I had settled into Coverity late in the year, but was still getting solicitations for low-paying QA jobs in the middle of nowhere. However, occasionally, a more interesting email appeared in my Inbox, despite the fact that I was pretty happy.
I am an IT Recruiter and my client (Lexmark) is looking to hire a Build Release Engineer. Lexmark (www.lexmark.com) is located in Lexington KY. They offer a full relocation package which include the purchase of the home. Please take a minute and review the job description below and if there is an interest – please send me your resume in a word document and I will contact you regarding this opportunity. I have also included a cost of living calculator as well as some links to the area.
There are some interesting things to unpack here. First of all, my wife’s family lived a couple of hours from Lexington, so this would put us closer to family. Secondly, they offered an incredibly generous relocation package (they would buy and sell our existing house!) Lombardi did not do any relocation, we footed that large bill ourselves. And the cost of living would have been quite a bit lower. She went on to describe all kinds of Lexington facts, with links to the Better Business Bureau, newspapers, airport, etc.
As for the job itself, I was presented with requirements for Linx, Perl, Python, C, Make, shell scripting. Knowledge of building code. Development experience in distributed, multi-process software. 3-5 years of most of those.
Must have distributed systems and multi-process, multi-thread systems programming experience
Database design and application development
OK. I could do this job.
But I did not want to do this. Lexmark did printer drivers. This was not interesting software for me to work on. And while Lexington is pretty, I really did not want to move, and my wife and I liked where we were raising our kids.
And, if something happened, and I lost my job, I would be in Lexington, not in a place with more tech jobs like San Jose or Austin or New York or LA.
Hello again! Since you last visited our site (ThinkEnergyGroup.com), we have recently received
a job from one of our clients that could be a potential fit for your background, or for someone
you know. Please read the following and apply accordingly:
Position: Engineer : Quality
Job #: 66134MRS
followed by a bunch of links, then this:
Leading healthcare consulting company based in Illinois has an immediate need for a Systems Quality Assurance Engineer for their office in Chicago. The ideal candidate will have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or General Engineering. Responsibilities include developing diagnostic testing procedures, simulating real-world processes in different software environments, and ultimately ensuring that our clients receive a superior product to match their needs. Chosen candidate will be expected to develop an understanding of client’s decision-making processes, allowing them to recognize and test a wide-range of possible scenarios. Typical quality assurance tests performed by the chosen candidate will include manipulating different variables to ensure that the application performs appropriately in a variety of situations, subjecting the software to potential adverse user behavior, and looking for areas of improvement to increase the software’s utility. Candidate will need knowledge of MS technologies. The company has an excellent benefits package. Relocation package is possible for right candidate. Salary is commensurate with experience, when applying please include desired salary.
Position type: Perm
Position location: State of, IL
Potential pay up to: XX.XX $/Hr
Potential salary up to: XX K $ /Yr
If you are presently happy with your current position or would like to be
removed from our email list for any reason, please reply to this email with
the word “REMOVE” in the subject line.
The pay was low. It was somewhere in Illinois. It was hard manual QA. How about, NO?
Old StyleWare Friend
I sent an old StyleWare buddy a message in LinkedIn:
Hey, Sandy*. How are you doing? Long time no see.
I see that you own a company now. I happen to be in Austin, looking for work. Can I buy you lunch?
* Not his real name
Yes, I have two companies right now (trying to get the second one up and running). What line of work are you looking at?
I am looking for a position leading a team of software engineers, software QA, or managing a group of both.
And he wrote back:
Well, I’m full up right now but I’d still be interested in getting your resume and talking to you in case something comes up. What kinds of development environments have you been working in the past few years? J2EE, .NET, MFC?
There are lots of opportunities here I think… since I don’t have anything right now, maybe I know somebody who does.
I did not have any of that, really, although Lombardi exposed me to J2EE somewhat. It does not appear that I responded back at all. My bad.
I knew one of the VPs in charge of software from Apple from my time there. I wrote him a note:
I don’t know if you remember me; I used to work in the Developer Tools. I am contacting you, because I was wondering if you knew of any software engineering openings in the Mac OS X group. While I have particular expertise with the compiler, Xcode, and the Mac OS X build system, I would be willing to work in just about any group, either as a contractor or a permanent employee. However, I would like to work out of my house in Austin, with trips as necessary to California.
