Sometimes life requires that we take jobs below our station until we learn skills, offer apologies even when we are wronged, suck-up to power when necessary, work long hours when we “deserve” some rest, risk embarrassment in front of witnesses, risk failure and humiliation, and get rejected by the people we hope to love. In that sort of game, the player unburdened with human dignity usually wins.
Notes from the Golden Orange
EppsNet Archive: Jobs
We’re in Berkeley for Casey’s graduation tomorrow . . . we got a text from him earlier this week saying “I just took my last two college exams.” Thus ends a journey that began 17 years ago on the first day of kindergarten, which I feel like I remember too vividly for it to have been 17 years ago, but it was.
Now what? I don’t mean for him . . . he’s got a job lined up in San Francisco. I mean for me. I’ve had the milestone birthdays — the ones where your age ends in zero — that seem to depress a lot of people . . . they didn’t bother me at all. But my boy becoming an independent person in the world is really disorienting me . . .
A Wall Street Journal article on college students, the weak job market and high debt loads is illustrated by this photo of a guy in a Pink Floyd t-shirt taking a tap dancing class.
The crazy thing is that not only are these kids running up debt and killing their job prospects, they don’t even appear to be having a good time doing it . . .
I just read yet another brief — Solving the Diversity Dilemma — regarding lack of diversity in the STEM workforce.
If members of Group X are underrepresented in some professions, they must be overrepresented in others. For example, I used to work with a nursing organization . . . women far outnumber men in nursing but for the five years I worked there I never heard anyone talk about the shortage of men in nursing being a dilemma, crisis, etc., or suggesting that anything be done to change it.
I work in a STEM field. It’s a good job for me but not for everyone. My son (age 21) for example, never showed any interest in it and I don’t think he’ll be any less happy in life because he’s not working in STEM. There are pluses and minuses like any other profession.
Simple but possibly valid explanation for STEM demographics: Not everyone wants to work in STEM.
Why does a Civil Rights Bill forbid me to apply racial criteria when I choose an employee but allow me to apply racial criteria when I choose an employer? If I turn down a job offer, should I be required to prove that my motives were not discriminatory? … Why am I permitted to apply racial criteria when I select a spouse but not when I select a personal assistant?
- Data Structure Visualizations
- Good Tech Lead, Bad Tech Lead
- Google Java Style
- Guide to 12 Disruptive Technologies
- How to Write a Cover Letter
- The Landing Page Optimization Guide You Wish You Always Had
- Selendroid: Selenium for Android
- UX Axioms by Eric Dahl
- Yelp’s got style (and the guide to back it up)
Fast food workers staged a one-day strike for “living wages.” More specifically, they want the federal minimum wage to be raised from $7.25 an hour to $15.
You want to make a living wage? I’ll tell you how to make a living wage. I’ve had a lot of jobs and this method has never failed me.
Here it is: Before accepting a job offer, you always ask yourself, “Does this job pay enough for me to live on?” And if the answer is no, then you don’t take that job.
If you want to earn $15 an hour, do what I do: get a job that pays $15 an hour. Who’s stopping you?
If no one’s willing to pay you $15 an hour, it’s because the skills, intelligence and motivation that you bring to the table don’t allow you to do anything that’s worth $15 an hour. You need to do something about that. You need to be able to deliver $15 of value to an employer. Figure that out.
Setting the minimum wage at $15 is not going to help you. If you set the price of something at more than it’s worth, people are not going to buy it.
Imagine this: My friend Paul Epps is a programmer. Let’s say we passed a Minimum Wage for Programmers law that says that programmers must be paid at least $200,000 a year. Is that good news for Epps?
No, it isn’t.
His boss calls all the programmers into a meeting and says, “Well, according to the new Minimum Wage for Programmers law, I can’t hire any of you for less than $200,000 per year. You know what that means?”
“We all get a big raise?” Epps suggests hopefully.
“No, it means you’re all fired. Get out of here.”
Or imagine this: We pass a Minimum Price for Restaurants law that says you can’t get a meal in restaurant unless you pay at least $15 for it. What will that do to sales of Quarter Pounders and Jumbo Jacks?
