“Biggest achievement” question on the interview?

In 2022, I went through the job interview process for a middle-to-senior software developer position. During the interview, one of the co-owners asked me a completely unexpected question: “In your honest opinion, what was your biggest lifetime achievement so far, not counting your programming and professional success?”

I didn’t know the reason for this question or what the interviewer expected from me. I must confess that I wasn’t honest with him. In my opinion, the interview went the wrong way, and that’s why I preferred not to tell the complete truth because it was too private.

So my answer was, “My biggest achievement till this moment is that I’m still alive and still in the software development/engineering field. I did not quit despite the war that is going on.” (war reference https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_invasion_of_Ukraine_(2022%E2%80%93present))

Continuing to think about it

Later that day, I thought more about his question and to my surprise, it took me a while to weigh the pros and cons of my past achievements, most of which I consider private. I concluded that probably my biggest lifetime achievement was that I saved a person from freezing to death.

I had a long-time neighbour’s family that lived next to my house, but I never spoke with them before nor have a dialogue. Of course, I greet the elders, but not the younger ones. There was no particular reason we did not greet each other; we just had different friends, etc.

The major point is that the people who live there are heavy alcohol drinkers. Their house is slowly being destroyed by the weather every year; part of their home turns to ruin. They have a no-brainer, unqualified jobs (which actually pay them not the lowest amount of money), sometimes don’t work, and the whole salary is spent on alcohol. They don’t do construction to repair the house and do not work on the garden. Their water tube has been cut by the city’s service due to unpaid checks. So the youngest of them, a 35-year-old guy, did not find anything better but to do something to their old well, which their family never used before, and the well was made by the previous homeowners. Of course, over 20 years, part of the well had been destroyed.

The story itself

It was a November evening, and my mother called me out of the house and pointed out that “something was happening in our neighbor’s yard.” So we went to our land plot that was nearest to their yard just to check what was happening because usually, they did not produce too much noise. Actually, I heard the eldest woman speak with an alcohol effect, “I have a walk outside, searched for someone’s help but there is no one there, I have called everyone, but there are no neighbours at their homes right now” … which was not true actually. I had been standing in my yard close to the fence and heard what happened.

So that lady went outside and returned immediately without any other noise. And then I heard her son’s unnatural voice talking softly, barely audible some undefined words. It was a dialogue between them. So after all, she told him, “Just collect all the power you have and go up, you act like a woman.” When I heard this, I went to their land and understood that his mother had an alcohol overdose, barely understood what was going on, and her son was at the bottom of the well. He got there by the rope and could not get up because he had been standing in one meter of freezing water for eight hours straight. The man could not talk, could not do any activities when I saw him there.

The result

I run and pulled him over despite my massive spine problems back then. The man shake and couldn’t talk and barely understand the situation, he was in shorts and a t-shirt, by the way – the weather that day was 10 degrees in the day and 2 degrees in the evening, all he could tell me when I get him out of it – is that “I guess I have a second birthday now”. I told him to go home fast and get some warm, so we could talk later. Of course, I have told his mother why don’t call the emergency service or something, because he could die but she couldn’t answer – she couldn’t talk due to alcohol, from her point of view -everything was fine.

The next day I speak with that man, and in conclusion, I told him that he might think about stopping drinking alcohol and changing his life behaviour due to what happened to him. He told me – yes. The result – he slightly changed his life for the better, but still drinking heavily, but much more rarely than before. Overall – from what I can see nothing significantly changed in the life of his mother, the mother that could lose her only son.

The conclusion

The moral of this story – he doesn’t stop doing things he did that leads him into the cold well and nearly dead. Saving him from the dead – is one of my biggest achievements, but at the same time, the aftermath and expectation from a person is a disappointment.

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