Being largely burnt out on the skin cream business, I decided near the beginning of 2012 it was time for a change of pace and decided to look for a job.
What I heard from people in these groups, and from various places on the Internet, is that now is a great time to be a programmer. Jobs are easy to come by, they said! The pay is great, they said!
As it turns out, there are a few things that make it somewhat more difficult for me to find work: first, is location. This town, which I would love to leave but not quite yet, thanks to the banks and insurance industry which dominate it, is a Java and .NET shop through and through, and they demand experience in those languages. Also, banks and insurance companies are very stodgy, and maintain a considerably stricter dress code than I can bring myself to adhere to. So for multiple reasons, this town's two primary industries are almost entirely out.
So I'm largely left looking at the PHP, Python, and Ruby shops. PHP because however much I hate it I have experience in it, and Python and Ruby because places which use Python and Ruby are enlightened enough to realize programmers can learn new programming languages. That's a relatively small number of places in this town, but at least it's non-zero.
Attending meetings is fun, but I'm terrible at networking (it requires talking, which I am wont not to do), so wasn't particularly helpful in terms of finding work. But a conveniently-time presentation by one of the CIALUG members on how he got a $20k/year pay hike with his new job proved interesting.
First was the suggestion that, contrary to the opining on Hacker News, recruiters were not all terrible people, and a recommendation of the people at Palmer Group.
First sign of trouble: their baraccuda was doing deep packet inspection and rejected my e-mails on the basis of my home IP not being authorized to act as an SMTP server—that it isn't being used as one is, apparently, entirely irrelevant. Had to craft a special rule to remove the Received: header before I could relay mail to them. (Alas, postmaster@ was completely non-responsive.)
Once I got through, my initial contact was quite nice. Then I got handed off to a fellow who clearly was not interested. But, with some encouraging from my initial contact, I met with him anyway and ... it did not go well. We parted ways mutually unimpressed, and I never heard from him again.
So much for that recruiting agency.
Second was the presenter's resume (alas, I cannot now find it), which I thought was pretty cool and modeled mine after. Which is a pretty high compliment, actually: I've looked at resume examples online, and they all result in pretty much the same reaction: "This is boring and stupid. Why the hell would anyone read this?". That abundance of awful resumes kept me from even trying to make my own for years, and it wasn't until I saw the presenter's that I realized they could be not-terrible.
Unfortunately for my desire for privacy, my resume isn't terribly impressive if restricted solely to work-related items, so I had to pad it out with a little open-source work. I'd have vastly prefered to keep those lives separate (hence my not linking to a copy of my resume, though I've actually mentioned most of the things on it here), but felt I needed the extra oomph. I expect my resume post-new-job to better hold up without violating that separation.
There's not a lot of privacy in job hunting, actually. People want things like your name. Dice has the audacity to require a phone number and street address. I'm an introverted nerd: I don't take phone calls, and I sure as heck don't want mail. Fortunately, "000-000-0000" and "Undisclosed" are considered valid inputs for those fields.
Anyway, privacy issues aside, and resume in hand, I start looking for work. So I peruse Craiglist want ads, and post my resume on Dice (the trick, of course, is that unlike last time, I'd actually like to end up with a job), and browse job sites.
Great googly moogly are help wanted ads ever awful! I can't even read more than a few a week, they're just so terrible. They either leave me wondering what the job even is, or they leave me wondering why anybody would want it.
So I send my resume out to a few places. Nobody bites. One actually sent me a "hey, thanks for sending us your resume", but otherwise I get nothing. I periodically adjust my info on Dice, and see from my server logs that some of the links I helpfully included in my resume are being clicked on.
Dice nets me two contacts at this point. A recruiter and an interview request.
The company requesting an interview doesn't sound all that interesting—just basic PHP site development—but I figure I could use the practice and go. And I was right about needing the practice, because I bombed the interview, hard. Couldn't even accurately define MVC. Naturally, they passed.
The recruiter was a nice lady who tried to get me a job at WebFilings as a "Scrum Master", whatever that is. I wasn't terribly thrilled about the commute, but she made a convincing argument for giving them a try. But, after a month or two of her contacts being out of the office, they eventually decided to fill the position from within.
