Finding a job in tech isn’t all about technical skills, says Carlos Kidman, QA engineer manager at Jane.com. In the video below, Kidman talks about the things he looks for when hiring new QA engineers. Watch the video below.
A few things we learned:
- Technical skills are good to have, but humility is also important in an interview. If you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to admit it and ask for help.
- Use your past experiences in your interview to show why you’re the best candidate for the job.
- Be passionate about things outside of work and share those in the interview.
- Talk to people. Getting a job is all about networking.
- Practice your skills! Always look for opportunities to strength your QA skills and highlight those learning experiences in your interview.
- Don’t be afraid to be you in an interview. A lot of companies hire not purely on technical skill, but if they’ll enjoy working with you.
Prefer to read the interview? We’ve got you covered.
Meaghan Barber: My name is Meaghan Barber. I’m over employer relations. And, Carlos, I’ll go ahead and let you introduce yourself.
Carlos Kidman: I’m Carlos Kidman. I’m the QA engineering manager here at Jane. I’m over a team of QA engineers for manual testing and processes and also an automation team.
MB: The reason I wanted to talk with you today is because we have a good relationship with Jane. I know you guys have hired a few people from us in the past and you recently hired two of our QA students. So, I wanted to talk with you about what made them successful. What made them stand out to you? Because, like you told me, you had over 60 applicants for this position so it’s pretty exciting that two of our students were some of the ones that were able to get chosen for that. And so let’s just talk a little bit about what your experience has been working with DevMountain, what made them stand out and we can go from there.
CK: Yeah, so first I just want to give a shout out to AJ Larson, [QA lead instructor at DevMountain], because he’s done tremendous work in that QA department and teaching people. It’s almost like a crash course into QA because QA is such as vast field and being able to teach people as much as you can in a few weeks is crazy impressive. And so with the positions I was looking for at the time, I wasn’t looking for any specific technical ability. I left it open for entry level to senior level. I left it open because I wasn’t really looking for that technical ability. I wasn’t looking for people that had these five years of QA experience and that’s it. What I was looking for was people that were willing to work on a team, that were willing to make a positive impact wherever they went, and I wanted to feel that from that person. So, what they did at DevMountain was, they got the opportunity there. They took it, they rolled the dice, “I’m going to learn QA. I’m going to try this thing out.” I would say that they learned enough to create the opportunity for themselves to be able to talk to me. I went to DevMountain because I learned that you have the QA course and I said, “why not look there?” And in my mind I’m thinking, if someone is willing to put a pause on their life, to pay this much money, to gamble because they don’t know exactly what they’re going to get out of it, that is someone that I feel that I can work with. That is someone that is willing to make a sacrifice and try. And with that little formula right there, I feel like that is someone I would want to work with every single day. So, I went over there and I said, I’m here if anyone want to interview with me. I gave you guys maybe a day or 30 minutes notice. Okay, I gave you guys no notice.
MB: It wasn’t long.
CK: And yet we had six or eight people show up, dressed up, resumes in hand, ready for this interview. And I think I got there at 5:00 PM or 5:30 PM and I stayed there until 9:00 Pm or 10:00 PM. I was there for quite a while. But that right there is what I love to see. People stopped what they were doing and said, “here’s my chance, here’s my opportunity, and I’m going to take it.” I don’t know if they were in their car changing, putting on their stuff, and drove over [to Jane]. Some people got dropped off, some people had their wives waiting with them in the waiting room, and that was what I was looking for. I wish I could hire all of them. Honestly, I wish I had more positions open to hire everyone I spoke with because all of them I thought were great. But, it comes down to again, I had about 80 applicants and I talked to about 60 and I had to compare. [I had to put two people against each other and say, “this person wins in this area and so on.] That’s the sucky part of interviewing. The sucky part of hiring is that you have to compare people on paper, and with a gut feeling, with culture, etc. But what really made them stand out was their passion. It was everything that they did outside of QA. In QA, yeah, they were able to talk about test cases. They were able to talk about test plans. But, I feel like all that technical stuff can be taught. I feel like if I had someone that had the base that they needed, that had the humility in order to understand that they need to learn more, [they] need to listen, [they] need to seek to understand before [they’re] understood and be okay with the feedback [they] get back whether it’s positive or negative is someone that I can work with. I can teach you the test cases, I can teach you the technical things, but I can’t teach you to be humble. I can’t teach you to be positive. And, the two people that I hired from DevMountain, I felt like they had those in spades. They had that humility, they had that hunger, they had the positivity and I only talked to them for about 40 minutes. And, they were at the beginning of my testing process. So they were maybe number 10, 11, 12 and yet there was another 50 people I talked to afterword and I still remembered them weeks later because of what we talked about. And, because how they talked about themselves saying, for example, I love karate and talking about karate and I’m this black belt and I do this and on my free time I like to kick things. But to me, it makes me laugh. It’s so awesome. I love that you do that. That you have something that makes you happy and I ended up giving this person a nickname—karate guy. So, come down to interview number 60 and it was time to make a decision, I still remembered karate guy. And now I have karate guy on my team and that’s what I’m talking about. You have these 30-60 minute interviews to really make a first impression and that’s all you have. How do you use that hour effectively? That’s really what it gets down to and sometimes it’s not even talking about the technical things. Yes you need to prove that you’re capable for it but there’s so much more on top of that. How can you be good at both sides?
