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  • Michael Krakovskiy 1:05 am on June 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Beanball, corporate site, decent software developers, dice.com, Director of Back End Development, Employment, , , , HeadCount, hiring manager, , Job interview, Linkedin, , , monster.com, , operating systems, , , Recruitment, second recruiter, travel sites, , VP of Web Things, VP of Web Things already explored somewhat, , Web Things, Webco Enterprises, , ,   

    Hunting Heads and Developing Back Ends 

    I’d like to share with you a few thoughts about tech recruiting. This is not a post about how to write resumes, read resumes, ask or answer tech interview questions. Enough is written on the subject by people who are better at all of this than me. No, it’s about that email that arrives in almost every developer’s inbox about “a full-time, permanent position with a very competitive salary” for “a very prestigious company located in mid/down/up-town” which is looking for “an alphabet soup of technologies”. Half the time it’s a phone call. These happen during the times of boom and bust in the tech sector, although with varying frequency.

    Now, people who are not programmers would probably think that this is spammers or scammers who will ask for a fee. Well, there is a fee involved, but this is not scammers: every time there’s a reasonably well paying job involved. A huge number of programming positions gets filled this way.

    There’s always a shortage of decent software developers, project managers, system administrators and allied tradespeople. This was true back when I was starting my career, in 1997, but it only got worse. First of all the cost of running a startup came down from hundreds of thousands of dollars to thousands, and many talented programmers with ideas, tolerance of Ramen-heavy diet, slumming, and a little risk exited the corporate workforce to build url shorteners and travel sites for hipsters. Top notch people with kids and/or love of brightly colored furniture and fridges stocked with fancy sodas were vacuumed up by Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and other modern Xerox Parc-wannabees. The hedge funds sucked in all those who are good at implementing complicated formulas and algorithms in code that can make a Kessel run in 12 parsecs or less.

    The biggies look for a healthy mix of specialists, but they can easily afford to hire jack-of-all trades hackers. Everybody else usually looks for a person who has proven experience with a certain “stack” – an alphabet soup of languages, operating systems, and servers. Sometimes stacks are ageless like COBOL, CICS, DB2 – even today typing it into dice.com brings up 155 results. Some come out of favor: LISP – only 16 results though. Somer are old standbys: Php MySQL Apache – 370 results: C# SQL Server IIS – 439 results. Some, like RoR are up and coming – 93 results.

    If you are relatively young(cheaper that way) and have done some work with a fashionable stack your phone will be ringing weekly with recruiter calls in the dreariest days of a tech bubble burst. If you are a specialist who deals with a particularly gnarly piece of hot tech – it will ring a few times a week.

    Now here we come to a somewhat interesting phenomenon. Most of the time the person calling is a “headhunter”. Here’s what’s happening:

    Web department in company Webco Enterprises has an opening. It could be caused by a number of things, but most commonly

    1) after gettig tired of incessant complaining of the VP of Web Things, the Bean Counter finally agreed to budget in Y dollars for another headcount.

    2) an experienced headcount who was making Y dollars accepted an offer of Y + $30,000 + an office with a door from company iWeb 2.0 and left.

    So here is VP of Web Things with a budget of Y dollars. She’s swamped with work. In the next team meeting she tells her nerds to ask all of their friends if they know somebody and offers a referral bonus. Next she puts together a typical job ad complete with technological alphabet soup and takes it to the Master of HR. The Master of HR posts it on the company intranet, on the corporate site and on monster.com, dice.com, etc. Next VPoWT goes to the same sites and looks for candidates who posted their resumes there. It’s mostly drek, and the one person who might be ok wastes a lot of her time because he has another offer for Y + $10,000 from another company.

    Now more desperate, she starts using “headhunters”. They send a couple of somewhat crappy candidates, followed by one barely ok one, followed by one who’s good enough. After a little song and dance the good one accepts Y dollars per year minus – 15% that silently go to the recruiter. The next few years he’ll be getting modest raises and maybe even a bonus or two that will not break the budget: the Bean Counter approved Y dollars, and it stays in the budget like that, and the headhunter only gets paid once.

    Now, here’s what was happening on the other end: headhunters start pounding searches into their computers. LinkedIn, all recruiting sites, internal databases, etc. They might not understand what those letters in the alphabet soup mean, but they sure can try to match them up with what comes back from searches. Then they start shooting in the dark – it’s easier to get people who are currently looking for jobs, but it’s the shallow end of the pool that VP of Web Things already explored somewhat. They start pinging people who are working at the moment – this is where the good heads are.

    Finally someone hunts up the the right head for VPoWT’s headcount and pockets the 15% of a yearly salary of that head.

    Now, here comes the interesting part: most of these headhunters who are calling are trying to line up publicly available job listings with people on LinkedIn. For instance, I recently received two emails about a rather awkwardly named position “Director of Back End Development” (second recruiter spelled it “Backend”).