Visibility supposedly helps, so I gave my presentation at Pyowa. That netted me an interview—and their head guy from Chicago seemed to really like me—, but for whatever reason, they too passed. Which made me sad, because I really liked them and would likely have accepted in spite of the non-stellar pay because the work that was 3-6 months out (converting their monolithic architecture to a service-oriented one) sounded really fun.
Somewhere in here I also send my resume to a company which hosted one of the CIALUG meetings, because they said they were looking for people. They do a little googling, end up on my father's personal site, and peruse the pictures page, presumably trying to remember who I was (I'm not recognizably there, but they don't know that) and possibly confusing me for my dad. I get a polite brush-off.
Monster is mentioned at a Pyowa meeting. I sign up and post my resume. And, while it results in vastly more contacts than Dice, they're all offers to become an insurance salesman. And they have unsubscribe links, which should give you and idea of how personal they are.
Suddenly, another recruiter contacts me through Dice. She loves my resume, then proceeds to ask questions which can largely be answered by reading it or my profile. I grate my teeth and point this out as politely as I can while I answer the questions. During the phone conversation, "How much do you make now?" "I'd rather not say." "Well I understand and maybe you'll tell me later." (paraphrased), which I think is a little odd (the only thing about money anybody else has asked is how much I'd like to get) but don't worry too much about. I get asked to fill out a form online to get into their system. This makes me not happy, but people aren't exactly beating down my door with money, so I go for it. And their form wants information I can't give it (What month did I start? It was nine years ago, I don't remember!), and information I won't give it (current pay). Not to be deterred, I e-mail the recruiter asking for suggestions. That went something like this:
- "You should tell us your current salary."
- "No. Stop asking or we're done here."
- "Okay, bye."
The exchange was somewhat more politely verbose, of course, but that's the gist of it.
And then I pretty much forgot about Dice until I get an interview request from a little startup which enticed me with things like private offices and no dress code. So I do the interview, and I have no idea how to judge it. No real technical questions, no coding on the whiteboard, just "tell me about yourself / your work" (after a long pause: "I don't normally talk about myself, help me out here and ask me some questions!"), and chumming with a few of the existing coders (during which I did very little of the talking).
But they made an offer, and it wasn't half bad in terms of pay, either. They agreed to a significant narrowing of the scope of their non-compete—which was originally so vague you could construe it as prohibiting clipping coupons from the newspaper—, and I accepted.
So new job for Pixie! It's not perfect—the commute is longer than I'd like (about 20 minutes), the company-provided computers are laptops of all things, and they use Google apps1—, but it should be interesting.
Here's some things I learned during this experience:
- Recruiters "love my resume", but if I could just go ahead and make it completely boring that'd be great.
- You can e-mail a link to your resume, using the e-mail as a cover letter. Links to resumes do, in fact, get clicked. (Handy for tracking!)
- Links on resumes also get clicked. (Also handy for tracking.)
- Visibility is a really good way to get companies interested. It's also the most work.
- Monster may get you more contacts faster, but Dice will actually get relevant contacts.
- Like dating, you get much better response rates from those who come to you.
- Wearing a t-shirt and shorts to an interview will not prevent you from getting an offer.
- Every interviewer will bring up Lisp if it's on the resume.
- Questions about the technology stack and development process tend to elicit a response of "that's a good question".
And now, some months after accepting a position and working for a while (this entry was in my drafts folder so long I forgot about it!), I can add a few things to the list:
- Somewhere along the line, my Dice-tagged e-mail address was acquired by spammers. Ugh.
- While I was worried having coworkers would reveal I'm a terrible programmer, turns out I'm not half-bad. (Assuming my measurements are correct, my net effect on our primary repository has been roughly -74,000 lines, in spite of numerous feature expansions and improvements.)
- Working on a laptop isn't so bad. My only real complaint is that they cheaped out on the screen, so it's got even fewer pixels than the already-pathetic "full HD" so many laptops tout as if it were decent.
- Working 40-50 hours a week kills nearly all of my free time. I have yet to figure out how other people manage full-time work plus side projects.
- Having an office is awesome. How anybody gets work done without the ability to make quiet something which was noisy is beyond me.
- I really like the new job. Yay!