[This was a locked post at the time, and it has comments so from people who saw it was locked, so I'm not opening the original.]
A former colleague contacted me a few weeks ago to make a pitch: we worked really well together, my team needs what you do, wanna talk? After a lunch conversation it sounded interesting enough to proceed, so I sent him a resume.
I'm a technical writer, a very good one in my opinion, and very senior. Part of what I do, what this person specifically values, is that I contribute usefully to software development. I bring the user perspective and I also bring decent software-engineering clues. He told me he's particularly interested in the latter because their team doesn't have a lot of senior people. When (before we started talking about this) he asked me what I was currently doing and I mentioned that I was particularly happy to be able to mentor our junior team members, his eyes lit up.
What I don't do well, or attempt to do any more at all, is write production code. I used to be a programmer. I'm not now. I have a decent reading knowledge, and enough core knowledge to be able to ask good prying questions about behavior, performance, and so on.
So I'm a "tech-writer++", one who fits well in the right kind of software organization, but not a programmer. I'm overqualified for most tech-writing jobs and underqualified for most software-development jobs. My colleague wants to create the right opening in his group. I gave him some calibration on level expectations.
Their in-house recruiter contacted me last week to schedule some time to talk, and referenced a very generic, not-senior tech-writing job posting. When we talked this morning I asked about that and compared it to what I understood from my colleague, and she said others had told her that job posting wasn't going to cut it either. It sounds like we're just going to ignore that posting and she just needed something to attach my resume to.
She said the next step would be a phone screen with one of their technical folks. I suggested some dates and times. A couple hours later I got email scheduling that call (fast work). What I wasn't expecting was that during that interview we'd use a collaboration tool for me to write code in real time (and don't forget test cases, it said), and I should sign up with Top Coder and browse some of their problems to get an idea of what to expect.
Eep? Am I really getting the software-developer interview process, or is this email -- like the job description -- a generic template that we're not really going to follow? Can I write correct, compilable code in real time while being watched, where every stupid typo or goof stands out? (Oh right, for arrays it's
.length() like you expect! Oh right, I can't cast a string that contains only digits to an int directly; how do I do that again? Can I consult Stack Overflow? Etc.)
Well, one way or the other, it won't stress me for too long. I've got until Monday -- and Pesach is between now and then -- to scrape off the rust, do some practice problems, and see what happens. My goal is to not embarrass myself. Because even if it turns out they're looking for someone who'll write production code -- in which case I am not their person -- I still don't want to look like an idiot to the interviewer. Which is stupid because it's not "idiot", it's "mismatch", but try telling my subconscious that.
Beyond that, the worst that happens is that this particular job that came looking for me, not the other way around, isn't a fit. There are still lots of ways it could turn out not to be a fit that aren't related to this phone screen, after all. I've asked very few of my questions so far.