Contacting your Client & The Initial Interview

Firstly, Choosing Your Client

Your first big and significant job is to identify a client, and then arrange and carry out two initial interviews with them.

Even if initially, you are not sure about the exact nature of the problem you will be solving, your client should be a generally busy adult or an adult with a clear responsibility to whom you can seek clarification about what they do, what problems the have, and how you might be able to help them.

And, yes, I know it can be a big deal to have to, as a student, meet with a busy adult; but the biggest thing with anything like this is to just do it; and the easiest way to just do it is to just get started. Never-the-less, it will help to be prepared. So with this you will prepare ahead of time some questions. With these questions, you may follow completely your "script", or just use a a general guide to get the interview started.

Or, Choose Your Parent

Many of the best IAs of past years have been from students who chose one of their parents as the client, and this is perfectly fine, even, arguably preferred. The main benefit is that you don't so much have the issues of arranging interviews. The other thing to keep in mind is there's no negative by virtue of them being your parents; as a particular demographic, they have as varied and interesting work and interests as any group of adults.

The next best thing, keeping with this line of thinking, is one of your teachers, or other adults that you work with regulalry at school.

Initial Approach & Liasing with your Client

You can't just assume that the client you have in mind will accept working with you. So you have to approach them in a polite, respectful way, and float the idea with them, and give them some time to think about it and respond.

So drop by their classroom/office etc. to see them and just mention the idea, and either then, or soon after go over the basics of what you are requesting. Include:

- That it's for your IB CS course, and maybe what an "IA" is

- That you need to find a "client" for whom you can make a program that will be useful to them.

- Your program will solve some sort of problem for your client - usually some sort of management of data.

- You will want to meet with them three times; a couple of initial interviews to get an idea of how you can help them, and then after you have finished the program, an interview in which you will together evaluate the end result.

- Each of the three interviews should be about ten to fifteen minutes.

- And thank them if they are able to consider your request.

E-mail Approach Example

Though an in-person stop by to see your potential client would be best, you may deem an e-mail as a better initial approach. Here's an example of what an initial e-mail might look like.

Hi Khun xyΩ,

One of my students, abc, cc-ed here, would like you to consider helping her with her IB Computer Science "IA", or internal assessment.

For the IA, students are to find a "client" who they can help in some way, via a custom made computer program, which they make. 

Helping her would involve a few short meetingss where you would discuss the kind of work you do, and possible ways a custom made computer program could help you.

Do you think this could work out? Thanks in advance for letting us know what you think of the idea.




Purpose of Initial Interview

In the first interview, you have two main jobs:

1. Get the general idea of the scenario - what is it that the person or organization does? How often do they do whatever? And so on.

2. Try to identify a problem(s) which could have a software program solution.

Following are some kinds of questions that could be included. Naturally, I don't expect to see these copied and pasted and uploaded; never-the-less, if you see some general questions which would fit your person, go ahead and include them. But think of your particular client, and their particular situation, and both customize questions to their situation, and add more questions which would be appropriate.

You will upload your list of questions as a homework assignment. The more the better, frankly, but to put at least a bottom limit, the assignment will stipulate coming up with at least 10 "scenario" questions and 5 "possible problem/solution" questions.


Potential Questions

Start with questions for Understanding the General Scenario:

What is your job title?

Who do you work for? Where do you work? With whom do you work? etc.

What does your job entail?

How often do you do this or that?
(in terms of things that came up in the last question)

What sort of things are you responsible for?
(a variation of the "what does your job entail question)

Who is your boss/who do you report to? And more to the point, what kind of "product" are you expected to deliver to them?

What software programs do you use now to do your work?

What kind of information do you work with?

How do you presently store and work with that data?

Then move onto questions that may Lead to a Problem to be Solved

What particular task is it that is most annoying about your job?

Are there any particular problems that you would like a digital solution to?

Are there any difficult or multi-step calculations that are involved in any part of your work, which would be good to be automated.

And keep in mind, you do not have to stick to the "script" of your questions - listen carefully to the responses of your client, and ask follow-up questions, and pursue things that come up that you didn't think about beforehand.


Sample Interview

Here is a sample first interview audio file.

Recording Your Answers
- audio + written

Recording the audio of your interview is the easiest and best way to approach the interviews. Furthermore I make this a non-negotiable for purposes of proof of work. But there also needs to be a written account of your interview, which is included in your IA as an appendix. So after you record the audio of the interview with your laptop or phone, depending on its length either, transcribe all of it, or (for quite long interviews - say, over 7 - 10 minutes) the most important points into your Interview 1 appendix. Along with the text trancription appendix, in your final IA submission, you will include an .mp3 etc. as another appendix, so don't lose track of it.

**Note that if you only include an audio file, the IB moderators are not supposed to have to listen to it, so you will not have the top grade for Criterion A possible. So it has to be only a written file, or a written transcription, in combination with the audio file.

In your eventual Criterion A, and Criterion B documents, I want you to put medium-sized "thumbnail" pictures of the transcription of the interview. They should be small enough, that they are not easily readable, and you can annotate for the moderators that these are pictures, and they should not count in the word count; that the actual text is in the appendix file, along with an mp3 etc. version.

Summary of steps:

- Come up with your questions (keeping in mind you'll want to go off-script with follow-up questions).

- Conduct, and record on your phone or laptop the interview. Save the file as Appendix 1 - Initial Interview Audio File.mp3(etc).

- Afterward, transcribe the most important points to a text document, which will be titled Appendix 2 - Initial Interview Text Transcription.txt(etc).

- Take a screen-shot of this transcription, and save it and keep it for your "Criterion A" Google doc you will start soon.

- Later, when you are doing your "Criterion A" Google doc, place, and resize (about half real size) the image of your interview. For the initial interview, this will be at the bottom of the Criterion A document. And you will add a caption something like: "Image of Interview 1 Transcription - refer to appendix 1 and 2 for the full transcription document, and the original audio file. - NOT INCLUDED IN WORD COUNT"