Sunday, January 25, 2009

Women in computer science

Read the wikipedia article on women in computer science.

The primary point of the article is how there aren't any women in computer science. There's even a suggestion to merge this article with "Declination of Women in Computer Science".


What about the women who are computer scientists? There are plenty women who do & did great research. The focus of an article titled "Women in Computing" should focus on women in computing. The picture to the right is Anita Borg

I've never enjoyed this desperation on the part of computer science to attract women. It's like a guy with no confidence and can't get a date. I have the same advice to computer science or any field that is looking to balance itself out: work on yourself!

I'm going to rewrite this Wikipedia article once I do some research of my own.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Won't Trick to Click stop?

Q: What are you supposed to do on this page?

A: Ignore the giant green buttons. They are a fake interface elements designed to look interactive when really they're just part of a banner ad.

If I were in Ad sales, I'd be happy my team's ability to crush common sense for dollars.

Quoting quotes

I met Catriona Cornett at an Adaptive Path conference last year and really love her blog. Here are two quotes I particularly like:

“If we want users to like our software, we should design it to behave like a likeable person.” - Alan Cooper

“If we want users to like our software, we should design it to behave like a likeable person.” - Alan Cooper

“I’ve been amazed at how often those outside the discipline of design assume that what designers do is decoration—likely because so much bad design simply is decoration. Good design isn’t. Good design is problem solving.” - The Art & Science of Web Design by Jeffrey Veen

“I’ve been amazed at how often those outside the discipline of design assume that what designers do is decoration—likely because so much bad design simply is decoration. Good design isn’t. Good design is problem solving.” - The Art & Science of Web Design by Jeffrey Veen

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Here's some great advice I got once from my friend Michael Tompkins. I've found this advice very useful and have passed it around to many friends.

Keep the ball in their court.

Tell them that you came to the interview because you were interested in learning about the job and the people. Go on saying that if they want to hire you and you feel like what they are offering is a fit, you're confident that you'll be able to come to a reasonable agreement.

Most people low-ball themselves because they don't want to seem greedy. You are very vulnerable that early in the process, so giving them a number before it's clear how much they want you can only help them and hurt you. Make them put an offer on the table. They'll feel pressure to make a competitive offer. They will not want to offend you. They won't want to lose you because a competitor offers you much more. Plus, they'll know how you should fit into their salary scale based on your experience and qualifications.

If that first offer isn't what you expect, you need to remember one thing. By the time they've made that first offer, they've made a pretty significant effort and they are committed to trying to bring you on board. The hard part is to appear humble and gracious while prodding them for more money. Say you're really excited about the work that they do and the prospect of working with their team, but then explain that you're hesitating to accept the offer because of concern X (and maybe Y and Z). None of your concerns should be that "I know other similarly qualified people that make more" or "I'm worth at least $XXX,XXX." Instead, use housing costs or some other factor that's beyond your control. If their first offer was at the top of the bracket that you fit in under their salary scheme, they'll let you know. If they really want you and they have some latitude, they'll come back with a more aggressive offer. Either way, you won't be taking their first offer off the table and they can't come away with explicit evidence that you're greedy.

Wherever you end up, make sure that the company has room for you to grow and learn. That's really important early in your career. If two opportunities come up, it'd be worth making significantly less and take the job with more growth potential. You'll come out ahead in
the long run.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Getting a technology job

While some of this is specific to technology, most of this isn’t. Please write any feedback in the comments section. This post is divided into these sections:
  • Background tasks
  • Create your resume
  • Fire up your networking tools
  • Log your applications
  • Prepare for interviews (when you don't have one)
  • Prepare for interviews (when sitdown has been sealed)
  • At interviews
  • Follow up in Writing
  • In sum...

Background tasks

Decide what job you want and what you can get. Plan for three scenarios: one in which you get a dream job, one in which you get an OK job and one last resort, a worst-case scenario job should your job search stretch.