MB: It’s just being able to communicate and talk with someone and connect with them on that personal level, right? Make yourself stand out that way. I’m so much more likely to remember someone that I just had a good conversation with. And that I enjoyed talking to rather than someone that hit every mark technically where I want them or whatever. I’m going to remember that person like, “No, they were good. They may not have been a hundred percent the best technically. But I really enjoyed talking with them and I can see myself working with them on a day-to-day basis and really enjoying it. And I know I can teach them that extra technical thing that they need help on.”
CK: In QA especially, you have to have the skills to communicate, to collaborate, and to be able to get teams to have conversations with each other. You have to be confident enough to ask questions to get the discussion started. So you have to have that ability to not just, in an interview, impress people, but also get them to have this discussion around you. And be able to say this is what I like to do, I love karate, this is how I spend my free time, and then have the interviewer ask you questions about that. You actually get them kind of excited. Think about this: you have the interviewer and the interviewee. Sometimes the interviewer, they have a lot of interviews lined up and how awesome would it be if you were the person that made the interviewer’s day? Don’t just sit there waiting for them to ask you questions. That’s not how you be memorable. Take control of the interview. Show your passion. Talk about what you like to do. Make them laugh. Make it an enjoyable experience, because if you can get them to laugh or smile, you’re going to be memorable.
MB: Yes, I completely agree. One thing I also wanted to talk about was, all of our DevMountain students mostly, I mean there are some that come in with a technical background, but most of them come from a background in sales, or marketing, or whatever else, it’s not a background in QA or whatever the technical field that they’re going for. But that’s okay. Their backgrounds make them who they are and there’s always something you can take from a past job. I think a lot of them just get intimidated by the company thinking it’s a red flag or whatever. Would you disagree that and agree that their past work experiences is relevant? There is always something you can pull from it and to not only be okay with it but be comfortable talking about how that can make them into a better person for your company because of that background.
CK: Honestly the background like you said is what helps build that base for your learning. So, to give you an example, I used to work at Sprint selling cellphones. Before that I worked at [a place for troubled teens]. It was a therapeutic school. That school taught me patience. That school taught me to learn and to listen and to really care about the other person because it wasn’t my kid or anything. It was somebody else’s kid and yet my goal was to mentor them. It was to help them see positivity in life and to enjoy things and I had to really focus on myself and be self aware of my feelings of what I was saying. Like, I had to strategize each conversation to really build them up because anything you said could hurt them. So I learned communication, I learned patience, I learned a lot of skills there that I use right now in management. When I’m managing a team I have to be willing to listen. I have to be patient, but I have set expectations and all these skills that I’m talking about I didn’t learn them in QA. I learned them from Sprint talking to customers yelling at my face, “Ah my bill is too high!” And I’m just sitting there smiling saying, “Yeah, you’re right, yeah.” All of those skill I learned helped prepare me for when I finally got into QA. When I got into the tech world everything I learned before propelled me for success. It set me up so I could actually talk to people and have those conversations. One of the toughest things in QA is being able to have a conversation with a developer who may not actually want to listen to what you have to say. How can you still talk to them? How can you not get defensive? How can you word your question in a way that actually helps them and helps yourself? All those skills, again, have nothing to do with QA. It’s what I learned in the past. Any experience that you have, honestly anything, even school, anything you’re doing you’re going to use throughout your entire career. Through your entire life. And, one thing I want to mention too is that age doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 right out of high school. It doesn’t matter if you’re 45 or older. It does not matter. If you make it matter, then we’re going to see it in the interview. If you’re uncomfortable, like, “man, I’m 50 moving into the tech world,” they are going to feel that. If anything, if you’re 45 or older, you got a ton of experience. Take advantage of that. Talk about it. To give you a great example of this, they may say, “Do you know how to test APIs?” And if your answer is no, don’t just say, “No, I never worked in API.” Instead say, “No, but here’s other stuff I’ve done. I understand what an API is. I may not have tested it before, but I’ve done this here.” Even talk about other things. Talk about other pros that have nothing to do with APIs. Just say no I don’t understand it and move into your strengths. They’re almost going to forget about that API thing because you’re talking about so many other positive things that you have and your experience. So again, it doesn’t matter the age, I’m not looking at someone’s age. I’m looking at who you are as a person. Age is just a number.
