Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Mar 2020

This is not the time for mediocrity

I originally had this as a tweetstorm/rant, but it ended up quite long, so I’m posting it to the blog too. It is mostly frustration at how poorly the people in charge are handling things. Instead of asking for more budget, the govt should be telling us first how they are planning to spend the money they are already allocated, which they claimed was sufficient. Instead of saying we can’t do mass testing because of limited kits, they should be telling us about their plans for getting more testing kits, ppes, hospital capacity, etc.

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COVID19 Diary

This post will largely be about the effects of the COVID-19 virus on my country, the Philippines, including government and society’s response, largely from a personal POV. It’s actually a bit difficult to write about, but I figure it’s something I would like to be able to look back on in the future, so let’s give it a shot. The reason it’s difficult to write about is that events are unfolding and changing rapidly, and a lot of things are still unclear.

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How to Make Voluntary SSS Payments

Since I stopped being a full-time employee at the end of 2015, I’ve missed around four years of monthly SSS payments. This isn’t really that big a deal, since I’ve already paid more than 10 years of premiums, I’m already guaranteed to get a pension from SSS when I reach retirement age. However, this past January I decided to resume making SSS premium payments on a voluntary basis. I had to research a bit and ask some friends about the whole process, so I thought I’d document it here both for my own recollection and in case someone finds it useful.

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Posted by under post at #philippines
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Feb 2020

A Different Kind of Revolution

I watched a little bit of the Senate hearing yesterday on the ABS-CBN franchise renewal issues. One of the senators, a known lackey of the president claimed that while the president was not vindictive, “kung masama ka sa kanya, masama din sya sa yo” (I’m not sure the senator understood what vindictive means). One of the ABS head honchos later made a statement that they were “sorry if they had offended the president” even though they were just following all the relevant laws, or something to that effect.

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Dec 2019

Thanks for your reply, but I’m still not clear on the “employer-employee relationship part.

For example, a contractual part-time service worker in a fast food chain, he is not considered a regular employee is this correct? Is he required to register as a business? (I assume no.) Is he deduced the 8% withholding tax or the regular income tax?

How is this different from the scenario where you are a consultant working as a contractor for a local (PH) client (say, as a graphic designer or software developer)? Is the consultant considered an employee? Is he required to register as a business?

Also, I’ve worked for a number of clients as a consultant under contract, and they always just withhold the 8% and when I ask if there’s anything else I need to do for tax purposes, they never advise me that I need a business permit. Should their accountant been telling them otherwise?

> Recurring like, you expect to engage in that particular kind of transaction for more than 1 time

-> does that mean if you are only doing this once, it is not considered recurring? i.e. a client asks me to build an application for them and I receive a one-time payment from them upon delivery and afterwards we no longer have a relationship, in this scenario you do not have to register as a business?

Sorry for all the follow-ups, I just want to clearly understand the scenarios wherein I would or would not be required to register as a business, because honestly I would like to avoid the bureaucracy as much as possible, hence I prefer not to register as a business if it can be avoided. I understand our duty as citizens to pay the right taxes etc and I would like to make sure I comply with any requirements and I don’t mind the withholding tax being deducted from me. But I would prefer to know under what conditions I could structure freelance/consultant work without having to register as a business.

BTW, I wanted to say I appreciate your answering these questions. I had been planning to look for an accountant to consult on related matters so this thread really helps.

> 1. Should I register as a self-employed /business?
Only if you are earning recurring income not earned under an employer-employee relationship.

Please explain “recurring income” here? What if I am earning money not on a full-time basis, with no guarantee of recurring income? For example, a company consults with me and I get paid an hourly fee.

Please also explain “employer-employee relationship”. I was previously working as a consultant with a company, and they were deducting the withholding tax from me (I think it was 8%). My understanding is I was not an actual employee here since I was a consultant, should I have been registered as a business in this instance? It’s just weird since this withholding tax was already reported to the BIR and it seems there was no issue.

Posted by under notes at #Philippines
Also on: reddit / 0

Nov 2019

The Costs of Corruption

A quick follow-up to something I mentioned in yesterday’s post: It is a cultural problem too. Even we the citizens have little respect for rules and laws and try to skip around them when we can. This is why we have fixers, and connections, and patronage. We trade on favors to get us out of trouble. I’m not sure if needed to be said, but I wasn’t saying that literally every single person participates in fixing and patronage to get around the rules.

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Posted by under post at #philippines #current events
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Laws Not Men

In yet another example of what is wrong with this country, the PNP are planning to arrest vape users after Duterte’s directive, despite there actually being yet no law or executive order banning vaping. Thus, the arrests are meaningless and merely another form of harassment. PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac explained that while violators would be apprehended, they would be released immediately after the incident is recorded in the police blotter.

