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Information interviews in web development--suggestions?





sailor69
Does anyone here have experience with information interviews in the web development industry, either as the interviewer or as the interviewee? Or can you offer informed suggestions about them? More specifically:


  1. How do I get an information interview with someone experienced in the industry? (This is a major objective for me at this time.)
  2. To what extent do I need to bring a high-quality computer and appropriate accessories to be taken seriously?
  3. Do I need to be able to demonstrate a completed website of my own to be taken seriously?
  4. Do I need to be taken seriously to get questions answered?
  5. Style of dress--while many programmers do not seem to care to much about dressing to impress, I suspect I should at least dress well, even if casual. I should certainly be clean. (I have heard many times that it is best to dress a little better than a potential employer who is interviewing you. I am not sure that would apply here.)
  6. How much time would a professional web developer likely be willing to devote to the interview for this purpose?
  7. Should I prepare a list of questions, and if so, how many?
  8. What questions should I be prepared to answer?
  9. How could I ask for an opportunity to job-shadow there?
  10. Should I look for a particular standard, set of skills, or reputation before contacting a company or individual for this purpose? (If I contact a company, it would be to ask if someone is available and willing.)


For those who do not know, an information interview is an interview about working in a particular industry. It is not usually considered appropriate to ask for a job or a reference from the interviewee. I am not sure it is even appropriate to ask to job-shadow, but it may be okay to correspond afterward, depending on how the interview goes.
deanhills
sailor69 wrote:
Does anyone here have experience with information interviews in the web development industry, either as the interviewer or as the interviewee? Or can you offer informed suggestions about them? More specifically:


  1. How do I get an information interview with someone experienced in the industry? (This is a major objective for me at this time.)
I tell them I want them to design a Website for me. I then sit down and work out what I want the Website (whether real or imaginary) to look like, the audience I want to reach, the budget I have to spend and the content I'm looking at. I create my own framework of questions so that it will fit with all of the information I want to get from them during the interview.
sailor69 wrote:
  • To what extent do I need to bring a high-quality computer and appropriate accessories to be taken seriously?
  • I don't think you need to bring anything to the meeting. Most Web developers will be OK to do everything online, but if you want to have a meeting, a piece of paper will be OK, but if you want to stand out you can always take an ipad with a rough outline.
    sailor69 wrote:
  • Do I need to be able to demonstrate a completed website of my own to be taken seriously?
  • Why would you if you're going to set up a meeting where you are going to ask them to do the work? They will have to be on their toes for you to take them seriously.
    sailor69 wrote:
  • Do I need to be taken seriously to get questions answered?
  • No. But probably not a good idea to repeat the same questions. Like keep the questions focused on the topic - web development, and exactly the objectives in information you want to get from the meeting.
    sailor69 wrote:
  • Style of dress--while many programmers do not seem to care to much about dressing to impress, I suspect I should at least dress well, even if casual. I should certainly be clean. (I have heard many times that it is best to dress a little better than a potential employer who is interviewing you. I am not sure that would apply here.)
  • Dress to be comfortable - clean clothes with a clean look. Can be jeans and a button shirt. As long as you're comfortable in it.
    sailor69 wrote:
  • How much time would a professional web developer likely be willing to devote to the interview for this purpose?
  • Until he understands what you want. If he gets repetitive questions he'll probably lose interest quickly, so better keep questions focused on the Website you want to build, whether real or imaginary. Make sure it covers everything you want to know.
    sailor69 wrote:
  • Should I prepare a list of questions, and if so, how many?
  • It's not the number of questions that count but the quality and focus of questions. For example, the questions that you ask in this post are not very focused, are repetitive and one isn't quite sure what you want.
    sailor69 wrote:
  • What questions should I be prepared to answer?

  • What are you prepared to spend on the Website? What is your budget?
    What is the topic of your Website?
    Any examples of your Website on the Internet - can you show it?
    What content are you going to have and how will it be presented?
    Who will the audience be?
    Who will be writing the content?
    Etc
    sailor69 wrote:
  • How could I ask for an opportunity to job-shadow there?
  • Tell them you are eager to participate in the development by offering something you're good at. Maybe you're good at writing content?
    sailor69 wrote:
  • Should I look for a particular standard, set of skills, or reputation before contacting a company or individual for this purpose? (If I contact a company, it would be to ask if someone is available and willing.)
  • You should check out Websites they have designed and developed and ask for a list of references whom you can contact.
    sailor69
    I would probably get a good sense of what the person I'm talking with thinks is achievable in designing and building a website, the programming languages and other skills involved, an approximate schedule and estimate of man-hours, and the capacity and browsers my audience could use.

