Sunday, November 18, 2007

Move 'Em On, Head 'Em Up. Head 'Em Up, Move 'Em On. Rawhide!

Keep movin', movin', movin',
Though they're disapprovin',
Keep them doggies movin' Rawhide!
Don't try to understand 'em,
Just rope and throw and grab 'em,
Soon we'll be living high and wide.

-- Theme to Rawhide

Let's just dispense with the usual and customary groveling over blog reticence and get on with the updates, shall we?

Job Search

In my last post, I mulled over a list of options I had drawn up in an even earlier post. Options (5) and (6) were looking like the best alternatives. There has been movement in both of those directions.

Regarding Option (5), I had an introductory phone interview with one of the lead R&D guys at ShovelSite, a well-funded and wildly popular website that makes its home in the Bay Area. We have agreed to conduct a more extensive technical interview, but we've been having trouble finding a common time block on our schedules. The current plan is to do the interview sometime in the early evening (my time zone) on Monday.

There's been a lot of activity on the Option (6) front.

On Monday, I got contacted by a sister company of the staffing company that set me up with an interview with Bluegrass Printer Manufacturer back in late July. They said they were looking for someone who has experience with C++, UNIX system programming, and automated build tools (like make and imake). From the description, it sounds like a cross between a software developer and a release engineer.

Like the earlier position, this would be a year-to-year contract, but the pay would be about 45% more than what I make now. The downside would be that pay is only for what you work. There is no paid time off. I have a phone interview with the staff on Monday morning. If that goes well, they will invite me to an on-site interview.

Last weekend, I stumbled upon an opening that had been on one of the boards for a few weeks. It was with Bonded-and-Insured, a local company that deals with fixed income investments. From what I understand, they do some trading based on quantitative models, just like some of the investment banks and hedge funds in the Big Apple metro area.

Almost three years ago, when I was thinking about leaving my former employer, I had seen a position advertised by several different recruiting agencies, perhaps five or six of them. After doing some search engine detective work, I determined that it was Bonded-and-Insured.

Back then, I didn't get any traction. The recruiting agency through whom I replied didn't respond to my follow up e-mails. I applied through another, and then learned that trying to go through two different agencies to the same employer can get you disqualified for consideration. It was a useful lesson that has served me well to this day in dealing with head hunters.

When I applied this time around, I didn't have high expectations. Bonded-and-Insured uses one of those third party web submission systems, which might as well be a big black hole. However, on Thursday afternoon, I got a call from an HR person who asked me some basic questions, including salary expectations. She said she would set me up with an initial phone interview. A few minutes later, she called back with the time, 10 am on Friday morning.

The interview on Friday morning was a technical screen, asking me about my experiences with UNIX, C++, perl, and databases. The follow ups to his questions seemed to suggest he was skeptical of my skills, especially when it came to perl and databases. I used some concrete examples from past experiences that I thought would support my ability to come up to speed quickly. The interview wrapped up after 40 minutes.

I got a phone call not much more than an hour later from the HR person, telling me that they normally don't move this quickly on an applicant, but they wanted to bring me in for an in-person interview before Thanksgiving, so after some back-and-forth with the interviewers, we agreed upon a 9:30 am - noon block on Tuesday morning. I got a the list of interviewers, and it looks like mostly non-technical management. I suspect that this will be much like the interview I did with Susie Student Loan a couple weeks back. They want to make sure I would be a good match not only on my skills but also on my ability to interact with different portions of the company.

Also on Thursday, I had my two-hour technical interview with Company Line. They are a local startup that was founded toward the end of 2006, and they are developing a Software as a Service product for companies that want to publish customer facing blogs. They got a chunk of financing over the summer that should allow them to grow, and they're hiring.

The interview was a mixture of whiteboard coding and design discussion questions. I found out that the company is really small, currently at 10 employees. I would be the third full-time developer in the company's history, so I would be trailblazer. I think the interview went well because the interviewer asked me to send him a list of professional references.

On Saturday, I was doing some searching on the web regarding that new computing research facility that was announced by Large Indigo Computer Company. It turns out that they were advertising for this position out in the open on a university job mailing list about a month or so before they put the postings up on the job boards. The mailing list message included a direct contact and an e-mail address, so I decided to roll the dice one more time by sending a resume and cover letter to the guy.

Tales Told from the Titanic

In a prior post, I lamented my current employer's tendency to build facades.

