Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Working Stiff

Hello yeah it’s been a while.
Not much.
How ‘bout you?

Steely Dan?

I’m sitting in at a strange desk in a strange office in a strange town. Say goodbye to icy landscape outside my window and the happy din of children jumping. Hello white walls and florescent lights, and bookshelves of abandoned technical manuals and paperclips and Ethernet cables.

Am I happy? Actually yes. I miss my family, but the selfish part of me is thankful to be learning the back roads. How many times have I sat in traffic at the Alewife station, wishing that I knew a back way around. Three days on the job and I’ve got it nailed.

I’ve stepped into something here—quite unexpected. It seems that I have been given the reins of my own project, a chance to put to task all the theory of which I so eloquently espoused in interviews. If I nail this, then I am officially a software architect, instead of the loose title I’ve held for the last eight years or so.

So, from now on, I’m up at five, and on the road by six, then into the office by seven. Leave at four, home by five. Good luck--especially when I stay up so late.

I hope my blogger buddies are still hanging with me. I have to watch my internet usage at work. Not only that, but this is important to me. Everyone knows I want to be an author, but like the song goes, I like adventure with security. Sticking this job opens a whole new avenue, a road to a peak only a minority subset of developers in my profession ever achieves. Just in case you are wondering, it also means higher pay, which always soothes the nerves. New England is not the cheapest place on the planet to live.

I’ll be checking in as time permits today. Maybe I’ll grab a sandwich and do the rounds at lunch.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Deal is Done

Another opportunity popped up for more money and closer to home, but it wasn't a for sure deal, so I did the right thing and went with the bird in hand. It's funny, but the recruiter that got me the job did so in three days from inception to closure. Not bad for either of us. I submitted my resume to his company a couple weeks ago with no response, so I called the main line and asked to speak with a technical recruiter. Joel answered the phone and looked at my resume, hung up, and called me a couple hours later. We met the next day, and the next day I had an interview, and the next, today, I had the job. That has to be a record.

I put off my start date until next monday, as in a week from this monday. I'm spending some quality time with my family. No job searching, no working, just play.

Emmett, my two year old, is beside me learning how to click on a mouse on Playhouse Disney. He'll be a great programmer some day.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Be John Elway

I have a big interview today that could set me up with a good paying contract for the next six months or more. I have all the skills for the job and more, so it all depends on the questions they ask. I've been to interviews where the questions are so pointed that it seemed like I didn't know anything about technology I use every day to great effect.

There has been considerable drama concerning an investment I just put half our savings into. My cousin is a commerical real estate mini-tycoon in Houston, and he structured a partnership so that his family could all combine to qualify as one investor with the minimum contribution. I panicked at the end when I had to wire funds to the partnership bank account because I got the partnership papers and instructions to wire the money immediately, which sent off the alarm bells and I asked to pull out.

My cousin has been going through hell dealing with another family partner who has been screaming about I don't know what, so he is swearing off any family involvement in the future. Then I had a change of heart and asked to be put back in. People, this is half of my savings at a time when I am out of work, and our current expense exceeds what I was making before, and the salaries here in the Boston area are lower than what I was making. I was a little bit spooked.

Anyway, we are back in. The projected payoff is somewhere between three and five to one. I won't be a made man if it does pay in this range, but I will have some lattitude to invest in a business of my own. It would be a good start. When I pulled out, I felt more like a sailing ship in the middle of the ocean without a wind to push me.

That's the current status. I'll let you know how the interview went. I have to remember to not laugh suddenly, and keep the random spittle factor to zero. Keep calm, no clammy palms, and be John Elway.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I'll Be Bach

Just a quick note to let you know that I'm still alive. I've become one of those bloggers that falls off the virtual landscape once the job search begins in earnest. The editor from the Globe West wrote me back and politely told me that the news business is a hard one to break into, and that I should consider trying out a smaller newspaper to learn the structure of a news story, and to determine if I am truly a news person. I was relieved to hear something back at all; there is nothing worse than no reply.

We went to New York and visited with some old friends, and really had a nice time.

I'm submitted to several companies, and there seems to be opportunity all around me. I'm interviewing well as long as I hold the expectorating to a minimum. My nose is in the study material.

I miss writing, but my wife and I have been bouncing around an idea for a novel that might just have some legs. It has potential, more than most of my half baked inspirations that are no more than a single scene in my head.

I'll be back my friends.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Good News and Bad News

The good news is, I aced the interview. The bad news is, I'm too expensive. We'll just see about that.

