Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

seeking career advice

I graduated with a BS degree in cs in 2001, pretty much around the dot com crash.I got a job at an engineering firm doing CAD type Graphics/C++ work. I did not know C++ then at all, but have a fairly strong Math background.The work I did there was fairly algorithm intensive, working with API's developed internally, and dealing mostly with 3D algorithms. After 15 months was let go because of a funding constraint, but have excellent references from there. It was a shrink wrap product being developed there.
After a few months found another job working on search engines/ data mining work for one of the top 10 search engines. in that project I worked on developing heuristic algorithms concerning Info retreival and statistics as well as some machine learning.
The work I did rivals some work at another major public search firm, and had it not been propritary,I was thinking of publishing it.
After some time I decided to go to grad school, now that I am back on the market again, I am finding in interviews people saying your "algorithms" side is strong as well as language skills C++,Java etc.. but they want people with EJB,MQSeries, enterprise level technologies, and all that.After 5 interviews going like this, I am absolutely frustrated.
My answer to them is if I can work with CAD and search engines, why can't I work with Web,Database,UI stuff?
Is anybody hiring a developer currently? If so please contact me through the link.I believe I am a fairly competent developer with 2.5 years experience, but nobody wants to touch me with a 10 feet pole!
I am seriously considering leaving the field, even though I like it so much.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Can you not find another job doing something graphicsy? That shouldn't require up to date knowledge of the latest API du jour. (Judging by my experience with computer games there are still some sectors where your CV doesn't have to be chock full of the latest buzzwords.)

Insert half smiley here.
Monday, March 15, 2004

Why have you not interviewed at employers who could use your CAD and search engine skills?  Not looking for that type of work now, or just can't get an interview?

The job market is still very poor right now.  Just getting 5 interviews sounds like you are doing well in your job search.  That is too few to give up if you are really interested.

Monday, March 15, 2004

I can't find any similar employers in the area.There is one company which does similar work, and went there for 2 interviews, but it did not work out.I am going on 6 face to face and another 5 telephone, so a total of 11 interviews.
Hope I get something soon.I am open to relocation, if anybody cares

Monday, March 15, 2004

Welcome to the current job market.

"Do you know FooTool 1.2 patch level A, the Zippy IDE (version only), and have experience with source control system SquaddlyDo?"

"Well, no, but I've learned competitor's versions for each of those and used them actively for the last 5 years. In addition, I've published 37 papers on related topics, was granted a PHD, and won the nobel prize."

"Well, sorry, your qualifications don't meet our needs.  Please feel free to apply again once you update your skills."

With the abundance of unemployed developers, folks are simply matching checkboxes.  Know this? that? the other?  If you don't match the checkboxes, forget it. 

Mindlessly stupid way to find an employee, but it's the way things are.

Chris Kessel
Monday, March 15, 2004

"Frustrated" - your background is unusually strong in terms of hard computer science. That is still a rare a commodity.

You should definitely set your sights higher than the "web app monkey" stuff. Most of the people that work on that kind of thing just know a few products and that's about it. You're a real software engineer; don't sell yourself short.

If I were in your situation, I would actively seek out the companies that do stuff that interests me. Research them, try to figure out who you need to talk to there, and then put together a pitch the says exactly what you can do for them, and that conveys your enthusiasm. It's very important to try to by-pass HR and recruiters when doing this. You need to be aggressive. Go door knocking if you have to! (I've done it... believe it or not, it can really work).

I'm not sure what specific areas interest you, so I can't make any suggestions. But let me reassure you that even though the market is tight, there ARE people out there hiring -- and you have very saleable experience for the right shop. Consider it a blessing that you aren't a button-pushing trained monkey who's sole claim to fame is experience with <insert product of the month>  -- you're better than that!

Monday, March 15, 2004

Frustrated wrote, "I am seriously considering leaving the field, even though I like it so much."

Programming/software development can be a fun activity and this is one reason why the Open Source movement has a such a huge following nowadays. Earning a living developing software can be a fun experience as well, unfortunately, that feeling typically doesn't last very long for most folks.  :-(

Frustrated wrote, "...but they want people with EJB, MQSeries, enterprise level technologies"

Well, it would help if you told us how you got the opportunity to interview for the five unsuccessful interviews you had. That said, what you are experiencing is a catch-22 that has existed in this industry for quite some time. The people who interviewed you appear to be looking for "instant experts". That is, they want an employee who:

* Can teach their existing employees something they don't already know
* Doesn't need any training or mentoring

I wish I could tell you how can get around the "instant expert" syndrome that permeates just about every corner of this industry, unfortunately, outside of "faking it and being dishonest" or having connections inside the company nobody seems to have figured out how to overcome this problem. Once upon a time, most companies that hired developers didn't expect much out of them during their first couple of months on the job, well as you probably already know, those days have long since passed and this is one reason why so many resumes nowadays contain outright lies and half truths.

