Category Archives: Work

Ten Things I Want to See In My Next Job

This week marks two years since the great crunch at my last job left about 20% of the employees, and my entire department out on the street. While this is partially due to my advanced age, a computer science degree that predates the personal computer, and a major shift in the market from employee to employer-focused, it’s probably also that, being constantly hit by or barely surviving downsizing exercises at my last five companies going back a decade, I’ve just been a little pickier about saying yes to jobs that exhibit the same destructive behaviors, or that I just have a bad feeling about going in.

I’m increasingly convinced the type of job I want doesn’t exist anymore. Certainly if it does, it’s only found via one of those “inside networking” things and isn’t going to land in my lap courtesy of a recruiter who has my best interest at heart and really wants me to be happy and successful. (You read that one, right?) So, as long as some know-it-all recruiter can force me to sit through his boring “Ten Things You Need to Do To Land the Perfect Job” post on Linked-In, allow me to retort with my own “Ten Things I Want to See In My Next Job.” On the off chance that I’m wrong, and my dream boss is out there scouring the Internet for me (probably sitting next to my dream girl in a locally-owned coffee and sandwich shop somewhere), “Hi, boss. Call me. Let’s get something moving.”

1. Don’t make me retype my resume in your on-line job application. We live in the 21st century. I carry three different versions of my resume on my phone, and I have professional profiles exhaustively detailing 30+ years of my professional history on three different job boards, Linked-In, and PMO-Elite. If you’re using antiquated HR software that can’t parse a Word document or pull data via API from a job board, and your HR department isn’t capable of converting it in the one format they need to work in, then sorry, we’re done before we even got started.

2. Don’t ask for my desired salary on the application before I’ve even gotten to speak to you about the job. First off, this just screams “looking for the cheapest person we can get to negotiate from a position of weakness.” Second, a lot of your answers — even knowing what your benefits and vacation package looks like — will affect my salary requirements. Finally, as a thirteen year business analyst and sales support engineer, I can make very strong arguments to back up my numbers. I do know how to put together an effective argument and cost/benefit analysis, after all.

3. Sell me on your company vision. This is becoming more and more important to me. When someone asks me what my company does, I would love to be able to say something other than “insurance,” “pharmaceuticals,” “mortgages,” or “makes these three rich guys who own it even richer.” Not that it needs to be anything altruistic or honorable. One of my favorite jobs of all time is best described as, “made a bunch of people happy.” At least that I can get excited about.

4. Have free parking nearby. I am sick of freezing, roasting, and soaking, before I even start my day, but most of all, I’m really sick of having to factor the walk from my car to my desk into my commute time. I don’t need to scratch my car door on the side of the building when I get out, but I do require that I be able to SEE the building from where I park.

5. Put a ring on it. This is the one that’s apparently really killing my prospects. Have I mentioned that contracting work is a career-killing racket? I have finally put my foot down on changing discount insurance companies and wrapping my sports-loving child in bubble wrap any praying for the best during the “benefit grace period” every couple of months when I switch contracts. I’m sick of being treated like a disposable second-class citizen by co-workers, and I am over having a “likely extension” or “possible conversion” dangled in front of me like a carrot.

6. Give me an opportunity to add to my skillset, or at least tell a new story. I might as well laminate my resume for the past thirteen years. “Worked as a liaison between business and IT … Effectively captured requirements … managed a portfolio of complex projects and directed development teams … blahblahblah …” If you’re going to make me do that stuff again, at least make the projects more interesting than “modified a program,” “developed a report,” “built a dashboard.”

7. No damned ping pong tables, indoor basketball courts, or video arcades at work! If you need these kinds of things to get through the day, put your company next to a family recreation center, or better yet, go work for one. I had my fill of “Oh, you need to talk to me, let’s have a ping pong meeting.” No, I need to talk to you, not compete for your distracted attention. “I’m not going to have that ready by the next sprint, your time estimate was completely unreasonable.” No, my time estimate was generous, and I just happen to notice you wasted all of Thursday afternoon in a Galaga tournament with the Finance department knowing you had a deadline on Friday morning.

