May 31 2011

CEO of You

I’ve worked for large companies and I’ve worked with small companies. There is a big difference in your day to day responsibilities when working in either of these environments. In a large company, you know your rank, your salary pay, and your place in the org chart. In a large company, you can predict product releases by the conference room schedule months in advance. I remember working on a project in a large organization and I wanted to add a boolean property to a single database table but the there was so much bureaucracy in place that that it took two meetings and the review of the local database expert who used his tenure to carve out a little fiefdom for himself.

It’s completely different in a small organization. In a startup, there is no room for bureaucracies, or org charts with more than two levels, or egos of experts but at the same time everyone is the CEO of something. In a company of less then 10 people, there is no room for middle managers, everyone has to manage themselves, everybody has to be a CEO of something. In such an organization, you may have to be the technical lead, the hiring manager, or the vice president of phone system, or directory of version control, as well as the senior technical writer, and even maintenance guy. In a small organization you have to do it all. In a small organization, when printer is stops functioning you are the printer expert. When the phone system stops functioning, you need to take the lead.

I’ve found that this approach also works for other aspects of life. There are people that wait for a scheduled meeting to to figure out what they need to do next, I like to get done.

Oct 11 2010

The Resume is Dead

The resume as you know it is dead. Having a great resume and a perfect cover letter is not enough of a differentiator. Every candidate will have the same alphabet soup of buzzwords and they all list the same excellent communication and interpersonal soft skills in their resume. Any hiring manager will have the same experience of looking at inbox full of resumes that read the same. There is very little scientific method in the hiring process, it’s mostly voodoo. One way passionate candidates distance themselves from apathetic candidates is by learning a new programming language on their own, by contributing to open source projects, and by blogging and teaching what they’ve learned.

Recruiters are constantly looking for top candidates outside the traditional job boards, career fairs, job listings. There have been many instances where coders land job interviews because of their top rated technology blog, or their Stack Overflow reputation, or their side project in GitHub.

Recently, two stories made the front page of Hacker News that demonstrates that working running demonstrable code is better than sending out your static resume.

After Google released it’s Search Instant feature, Stanford student Feross Aboukhadijeh used the publicly available YouTube API to develop YouTube Instant. Feross was contacted by YouTube CEO Chad Hurley and offered a job via a tweet.

Designer Rodrigo Galindez gets hired by Zendesk after posting his thoughts and UI mockup to improve the new Twitter design.

As a candidate, you have to think outside the box, outside the resume. Every candidate will have a nice crisp resume. You can’t possibly distinguish yourself from other candidate by the format, font, or flow of your resume. Where appropriate be sure to highlight your contribution to open source projects, technical blog, of even the small natural language pet project written in scheme you might be tinkering with.