People will stop buying those things. Many restaurants serve meals for which customers are willing to pay $15, but a fast food burger isn’t worth $15, even with fries and a drink, so people will stop buying those things.
- Some Minimum-Wage Links (cafehayek.com)
- Obama and the Evidence on Minimum-Wage Legislation (cafehayek.com)
- Minimum Insight (thebigquestions.com)
- Maximum Insight on Minimum Wages (cafehayek.com)
- Good Thoughts on the Bad Policy of Pricing People Out of Jobs (cafehayek.com)
- More Questions for Proponents of Pricing Low-Skilled Workers Out of Jobs (cafehayek.com)
- Scott Sumner Has Some Empirical Data on Minimum-Wage Legislation (cafehayek.com)
- Krugman Concludes That the Evidence for Minimum-Wage Legislation Is Strong If the Evidence Against Minimum-Wage Legislalation Is Ignored (cafehayek.com)
There used to be a book titled The Top 2800 Interview Questions…And Answers. I have this fantasy: You walk into an employer’s office, shake hands, and say, “I know you have a lot of questions for me. So let’s save us both a lot of time.” You slide that baby across the desk toward the manager… “So here they are, along with all the answers. Now can we cut the crap and talk about the job and how I’ll do it for you, okay?”
From an actual job description for a Software Development Manager:
- Worth with management and directs to put together a solid SW Development career development plan in alignment with Organization Solutions all-up to grow hi-potential employees and minimize retention.
If you’re writing job descriptions and learning English at the same time, there’s no shame in having a native speaker review your work.
The job description goes on like that for 10 or 12 more bullet points. I singled that one out because I like the phrase “minimize retention.” I can recommend a couple of people for that.
I assume it’s a language problem in this case — that the author meant to say “maximize retention” or “minimize turnover” — but it might be a kick to have a job where your actual charter is to minimize retention.
You would not be an easy person to work for. You would take all the credit. Your subordinates would get all of the blame.
Picture having the names of all staff members written on a whiteboard in your office and removing them one by one with a triumphant swipe of your eraser at the end of their (hopefully brief) tenure.
Maybe your boss would stop by every now and again to tap on a name and ask, “Why is that guy still here?”
Of course, if some clinging vine is screwing up your retention rate by refusing to quit (maybe he really needs the job?), you can just call him in and fire him. Or her.
Good times! If only all job objectives were this easy to meet.
Thus spoke The Programmer.
Recruiters who write job descriptions with requirements like this:
- Great Communication – must be able to speak very clear
“You want a simple plan to reduce the national unemployment rate? GET A JOB!”
From an actual job ad:
Killer, Profitable, Stable and cutting edge technology company looking for genious!!!
It’s funny when someone misspells the word “genius”!
Why are random words like “Profitable” and “Stable” capitalized? Because the recruiter wanted to highlight the adjectives? Then why isn’t “cutting edge” capitalized?
Why isn’t “cutting edge” hyphenated?
Typical Romney supporter:
Typical Obama supporter:
I’ve worked with some great IT recruiters but they’re the exception, not the rule.
I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn recently as part of a job search, and it doesn’t make you feel good about IT as a serious profession when you see how many IT recruiters are former waitresses, bartenders, shoe salesmen . . . honorable professions, but not likely to give a person a good understanding of technology and the people who work with it.
Here’s a sample phone conversation I had with a recruiter:
“First question,” the recruiter says. “Do you have any experience with software development? Because that’s key for this position.”
“Uh, that’s all I’ve done for 25 years. Are you looking at my résumé?”
“Yes, but I don’t see anything about software development.”
“Are you sure it’s my résumé?”
“Yeah . . . I don’t see anything that specifically says software development.”
I’m speechless because this is clearly impossible.
“Hang on,” I say, “I’m going to bring up a copy of my résumé here. Okay, let’s make sure we’re looking at the same thing.
“Developing and maintaining a portfolio of enterprise web applications on ASP.NET. That’s software development.
“Designing and implementing business-critical web services in .NET environment. That’s software development.