8. Let me control my environment. Now we’re getting into the big ones. Also previously mentioned, this agile seating thing is only good for me about 25% of the time. In the early phases of a project, it’s great for getting a cadence going, disseminating information, and building rapport. The other 75% of the time, it annoys me with having to hear office gossip and bitch sessions, getting drawn into other teams’ meetings two feet from my head, listening to people directly in front of me lead conference calls I don’t care about, and generally makes me claustrophobic when I can’t stretch without poking the guy next to me (who is breathing too #@$&-ing loud) in the eye. Most of my job is thinking, reading, and typing. I like quiet, no interruptions, a diet coke, and maybe a bit of bebop music during these situations. It just makes things go faster and keeps my blood pressure at a reasonable level. Which brings up …

9. Do not micromanage my time on task. I love working for multinational corporations that write off amounts ten times my salary as rounding error, but then want to jump my ass if they determine a task should take no more than 40 hours, and I logged 42 hours to get it done by the deadline (it was actually 50 hours, but I didn’t count the 8 hours I worked at home), especially if the extra time required was due to the stuff in #8. This also ties into …

10. At least pretend to listen to employee opinions. I usually pick this up studying your responses to a few carefully placed questions during the interview, but it’s surprising how often I find hiring managers (particularly younger, insecure ones) are so easily put on the defensive when an employee offers an opinion or *gasp* suggestion. I think my favorite example was when, as a contractor, my 20-something millennial boss cut me off mid-sentence in a meeting with the phrase, “Yes, that’s all well and good, but in my experience…” Like, look, ya little pipsqueak, I’ve been doing this since you were in diapers. When was this experience, last week?! Even if you ignore my opinion because you think I’m an idiot, you will let me finish my sentence when we’re in a public setting.

So there ya go. Ten demands. Maybe it makes me sound like a cranky old fart, maybe it’s the reason I’m blacklisted by most hiring agencies in the city, but life is to short to put up with a job you’re not happy at. I’ll pay a finder’s fee, or take a discount on my salary, if anyone can prove to me that jobs like these are still out there.

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You’re Busted, IBM!

So, yesterday I got a contacted by the Corporate Communications Manager from IBM/Tivoli here in town, June Bennett.
june

 

Or did I?  I seemed a bit odd to me, so after a bit of research, I quickly discovered that I had in fact met actress Anna Fiorentini.  Thanks for choosing her actual head shot for your profile picture.
anna

 

Now, I would expect this kind of behavior (too-good-to-be-true profiles with unrealistically hot profile pictures) from a potential date on Match.com, but I’m not sure what the motivation for IBM is.  Is this some recruiting tactic for lonely, gullible tech geeks?  Is that the demographic they want?  Do people not notice right away that the gal who is trying to recruit them is never actually in the office?!  Am I seriously going fall for this ploy and take a position based on how hot the Communications Manager is.  (Okay, I mean, AGAIN?)  Did I disqualify myself by figuring out the ploy?

Alternatively, I suppose it might not be IBM at all, but instead a social engineering setup to pump me for personal information for some other nefarious purpose.  If that’s the case, though, what do they expect to get get that isn’t on my posted resume, blog, twitter feed, etc?  Believe me, my mother’s maiden name, street I grew up on, or the first pet that I owned PROBABLY will not come up in a recruiting conversation, not that I use the real answers as bank account safeguard key anyway.  (Safety tip there: don’t use any personal questions based on items that can be found in public records to safeguard important accounts.)

Basically, this is bugging the crap out of me.  I no longer trust any company or any person.  In fact, I’m getting ready to go into Jack Bauer mode here…
bauer

Watch yer butts, guys.  There’s some shifty stuff goin’ on out there.

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My View Today …

There’s probably a little over 100 pages of analysis I need to write before tomorrow night, I got 3 pounds of coffee, 2 packs of cigarettes, there’s palm trees… and it’s snowing.  Oh, and I’m completing the mood by listening to a radio station out of Jamaica.

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Best. Job. Ever.

What!? Seriously, they think I’m weird because I love coming in and finding four inches of new reading material on my desk — particularly when I get to write another long-form fiction piece based on it afterward. Surely I’m not the only person on the planet who likes RFP’s. Bah! Don’t judge me!

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Gloating Is Fine, You Just Have to Not Suck at It.

I don’t get too many professional bragging moments, but seeing as how I just had my first one in a few years, I’m taking full advantage of it. Here is me doing the “Told Ya So” dance.

 Told Ya So Dance(Okay, actually that’s not me … but I’m almost as hip and smooth.)

