Sample Non-Technical Interview Questions

This past week, I acquired a book on interview questions – 403 questions to be exact – put out by Growth Everywhere.  While I look at these questions, I am tempted to answer some myself.  These are just a few of what’s in the book:

Have you ever taken on an assignment without knowing how you were going to do it? What happened?

I do this frequently.  When I get assignments that I’m uncertain of how I’m going to do it, I usually take this kind of approach:

  • Hit up the search engines to gain more domain knowledge to understand what I’m working with.
  • Cross-reference the domain with technologies already available for the problem.  If there’s a solution already out there, I’d evaluate it to see if it solves the assignment I’ve been given.  If so, I can suggest it up the chain.  But if they want me to code from scratch, I’ll at least have an idea on what kind of approach to take.
  • Get to work and deliver some deliverables!

This has worked well for me so far.

Tell me about a time when you felt like a “fish out of water.”  What did you do to increase your comfort level?

I get this feeling a lot, as I’ve been a fierce introvert for most of my life – only in the past 8 or so years have I really broken out of my shell a lot.  (Yes, I may seem extroverted at times, but at the end of the day, I wind down by myself or with a very select group of people who make it easy for me to wind down.)

I’m already getting that feeling now as I prepare to attend a security conference.  I have that “fish out of water” feeling because I know few people in that community, and so it’s a sea of unknowns for me.  However, I’ve been preparing for the conference by researching the history of the local conference, who the organizers have been and are, and what sessions are presented.  I’m still nervous as I see no women speakers and few familiar names.  But my research will help me grow comfortable – and then just going to the conference and experience it will probably ease the rest of my nerves.


Tell me about a work situation that required you to adapt to a wide variety of people. What did you find difficult about that? What did you enjoy?

While working as a web developer, I had to be on projects where I dealt with:

  • Marketing – both at the graphic designer level and at the director level
  • IT – both at the deployment level and at the team lead level
  • Product owners
  • Fellow developers – junior web devs, managers, and service devs

The difficult part was being the middle man and listening to the “he never listens to me” and “she never hears me” complaints from various sides.  I eventually was able to show everyone that we could play nice together, while acknowledging that certain team partnerships just aren’t meant to be.

The part I enjoyed most though was being the middle man and encouraging everyone to come together to solve problem while using our strengths and domain expertise.  Even though I was in the web developer role, I’ve taken to team dynamics and relationships quite well naturally, and I find that being diplomatic and empathetic goes far in that middle man role.

Tell me about a time when you were able to turn someone’s opinion completely around. How did you convince that person?

This one time, at GiveCamp… we had a non-profit that had Joomla on their server.  Their IT guy had explicitly told their non-profit representative – absolutely, positively, without a doubt NO WORDPRESS.  Well, WordPress is a common solution that we use at Cleveland GiveCamp, as we train our non-profits on how to use it.  It’s also considerably easier to use than Joomla when it comes to non-technical users.  Having an IT background myself, I was able to convince the non-profit rep to let me talk with her IT guy. Once I got the IT guy on the phone, I told him that I was with the GiveCamp team and wanted to understand his reservations with WordPress.  Security holes – newer WordPress versus his archaic Joomla portal.. yeah.  Lots of calls – we do the training and provide links of references.  When I mentioned that a lot of what the end user needs is well-documented and that WordPress is more intuitive than Joomla (which means less support calls for the IT guy), he relented and realized it isn’t so bad.  It took a lot of patience and empathy on my end, but we got his buy-in after all.



There are a lot more questions in this book, broken out into competencies that employers look for.  These questions are thought-provoking, great for getting stories out, and overall well laid out.  If you’re in an interview situation – interviewer or even interviewee – this book is worth checking out.