My coworker did get a plane ticket for the trip to Beantown late Wednesday evening. The price of the round trip ticket, which departed on Thursday afternoon, was almost $500. He said he thought it was quite a waste of resources, given that they basically had him fly there and back for a two-hour dog-and-pony show, wherein his only apparent purpose was to:

  • Be introduced as the Senior Project Manager.

  • Take notes on the meeting.

They were pitching the product to Red Arc Cable Company. True to form, the presentation made lots of claims regarding features that existed only in the company's website literature, which hasn't been updated since 2004. My coworker said he had trouble keeping a straight face through it all. Afterwards, he said that the CEO and CTO complemented each other on how well the meeting had gone. In reality, though, he said that most of the people in the meeting had tuned out after the early stages of the presentation, either toying with their laptops or PDAs.

This week, the CEO and CTO were out of the office, spending most of their time out in Tinseltown with their client. My coworker was saddled with the task of figuring out why the consulting client we met with the week before couldn't access our portal. It turned out to be an issue with their firewall. Only the CTO could make the changes needed to get things working, and he wasn't responding to e-mails and phone calls from my coworker.

There's been very little movement on the consulting gig since the kickoff meeting almost two weeks ago -- two teleconferences and some e-mail exchanges. I've done my part, setting up a virtual machine for the third party contractors to use for testing, but its setup needs to be validated against the current hosting environment. I provided a status update on this to the CTO over a week ago, and he hasn't even given me an indication that he's even read the report.

Then there's the third-party contractors, whom the CEO and CTO hired to take care of the grunt work. They still have yet to sign an agreement so that they can start work. When my coworker asked the CTO about this on Friday, he said that the CEO was taking care of that and refused to elaborate further. If I've learned anything from having worked with this company for the past two years, if the CEO is involved in a negotiation, you can usually count on it falling apart.

My coworker has been getting a lot of micromanagement static from the CTO through all of this because his role is supposed to be the Project Manager, but he really doesn't have the resources or authority to make relevant decisions on the matter. He's so sick and tired of it he actually applied for a job lead that I sent his way earlier in the week. He also grumbled about possibly quitting at the end of the week.

During quieter moments, my coworker and I have been speculating over what might be going on. Our guess is that the grand design to get bought out by the Tinseltown friend of the angel investor is not going to happen. Perhaps the friend doesn't see the value of buying a company with little intellectual property and not much in the way to offer for staffing talent. Why not just rent them for a while as is being done now or even hire the CEO and CTO? One other possibility is that there is something that got uncovered during due diligence that suggests exposure to risk, and they haven't been able to resolve it.

We think that at some level the CEO and the CTO are aware that the grand design to sell the company and perhaps continue to develop their product has fallen through, but they haven't been willing to admit this to us. They always talk up emerging opportunities and make it look like this is going to be a done deal. But after a while, you never hear about them again.

We think the consulting deal and the sales pitch to the cable company are last ditch efforts to stir up cash flow because whatever they're making on the Tinseltown gig isn't enough for the long haul or might even dry up.

About that Massage

I had my first massage at the clinic on November 10. Admittedly I was nervous going into this because it was the very first professional massage I had ever experienced, but I was determined to confront and face down the anxiety. I disrobed all the way down to the boxers and let the masseuse do the full one hour routine.

Because I wasn't sure what I was going to be encountering, I don't think I was able to get the full benefit of relaxation, but it went really well. The masseuse was very understanding and checked frequently to make sure that I was comfortable with what she was doing. She noted that my calves seemed very tense. Of all the parts of my body. I'm not sure if that comes from the fact that I use the stairs to get to my third floor office or if it is because I sleep on a couch that's not as wide as I am tall.

When I got up to walk, I could tell the hour had made a really big difference. My body didn't feel nearly as tense. I noticed that I slept a lot better this week as well. It helped some with the lack of touch, but it's just a stopgap for now.


I had a counseling session about two weeks ago, and I have another one coming up this coming Monday. Most of it was devoted to workplace stress and the control issues with my wife. The therapist said that my whereabouts the night I went out to the bar should have been non of her business.

My therapist's advice was to let go of the hope that this marriage will dissolve neatly if I just play nice and placate her concerns. My wife's incapacity to view me as a separate person means that this will get uglier as the move out draws nearer. I will need to be strong and stand my ground.

The holidays are going to be difficult because there will be a lot of guilt being tossed my way throughout. I'm pretty sure that when I do have a new job in line, and the new year is here, I will be moving out on my own.
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