It seems a while back, at a former place of employment, a salesman and I were handed an assignment to hock the company wares at a client. Our employer called themselves a custom app development shop, but really they have one product, some legacy stuff built by talent no longer there, and a bunch of smoke-and-mirror markup services like “social media management” (which every company and college dropout offers) and SEO consulting (which nobody really needs because your sales all come from Klout anyway, right?). Anyway, our employer really needs a new product, particularly one from the 21st century, since everything they currently charge $60-80K for can be easily obtained for free from a variety of services and web sites — which your 16-year-old kid can point you to if you think to ask him.

The meeting was what we liked to call the “jerk-off/bake-off.” This is where a potential client brings in three or four companies to express their unique, diverse vision for the future of the client’s industry, their original ideas for taking the client outside the box and building an cultural paradigm-shift that will firmly establish the client as the thought-leaders in their field, and to demonstrate the particular expertise and talents they have acquired through years of research, development, training, and certification. The bid then goes to whichever idea was cheapest.

Halfway through the presentation, it was completely obvious that we were going to be too expensive and too far off the needs of what the client wanted. They were already using free alternatives to our core product, which was the only thing we could sell them that had margins high enough to be worthwhile. Meanwhile, it’s blatantly obvious, to me anyway, exactly what the client needs to be doing — and it isn’t anything remotely like what they are asking for or what anybody was pitching. Normally, this is a golden opportunity. We could get outside the box, pitch an idea that I was certain the client would jump on, develop a new product for our arsenal that we could sell industry wide, and create that paradigm shift for how these people do business. That night, I did a few screen mockups, sketched out a preliminary project timeline and budget, and presented these ideas at the 8:00 AM debriefing the next morning.

Of course, the salesman didn’t care, he got paid to sell our core product, and was actually miffed when I pointed out they didn’t need our core product. The owner liked my idea, to his credit, but not enough to warrant pulling developers off their current assignments (which consist mostly of making minute customizations to the core product until their brains melt from boredom). My supervisor accused me of going off on wild tangents and wasting billable time working on stuff I shouldn’t have been working on — after all, a business analyst’s job is to fill out work orders for customers, not to … you know … actually analyze customers’ businesses.

So, you can now imagine my elation when someone forwarded me a lovely writeup from an industry trade magazine this morning. Turns out that company just spent a butt-load of money rolling out a new paradigm-shifting product. One that was about 85-90% of the idea I wanted to pitch to them, but got shot down on. In fact, the screenshots in the article, looked almost suspiciously like the ones I had hastily mocked up that night. Strange, since they bought it from a competitor. The article goes on to praise that competitor for their forward-thinking in designing the product and revolutionizing the industry, blah blah blah.

I used to get angry when someone else gets rich off an idea I had. Half of SalesForce.com’s functionality and business model? 2MI was pitching it years before they had it. HTML/XML? SayTech used a markup language called RISE that was transmitted between computers over DTMF tones back when 9600BPS was considered blazing fast. Toothpaste in a pump? Pitched that during a PEAK Brain Game competition in 1981. I don’t accuse anybody of stealing my ideas, I’m just saying these so-called innovators aren’t out-thinking me — and likely they’re are many more like me out there who are never going to be in a position for any of our ideas to be first to market. To my forward-thinking brethren, I offer this advice: When you read praising articles like this one, just substitute your name for the competitor’s in your head. It will silence the other voices.

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Welcome to the Blog

So, these are the new digs.  If you’re following over from the old blog, you get it.  If you’re just now discovering me, I won’t bore you with all the gory details up front.  Thanks for being here though.

Personal Detail:  Occupation

Technical Business Analyst for ChaCha Search, inc.

This is possibly the most awesome job I’ve ever had.  Moves fast, pretty challenging, essentially the culture of a startup with the funding of a much larger company.  What exactly does a technical business analyst do?  Well, as I said, it moves at the speed of a startup so one week I’m in charge of looking at web site analytics to figure out how to optimize getting expensive ads in front of people who are more-likely to click on them, and cheaper ads in front of people who aren’t.  The next week, I’m studying web traffic patterns to figure out which of our market affiliates are just trying to cheat our referral system by identify who is a bot and who isn’t by their traffic patters.  Think about this: if you’re in a chat room, you can intuitively tell if the person you’re talking to is a real person or a pr0n bot.  Same holds true looking at site behavior.  The trick is, can you with detail, explain HOW you know know this, so that you can teach a computer to recognize bots?  Not so easy, and nobody has cracked it yet.  I know, because I looked for a solution.

