2019 Retrospective

2019 was a year with many things happening at once, with the major change being that I had left my job of 7 years. This brought along fears of not being up-to-date with the current programming skill set. Up until my departure I have been working with C++03 and boost 1.61. While this allowed me to stay somewhat current with shared_ptr, recursive_mutex, and for_each loops. With my time freeing up and taking on new jobs, I was able to play a bit of catch-up with unique_ptr, move semantics, and lambdas with C++14/17.

In my previous post https://slewicki.com/wordpress/index.php/2018/03/05/does-having-a-senior-title-actually-mean-that-youre-a-senior/ I mentioned my worry about if my years as a developer actually meant anything since interviews would shut their doors at me. Some would state that I was behind in my programming knowledge, while others would ask complicated logic questions to be solved within a certain time frame. This led my morale hitting an all time low, but luckily I was able to get a chance and show what kind of an asset I can be.

If you find yourself in a similar situation where interviewers keep closing the door at your face, work making you feel stale, or just feel like you need a change but don’t know where to start. Try and find a few minutes a week to brush up on something to help advance your career. If a significant other or kids are involved then chances are that you will most likely be foregoing some sleep in order to push yourself, but there is always a way to help improve. Try a side project that helps solve an issue you have using a language or framework that is relevant to your career or interests and just keep pushing.

It’s rough out there, but there is always a little glimmer to help show that it can be better.

A New Adventure Begins

Many of you may be surprised to see a new posting on this site after a huge hiatus. You may be asking yourself some of the following:

  • Is the site now under new management
  • Is this another promise of trying to do something only to get nothing in the end
  • Will there ever be any useful topics on here worthy of my time

These are all valid questions to ask and if you’re here, you either stumbled upon this site looking for programming topics from a search engine or were subscribed to this blog from long ago… in a galaxy far far away (sorry I couldn’t resist). If you’re still with me and willing to learn why I’ve decided to attempt this for the thousandth time, feel free to continue. If you are looking for some new and exciting content, I’m going to try small and say that I’ll attempt something new each month.

What does all of this mean then

The past 2 years have been a rough obstacle course between unfortunate circumstances in my personal life, huge life changes, and meeting with esteemed individuals in the software development field (friends and family included). The above took a huge toll on me personally adding stress and causing some health issues to arise a little too early in my life. All this came to me coming to terms with me needing to reevaluate what it is that I need to do with my life. And it all started with me leaving my previous job.

Come again? You did what?!

It had to be done. Yes that job is currently the only thing I know at the moment, but I can’t let that be the case. I’ve nearly worked myself to death constantly pushing myself and always worrying about how the last release went, or how the next day will come and go. I need a break from it and that lifestyle honestly.

So what’s next in that case?

Honestly, at this very moment, I’m not entirely sure. I’m going to take a small break and recharge. Maybe go out on a drive, meet-up with some friends of old, or try my luck at programming again to see if I can find some joy in it like I used to. If anyone has any suggestions feel free to comment. Willing to give something new a try at this time. Until next time.

Does having a ‘Senior’ title actually mean that you’re a senior

Image courtesy of istockphoto

I want to start by prefacing this article that it is more of a rant then anything else. Maybe it applies to you or maybe it fits someone you know very well.


I Have Experience, I Swear

For the past few months now I’ve been looking for a new job. Something that would be different then my current routine and something that could help my career by thinking differently or trying out a new stack. Figure that I have 7 years professional experience; that I shouldn’t have trouble looking for something new. That’s when I started to question my abilities.

When I started I wasn’t getting many calls. Figured it was due to being late December and people are out on vacation so I wasn’t expecting much. Starting from January the phone calls started coming in. Calls from the Big 4, financial firms, companies in the public sector, and some fun and interesting startups. First phone screens seemed to go well. My nervousness quickly subsided once we started talking and discussing what my role was, my greatest accomplishments, and what obstacles I had to overcome. Then they wanted to schedule a more technical interview, either through HackerRank or their own in house interview software. This is where I was getting kicked down over and over again.