Fill in the blanks:
  • My ideal is a (position) job in (city) working for a (size), (cultural quality), (company type) making over (salary) a year working on (types of projects). I’d have (benefit1), (benefit2), and (benefit3).
  • A pretty good job is a (position) job near (city) working for a (size), (cultural quality), (company type) making around (salary) a year working on (types of projects). I’d have (benefit1) and (benefit2).
  • A stopgap job would be working as a (position) making at least (salary). It will be good because (positive outlook infused with long-term perspective). To keep my skills current while I look elsewhere I'll (contract/take a class/volunteer). I’d have the flexibility to look for another job because (the schedule, the nature of the employment, etc).
If you've never negotiated a salary, you should take this opportunity to learn now.
If you have examples of your old work publish them. Examples go further than saying "I'm good at xyz"

Work on skills you’d like to learn, especially if you come across a lot of postings that require something you don’t have.

Write down a list of things you want to buy or put your money towards once you do get a job. Depending on how long you’ve been unemployed, you might have gotten some perspective & with it an updated set of life priorities.

Create your resume

List your last positions and education

Starting with the job description, write your job responsibilities & achievements. Make it very scan-friendly (succinct). No one has time to read a novel when they are sifting through tons of resumes.

Your job description should have provided you a good starting point for describing your responsibilities but if you are having trouble thinking about your role in terms of accomplishments, ask an old coworker or boss to help. If you don't feel comfortable with that try to think of things you did that were different than your coworkers. Did you log a lot more bugs than what was expeted? Did you take on outside projects? Did you improve the process by creating templates or suggesting a new workflow? Be sure to use numbers and be as specific as often as possible.

For example say:

  • Wrote over 20 feature use cases for enterprise-level human resource on-demand application

This is good because it quantifies your contribution and describes the product.

  • Lead document review meetings where product managers, engineers, technical writers, and QA negotiated product road map requirements.
This is good because it tells a story. That story is that you can work with many people with competing needs in a leadership role.

These two descriptions say a whole lot more than:
  • Wrote use cases
  • Lead multi-disciplinary team meetings

Fire up your networking tools

Print business cards w/your field of interest/former title, web site, and contact information. Use a home printer and some clean edge cards. This is a great thing to hand out socially and will impress at an interview.

Create website using Google or some such option and put your resume on it. Publish its formatted contents on the site or summarize it. Either way, include pdf and word downloadable versions. Show samples on your work if at all possible. This is especially true if you are a student and have relevant class projects. Code samples, images of features you've worked on, photos of team meetings you've run, any of this is useful. It provides evidence that you are competent and will support your stories in interviews.

If you can’t use work samples, publish blurbs about some of your projects. This shows you’ve given though to your work and demonstrates the types of projects you’ve completed in the past.

Print some generic resumes. Keep asking people for opinions until you are happy with it. Generally, it’s good to get as much help from others as possible on your resume. It’s a not so subtle hint that you are looking. Once you are happy with it, buy nice resume paper and print some up. Put them in a folder and have them handy for sharing.

Get on linked in, update your profile. Adhere to your resume structure so they are in sync. It's not a bad idea to update your profile regularly since you’ll show up on feeds more. One advantage to sites like LinkedIn is that you can see & edity your work history easily.

Sort through LinkedIn, your email contacts, your address book and connect with former coworkers, family, and friends tell them what you are looking for and ask if they might know anyone you should talk to for advice or leads. The contact that come out of this might be very valuable to you so be sure to show your appreciation.

A note on this: don’t just ask for a job or angle people to get you a job. For example, if someone connects you to a manager in a division you’d like to work in, buy that manager lunch or coffee & ask about his/her career and perhaps ask for some job hunting tips. Remember, you are a perfect stranger and the last thing you want to do is gaff or sound like you are only interested in meeting this person because of what they might be able to do for you. If this person did have a job for you, they'd let you know. The worst case is you learn. The best case is that the manager has an opening later and thinks of you because you didn’t act like a demanding, selfish jerk.

Your applications

Typically one applies to a job with a cover letter and a resume, these days, for tech jobs email applications are pretty standard. Whatever method you choose, be sure your documents are accessible. Plan for weird attachment policies by creating plain text versions in your email.

Thinking about being creative with your application? Don't. This is not the time to let your freak flag fly.

If you are in a particularly tough market, tailor your cover letter, possibly your resume, for every job. This best of Craigslist will help. If the company has done a good job writing the job description, you should address their wish list.

This is one man's view on how to get an engineering position at a startup. The point is, each position may need different skill sets. After you do several you may find the descriptions fall into a few flavors. By the time you've applied to about a dozen or so, you'll probably know these flavors not to mention have a routine down.

