Friday, August 10, 2007

Hot Blooded, Check it and See... I've Got a Lead Count of 100 and 3

Just in case you were wondering why I haven't posted much this week, here is the job update.

On Thursday night, after updating my handy dandy job lead tracking spreadsheet, I had a total of 103 entries. Each entry represents either a position I applied for or a position I was contacted about. Most of them are of the latter variety.

Here is where things currently stand...

I goofed on the job update from last week. My interview with Do-No-Evil is this coming Wednesday. Sorry, for all of you who have been waiting to find out how that one went.

On Friday morning of last week, I did an interview with Highly Profitable Wide Awake Hedge Fund. The interviewer seemed like a nice guy, but he seemed to be very proud of the fact that he could cite all the arguments of qsort() from memory and that he knew how GCC 4 handled the undefined behavior of doing delete arrayPointer; when arrayPointer was a pointer to an array. I haven't heard any follow up, so I suspect I wasn't up to his level of pedantry.

On the evening of the same day, I had an in-person interview with the guy who was a no-show on my interview on Tuesday. It was a close call timewise because I had been dispatched about an hour and a half before to head downtown to do some emergency repair work on my employer's remote network hardware.

The interview proved to be a waste of time. He started off by warning me about some of the more noxious aspects of working in the consultancy business. Our conversation was interrupted three times by phone calls. Two were from his 18-year-old daughter who was "having a crisis" and one from the daughter's mother (not sure if they were still married because there was no wedding band on his left hand).

He said that he wasn't sure why I was looking for work in the consultancy business, given my background. I said I was keeping an open mind and that the recruiter with whom I had spoken had said there were some things that might interest me. He dismissed her remarks, saying all she was trained to do was match keywords on resumes. He said that I seemed like I was a well grounded guy, and he thought there might be a ghost of a chance that I might be useful on a project with a potential client, so he was going to set up a technical screen. I haven't heard from the consulting agency since then.

On Tuesday, I had a phone interview for a contract position with the Antitrust Enforcement Entity. Given my past experience with analyzing, reverse engineering, and designing network protocols, I thought this might be a nice position.

My initial contact with the recruiter was a little over two weeks ago. When I gave the recruiter my authorization to submit my resume two weeks ago Friday, she said that I might need to be ready to do a phone interview after the weekend. A week passed with only a brief, "I'm working on it," message from the recruiter. Then I got a call saying I needed to give them a time to do a phone interview. So Tuesday was the date.

My interviewer was one of those self satisfied academic types who seemed to be more interested in whether I understood all the minutiae TCP and UDP and why one must be oh so careful about using UDP for all the right reasons. He seemed disappointed in some of the things that I wasn't able to recite for him, so he said he's ask me a few more rudimentary questions on programming, which I handled pretty well. He was looking to see whether I knew the fundamentals of object oriented programming.

Then we got on the subject of my graduate research, and he got all excited when I started talking about the math behind it. By the end of the conversation, he said he was going to recommend that they fly me in for an in-person interview, and that he looked forward to speaking with me further about wavelet analysis. It made me wonder if I was being brought in for the wrong reasons.

That afternoon and evening the recruiter went into obsessive girlfriend mode. I got three or four calls and voicemails. She said that they wanted me to come in on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday of next week, and that they needed an answer from me ASAP because "a lot had to be done between now and then." I've got enough things going on that I don't need to put up with being bossed around by some recruiter for a temp position.

The next morning, I got a nasty gram from her saying this was my last chance to get on board and give them a date. I called her and told her about this Business Week blog posting about careers that I read a couple years back. I said that I didn't like being treated that way and that I wasn't interested in the job anymore. She tried to make nice and say, "Well, we'll just tell them that it doesn't work for you." I said that I still wasn't interested. Moreover, I said that many of the low level networking questions I was asked during the interview helped me to realize that I wasn't an appropriate fit, so I still wasn't interested. That was the end of that.