Some excerpts from the interview.

Him: Do you have any questions for me?

Me: What's the working environment like here?

Him: Good I think.

Me: Do you look forward to coming to work each day, or is it just another day at the grind?

Him: I really get into it actually.

Me: How about the people here? Are they easy to get along with?

Him: Mostly, but there are a few.

Me: I worked with a guy that refused to work on a Microsoft product. He had that prototypical balding man's ponytail in back ( interviewer laughing ), and a belly full of ho-hos. He refused to do anything unless it was his way. He made it for a month or two until we fired him.

Him: Well, we've had a few of those come through here too.

Later, the CTO walked in and shook my hand. He had a bald pate and a pony tail down his back. Is it possible to interview and keep your mouth shut?

At one point I cracked up at a joke, and a tiny bubble of spit blew through a ray of sunshine and landed between us. He pretended not to see.

Got an interview tomorrow morning at 10. This one involves project management, and they fully understand that I have never functioned in that role. Should be interesting.

One more thing that my dad said to me that I totally forgot to include. He compared me to John Elway. Already I was put off, because I've never heard him say anything good about the guy, and frankly Elway reminds me of a donkey. Dad said this: "When he first came into the league, John Elway was the most baby-faced mother fucker you could imagine. But by the time he left the league, he was transformed--into a man. That's you."

Sometimes he really hits the whole dad thing in stride.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In My Corner

I have an interview today at two with a small company that hasn't really made clear what it is they're looking for. They definitely want someone with my general experience, but it sounds like they develop their own solutions instead of buying it from third party vendors--in other words, my kind of people.

I've always had the philosophy, one that doesn't sit well with my teammates, that it is better to develop it in-house than to rely on other people to get it right for you. This puts me in the extreme minority, and often I have wax poetic about the opposite. An analogy would be a Catholic saying he's Jewish just for a nights pleasure.

Another interview is setup for Thursday, where my new favorite recruiters, Steve and Tom, are trying to set me up as a project manager, even though I've never officially been one. Steve says Tom has an uncanny ability to match people to the hiring managers, and I'm the one.

I told my dad about it, who told me... Well, just listen:

"I've always told you that everybody stoops to shit."

"Yeah, that's true dad."

"It took me a long time to learn it. Things in Ohio were so bad that I moved to Florida where the work was, and my dad told me that they would have me for lunch."

"Wow," I said, "I can't believe that."

"But I did it. And I wore a brave look, but inside I was scared, like maybe my dad was right, that everyone was right, that I wasn't good enough. But I gave you the confidence and you do it without the fear."

"I'll give that one to you dad, I'm not afraid to jump in. But I could be better..."

"Bullshit. I've seen you when you dig in, like Clint Eastwood. Your face gets all scrunched up and nobody is getting in your way. You look those people in the eyes and tell them point blank how it's going to be. If another person can do it, you can do it better."

"Well, alrighty then!" I laughed.

"Ok, I'll get off the soapbox son. Just go get 'em."

How can I fail with that kind of trainer in my corner!

I still haven't heard back from the editors of the Globe West, but I promise to call every other day until I recieve an official rejection, and then I'll call every day after that. I'm good buddies with the receptionist, who remembered me and said the editor was at the main office downtown and hasn't been in yet.

Email, I told him, can be read anywhere.

Maybe I should have left that one out.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Could Be Interesting

I met with both recruiters. The first was very official, giving me the ra-ra speech about her company and what they have achieved over the years. I did my best to look like I cared. For those not in the software biz, a recruiter fills a vital role, one which I respect and value, but some recruiters think there is more to it than there is. Once I take the job, they send me a paycheck and I never speak with the recruiter again. They know it and I know it, so I don't understand why all the hoopla.


The second was my kind of guy. Being a recruiter is a sales position, and you may or may not know, but I hate sales people. But every once in a while I meet one that knows how to do it right. He introduced me to the account manager that has a particular job in mind, but my salary requirement is a little higher than the client is willing to pay. I suggested that he put me in front of the client and let me do the talking. They loved my spunk. We'll see.

But here is the real news of the day, and this is why I like to get out of the house once in a while, because shit has a way of happening. Chloesuggested that I take this opportunity to become a professional writer. I only mildly scoffed at that--there are bills to pay after all. I walked into the building--all marble, glass and steel--fifteen minutes early and looked for the company name on the directory by the elevator. I had just taken a deep breath and thought to myself, "And so the job hunt begins." Across the lobby was a sign on a window that said, "The Globe West."