It's a numbers game. Don't be hurt by "no". "No" should make you think "Next!"

Keep running a list as you apply, which should include at least:
  • Company name
  • What they do
  • Position name
  • Location
  • Your contact (if applicable)
Keep this list handy! At some point you may get a call from one of these companies and it's rather embarrassing to say or think "I applied to a lot of jobs so I don't remember where you are/what you do" versus "Oh, yes, I was impressed with your diverse product line and the seemed very interesting. I'd love to hear more"

Later, as you get calls and go further with some of these companies add updates like:
  • Date they replied
  • Interview/phone interview date & time
  • Reminder to send thank you card

Prepare for interviews (when you don’t have one)
Buy a suit. You can find suits for 100 and under at stores like Nordstrom Rack and TJMaxx. Even if you interview at a very casual place you should wear the pants/skirt and a nice top. It’s OK to look boring. Your personality and work history should take center stage.

Request references and gather their contact information so it is handy when you need it. While you're talking to your references, update them on your life and ask them what's new.

Prepare for interviews (when the sitdown is sealed)
Get everyone’s name who you will be meeting with

Ask about the dress code and take it up one notch. If it's business casual, business is good. If it's very casual, business casual is appropriate.

If you tend towards the garish, tone it down. You should look as nice as possible but not offensive. Meaning things like heavy cologne or perfume should be saved for another time. If the interview is for a more creative job (like design) consider adding a splash of a bright color through a tie, scarf, or your top.

Try on your outfit choice the night before. It will give you a chance to observe things you may not have thought of (are your shoes really squeeky? Is your top on the short side exposing your belly?) If you have a roommate or friend who's sensibilities you trust ask his/her opinion about the whole package.

Research the company. Consult glass door to see the employee satisfaction level; yelp, and the better business bureau to gauge customer satisfaction level. Find recent news articles on the company. Look through their web site. Get an idea of their brand and products. No need to dissect, just get an idea.

Based on your research, create a list of questions pertaining to the company, market, products, department, and position. Don't you want to know about a place you might work?

If it is a technical interview, you’ll want to do your homework but don’t worry if you get some questions wrong: the interviewer may want to stump you and see how you react, what resources you would use to find an answer, and how honest you are.

At interviews

  • Ask questions
  • Be early
  • Bring resumes printed on nice paper
  • Be early
  • Use their restroom (for last minute appearance check) and thank the person who greets you. He or she is watching you too.
  • Be early
  • If you find yourself unsure or stumped on a technical question, admit that you might be rusty or haven’t come across that problem in the past. If you do guess, say “I would try this approach”
  • Interviews can be nervous making. If you’ve found yourself rambling, stop and ask “have I answered your question?”
  • Have pen, paper, and take notes. Use them to write answers to the questions you wrote
  • Consider bringing a laptop with work samples
  • Be aware of your body language. Lean forward and keep at least one hand on the table. You don't want to seem out of touch or like you don't care about this job.

Follow up, in writing
Write personal thank you cards to everyone you interviewed with. Emails are probably OK too. If they brought up something of particular interest to you acknowledge that. If they did a good job talking about the company, tell them you appreciated that.

Do not assume you have the job until you have signed an offer letter. Job hunting is a numbers game and there are plenty situations where verbal offers get pulled off the table. Don't slow your search because you feel good about a particular company. Keep looking.

If your job search is, for any reason, not working, and you are low on money, take a stopgap job! Pick something you'd be proud of & satisfied with doing like: customer service, janitorial, social worker, retail, waitress, barrista, delivery, pet-sitting, dog-walking, or non-profit work. All will get you earning enough to pay your basic bills. You'll also meet people. People you never would have known otherwise. Finally, most of these aren't 9-5 so you can look & interview while you stay afloat. Perfect.

In sum...
Even if a company is not a good fit, even if they seem unorganized/uninterested/uninteresting, even if the job clearly isn't what you want, be professional. Consider it good practice for the real thing.

Use this time to explore. Take a community college class, volunteer, visit friends for lunch, spend some time with your children. Your newfound free time should be seen as an opportunity. When you do get a job you'll be busy again.

Don't give up. It is very hard to be unemployed or underemployed, but sometimes you forget that it won't last forever. When you do get to the other side, you should feel proud that you worked so hard and didn't give up.