I found out Thursday morning that the local high performance computing position Large Indigo Company had been filled. A few days before, I noticed that the posting had been taken down from a job board and the company's own website, so I e-mailed the person to whom I had sent my resume last week. She gave me the bad news. It's disappointing, especially since I didn't get a chance to come in to make my case. Nonetheless, I am grateful to the anonymous reader who gave me some contact information to help get my resume into the right hands.

I did a phone interview on Thursday mid-day with Local Search Engine Start Up. I had been approached by a recruiter of theirs a couple weeks ago and decided I would take a chance to see just whether they were still as much of a train wreck as they were last year when I took their programming test. I had planned to call them from a pay phone at a gas station near my office, but the pay phone was dead, so I had to use my cell phone, which is already painfully overaged.

The interview went well, and I will be doing an in-person interview on Monday after work. They said that they were having trouble finding someone who could write code in both C++ and Java to bridge the gap in their code base. The scary part? The guy who interviewed me just hired on two weeks ago. The company recently got some attention from a Silicon Valley blog over its arrangement with a nearby university. Apparently there are some questions about whether there was a conflict of interest.

I had two phone interviews scheduled on Friday. One was with Local Consumer Electronics Company, and the other was with Yet Another Hedge Fund.

The Local Consumer Electronics Company interview was supposed to be in the morning. I waited for about half an hour from the scheduled time, and I finally got a call. It was the guy with whom I was supposed to speak, but he said that he wasn't able to do the interview now because of a hard break coming up on the hour. We rescheduled for Monday evening at 9:30 p.m.

My interview with Yet Another Hedge Fund was in the early afternoon. I spoke with one of their developers. It was a mix of questions on C++, algorithms, data structures, network programming, and thread management. Some of the questions I had seen before, actually. The interview lasted about an hour, and it went mostly well. I refused to let problems that were perplexing back me into a corner, and I worked my way through the problems. I don't know if it will lead to an in-person interview since these guys tend to set the bar pretty high, but he did ask for my e-mail address.

Now that I've been doing this job hunt thing for a while, it's kind of amusing to see some of the leads that pop up. You will see posts for the same position being hawked by four to six different placement agencies, and you'll wonder just what's driving the desperation. I saw that with the Medical Device Software Development role in April, and I saw it again with the CNC Software Development role just a couple weeks ago.

Now it is happening with a contract role that calls for someone with both Java and C++ experience. The maximum rate and the duration varies, but I was able to deduce a couple things. One is that the contract is with Super Huge Outsourcer. Second, it appears to be for an application used only by Local Transmission Manufacturer Spinoff that just got taken over by private equity.

I had six different agencies buzzing me about this, some multiple times. Just for grins, I called one of them to see what was going on. The recruiter didn't know a lot of the specifics, but got my consent to submit my resume.

The highlight of the conversation was when I had to give her my birth date, which happens to be Valentines Day. She then told me about how she and her fiance have birthdays on the same day of the month but different months (the 29), and when they were having their first child they were trying to make sure she was born on the 29th, but nature didn't cooperate. It was on the 27th.

By Tuesday of last week, I had five requests for interviews out of town. One in northern California, one in southern California, two in the Pacific Northwest, and one in the Western Pennsylvania. An appointment had been set up for the northern California one, but the others were still to be determined.

Earlier in the week, the situation had been put in an even bigger bind by my current job. During that "please don't leave, it'll get better" conversation with the CTO from a couple weeks ago, he listed three things that he wanted me to work on.

One of the items was a vague reference to me taking over some things for this standards project that he was supposed to be chairing. This would be the second time that this commitment of his was going to spill over into my realm. If you recall back in March, he had me doing something back then, too.

Over the next few days, I got a barrage of forwarded e-mails which were supposed to be some form of guidance on what I was supposed to do. It wasn't until the beginning of this past week that I started to see the full extent of what he was throwing at me.

He was supposed to be overseeing the early stages of the creating a standard for the technology we are working on. It works in several stages. First, there is a canvassing of companies who would have an interest in the standard. That produces one document with which I helped in March.

The next round is the preparation of a document that solicits proposals for a standard, and that document was targeted for completion by the next standards organization meeting, which is late September. There is a rule that requires the document be submitted to the organization's headquarters no less than three weeks before the meeting.