Now, currently, I’m in charge of analyzing ChaCha’s integration with the new Iris application.  It’s Siri for Android phones.  (Get it?  Siri spelled backwards is Iris?)  So, basically, every day I get a list of everything everyone asked their phones to do the day before (about 20,000 queries or so).  Then, as fast as I can, I run through the responses, pull out large chunks of answers Iris got wrong, try to find commonalities in WHY she got them wrong, and then write this up so the engineers can fix it before the next batch of questions arrive tomorrow morning.

Or, more accurately, as Mr. Jones told me this morning, my job is to “find out how this happened, and make sure it doesn’t happen again!”

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Customer Service Fail

A Couple quick customer service tips…

(Taken from my incident report on a rather popular piece of software’s technical support website. I won’t name names here … but I will ask “What are they doing?” )

  1. Acknowledging you have a problem is not fixing it … that’s only the first of the infamous twelve steps.
  2. Shouldn’t the customer be the one to determine whether you’ve answered their question or not.  Especially when the question was, “When can we expect an update to fix this bug in the unusable software we’ve given you money for?”
  3. Yes, eight months is a long time to wait for a resolution (or at least an update as to what “the team” said when you told them) … but we’ll still notice when you clandestinely close out our tickets because you think we’ve forgotten about them. We can’t forget … we’re still having the problem.

  4. The smiley faces don’t help. They just make you seem somehow evil … like you know there’s nothing we can do about it except blog you.

 

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April 23, 2008 · 11:05 AM

Fail on Multiple Levels

Okay, professionally, my skillset is a fine line between techno geek and marketing/business analyst – until recently, I’ve pretty much kept one foot in each pond as it were. I never realized how rare a concept that was until someone shot a link to this video out to me. This is what happens when arguably one of the wealthiest corporations in the US tries to gives it’s marketing people a really big budget and asks them to win over the geeks out there who think/know that Windows Vista is buggy, unstable, unsecure crap that we refuse to let near our networks.

I may not be the best at my job, but even I have never insulted the intelligence of my target demographic like this.   Not only is it bad, dorky, stupid, etc.  But it’s also flagrant propaganda.  The reason we’re adopting Vista is not because SP1 was released, it’s because Microsoft is discontinuing sales of everything else and we have no choice!

What ever happened to consumer-dictated product life-cycles? 

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April 16, 2008 · 9:49 PM

Waiters with Search Engines

Here’s another example for you. I know it’s minor and it happens all the time, but emails like this one just infuriate me. This whole trend of, let’s face it, completely superfluous people who make a living running searches on Monster.com trying to match up words and acronyms they don’t understand has really got to stop. Now they’re just being rude.

Our client has a need for experienced LOCAL .Net developers for a 6 month project. These candidates will need to have strong Visual basic.net and Asp.net development skills as well as a strong background with analysis and design.

Please only respond if you are a local candidate to Columbus, OH.

C# is a plus.

Please send resume to c*rl.gr*ss@ajilon.com and er*c.b*ll*ng*r@ajilon.com

Note the capitalization of LOCAL, as if to imply I am annoying them by not living in Ohio – even though they are the ones contacting me. First off, the address on my resume (that’s the thing at the very top) says I live in Indiana. Granted I didn’t capitalize it, but I wouldn’t lie about that. Secondly, that paragraph right after my address that says “Objective” next to it, pretty much explains that I’m looking for a full-time position as a business analyst or project manager – doesn’t say anything about short-term, out-of-state contract developer positions. Believe me, judging from the tone of their email, I’m no more thrilled to hear from them than they are to be emailing me. In fact, I put that objective statement there because I get no less than a dozen emails almost exactly like this one every day, none of which apply to me, and in all of which the recruiting company has their equivalent of a statement that says, “Don’t waste our time replying if you don’t meet our criteria.”

So let me get this straight?  You’re essentially saying, “If we’ve just wasted your time by making you read this, please don’t waste ours by responding.”  How about: “If you’re going to skim 20% off the top of my hourly rate for yourself, at least be polite about it?!”

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And people wonder why I didn’t want to get demoted back to help-desk?!

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March 19, 2008 · 5:10 PM