The Personal website of Paul J Abernathy

Solve hard problems.  Make the world a better place through quality software.

Frequently Asked Questions

This page is mostly for job interview type questions right now.  It is still being built out but I think you may find some helpful content here.

Tell me about yourself.

Check out the About Me and Career Summary and Goals pages.  

What is your greatest strength?

I would say the qualities list in the About Me page are my greatest strengths.  It is hard to choose one.  I would say tenacity/work ethic combined with a mindset to think about things and look for better ways of doing things.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Right now, my plan is to remain an individual contributor as a deep expert in computer programming.  I am planning to increasingly program in the areas of data science, medical software, or scientific computing.  There is a possibility of trying mobile apps in the next few years but I would still want to focus on programming the algorithms.  After a few years, I'll reevaluate whether or not I want to get into management, but for now I want to stay ubergeek.

Have you done the best work you are capable of doing?

I have always done the best work I knew how to do in the situation I was in and have been commended for my work in other jobs over the years, but have always felt that I have the capability to to more. When I worked at the car wash or Billy Graham, I did a good job but I was not making the fullest use of my abilities so I moved on. Things got better as I worked at UNCC and BofA, but even there I felt like I could do more and would seek out more challenges. That is one reason I am looking at the specific jobs I am pursuing right now.

How long would it take you to contribute to our company?

That depends on the job and on the company and the job.  I understand that many employees cost more than they are able to contribute for several months as they "get up to speed" on a complex job.  I don't know exactly how long it would take me for whatever job you may have, but what I can say is that I'll be doing what I can to learn quickly how to contribute.

What is your greatest weakness?

I have read that the way to answer this is to find some weakness (not necessarily your greatest weakness) that can be spun as a strength.  I am a perfectionist (because I do such a good job).  I have trouble delegating (because no one else does as good a job as I do).  But let's be a little less deceptive.  For me, if I am in a group of people, say at a party, I often don't know what to say.  Being introverted helps me be introspective (there's the positive spin), but, overall, my personal interactions are not as skillful as I would like.  If you ask anyone who has known me what I am like, I think they will tell you I was a good friend, none will tell you I was a jerk or that I was hard to work with at all, but they may say I am a man of few words.  I don't want to be the person who can't shut up, but I need to learn to speak my mind more and do better and meeting people.

The next greatest weakness is honesty.  I was supposed to say I am a perfectionist who can't delegate to all the nimrods I have to work with.

What are you doing to address your weaknesses?

After I joined Bank of America some years back, I had access to a nearby company sponsored Toastmasters club.  I joined the club in order to work on my speaking and presentation skills.  I still don't consider myself a great speaker, but I am a lot farther along than I was when I joined.  I have been able to speak in front of groups of several hundred on several occasions.  I am no longer in the club, but I continue to practice speaking, using the sound recording app on my phone for feedback.

As far as working on meeting people, it is partly mental.  What I can say is that I recently attend a Big Data conference and spoke to I think every company who had an exhibition both, asked a question in front of a large audience at a break out session, spoke to a couple of presenters before they headed out the door, exchanged a number of business cards, and got three interviews from it (all three are pending as of now...).

What are you doing to cultivate your strengths?

For several years now, I have had the practice of spending an average of ~30 minutes each work day doing some sort of technical training, be it reading or practicing programming or reading a technical book (of course I only developed work related skills on company time).  I was complemented on my work many times but don't remember ever being admonished for slacking off.  

I have also taken a number of online classes at, primarily around data science, probability, statics, and programming.  I am currently work the Data Science Specialization that Coursera recently created.  All of this is to develop what I think is a strength of programming and mathematical/logical reasoning.

I like to do "hobbyist" programming also.  I recently implemented a graph algorithm (Dijkstra's algorithm for all pairs shortest path), have done tree algorithms, have been working on an project to help with statistical analysis, a Naive Bayes classifier, a fun monte carlo simulation for Texas Hold 'em deals, and little R programs.  This is to continue to develop programming competence.

What are the next skills you would like to work on?

The next new computer skills I would like to work on are Hadoop and Map/Reduce, then possibly Spring, Python, Tableau or C#.

Why should I hire you?

That's hard to say without knowing the job or who else is applying.  There are plenty of people as smart as I am who are also good programmers, and they may even know Spring, Hadoop, and Python already, and they might even have applied for the same job.  What I can say is that I think I have a good mix of abilities and traits, and may have experience or perspective that others may not have, and I would be a good help to your team if the job is suited to my abilities.