    I looked it up on one of the recruiting sites (I think dice.com), and it was an old and infamous pre-dot-com-boom company that chose such a unique job title for what I do for a living. It was literally the only one with that creative title. I could have applied directly, bypassing the 15% headhunter’s fee. This is the reason why headhunters rarely name the company name.

    In the past, through my random and numerous connections I’ve heard stories about what the setup is like at that place, and it’s a doozy. I’m pretty sure that the person who will take that job will take a lot of development up his or her back end.

    The moral of the story is this: it’s easy enough to bypass recruiters – they are just engaged in arbitrage: the hiring manager is busy, the potential headcount is not even looking. That 15% is OPM (other people’s money) to the hiring managers, but not so much to the headcounts.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 4:30 am on October 11, 2006 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bionic Woman, Bionics, Bowerbird, , Cybernetics, Cyborg, electronic communications, , Linkedin, , online social networking, personal web pages, , , , Social networking service, social networking sites, , , , The Bionic Woman, The Six Million Dollar Man, , Web Beta, web professional, web programmer, William Gibson   

    Bionic Social Networking 

    The words bionic and cybernetic kind of lost their original meanings in the English language. I squarely blame The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, and The Bionic Boy and the rest of TV and movie cyborgs as well as William Gibson.

    Cybernetics is the science of control and communication. That does not only include electronic communications and numeric control. All kinds of control and communication. Thus we are all technically cyborgs or cybernetic organisms. Cyber- was a hot bizz-prefix in the 50s and 60s, but today steadily deteriorated into something anachronistic. People say “cyberspace” to sound old-timey, like when Mr. Burns from The Simpsons says “alienist” instead of “shrink.” Meanwhile, the study of usability, which in demand because of its apparent usefulness, is basically a subset of cybernetics. Yet when something is described as cyber-something, everybody promptly imagines gleaming steal and humanoid robots or cyborgs.

    The word “bionic” fares even worse because of The Six Million Dollar Man. Something bionic is not necessarily “better, stronger, faster”. It means that it’s modeled on something found in nature. Like the Coca-cola “contour bottle” that is based on the cacao pod.

    Anyway, what I wanted to write about has something to do with both cybernetics and bionics. As a web professional, I have witnessed and participated in the rise of online social networking. Social networking squarely falls into the cybernetics category as communication through technological means. The though that occurred to me is that it’s also bionic.

    The only difference between Web 2.0 and Web 1.0 or Web Beta is ease of use. Things have become slightly easier, but personal web pages, blogs and social networks like myspace are basically the same thing that has a rather interesting counterpart in nature. The best example from nature is the behavior of bowerbirds. These birds build garish and elaborate nests “called bowers” to attract mates, which is a rather counter-intuitive behavior, as blinged-out nests are a prime target for predators.

    “Depending on the species, the bower ranges from a circle of cleared earth with a small pile of twigs in the center to a complex and highly decorated structure of sticks and leaves – usually shaped like a walkway, a small hut or a maytree -, into and around which the male places a variety of objects he has collected. These objects – always strikingly colored – may include hundreds of shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, berries, and even discarded plastic items, pieces of glass or similar things. The bird will spend hours carefully sorting and arranging his collection, with each thing in a specific place. If an object is moved while the bowerbird is away he will put it back in its place. No two bowers are the same, and the collection of objects reflects the personal taste of each bird and its capability to procure unusual and rare items (going as far as stealing them from neighboring bowers).”

    Isn’t a bower strikingly similar to a myspace profile? If these birds could figure out how to set background music and master JavaScript copy and pasting they definitely would. Myspace is not better, faster or stronger than other social networks or blogs, but it’s sure bionic.

    I, personally already attracted a mate years ago. I’ve accomplished that with an old-fashioned web page (true story) that any modern myspace bowerbird would be jealous of. As I don’t need any more mates, the only reason for me to use social networks is to find friends. Also, as a web programmer I am interested in seeing the interfaces, technical tricks and various doodads that earn other developers kajillions of dollars.

    Also, recently I was talking with a friend of mine (whom I’ve known for many years online and never met offline, by the way), and got into an argument about privacy feature trends in social networking sites. He countered my argument about something that Myspace does by saying that I don’t even have a Myspace account and thus don’t know what I am talking about.

    Well, I went ahead and created one. I also got an account at LinkedIn, Facebook, and del.icio.us . I even created an account in William Gibson’s wet dream, Second Life, although thanks to my geek-atypical aversion to role-playing games I could not suffer though more than 15 minutes there.

    In any case, I welcome all of you to go and check out my digi-bowers and add me as your friend.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 9:41 am on June 8, 2006 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Deadprogrammer.com, Linkedin, , , ,   

    Mr. Anonymous-No-More 

    Those of you who only read the RSS feed, might not have noticed that I added two new sections to Deadprogrammer.com: About this site and About the author.

    Now you can learn my secret identity, find out what equipment and software I use, and even add yourself to my Linkedin network.

     
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