Klink – 2013

It had been two months since Spawn demo’ed the working streaming video game system (with a custom game stick you plug into your TV and a Wi-Fi-based X-box like game controller) to its shadowy corporate overlords at Game Stop. Our lease at our office was up the Monday following the Friday demo, so after the demo was successful, the movers swooped in and packed everything up to move to the new office a couple of miles away.

So, Monday, nothing was setup. The two IT folk started unpacking and setting up the network again. Basic Wi-Fi and DNS was up by Tuesday, but nothing else worked for a week or two.

By the time it did, the office was dead. Game Stop had not had a game plan for a successful demo, and they did not know what to do. They did know, however, that they were not going to build a $100 million data center for us to move into the next stage of testing. Their excuse was that both Playstation 4 and Xbox One were shipping, and all of the cash they had to invest were going into those launches. They were going to try to sell us off to another company.

The game system was brought back up in about 3-4 weeks, so I played some games. By this point, the office had 3-4 people there most of the time….

But 3 more weeks later, I was usually the only one there. Others would drift in and out. And I had nothing to do. I did not enjoy the two games on our system that much, and got bored with them. There was no development work happening. No news on us getting sold…

So I set about to learn IOS programming for real, in the hopes of getting a job as a mobile developer.

At the beginning of August, I received a phone call from a staffing agency that placed technical people as contractors in other companies. The agency paid your salary, and provided something like real benefits after you worked with them for a while. I had a similar arrangement 15 years earlier when I had worked at Sun Labs. It was better than just freelancing in many ways, but you were still hourly and got no paid time off.

Still, they had clients doing IOS and Mac work, and that was interesting to me. It was another attempt to get back into full-time software development.

I had coffee with one of their recruiters at a Starbucks, and after a while, she asked if I would do Mac OS work. Sure! She probed me about me Mac knowledge based on the requirements provided by the client. She then asked for references.

I gave her the name of my friend who referred me to Rock Systems. He told me later that every time she asked about specific knowledge of something, he told her that I was a generalist, and self-motivated, and a quick learner, and that I had a good idea of the complete software development life-cycle.

Right about then, I had a scheduled vacation with my family visiting my mother-in-law out of town. Oxford Global Resources, the staffing company, found a position for me. So, I had a phone conference call with my prospective boss and the chief engineer, and they laid it out.

“Klink Your Life”

Klink was a partnership between a Houston server-based company, called Mezeo, and two Asian telecoms, one in Singapore, and one in the Philippines. They produced a Dropbox-like file syncing client. Two things differentiated them: They could get photos off of flip-phones, and they had a feature where you could sync files on your local hard drive that were not in the special “Klink” folder. The Mac OS engineer they had was going on an extended leave of absence, and they needed somebody to work while they were gone. If things went well, then this might turn into a permanent position.

I talked about my background for a bit, trying to stay away from the fact that I had four months of raw development experience in the last 14 years, and emphasizing my familiarity with the Mac and Cocoa development.

I got back to Austin that week, and went it and talked to my prospective boss at the office. He made me an offer on the spot after we talked. Wanted to know if I could start that afternoon! I told them I need a couple of days, and I would start the following Monday ( 9 days later).

I went into the Spawn office, and the General Manager was there, the one who told me I should brush up my resume four months earlier. I told him I was leaving, and that I was sorry I was only giving three days notice. He laughed and said, “Hey, at least you told me!” and wished me luck.

I thought about just starting the new job and seeing how long it would take Game Stop to fire me while collecting two paychecks. I did not want to risk running  into legal problems with Game Stop, though, so I stayed honest! I wonder how many Spawn people did exactly that, though…

I was back as a software developer, baby!

PS Here are the companies I applied to and got nowhere with during this 2013 job search that I have not mentioned here. Some of them got back to me and we got as far as phone screens; others went nowhere.

  • Apple
  • Tesla
  • General Motors
  • Visa
  • AT&T
  • Advisory Board
  • Google
  • Zenoss
  • New York Yankees
  • Rackspace
  • TRC Entertainment
  • Phunware
  • Bazaarvoice
  • Quantum
  • ADP
  • AutoTrader.com
  • HomeAway
  • Spanning
  • Spiceworks
  • CA Technologies
  • Dun and Bradstreet
  • SS8
  • Qualcomm
  • EZCorp
  • Yahoo

PPS This product looks a lot like what Spawn was doing: https://store.google.com/us/product/stadia_controller. I hope it succeeds; it’s a great idea. Game Stop could have had the world…

Unknown Private Company – 2013

Got a phone call from a recruiter, asking me if I would be interested in a QA/Release/DevOps role. She followed up with an email:

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. As mentioned, I do have a full-time permanent position available in Miami Beach as a Software Release Manager. The client is a billion-dollar privately held company quick on the rise, they own and operate a conglomerate of websites and really have their hands in everything. I do not have a formal description of what the position will entail, but I have provided below what they are looking for. I will continue to keep you in mind for future opportunities in Texas, do not hesitate to let me know if there is ever anything I can help you with.

Background: working in Linux, Java / PHP / SDLC

SCRUM or Agile

Need to be familiar with packaging and deployment specifically for web-based applications and/or mobile apps/sites.