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Grab Overpricing

So the Philippine Competition Commission recently fined rideshare provider Grab P23M for overcharging their customers. Apparently only P5M of that is meant to go back to the affected riders, which seems like a piddly amount considering the number of riders in the Philippines. We’ll see how of that I actually get credited back, if any. Grab pricing has been steadily increasing since Uber exited the market early last year. The other day Grab wanted to charge me a bit over P400 for a 13km ride to a commercial area, which seemed insane.

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Tales from a P2P Bus

It’s a lot more uncommon for me to go to places like Ortigas or Makati nowadays, but when I do I almost always take the P2P bus. The P2P (Point-to-Point) buses were introduced in Metro Manila I think around late 2015/early 2016, as a pricier alternative to the usual city buses. The fares are more expensive, but the buses are also much more comfortable and they don’t make stops along their route, only at the endpoints, so their travel time is faster compared to the usual city buses.

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Posted by under post at #philippines
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Four Days in Bicol

Posted by under post at #travels #philippines
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Oct 2019

This is Metro Manila

Posted by under post at #philippines #favorites
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Jul 2019

Jun 2019

May 2019

We had a NES, my parents bought it when my mom’s work sponsored a US trip for them. IDK what the price was. Problematic lang was that NES games were harder and more expensive to buy locally, and all your friends had Famicoms so mahirap ang gamesharing. Yung mga bootleg collections pati na “1000 in 1” etc available only as Famicom cartridges. Luckily, nagkaron ng binebenta na “Honeybee” adapter that let you use Famicom cartridges in a NES. I played a lot of the NES classics, all the legit Marios (there some random BS bootleg “Super Mario 4” that sometimes appeared), Castlevanias, Legend of Zelda (I had to borrow a NES original for this one, mahirap maghanap ng original Famicom cartridge kasi the cart needed its own battery for saving), Contra 1 and 2, Adventure Island etc etc. Kahit yung mga small games na nasa mga 16-in-1/100-in-1/etc like Popeye, Baseball, etc naging expert din ako lol. Pag bata ka madami kang time e

Posted by under notes at #Philippines
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I remember when playing the original version of Civilization back in the day, the “most advanced” form of government was Democracy, with the only downside of it being you can’t declare war (because you had a senate that would stop you.) The other available forms of government were typically not very useful, but Democracy massively increased your trade output, so most often I would build the Pyramids (a wonder which allowed switching to any government immediately and without penalty), and spend the rest of the game toggling between Democracy and Despotism (for when I wanted to go to war).

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Let’s not forget who controls the police and military back then.. wasn’t it Fidel Marcos and JPE?

Actually, Fabian Ver was in charge of the military. From wikipedia: " As Marcos disregarded the authority of then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile in the 1980s, he changed the military chain of command. Under the new chain of command, the authority would evolve from Marcos as president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces up to Ver, the chief of staff of the armed forces. "

Re: Marcoses, do you mean that you don’t think they are corrupt? You don’t think that Imee Marcos had Archimedes Trajano killed for speaking up against her? (There is already a court judgment on this)

> People get fired and cases were filed iirc. Do you have anyone in mind? I have some means to get information.

Yung example ko above were the Tulfos? Is there any case against them now? I think the former sec of justice was also removed for some shenanigans, I forget his name, yung may wig? Ano nangyari sa kanya? Yan lang mga examples. Meron pa mga iba na tatanggalin nya for issues supposedly tapos irerecycle lang sa ibang position, like Faeldon or La Vina.

> They don’t offer alternative solution. And if they did, I didn’t hear about it.

Si Chel Diokno primarily judicial reform ang focus nya, since he is a lawyer. It is easy to search for it, here’s the first article I found: https://www.bworldonline.com/why-everyone-should-vote-for-chel-diokno/

“From his diagnostics, Chel has offered a coherent set of policy and institutional reforms. The reforms he champions include the following:

• The insulation of justices, judges, and prosecutors from partisan politics;

• The filling up of vacancies in the trial courts and prosecution agency by recruiting the most competen

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Hello! Thank you for responding!