Taking Advantage of Book Deals…

While scouring the Internet to see just how much the PowerShell book costs, I found some cool deals that I wanted to share with you…

Amazon deal - Pre-order both "Automating with PowerShell 2.0" titles at $60.15

The Automating Active Directory Administration with Windows PowerShell 2.0 title focuses in depth on Active Directory. This book was written by Ken St. Cyr, an architect at Microsoft who specializes on identity management and Exchange, and Laura E. Hunter, a Microsoft IT ADFS & IdM architect. If you’re getting started with PowerShell, buy our book, and if you’re in an environment that relies on Active Directory, then get their book too! Why pay full cost for both when Amazon is running such a great deal?


Save 20% when you buy both of Matt's books!

For those of you who are working with Windows Server 2008 R2, take advantage of the deal that Wiley is running, where you can get our PowerShell book and you can also get my awesome coauthor Matt Hester‘s other book Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Administration Instant Reference. Both of these books are great to have on hand as references while administering the Windows Server 2008 R2 environment. Use Matt’s first book as a guide for everything in Windows Server 2008 R2, and use our PowerShell book to script a lot of those processes and make life a lot easier!

I’ve linked the images to the pages where I found them in the first place. Take advantage of these deals while they last!

The Adventures of Book Writing, Part 2

This is a continuation of The Adventures of Book Writing.

So how long did it take to write the book?

I wrote my parts from October 2010 through February 2011.  There were some weeks where I would write 2-3 hours/day for 2-3 days/week.  But then there were also some weeks when I wouldn’t write (like when I was at CodeMash in January 2011).  There were a few weekends in there where I would put 6-8 hour days in writing/editing/taking screenshots/working on layout.

What was the thing you liked the least about the process?

I didn’t like feeling like a newbie to the process.  There were some times when I didn’t understand how things worked and would get frustrated that they weren’t how I imagined.  But despite those minor hurdles, it was a fairly smooth going process for me.

What was the thing you liked the best about the process?

I was privileged to work with a great co-author and an awesome team of editors.  Matt had written a book before for Sybex, so he knew a bit of what we were dealing with.  He warned me of what I might get into, but at the same time, he didn’t try to scare me out of it.  Jay Wren served as my tech editor, as Jay is into programming languages much like me and has a “tell it like it is” attitude that I really appreciated.  The other editors included an acquisitions editor, developmental editor, managing editor, production editor, and probably some other editors I don’t even know about.  There were many eyes that looked on this book, with many decades of experience. It was great to have them shepherd us through the whole writing/publishing process.

Did you prefer tech editing or writing?

I honestly spent more time tech editing than writing, but there’s no way to say that I prefer one over the other.  I enjoyed tech editing the main chapters of the book, as it forced me to keep my IT roots fresh and really had me trying things out.  Tech editing required me to tap into all of my technical background – including correcting a complex example to something much shorter thanks to my Unix/Linux familiarity.

As for writing, I enjoyed writing on the appendices. Because I knew that the audience for our book included IT professionals who may not have as much developer experience, I tried to keep the developer sections simple enough so that even they could follow them.

The important question… would you do it again?

I would definitely write again, and I would definitely tech edit again.  However, it’d take a bit to get me to do both on the same book.  I wouldn’t tech edit and write at the same time as much as I did on this book.  I’d write or tech edit, but the only way I’d do both on a book is if my writing obligation was smaller or if my tech editing obligation was smaller.

And because I’m hearing this already…

I pre-ordered your book.  Can I get your autograph?

Absolutely!  If I’m at a local user group or community event, I’ll sign your copy of Automating Windows Server 2008 R2 with Windows PowerShell 2.0!

The Adventures of Book Writing, Part 1

I had a dream… that one day I would become an author. I couldn’t tell you how I had gotten there, but I dreamt that I had a book, with my name on the cover, that people would buy. Now that dream is coming true. 

So, Sarah, how did you get the opportunity to write?
Last summer at devLink, I spoke on PowerShell for Developers and caught the attention of my friend Matt Hester. He hadn’t realized I was interested in PowerShell until then, but once he realized that, he asked me to be his tech editor on this PowerShell book that he was writing. I agreed, as I had been an editor for a national publication for students in ACM while in college and really enjoyed editing technical content.

