Saturday, December 15, 2007

Late Night Listening XIX: Taking Two, Because I'm So Hard to Please

Our first selection is the third in a series of songs that jingle sans an explicit Christmas motif, the Bangles' cover of the Simon & Garfunkel classic "Hazy Shade of Winter".

The song came to mind this afternoon as I made my way across the parking lot of the local Wal-Hell, on a spur-of-the-moment errand to get more MiniDV tapes for the camcorder. I had just passed a bell ringer for the Salvation Army, and somewhere in the distance I heard a trumpet playing, which made me think of the song's reference to the Salvation Army Band.

But, as things are with a mind that won't let an idea remain idle, I thought about this passage of the song's lyrics:
Time, time, time, see what's become of me
While I looked around
For my possibilities
I was so hard to please
But look around, leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

And, boy, does that ever sum up my spirit at the moment.

Deal... Or No Deal?

In a post from Thursday, I gave an account of the problems I had run into completing a drug screen for the job offer from Bonded and Insured. By mid-day Thursday, I was seriously worried that I might be in a situation where I would have no job at the beginning of next week.

In the early afternoon on Thursday, I sent an e-mail to both him and the CEO about an expense report for my trip to the Bay Area. The CEO brain cramped responded saying that I should go over it with the bookkeeper when she was in the office on Monday. Apparently she had forgotten that I had spoken about starting a new job on the 17th.

A little while later, the CTO IMed me, asking me what day exactly was my last day with them. Seeing an opportunity to hedge my bets, I said that I didn't think we had finalized a day. I then added that the new employer had expressed a desire to have me start on the 17th, otherwise they would have to start me after the holidays, which was true. I said that if they needed me to help wrap things up at the end of the year, I could get a hold of the future employer and see if they would still be willing to start me on the later schedule. He said that they would appreciate it.

So I got on the phone with the recruiter, with whom I had spoken earlier in the day regarding the drug test delays. I reminded her that the reason they wanted me to start on the 17th was to beat the holidays, and that given that they wouldn't be able to start me before the middle of the week, would it not be better for them just to hold off on starting me until the week of the 31st?

I said that the snag with the drug test had raised some concerns that I ran the risk of putting myself in an employment limbo. In essence, they wanted me to make commitments to hire on with them, sign an offer letter, and be ready to go, but they still wanted to have the postpone my start date and retain the right to withdraw the offer, should there be any negative findings on their background check and drug test. Moreover, had I taken on the risk of stoking up ill will with my current employer with the short departure notice. The added time would allow them to complete their background checking and would allow me to leave my current employer on better terms.

The recruiter was resistant to the idea. She said that they really wanted to start me before the end of the year because this position had been open a long time. I asked whether there would be that many people in the office to train me during the shortened weeks. She said that the offices were open on both 12/24 and 12/31, but conceded that most people wound up taking those days off.

She also said that they wanted to start me in December because that way I would be eligible for health coverage in January instead of having to wait for another month to roll around. I said that wasn't a problem because right now my family and I were covered under my wife's health plan, so we didn't have to worry about any kind of transitional coverage like COBRA.

Her tone was markedly different from our initial conversations and was more like the salary negotiation. I felt like she was playing hardball, but I refused to give in. She finally said she would check with the managers to see if it was OK to move the date. Between the red tape of the drug test and the inflexibility, I was quickly losing the warm and fuzzy feeling about this opportunity.

Nonetheless, I completed the drug screen bright and early this Saturday morning. The lab nearest me is one of the few branches with Saturday hours, so I went in when they opened at 7 a.m. I held off from going to the bathroom when I got up so that I would be ready and not be diluted.

Now throw in another piece to complicate this circus, the third ring, if you will. On Monday, I got an e-mail from my contact at Company Line. He said that they had completed the reference checks and for the most part they had turned out well, but there was something that he wanted to discuss with me in person before they made an offer.

I was dying to find out what this was all about, so I played phone tag with him for a couple of days, finally making contact early Wednesday morning. I set up an appointment for 1 p.m. on Friday at the company's offices downtown.