MB: Yeah, I love how you said never saying “I don’t know” or “no.” But showing that you’re capable of it. And showing that maybe it’s not this problem or setting, but I know that with the right training I can do it because of this, this, and this. This is what I am good at, you know? Never just give up and say no. I love that. And you tell us to do that so I hope with maybe you saying that, people will listen.
CK: Well, for example, for all the automation positions and really any programmer is going to go through this we do the white boarding challenge. You have the white boarding and a lot of people freeze at that point. You have to practice that, I mean, do it on your own or have a friend or someone else challenge you on the whiteboard. There are a ton of websites online that give you coding challenges for free. Get good at doing it, but get good at doing it on a white board. Or, on a piece of paper. Don’t practice in an actual IDE that’s cheating, don’t do that. Do it on a white board. Do it on a piece of paper. But, regardless, I had someone that is currently on my team, I gave them a white boarding question and it was a pretty simple question however, they didn’t know how to do it. And as she was writing the method, starting it, she stopped and said, “I actually don’t know who to finish this. I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t know how to finish it. I know what I need to do mentally though, so I’m just gonna finish it in English.” So she just started writing,” I need to do this, I’ve got to do this, if it’s this, it’s got to do this, do this every time it’s this, etc.” And she wrote it, it looked like an English paragraph with a method name and some curly braces. But what she said afterword is what finished it, that’s what made the deal happen. When she finished it she said, “I know what I have to do, I just don’t know how to do it in programming language. Could you help me out?” That right there stopped the interview and I went up and I said, “This line, or piece, right here, this is how you would do it in code. You had everything absolutely right. That’s the logic you need in order to complete it and this is how you do it in code. And together we were able to walk through the problem. It didn’t hurt her chances and eventually it helped her chances because it showed that she was at least willing to go through it. She didn’t stop and say, “I don’t know how to do it,” and just stop right there. She didn’t do it, she wrote it in English anyway and then she asked could you show me how.
MB: I love that. So I tell students all the time a story that I had a company tell me something so similar to that. It was a web developer, they gave him a white boarding challenge, he looked at it, he turned around and said, “You know what, I don’t know if it’s nerves right now getting to me but I’m blanking on this. Would someone be willing to come up, walk through this with me? I pick up things very quickly. If you just walk through this with me, give me one similar to it right after, I know I can do it.” The senior dev came up, they walked through the problem together, they talk it out go back and forth and then afterwords gave him a problem very similar. He was able to get through it, had a little bit of difficultly. But, they ended up hiring him over the senior because he was able to humble himself down and say, “you know what I don’t know how to do this right now but I learn quickly and I know I can do this with a little bit of help.” And they loved that drive, they loved that humility, and afterwords he was able to work his way through it and they hired him. So I love hearing examples of companies that say exactly what you said. It’s okay not to know. It’s what you do when you don’t know that matters.
CK: Yeah, don’t let the fear immobilize you. Do something about it. Because the only way you have truly failed is if you’re not moving. So, ask the question. Say no, and yet ask. Say no and be okay with it. Say no and find out the answer with the people in front of you. They are asking you because they obviously know the answer. Right there you can learn something, even in an interview. So whether you get the position or not learn something from that interview so that you can set yourself up for success at the next interview. What do I need to learn in order to be successful so the next time this position comes up, I’m going to ace it next time. So even if you don’t get the job, what did you actually learn about the position, about where you’re at, and about yourself. And really use those, and be honest with yourself and make a plan of how you’re going to fix that.