If you are not from here, that naturally means the Boston Globe.

I couldn't help but feel a small sense of destiny. Go ahead and laugh, but things happen like that to me, little coincidences to which I've learned to pay heed. I stood in front of the doors and put my hand on the knob, but chickened out and turned to walk away, when I saw a beautiful woman wearing a long coat and winter hat.

She looked at me as I was turning around. I asked her, "Do you work here?"

"Yes I do," she said with a curious expression.

"So you write for the newspaper?"

"Uh huh."

"Alright, how does one become a writer?"

She laughed out loud, but not in a way I felt was directed at me if you catch my meaning. "That is a very good question, and every writer has a totally different answer."

"A friend mine," I said, "once wrote stories for a small California paper. Apparently there is a list of stories that the staff reporters won't do, but for a guy like me who is hungry to see his name in print..."

"Sure, we have a pool of freelance writers that choose from a variety of stories. I'm sure our editor would give you a trial piece to do."

And so she wrote down the names of her two editors, and gave me the phone number, and let me use her name as a reference. As I was leaving she said, "And stop by anytime."

Wow. I swear that wouldn't have happened in California.

I called and left a message, but the receptionist gave me the man's email address, so I introduced myself properly, in a manner appropriate for the task I wish to acquire: in writing.

The wheels of fate are turning?

Off to Interview

Quickly, I'm on my way to meet two recruiters, one of which has a client whose senior programmer gave notice. I've stepped into situations like this in the past--a complex jumble of code and nobody around to guide. This is where I shine, and I'll be sure to let them know.

I'm touched by all the responses. I promise to stop by later when I get the chance. It's hectic right now, holding down my job for the next two weeks while interviewing at the same time. And I have customers with support problems that don't know I'm leaving who inundate me with questions.

More later...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Feeling Good

And so the circus begins. I submitted my resume on DICE for a couple positions, and I got a call today from a recruiter, who I have agreed to meet with in Framingham tomorrow morning. This sounds like good news, but in my experience, meeting a recruiter is worth a free lunch--who said there was no such thing?

I feel a little better though. Yesterday I was getting a little down, as if looking for two days constituted abject failure. A guy needs to provide for his family. It's the hunter instinct.

My friend Jeryl has a husband that can best be compared to a sloth--a totally lazy, good-for-nothing leach of a man that is content to live off the fat-o--the-land. She is a very successful business woman, and was an attraction of mine when I was much younger. She knows it too. What a flirt she was. She always wanted a husband to give her kids and the good life, so she always picked the slick ones that seemed to be on a fast track to success. As you can imagine, this methodical approach to dating produced chemically stale results, producing one asshole boyfriend after another, culminating in a loveless, parasitic marriage. Now she has three kids, one of which suffers from an extreme immune disorder, where even a common cold could be fatal.

My heart goes out to her. But how does this guy look at himself in the mirror each morning? He is never around, and he physically abuses Jeryl. She raged at him for not being around for her and the kids, and he answered with a body slam and a full nelson. I've never met the guy honestly. She is my friend but we haven't been in the same town for nigh twenty years. I have a fantasy of walking in the house and beating the living shit out of him, like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, walking out of the house and handing the bloody pistol to Jeryl. Hide this.

I have a lot to do. I will visit you all as I can. There is so much to do.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wish Me Luck

Just to let you know, I lost my job yesterday, so this puts me in a situation. I've been working at home for the last year, and have enjoyed being with my family, even if behind a closed office door. My wife told Jackson that I have to find another job, and that when I find one, I'll have to be gone during the days again. Jackson said, "You mean daddy won't be back until dark?" Yes. He cried.

That's assuming I can find one in this area. I've spoken to recruiters, and the reviews are mixed, but consensus points to a recovering economy, that people in similar situations are finding work. We'll see.

So, if you live in the Boston area and know of a company that hires software developers of the java server variety, then I'm the man.

I don't know how much I will blog. There is a stack of books beside me now. Design Patterns Explained. XML Schemas. I have tutorials on web services, struts and tiles, and working with JBoss. I'll have to dust off the text books on database design principals so I can answer the haughty questions about first normal form and the difference between a left inner and a right outer join. I'll probably have to explain linked lists and hash algorithms, and solve the Tower of Babel puzzle in 8086 assembly language. All in all, I'll have to be Jesus Christ and Mohammed rolled into one great big power joint, one hit from which will knock your dick in the dirt--all to get a job that pays half of what I make now. And by the time I get the job, I'll be grateful.