Interviewing a senior software engineer

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Ibrahim D.
Inglewood, CA

A 300 word blurb about yourself

My name is Ibrahim Diallo, I am software developer by trade. I am a firm believer that every programmer has the moral duty to respect the privacy and integrity of his service users.

How long have you been a programmer/coder?

I have been coding professionally for 8 years. Meaning that's how long I've been writing code for money. But I have first written pseudo code to make the computer do something in 1992. That was on a windows 3.11 where you actually had to use DOS for most tasks.

What got you into programming

I got into programming because I wanted to create my own theme on an mIRC client. It required knowledge of an obscure scripting language that I cannot recall the name. Years later, in college, I realized that I can actually type code on a computer and get paid to do it. I did it for the money, it was not a love-at-first-sight. But the longer you spend time with your computer, the better you get to know it, and next thing you know... Love.

What is your favorite programming language and why?

I usually like to say that all programming languages are the same, all that matters is that you understand the problem you are trying to solve. But when I am cornered, I say PHP. One of the reasons is that sometimes I can update and run my code once every second as I am developing. With a compiled language I have to wait for compilation. With PHP, well, it just runs.

Where do you work?

I currently work at Renly, a startup I have co-founded with some close friends. My title seems to change everyday so I will not bother you with that, but let's settle for Jack of all trades. Sometimes I'm behind the keyboard, sometimes I'm interviewing the customer.

Favorite book. Programming or non programming? and why?

I am very tempted to list a non programming book. The reason is at its core I believe programming is an art. So any book that can stretch your mind and forces you to hold many details in memory for an extended amount of time is one I would recommend. So in that spirit, I would say "Division by zero" by Ted Chiang. The reason? Well because it will twist your mind.

If money wasn't an issue, what would you be doing?

I would be pouring concrete and asphalt in the streets of Guinea. In other words, I would be building a reliable infrastructure in my country. Why? Because without infrastructure no amount of donation is going to raise a nation from poverty.

Where is your favorite place to code?

It's a place I haven't been before. I often find myself finding solutions to programming problems when I am doing something completely unrelated to it. Being in a new place can be a great catalyst.

If you weren't coding, what would you be doing?

I'd be a writer. (not a good one, but one nonetheless)

Biggest challenge so far in any coding project?

My biggest challenge isn't code perse. It is explaining to someone else what I am trying to do with the code. It is surprisingly hard to convert the thoughts in my head (or the code) into something coherent someone else can understand.

Do you prefer to code solo or with a team? And why?

I work best as a hermit. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy working in a team, it just means that I am easily distracted. So when I need to get things done, I disappear.

Any words for anyone just learning to code?

Stick with it. It will get hard, it will be frustrating, but stick with it. Then when you make an insane amount of money you can thank me, or wire me some.

Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.


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