Now that my friend Frank La Vigne (@tableteer
on twitter) is leaving AIS, I can tell the
"Awkward Interview Story" I've had to keep secret. This story takes
place just a day after my wife and I returned from the hospital
from the delivery of our second child, Abby. But we need a little
more back story first.
Over the holidays in 2007 and into January 2008, I was contacted
by Microsoft about a position on the Silverlight.net team. I spoke
with the person for a bit, but ended up under the impression that
the position would require moving to Redmond, so I politely
I later learned that it was a remote position (almost unheard of
out of corporate), and had a long call with a local friend who used
to work at AIS but now works at Microsoft, and talked
about what it's really like to work for the man. I was convinced I
had to do it, so I contacted the person again in May and asked if a
similar position was still open. It turns out it was, the WindowsClient.net position. So we went through
the prelims and I scheduled an on-campus finals look in July.
I went through the finals loop, even surviving a bad case of
whiteboard syndrome on a relatively simple programming problem in
Brad Abrams' office. I was told it all went well.
It took the recruiters a bit of time to get back to me, and it
turned out that, despite doing well on the loop in July 2008, I
wouldn't get the position because the headcount had been pulled. It
happens that the news of that hadn't quite reached everyone during
my interview, since I interviewed right at the start of the fiscal
That was a major major bummer.
I was told to hold tight until the fall or so and the position
might open back up, so I did.
Fall came, and the position hadn't yet opened back up. My wife
was almost due, and I had figured it would be a long road to
working at Microsoft. Around that time, I was contacted by a friend
at East Coast DPE and asked to come in for a finals day in NYC for
the East Coast UXE position. I contacted them and said "UXE, are
you sure? I have no agency experience", but was told to come up as
some folks there thought it would be a good match.
That interview was scheduled for Monday October 6. As luck would
have it, my daughter was born on Saturday October 4, early, and we
didn't get out of the hospital until late on Sunday October 5 -
which is actually pretty quick turnaround if you think about it.
With about an hour of sleep to go on, I got up early Monday October
6 (like 3am) and drove to the train station to take the trip up to
Train Ride Up
I had plenty of time, so figured I'd get some breakfast in NYC
and rest a bit on the train. Of course, the train stalled several
times on the way up, and finally broke down near the NYC/NJ border.
The train crawled to the next station, going at slower than a
walking pace, and finally stopped so we could switch trains. The
passengers on the other train were not pleased with having to wait
to pick up a load of passengers, and made sure we all knew it.
So I finally get to NYC, and get out of the train station, and
find my way to the Microsoft building. I went inside and looked
around, hoping to find a deli or something. I couldn't find any
place to stop in there that didn't require going through security,
so I decided to step back outside and find something. I was
exhausted and hungry, and still running on a weird adrenaline surge
from the birth of our daughter, but man did I need some
So, I go back through the doors and walk out on the sidewalk,
and right there in front of me, stepping out of a cab (or hired
car, I forget which) was my then-coworker Frank La Vigne. Now,
understand, we both work for the same company in the DC area.
Meeting in NYC, in front of the MS building, on an interview finals
day was ... awkward.
The conversation went something like
- Pete "Oh… hi Frank"
- Frank "Ahhhh. Are you here for …?"
- Pete "Umm, yeah, you?"
- Frank "Yeah"
Like I said, awkward.
So, breakfast was forgotten. We both headed into the building
and went through security and up the elevator to the MS offices. We
were a little early, but not much.
So, Frank and I are friends, but aren't above a little friendly
competition when the situation calls for it :) We get up to the MS
floor, go through the glass doors, and lo and behold, what is
sitting on the reception desk but the recently published "Heroes
Happen Here" book. It's a big coffee table book, 174 glossy pages
with roughly 2 pages per person. That said, I look at this book as
the IT equivalent of those wonderful "who's who" books you got into
in high school, with the difference being no one had to pay to get
in, and the photo shoot was actually a lot of fun. It's fun to look
at it, but you won't list it on your college application.
Anyway, I'm in that book, for the Silverlight 1.1a carbon
calculator (hence the tree), and decided to casually mention it at
the desk in front of Frank. Something like "Hey, the heroes happen
here book. Look, I'm on page 108…with a tree." It was a cheap
attempt to one-up my competition. Didn't quite work, but still fun
(For the record, that tree was HEAVY, and we took more than a
couple photos. The shoot lasted 3 or 4 hours as I recall. The
photographer was awesome, though. I've never before had a real pro
photo shoot -- it's a pretty neat experience.)
The interviews themselves went really well. I had good
discussions with the folks there. Unfortunately, neither Frank nor
I had experience with agencies (ugh!) so the current UXE felt we
wouldn't be a match. In the end, they didn't hire anyone for that
position, and opted to fill a marketing position or something like
that instead, given the headcount lockdown they had. We left the
idea of a DE type position open should that happen. There was a
third person interviewing there and she looked like more the agency
type. Never heard about what happened to her.
So, I was back to square one, at almost a year into the process,
and Frank and I were always a little more wary around each other,
but obviously remained friends. Competing for the same job can do
weird things to people. When you both had to go back and work at
the same company afterwards, it gets even weirder. That said, we
both started the CapArea.NET Silverlight SIG together, and tried to
bring in the same type of business at AIS
Well, eventually the headcount on the *.net community team ended
up opening back up, but now with Scott Hanselman in charge of the
In late summer/early fall I did the webcam interview round for
the same position I originally interviewed for, took the position,
and started on October 12, almost two years after the initial
contact. I was happy as this was the position I really wanted
anyway. I would have been happy with the other positions (there
were two other DE positions in the mix), but I enjoy more the
national and international scope of this one the most; it's the
cream of the crop.
Next month, Frank starts a new position at Excella, doing
exactly what he wants to be doing, with Silverlight.
Congratulations Frank! And thanks for finally moving on so I could
get this story off my chest :)
Funnier to have lived it, I'm sure. And Awkward
PS. On the way back to the train station, I saw the cowboy with
the guitar in the middle of the street. He was playing and singing
in just his underwear, a hat and some boots. Too bad I didn't have
my camera, as my wife would have loved that one :)