Re: China, I don’t think there are only two options where it is either war or bilateral relations. We can maintain bilateral relations while at the same time asserting our rights. I believe Indonesia has blown up Chinese fishing boats they have caught illegally fishing in their claimed territories, yet there is no talk of war being declared there. China will not go into a war with us over the WPS, this is an unfounded fear; they have not even started any hostilities over Taiwan despite decades of saber-rattling. I think the main reason this admin is afraid to piss off China is that their programs have become dependent on Chinese loans since Duterte dislikes loans from western countries that come with silly conditions like needing to abide by human rights etc

Re: Rappler, I agree they have a particular style of journalism, but I think this is more of the nature of people online being more attracted to clickbait-y articles than any actual bias against Duterte specifically. Even during the time of PNoy, they would have various articles criticizing him. It is the nature of the press to highlight problems and scandals, since this acts as a check on power. I think also the admin supporters have some level of selective bias as well in that they only see or remember those articles critical of the administration. The top article on the Rappler.com frontpage right now is “Philippines recalls envoys after Canada misses deadline for garbage shipment” which is surely positive for the admin. I think you would also agree that compared to the past admin, the current admin also tends to say more controversial things/statements which are more likely to make the news cycle, which furthers the sense of ‘bias’.

Thank you again for the discussion. What I generally see is that there is some sort of divide over idealistic/morally-driven views vs more pragmatic/“we need to get things done” views. Ultima

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How do you feel about the liberal party? If you hate them, why? I personally feel they are no more worse than other poltical parties like the NPC, Lakas-CMD, PDP-LABAN etc

In what timeline of the liberal party’s existence are you referring to?

Sorry, I missed this one. I mean more like moving forward. Would you automatically reject any candidate backed by the liberal party or something like that? Is it mainly because of what you perceive as involvement with “the Reds” as you say

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Thank you for replying! Some follow-ups, if I may:

Three words. Geopolitical Power Play

Should I take this to mean you are okay with his tolerance of China’s taking over our islands?

Why the hell would I convince you to support him? I can only present from my own perspective and that’s about it. It’s you who should decide whether you support him or not.

I’m not expecting you to be able to convince me. For me, the purpose of this exercise is to foster more understanding across divides; maybe you have something you can say that would be able to convince the skeptics to support the president or at least improve their appreciation of him. It’s okay if you don’t have any such statement. But would you not think it’s important for Filipinos to have a better understanding of where our fellow citizens are coming from? Or convincing other people to understand your perspective better is not a priority for you? This part is not a criticism - you have certainly been generous with your replies; but I have observed that few people are willing to reach out to those they tag as “dilawan” etc to explain their POV, so I wonder if people just don’t care about that kind of thing.

> What would be a dealbreaker for you

Would you have a response for this part?

> Ugh. As I said. Everyone is in cahoots for political favors. It always has been.

Given this and some other things in your response, my main takeaway is that you believe that Duterte is just being honest with how things are in reality, and that the issues people have with him are issues that would be true regardless of whoever is in power. Would this be accurate?

If the above is accurate, do you think we (as a country) deserve better? Would it be better to have leadership that does not use rhetoric to glorify the bad things about our reality?

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Thanks for indulging us. May I ask (pasensya na, medyo madami, thanks in advance if you choose to respond!):

- how do you feel about the way the admin is handling our relationship with China?

- how do you feel about the alliances with known or perceived corrupt politicos/families like the Marcoses or GMA?

- how do you feel about the way the president plays fast and loose with the facts, pulls out allegations out of nowhere without explanation, attacks the press, the church, etc

- how do you feel about the death of Kian? do you think such abuses by the cops are common or rare?

- " I hope a REAL opposition will be formed in the senate roster for check and balance. Not the 8D type of opposition. " What does this mean? What makes 8D not “REAL opposition”?

- you mentioned opposing corruption, what about his appointees who had stolen from the public and have never been punished, like the Tulfos? I am not aware of any significant anticorruption successes by this administration (which means prosecution, cases filed etc), forgive my ignorance. I know he has removed some officials for corruption, but have they been prosecuted?

- In spite of all the negatives you mentioned, you still feel like this admin is a net positive?

- My top 3 issues with Duterte are: (a) encouragement of a culture of violence; and (b) support for GMA and the Marcoses; (c) apparent willingness to submit to the Chinese govt. For me the vast number of killings (including those done by vigilantes and those of cops trying to fill quotas, imagined or otherwise, and those of innocents) is completely unacceptable. Is there something you can tell me to convince me to support him?

- Have there been instances that made you doubt your support for the administration?

- What would be a dealbreaker for you, i.e. something this administration would do that would end your support? In my opinion, the president has personally expressed support and/or

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Thanks for indulging us. May I ask (pasensya na, medyo madami, thanks in advance if you choose to respond!):

- how do you feel about the way the admin is handling our relationship with China?

- how do you feel about the alliances with known or perceived corrupt politicos/families like the Marcoses or GMA?

