Interview Qestions

William Morin and James Cabrera write about how to prepare for a job interview. A list of 25 questions (useful for interviewers also):

1. Tell me about yourself.
2. What do you know about our organization?
3. Why do you want to work for us?
4. What can you do for us that someone else can’t?
5. What do you find most attractive about this position? What seems least attractive about it?

6. Why should we hire you?
7. What do you look for in a job?
8. Please give me your defintion of [the position for which you are being interviewed].
9. How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our firm?
10. How long would you stay with us?

11. Your resume suggests that you may be over-qualified or too experienced for this position. What’s Your opinion?
12. What is your management style?
13. Are you a good manager? Can you give me some examples? Do you feel that you have top managerial potential?
14. What do you look for when You hire people?
15. Have you ever had to fire people? What were the reasons, and how did you handle the situation?

16. What do you think is the most difficult thing about being a manager or executive?
17. What important trends do you see in our industry?
18. Why are you leaving (did you leave) your present (last) job?
19. How do you feel about leaving all your benefits to find a new job?
20. In your current (last) position, what features do (did) you like the most? The least?

21. What do you think of your boss?
22. Why aren’t you earning more at your age?
23. What do you feel this position should pay?
24. What are your long-range goals?
25. How successful do you you’ve been so far?

The article has suggestions on how to tackle each of the questions.

IBM and Linux

Forbes writes how IBM is using Linux to counter Microsoft:

IBM has a broader agenda–undermining Bill Gates’ company. Here lies the next big battle in tech, pitting two erstwhile allies against each other in a fight to rule the computer industry in the years ahead. As big corporate customers seek to lash together worldwide networks and imbue them with more online commerce, a new $21 billion market for Web-linked software has emerged.

Microsoft wants to dominate this business and make it a Windows world. IBM has embraced Linux and in doing so has stoked the biggest threat ever to confront the Microsoft monopoly. While IBM’s products run on Windows, it wants its customers to see how nicely they would run on Linux as well, using the free operating system as a lure. “Like getting free bread in a restaurant,” says Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president of technology and strategy at IBM and a pivotal proselytizer of Linux inside the company. Ultimately, customers may not need Windows at all.

IBM’s embrace of Linux attacks Microsoft at its very foundation. Windows provides 40% of sales and 65% of operating income for the software powerhouse. “IBM is trying to drive the value out of the operating system,” says Martin Taylor, a general manager at Microsoft. “I don’t think it’s a direct attack on Microsoft–but we are definitely a fairly big casualty.”

Last year 828,000 servers were sold with Linux instead of Windows, denying Microsoft up to $1.7 billion in potential sales. The pain has just begun. Sales of Linux servers grew 48% last year to $3.3 billion, while Windows servers grew 11% to $15.5 billion. By 2008, predicts IDC, Linux server sales will reach $9.6 billion, versus $21.7 for Windows servers. Worse yet, while so far Linux has been confined to servers, now developers are pushing the free operating system as a way to run PCs, too.

Wladawsky-Berger is betting that IBM can make money selling software and hardware around those free layers.”More money will be made in services and less in acquiring the software itself,” he says. “Make no mistake: This is a business.” Could Linux shift the balance of power in the computer industry to IBM’s favor? Wladawsky-Berger suggests Microsoft has made a blunder by fighting Linux instead of embracing it. “For five or ten years Microsoft will continue to do very well,” he says. “But perhaps they will become more of a legacy business, like our mainframes.”

For 20 years Microsoft has out-earned, out-smarted and out-maneuvered IBM. At long last IBM may have found a way to get even. Twenty years ago IBM ruled the computer industry. But today Microsoft runs the show. It earns 30% more profit than IBM on one-third of IBM’s revenue and has almost double its market value. With Linux, IBM hopes to get even.

Mary Meeker on the Internet

John Battelle writes about the Morgan Stanley analyst hailed as the “queen of the Net”: “Her record is admittedly mixed, with flubs like her recommendation of AOL, which lost $150 billion in market cap after its merger with Time Warner (TWX) (the corporate parent of Business 2.0), and ExciteAtHome, which went from $35 billion to nothing. But in 2003, Meeker’s picks were up 78 percent, thanks to stocks she’d long championed, like Amazon, eBay, and Yahoo. If you’d had the fortitude to pile on in early 2001, when she reiterated her support of those companies, you’d be a damn sight richer today. And Meeker is still helping create new industries: Her prescient reports on the search market were part of why Morgan Stanley won a mandate in April to lead Google’s IPO.” Excerpts from the interview:

I still believe the wealth creation from the Internet will be greater than the value at the market peaks in early 2000. If you look at the four most highly capitalized global pure-play Internet companies — eBay, Yahoo Japan, Yahoo, and Amazon.com — they were worth about $220 billion in market capitalization at their respective peaks. They’re worth about $155 billion now, up from the bottoms of about $16 billion in 2000 and 2001.

