OpenMarket make it really easy for companies and brands to send and receive SMS and MMS, make mobile payments and support video telephony services.
How important is the choice of languages and platforms to you when it comes to getting a job done well?
I think that, as with anything, a certain level of pragmatism is important. On the one hand, you want to use the right tool for the job on the other it?s important to be aware of the existing strengths of your team. For instance, the Facebook web app is written in PHP backed with MySQL, I suspect they?d choose a different stack if they started from scratch, but I can?t see them embarking on a rewrite any time soon.
The most important point is that platform decisions are best made by those who are most affected by the decision rather than being something handed down from on high. At OpenMarket teams commonly opt for Java as a general purpose language, C++ for real time telephony and Python for scripting and rapid prototyping. Additionally we have one or two projects in Scala where a functional paradigm makes more sense.
What is your favourite interview technique and why?
I find that I learn most when I am working collaboratively with a candidate, it gives me a chance to see how they think, how they approach problems and how they react when it is unclear how to proceed. The collaborative nature means that the candidate also gets a feel for how someone from OpenMarket works. I find that open ended design questions naturally lend themselves to this style of interviewing
How important is a Computer Science degree in todays market?
Good programmers learn continuously throughout their careers, so I?d say that while a computer science degree provides a good theoretical platform on which to build, it?s not the be all and end all. As of right now the majority of the OpenMarket engineering team do come from a computer science background, but we also have Engineers, Mathematicians and even an Archaeologist.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone applying for a job with your company?
We are most interested in how you approach and tackle problems as opposed to explicit nuggets of knowledge. With that in mind candidates should not expect to be an expert on everything that is asked at interview, what is important however, is that the candidate is not scared to jump in at the deep end and try something new.
How much value do you place in a Developers personal projects such as github & demo sites when they apply for a job with your company?
There are many reasons to publish code on github or to hack on side projects. Recruitment should never be the number one reason, but it is certainly worth acknowledging. Clearly, there are many great developers out there without a strong web presence, however those that do are better able to market themselves to new employers. I certainly wouldn?t say that having a github account is a prerequisite, but it does provide an additional data point that could tip the balance in the candidate?s favour.
Big Debate: What is the optimal length for a CV?
Rather than focus on length I?d ask candidates to consider clarity. A clear and well laid out CV that is easy to parse is essential, I?d rather read a well laid out longer CV than a 1 pager of dense text. That said when assessing a CV I?m trying to determine if firstly I think that the candidate is smart, and secondly whether I think that they can deliver production software. If the CV has not been written with brevity in mind it is easy for the weight of information to obscure the really important items.
What are your thoughts on the Tech Recruitment industry?
I think recruitment is ultimately a people problem and one that it hard to scale with technology. There are plenty of people attempting to change that, from coding competitions to speed dating. The key problem is that candidates can only spend so much time on a given application and companies can only spend so much time on each candidate. If there was some way that both parties could have greater faith in one another then a more productive relationship might be possible. This is a personal bugbear of mine and I?ve written more on the subject here.
That said I think that HackerJobs are taking an interesting approach ? I?m really looking forward to seeing how the site pans out.
In your opinion, what is the difference between a 'Hacker' and a regular programmer?
A phrase like Hacker means different things to different people. To me it?s someone focussed on a delivering something valuable, at pace and doing so responsibly but with the minimum effort possible. Rapid iteration and responding to feedback is at the centre of software development and the skills necessary work in the environment are key.
What has been the most exciting technological innovation you've witnessed in the last 12 months?
Mobile payments is a hot topic right now with many exciting developments, but I think that the most interesting story is that of Square?s ?Pay with Square?. This is the service where I can go to my favourite coffee shop and pay simply by telling the clerk my name. Behind the scenes I have been identified through proximity of my phone and am authenticated through the clerk matching my face with the face I have previously submitted.
Blowing my own trumpet for a second, my favourite recent service from OpenMarket is that of our mobile crediting API. This service allows companies to apply credit to someone?s mobile phone bill, this could be as part of a promotion, or even a refund. In most cases the credit is applied instantly and is unique in that it is the only service of its type to work across all UK carriers. Coca-Cola recently used the service to support on pack promotions rewarding purchasers with a 50p credit.
If you had the opportunity to address the entire Development community in the UK, what would you say?
Hmm that?s a tough one.
I think the point I?d like to make is that everyone of us has benefitted hugely from the emergence of the internet. It is truly incredible that with a laptop and a broadband connection I have tools necessary to create services that have a profound effect of how we communicate, interact and share ideas at a global scale.
The subject of internet freedom is extremely topical at the moment, it is hugely complicated subject that affects almost everyone and has sparked passionate debate across industry as well as government.
Sergey Brin commented recently:
?Today, the primary threat by far to internet freedom is government filtering of political dissent. This has been far more effective than I ever imagined possible across a number of nations. In addition, other countries such as the US have come close to adopting very similar techniques in order to combat piracy and other vices. I believe these efforts have been misguided and dangerous.?
Tim Berners-Lee has this to say:
?The amount of control you have over somebody if you can monitor internet activity is amazing. You get to know every detail, you get to know, in a way, more intimate details about their life than any person that they talk to because often people will confide in the internet as they find their way through medical websites ? or as an adolescent finds their way through a website about homosexuality, wondering what they are and whether they should talk to people about it.?
I?ll refrain from adding my own view (or any official view from OpenMarket) but would urge everyone who values the internet to take the time to understand the issues at play and to have an opinion on the subject.
Do you have any final thoughts you would like to add?
Assuming fair compensation, when choosing a new company, the most important thing to consider is the culture and working environment. The closer the company?s ethos is to that of your own the more enjoyable you are likely to find the role. Culture is hard to assess from outside and it is during the interview process that candidates can really drill into this. Asking direct questions can be effective, but my advice would be to ask open ended questions and see what the interviewer chooses to highlight.
I was once asked during an evening interview ?What is the most satisfying thing that has happened today?? it was a great question because I was able to talk about something that I was passionate about and also able provide the candidate an insight into what we as a company consider to be important. I like to think that my answer was more helpful than my co-interviewer who answered, perhaps flippantly, ?lunch?.