Monday, 11 October 2010

The Job & The Career

1.0 Situation
Economic-Crisis-92911 Allegedly, there is and has been [spanning the last 2 years] a 'so-called' economic crisis. I, fortunate as I am and as ironic as can be, was obliged [by society], precisely at the prime period of the crisis' existence, to seek employment [or as they say: job "hunt", since it is a brutal, grotesque process much to the likeness of hunting animals and killing fellow hunters with blunt objects for survival, and then having the animals eat you alive in the end].
My hunt, was long and arduous, 800 [yes, that is eight hundred] applications sent and ultimately denied/rejected [600 in Europe, 100 in Canada, 100 in Trinidad], and only a fraction of which would be listed in this post. I designed and conjured and manipulated an elaborate life plan [well not so elaborate, but solid enough for a guy who does not like to plan his life and would rather go with the flow of things]. I tried, and incorporated all avenues; I dropped job standards and killed dreams; I applied for high-level and low-level positions, public and private, big and small companies, and graduate programmes and full-time jobs.
In addition, I tried to accept [with a pinch of salt] all the advice given to me by online job blogs, job newsletters, family members, friends, fellow job hunters, and drunken men in bars. But alas, the system of things and the modern world has raped us all. The markets are saturated, the jobs are boring and overwhelming, and we are overworked and underpaid; we the hunters have become the hunted. We live a drone life dictated by a system that man created.
All rants aside however, my applications were not all in vain, since I did manage to gain several interviews, a positive indication that my profile and CV was not complete shit, and that the reason actually for the everlasting [gobstopper] rejections [in Europe] was indeed something external, namely:
  1. The [dreaded] Crisis.
  2. My Lack of Work Permit [sponsorship] & Employment law restrictions/deterrents.
  3. The Language Barrier [requirement for French native speaker].
Additionally, there were three levels of rejection:
  1. CV based / Online-Application based.
  2. Phone Screen Interview based.
  3. In-Person Interview based.
In this case, in Europe/France, companies rather hire local experts and not foreign graduates in order to save on training costs as well as to avoid the hassle of sponsoring work permits for candidates. I have had telephone screening interviews with the following companies, all of whom simply stopped the process of interviewing after the first phone screening interview ['Level 2' rejection], in spite of the fact that I was fully capable and qualified to perform the job, after learning that I needed sponsorship, and that I was not a native French speaker.
  1. Google Technical Job [rejected based on work permit status] [English interview].
  2. Accenture Paris [never returned] [French interview].
  3. Amadeus Sophia Antipolis, Nice [informal meeting resulted in nothing] [English interview].
  4. Three [3] other French IT consulting companies in the south of France who I cannot remember mostly because they never got back to me [quite unprofessional in my opinion] [French interviews].
I have had an in-person interview [in French] in the beautiful southern city of Bandol in France. The company was a consulting firm with headquarters in Grasse [the world's capital of perfume]. Dream-job? Maybe, but the woman never got back to me [again, unprofessional] [Level 3 Rejection], my guess: again because I had no work permit and I was not a French native. But the trip to the tourist haven of Bandol was worth it: the beaches were warm and sweet, French coffee at a roadside cafe with my girlfriend was warm and aromatic, and of course, the wine from there was simply splendid.
On my return to Trinidad I had several interviews as well [with the following companies], but for positions that were not exactly congruent with what I learned in my Master Programme [it was simply more technically-oriented, something I did not prefer but was willing to settle for].
Now this 'Level 3' rejection was not based on me 'failing' the interview, nor was it due to any of the three reasons listed above. Rather, it was based on the fact that the companies most probably found that the position was not a good match for my profile, I was overqualified, or they simply could not afford to pay a person with a Master degree. But I did not lose hope, for it is in times like these, when one is in his most desperate state, that one sees the light, and one develops the strength to move forward. To be even more cliche, as they say: "when it rains it pours".
2.0 Google
Google Arbitrarily, one day while wandering in the thick forest of the internet, I stumbled across a golden gem of a Job at Google. The APM: Associate Product Manager, according to Google's Job website is as follows:

The Associate Product Manager Program is an elite two-year rotational program, consisting of two one-year rotations, designed for top recent computer science graduates who are interested in exploring product development and leadership opportunities. This select group is given broad responsibilities, generous access to resources, visibility into Google's executive team and many opportunities to grow within the organization. The program combines on-the- job experience with additional training, mentorship, and support from current associates and the rest of the product team.