There are a few basic things that many people may not fully appreciate yet about the Internet.

One is supply-and-demand chain management — knowing how to effectively determine demand and get products to consumers and businesses. The value of that is off the charts, and the Internet is helping drive process improvements — look at Dell.

Second, the leading Web companies have tens of millions of active customers, and their customer retention and acquisition costs are relatively low. This is allowing them, on a relative basis, to invest more in technology and user-experience improvements.

Third, the ability to connect to customers through search and e-mail and highly trafficked webpages helps weave the leading Web companies more pervasively into the fabric of everyday life, especially with broadband.

And last, North America accounts for only 29 percent of global Internet users, and that figure’s declining. China, with 80 million-plus Internet users, is the second-largest market today, and will likely be the largest in five years.

Mary Meeker recently wrote a report on the Internet in China.

Falling Storage Costs

[via The Shifted Librarian] Peter Van Dijck provides a glimpse into the future:

Storage space is getting cheaper. For investing US$10 a month, you’ll have accumulated 15 petabytes of storage space by 2020.

Assuming you invest $10 a month in storage and start buying this year, buying additional space every year, you’ll accumulate 120 Gigs of storage space this year (2004). Enough for about 10 hours of quality video uncompressed from my camera. Not much, really.

By 2010, you’ll have accumulated 15 terabytes (15,000 Gigs) of storage space. Enough for 1250 hours (52 days) of video.

By 2020, you’ll have reached 15 petabytes of storage space – 15,000,000 Gigs. Enough for 142 years of 24 hour video.

We are currently at a $1 per Gigabyte, with the price halving every year.

Microsoft and Amazon talk Search

Microsoft Watch writes:

Rick Rashid, the senior VP in charge of Microsoft Research (MSR), touched on a number of ongoing search-related projects designed to “empower the individual” in which MSR is engaged. Advances in PCs, high-speed networks and high-capacity disk drives will foster the creation of new applications that will make information more available, more easily indexable and retrievable, and more contextually aware.

Rashid highlighted several MSR projects where search and retrieval play a crucial role. These included the SkyServer, which is a virtual telescopic observatory; the Worldwide Media Exchange, a centralized index of images, tagged by location; and Wallop, MSR’s blogging/social networking/document sharing application.

When it comes to making information easier to discover and deliver, the user interface becomes even more key, Rashid said. “We need to model the interface after the way people think and feel,” making use of concepts like memory, deep history and dynamic organization, he said.

To illustrate his point, Rashid revisited the MSR project called “Stuff I’ve Seen” (SIS). SIS relies on Microsoft Search to create an index of personal content, ranging from e-mail, to attachments, files, Web pages, calendar entries, journal entries, etc.

“Search isn’t the end goal here,” Rashid said, in explaining SIS. “The goal is information management in the context of ongoing work activities. Search happens within the app.”

Doing search doesn’t mean you have to try to recreate Google, said Udi Manber, CEO of Amazon.com’s A9 subsidiary, who took to the podium right after Rashid.

He said A9’s charter is to build new search technologies to improve user experiences, especially in the e-commerce search arena. And Manber who cut his search teeth developing an Amazon technology called “Search Inside the Book” was just as focused on the importance of the user interface as was Rashid.

“Ease of use is critical. But it’s also a huge barrier to (encouraging users to employ) advanced search techniques,” he said. “We are asking our users to play music on one-string instruments.”

In closing, Manber listed a bunch of “what-ifs” for those interested in search to ponder while cautioning that attendees shouldn’t conclude that the list had anything to do with A9’s future directions.

He asked participants to think about what they could do with an hour of undivided user attention, in terms of teaching them how best to use search. What if everyone became an “author,” he continued. “Given all the ways there are to author Web pages, blogs, digital images do we have the right mechanisms to publish and consume all of these?” he asked. And what if all published content (books, music and video) could be made accessible from a single place, even if it all wasn’t stored in one place?” Manber wondered aloud.