    However, it does not sound like I would get a good sense of what it would be like to WORK in the industry or in that person's job, even on a contract basis. Customers usually do not like to see problems, so a lot would get painted as a rosier picture than the actual. (I do not really like fooling people unnecessarily anyway, and sometimes it could be obvious that I have an agenda other than what I am stating. People do not like that.) My questions would include these subjects:


    1. Hours worked. I have read that sometimes a developer puts in 60 to 80 hours per week. I do not think I a prepared to do that much.
    2. Education required. Companies usually want at least a bachelors, supposedly. I, like most on Frihost, am self-taught.
    3. Documentation and organizing. These are areas in web development I am not good with. A contractor would have to show most if not all of this to a customer, but would use it differently, more in a nuts-and- bolts fashion.
    4. Level of skill needed with various programming languages, and the other skills involved. Personally, I need to be better at server-side languages and a lot of the Javascript libraries. Also, I do expect to get help or advice on content. I will be asking what I need to improve on to be employable BEFORE being hired, so that the employer will not need to be concerned about training costs, scheduling delays due to my lack of knowledge, and the like.
    5. Finding people, especially volunteers, to help with content/research, usabilty testing, forum moderation, and confirming of standards on information a site provides. For example, I expect to need permaculture experts to do data entry regarding various species of plants and animals. It's probably rather standard, but it would affect work flow.
    6. Accounting and legal matters specific to the web development industry, especially if I will have my own site or will work as an independent contractor.


    It might be useful to think in terms of getting the programmer to consult on a website I am working on. Or I maybe I am trying suggest a site redesign, which is frequent for at least one page when initiating a job contact. It is my concept that an information interview is functionally very similar to a job interview.

    While evaluating a website or even an idea for one, either I or the programmer could risk showing proprietary code and should be careful not to.
    deanhills
    sailor69 wrote:

    1. Hours worked. I have read that sometimes a developer puts in 60 to 80 hours per week. I do not think I a prepared to do that much.
    The hours worked are spontaneous - I doubt any developer will be able to tell you how many accurately as some times it takes many hours to troubleshoot a small thing. If you don't want to spend plenty of time online, then this is probably not the career you should choose for yourself.
    sailor69 wrote:
  • Education required. Companies usually want at least a bachelors, supposedly. I, like most on Frihost, am self-taught.
  • There's a thread about this somewhere you should Google it at Frihost. Some people are OK with self-taught. Maybe your much larger blue chip corporations with rules will ask for a degree.
    sailor69 wrote:
  • Documentation and organizing. These are areas in web development I am not good with. A contractor would have to show most if not all of this to a customer, but would use it differently, more in a nuts-and- bolts fashion.
  • Think the most important part here is know how to find something whether you are organized or not. If you know how to search very well and very quickly, then that's about 99% of being organized.
    sailor69 wrote:
  • Level of skill needed with various programming languages, and the other skills involved. Personally, I need to be better at server-side languages and a lot of the Javascript libraries. Also, I do expect to get help or advice on content. I will be asking what I need to improve on to be employable BEFORE being hired, so that the employer will not need to be concerned about training costs, scheduling delays due to my lack of knowledge, and the like.
  • I think this category comes with experience.
    sailor69 wrote:
  • Finding people, especially volunteers, to help with content/research, usabilty testing, forum moderation, and confirming of standards on information a site provides. For example, I expect to need permaculture experts to do data entry regarding various species of plants and animals. It's probably rather standard, but it would affect work flow.
  • This could be a challenge, but if it's a passion of yours I'm sure you'll find like minded individuals who will be able to help you.
    sailor69 wrote:
  • Accounting and legal matters specific to the web development industry, especially if I will have my own site or will work as an independent contractor.
  • It's probably something you could Google - but would be good too to find someone who is good with this. Someone maybe close whom you can trust.
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