At least, I think it was National Instruments… It’s been a long time.
My first year hanging out at the radio station, where I was a jazz DJ on Sundays, there was a fellow who was a KTRU veteran. He had gone to Rice for both undergraduate and graduate school, and had degrees in computer science. We talked a little here and there; he used to drop by during my show when the radio was in the basement of the Rice Memorial Center on his way to or from Willy’s Pub. After that year, he got a job and moved to Austin.
Fast forward a year or two. I walked into an interview at the Placement Office, and there he was, sitting on the company side of the table. He was my interviewer. He remembered me, but then the interview started.
He looked at my resume, asked for my transcript (which I had with me), and then asked me questions about programming.
At one point, he asked me how I would implement something or other, and I mentioned using recursion. He then asked, “So, what kind of assembly gets generated for recursive functions?”
I told him about pushing parameters and return addresses, and it depended on convention or language as to whether the calling routine fixed the stack or the caller.
“So, every recursive function adds to the stack?”
“What if your stack is 256 bytes?”
“What kind of machine has a 256 byte stack?”
“Well, many devices that monitor things have that kind of stack. Medical devices, oil well control devices, etc.”
“I guess you shouldn’t use recursion then.” And I proceeded to write down a non-recursive solution to his problem. I had never done that, so it took me a few minutes.
At that point, he leaned back, and said, “Look, I’m going to be straight with you. You’re smart. You know some stuff. But your resume is bare. Your grades are bad. You are going to have a hard time. I think you have a lot to offer, but I am not in a position to recommend you right now.”
“What courses do you have left for your degree?”
“Algorithms. A couple of non-major courses that are still required.”
“You need to nail Algorithms. If you do well in that course, you should land a good job somewhere.”
“Thanks for the advice.”
“I wish you well. Hope we can run into each other at Homecoming some time, and you can fill me in on how it worked out.”
This is the last time somebody who turned me down gave me constructive criticism about my interview. That was 32 years ago.