– Experience with either Jenkins, Bamboo or Hudson

Nice to have:

– Python / JIRA / Confluence

– Knowledge of continuous integration/build environment

I had all of that. Miami? I told her that I was interested, so she called me.

We had a good time talking about servers, release cycles, continuous integration. I thought it was going really well.

And then she said, “One more thing: In the spirit of disclosure, I have to tell you that the client’s business is serving adult content.”

Great. She was recruiting me for a porn site. That’s just what I needed…

I said back, “While I don’t have an overt problem with porn, I don’t want to work in that industry. At the very least, I would not want my family to know, and that might be difficult, given that I would be moving from Austin to Miami. So, I am going to have to pass.”

She said, “I understand. They have been having trouble recruiting because of their business, which is why they hired me. Do you know anybody who might be interested?”

“No, I’m afraid I don’t.”

She sighed, “Well, thanks for talking to me, and I wish you luck.”

There is some 12-year old part of me that wanted to see what would have happened, but I am glad I did not pursue it further.


Polycom – 2013

The primary job site I used for my search in 2013 was Dice.com. Around the beginning of July, I heard from a recruiter on the phone. I sent him my resume, and he sent back the following:

Subject: Software Development Ops engineer – Full time position with Polycom in Austin, TX

I saw your resume in DICE and would like to reach out to you for a full time position with Polycom for above mentioned job opportunity in Austin, TX. Job description and requirements are attached with this email. Please review these requirements and if interested, please send me your resume in WORD format. Once I get your resume, I will contact you to discuss additional information about this position. If you have any questions, please feel free send me an email or call me.

Thank you and have a good day

This position was to assume a “Dev Ops” role. Basically, release engineering, and QA, and keeping online systems up and running. The desired experience including building software for Linux, Windows, Android, and Embedded Linux, and deep familiarity with both git and subversion. Right up my alley. There were other things listed; some I had, but some I did not, but they were not as important.

So I sent him my resume.

The hiring manager called me, and he described a set of mature projects, both desktop and web, and some new projects, mostly embedded. I talked about release engineering, ant, make, yocto, repo, Jenkins, git, subversion, maven, etc. At the end of the conversation, he told me that wanted to bring me onsite.

Polycom Device
Pretty sure the new device was something like this thing.

I talked to three engineers:

1. Software engineer on the embedded product. Basically, they were developing a new video conferencing device, with USB and HDMI inputs. Custom Android kernel. Some custom apps. I talked about how I would setup a continuous delivery system for that. At the end of this interview, he said “We’ve got to get you hired here!”

2. The hiring manager was second. We talked more about general software development practices, agile, scrum. We also talked about performance reviews and hiring, which was a little odd. He told me, “Well, I hope the others like you, because I want to start the process of getting you an offer right now.”

3. The last person I talked to is the person I was to replace; he was taking a role as a full-time software developer. We talked about everything he was currently doing, and I asked questions, and had some suggestions. About every five minutes, he said, “Wow! Where did they find you?” or “Man, we’ve got to have you.”

At one point, he was describing their new video conferencing device that had a custom Android kernel. I asked what the processor chip was, and he said it was an OMAP chip. Just so happens, that was the same chip that Spawn Labs was using in its game stick!

So, I asked, “Did you get source to the video driver? That was a pain.”

He said, “Oh, yeah, that was. We had a hell of  time figuring out why it would not load.”

So I described how the Linux kernel would not load drivers from modified Git repos if it itself was built with an unmodified repo, and how I patched the kernel to load the specific driver as an exception to get things running.

He blinked, and paused, and said, “We have to make you an offer.”

I went home feeling pretty good. The hiring manager had not blinked at the salary range I asked for, and I thought I had a good chance.

Then this happened: Irregularities in expense report leads to exit of Polycom CEO Andrew Miller

He eventually faced charges.

What that meant to me was they immediately froze all hiring. The offer had been written, and was waiting for an executive signature. But that did not happen.

After I got official confirmation that this was not going to happen, I sent this to the fellow whom I was to backfill for:

I just found out that Polycom has a hiring freeze and that I won’t get
getting an offer from them. That’s too bad for me, but that’s life.

However, I wanted to give you some advice.

The hardest thing to do professionally is change positions within a
company, particularly one that is big and unwieldy like Polycom appears
to be. My advice to you is: Get out. Find a position somewhere else. You
are in a rut there, and your last best opportunity that Polycom had to
offer is now closed to you. Leave. That is the only way you will advance
your career in a direction you want to go.

I am not saying this because I think that they would back-fill your
position and make me an offer. They won’t. Not anytime soon.

If you want, we could get together for coffee. Or not. Up to you. Good
luck to you, and thanks for making the effort to talk to me.

He wrote back:

I’m glad the HR and recruitment people did their jobs and notified you
that the req was canceled. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. We also had a
layoff a couple of days ago, but I don’t think anyone in Austin was

I do appreciate that you thought of me and recognized the rut I’m in.
You’re definitely right that it would be best for my career and job
satisfaction to leave. However, my plan is to stick around for two or
three more years. I’m taking advantage of Polycom’s above market salary
to reach a personal retirement milestone. After that, I’ll feel much
more free to work somewhere else at market rates or even below market
rates if necessary. I continually reevaluate that decision, but for now
it still feels like the right answer. Thanks again for thinking of me.

I hope he succeeded; we never talked again.