We talked things over at the Coffee on Every Corner. He first apologized for the delay in getting my references checked out, explaining that they had employed an outside recruiter to do the checking. Not only did he send out questionnaires for the referred parties, but he also did phone follow ups.

He said that my former boss had said that my productivity went through a decline during my last years there when I was working as a telecommuter. I acknowledged that this was indeed true. Once kids came into the picture, it became more difficult to remain productive when working from home. It was then that I started to look for employment locally.

He said he was concerned whether their working environment would be good for me, noting that both he and the other full-time developer worked from home a lot of days. I said that was a valid concern because one of the things that had been a morale buster at my current workplace was that I found myself in the office alone so often. Although I'm not an extrovert, I found human conversation to be a necessary ingredient to my well being.

He said that they thought I was a great match with respect to both technical skills and the ability to learn new things, but they didn't want to make me an offer if I didn't think that this would be a good place for me. He said that I could take the weekend to think about this, and if I wanted to move forward, they would extend an offer.

I also had a number of questions about the technology and the operations of the company, based on what I had seen at my current employer. He gave me the impression that they do things quite differently, which was reassuring. I also asked him to give me a demo of the product, so I would see what their software did. All-in-all, we spent an hour and a half talking.

So this weekend, I find myself weighing my options and questioning my motives.

Compensation is a big question mark. My guess is that with $1 million in financing from this summer, they have enough to pay their employees about as much as what I would be making with Bonded and Insured. He said that equity would be part of the package. Health insurance probably will be more expensive, and I will have to pay for parking at Company Line since they are located downtown.

As for challenges, Bonded and Insured won't be as difficult from a technology perspective. I'll have a bit of a learning curve with their database and the financial information connectivity, but their very vanilla when it comes to computing. Indeed, when I was down at the standards group meeting, I crossed paths with an independent consultant who lives up in the north suburbs and used to work for the parent company of Bonded and Insured. He groaned about the company's resistance to newer technologies. The real learning will be in the business domain, where I'm picking up knowledge about the bond market. Those skills might be useful in the long run if I want to move out east and work in finance.

Company Line will be a whole new slate of fresh technologies, mainly in the development of scalable web applications and rich user interfaces. These are the kinds of things that would punch my ticket to either the Puget Sound or Silicon Valley. There is also a growing market for these kinds of skills in this area.

Then there is the quality of life issue. Bonded and Insured is located up in the land of suburban office parks. There are some trees, lots of grass, and retention ponds galore, but you need a car to get everywhere, and cars are all you see when you're looking out the window. I would have a one-hour commute from my current location, and once I moved out, I would probably trade that off for at least 40 minutes distance from my kids. Company Line is located in the heart of downtown. The Circle is teeming with life and culture, and I think this is someplace I would be happier. I would be much closer to my kids.

Barring some divine epiphany between now and Monday morning, my plan of action will be to call Company Line to get a ballpark figure on the salary and cost of health insurance, if the numbers are comparable, I might clench my teeth and roll the dice on them.

The questioning of motives comes into play in a couple of areas.

The first regards my emotional souring on Bonded and Insured. Does Company Line look that much better right now just because I'm mad at the Bonded and Insured Recruiter? Am I doing this just to punish her in some passive aggressive way? Do I really want
to burn that bridge?

The second was whether my pull toward Bonded and Insured may have been partially due to a desire to get as far away as possible from my wife. Am I motivated more by the need for a geographical barrier to keep her from controlling me?

Or is all this indecision the result of some subconscious desire to self sabotage? Man, I am hard to please.

A Special Treat for Commenter GodsKid

In a comment on a prior post, GodsKid writes:
Hey - any video with gorgeous guy and great dancer Gregory Hines is a great video!

I thought about posting a link to the video for Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin's "Separate Lives" since it is from the soundtrack to White Nights, but upon further review, that one doesn't have a lotta Hines in it. So that left me with Lionel Ritchie's "Say You, Say Me", but longtime readers of this blog will remember that I've already used that song in a prior post. Fortunately, someone has been so kind as to post the dance scene from the movie. Enjoy!

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