For iSchool Students

You’re invited to join us for “whiteboard coding practice”.  Registration and calendar are below

These sessions can help you with programming skills and possibly with future job interviews, and should be low-stress skill and confidence builders! These are supplementary to the presentations by our career advising team, not a substitute for them.

Why Practice?

As part of a technical job interview in data science or other computer programming-related fields, you could be given a live coding or algorithm challenge without a computer. These are variously called “whiteboard interviews”, “whiteboard coding”, “interview coding”, a “programming interview” or similar phrases. Not all companies do this, but many of our students have reported having these even to get internships. So it is worth practicing to develop your skills and comfort before it suddenly matters to you.

You’ll find lots of people, including some highly successful programmers, who rant negatively about this type of interview. But simply deciding not to prepare is foolish. There are pros and cons, but many complaints result from experiences with interviewers or candidates who were emphasizing the wrong things. Done properly, it gives evidence of how well a candidate communicates their thoughts, how they make analytical decisions, how confidently they approach new problems, how reliant they are on copying from examples, and whether they know how to ask clarifying questions. Those are important skills even in non-coding jobs.

This is open to anyone in the iSchool, regardless of degree program or whether you are preparing for a job search. You don’t need a lot of experience with coding and no specific programming languages are required. You can focus more on communications, data structures, and algorithmic thinking than code syntax if you wish. Coding interviews sometimes emphasize finding the optimal algorithm for a problem, as measured by order of complexity of time or memory. That is not the primary concern, but is a secondary goal. You can learn more about complexity in some of our courses like IS590PR, but it isn’t necessary to participate.

Please understand that trying to memorize optimal solutions to dozens of published interview questions is not the ideal approach. That is just rote memorization of other people’s work, and a good interviewer can tell the difference. Have a look at some just for ideas of different techniques.

What Should You Bring?

Pencil and paper is good, no computers needed. We’ll have markers and whiteboards. I encourage you to bring a sample problem written clearly on paper — you may get to play the mock interviewer, or suggest the problem for others to use. Or bring one that still puzzles you and try working through it with a small audience and some assistance.

What are these coding interviews like, and how should I act?

There are many online videos that show one or more solutions to specific whiteboard coding style problems, but most don’t show a realistic interview coding situation. Even worse, some unknowingly show how to interview someone poorly. The best example I have found is this mock interview at Google below. Both participants demonstrate good communication, Edgar “thinks out loud” very well, tries potential solutions visually before writing any code, and together they iterate to improve the solutions.

Register (sign up) for a session:

I’ve scheduled 6 sessions for the spring 2018 semester.  There are far too many students to accommodate everyone at once, so you may register for 1 or 2 sessions per semester. Once you’ve tried this, you can easily practice with peer students on your own schedule.  The registration form will tell you if the date is already full, then you’ll need to choose another.

  • Sun. Jan 14, 4:00 – 5:30 pm in room 131
  • Wed. Jan 31, 5:30 – 7:00 pm in room 131
  • Sun. Feb 11, 4:00 – 5:30 pm in room 131
  • Wed. Feb 28, 5:30 – 7:00 pm in room 131
  • Sun. Mar 11, 4:00 – 5:30 pm in room 131
  • Wed. Mar 28, 5:30 – 7:00 pm in room 131 [register here]


Email the facilitator, John Weible.

What if I’m a remote LEEP student who can’t attend?

Email me to let me know you want this opportunity.  If there’s enough demand, we’ll try to do something similar through Blackboard.  Note, this is open to MSLIS students with some programming experience as well as MSIM, but since it’s a computer programming-centric activity, it isn’t relevant to interviewing for most traditional librarian jobs.

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