MB: And one thing, too, we always tell students if you don’t get the job make sure you’re asking for feedback so that way you can hear what you can improve upon and that way next time you will be even better. A lot of students get nervous at that point. I don’t want to ask for feedback. But wouldn’t you say it makes sense to ask for feedback after you didn’t get something and that it’s okay for you to do that.
CK: Yeah, never be okay with the response of we looked elsewhere or you’re just not the right fit because what does that mean? What does that actually mean? Ask. Ask right back. Why did you choose someone else over me? Let me know so I can learn from this. And that right there is gonna help you out so much more. Alright I have another interview next week, I have a week to figure out what they told me, and I’m going to hit those really really hard. I’m going to learn all those things so that next week during my interview I’ll ace it. Take it that way. Don’t let the fear immobilize you. I have another interview and I’m going to fail again, don’t let that fear immobilize you. Use that to propel you to success. Use that to really learn and ace it the next time. There’s always a next time.
MB: Exactly, and don’t be okay with just a no. Take the time to learn what you could do better for next time because all that’s going to do is help you. And I want to transition to after a student graduates from DevMountain, they’re on their own. They are out in the real world, I guess I should say. They are always going to have access to help and assistance from us, but we always tell students to get out there, start networking, go to meet ups, do things that are going to get you involved in the community whatever your community is whether it’s QA, web, iOS, UI/UX, whichever one, get involved. Can I have you talk just a little bit about that in your opinion on it and just how important networking is and getting involved in your community and reaching out to people, etc.
CK: I am a huge believer in creating your own opportunities. Of not, again, immobilizing yourself. Always moving forward at whatever speed works for you as long as you are moving forward, that’s okay. And in order to create your own opportunities you have to put yourself out there, you have to talk to people. You have to start your network. You have to get on LinkedIn. You have to go to companies that you want to work at and find out what are your requirements to work here if there’s no position open there right now, that’s not stopping you from going over there and asking anyway. Ask those questions and engage in those communities. For example, I started QA at the point that we do monthly and right now we’re getting a lot of people coming to it but I know there’s more than 65 QA engineers in Utah, right. So, why are some people not taking advantage of this opportunity where you can network and there’s a whole excuse for you to network? Here’s a monthly meet up that’s free and we feed you and entertain and teach you stuff, why not just spend and hour or two a month to create that network, learn something new, if you really want it, you do it. You wouldn’t make the excuse of, oh I don’t have time. You knew last month when this meet up was going to be, if you really wanted to do it, then go do it. Take it. Don’t just say stuff. Have your actions reflect what you’re saying and go to it. So here at QA at the point just the last meet up we had about 65 people, a good 5 or ten of them were managers or directors of different companies around Silicon Slopes, around salt lake city, that’s then 50-55 people that took advantage of that. And who knows how many x amount of people did not take advantage of that. And all because you didn’t want to spend and hour out of your month to really build your network? That’s what I mean by creating opportunities. Putting yourself out there, be confident, even just have a conversation, that will get you so far. It will open doors slightly in a lot of different places. And finally when someone actually has a position open, they’ll remember karate guy from the QA at the point and they’ll talk to that person. Hey I remembered we talked last month, I have a team now that I want to build, I want to talk to you. And now you’ve created the opportunity for yourself all because you put yourself out there. You had the confidence to ask questions and talk to someone.
MB: It’s all about networking with people. One thing that is so frustrating being in employer relations, working with students after graduation, is hearing these students that will come three months after graduation, “hey I still don’t have a job.” Okay, let’s look at, we have a system called the twenty company challenge which involves reaching out to people on LinkedIn, etc. tell me what meet ups you’ve been going to, tell me what you’ve been doing, well actually I’ve just been submitting my resume to all the LinkedIn posts and indeed and I haven’t gotten anything back. Well, of course. Of course you haven’t. Because there are people out there that are reaching out on LinkedIn and going to meet ups and putting themselves out there those are the ones getting picked up and I think it comes down to how badly do you want this? Are you going to take the short cut, the easy way or are you actually going to put in the work and do what you need to do and make those connections and really build a good solid foundation to get in the industry? And not only get in but thrive and succeed and build those networks as well.
