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Have you interviewed with SAIC?

Michael Beresford
Greenhorn

Joined: Nov 07, 2000
Posts: 2
I am interviewing with SAIC next week for an entry level position. I'm told the position uses C++ and VB neither of which I know. The gentleman I spoke with said that the company is aware of this and questions will be "logic based". I assume there will be some OOA questions as well. What can I expect? How should I prepare?
Thanks
Mike
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Michael Beresford:
- Not sure who SAIC is (can you elaborate).
- Sounds like this may be a "help desk" position. Or might be supporting (on the user end) a product that was written in C++ or VB.
- You need to ask some questions during the interview.
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- Given that you don't know C++ or VB and that the job requires it - I am about 90% sure that it's going to be a production support / help desk / end-user training type position.
I don't see it being a VB /C++ developer position. They are definitely hiding something from you. I could be wrong - but I've seen these before.
- Reason being, production support is essentially the "9th Plane of Hell" - and nobody really wants to do it. Low pay - Long hours - Totally nerve racking.
----------------
- What to expect from interview.
1. I highly doubt that you will go beyond basic definitions of OOA&D. I would say: inheritance, polymorphism, object, class, encapsulation is all you gotta know. Be able to give a simple Java definition of each. It's going to be simple stuff.
2. The interview will more than likely focus on your resume. You might get some managerial type questions - but again, very basic. I see neither a major technical nor major managerial interview comming your way.
3. What I do see is what I call the "incompetant interviewer" scenario.
What I mean by this is:
- The interviewer will do 90% of the talking. He will tell you all about the company. You will then ask "Tell me about how you got started with this company - your career with this company". The interviewer will clasp his hands behind his head - lean back - and go on the biggest b.s. rant you ever heard.
- He will base his hiring decision on "gut instinct" - rather than on a methodical interview process. The most important decision a manager can make (hiring someone) and this bozo will go with his "gut instinct."
Michael, you can bet your sweet hiney this is what's going to happen. I've just seen this scenario replay itself out time and time again.
- Your goal is not to fall asleep. Make sure you pee before you go to interview - because guaranteed, when this guy gets finished you are going to have to go. Either from laughing inside or from being stuck in this guy's office for 3 hours.
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- Now suppose that I am wrong? That's never happened before - but there is always a first time.
- Pay attention, go with the flow. I still say it's going to be a more managerial type interview than anything. This has been my experience in the past.
- Why else would they bring you in?
-----------------------------------------
I'm not done yet...
Michael, suppose that you really want this job. Lowball them with the following sweetie-pie phrases: "I want to make a contribution", "I want to be a team-player".
Dream some others up. This is what they want to hear - so give it to them.
Dress professionally - always play your part of the game. Just in case you do get surprised.
Remember: It's you who want to turn down the job - not them to turn down you.
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OK - After your interview - please let us know how things went.
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)

[This message has been edited by John Coxey (edited March 30, 2001).]


John Coxey
Evansville, Indiana, USA
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Michael:
Are you still out there???
How did the interview go???
Others: I sent an e-mail directly to Mr. Beresford - would be interesting to hear what he has to say.
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
Actually SAIC is a well respected company. They do a lot of government work I think. This is not some Mickey Mouse company, you can count on that.
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Jason Menard:
I never heard of them - but am wondering why they didn't give Michael more information. Has me wondering if they aren't trying to pull something.
Also, I learned a long time ago that interview types / questions asked vary from one manger to another - even within the same company. So while SAIC may be a reputable outfit - it's the manager who sets the tone/quality of the interview.
Been to both good and bad interview (like those guys who went to Blue Cross in NYC - see post elsewhere on this forum) - at the same company. It happens.
Gotta run,
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
Michael Beresford
Greenhorn

Joined: Nov 07, 2000
Posts: 2
I had the interview yesterday thanks for the advice John you were correct about the OO topics covered. Therefore my preperation was very helpful. However, you were not so correct RE the type of position offered. It is a combination of configuation managment and software dev. I will post more on the interview tommorow (I have to finish my six thank you letters)
Mike
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Michael:
Definitely tell us about your interview.
Thanks,
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
Which division of SAIC? Or maybe I should ask which state?
Annie Weaver
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 17, 2001
Posts: 50
SAIC does government and other contracting. I did similar work (for BDM and then TRW) for several years, and I did some interviewing for them. Here's my two cents.
These companies often collect resumes to send in with a bid for work. They will interview you for work they don't even have yet. So ask if they have been awarded the contract yet, and will they hire you if they don't win it (I've had them ask me to rewrite my resume to fit their contract before being hired). If they already won the contract, make sure you know how long it lasts - if they are in year four of five, you will "get in the door" but you may have to work a lot of overtime to stay there. Ask about whether you will be involved in "proposals", and whether that is done during regular hours or after hours.
The other gotcha here is bait and switch. If this project ends, or its personnel needs change, (and the contracts are often out of date by the time they are awarded) then what? Are there other contracts in the same location you could work on? If they won a new contract in a different location, would they expect to transfer you? My husband got "switched" to night shift on a project an hour's drive away.
Also beware that in many contracting companies, promotion comes as a reward for winning new business. This implies the management may be more concerned with and skilled at marketing than supporting you (a problem everywhere!). Also, in a five year contract, the pay increases that SAIC is charging the client for you may already be set in stone, limiting your development in that position. And it may be harder than you think to transfer in house.
The way contracting like this generally works, (granted I am a skeptic) is that the client is charged an hourly rate for whatever hours are on your time card. You, on the other hand are paid only for forty hours. So on the fortyfirst hour, the profit margin for SAIC goes way way up. Your project manager gets his bonus based on that profit, which means that it is in his best interests to keep you working late as much as possible, regardless of your productivity. TRW had a scheme where each emplyee was asked to stay a hour late every week in order to possibly get an annual bonus that worked out to less than minimum wage for those hours, even though the client is charged full rate.
Also, think about this - if the network falls apart, and your contract pays a network guy to come fix it, that costs x dollars to the contract, and cuts into the project manager's profits and bonus. On the other hand, if you take a week to jury rig it, then work late to make up your regular work, that increases your project manager's profits and bonus.
From what I've seen, every project is a separate fiefdom, and there are good and bad. Ask the other programmers what training they actually received, and whether it was covered by the contract. That's an indicator anywhere of whether the management has your longer term interests and retention in mind.
All that said, you still have to judge it against your other options. It beats unemployment.
Okay that was twenty cents. Sorry so verbose. Annie
Annie Weaver
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 17, 2001
Posts: 50
I was looking at the openings in my area last night and the big contractors account for a lot of the openings around here, so I might end up back with them. Let us know where you end up - those companies will probably give you some perk if you can bring other people on board. Also let us know if they have a comp time policy.
 
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