Friday, January 26, 2007

...And Then There Were Three

Well there's nothing you can do when you're next in line
You've got to go domino.

Do you know what you have done?
Do you know what you've begun?

-- Genesis, "The Last Domino", Invisible Touch

A couple days ago, the other full-time developer at my workplace told me he had an offer on the table from another development shop in town. Today, he decided that he would inform the CTO of his intent to accept the offer and give a letter of resignation to him. The CEO was out of town most of this week, and the CTO would be gone all next week, so this was going to be as good a time as any. After the two had the discussion, my coworker said that it had gone better than he had anticipated.

His pending departure means that in a little under two weeks, I will be the sole non-founder employee left. I am also the only full-time developer. The CTO codes some, but he is also committed to things like standards group meetings, sales pitches, and some other busy work. There was no overlap in coding responsibilities, so they will probably have to hire a new guy to take over what is left behind.

What pushed my coworker over the edge? Both of us had grown increasingly nervous about the company's cloudy future over the past four or five months, so there was some buildup. He said that the writing on the wall became clear when I eked out some more information from the CTO earlier in the week.

During an ad hoc status meeting, the CTO noted that he and the CEO had been working on a revision to a proposal for a grant they had been pursuing. I asked for clarification on what that meant. He said the proposal had been given to a technical specialist to review the merits of the plan, and the specialist wanted some more information.

I then brought up the other money source they had been chasing, which was a venture capital fund. I asked whether we had heard anything about that effort. He said the organization had made an offer, but they turned it down because they thought the VCs wanted too much equity for the amount of money they were fronting.

After the CTO talked about his plans to be gone all next week on a trip out West, I asked what was on the agenda. He mentioned two existing clients, one of which is a very small revenue stream. He then noted that a licensing deal, which had put us through a rather stressful crunch in December, had gone cold for the present. The prospective customer had just been bought out by another company, and he speculated that merger activities had put such deal on hold.

Then there was a passing remark about some additional investment sources out East that they were wooing, but he didn't elaborate.

So, one source was still in the works, but probably months away. Another source had been rejected. The third was lost in limbo. We had received a check from the small revenue stream company, but it probably would cover payroll for maybe a month or two.

I was thinking back to the changes in personnel that have happened in the 14 months that I've been here. When I hired on, the company had eight full-time employees, four of whom were founding members. Three were developers, and one was an office manager. After my coworker leaves, we will have seen a 62.5% reduction in force in a little under one year's time.

In the silence and darkness of my home, I sit here wondering what I should do. Monday should prove to be very interesting, because our CEO will have returned from her trip. Will they try to goad me into assaulting the Java GUI learning curve? Will they decide to hire someone new? Will they just mothball the whole operation and regroup for a later day? Do I want to stay around and find out?

I survived the first phone interview with big software company in the Northwest. A second employee has e-mailed me to schedule the next round. I found a blog on the company's website about their hiring system, and it provided some clues about how their recruiting process works.

Late this afternoon I had a useful conversation with a local recruiter with whom I had been playing phone tag over the week. It turns out the position he had in mind for me "disappeared" quickly. We went over my resume, and he said that I needed to insert explicit references to the tools I had been using in my work rather than putting that at the end. The reason, he said, was that recruiters tend to focus in on vendor products that you have experience with (e.g. have you used the API for interfacing with database X or charting component toolkit made by vendor Y).

I said that in dealing with other recruiters who work in this metro area, I was beginning to realize this high reliance on brand name knowledge. Not a lot of original software development goes on in this town. Most of it is geared toward system integration tasks or gluing together off the shelf components. If you don't know a database vendor's API and either .NET or Java 2 EE, you aren't going to find a lot of jobs around here.

I acknowledged that I was reaching a critical point. Either I needed to retool my skills to pick up some of these high-demand technologies, or I needed to relocate to an area where creative software development is done. I said that my resume was generating a lot more demand from places out East and West than here. He said that's not surprising, adding that a U.S. national with good problem solving skills and solid C++ knowledge would be well received in other parts of the country.

He recommended that I make my choice based on what I would enjoy doing, because even if I retooled to stay local, I might hate the jobs.

The professional two-choice dilemma becomes ever so starker, and it interlocks with my personal two-choice dilemma, because my wife has already expressed an unwillingness to relocate far away.
blog comments powered by Disqus