I have enclosed my resume; feel free to forward it to any of your managers as you feel appropriate. I know that this is a long shot, but if there is a chance, I would love to work in your organization again. Thanks!
He wrote back:
I don’t think the remote situation can work very well.
But keep in touch in case you are back in the Bay Area!
Hey, at least he responded, and if it got really desperate, I had a way to go back to California. He left Apple about 5 years ago, and did a couple of startups…
SQL Services Reporter
My name is <REDACTED> and I’m an IT recruiter at Pyramid Consulting, Inc. Our records show that you are an experienced IT professional with experience relevant to one of my current contract openings.
The job is located in San Francisco, CA with one of our Fortune 500 direct client. They are looking for a SQL services reporter and the following is a more detailed description of the job.
There are SO many emails just like this one with some kind of checklist. More software sweatshop jobs…
And then there are all of the automated responses. I don’t recommend reading too many of them unless you have insomnia:
Thanks for submitting your resume to the Software Development Manager position.
Are you, or is someone in your network, a hands-on technical (whitebox/developer,) J2EE Quality Engineer?
Based on the experience listed in your online resume, I thought you might be interested in the role below, or recommend people in your network who could be a great fit for a strong J2EE programmer, but passionate and interested quality oriented role.
Our Small Business Division in Mountain View, CA is looking for a few more key engineers to help us on our quest to revolutionize the financial software industry and the software industry as a whole.
…and that’s where I stopped reading. Individual QA work back in the Bay Area was a lose-lose for me.
Thank you for submitting your resume. It has been added to our database and should a suitable position become available we will contact you!
Keep your password handy for future reference.
Neat. What a site. Sending me a password in plain text. Or maybe it was in plain text. Who knows?
Sir or Madam:
We have received your application for the position of Development Engineer Senior Manager I-080005ZD and are currently reviewing your experience and qualifications.
If you would like to review your candidate file,click here.
If your profile corresponds to our requirements, a member of our Global Talent Acquisition Team will contact you soon.
We thank you for your interest in Dell.
Nice punctuation, especially from a template.
Thank you, <APPLICANT>, for expressing interest in our organization.
We have successfully received your submission to the following position(s):
QA Manager 10720 26120BR
A system-generated candidate reference number has been created for you and may be useful to keep for your records. Your candidate reference number is: 5848704.
* Please do not reply to this email.
Thank you for your application to IBM.
We will keep your application on file and should jobs matching your skills and abilities be found you will be contacted.
As you have not yet applied to a specific position within IBM, we encourage you to visit our website frequently using your user ID and password in order to:
• apply for specific jobs
• set up a search agent
• edit your application
• check the status of your application for specific jobs to which you have applied
Please note: this is an auto generated e-mail that cannot receive replies.
Your application will be kept active for 12 months (6 months for Germany and Austria).
Thank you for your interest in working for Red Hat. We have received your resume for the Engineering Manager for Security Solutions position. Our recruiters are busy searching for qualified applicants. Should your background be a match for the position, we will contact you directly. Please note that we keep your resume profile active in our database for 3 months and might also contact you if your background is a match for a similar position.
We wish you the best of luck in your career search. If you need to contact someone directly, please call +1 919-754-3700.
Have a great day.
The Red Hat Recruiting Team.
NOTE: This email was automatically generated in response to your submission. Please do not reply as no one will receive your email.
Dear Hiring Manager,
I saw your posting for Senior QA Engineer on the mlb.com job posting site, and I am interested in it. I have 20 years of software development and QA experience. I believe that my vast experience in the full software development life cycle would be an asset to your team.
Please find my resume enclosed. Looking forward to talking to you in person.
I got this back:
Thank you for applying online with the MLB Teams Employment Site.
If you have applied for a posted position (not future notification) and have not heard back from a representative from the team within 30 days after the job expired, they are most likely considering other applicants. However, you are always welcome to come back and reapply for other openings as they become available. Make sure you have filled out all the information so that we can notify you when new positions are posted.
Yeah, if it weren’t baseball, I would have run far away from somebody emailing back my password in plain text with unencrypted email.