Shortly after bringing me on board as his tech editor, he mentioned that there were some appendices that needed a developer’s hand at writing. He offered it to me, and I took it. So started the “wrediting” process…

Why PowerShell? Aren’t you a developer?
You wouldn’t believe how often people – even as close as my friends – challenge my developer status because they see PowerShell as an IT scripting language and possibly inferior to typical developer skills. However, that closed-mindedness just contributes to the misunderstanding of the IT-Developer relationship. While PowerShell has a lot to offer IT people in terms of scripting and automating a lot of administrative tasks, it also is extensible enough to allow us developers to create PowerShell cmdlets, providers, and other components to allow IT to create scripts that interact with our .NET objects.

Yes, I’m still a developer. Knowing PowerShell and how to extend it makes me more versatile and more powerful, as I can take my PowerShell and C# skills and give IT teams more automation than if they just used PowerShell out of the box.

How hard is it for a developer to pick up PowerShell?
If you’re familiar with scripting languages or working at a command prompt, you should find PowerShell fairly easy to pick up. Looping and conditionals are similarly structured to what we use in C# and VB, other than syntax. In PowerShell, the operators are a little different – for example, using -eq instead of == or using -and instead of &&. But other than that, the logical structures themselves should be very easy to grasp.
What can we do as developers to extend PowerShell?
Well… you can create custom functions, cmdlets, and providers to start. If you want to know how you can do this, stay tuned for our upcoming series on PowerShell stuff. And if you want a reference on some of the things that you can do, make sure to pre-order Automating Windows Server 2008 R2 with Windows PowerShell 2.0. While the title suggests it’s all about Windows Server 2008 R2, the appendices will get into extending PowerShell and how to make outside .NET libraries accessible to PowerShell.

Read an E-Book Week – Software For Reading eBooks

While there are plenty of eReaders out there nowadays, you don’t necessarily need to purchase them to read an eBook.  You can easily read eBooks on your desktop, laptop, and yes, even your phones and iPads.  Here are some pieces of software that can help you read eBooks on the desktop:

Some apps that are out there for mobile devices include:

  • Amazon Kindle App – eBook support for iPhone, BlackBerry, iPad, Android, and Windows Phone 7
  • Bluefire Reader– eBook support for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
  • Mobipocket – eBook support for Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Symbian Os, Palm Os, and ePaper devices (Cybook, iLiad)
  • OverDrive Media Console – eBook support for iPhone, iPad, and Android

These are just what I know about so far.  Have you tried another eBook app out there?  Leave a comment about it!

Read an E-Book Week – Accessing eBooks 24/7

Throughout this week, we’re looking at eBooks, from a tech perspective.  Today, I want to show you how you can access eBooks online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, thanks to some services out there.

First of all, I want to give a shoutout to companies that provide online titles to libraries and retailers.  Thanks to them, you can check out eBooks from your local library from the comfort of your own location.  Whether I’m snowbound in Cleveland or on the road for a conference or even on vacation, I can go to my local library’s website and check out eBooks from their site.  I can download the books to my computer and then read them either on my computer or transfer them to a device – like my Sony Reader Pocket Edition – to read.

Another place I get my tech eBooks fix online is through SkillSoft’s Books 24×7 online collection.  You can find more about Books 24×7 on their website.  What I like about the Books 24×7 collection that I have access to is that it is primarly technical titles.  Some of the publishers that I’ve seen in this collection include Wrox Press, Microsoft Press, Apress, IBM Press, Intel Press, John Wiley & Sons, McGraw-Hill, IGI Global, and Paraglyph Press.  I can dive into a variety of topics – from Hardware to Databases, Software Engineering to Programming Languages, Desktop & Office Applications to Enterprise Computing, Security to Business and Culture… these are just a few of the topics they have to offer.  Some of the titles I have in my Books 24×7 folders include Microsoft .NET: Architecting Applications for the Enterprise, Professional Joomla!, Securing Web Services: Practical Usage of Standards and Specifications, and Professional ASP.NET 4 in C# & VB.