One Programmer's Opinion
Monday, March 15, 2004

Of the 5 unsuccesful interviews I gave, couple were at an engineering form doing similar kind of work, one was a phone itnerview with IBM, and one was a regular .Net shop, where the CTO mentioned I would get "bored" on the job.Another one was at a consulting shop again doing .Net and C++.I had the C++ but not the domain GIS knowledge.I had one more last week with a large consulting firm doing web stuff, where one of the interviewers told me they wanted somebody more client focussed.

Monday, March 15, 2004

"...EJB,MQSeries, enterprise level technologies, and all that"

Do you really want to be doing that?  It sounds that your skills are very high-end.  You might be simply looking for the wrong jobs.  What do you want to do?

Almost Anonymous
Monday, March 15, 2004

Ideally I would prefer the kind of work I was doing before, but right now I might have no choice, being pretty desperate for a job

Monday, March 15, 2004

Would you consider living in Tahoe?  We are always looking for people like you.

christopher baus (
Monday, March 15, 2004

You don't want to be doing "enterprise level technologies". They'll bore the shit out of you and suck any joy out of your job.

The stuff you're qualified in sounds like a hell of a lot more fun, try to find a job doing that.

Sum Dum Gai
Monday, March 15, 2004

Your technical skills sound solid and congratulations on getting far enough to be interviewed.

How did you come across the jobs you found so far?  Through job boards or personal contacts?

Monday, March 15, 2004

This won't help you get a job frustrated, but maybe it'll "cheer" you up:

Or just make you more depressed ;_)

Monday, March 15, 2004

The interviewer is an idiot for thinking that somebody who knows all that high-end mathematical algorithmic C++ stuff won't be able to learn EJB and MQ easily.  Within 2-3 months you would become better than their typical existing staffer who has 2-3 YEARS with the specific technology.

But it's probably a good thing you didn't get that job.  The other person was right -- you would get bored.  There are other jobs out there more suited for your talent and experience.

T. Norman
Monday, March 15, 2004

Don't leave the field!  It sounds like you have a very good background.  Don't get frustrated yet.  You're expereince is typical.  I had one person in the morning tell me I was too much of a front end developer for the job and later that same day was told by someone else I was too much like a back end developer.  You can win with some people.

I agree with the above posters, it really sounds like you are too good for those places you interviewed with, seriously.  Just hang in there. 

Bill Rushmore
Monday, March 15, 2004

Frustrated, you should go and join a field that understands and rewards talent.

Software development used to do this before accounting firms and business lobbyists got involved, but it doesn't now.

Medicine's a good field for intelligent people.

Monday, March 15, 2004

>>You should definitely set your sights higher than the "web app monkey" stuff. Most of the people that work on that kind of thing just know a few products and that's about it. You're a real software engineer; don't sell yourself short.<<

Hell yes, the OP sounds like he is a seriously competent software engineer.

He should leave the web stuff to chumps like me who are only interested in keeping discs spinning in our PS2s.

It would be a damn tragedy if someone of his calibre couldn't find fulfilling work.

Mediocre ASP Monkey
Monday, March 15, 2004

Christopher - you mean you are always looking to hire really desperate people?

Frustrated - the number of interviews you've had is very good given the state of the market. You seem to be unable to "close" the deal though which is what may be holding you back. Is there somewhere you can go for interview coaching (just a suggestion)?

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Having many interviews, with lame reasons for not hiring usually means there are other reasons that are too troublesome to tell.

If they really wanted somebody with EJB and MQSeries or GIS domain experience, they should have known about the lack of the same from the resume and not bothered with an interview.  If they believe the high-end background would cause boredom when developing regular business apps, they also should have been able to determine that from the resume.

So there is probably something related to the poster's presence or presentation that is triggering a prejudice in the mind of the interviewer.  Could be something that can't be changed like race or (lack of) height, or could be other factors such as visible tattoos, body odor, tone of voice, accent, or attire.  It is troublesome to give any of those factors as a reason, so they give another lame but more "politically correct" reason as a cover-up.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

I'm a Canadian web developer with 5 years experience in the field, B.Sc. in CS. I've been looking for a job for the past 6 months.

This is some of what I got in my fruitless job search :

This is the kind of bullshit a LOT of employers pull - .NET has NOT been around for 10 years, you #$#@%& !!!

"Do you have any experience with our internal WdgetGizmo software ?" (read a gazilion times on Governement of Canada IT job posts).
Well no, you idiots, I never worked for you before, how could I have learned it, since it is INTERNAL ???


The various comments about employers looking for specific technologies are spot on.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Don't sweat the Canadian government jobs, they are notorious for already having a person in the position that they want to keep but are forced to tender the position due to treasury board requirements. Thus they end up writing the position's description in such a way that only one person could possibly fill the role, the current incumbent. Thus if you see a government position with strange requirements listed, you know what's happening.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Yes, I figured that one out too - doesn't make it right, though...

I've had coop exerience in three distinct federal departments, and I know for a fact that not much work gets done there. 

The reason I still want in is job security - in the private sector, especially is smaller companies, you have to be the guy who sleeps at the office to keep your job.

I love developing software and learning new technologies, but I don't want to HAVE to make a hobby out of it just to be "good enough" to keep my job.

I've been delving back in programming since christmas, though - can't get too rusty.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home