What was a challenge you had to overcome at your last job?

I have recently started a new job.  Well… it’s been a little over four months, but that’s still pretty recent.  It’s recent enough to still remember the job search and the questions I would get asked.  I never had to answer the “If you were a starving hot dog, would you eat yourself?” type of question, but I did get some interesting ones.  But then there are the standards that you’re asked all the time.  Among those is “What was a challenge you had to overcome at your last job?  How did you overcome it?”


In my previous job, it was a small company of 30 people.  They had fully bought into the Agile/Scrum methodology of allowing developers to develop with a minimum of interference.  I ended up having to leave that company though.  There were a myriad of factors that led up to my job search.  This post isn’t about that though.

While job searching, I would get a number of questions that were pretty standard.  Among those were:

  • How do you keep up with technology?
    I read a lot of blogs, I attend user groups in the area, I do experiments and research projects at home.
  • Where do you see yourself in 3 years? (this used to be 5 years… times change)
    I hope to keep advancing my career.  I don’t want to be a programmer/developer anymore.  I hope to move into a supervisory or management position.
  • Why are you looking for a new job?
    I have out grown my career at my previous job.  I like it there, but there is no more room for advancement.

Etc…  But one question that came up was always “What was a challenge you had to overcome?”  Previously, the answer would be something like lack of standards or lack of direction for the big picture.  At this new job though, I have a new challenge I have to overcome… It’s the “THWADI” syndrome.

THWADI?  You ask?  Is that some African village?  Is it a Thai noodle dish?  No…  THWADI is the situation where you posit a new idea to someone that’s been in the same job for 25 years.  That person is frightened of change and doesn’t want to learn anything new so they shut you down by saying “That’s how we’ve always done it.”

That’s what I’m facing at my new job.  I’ve been brought in to move the company to a service oriented architecture.  There’s a team of Enterprise Architects sitting in a tower in another building that are creating reams of documentation to do the same thing.  I’m on the front lines.  I’m the one that has to get things implemented.  I’ve already heard more than once that phrase.  “THWADI”.

Me:  Why are we going to do the task that way?  That’s inefficient, unmaintainable and overly complex.

Scared old employee: Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.

Hopefully I don’t need to initiate another job search.  At least not anytime soon.  However, if I do go on a job interview, I will expect to be asked about a challenge I had to overcome.  THWADI will be that challenge.  At this point I don’t know how I’ll overcome it, but I’m confident that I will.

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