Thursday, December 20, 2007

Late Night Listening Installment XXI: Daylight Again

Before I get into the latest news on my personal life, I'd like to note a piece of news that came over the wires a day or two ago, but didn't blog about. In a prior posting, I lamented the loss of Dan Fogelberg to prostate cancer. Now there is news that Stephen Stills, the "Stills" of CSN and sometimes Y, will undergo surgery for the same affliction, on the third day of the new year.

Those of you who are unfamiliar with the individual voices of this supergroup will recognize him as the lead vocalist on "Southern Cross", the song whose lyrics influenced the titles on my blog's sidebar. I was surprised that no one had uploaded the band's video for the studio recording, but this live performance is nice.

The song never rose to the greatness of their earlier stuff. This is no "Suite Judy Blue Eyes" or "Teach Your Children Well", but the lyrics are beautiful poetry.

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
'Cause the truth you might be runnin' from is so small
But it's as big as the promise, the promise of a comin' day

So I'm sailing for tomorrow, my dreams are a dyin'
And my love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain
I have my ship, and all her flags are a flyin'
She is all that I have left, and music is her name

Indeed, there has been many a moment throughout the history of this blog that I've felt like my dreams were dying in some way. And given that this is my 21st post featuring musical selections since July, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that music has helped get me through it all.

The last couple weeks have felt like a high stakes poker game... a near write off of Company Line, an offer from Bonded and Insured, resignation drama with my current employer, red tape from Bonded and Insured, and finally signs that I might have an offer from Company Line.

One of my regular commenters, and a source of good advice, sixdegrees, offered up this gameplan over the weekend:
So here's my take - I suspect that the recruiter for B&I was either having a bad day and didn't want to deal again with a case file that she thought was a done deal, or that she had some ulterior motive for getting you on board before the end of the year (bonus points that make her look good to her boss?).

In any case, I can't imagine that the manager would have strong feelings about moving the start date for a long-term position. And your point about starting the job before all the background and drug checks are in is a very strong point for moving the start date back.

In the meantime, how fast can Company Line put together an offer and decide on a start date? I would go back to them on Monday and say you are very interested, show me the money. If they can put together a competitive offer in a short time frame, then they win and B&I's recruiter ends up with egg on her face. If not, B&I sounds like a much better option than your current employer.

And I decided to act on it. On Monday morning, I called my contact at Company Line and asked him for a ballpark figure on salary and cost of insurance. He said that he would have an offer drawn up for me and that they would try to get it out on Monday.

Later that afternoon, I got a call from the recruiter at Bonded and Insured. I was busy, so I let it go to voicemail. Her message just asked me to call her back. I needed to stonewall her in the event it was about the drug test, so I didn't reply and sent her an e-mail that evening saying that I would be in a meeting Tuesday morning and would try to connect that afternoon.

I wasn't lying when I said I had a meeting on Tuesday morning. My employer had arranged to give a presentation to the group at the medical device manufacturer for whom we had performed a security audit. The CTO had thrown together a huge PowerPoint presentation, almost fifty slides in all.

I had contributed some of the content, including recommendations on tuning security parameters, selecting a PHP framework, and documenting security issues with several applications. A lot of it seemed to have been copied and pasted from other sources, and the organization was somewhat scattershot. But he impressed the client, and he promised them a more detailed report before the end of the year.

Afternoon rolled around. I called home to see if an offer letter had arrived via either regular mail or overnight delivery. My wife said, "no". I was starting to get antsy about the offer, so I sent an e-mail to my contact and asked whether he could send me a duplicate by e-mail. He said that the offer was going to be sent by e-mail and that it should be out to me by the end of the day.

While I was at the security audit meeting, the recruiter at Bonded and Insured had replied to my email, saying that she wanted me to give her a call in regards to me starting on Wednesday. I about blew a blood vessel because our phone conversation from the prior Thursday had ended in agreement that she would contact the manager about a later start date and then get back with me.

