Absence, priorities, and new endeavors

I haven't updated in awhile. 😔 My last post on Docker + Wordpress was in September! It is no coincidence that September was also the month that fall semester started at ODU. Studying and coursework became my priority, and edged out writing and posting to the blog in the process. Balance can be difficult to achieve while I'm working full-time, taking 9 credit hours a semester, and trying to make time for friends and family. When the semester ended 3-4 weeks ago, I didn't jump right back in to personal projects (or blogging) either. I tried to catch a breath of air and relax some around the holidays, and the time that I did spend on "career development" activities took on a new focus...

I got a jerb!

Waaaaay back in October one of my classmates tipped me off about a job opening with his employer. He was 100% confident in my ability to do the job, despite the massive discrepancies between my experience/resume and the posted job listing1. So I put my information into a faceless online applicant tracking system. I got a call from a recruiter at the company, made it past the initial screen, etc. and they wanted to set up a technical interview. My friend was talking me up to his boss, and it turns out that (my friend) is the person doing the technical interview. Sadly, it was at this point in the process when we confirmed that the client -- located in Chesapeake -- wanted someone local (no remote work) and I'm in Winchester.

When one door closes, blow a hole in the wall.

This false start did have one significant benefit -- it gave me a shot of confidence about my prospects as a candidate for developer positions, even though at the time I was still 8-9 months from graduating with my BS in Computer Science. I began reaching out to people who might know of jobs in the field, and quickly turned up another lead. It resulted in several interviews (including a technical interview w/ coding exercise), but I ran into the same issue with location and lack of support for remote work. I just can't commit to a job that might lead to a 2 hour commute - each way!

Which leads to the final chapter in this story...

When it became apparent that the commuting situation would be a problem, I followed up on another lead at the company where my friend Chad works as a lead developer. I checked with him first to make sure he was okay with the idea of me applying for an open position, and then emailed off a resume and cover letter, which I think got sucked into a digital black hole somewhere. I'm pretty sure Chad saved the day and did me a solid by following up and asking the HR/recruiting folks about me, because I didn't hear anything for 3 weeks, and then the initial correspondence with their recruiter mentioned that Chad had passed along my resume and information. So thanks for that Chad!

I'll admit it -- I was pretty psyched when I eventually heard from them. I have observed that Chad seems to like where he works, and he is also able to work remotely the majority of the time. So going into the process, I had already observed the company being supportive of remote work in general. Fast forward, get going through their interview process, had already completed their technical exercises2 (like a boss), completed another round of interviews, and finally, waiting for a decision.

My Christmas present came early!

They made an offer on December 22, and after brief salary negotiations I signed the formal written offer on Dec. 28! What a way to start the new year! First day should be January 11, and I'm super excited about being able to start a career that I want to be doing.

So I learned:

  • My degree will be a significant accomplishment for me, and I'm sure helped boost my hiring prospects, but was not strictly necessary during this particular job search. I won't let lack of a specific credential hold me back!
  • A job search really is about personal relationships and connections. All three of these opportunities were enabled by connections / friendships with current employees. This is a good lesson for me to finally learn and accept.
  • It never hurts to ask... I was initially hesitant to ask about negotiating the salary with the formal job offer, and apparently I'm not alone. I'm eager to begin my career in software development, and would have been pretty upset if my counter-offer had caused the company to rescind the job offer. That said, I did my research and carefully crafted a response that expressed my excitement about the company and the position/role I would be filling, while also building a case (with supporting evidence/data) for a higher base salary.
  • I have lots to learn about the business domain that I'll be working in!
I'm looking forward to the next phase of my career!

  1. If I remember correctly, this podcast goes into some discussion on the issue of job listings/descriptions -- how they're created by committee and as they pass across the desks of various HR and management folks the description ends up hilariously inaccurate (when compared to the actual skills / experience required to do the job).

  2. Chad and I recently had a discussion about the idea of me working through his coding exercises and technical interview questions to give him feedback about the difficulty. He had already interviewed several candidates for this opening, and on a couple of occasions people made it through the initial verbal interviews and then bombed on the technical exercises (or failed to complete them at all). During the interview process with the previous company, I followed up with him and asked if I could take a look at the questions, both to give him feedback and to get practice before my coding exercise. As a bonus though, when I later interviewed with his company I had already done the "prove I'm not a complete idiot on technical stuff" part.