Perfect! It absolutely and accurately matched my IMMIT Profile: a good mix of strong technical foundation and holistic business approach for nurturing products at one of the most innovative companies in the world. Apart from the obvious benefits of working in Zurich, Switzerland at Google, the most desired place to work on the planet, I would have the opportunity to really make a significant change in the world. They were very encouraging toward young international graduates offering training, travelling, and socializing; however there is a price to pay, working in a cool office like that does not come freely.
The interview process is like nothing you have ever experienced before, it is not the typical, boring HR interview with questions such as "what are your strengths and weaknesses?" or "what did you do in your last job?" These are answers they can find by simply reading your CV; they want to really find out how you think, your analytical and logical processes, even if you are not going in there to program, you need to know how programmers think and how businessmen think and how to marry this data to create useful information to develop a product.
Google's Interview Process: [Steps of APM Interview]
Astonishingly, to my deep surprise, I was contacted for an interview with Google - the second time my CV has been selected for distinct positions - another confirmation that my CV is not the problem. Naturally, I was excited and motivated. However, the interview process for Google is an excruciating 3-4 phone interviews the last of which may be with Marissa Mayer, dubbed by Fortune magazine as one of the 50 most powerful women in the world and the youngest woman ever to make the list. Then, you may have up to six [6] in-person interviews. Anyway, some of the questions are listed below, to give those willing to apply a little heads up. Of course you cannot memorize an answer since they change the questions slightly each time; they only want to see the logical and realistic process in which you arrive to an answer, and not necessarily the answer itself. You may believe you could simply Google the answer but when you have 2-5 minutes to calculate the entire byte-space required to store all of Google earth satellite imagery; it becomes a bit more difficult. Feel free to post your answers to the questions in the comments section of this post.
  1. How would you calculate the total operating costs/expenditure of the website Flickr? Give me a dollar value.
  2. How much storage space would you need if you were to download all the satellite imagery of Google Earth? Give me a number [MB/GB/TB].
  3. Estimate the number of Golf balls which could fit in a minivan? Give me a number.
  4. Estimate the number of gas stations in your country? Give me a number.
  5. Estimate the number of small businesses in US?
  6. Technical:
    1. How would you describe a Recursive algorithm? Describe it to my grandmother.
    2. How would you design a program to build all 4 Tetris type blocks? Give algorithm. What if there were 8 types of blocks?
  7. Innovation [these were easy]:
    1. Choose a website/web-service/application that you like; what you like about it; what you do not like about it; how would you improve it; why.
    2. How would you design a mobile phone/application used for literacy of fishermen in India?
:| It would have been intense fun and accomplishment to work for Google, but unfortunately I did not make it though all the way. I underwent 3 phone interviews with questions of a similar nature to those above, but finally I believe the reason for which I was not accepted was that the job required very strong programming background and that was something which I had not done in a couple of years since university. I was also interested mostly in the business aspect of the development of the product and not so much the extreme technical element of the APM program.
3.0 The Art of Food
logo-subwaySo, a bit disappointed, I trekked on, applying, reluctantly in Trinidad  and willingly in Canada. Arbitrarily once more, one day while wandering in the thick forest of the internet, I stumbled across another golden gem of a Job at Subway on Caribbean Jobs. No, not a Sandwich Artist, but a Subway Business [Field] Consultant [click for job description]. This one was portrayed to be somewhat of another dream job with requests such as a willingness to travel 1-3 weeks per month as foreign development and international commitments dictate, and knowledge of French.