CK: I had a few people come up and talk to me at the last meet up where they said, “We took your advise, Carlos. You told us to go out there, create our own opportunities, we went out there, we went out to a company and wanted to talk to a manager just like you told us. And, he didn’t want to talk to us.” And they all chuckled about it, and I said, “Okay, well what are you going to do about it?” They said, “Well, he didn’t want to talk to us. I don’t know what else there is to do.” I said, “Well why don’t you talk to the people on his team? What about the QA engineers there?” You’d be amazed at the amount of people who are down for free lunch. “Let me take you out to lunch and let’s talk a little bit. I’m interested in what you guys are doing at Adobe. I would love to be on your team. Can we go to lunch and just talk about it? I’ll pay.” You invest 15 bucks in their Slap Fish meal, but you’re creating opportunities for yourself again. Even if one person says no, alright. Next person. Never stopping, always moving, and always putting yourself out there. I feel like I can’t say it enough. It’s honestly just get rid of that fear. Find out what that fear is and say I’m just going to go against it anyway. Talk to someone even if it’s just another QA engineer on the team and not the manager. That doesn’t matter. You know how many people have rejected me? Or said no to me? I say that’s okay mister CTO. I wanted to talk to you, but I’m going to go down a step to your manager. Manager do you want to go to lunch with me? Sure. And then we go to lunch and we talk about it. Weeks later the CTO says, “hey, I heard you talked to manager so and so, and I would love to talk you sometime. And then he’s the one buying me lunch. All because I didn’t take the first no and say, “Well, this whole company doesn’t want to talk to me. I’ll go somewhere else.” I said, I still want to talk to you guys, so I’ll talk to someone else. Just talk to them. There’s no harm. The worst thing that could happen is they’ll ignore you or just say no.
MB: I feel like I’m literally listening to myself talk right now because I can’t tell you how many times I tell students this. So, I love that you’re saying all this because it’s so true. And it’s so good, hopefully for them to hear, from someone who’s high up at Jane, a huge amazing company here in Utah, saying these things. It’s okay to reach out. It’s not weird to reach out to someone on LinkedIn. That’s what it’s meant for. It’s not weird to go to meet ups and just talk to people. That’s what they’re meant for. It’s okay. Just get out there, and do it. Can you touch on anything else that you think is important for our QA students or students in general to know in being successful when going out into the industry and after graduation and even during their time there?
CK: The biggest advice I can give someone is to practice and put in the time and energy. You have to practice. You can’t just be okay with where you’re at. I mean, that’s obviously why you went to DevMountain. That’s obviously why you’re doing what you’re doing. You’re investing in yourself. But you can’t just end it there. I’m still learning. I’m still reaching out to people and finding people that are doing this better than I am. Or doing this longer than I have. And I’m asking them questions for me to learn. You have to practice. Keep coding for QA automation is the future. AI, machine learning, you can only get there is you start practicing. Try finding a website. Automate the website. Find anything that you’re passionate about, then do it. When you do it, make it demo-able so when you go to an interview you can demo what you worked on. You can show, this is where I’m at right now. That’s only going to make you look awesome at the interview. For example, I have a cousin that buys and sells cars on KSL. And he said, “well, I love to buy and sell cars on KSL, but I also want to practice automation. What if I practiced automating the process of finding the cars that I like? I know the guidelines of the cars I actually look for; I could automate that.” So that’s what he’s doing. Now when he goes to interviews he can show the automation he did for his hobby he does on the side. My passion is this, and my passion is automation. I combined both of them.
MB: Which is a great talking point like we were talking about.
CK: Exactly, and show that in the interview, and holy cow, that’s so cool. You present that at lunch with the person you want to talk to, holy cow, what a great way to open a conversation. You need to put time in yourself. You need to keep working hard. Prove that you really want it to yourself. You don’t need to prove it to anybody else. Don’t prove to me that you want to work really hard. Everyone I talk to is a hard worker, is a go-getter. Everyone is. What really makes you different is the time you put into yourself.
MB: Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.
CK: You bet.
MB: Jane is a great company and we hope to have you hire more DevMountain grads.