Our firm has been contracted to recruit the best available technical talent for Bloomberg in New York City. Bloomberg is seeking expert software engineers with top-notch C/C++ (UNIX) skills to join its real-time application development teams. Each team is an entrepreneurial unit handling the complete development life-cycle of its products, from requirements and design to production roll-out and test. Development is incremental, iterative, and always on a short time fuse.
Financial industry experience is not required, but prospective candidates must have a current and verifiable track record of expert-level software engineering expertise in a real-time application environment. In addition, the company places a high value on entrepreneurial spirit, resourcefulness, analytical thinking and complex problem solving skills.
I wrote back stating that I did not want to move to New York (although if MLB had hired me I would have). I decided not to mention the lack of C++ expertise (although I had C).
ank you for submitting your resume to the following jobs: Job Title: Software Development Engineer Job Code: 218020 Resume Title: Software Engineering Manager Your resume has been entered into our resume database and made available to recruiters who specialize in the areas matching your skills, strengths and area of your interest. Your resume will remain active in our database for up to one year and you will be considered for future positions for which you are well-suited. Note that you do not need to resubmit this resume unless your contact information or work history changes. Thank you for considering Microsoft Corporation as a potential employer. Staffing Department Microsoft Corporation http://members.microsoft.com/careersPlease note: This mailbox is not monitored. Please do not reply to this message.
Thank you for your interest in employment opportunities at Freescale Semiconductor!
Your information is now available for review by our hiring team. If we are able to match your skills and interests with an opportunity, you will be contacted for further information. Please be aware this timeline will vary. Should you wish to update your information or be automatically notified of future opportunities via our Job Agent, please visit us at http://www.freescale.com/careers
Freescale Semiconductor Staffing team
Thank you for your submission of interest to LSI Logic’s employment website for the position of 08-3336 – Senior Software Engineer. The recruiter and/or hiring manager for this position will be reviewing your resume.
While I was in California interviewing for Coverity, I had dinner at my favorite Chinese restaurant, Chef Chu’s, in Los Altos, CA (El Camino and San Antonio. Go there. It’s great). While waiting for a table, I sat at the bar, watching baseball. The fellow next to me started a conversation. He asked about my background, and seemed extremely interested in talking to me about his business idea.
He wanted to start an online art gallery to display art that he had collected, as well as provide a place for artists to display their wares, and perhaps to sell their works. He had never met a true technical person before, as far as I could tell. He asked for my contact info.
When I got back home, he sent me email asking to talk to me on the phone. He sent me email:
Thanks for sending me the bio. I forwarded it on to the two people working with me so far. You have more experience than both of them in tech and new media. Can you be a new media biz dev person? I will read your bio in more detail tonight.
I wrote back:
I have no experience in business development. My experience is more along the lines of: “OK, we know what we want to build. Go build it.” Good luck to you, and keep in touch.
I then wrote:
I have been thinking, and I don’t think I have the time to to devote to your effort at this stage. If I were local, it might work ou. I also don’t that that I can, as yet, represent what exactly you are trying to do. I have not reached out to <his partner>, because I am not really sure how to approach it.
I wish you luck on your venture. When you have a business plan and are interested in stating to hire, get in touch. I hope things go well for you.
He wrote back:
Understand. Will keep you in touch. Realize I need to contact <his partnet> myself. Will do that Monday. Have enjoyed our conversations, and will be in touch.
And that’s the last I heard from him. I wonder if he had anything to do with https://ello.co?
The one year anniversary of this blog has come and passed, and I wanted to thank you for reading so far. It is also Spring Break, so I am enjoying a vacation. This post is just going to highlight the five most popular articles, least popular to most. Feel free to skip this one if you have read all of these, but have fun looking back with me if you are interested.
Maybe five days after my last day at Lombardi in April, my boss there sent me a note. He had received a message on the Trilogy alumni mailing list. There are a lot of people I have run into in Austin who at one time worked for Trilogy; they had a legendary training program for new programmers called Trilogy University, and if you went through it, you had a leg up getting a job in Austin over those who did not.
The letter was from somebody who is now an exec at Indeed:
I joined Indeed at the beginning of the year and I’m expecting to double our engineering headcount here in Austin by the end of the calendar year. Indeed.com is one of the fastest growing web sites <http://www.indeed.com> in the country; according to complete.com, we’re currently #201 in terms of unique visitors (> 6mm by out count) and our growth continues to be about 100%/year. In addition to ongoing opportunities for engineers for our search engine, site and applications, I’m currently looking for a test automation architect. If you or anyone you know might be interested, feel free to contact me.