“Design and implementation of multiple concurrent ASP.NET projects on high-volume customer-facing websites. That’s software development.
“Granted, we haven’t seen the word ‘software’ followed by the word ‘development’ but that’s what all of this is, right?”
(I may as well stipulate here that IT practitioners are a pretty bad bunch themselves when it comes to lacking appropriate skills for their work.)
Almost everything appertaining to the circumstances of a nation, has been absorbed and confounded under the general and mysterious word government. Though it avoids taking to its account the errors it commits, and the mischiefs it occasions, it fails not to arrogate to itself whatever has the appearance of prosperity. It robs industry of its honours, by pedantically making itself the cause of its effects; and purloins from the general character of man, the merits that appertain to him as a social being.
My fellow Americans —
I’m hearing in the pre-debate analysis that voters are looking for the candidate who’ll help them have a better life.
Speaking as someone who was there at the beginning, I can tell you that helping you have a better life was not America’s original value proposition. Everyone was welcome to come here and try to make a better life for himself and his family — unless he was from Africa or Asia, of course — but there wasn’t what we now call a “safety net.”
If you tried to make it and failed — and a lot of people did — you had to go back where you came from. No guarantees! You tried, you failed, let the next man have a chance.
I still believe that the majority of Americans want a government that gives them the freedom to succeed or fail or their own merits, and not a government that “helps them have a better life.” I don’t believe it’s a large majority, but I still believe it’s a majority.
Politicians over the last 200 years or so have doen a masterful job of convicing Americans that all of the good things in life come from government. As my friend Tom Paine says in the quote above: government takes the credit for everything and the blame for nothing.
If business is booming during my term of office, the credit goes to me and my policies.
If business is bad, it’s because my policies haven’t had a chance to work yet. Or because my opponents obstructed me. Or because the last guy in the job screwed things up so bad that nobody can fix them.
Anyone who thinks about this notion that government is making good things happen sees what a fallacy it is . . .
If President Obama could “create jobs,” give me one good reason why he hasn’t done it. Do you think he wants to run on a record of increased unemployment, increased poverty, increased debt, plummeting net worth . . .?
Please don’t tell me that Republicans in Congress are preventing him from doing it. How would that work? I want to hire a man and a Repubican congressman shows up and stops me from doing it?!
If politicians could “create” jobs, they’d be doing it all the time.
Because of the huge productivity differences between good programmers and bad programmers — 10x? 28x? More? — my biggest leverage point as a development manager is my ability to hire people.
At my last job, we had an HR Director named Lucy. In every one of our annual Employee Satisfaction Surveys, Lucy’s group had the lowest scores in the entire organization. Nobody liked or respected her.
She was, however, close with the CEO, which made that irrelevant.
Lucy’s friend Kathy Slauson runs the Slauson and Slauson recruiting agency, so that’s where we got our programming candidates, who were mostly terrible.
The Slauson agency doesn’t specialize in IT candidates, although they do have a “technical recruiter,” who unfortunately knows nothing about technology.
They don’t bring candidates in for in-person interviews. They take whatever candidates give them in the form of a résumé and they pass the résumés along to clients like me in hopes of being paid a fee.
- Candidates send résumés to Slauson.
- Slauson sends them to me.
What value does this add over candidates sending résumés directly to me? None.
Slauson doesn’t qualify candidates. They don’t map abilities and skills against the requirements of a position. They add no value to the process, and I had to screen all the résumés myself, the same as if I’d just bought them from a job board.
When I saw that Slauson was just going to throw résumés at me, I asked them to please add a short write-up, indicating why they thought each candidate was a good fit for the job.
What I got was write-ups like “Candidate is good with Technology X,” where Technology X is something I indicated as a job requirement.
When I asked “How did you assess that the candidate is good with Technology X?” they would tell me “We asked him.” Or “It’s on his résumé.”
In other words, “Candidate is good with Technology X” meant “Candidate states that he’s good with Technology X. Unverified.”
(If you’re wondering at this point why an HR department would funnel good money to a recruiting agency for doing nothing, go back and reread the part where I mention that Kathy Slauson is a personal friend of Lucy the HR Director.)