Internet News writes more about what Udi Manber had to say:

Think about how the Web has changed your life in the last 10 years. Now, try to extrapolate 10 years forward and you should feel dizzy. We’re still in day one of developing and innovating in search. There’s still a lot of exciting discoveries to be made,” Manber said in a keynote address at this year’s World Wide Web (W3C) conference .

Manber, who worked as Amazon.com’s chief algorithms officer before taking the reins at A9, predicts a future where the relevancy of search results will be measured and understood to deliver information to users.

“Search is a huge area and we have made a lot of progress but there are still a lot of things to be done. Despite all the advancements, the truth is that we still can’t find what we’re looking for,” he said, making it clear that his company was not trying to duplicate the work of Google.

“A9’s mandate is to build new search technologies to improve the user experience. We want to invent new things and new ways of finding relevant information. The first question I get from people is, ‘Are you going to build another Google?’ But, no, that’s not what we are doing. There’s so much room for innovation that you can build interesting things that aren’t available today.”

He said he believes that user-dependence on single-word search queries present a “huge barrier to advanced technologies” and called on developers and researchers to avoid the trap of giving up relevancy at the altar of increased speed.

“For most users, they expect it to be as simple as possible and that’s a barrier. If music was invented 20 years ago, we’d all be playing one-string instruments,” he said, suggesting that user habits needed to change to adapt to the advancement in search technologies.

Another hiccup for researchers, Manber said, is that the relevancy of search results is hard to measure. “Relevancy changes all the time and is not well understood. Relevancy is different from user to user. We have to figure out better ways to measure [results] to make it better. That’s the hard part. We need a science around measuring relevancy.”

“It’s not about speed or size anymore. It’s all about quality. It’s about delivering the tools that allow relevancy. It’s good to make searching faster and faster because that part is well understood. The quality part is not understood and that’s the challenge we face today,” he added.

WSJ carried a recent announcement on Microsoft’s plans:

Microsoft will soon release technology that takes search functions far beyond the Internet, allowing users to pour through e-mails, personal computers and even big databases to find the information they want, a top executive said Wednesday.

The system being developed by Microsoft’s MSN online division “will, as far as the consumer is concerned, be an end-to-end system for searching across any data type,” Yusuf Mehdi, head of Microsoft’s MSN division, told analysts at a Goldman Sachs Internet conference in Las Vegas Wednesday.

The new technology would be a huge step forward for users trying to grapple with an increasing amount of digital information, offering a one-step system instead of having to use several different search engines, file management systems or other tools.

“I think it’s fair to say that we will tackle all of the things that you expect, including PC search, as part of the MSN effort,” Mehdi said.

Joe Wilcox, an analyst with Jupiter Research, said the end-to-end search technology illustrates how concerned Microsoft is with besting rivals including Google, the current Internet search favorite. He expects Google to also release technology soon for searching the desktop.

The concern is that Google and others will increasingly encroach on Microsoft’s control over desktop computing.

“Microsoft is scrambling to protect its turf,” Wilcox said, noting that rival Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL) also has a more advanced system for searching both the Internet and Apple computers.

Finding Information

San Jose Mercury News has an overview of various sites:

The Librarians Index to the Internet (www.lii.org), compiled by librarians in California and Washington, is a searchable subject directory of more than 12,000 Internet resources, each with a short description so you know what you’re about to click on. Topics range from health and medicine to Web page design.

News: Yahoo and Google both have top-notch news search sites that pull in thousands of feeds from around the world. But if you want local news, Topix.net may work better. The site monitors breaking news from more than 6,000 sources and lets users filter results by ZIP code. Findory News, meanwhile, creates “personalized” newspapers. Findory (www.findory.com) watches which news links you click on and then emphasizes those types of stories each time you visit.

Audio searching: “It’s not just the written, but the spoken word that is searchable,” Price says. And with that, he points us to SpeechBot (http://speechbot.research.compaq.com), a search engine for audio and video content. A product of HP Labs in Palo Alto, the site has indexed 17,517 hours of content from sites such as PBS’s Online NewsHour, and the Motley Fool Radio Show.

Blogs: Blogs are increasingly becoming a primary source of news for many people. But neither Yahoo nor Google allow users to limit their Web searches to blogs. For that, you can turn to a bevy of smaller services, including Feedster (www.feedster.com), Technorati (technorati.com) and DayPop (www.daypop.com).

