Interview with IT Innovation at Chilworth Science Park

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I had the interview with IT Innovation at Chilworth Science Park today. It was quite a nice day out; lovely weather and beautiful surroundings. I arrived 45 minutes early (the company I booked the taxi with told me to get a taxi at 2pm if I wanted to guarantee getting there for 3pm). Having loads of time spare, I had a wonder around the site and it really was gorgeous. Plenty of trees and green space. I had a gander in Chilworth Manor where I was welcomed by a chandelier and a rather suave-looking bar. I ordered a coke and started collecting some of my thoughts about how I might respond in the interview to questions when suddenly, a man approached me and said “You look really smart. What are you here for?”. “An interview for a summer placement”, I replied. He wished me the best of luck and then I went on my way.

I managed to find the IT Innovation reception fine, where I was given a name badge and then told to take a seat. Whilst I was waiting I was watching the television where I saw a slide-show of some on-going projects, such as PrestoPRIME and MUPPETS, which has actually appeared in the ECS news recently. The receptionist then called me up and opened the door to two smartly dressed gentlemen. We all introduced each other and got down to business.

First they told me about the company and what they do. They then asked me what languages I knew and what experience I had, so I told them I know Java, PHP, Javascript (JQuery), CSS, and XHTML. They then asked me which language I would say I was proficient in, so I said Java.
They then asked me a few ‘pop-quiz’ questions about the language and my experience. Here are the questions with the answers I gave:

Question 1: What is the difference between implements and extends?
Answer: Implements is where you have an interface and you have your class implement the methods. Extends is where you have a super-class and your class extends it such that it uses its instance variables and methods (which are over-ridden).

Question 2: Give an example of where you would use implements.
Answer: If I wanted a [set of] objects to be sorted, then I would implement the Comparable interface and implement the compareTo method which would define how you determine if one object is bigger than the other [in value].

Question 3: Give an example of where you would use extends.
Answer: If I had some animals such as Dog and Cat, I would make them extend a super-class called Animal which would have common features of an animal, such as number of legs and colour. Each animal sub-class would then share some common methods and possibly implement some of their own methods slightly differently.

Question 4: Have you ever done concurrent programming?
Answer: Yes, in Java. I used threads for my coursework which was a Mandelbrot Set viewer; rendering was done by pre-made runnable objects which were repeatedly executed by an executor, which used a thread pool. There wasn’t much overhead as the runnable objects weren’t being re-created each time a thread executed.

Question 5: What is the biggest project you have done?
Answer: A college project which was a patient booking system based on an existing system in Specsavers. It interfaced with a Microsoft Access database (compulsory) so I had to dig up the OBDC-drivers. You could search for patient records, update them and book appointments.

Question 6: How much input did your client(s) have with your project?
Answer: Well my manager only gave an appraisal of the project, but whilst I was developing it, I went around and asked my colleagues what they found frustrating with the current system and what they thought could be done to improve it.

Question 7: So would you feel comfortable talking to clients then?
Answer: Absolutely, yes.

The project I had most interest in was WeGov, and they asked me why. I mentioned that I’ve had a lot of political debates on Facebook and I think that it would be good if policy makers knew what the people wanted, as opposed to making them out of thin air, which some parties clearly seem to do. I also mentioned my idea of having a tag-cloud type generator which would examine party manifestos and pick out recurring themes so that if a theme came up often, then the word in the tag-cloud would appear bigger. This would allow the public to see what the party’s main agenda is.

The interview only lasted a total of 15 minutes. I shook both their hands and they told me that I would be hearing soon what posts would be given to everyone. I then had a coffee in the cafe around the corner where I got chatting to the person working there. She mentioned she had done some work in Javascript and had done a few websites. That came as a pleasant surprise to me! It just goes to show that the IT industry does not just consist of men.

…. six days later: I got the job!!!!

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