I said earlier that Slauson has a “technical recruiter.” She was in the office one afternoon and handed me a résumé.
“He doesn’t look like an ASP.NET programmer,” I said after looking it over, “which is what we’re looking for. For example, I don’t see any C# experience.”
“It’s right here,” she said, pointing at the résumé where it said this: C++.
If you’re not a programmer, you might say, well, easy mistake to make. C# (pronounced C-sharp, like a musical note) and C++ (pronounced C-plus-plus) are both programming languages containing the letter C followed by one or more symbols.
But whereas C# is the primary programming language for web development on the Microsoft platform, C++ is a lower-level language used for system development. Nobody does web development in C++.
Not surprisingly, a high percentage of Slauson’s candidates bit the dust in the initial phone screen with me, because the phone screen was their first encounter with someone whose programming knowledge was non-zero and could possibly tell a good programmer from a bad programmer.
According to Kathy Slauson, that was totally unacceptable. She thought that because she had an in with the HR department, we should be hiring every candidate she sent over, qualified or not, and paying her for the privilege, which is the way it worked before I arrived on the scene and screwed up the process.
She was always very polite to me in person, assuring me that she was doing her best to improve the quality of candidates, but behind the scenes, she was telling Lucy the HR Director that I shouldn’t be allowed to interview candidates anymore.
(That information was never supposed to reach me but it did.)
Think about that: we had a recruiter telling our HR Director that a manager shouldn’t be allowed to interview their candidates. (The fact that I no longer work there tells you which side of the issue Lucy came down on.)
Kathy also told Lucy that the candidates I was rejecting were perfectly good candidates because after I turned them down, they were being hired at other companies.
Of course they were being hired at other companies. They were being hired by companies with lower hiring standards for programmers. The best thing that could happen with some of those candidates is for them to be hired by competing organizations.
Do you think Amazon or Google worry that candidates they turn down get hired somewhere else?
(No, I wasn’t trying to match hiring standards with Amazon or Google. I’m just saying that it wasn’t my goal to be the employer of last resort, or to be able to say, “If we don’t hire ’em, nobody’s gonna hire ’em!”)
Everyone I hired was an order of magnitude improvement over the people they replaced.
I like to work with talented people. I’m not trying to get rich and I don’t have a career path. I’m trying to learn and get better and contribute to my profession.
If you give me a job where I’m responsible for hiring people, I’m going to hire the best people available, and decline to be force-fed unqualified candidates by a friend of the HR Director.
To be continued . . .
I recently concluded a 3-month job search. As part of my networking, I met a number of unemployed people in other fields who were having trouble not only getting jobs, but even getting interviews.
I talked to a lot of people and averaged about an interview a day, including phone interviews, mostly for development manager jobs. For every development manager job, there are multiple development jobs, so if you’re a developer, your situation is even better than mine was.
I live in Southern California, but the demand is not just local. I had multiple contacts from companies outside the SoCal area that can’t find qualified candidates.
I’ve been working again for over two months, I no longer have an active résumé on job boards, and I still get emails and calls every day from recruiters all over the country.
Agile and Scrum are in demand
The situation with Agile and Scrum right now seems to be that a lot of people are putting it on their résumé but most of them are bluffing.
One hiring manager told me that he’d talked to three dozen candidates who claimed to know Scrum and only one (me) who actually knew it.
Another hiring manager asked me to describe the Scrum process, beginning with a product owner with an idea through the end of the first sprint. It’s a basic question, and when I finished, he thanked me for my answer. “You’d be surprised how many people I ask that question and the answer is a yard sale.”
Actually, you’d be surprised how little I’d be surprised by that.
One recruiter contacted me about a 3-month Scrum Master contract in Toledo, Ohio. A glance at my résumé will tell you that I’ve never worked outside Southern California, so on a list of people likely to take a 3-month contract in Toledo, Ohio, my name would be far, far from the top, but the difficulty of finding a qualified candidate to fill that job is such that the recruiter contacted me anyway.
If you really know Agile and/or Scrum right now, it’s a seller’s market.