General searching: Vivisimo (www.vivisimo.com) is not really a search engine because it does not crawl or index the Web. Instead, it organizes the search results from other search engines, clustering them into categories. Price and Calishain both mentioned Gigablast (www.gigablast.com) as an up-and-coming search site. And Price says AskJeeves (www.ask.com) has improved significantly over the years. Other general search sites include ZapMeta (www.zapmeta.com) and Mooter (www.mooter.com). Then there’s GuruNet (www.gurunet.com), a small Israeli company whose goal is to take you straight to the information you’re seeking. “Google gives you links,” Price said. “Here you get answers.” The basic package is free. For $29.99 a year, subscribers can access a far bigger storehouse of information.

Seruku

From Resource Shelf:

Seruku is toolbar-based application that helps you find and access ANY and ALL web pages that have appeared in your browser. Its simplicity, along with its ability to save the user plenty of time and aggravation, makes it a resource that will appeal to the masses.

As we “work the web”, most of us are constantly looking at and reading hundreds of pages in our browsers. Trying to go back and fine previously viewed material, however, can be time consuming and, in some cases, pretty much impossible.

Why? Reviewing your browser’s history file isn’t always easy since it contains only urls and page titles. And the ephemeral nature of material on the web can pose many problems. Pages you looked at on Monday can be gone for good the following Friday — if not sooner.

Seruku Toolbar 1.1 ($24.95/Windows only/45 day free trial) solves many of these problems. As you visit web pages, it automatically makes a copy (called a snapshot) of every html web page you?ve viewed in your browser, stores it locally, indexes the content and then, when needed, allows you to keyword search the full text of this material. Very cool and very useful.

Seruku is not exactly the memex device that [Vannevar] Bush describes; it can only save html content. But it is certainly a useful step forward in realizing Bush’s vision in today’s web world. Kudos to Grosso for not only developing this product (it’s been needed for a long time), but also for making it so easy to use.

Seems a little like Onfolio.

TECH TALK: Crucible Experiences: My Crucibles

I was in the ninth standard in school and contested for the elections for the school captain. While there was competition, I hoped my academic record and being a favourite with the teachers would see me through. As part of the elections process, all candidates had to talk about their ideas and plans to the school general assembly. I still remember that day. I had written a nice two-and-half-page speech and memorised it because I didnt want to be seen reading it. My turn to talk come.

I started my speech. And then, my mind went blank. Standing in front of a thousand students, suddenly, something gave way. I forgot my words. I rambled a little, and then walked off the stage. The elections were as good as over for me.

That was the time I realised the importance of public speaking. It didnt matter how good one thought one was, or how good ones ideas were. If one could not communicate them in public in front of many others, it didnt matter. My academic brilliance could not teach me how to speak on a stage. I had to change that.

During the summer vacation that followed, I enrolled at the Indo-American Public Speaking course. At just under 15 years, I was by far the youngest in the group of 25. As the days went by, my public speaking abilities improved. In the competition held at the end of the course, I came first, with a speech on Circles. The cup I won that day is still a treasure for me. More than anything, I had also set aside some internal ghosts. That was my first crucible experience.

My second crucible experience was in my first semester at IIT-Bombay. As a topper in school and college, I expected to do very well academically. I eschewed all other extra-curricular activities and just concentrated on my studies. As the semester ended and the grades came out, I realised that my best efforts were just not good enough to top in a world of equals. I had to confront the reality that I was not going to be in the top few an experience I had not gone through my entire academic career so far.

It was time for some soul-searching during the December break. I diverted my mind by working as a volunteer for the youth festival, Mood Indigo. And in that, I came into my own. I discovered a side of my personality that I hadnt thought existed doing something beyond academics and excelling at it. My work was appreciated. I stood for elections in my hostel (for Literary Secretary) and against all odds, won. I had found my calling. Academics took somewhat of a back seat, as I played an increasing role in student activities. In my final year, I was elected unopposed to one of the highest posts General Secretary (Cultural).

As I look back, the first semester experience helped me develop a more well-rounded personality by the time I graduated. I discovered a world beyond the classroom. It was then that I learned that an infectious enthusiasm can more than make up for lack of deep knowledge. Much of my entrepreneurial passion has its birth in the four years that I spent at IIT.

Tomorrow: My Crucibles (continued)

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