Archive for the 'work-life' Category

My Best Recruiting Call Yet

I got my best recruiting call yet last week.  The position was Director of New Media for a biotech/pharma company, a bit past the startup phase (1100 employees, US$227m revenue), but certainly no big fish.  The scope was to ensure the company voice was well placed in the world of social media, and set an appropriate strategy for the same.  Too cool – isn’t that just a further extension what I’m currently trying to do, but not quite getting credit for? 😉

I’m too pleased with my current employer to be on the market.  But I do enjoy window shopping.  As intriguing as this position sounds, it was also a relocation situation, with the company being out East.  I love the coast, but I love MN even more.

And that was the most amusing part of the call.  The recruiter commented that she just “could not pull anyone out of Minnesota” and added “you guys must really have the lifestyle”!  Indeed.  It’s not for everyone, but it most definitely suits me.

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The Global Romp and the Daily Grind

Ditto what Phil said.

I am currently working with a team based in Asia Pacific, and it’s … so many things. I sought this assignment and am loving it for everything that I’m learning out of it. But the jet-set lifestyle it’s not. What it is instead, is an always-on, what-time-is-it-somewhere else continuum that you drift through. Work intersperses with your personal life in a weird way, and upsets the traditional schedule that’s often expected of you from US-oriented colleagues.

I have trapsed to Shanghai, Tokyo, and Sydney and enjoyed them all. But junkets they were not. They are intense learning experiences, mentoring opportunities, project jam sessions, and social outings cum business meetings. They are long working days, and short sleep-adjusting nights. And you often make the mistake of checking email when you get back to your hotel room – yikes!

You take a lunch break, but you also take a dinner break. You are back on the phone after kids are in bed. You start taking your free time in the US afternoon, and you leave early Friday afternoon (Saturday in Asia) because you are starting early Sunday night (Monday morning in Asia).

Is this what we have all signed up for with globalization? Maybe the Eastern Standard Tribe is not so far off. 没问题 – I’m on board.

Posted at: 1:15pm Shanghai, 2:15pm Tokyo, 3:15pm Sydney – tomorrow.

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Medical Technology Company Seeks High Quality Web Developers

I’m aware of a Fortune 250 medical technology company in the Minneapolis area that is seeking high quality web developers to hire as permanent employees. Definitely need experience in the Java EE world, but interest in and awareness of various other web technologies is very desirable, as is experience with Agile techniques. The group you would join is very engaging, tied to high visibility business initiatives, focused on user-centered design and staying on top of technology trends. If you are interested and fit the bill, or know someone who is, please drop me an email for details…

Medical Technology Company Seeks High Quality Project Manager

I’m aware of a Fortune 250 medical technology company in the Minneapolis area that is seeking a high quality project manager as a permanent employee. Experience with managing web development projects using Agile techniques is desirable. The group you would join is very engaging, tied to high visibility business initiatives, focused on user-centered design and staying on top of technology trends. If you are interested and fit the bill, or know someone who is, please drop me an email for details…

Looking for Great Interview Questions

I have droned on previously about my thoughts around resumes and interviewing, and received some great thoughts and opinions from peers. I would like to focus the lens a little and gather thoughts about good questions to ask in a short phone screen for potential contract help on a project.

I always struggle with what questions make great questions in this context. It’s really too easy to focus on specific tools and frameworks – I don’t think that’s good. We try to keep these screens to a half hour, and the conversation can quickly de-generate into discussions around settings, API methods, and various extemporaneous details that make my mind wander or even want to explode – and before you know it time is up. I get very little qualitative feedback about someone hearing them go on about this kind of detail.

I always try to probe at someone’s soft skills instead. Most reasonably smart technical people can pick up on the tools that you use, but you are usually stuck with their soft skills for the long haul.

Here are some of my questions:

  • If you are not familiar with a tool or framework that you are asked to use, how would you learn about it?
  • Describe a situation where you had to interact with end users to capture requirements or provide production support.
  • Describe a situation in which you have had to troubleshoot performance problems in an application – how did you investigate the issue, and how did you resolve it?
  • How have you been involved in testing components that you have worked on?

