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Discussion on: Technical Virtue Signaling

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Jon Bristow

I can understand labeling companies that greenify their campus or make big shows about putting healthier options in the cafeteria as "virtue signallers".

But actually requiring someone to be plugged into the field of computer science? I think you're just having a case of sour grapes. Despite knowing some good ways to balance a tree, I can't remember when I was asked to do anything more complicated than whiteboard how a cache works.

In my actual job, I have had to debug someone's bad custom linked list. I have had to represent a tree as a database table that could return a node and all of its ancestors in one O(1) call. I have had to know how basic cryptography works (though since I'm in security now, that may be an outlier). Hell, I've even failed some of these toy projects and gotten the job anyway...

And yet asking for a function that returns the sum of the multiples of three or five under 100 is too much? (I agree that asking someone to give me the constant time version is overboard, but if you know that... then down the rabbit hole we go!)

I question anyone who can't at least fail gracefully at walking me through what happens when you hit return after entering a webpage in the address bar. I've helped hire introverts and extroverts, and it was easy to see the difference between those that had just memorized answers, those that knew their stuff, those that didn't but could be taught, and those that were bullshitting me.

The only thing I really despise at interviews are a written test and do-at-home projects. Scores on a test aren't going to tell you if you can get along with someone, and take home projects hide some of the sausage of how people think.

Anyway, I'm rambling now. Summing up: algorithms are important. Study up on them, and they'll surprise you on how often they come up, even only partially.