A third place I get my tech eBooks fix online is through Safari Books Online.  You can find more about Safari Books Online on their website.  Before I was introduced to the O’Reilly Deal of the Day, I would get my O’Reilly book fix through my Safari Books Online account, as most of the O’Reilly books that I was interested in at that time were part of this collection.  Publishers I’ve seen in this collection include Que, Apress, John Wiley & Sons, Microsoft Press, Adobe Press, Sams, Manning, Cisco Press, Packt Publishing, New Rides, and Peachpit.  Topics are wide as well – from Java, Apple, Python, Web, and Microsoft development topics to Security, Windows Administration to Network Administration, Math & Science to Business… so much to choose from.  

Now while these last two options can be expensive, I get access to them as part of my ACM Professional Membership.  For $99/year, I’m not only an ACM member, but I also get access to professional development tools including access to ACM’s Books 24×7 and Safari Books Online collections. While I have other benefits to being an ACM member, access to these books is probably my most-exercised benefit.

These are just a few places on where to find technical eBooks online.  Got another place I haven’t mentioned?  Leave a comment on this post!

Read an E-Book Week – Wiley Makes Me Smiley

Disclaimer: Although my work is related to the topic at hand, these are the thoughts of Sarah, the book junkie, and are not necessarily those of my employer.

As a developer, I’ve always been a fan of those books with the red covers and the yellow text along the spine. Those would be the books from Wrox, an imprint of John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. When I wasn’t looking into O’Reilly titles, Wrox was the second publisher I’d go to. The more I settled into the development realm, Wrox became the first that I turned to.

In my day job as a web developer, I like having Wrox books on my desk as a reference, especially Professional C# 4.0 and .NET 4. While my physical bookshelf at work has all sorts of reference books, I also like that Wrox has eBooks available, not just at their store but also through public libraries and other retailers. This means that I can check out a book online and have it on my desktop at work as a reference for a couple weeks at a time (provided there isn’t a queue ahead of me). If there’s high enough of a demand and my library doesn’t stock the book well, then I could consider purchasing the eBook.

Besides being able to check Wrox books out at the library, the other thing that makes me smiley about Wiley is their Sybex imprint. When it comes to IT imprints, Sybex is the first I think of – their “Mastering” and “Instant Reference” books are great references to have. Sybex is also my publisher and has been a great company to work with. So of course they make me smiley!

These are just more technical publishers that I simply adore. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about a couple online services I have access to that get me my technical eBooks when I need a quick reference and know that these services reliably carry them. Stay tuned!

Read an E-Book Week – O’Reilly, O RLY?

Disclaimer: Although my work is related to the topic at hand, these are the thoughts of Sarah, the book junkie, and are not necessarily those of my employer.

This owl made its rounds long ago, but every time I hear “Oh really?”, this is one of the things I think of:


The other thing I think of when I hear “Oh really?” is O’Reilly.  Growing up in the techie realm, I simply adored O’Reilly’s books.  I looked forward to seeing what the next animal would be, as well as the next topic.  It wouldn’t be later in life, when my friend Jeff mentioned that he contributed to an O’Reilly book, that I would realize that not all O’Reilly books had animals.  But that still didn’t stop me from buying O’Reilly books.

My camel book (Perl) and rhino book (Javascript) have seen a lot of desks over the years.  In college, we used some O’Reilly books as our textbooks, and that made me happy to see that even my instructors had respect for O’Reilly books.

O’Reilly is another one of the publishers that fuels my love for eBooks.  From their O’Reilly Deal of the Day to the other deals for members (including a % off new editions or maybe a “buy x get x free” deal), there are plenty of deals for their titles in eBook format.  Add to it that their titles are DRM free – I can download my titles to any number of machines and devices.  Even better, when I purchase a title, I get the title in multiple eBook formats – including APK (Android), EPUB, PDF, Daisy (accessible), and Mobi (Mobipocket).  I don’t have to spend money on each format.