He signed it, and then listed the job description. I was not really qualified at that point; I was missing web technologies, Selenium, and building automation frameworks, but I had a lot of the other qualifications. I was still just looking for management jobs at that point (for whatever stupid reasons..)
Later, my good friend in Austin who had been trying to help me get jobs here before sent me this:
Using a posting I found, I sent this email on 5/12/2008:
Dear Hiring Manager,
I saw the posting for Software QA Manager on indeed.com, and I think that I would be a fit for the position. I have 10 years of experience in software management, including 7 years of managing QA. I also 10 years of development experience. I feel that my interpersonal, technical and planning skills are a good match for the job requirements.
Please consider my resume for your position; I look forward to talking to you in person.
And, that was that, I thought.
On June 11, a week after I had accepted the position at Coverity and had made my travel arrangements to go to San Francisco for orientation and training, I received this:
I was cleaning up email and ran across yours from 5/14. If you are still interested in Indeed, please let me know. Your email was no read until now.
I responded with an apology, explaining that I had accepted another position, and the Indeed person thanked me for explaining.
4 weeks is a long time to take to respond to an applicant, but at least they did respond and follow-up once they read it!
Sometime in 2004 or 2005, one of my best friends went to work at a startup that was doing software to analyze source code and identify potential bugs, based on common mistakes with both algorithms, and the quirks of the C and C++ programming languages. I was at Apple, working in the Developer Tools group, so he got in touch with me quite often as he tried to figure out how Apple’s version of GCC, the open source compiler, operated. He was really trying to figure out how the compiler found secondary files on the filesystem, which, on Mac OS, is tricky.
Fast-forward a few years, in January, 2008, he called me. Told me that the company had just fired the disaster that was their QA Manager, and that they had been looking for a replacement. I told him that I wasn’t willing to move back to California. He said that they were so desperate that they were willing to consider a remote hire. I told him that I was still making a go of it at Lombardi, and that I was going to pass. He told me to call him if I changed my mind.
And in April, I got let go.
After crying in the parking lot for a while, I drove home. When I got home, my wife told me: “You have to do two things: One – you are going to have to get a new phone anyway because Lombardi is going to take away your Blackberry. You have to get yourself an iPhone.” (It had shipped 9 months earlier and I had pined for it).
“And, two – you have to call your friend and talk to him about Coverity.”
“But I am in really bad shape and don’t really want to think about it,” I moped.
“No, you must talk to him now. You have to know whether it is still an option ASAP.”
So, I sat down and called him. After small talk, I said:
“I got laid off today.”
“Oh! I’m sorry! That’s wonderful! That’s horrible! I know you must be feeling awful! But we need you! Get me your resume as soon as you can!”
“I need to overhaul it, but you’ll have it Monday morning.”
“Great! I need to talk to G right now! Wait, he’s not here yet. As soon as he gets here.”
I got my first iPhone that day, and having it really helped my emotional state (although the price was daunting!). I then sat down and spent the next few days redoing my resume from scratch, updating my LinkedIn profile, and asking for recommendations. I also went into Lombardi and had the phone number transferred from the Blackberry to my shiny new iPhone.
I sent the resume in late Sunday night.
On Tuesday, I got a call from G, my friend’s boss.
“I have opened up a position called QA Director. You would be building out our QA organization from the ground up, hiring people as appropriate, building QA plans, and possibly expanding our Release Engineering effort.”
“That sounds good.”
“The thing is, I don’t know how successful you would be not being in the office. It gives me some confidence is that one of my managers is already remote, in Boston. And he has people here reporting to him. You’ve worked remotely, and managed remotely. Talk to me about how you mitigate the risks, what kind of communication you would set up, and the risks of being a remote manager.”
So, I talked about electronic communication, wiki pages, email etiquette. I talked about lack of hallway conversation, about needing eyes and ears in the corporate office. I talked about the importance of automated testing, particularly at the model and at the API level. I talked about how compilers worked, and how Coverity’s products must be implemented.