- how do you feel about the way the president plays fast and loose with the facts, pulls out allegations out of nowhere without explanation, attacks the press, the church, etc

- how do you feel about the death of Kian? do you think such abuses by the cops are common or rare?

- do you think the senate should remain independent? do you think it will?

- My top 3 issues with Duterte are: (a) encouragement of a culture of violence; and (b) support for GMA and the Marcoses; (c) apparent willingness to submit to the Chinese govt. For me the vast number of killings (including those done by vigilantes and those of cops trying to fill quotas, imagined or otherwise, and those of innocents) is completely unacceptable. Is there something you can tell me to convince me to support him?

- How do you feel about the liberal party? If you hate them, why? I personally feel they are no more worse than other poltical parties like the NPC, Lakas-CMD, PDP-LABAN etc

- do you feel like the opposition candidates were not qualified to be senators?

- Have there been instances that made you doubt your support for the administration?

- What would be a dealbreaker for you, i.e. something this administration would do that would end your support? In my opinion, the president has personally expressed support and/or tolerance for murder, lying, planting evidence, suppressing the press, political dynasties, vote-buying, making allegations without proof, and so on, so I find it difficult to imagine what could be worse than all of these.

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The results are disappointing, but that’s only because we expected better. Historically, those who have made it into the Senate did so mostly on name recognition. What does it matter if Diokno had the best resume of all the candidates, if many of the voters did not know who he was? How could he compete against someone who appeared on a hit primetime TV series right up until the start of the campaign period?

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The PH senatorial and local elections are on Monday. I almost didn’t want to write the usual election post, mostly because I was annoyed with and tired of the electorate and the politicians and the system and all that. But we shouldn’t give in to despair. Often when choosing who to vote, it will be difficult to find candidates who align perfectly with your values. You make compromises to prioritize those issues you think are more important.

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Truth, Logic, and Elections

From a friend’s Facebook post: Less than 2 weeks to the elections, I want to share a hard lesson I learned from the previous one. Especially given that I’ve had formal lessons in rhetoric and logic. Do not believe that logical fallacies are fallacies. Or rather–understand that they are logical fallacies, but that the world does not run on logic and so any classroom lessons on what arguments are fallacious have no relevance.

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Posted by under post at #philippines #politics
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Apr 2019

Earthquakes

Last Monday, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit northern Luzon. The rocking was felt strongly in Metro Manila; I normally don’t feel any earthquakes and only learn of them after the fact via friends or social media. But this time I was on a bed and I could feel it physically shaking, which was impressive given I was only on a second story. Imagine what it must have been like to be in a high-rise condo.

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Justice vs Vengeance

via /u/haveanicedayreddit on reddit: The very fact that our nation’s highest court is weighing in on the amount of cruelty we can inflict upon those we put to death suggests we’ve taken a wrong turn. And yet the very subject invites some to ask why we should even care about the feelings of rapists or murderers. Here’s why we need to care. We need to care because our justice system demands it.

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Mar 2019

Discerning motives

Scenario: Someone I know, let’s call him/her Person A, appears to be supporting Party B, who in my opinion represents some of the worsts traits of Philippine politics (including but not limited to corruption, patronage, personality politics, etc). Now, I like to be optimistic about people and give them the benefit of the doubt, so in a bid to understand I tried to list down some possible motivations for Person A to do so.

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Posted by under post at #politics #Philippines
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Feb 2019

EDSA

The EDSA revolution was a promise. “Never again.” They cried. But the scope was never clear. Never again to a dictator? Okay, but if not that, then what? What of corruption, of patronage, of poverty, of oligarchy, of ignorance? We thought the job finished and patted ourselves on the back and assumed everything would go back to normal, without regard to what “normal” needed to be. The same evils took different guises, and today the forces of darkness and dictatorship are almost close to fulfilling their return.

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Posted by under post at #current events #Philippines
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Reddit PH: Software Dev Q&A

I had some free time the other day so I randomly decided to post in the PH subreddit‘s regular afternoon random discussion thread, asking for questions about software development. I ended up typing some longish answers, I thought I’d copy them over to the blog in case anyone was interested. TBH I meant more like StackOverflow type questions with specific technical problems, but I ended up answering mostly career-related questions, which is fine, but disclaimer: I don’t claim to be an expert, these are just my opinions on things.

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Nah, I like living here, in spite of everything, and I’m programming avails me a good living naman. I’ve worked abroad on short stints (pinadala ng company), but TBH, I had never even considered leaving the country long-term, but I started looking into it after 2016. Hassle for me na ma-uproot and to try to start over elsewhere.

