding useful results, the hedge funds and investment banks would be wooing Cathy O'Neill and her ilk with serious money. If they are, she's not telling.)  However, at the point of the interview process I was trying my best, and was troubled if at all by the comparative composure of a tall young lady I shall call The Blonde, because she was. Even at the time I thought she looked like someone who knew she had a lock on the process. Perhaps at EE there's a presumption in favour of the internal applicant. Her first words on meeting, after the introductions were "Oh I didn't know they had advertised it externally". 

The next day I went to my tweve-step meeting in Chelsea for the first time since the weather got stupid cold. Whatever it is in those rooms that lets the unconscious work and communicate with the rest of the brain started to do its stuff, and it started going through the interview. I was very angry for a couple of hours the next evening. Banging-the-steering-wheel-shouting-obscenities angry. Not because I wasn't going to get the job, but because the whole process was a fraud. The job title was "Data Scientist", which is pretty much accepted to be a role that requires a mixture of data handling, statistics, interpretation and presentation and all at a fairly high level. What I had had was an interview for a position known as "The Account Blonde". This is usually a young woman with a pleasant manner, docile enough to rote-learn the company ideology, and with just enough tech so she can talk the talk and do a little walking of her own. Occasionally the Account Blonde is a guy, but only rarely. Account Blonde is a commercially important role, but not one for which you would hire anyone with the chops to be a Data Scientist.

So what was I doing there at all? The EE guys had reached the point where they were pretty sure they needed their first Account Blonde, but they had a slight reservation. So why not put out another ad for the type of person they think they might need, and run the two side-by-side? Compare, contrast, inform their doubts and make a decision. This has happened to me before, and I can understand that, but contra to the proverb, the more I understand, the less I forgive. (I think the proverb is about not condemning one partner in a  marriage for having an affair until you've me the other one.) It's deception and it's thoughtless.

Would I even think about another job at EE now? Well, let's see? What evidence do I have about them? Oh yes. They advertise jobs they have no intention of filling. The only person who has a positive experience is the Blonde who got the job. If I'd got it, she would have rightly felt cheated. This approach is pretty much guaranteed to burn goodwill planks at one or other end of the bridge. I was being used as a pace-setter. 

Describing the emotional roller-coaster ride I had that Tuesday is a little difficult, because of what it says about me and my life right now. I had moments where I was thinking "Jesus Christ I want that job, I want to get out of here, I could use the money, hell it will change my life" and other moments when I was thinking "Mmmm, Paddington, travel and maybe longer hours". But mostly it was stuff around the "I really want that job". And all on the inside. No-one to share with. I don't usually share this stuff anyway, until the results are in. Nobody sounds more cluelessly desperate than someone talking about their hopes for the outcome of a job interview. Even writers sound more convincing and grown-up talking about rejections and speculative meetings than wage-slaves do talking about their interviews. 

One advantage of Being On The Program is that one gets a Higher Power. Inside the rooms, this is an idea we understand implicitly. Outside the rooms, it is at best New Age twaddle. In my case, let's say that it meant that, however incoherently, I recognised that having more money and changing my job was not what I needed to do to improve my life. That I was trying to distract myself, and that I was lucky I didn't get an offer I would be sorely tempted to accept. Instead I need to accept that I have enough to improve the quality of my life, though I may not know how just yet.

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