I was shocked that a company in Trinidad was asking for French knowledge and willingness to travel; it was almost as if everything in my life up to this moment was carved and moulded to fit this exact point, so I took it as a sign, and although the job had little to do with I.T., I applied, was interviewed [in a two step process: one with HR and one with the directing manager/development agent for the region], and I was offered a position.
They chose me amongst 70 applicants mainly because they wanted someone who spoke French :|. The decision to accept was a bit difficult for me since it would mean drastically changing my actual career path from I.T. and delving more into the business and core-logistics realm. Though, this business aspect of the job means that I would finally have the opportunity to really apply the knowledge I gained via IMMIT & IMMIT Courses: Logistics & Information Systems, Marketing, Strategy, Business Analysis, and Business Intelligence. Additionally, the job is not completely irrelevant to my 'career path', it's simply 'different', and I like 'different', since when something appears completely new and unfamiliar, it often encourages greater motivation and faster learning. It is my chance to learn and do something different.
I considered also the nature of the company: Subway is actually an extremely international organisation, very successful, standardised and structured and has that sweet hint of 'American culture' embedded in it - The customer service concept - [something which makes me reminisce about back when I was in New York, as both Europe and the Caribbean tend to lack it]. And why not? Why not Subway? There is nothing degrading [as often is the perception if you tell someone you work for Subway] about working for one of the fastest growing franchises in the world with approximately 33,586 restaurants in 92 countries/territories; the largest single-brand restaurant chain globally and the second largest restaurant operator globally. Additionally, the food [Quick Service Restaurant] industry is not exactly affected by the crisis; people always need food, and are striving for healthier alternatives; and Trinidad has the largest consumption of Subway per number of store locations per week in the world.
Optimistically, 'Field' Consultant would mean getting out of the office and interacting with people and places [something I prefer], rather than being imprisoned in a cubicle for endless hours. UniSub The job would involve monthly all-expenses-paid travel within the region & the Caribbean [places I have never been to, ironically] to conduct international evaluations and consulting: Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Grenada, Barbados, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Martinique, Dominica, Antigua, Tobago, and maybe Guadeloupe; of course with company sponsored Blackberry, Laptop, and Vehicle. The cherry on top would be training at the University of Subway, how cool is that, they have their own university :). Finally, the environment there, thus far, is fun, young and dynamic.
Dream job? I think so! I am contented, and I accepted, mostly because one does not tend to see these types of benefits and atmospheres in Europe unless you are born into richness or are an old overworked expert. I just hope that I am making the correct decision to leave the blood-sucking, manual-labour, saturated, corporate world of I.T. In any case, in my opinion and in that of Mr. Nicholas Carr, IT Doesn't Matter...
My advice to Job Seekers, never give up your dreams, continue searching, adopt a temporary solution [job], and continue persevering toward your goals after you define them clearly and release them into the universe.


Minh, Nguyen Tran Bao said...

Jeviee, so happy for you :). Congrats bro.


Apolinario said...

Great blog post ... you are great men.

Please continue blogging. Even as a busy consultant.

Slavica said...

Peeerfect, perfect, great, I am soooo happy for you (I know Minh said it in the same wording, but I am :)) And so pleasently ;) distant from IT (though I think you will have many opportunities to use also ur IT skills, besides MS Office ;) of course)
Go for it Jevs!

PS: You know that I don't eat in fast food places, but the Subway is the only one I do actually visit from time to time :D

Ahmed Noor said...

Hey Jeevs....nice post!

And Congrats on your new job mate :)

Marianna N. said...

That was a long-long journey! congrats, Jevin, and best of luck!!!

Jevin K. Ramjattan said...

Thanks guys!!! I hope to continue with the blog some time, or start a new one! :) Hope it works out from here on...

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