Thursday, December 17, 2009

Life Update

So almost two months ago, I found a new job.

After I came back home from Seattle, my wife and I stayed at her dad's house - he helped us to get back home, provided a place to stay for us and our children, on the expectation that it would take me around 2 months (in the current economy) to find a job. I looked daily - I started out with a narrow focus, looking for software development jobs so that I could continue doing what I love to do. During this period I had two telephone interviews for Blackbaud, and one for BenefitFocus; both of which considered my lack of team development experience as a reason not to hire me. As the weeks ticked by, I broadened my scope - networking jobs, PC repair jobs. After my first jobless month I began looking into contracting work, and had some small successes there with another contact of mine in NYC - but it wasn't stable or steady enough to earn me a living.

I began to lose hope in finding a job in my field. At around the second month I began looking locally at jobs in computer retail outlets, where at least I could use my knowledge to help me sell stuff. None of the local houses were hiring, and neither were the chains - Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. I began to consider retail in any form - the local mall, other places - but none were hiring (or, at least, hiring someone with no retail experience).

During the fourth month I began to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Gas stations, fast-food, Target or Wal-Mart. I had a fairly promising interview with a telemarketing company, which might have become my fate if not for Tasha's diligence - you see, she never gave up looking for programming jobs in the first place. Throughout this whole process she would send me a list of programming jobs to apply for - and although I had already given up hope of getting one, she would hound me until I applied anyway.

Thank God for Tasha.

Near the end of the fourth month - after Ta's dad had told us that he wanted us out, kids and all - I got an email from a corporate recruiter for a multi-national military contractor who was interested in interviewing me. I wasn't terribly excited - I figured it would be another dead end, but I called her anyway. She asked me the standard bits - questions about my experience, schooling, etc. After we were done she asked me to come in for an in-person - I of course accepted, but still wasn't optimistic. The in-person is usually where I bomb; I get nervous, and when I'm nervous I sound like I have no idea what I'm talking about.

But there was one plus-side: she told me that my interviewer wanted to see a code review. Here at least I would have the chance to prove I'm capable of programming, even if I stammer like an idiot through the interview. So that's what I did - specifically, I spent about 30 minutes building a simple recursive descent expression parser and evaluator in C# (very similar to the one I wrote in F#), and send that on. It ended up around 150 lines or so - 3 printed pages, so I figured it was large enough to serve as a sample, yet small enough to evaluate.

The interview day came, and off I went. I met my future boss (Dan) and his senior developer, and had the interview. We discussed my resume, my experience, my schooling. Soon we came to the code sample - which Dan had printed out and brought with him. At this point I was still quite nervous, though Dan had a very open demeanor - but when the code sample came up, I knew that this would be the thing to either make me or break me, as it were.

I shouldn't have worried so much - "Quite pleased" I believe the words were, describing the code sample I submitted. He asked me why I picked that particular topic, if I'd used that piece of code in a project - I told him no, but I've always been fascinated with compilers and languages, so since I wasn't given a specific assignment I figured I'd display that interest in the code sample. The more we talked about the code sample, the more they seemed to like me, and the less nervous I became.

After that we talked about technology, the trends therein, and how closely I follow new developments, and that sort of thing. I asked about the team, who I'd be working with, and where I'd fall in the spectrum. Surprisingly, he told me that the entire team is largely made up of lone coders, like me, who, also like me, are looking for more than the lone coder experience - they, like me, want to build a cohesive team that works together, rather than as separate entities on separate projects.

I was to suffer for a week before I found out whether I got the job or not. After the interview, I was stoked - this was a company that seemed to really get it, and was trying to put together a solid development team. I badly wanted this job - not just because I needed it, but because I truly wanted it.

Needless to say, I got the job. =) So this is where I work - and so far, it's been a blast. =) The people are great, the work is stimulating, and the company is stable - growing, in fact, despite the economy. I joined sort of at the ground floor on this particular team, and already I'm helping to set policy and precedent regarding how the team will work. I'm part of a committee tasked with developing a team-wide code standard, and along with our senior developer I'm helping to bring everyone up to speed on .NET (we have a great variety of development talent and experience, but not much .NET).

So there you have it - that's been my life for the past 7 weeks. =) Things are looking up for me, and despite the fact that I write code all day, my interest in it is actually *growing* rather than shrinking, as it did at my last place of employment.

18 comments:

andrew cooke said...

excellent news - congratulations

(i'm just some random stranger following a link from hackernews at ycombinator.com :o)

tamersalama said...

Me too - straight from HN. Congrats and good luck.

Tim and Lauri Inman said...

'Great Story. Thanks for sharing

Marcos Toledo said...

Same here, straight from hacker news. Congratulations on your new job and best of luck!

And merry xmas! :)

Erik said...

Wow - thanks you guys. =) I had no idea people were reading this... o.O

NathanKP said...

Best of luck with your new job. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

(In case you are wondering I and probably most of the others came from Hacker News, where your article is currently linked from the top page.)

Nathan - Experiment Garden

Miles said...

Makes us all feel better. Congratulations.

Josh said...

Glad to hear it! Best of luck!

Maintenance Man said...

Congrats on landing the job. It is nice to read a story with a happy ending in this economy.

Kindleman said...

Good job! And best of luck.

Jamu said...

Congratulations!
keep going :)

amitabh said...

hey Congrats! really inspiring..

HappyCodeMonkey said...

I'm having a frustrating job search right now, this post cheered me up quite a bit. Thanks, and congrats on finding something cool! :)

Matt said...

Thanks for sharing! I can echo a similar experience in the S.E. U.S. 6 months of unemployment after moving with my wife to a new city for her career. Unlike you though, I settled for a software "technical support" position in a private software company - though I can't complain, I am still looking for that coding job...

Congrats to you! Sounds like you have an awesome wife and a great job :)

Jeffry Morris said...

Cool story, congrats. I just randomly stumbled upon this from haacked ;)

mxj said...

Congrats on your new job! Likewise, I think it's great to hear a successful outcome in today's job market. Also, thanks for sharing your experience with us and hopefully it will serve as encouragement for others looking for a job too.

Happy Holidays to you and your family :)

adam said...

Congrats bud -- good to know :)

Preets said...

Congratulations ! For the job and the blog ! Wal-mart will miss you though ;-) .. (got here thru SO)