I called her around 4 p.m. on my way home from work, leaving early because my wife had to work the girls' dance school supply store and my younger daughter was sick. I told the recruiter that her presumption that I would be ready to go on Wednesday had put me in an awkward situation. She tried to claim that she had tried to call me on Friday, but the caller ID stacks on neither my cell phone nor my home phone showed that she had done so. Moreover, she said that I should have presumed that if I didn't hear anything adverse that I should have been ready to start on Wednesday.

I explained that it wouldn't be good if I called my soon-to-be-ex employer and told them that I wouldn't be showing up, given that I had already caused a stir a week and a half before. She said that that they really shouldn't complain because I had already given them two "bonus days".

She then let slip that they had gotten the results of the drug test and background check that day, so the could not have guaranteed me the position until then. I said that it didn't seem fair that I had to shoulder the risk of possibly being totally unemployed because of their policies, but they would not be flexible enough to move my start date at my request.

She then said that it would cause a lot of paper work problems if they didn't start me on Wednesday, and that my managers wanted to start training me as soon as possible. She was not going to budge. Not wanting to deal with her anymore, but not wanting to slam the door entirely in the event that Company Line didn't come through with a competitive offer, I asked whether I get back with my bosses and then give her a call or e-mail her that evening. She agreed to do that.

I got home and checked my private e-mail. The offer e-mail from Company Line had arrived shortly before 5 p.m., and the offer was wonderful! They beat the salary of the Bonded and Insured by $7,000, and they threw in a reasonable health plan and stock options. I was very happy. There was one sticking point, though. The letter listed a start date of January 14, which would really put me in limbo.

Not being able to stonewall any further, I rolled the dice and left both an e-mail and a voice mail in the wee hours of Wednesday morning with the recruiter saying that I would not be taking the position after all. I didn't receive a reply, and I hope i don't because I'm sure that I torched the bridge over at Bonded and Insured pretty well.

Also on Tuesday evening, the CTO contacted me asking me to prepare a formal letter of resignation for my records and to give them a firm end date so that they could have that squared away for the payroll deadline at noon on Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, I sent an e-mail to my contact at Company Line to let him know that the offer looked good but sought clarification on start date. I asked if it could be any earlier than the 14th. He wrote back promptly, saying that I could start earlier, but anything earlier than the 2nd would be difficult to accomplish. I said that was no problem and then asked them to amend the letter so that it had a start date on the 2nd.

That was enough information for me to safely say that I would be out of my current situation by the end of the year, so I notified the CTO and CEO and wrote up my resignation letter, with language that clearly stated that I would formally resign the position at the end of business on December 31.

I didn't get a reply to that e-mail, so this morning I sent another e-mail, attaching a signed and edited version of the offer letter showing a start date of January 2. I added that if I needed to sign a newly generated letter, I could do that, too. This afternoon, he wrote back apologizing for the delay in replying, and then he said that the letter I sent should be okay, and that he'd be looking forward to me starting on the 2nd.

And so the deal was concrete and completed. After over a year of job searching, countless interviews, and a large number of rejections, I finally have a job, and I can feel the rays of sunlight warm my soul. Such a happy occasion requires at the very least the infamous dancing banana, so here he is:

This occasion brings to mind another song... At Notre Dame football games, it is a tradition that whenever the Irish score a touchdown, the marching band plays a clog called "Damsha Bua". Members of the Irish Guard and even the cheerleaders dance to it. There isn't really a good clip out there of the performance, so you'll have to settle for this snippet.

I think that the offer is the right for me on several levels. I will be charging headfirst into a lot of new skills (LAMP, AJAX, and web services) and learning about building scalable websites, stuff that would have probably made me a better fit for ShovelSite and other high end jobs. If I succeed, this will definitely make me a better fit for the tech hubs out west, should I decide to move out that way. In that respect, it will be keeping some dreams alive.

I will be working in a location that isn't too far from my daughters. The location is a lively place, rich in culture and creativity. The pay will be a 30 % increase in salary. I will be able to use public transportation. And, amusingly enough, I will be spending my time developing a blogging application.

I have a lot of people to thank for having helped me get to this point. Before the weekend is up, I plan on writing a thank you post because there are too many for me to think of right off the top of my head, and I don't want to give anyone short shrift.

Stay tuned, because the story continues...
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