A note for programmers by Kenneth Blomqvist

This week we have been publishing blog posts inspired by the tips from the alumni keynote speakers in our event last week. This is the last blog post of the series, and it includes super important advice for programmers from our alumnus Kenneth.
Big thanks to all of you who took part in our event So, you want to work at a startup?, and special thanks to all of you who sent us feedback! We’ll return next year with an even better event!
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Hi, I’m Kenneth. I did Startup Life last year for 12 months. I actually ended up working at two companies as a web developer: YourMechanic and Webflow. Thinking back, I’m convinced that doing Startup Life has been the single best decision I have made in my entire life. During my year I got to work with some brilliant people and I met a lot of weird, crazy and smart people that have really changed the way I think.
A note for programmers  by Kenneth Blomqvist
A lot of people I know have thought about applying, but are doubtful about themselves as well as the whole application and interviewing process. There will usually be one or more general interviews and some sort of technical interview. In a general interview, they’ll probably tell you about their company and what they are currently working on to see how you react and what questions you ask. It’s important to ask a lot of questions since it gives away what you find important and you also get a feel for how the company works. Always ask a lot of questions. It’s not only them that are trying to figure out if are a good fit. You should also try to find out if they are your kind of company.
Another important thing is whether you will be able to work in their kind of environment. They will probably ask you about your previous work experience and how you’ve dealt with different situations in your life to see if it aligns with the companies values and practices. They might ask you how you would deal with a specific situation or what motivates you. They might ask you how you’ve handled a situation where you’ve been wrong. That kind of stuff. Especially at small startups where a lot of things are still open and changes happen all the time, it’s important to be able to trust that an employee will use their time wisely to move towards the companies target. There won’t always be people around you telling you what to do so it’s important to make sure a you understand what the company is trying to achieve and that you are committed to pursuing their vision.
Once they have established that you might be the right kind of person they’ll probably want to make sure that you can actually get something done and that’s when the technical interview comes in. I feel like a lot of people overestimate how much track record and coding skill is required to get hired. They might ask you about your preferences, such as what programming languages you like and why. They might ask simple factual questions about some technology, programming language or protocol. They might ask data structure or algorithmic questions. They might ask you to program some simple program with them. Or they might ask you to explain how some real world system works.
It can be intimidating since you might not always remember every answer from the top of your head. If you can’t remember something it’s not that bad. If you don’t know the answer to some specific question, it’s probably best to just tell them what related stuff you remember and then admit you don’t have the exact answer. It’s normal. If it’s a programming exercise you can always ask them to clarify some parts and just try some approach that might not even work out, they’ll probably even give you hints. I guess the most important thing they are trying to figure out is how you approach problems and how you think.
So what I mean is that you shouldn’t be too intimidated by the interviews. Honestly just apply. You definitely won’t regret it!
 

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