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Wait, what do you mean? Web services are like web pages, except they’re endpoints that usually do only one thing and return some machine readable format like JSON or XML instead of HTML that can be rendered and viewed by a human in a browser. Basically you send them an HTTP request and they maybe do some processing and spit back an HTTP response that you consume.

Some types are simpler than others - REST-based web services are usually very simple for example, and can sometimes be invoked directly via the browser address bar. Some follow more complicated protocols (SOAP) that support things like authentication and signing and so on.

Web services are developed the same way as normal web pages, with the usual backend processing and stuff (but there are some frameworks to make this easier, especially for complicated protocols like SOAP), but the client program (the one calling the web services) does not have to be another web application. It can be a mobile app for example.

One of the typical usages would be third-party integration. For example, Philhealth I believe currently has some kind of e-Claims web services in development (maybe? IDK the current status), where the idea is to allow third-party systems to submit Philhealth claims electronically. The idea is that individual hospitals have their own medical records systems, those systems can send HTTP requests to the e-claims web services in order to for example check whether a patient is eligible for a claim.

Ok, sorry I know that explanation doesn’t really work for a 5-year old lol

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Shifting careers from IT support isn’t an unreasonable proposition, but you need to already know your stuff before going in for interviews. You will also still need some basic level of programming knowledge. A lot of things you’ll need can be learned on the fly/on the job (like usage of specific languages or tools or libraries), but you need a good basic foundation to build on.

If I’m interviewing someone coming from a nonprogrammming background, I’ll basically be treating her as an entry-level candidate. You will need to be able to justify why I should hire you over say, a fresh grad who still remembers his java programming from his college days. The interviewer will need to know you’re not trying to BS your way into the position. Having some work you can show off (side projects or whatever) can be a big help. You can also cite anything you’re doing in your current domain that might show off some related skillset. Like, if you did some minor scripting to gather support statistics, something like that? IDK if IT support people do that kind of stuff. See my other interview tips in the other answer elsewhere in this thread too.

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See my edit above. It’s hard to give an average. At 15 years, I’d certainly be expecting a six-digit ask at least. I did interview a dude once who was older than me, but his asking salary was below 100k (I think he was running some side business or sth so he didn’t care too much). The range would also be highly dependent on skillset and the client and the position - at 15 years it’s not unreasonable to be CTO of a small-medium-sized company. If you can get a remote job (working for US companies or such), a few hundred thousand a month wouldn’t be unreasonable. Sorry for the non-answer

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Why do people keep asking about salary? That’s not really a programming or software dev question. I am a freelancing consultant at the moment, so I can’t really give a simple answer to that anyway (it’s almost always “it depends”)

I will answer the experience one - 15ish years in the industry (yeah, I’m old).

Edit: Also, there is a high range in the salaries of software devs in this country (not sure if the same elsewhere, probably), because:

  • some people are better at selling themselves than others
  • some devs are way better than others (and thus are more valuable)
  • each dev’s career path and growth is often unique, so it’s difficult to compare, especially once you rack up some years of experience

i.e. for a given number of years of experience, the salary band will be quite wide.

I get that when you’re starting out, salary is a big deal, but honestly if you’re a decent enough programmer, you can get into any place with above average salary. You can grow your salary a bit faster by hopping jobs every so often, but too many hops looks bad on a resume.

Anyway, my advice is that once you get to a decent salary range that is good for you (i.e. you’re not starving), focus less on comparing yourself to other people, and more on increasing your own value and managing your work/life balance. Money isn’t everything, beyond basic survival.

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I’ve technical interviewed a lot of entry-level/junior level devs. Honestly any kind of project would probably be okay, as long as you’re able to explain what role you played, bonus points if you’re able to discuss technical decisions you made (why was this choice made, and why not this other one etc) or specific technical challenges you were able to overcome. That kind of stuff. Really, if you can demonstrate that you really worked on a project (and not just coasted by on teammates help etc), you’re already an above average interview.

Entry-level candidates might have more trouble since they often won’t have a portfolio, but the quality of candidates is a bit low locally, so if you can demonstrably do simple stuff like loops, recursion, stacks, etc you’re probably already an above average interview. Bigger companies will have written exams to filter out peeps who can’t do that though.

More random technical interviewing tips, even though you didn’t ask for that: being able to communicate well is a big plus, mandatory even. Lack of confidence makes the interviewer worry that you don’t really know what you’re talking about. Sometimes I’ll slip in something I know to be wrong “Diba pag cinall mo yan, ganito mangyayari?", and see how the candidate reacts

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