Some might argue that by disclosing these questions and my intentions that I’m setting myself up to be deceived, but I don’t buy it. I think being transparent about this has the high liklihood that I will get even better suggestion out of my peers. My experience is also that people don’t do an oustanding job fibbing their way through interviews, so I don’t think a quick study of my poor blog is going to put anyone very far ahead of where they would have been – on the contrary it might just save both of us some time.

What are your questions? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff?

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Interview Points To Consider If You Want A Job At A Large Enterprise

In a previous post I offered some thoughts on how to write your resume if you want to get a job at a large enterprise. Before anyone nails me in comments – I get the fact that a lot of people don’t want to work at large enterprises. But clearly some do. For those who are interested, I’m just trying to make all of our lives a little less painful.

  • Do show up on time.
  • Do have a firm handshake. I need to thank my Dad for making a big deal about this when I was younger than 8 – I just grew up thinking this is normal. I am shocked at how many limp hands there are – it’s a really bad first impression.
  • Do be sure you have a quiet place to talk if it’s a teleconference
  • Do make sure you have a good cell connection if it’s a teleconference and you will be on a cell phone.
  • Do dress appropriately – might be nice, might be casual, but should be appropriate. If you don’t know the dress code, then overdress and don’t worry about it if someone makes a comment. I have never heard of someone not being hired due to overdressing.
  • Do not use SkypeOut if it’s a teleconference.
  • Do not feel compelled to exagerrate your role on a project. Everyone does it on their resume and I’m actually okay with that, as long as you kept it within reason so that the gap isn’t too big when you need to talk about it. But it’s painfully obvious when you exagerrate in conversation. It reminds me of how kids think they are so secretive when they whisper in class – if you’ve ever stood in front of a classroom, it’s a fishbowl.
  • Do admit if you don’t know about a technology in question, but then follow up with how you would learn about it. There are times companies are really strictly looking for a particular skill set – especially when hiring contractors or consultants for a specific project. But when it comes to employees, the soft skills are huge – do you have a social network you can tap into? Are you familiar with the names of authors, publishers, or analysts you would look to? Describing how you approach this can sell you miles ahead – these are a subset of your problem solving skills, and are important.
  • Do be able to talk about how you have helped maintain applications over time or participated in user support. Just about every technical team member in a large enterprise has to help with support in some way. People who come in and have only worked on new development that was handed off to someone else are not too impressive.
  • Do talk about your communication skills and your abilities to work with a variety of people. Large enterprises are famous for having 100 groups that you have to work with to do anything – the merit of that is the subject of another post. But consider it reality, and talk about how you collaborate with people when you need something from them. You are probably also not being hired as a cowboy or cowgirl who will come in and use whatever frameworks or tools you want – you will probably have to live with a lot of what is already in house, and have more gradual influence on what is used if you have sound arguments.

Curious what everyone else’s thoughts are around interviewing – there really aren’t too many just plain good interviews in my opinion, they are usually great or mediocre. Like Malcolm says, you usually know right away.

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Resume Points To Consider If You Want A Job At A Large Enterprise

A frequent and sometimes loathsome responsibility of mine is to pour over resumes when looking for enterprise developers – either for employee positions or contract positions. I say loathsome only because there are some really bad resumes that come through – I fear that bad smelling resumes are too common in the technical field. But people are important, so I actually think this is a very important responsibility of mine. I thought I would share some thoughts in hopes of improving my (and your) situation…

Do not put your laundry list of every tool you have ever touched at the top of your resume. Put this at the end. I skip right to experience because I want to see what you have done, not what you think you know or want to advertise.

Do not make your laundry list of tools take up more than 1/4 of a page – I have seen an entire page devoted to this and it’s ridiculous.

Do limit your resume to 3 pages – but the best candidates can produce a quality 2-page resume. Your resume needs to be human scannable and at a summary level; the purpose of interviews is to go into details.

Do explain what you did, but do it by explaining your responsibilities and how they related to the responsibilities of others on the team. You will likely be interacting with a lot of people in your new position, and you get points for showing that you get the fact that relating well on a team is crucial.

Do write with good grammar and communication skills. High quality communication is turning out to be a key differentiator in the current market.

Do seek the advice of a technical writer or another page layout specialist for good formatting on your resume. There is no Jalopy for your resume, and it needs to look better than your code if you want it to be scannable. (Clue: bolding and highlighting and underlining key words actually makes it harder to read.)

