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Month: May 2011

College Bites, Your Hiring Practices Suck, Talent is Worth It

College Bites, Your Hiring Practices Suck, Talent is Worth It

I have recently been on a lot of interviews. When I say “a lot” I mean something like 15 a week for a few weeks (after I weeded out the dregs via phone and I bet Verizon Wireless now wants to have my baby in appreciation). My marathon interview sessions are now over but they made me think of a few things.

  1. Small companies are much more fun than larger, established companies
    I have done a lot of work with New York City and financial companies. Not to imply that there are not cool people working at these places but the red tape and fear of management sends the message that no one can do things as they know they should be done. Instead employees often opt for “the old way” simply because it will make the fewest waves. If we do not innovate we will never have anything innovative. Perhaps the business of money does not change much from day to day but how we store data relating to money? Priceless.
  2. People love wacky projects
    I have written a few things about projects that I did for the sole enjoyment of it. Because of the fact that someone told me I could not, I set out to prove my theory that they were wrong, wrong, wrong. One such project was my crazy RAID array. As I admitted in the article, it serves no practical purpose. It helps no one (except teenage boys hiding their porn collections) but it was just cool. I enjoyed working on it and the people I have shown it to loved looking at it. They love them because it proves I am not just a pretty face– artistic license– but that I can create new, creative methods which they can use. Depending on the project the wow factor alone may be worth an idea man (read: manager of some kind).
  3. College is a waste of money
    Yes, yes, this is the dirty secret no one wants to admit after they wasted ~four+ years of their lives. The fact of the matter is that years ago when my parents were getting ready for their live in the American work force college looked great on paper. It set them apart from their peers because not everyone had the chance to attend. Here we are in 2011 and the government has social programs up the whazoo. These programs sound great when you are deciding who to vote for until you realize, “hey… if everyone goes to college now I am getting deep into debt and spending years of my life just to break even?” It may not make me popular among parents but I say go for the experience with something to show for it right away (no, a degree is not proof of anything other than you can sit down and shut up so stop asking).
  4. New college graduates do not know anything
    To my last point, theory is great. Theory allows us to stand on the shoulders of giants, build on their work, and gives us a spring board to jump off of. Of course, what you can do with theory is just that. There is nothing you can not learn on your own with an Internet connection and a tiny amount of spare time here and there. I just came across a great article which explains my point very well and argues that the new college graduate that looks great on paper has not really done anything yet. They do not yet understand that the several kinds of sort algorithms they just learned do not matter nearly as much as the ability to write understandable code. Every problem is going to look like a nail to them since their lack of experience only gives them a hammer.
  5. Smart employers will fight over talent
    I do not mean to imply I am smarter than most. What I mean is that penny-wise equals pound-foolish. If you find someone you love but choose not to hire because they are $5,000 a year more then someone you just like you may be screwing yourself in the long run. This would need to be decided on a case-by-case basis but good talent pays for itself. Bad– or no– talent means unmanageable code that needs to be rewritten down the road. This also speaks to my experience point above: Some of us are more expensive because you get more employee for the price. If you are a small company who can not afford to hire specialised people that programmer with the strong storage background is going to come in handy when you need to upgrade your NAS array at the extra cost. Good people are called such for a reason.

For the record New York City had some of the best people I have ever worked with, bar none. They knew their stuff, they were down-to-Earth, and they were loyal and hard working. Anyone would be so lucky to have any of them.

Update 2011.05.27
Not to imply that I am the cause but I have been noticing a lot of this kind of commentary in the news as of late. [1] [2]

WebHouse, Inc., Goodbye

WebHouse, Inc., Goodbye

In ~two hours at 8:00PM EDT I will be driving out of the WebHouse, Inc. parking lot for the last time after over 15 years. It was my first job and for a long time I thought it would also be my last and only. This is bitter sweet.

I wish us both the best.

The Social Web

The Social Web

In the past I have mentioned Facebook and related sites. Whenever I have talked about them, however, it has been in a technical capacity. I never really gave much thought to the why.

Very quickly, what could we say about Facebook on a technical note? Well, the site is– or, at the very least, appears– dead simple. Some user sticks some data in a web-based form. It is then stuck into a database for long-term storage. Later, another user wants said data so it is retrieved and displayed. Simple. There is not only nothing wrong with this but I always prefer that everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. So why is Facebook so damn popular if it does not give us anything we did not already have?

The answer is that it does. It gives us something that is harder to measure: easy communication for everyone. Not just for the protocol engineers so speak Nerd, not just for the computer programmers (those handsome devils) who make software, but for everyone. Before the rise of Facebook long-distance communication was more geared towards one-on-one interaction. The telephone (later the cellular phone), e-mail, ect. These were all giant steps forwards but did not easily address “the crowd.” If you wanted to talk to several people on the phone you could need to make several phone calls. There is also a second issue with most communication methods: they happen in real-time. If I want to talk to someone on the phone they need to stop what they are doing to talk back. Real-time is a great goal for most projects but not always the best solution for all. I do not know you about you but my friends get grumpy when they need to, say, stop sleeping because I called them.

So here comes Facebook: A graffiti-tagged wall of whatever. Not only can you communicate with others but you can do it outside of normal business hours and not have the pesky are-they-available dilemmas. It is a mix between instant messaging, Internet forums, and three-way calling all in one. There are no new concepts here but great application of old ones. The why is the community. The why is the emotion.

OK, so I am late in getting my brain wrapped around this. Perhaps it is a serious short-coming of mine but now that someone got me started I am very interested.