At the end of this conversation, G said, “Well, I have to think about it. I like what are you saying, and the way you are thinking about all of this. But I have to decide if I am ready.”
A couple of weeks passed, during which time I started the local job search in earnest. My friend sent me email almost every day, asking if I had heard from G. My wife decided to take our kids to her mother’s house several states away, and I decided to join her to get a break. While we were on the road I got an email from G, asking if we could set up a conversation soon. I gave him a date and time.
He called me right on time, and said, “I would like to move forward with interviewing you for this position. Could we setup a trip out here to talk to my staff? Could I get references?”
I told him about the PMP class in Las Vegas I had arranged to go to while still doing work at Lombardi (technically I was still an employee). We agreed that I would do that class, and then fly out to San Francisco for a few days for the interview. I paid for the ticket change for my return flight, and Coverity picked up my flight from Las Vegas to SFO. I stayed with my friend, and I had a good weekend catching up with him and other friends.
On Monday morning, I went to the office and met everybody. G talked to me first, and then I talked to a parade of engineers and managers. One of them asked about how to test user interface. I told him I had no good answer for that. There were technologies for testing web pages that were pretty good, but I had no good solutions for testing native Windows applications. I preferred doing strong unit tests at the model and API layer; the interface changes much quicker than tests can be written, so that should be tested manually.
I said to myself, So that session went well. Sigh. Not an auspicious start; I did not have the answers to his problems.
However, they did a programming whiteboard, and I nailed that. The person asked me to write something to covert integers to ASCII strings in C. Right up my alley.
I discussed testing command-line utilities and compilers with the other people. QA philosophy. Software engineering. Distributed teams. Offshore management (Oh, there was a testing team in Ukraine? Amazing; Lombardi had one of those as well!)
At the end of the day, I was exhausted, but I felt good. My friend, who had recused himself of the interview process, was dying to talk about it, but couldn’t, so we talked about Star Trek, Game of Thrones (still just books), and our family life.
I flew back. A couple of days later, G called me and asked if I would give him the contact info of my old boss. He wanted to talk to him.
“G, he fired me. Why on Earth would I let you talk to him?”
“I just want to see they way he thinks.”
“I guess I don’t really have a choice here. OK.”
He called back about 3 hours later, and said, “Wow, those Lombardi people are extreme Type-A personalities, aren’t they? You have nothing to worry about over my conversation with him.”
Time went by. Turned into weeks. I heard from him around that time, with an email:
“I am having a difficult time thinking about this. The entire staff really liked you (even the guy grilling me about GUI testing? I thought to myself); I really liked you. I am trying to come up with a scenario where this could work with you in Austin, and us in San Francisco. I need some more time.”
A couple of weeks later, my friend asked me if I had heard anything, and when I said no, he said, “Well, I probably shouldn’t say anything, but G has been really cheerful the past day or so.”
The next day, G called me.
“I have been rethinking what I want to do. I don’t think that this could work with you as QA Director.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“But I do want to make you an offer for QA Manager.”
“So what do you see as the difference?”
“Rather than setting direction and strategy, you would be working with the other managers on my staff, as well as the architects, to develop it together. You would still hire people, but the staffing levels would be set by me. I feel that this gives you what you need to succeed, but covers the risk of being remote. You would have two people directly reporting to you, plus one contractor in San Fransisco, one contractor in Omsk, Russia, and one in Kiev, Ukraine.”
He went on and outlined his vision. Then we talked about tactics.
“I would need you to spend one week/month minimum in the office in San Francisco, sometimes more.”
“25% travel time. OK.”
“What do you think?”
“What’s the compensation picture?”
“I will have somebody call you about that. I don’t do those negotiations; I am not good at them. Does this sound like something you could do, assuming the comp is acceptable?”
“Yes, but I have to think about it, and I really need to know compensation.”
“Let me have my recruiter call you.”
Two days later, I got a call from a recruiter. He outlined the offer. The base salary was 25% higher than Lombardi, and back up to the level of what I was making at Apple, with no state income tax! (Yay Texas) There was a bonus program for managers, and there were stock options.
Frankly, it was incredible. I said yes.
My long spring nightmare was drawing to a close. Still had to setup my home office in my house. Still had to arrange for my first two weeks in San Francisco. But, we were going to survive.