Do not include a career goal – I don’t know why, I just always thought that was weird.

Do not have a cover page – again, you should only have 2-3 pages total, and each one should be content-rich. (Clue: decreasing margins and using small fonts increases the volume of content but not its richness.)

Do know where to drawn the line on lying. Everyone exagerates on their resume, and I am not so naive to discourage that behavior. But be prepared to explain everything on your resume in an interview, and understand the difference between exageration and dishonesty.

Curious if others in my position also have thoughts to share on what you like or don’t like to see…

Architecture (and other things) for 2006

Many bloggers have resorted to the banal practice of blogging on resolutions, goals, etc. for the new year. I am certainly not above that practice, and will engage right here. 2005 was a fantastic year for me professionally and personally, and I hope to continue the trend. The following are some random thoughts and plans for the New Year – I would love you to add comments on what yours are!

Architecture goals

  • Relentless use of Agile methods – Last year I became an Agile zealot, and will no doubt continue. Our team has become better and better throughout the year at delivering early and continuous value in the form of working software. We will get even better this year.
  • Use of non-hype Web 2.0 practices in the enterprise – Web 2.0 hype is still on the rise, so this will be a challenge. I have previously blogged that tagging is a key Web 2.0 concept that will be of use in enterprises. I also believe that increasing use of self-selected transparency will transform many existing one-way sites within enterprises.
  • Use of lighter-weight solutions where possible – it’s no secret that I’m a fan of many open source frameworks; Spring and iBatis are prominent among them. This is not exclusively because they are open source, but rather because they are lighter weight than many commercial alternatives, and are sometimes the optimal solution. There is a time for industrial strength and a time for just enough, and I will continue to expose when I think those are confused (easy to do in a large enterprise).
  • Developing people, not just IT solutions – there are key Agile principles around valuing the people in your organization. We did a better job improving talents and skills on our team last year than ever before, and will continue that practice. Investing in high-quality individuals pays the greatest dividend of any possible IT spend.

Other professional goals

  • Continue blogging – I have made some great connections through this blog, and it has been a great way to hone thinking on various topics. My original goal was once a week postings, I’m going to try to keep to that schedule.
  • Presenting at a conference – I will be presenting to the attendees at some lucky conference this year, more to follow…
  • Increase the social network – I will again be increasing my social network this year with new and maintained contacts. I think this is the single most under-practiced skill among technical folks. This is essential to being a high-quality professional, but more than that is just what life is about. I formed friendships with many fascinating professional colleagues last year, among them James McGovern and Richard Monson-Haefel. I gain the greatest value in my life through relationships that I maintain.
  • Propose a lecture or training program to the University of Costa Rica – I will be proposing various topics that I could deliver to the UCR Computer Science department as guest lectures or short training possibly in 2006 or 2007. I would do this on my own time and probably my own dime, as a means of giving back to an alma mater. I also think it would be fascinating to see how far the university has come technically since I was there in 1992.
  • Publishing – I will continue to seek publishing opportunities, beginning with a book chapter that is due at the end of this month. Drop me a note or comment if you want to collaborate on an architecture or enterprise development topic.

Personal goals (that I’m willing to share!)

  • Use flickr to share photos – I started using flickr just as a means of research into Web 2.0 concepts and technology. It’s a great example of that, but is also just plain cool! I will definitely continue to use this, and will probably go Pro in the near future.
  • Organize my charitable giving – our family has always supported various charities, but have not been terribly organized about who we give to. This year we will be deciding on what goals and values to support, and what international areas to support and be more direct with support. I will continue to donate time, as this is often more valuable than money.
  • Begin work on the cabin – we have an old cabin that has been in my wife’s family for years, and will finally begin much-needed updates. Let me know if you are interested in swinging a hammer in exchange for some outdoor time!
  • Do a better job teaching my kids Spanish – a highlight last year was when my Mom and sister (host family) from Costa Rica visited. My 5- and 7-year-olds should have been more able to speak to them than they were. I will be doing a much better job of this – it’s my opinion that everyone should speak at least 2 languages (no, computer languages don’t count!), and I need to act on that position.

Diabetic Runner Challenge – 500

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