An Electromagnetic-pulse(EMP) is a burst of electromagnetic energy that can damage electronic systems and disrupt power grids. Electronics are generally designed with different levels of protection against EMP and other radio wave interference. However, humans are different and do not always have protection against certain outside interference. So when your interviewer is talking to me and interrupting me while I solve irrelevant algorithm questions they are repeatedly applying an EMP to my thought process.
Over a year ago I made some new friends part of a larger friend group. Some of them I came to know very closely since then and a few were very open about themselves being somewhere on the autism spectrum. Having friends with autism is not something new to me; I have made plenty that are since grade school. What was different with these ones is that they were very open talking about the subject in extent.
Then conversations about autism became weird and personal. “…that aspie girl…” “…since we’re both autistic…” “What’s your special interest?” These are paraphrased quotes that were either said about me behind my back or directly to me. If you participate in the autistic community you will probably recognize a few keywords in those phrases. There was a problem with those statements; I never stated that I was autistic to anyone or was aware that I might be.
With enough prodding from one of those new friends I eventually underwent testing for autism using the RAADS-R system. After a few rounds of it each spaced a minimum of one month apart to avoid bias the basic conclusion is that I am in fact placed within the autism spectrum. This was something that I had to really step back and take in to understand. It opened a flood gate of understanding of past life events that seemed normal to me, but other people made a fuss out of. The reality is that it does not change anything about me. It is new information I can use to understand myself better and how I approach social situations differently.
Getting back to the title of this article was that this led me to a community of people that helped me understand something else unique about myself. I do not filter out most background noise. If you drop a spoon on the tiled kitchen floor I will hear it across the office. The low quiet hum or high pitched whine of a cheap USB wall charger will be noticed when I enter the room. Some of these noises I will notice even if I do have headphones on blasting music.
I have always used music to drown out background noise and I just thought that was what everyone did. Then I learned that apparently people even with excellent hearing generally never noticed the noises that I do. I would regularly drop a message in the local office Slack channel that UPS just dropped off a package at the front desk even when I was no where near the area; because I heard the beep of the handheld terminal scanning a shipping label from across the office over my music.
According to my new friends there was a high chance that I have a auditory sensor disorder. Though, my reading of articles related to it are not exactly conclusive on how it relates to my issue. There is one important piece that relates to now popularized code golf(“leet code”) style interviews that are now common across the software industry. When you put me under a short timer and have an interviewer non-stop talk to me while I am trying to concentrate you guarantee that I will never pass your interview. For me it is like trying to diffuse a bomb while having an ice pick pressed into my back.
In closing: I have learned much from the autism community about myself over the past year and have come more to hate the current day software engineer interview process because of how exclusionary it can be. These are lessons I have used to improve my communication process with coworkers along with improving how I evaluate someone’s job performance.
Also, in case it gets asked: “Why don’t the lyrics in the music break your concentration?” The vast majority of music in my library is in foreign languages that I do not understand or is electronic music. As well, even if the song is in English I only hear the lyrics as another instrument in the composition.