Thursday, December 09, 2010

FSOA Recap (2010)

I arrived at the testing site about 30 minutes early; there were already about ten or so black suits milling about the lobby. As more continued to arrive, I estimated there to be about 30 or so altogether. Perhaps three-quarters of them were male. Very nice diversity among the tracks, professional backgrounds and experience. Everyone I spoke with knew at least one other language. Very few had taken the OA before; most were there for the very first time.  Astonishingly, I heard a couple of candidates state that they had "decided to read up on what this was all about" only the night before.

It was very different from my last OA in 2006.  At that time, we were just a handful of candidates clustered around a conference room table completing our paperwork.  Now the 'waiting room' was completely filled with candidates quietly scribbling out their information.

The GE was straightforward, five people in the group. No surprises. Some of the presentations were somewhat disjointed and difficult to follow, but we had a minute or two after each one to ask some pointed and relevant questions. When the presentation phase was over, one of the assessors read the instructions and dropped the paper on the desk.  Everyone looked at it curiously, as though he had just given us a hefty bill for dinner. I took it, and placed it with my folder of information.

We had a very good discussion about the relative merits of the projects, and brainstormed some reasonable possibilities. We all seemed to agree on one project, and tentatively selected it, pending final approval. With two or three minutes remaining, I stated that I believed my project deserved more serious consideration, but in the interest of moving the group toward consensus to meet the deadline, I would offer to remove it from consideration. We were then able to quickly agree on a recommendation.

Case Management came next. Lots of information, as always. I set up the framework for my memo first (as recommended on the boards) and skimmed over the material. After the obligatory "I'm sorry I couldn't meet you..." intro, I dove right into the problem, contrasting alternative solutions. Some of the information was less important, easily overlooked, but potentially useful nonetheless. No surprises here. I felt somewhat pressed for time, and felt I could have done better with an extra ten to fifteen minutes, but I was still pleased with the final result. DON'T GET DISTRACTED; FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS!

The Structured Interview was a mixed bag. During the E&M portion, I would frequently get cut off or interrupted, but I tried to keep up for the most part. There were some areas where I feel I could have articulated better, and once or twice they would repeat the question I was trying to answer. I would spin my answer a bit and continue, despite feeling a bit muddled.

Hypotheticals were fun. After I would answer, they would sometimes sit quietly, as if waiting for more, which was disconcerting at first, but it did give me the opportunity to expand my options. One hypo was unusual, sort-of like "you are a clerk in a retail store. A customer comes in and throws his cup away in YOUR trash can. What do you do?" Very strange, just a "Meh. Nothing, really, unless blah blah blah happens" sort of response.  Or maybe I just completely blew this one.  ;)

The PBI portion was great. Almost all my stories came from work, and I felt I was able to develop a decent connection with the Assessors. They were not as 'stony faced' as they had been at first, and smiled a little more and seemed genuinely curious about "what happened next".

The next two hours of waiting was tortuous, and a couple of other co-candidates and I walked down the block and around the Air & Space museum. The outdoor walk and the company did me good, and helped return me to reality. 

Back at the Annex, we were all herded into the CM room, and waited anxiously for the Russian Roulette smackdown. One candidate had read on the board about a previous group who had applauded candidates as they were called out, in recognition of their effort, and suggested that we do the same. This was a great idea and worked well, seeming to relieve some of the apprehension.

There were about a third of the candidates left when I was called out, and I was taken into the GE room. No one else was in there except myself and three assessors. I saw two fat envelopes on the table, and allowed myself to feel a glimmer of hope, when another candidate was brought in to join us. The assessors were all very chatty and friendly, and answered what questions they could. We went through all the procedural things of passing, and were returned to the waiting room with the other candidates who passed.

There ended up being a total of eight people passing, which was about average. Five males and three females, a slightly better ratio than had begun the day. One individual passed only one of the three sections, but passed overall with a 5.3.  The highest score of the day, I believe, was a 5.8.

The security interview was largely procedural, but interesting. I really enjoyed the agent that met with me and we had a really good conversation while we were reviewing the paperwork. I felt that I was honest to the point of being annoying, but he seemed to appreciate that. He jokingly told me not to go get myself into trouble, because "we've got your fingerprints now". LOL

PASSED: 5.6, passing all three sections.


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