Friday, May 14, 2010

What I Can Offer and What I’m Looking For

As I’ve said, I’m currently in the market for a jr-mid level .NET developer position in the Columbus, Ohio area. I really dislike being a one person shop. It always feels like I spend more time hunting for new projects than I spend doing them, and that’s just not my idea of an ideal situation.

That doesn’t really say much, though, so I thought I’d put down my wants in writing in order to not only get them out for others to see, but to get them straight in my own head.

First, however, I’ll briefly list some of the things I have to offer (this is by no means an exhaustive list).

What I bring to the table
  • I have several years of experience in writing code.
  • I excel at solving problems and enjoy doing so.
  • I can explain technical issues to non-technical people.
  • I have a professional, yet relaxed attitude.
  • I write well.
  • I am adept at gathering requirements.
  • I tend to be a calming influence on the people around me.
  • I learn new skills quickly.
  • I love writing software that makes a difference to the people who use it.

What I want in an employer (the bullet point edition)
  • A place where I can learn and grow.
  • A sane work/life balance.
  • A sane salary.
  • The ability to, preferably, work around good people who really know their stuff.
  • A relatively relaxed environment is a plus


Now, bullet points are great (or horrible, depending on who you ask), but we can get into a little more detail on my wants/needs.

A place where I can learn and grow –
I honestly want a place where I can expand and hone my skills as well as get back to using some skills that I feel have atrophied since I’ve been on my own, such as leadership and presentation skills.

One of the downsides to being independent is that you have a harder time setting aside time for professional development because you always feel like your time should be spent either doing work or finding more work. You also frequently have a really difficult time getting new perspectives on problem domains.

Sane work/life balance –
I don’t expect every day to be 9 to 5 because, let’s face it, that basically never happens. There are always the occasional crunch times at the end of projects or at the end of a cycle in the project, and that’s fine. The problem is when you are expected to work extended hours on a regular basis as a matter of course.

What I do want is for the occasional crunch times to be just that – occasional. I understand that I’ll find myself staying late or getting in early if there’s an emergency, to prep for a big presentation, a sprint at the end of a project, etc and that’s fine. What I don’t want is to be expected to work for 70+ hours a week.

I love writing software (and solving problems in general). I consider it fun, but there are other things in life that need to be taken care of as well.

Sane salary –
Basically, I want a salary I can live on decently. What I’d like to be paid depends on the position. I realize that lower level positions pay less than higher level positions, and sometimes you have to take a step backward in order to move forward.

If you’re concerned that I’m pricing myself out of a position, talk to me. We may be able to come to an agreement. I honestly want to make the jump, and some things are negotiable in order to make that happen. Besides, there’s been a fair amount of variation in the salary ranges of a lot of the companies I’ve talked to (though they tend to cluster in a reasonably narrow range, so I consider that a decent indication of what I can probably expect).

The ability to work around people who really know their stuff –
This sort of ties in with and extends learning and growing, but I thought it warranted its own point.

I find inspiration from working around other people. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true. Sometimes, just being around other people is enough to make me find novel solutions to problems. Additionally, I tend to learn a lot just from observing and listening to the people and things around me and am motivated by being around people that are better at things than I currently am.

This isn’t limited to just being around experts, though. I’m a firm believer that you can learn something from everyone, so being around other people in my field (and other fields) is a plus regardless of relative skill levels.

Relatively relaxed environment –
By relaxed, I don’t mean Hawaiian shirts and Nerf gun fights. Clothing wise, you’ll usually see me in khakis and a polo or button up shirt.

Relaxed, in this case, is more along the lines of non-hostile. I’ve seen a few companies where the people in charge seem to feel the need to berate and dehumanize the people that report to them (directly or indirectly).

In my personal opinion, that’s not a way to keep good people or to keep them motivated. The world may not be sunshine and roses every day, but you shouldn’t spend every day wondering when the (hopefully) figurative chair is going to fly at your head.

We tend to work better when we aren’t stressed unnecessarily, and since I want to work to the best of my abilities, it seems logical that I don’t want to be in a hostile environment.

Naturally, a discussion of this sort could go on for a considerable amount of time, but I think that covers most of the major points of what I have and what I want. If I sound like a person that would fit in with your organization or you know an organization that you think I would be a good fit for, please feel free to contact me.