So at about the same time the CTO was giving me the "please don't leave us", he had gotten an e-mail from one of the guys who is overseeing his efforts to prepare this document. He noted that not much progress had been made since the meeting in March and said that perhaps they should shelve the effort because of a lack of resources. My boss countered that we didn't need to give up just yet, and that he had just the right person do do the job -- me.

So I am now committed to making sure that document gets prepared, using as much input from those who are interested. I am overseeing a mailing list, holding a weekly teleconference, and maintaining a wiki.

The teleconferences are late mornings on Thursdays, and that presented a problem because I wouldn't be able to do the wrap up work after the teleconference and get to the airport for my flight to northern California. Since I don't have a laptop, I wouldn't be able to get any of the work done while I am on the road. Nothing good could have come from this.

So I wound up e-mailing the company in northern California, telling them that I had a commitment at work that would make it very difficult for me to not only keep the appointment but also schedule an another time for the next few weeks. I then wrote that because of the pace of the hiring schedule they were on, I thought it would be prudent for me to withdraw from consideration for the current position, but that I'd like to be kept in consideration for future roles that I might be a good match for.

I got a reply from the HR guy pretty quickly...
I would encourage you to come in for an interview, you were looking for a reason, and we are hiring non-stop, now and in the future, so it would be prudent to keep the interview and get all the info you can so you can make an informed decision, we sent (sic) money on the flight, and the manager went out of his way to speak to you, I think you should come out. Let’s reschedule the trip for end for Aug or Sep. you do not want to miss out on a golden opportunity with a great company.

A plan crystalized. Since the proposal would have to be in before Labor Day, no ifs, ands, or buts, I should be able to take some time off the week of Labor Day as "recovery" from the big crunch. I am booking my two big traveling interviews to the West Coast (northern California and Pacific Northwest) during that week and taking them off as vacation days.

That left an interview in the Steel City that needed to be booked. Since that trip can be done in one day, I'm taking a sick day the week after next.

I culled the southern California interview with Play in Our World. As cool as that lead would have been, the project was pure C, so it wouldn't have done much to foster growth in my skill set.

So this is how things are lining up... There are different tiers of job leads that I have going on.

At the top is the lottery ticket: Do-No-Evil in Windy City. It's the dream job, but the world doesn't end if I don't land it.

At the next tier are the jobs that really advance my career in a positive direction, but sort of lock me into a definite path. The Pacific Northwest Internet Ad Company will put me in the Microsoft .NET camp, and it will immerse me deep into the Agile/Extreme Programming lifestyle. The Steel City Branch Office of the Financial Trading Software Company puts me in the pure Java ranks and gets my foot into the door of the world of Wall St. (given the markets these days, it's open to question whether that is a Good Thing). The Bay Area Network Acceleration Company puts me in the Linux camp and sets me onto the path of the high end of network programming.

At the next level are the investment bank and hedge fund leads. These guys are really picky and only want the rock stars. One hedge fund in the Windy City nixed me on a standardized C++ programming test.

I took the same brand of test (different questions) a week ago for another recruiter and managed to get the results from him. I scored in the 82nd percentile globally and in the 74th percentile against the recruiter's own applicant pool. He said that he needed to get back with me, so I suspect that wasn't high enough for his clients.

At the bottom tier are the local leads. Right now that includes a position developing software for a company that makes prison telephone systems, the local search engine startup, the set top box programming job, and the contract job for the transmission manufacturer.

Early this week will be busy. I have the in-person interview with the local search startup Monday evening. Later, after the kids are in bed, I have the make-up phone interview with the set top box maker. On Tuesday night, I take a two-hour programming challenge with a Hedge Fund Number Three. On Wednesday night, I have the phone interview with Do-No-Evil. Thursday and Friday are now clear since the interview in northern California has been rebooked.

As if things couldn't get more intriguing, I got another direct recruit contact from the Silicon Valley on Friday evening. It's the World Famous Computer-in-a-Computer Software company. I've received one e-mail and two phone calls. I might have to check that one out, too.
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