Anyone who knows me well has likely heard the “the difference between the GUI and the code” story. I think it’s because not only is it incredibly frustrating, but it outlines how you can be placed in a lot of different situations where someone in a position of power before you tells you you’re flat out wrong when really they either haven’t really thought about what they’re asking or they’re not educated enough to even understand the answer.

The Story

So I applied for a programming job at a place called Agape Red in Downtown Omaha. It was in the Old Market, right next to where I was living! I could literally walk out my door and within a block be at work – how cool would that be? So I head to the interview, and all seems to go pretty well until I get to the “technical question” portion.

This is where the guy interviewing me asks, “What’s the difference between the GUI and the code?” I immediately start remembering my experience designing GUIs using Netbeans and flipping back and forth between the generated code from the UI designer and the designer. Anyone who has used this before will know what I’m talking about, and non-programmers will have to simply take it on faith that a GUI is simply lines of code directing the computer how to draw lines, where to put checkboxes, and where to display whatever text at whatever coordinates.

Anyway, I’m thinking about all of these files of code and so perhaps rather obviously to me, I respond, “There is no difference. It’s all just code.” The interviewer’s face suddenly turns saddened and disappointed. “No. The GUI is where the user clicks things with their mouse and types things in. The code is the actual “code” behind the program.

Upon hearing this, I’m obviously in a complete state of shock and amusement. Being that I suffered from pretty severe anxiety at the time, I wasn’t going to cause a scene in the middle of an interview. Before I had much time to process what just happened, the guy stands up and says, “I think we’re done here.” Being a young, anxious kid and not knowing how to handle the situation, I’m led out of the building.

Later I receive a phone call from the staffing agency informing me that they weren’t interested because I didn’t seem to understand much about programming.

I think if there’s a lesson to be learned from this event, it’s that just because someone is in a position of power in a certain social setting (an interviewer, an instructor) doesn’t actually mean that they know what they’re talking about or understand really what they’re asking you. Without inflating my own ego too much, I’d like to say that it’s possible that you have more knowledge about the subject that is quite simply just beyond their understanding.