One aspect that most everyone that have replied seem to have missed is that you applied and interviewed for a government job. You didn't specify which branch of government you applied for, or which and if it was Federal or State government. I have worked for state government off and on over the years and currently work for the Tax Commission for the state I live in. So as a government employee let me try to help you out...
First you seem to have some ideals about what working in the real world is gonna be like. And from your post I get the sense that you are making some kind of life-long commitment. And maybe you are, Working for Government can be a pretty good gig in a lot of cases. You're basically guaranteed a paycheck and and the benefits packages are awesome. The downside is the hourly rate is less, and your work is well defined by your position so your work is gonna be in a narrow scope. In the private sector, your work is usually far more fluid based on what the company needs and/or client. In government, if something different is needed, they usually run to the legislature to ask for a budget. There is a lot of waste. In the private sector, the whole goal is to get things done with as small of a budget as possible. In government, the motivation of management is to get as big of a budget as possible. Also, if an agency does not use their entire budget they typically loose it. I've seen agencies blatantly waste money to keep from loosing their budget or a portion of their budget in the future. They want the argument that they spent all their money and that they need the same level of funding or more.
Usually when a government agency opens a position, a small committee is formed to hire someone new. In most cases, I see 2 or 3 supervisors/managers from a department make up the committee. Sometimes larger, sometimes smaller depending on the size of the agency and a variety of other factors. I have been involved in these hiring committees a handful of times. We make a list of questions to ask during the interview. Sometimes we do open it up at the end for the interviewee to ask questions. And then we are done. So the interview process is very structured. far more structured than what it is in the private sector. That has been my experience.
- What are the people like?
They are government employees. Expect it to be pretty laid back. Not that you won't have work to do, and probably some kind of performance matrix. But usually this is just documentation that most government agencies have to keep to justify how and why tax dollars are being spent.
- What's the company culture?
It's government. When was the last time you went to a government agency to try to take care of some personal business? Been to the Post office to mail a letter? How long did you have to stand in line? Did the person behind the counter care you were standing in line? Alternatively, how long did you stand in line at the grocery store? See the difference?
- How many people do I directly work with?
How to say. You didn't say what agency you interviewed with. I expect it would be fewer than 10 in most situations.
- How many people do I indirectly work with?
Depends how big the agency is. Could be few to a lot. If it is a larger agency you might find yourself in meetings deciding how things should be done or part of committees from several individuals that want to provide input and wish lists of features for the project you are working on.
- Is it an open office or cubicles?
Likely cubicles...taxpayers get mad when they see government staff in large private offices.
- Do people communicate face-to-face or mainly IM?
If it is a government agency, probably face to face. Freedom of Information Act would allow the subpoena of instant messages...or in a case of a lawsuit against the agency, instant messages could be subpoenad.
- Do they use the agile method?
I doubt the person or persons interviewing you would even know what that means. Depends if the position you interviewed for is a position that was just created, or if they are filling an existing position. I would still argue that those facilitating the interview was given the task by someone to find the best candidate possible. ...not really knowing anything about software development.
- Is there overtime?
In a government job, most likely not. The agency has a staffing budget, and they cannot usually go over that budget without robbing from another agency. For example, yesterday was the 15th of April. The Tax Commission I work for received over 150,000 returns yesterday that need to process...and I am here writing this response from home. It will take us about 8 weeks to process those tax returns and no one is working overtime. It could take 6 months and we don't care. We get paid the same either way. And to some degree, there is some incentive to drag it out. If it takes too long to process, my boss can say hey, we need a larger budget. And then he could advocate that he needs a raise because he is now managing a larger department with more resources. If I was in the private sector and this much business suddenly came in the door, I would probably be working 15 hours a day to get the orders filled to generate revenue for the company. In many ways, government is run completely opposite of the private sector.
- What times are people generally at the office (this is important as
I need to plan my bus route)?
This varies from agency to agency. My job gives me access to the building from 6am - 6pm Monday - Friday. The state that i work in does not allow state employees to work more than 10 hours a day. So I can work 4 10's if I want. Basically I have to get my 40 hours in between 6 am and 6 pm and between Monday and Friday. Most people I work with choose to work 7am - 3:30pm, including me. But I could go in at 6am if I wanted, or in as late as 9:30am...
Any suggestions on what I should do?
Obviously you were at the top of the list or they wouldn't have offered you the job. Sometimes government jobs don't attract the best talent as private sector positions are usually higher paying. But as I mentioned before, it is stable work and usually have awesome benefits. Guess it depends on your personality and what you want. But fresh out of school, I can't see where you could go wrong. Government jobs can be good resume builders. Also something to remember is the fact that your degree is basically a sideshow to your job. For example, where I work for the tax commission, a new programmer coming in and working for the agency would likely spend the next 4 months or so learning about tax law and tax rules. We use that as a basis for writing our rules to check for fraudulent returns, etc. So your employer is expecting that you will have a steep learning curve about the public service the agency provides before you can even begin writing a software application around those services.