Here’s a sample of some of the books that I’ve purchased recently, thanks to some of O’Reilly’s many eBooks deals:

O'Reilly Titles

While flying home from the 2011 Microsoft MVP Summit, I read a few of the O’Reilly books – including Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton.  Reading this book gave me a look at the world of Wil Wheaton, including just how much of a geek he really is.  After spending most of a week with my geeky guy friends and their guy ways, this book grated on my nerves a little.  But that’s a good thing – it really captured Wil’s geekiness and his typical guy train of thought.  He really is just a geek.  Overall, it was a great read that I would recommend to Wil Wheaton fans.

Whether I want reference books or books by popular geek icons, I’m sure the O’Reilly site won’t let me down.  There’s a wealth of deals, over a wide variety of topics.  Publishers and imprints available on the O’Reilly site include O’Reilly, Microsoft Press, No Starch, Paraglyph, PC Publishing, Pragmatic, Rocky Nook, Sitepoint, TidBITS Publishing, and YoungJin.

So thank you, O’Reilly, for your great deals and for the DRM free eBooks!  Keep it up!

Read an E-Book Week – MEAP, MEAP!

Disclaimer: Although my work is related to the topic at hand, these are the thoughts of Sarah, the book junkie, and are not necessarily those of my employer.

Before I got an eBook reader, I would read eBooks – in EPUB and PDF formats – on my laptop and on my desktop with Adobe Digital Editions, which means that you don’t necessarily need to use an electronic eReader device to read eBooks.  I have to thank Manning Publications Co. for encouraging my interest in eBooks, as they had me review a couple titles for them – specifically IronPython in Action and Hello World! Computer Programming for Kids and Other Beginnersin PDF form.

Today’s topic is all about MEAP – the Manning Early Access Program. This is Manning’s program to allow readers to get early access to chapters of a book as soon as they become available.  It also allows the readers to interact with the author(s) via author forums.  Authors can make changes based on feedback from the MEAP readers.  When a chapter is updated, MEAP readers can get the latest updates as well.

MEAP books cost the same as an eBook or print book but get you access to the chapters early.  This feature alone caught my eye with Manning.  While I keep an eye on multiple tech publishers, I’m always curious to see what’s coming out through Manning’s MEAP program.

The MEAP books I’m debating on at the moment include:

MEAP, MEAP… check out the MEAP titles today!

Read an E-Book Week – Introduction

Disclaimer: Although my work is related to the topic at hand, these are the thoughts of Sarah, the book junkie, and are not necessarily those of my employer.

Thanks to Nathan Blevins‘ retweet, I am now aware that this week is “Read an E-Book Week“.

For Read an Ebook Week, you could try one of my books. Get them at Amazon: or Smashwords: than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

Growing up, I read a lot of books.  I grew up with Richard Scarry, Dr. Seuss, and Shel Silverstein.  I spent a lot of time at my local library, checking out sheet music, mystery novels, and miscellaneous fiction.  As I grew older, I was introduced to the works of James Patterson, Janet Evanovich, and Nora Roberts.  While I started embracing my inner geek, I switched over to Michael Crichton, Douglas Adams, and Neal Stephenson.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2010… I was getting ready to fly across the country for the 2010 Microsoft MVP Summit.  I didn’t want to pack a stack of books and realized that it was time for me to embrace eBook readers for my own personal use.  That’s when, after research on my own, I decided to go with a Sony Reader Pocket Edition.  I liked that I could read eBooks without glare on an electronic device.  I also enjoyed that I could check out books from my local libraries.  And yes, my Sony Reader Pocket Edition followed me across the country again this year for the 2011 Microsoft MVP Summit.  What can I say?  It’s nice to carry a “stack of books” on a flight across the country thanks to the invention of eBooks and eBook readers.

Throughout this week, I will talk about my adventures with eBooks and recommend some techie eBooks while I’m at it.