Current mood: decent
Current music: Tom Petty - I Won't Back Down

5 comments:

G said...

Good luck with finding that job. Your dream job and company does exist, but employment doesn't exist for the benefit of the employee. You have to prove yourself to the vast majority of companies who would hire you, and that typically means taking a lower paying mundane job to establish proven real world accomplishments and working your way up the food chain. Telling an employer how you can fix their problems and be their messiah of programmers if they hire you smacks of arrogance and pomposity. I graduated from college 5 years ago and started at a really low paying job with a horrible company, but have changed jobs several times since then and am now proving to my current employer why I'm worth the 6 digit salary they're paying me when they hired me last fall. If you're doing contract work now, stay with it. In your blog and resume, you come off as a person who believes he's entitled to a super job with super pay with a super employer. You'll be fortunate to get a job with that perception coming through.

James Hollingshead said...

@G

In all honesty, what about my blog and resume comes off as arrogant? It’s a serious question. I’m always up for honest, constructive criticism. It’s one of the ways we can improve ourselves (personally, professionally, etc).

As for starting out at the absolute bottom of the barrel in order to prove myself, I already have some experience and real world accomplishments. In fact, unlike a lot of people I’ve heard about, everything in my resume is true. Besides, I don’t view wanting a living wage as arrogance (though I’m sure some people would disagree).

I agree that a job isn’t just about the employee, and I don’t see where you get that I do. A job with a company is a symbiotic relationship. As a developer, you bring with you your insight, skills and the ability to deliver value for the company. In return, the company brings the ability for you to pay your bills and the opportunity for you to learn and grow even further so you will be more effective as time goes on and you gain more experience.

There are a lot of other points to the employer/employee relationship, but those are the larger ones.

I don’t present myself as the “messiah of programmers”. Far from it. I state that “This is what I’ve done, these are the things I currently know, this is what I’m working on, and this, as it stands, is where I want to go, but I’m flexible” and I follow up by asking for suggestions on how I can best improve. It’s a pretty pragmatic response in my experience thus far and has tended to be appreciated by most of the people I’ve talked with/interviewed with.

In actuality, I tend to downplay a lot of things because I realize I’m not the only one who was working hard toward the end goal and that it isn’t all my doing (nor is it, by any means, all about me). To be honest, people who know me know that I’m pretty quick to give praise to others for the things they do.

Additionally, I always try to help out other people where I can and give back what I can because I’ve gotten so much help from so many people (especially lately). It’s a very humbling experience, and it’s honestly difficult to even feel up to par sometimes when you’re surrounded by people who not only have yards more experience than you, but *really* work to give back to the community. However, I do what I can to pay it forward and continually strive to improve.

So, I’m sorry that you think I come off as arrogant. Tell me what crosses you as being that way and I’ll see what improvements can be made.

Tim said...

I don't see any arrogance in here, James. You've set out you goals for what you'd like to do, and I commend you for that. Beyond that, salary doesn't show up until the third bullet point, which illustrates that there's more to a job than what it pays.

Another thing I liked was the "what you bring to the table" points. Software is all about solving problems for somebody somewhere. You could write the single most elegant app in the world, but if it solves nobody's problem it's worthless. Listing that you add to the business is something the business should take seriously.

I did roughly the same thing in this post you did: http://blog.timwingfield.com/2010/01/setting-job-change-goals.html

Stick with it, you'll get what you're after. Honesty and transparency are good qualities...they're not arrogant or entitled. Just sayin'...

mgroves said...

It seems a little silly to see you looking for a "jr-mid" position, and then being called arrogant. Seriously? If anything, you're being too humble :)

James Hollingshead said...

@Tim

Thanks for the reassurance.

Money, while important, isn't the end all and be all of what I want. Being able to pay the bills is a necessity, but enjoying what I do and learning to do it better is as well.

I also thought it important to state what I have to offer instead of what so many people do "I want! I want! Gimmie gimmie!"

Let's hope my search comes to fruition soon. It would be a nice change of pace =]


@mgroves

I know. I thought it was a bit odd too. I'd think a "programming messiah" would be going for "god-king of the company".

As for going jr-mid, I've been feelings sort of stunted lately and don't want to get into a situation where I drown. Confidence, I'm sure, is part of the problem, but that will improve with time and work as well.