Things like Data Structures and their time and space complexity, being able to design systems from scratch with APIs that I’ve never even worked with, false descriptions, or losing track of time and not finishing the coding exercise.


Data Structures (and the lack thereof)

Over the course of my career I’ve used third party libraries like boost and Qt for my development needs as we would be using versions of C++ that were missing features (shared_ptr I’m looking at you). A lot of features and functionality that had to be designed had to work around limitations of our framework as the framework was designed to handle quick data messaging between modules running on different systems. Unfortunately, we had to scrap our current product and create something new. Problem is that the frameworks short-comings were now showing with the amount of data getting loaded and processed and we just had to keep pushing as there was no time to revisit the issues and that we need sales…. but I digress. We used the frameworks functionality and tried our best to work around it. Because of that my exposure to other data structures were limited and to keep up with them was getting rough with the team constantly working to push out new features or fix bugs that were cropping up.

Without keeping up-to-date with the latest or even keeping with the existing data structures, I would go into interviews completely unprepared or even stepping over myself. I would be asked to implement a breadth first graph traversal and instead find myself implementing a depth first graph traversal. You would see me over-complicate implementing an insert function for a circular linked list with all possible edge cases. Sure I understand the concept, but when there is someone watching me while I’m implementing the code I freeze up and confuse myself. To which I started going into interviews stating that I would be implementing a brute force approach and if time allotted that I would optimize it. After the coding portion I would get asked how efficient in time my data structure would take and how much space it would use up and unless it’s O(1) or O(n) I would stumble with the O(2n) or the O(2 log(n^n)).

I Can’t Be That Incompetent…Can I?

After almost 3 months of this I felt like I had hit my lowest point in my career. At this point I’ve been questioning myself if I was even fit to be a programmer, but then a good friend of mine spoke to me and told me to ignore those nay-sayers. Sure my Data Structures were weak, sure I’ve been working in the same framework that prevented me from being exposed to something new and different, but I was still kept at my job for the past 7 years and no matter what was thrown at me I was able to tackle it. Now I must take upon myself to improve my Data Structure knowledge. In the mean time I need to remember that because I still have a job I must be doing something right.

Motivation vs Discipline: Having an idea and executing it

I had a thought of creating this website where I can show off some of my work in progress websites and to help remind me to push myself towards learning and getting some of my work out there. Throughout that time neither seemed to have happened and this site was just out there collecting Internet dust. If you asked anyone what I was doing they would each say that I was working on a game, or some side project, or even learning a new language. If you’re like me then your initial reaction would be “Awesome, when can I see it in action!” and that’s where it would end. I would have tech demos sent to my buddies, or have a small little gameplay video to show but after that it would be silence. Life would intervene and push my side projects on the back-burner. When I found myself with extra time I always had 2 options open: Either get some sleep and prepare for my next day or attempt to go back to the project but completely forget where I left off and step through my logic to figure everything out. You could say that I had a big picture in my mind for where the project was supposed to go but never had the small puzzle pieces lined up as to what to tackle next.

Having a big picture of what to do is great and it gets you fired up to do something. You start to plan for the project by compiling a list of ideas and making a plan of attack before programming. I started to fail when the pieces of the big picture were still too big to put together within my short span of free time. Between working 60-80 hours of my professional job and spending the rest of the time keeping up with family and friends left me with a couple of hours a week for myself, which would mostly go to sleep.

With the limited time left I am going to try a different approach to my side projects to help not only motivate me, but to help with execution. I am going to see if I can split m tasks down into short hour or 2 bursts that can be found here and there. This way tasks can be simple and independent of each other without having to go back to another part of code and trying to see what had been done. I’m hoping that this will help break down my giant puzzle pieces into smaller ones.

If this little experiment works then hopefully there will be content here to show for it. Otherwise, we’ll be back to collecting dust and figuring out another way to approach this.