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Jason Cox

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Recent posts by Jason Cox

Strange article, and it has quite a few inconsistencies with my own personal experience.

One thing I do see that I'm sure is factual is the idea of faking job listings and interviews, but this is not new news. It's just like dozens of other corporate laws that companies only pay lip service to actually following.

I do think it's odd to questions companies that file many H1-B visa requests though, it seems like something of a stretch. Of course companies like Infosys will try to bring employees over from India. That's kind of a "duh" right there. It also seems like a bit of an implication that I personally have not seen to be true. I was just in talks with Infosys over a possible job that they continue to pursue me on despite my reservations. (Not reservations about the company, but rather my own qualifications)

I'd also love to see the source for this statement - "Hundreds of thousands of qualified Americans can't find work as visa workers continue to fill positions." Maybe things are different in other parts of the country, but the job market is hot in Dallas. I also went on many interviews and it took me about 3 months to find a new job. On the other hand, if I had not been so picky I could have had a new and better paying job within about a week. I also was not job hunting full time. Plenty of companies are hiring.

Ok, they quote one guy who can't find a job. Here I am one guy who says there are plenty of jobs. Does my anecdotal evidence cancel out his now?

I'm not saying the system isn't being abused and I'm not approving of the comments by the lawyers. At this point though, if there are plenty of jobs, the people this really hurts are the ones getting the visas, as going into a company looking to exploit them is hardly ideal circumstances.
11 years ago
Mixed bag here.

I'm on my 5th IT job right now.

First one was landed through a friend of the family. Second and Fourth were found through Monster, both times from a direct contact from the company. I've never applied for a job on Monster and got it. Third job was from my own efforts entirely and using my network. The fifth job was located by a staffing firm.

Staffing firms are like any other services company. There are a lot of bad ones and a few good ones. My advice is to treat them like they work for you, after all, they make money by placing you. Anytime I've been submitted for a position I didn't really want, anytime I've caught them being less than honest, anytime I've had a problem I have dropped that company without hesitation.

What made this last company work for me is that they continued to work with me even though I just wasn't hitting it off with the places they were sending me to. They kept pursuing so long as I was interested and I also started doing my homework after seeing how rusty I was (I've been kind of hands off recently and didn't stay current, my bad) They worked hard for me and they got what I wanted.

Definitely do not let them waste your time though. A lot of recruiters want you all to yourself, but I've also noticed a lot of the ones in my area had access to the same jobs and the same management teams. After awhile, I limited my contact to just two or three firms. They can be useful, but don't feel you have to rely on them.
11 years ago
Anyone who can get a 4.0 GPA already has the seed for success, therein lies the irony. A lot of what gets you success in life is a willingness to work towards your goals, even when those goals are challenging. Whatever it was that drove you to get good grades in college will work to drive you to whatever else you need to achieve. The problem is, and I suspect this is true for many of my high scoring colleagues that have not gone as far as they expected, is that your career is not so easily graded.

I absolutely hate college as the gold standard for employment because much of what they teach is worthless and the idea of "grades" isn't applicable to anything you'll do in the real world. Even performance evaluations don't compare since they score as much on "soft skills" as they do technical. In fact, the only thing you'll likely get scored on from here on out are things they don't teach in college.

Mark is right, don't fall into the "I can't" category. All you have to do is adjust your thinking. Drive yourself to success, just accept that success doesn't involve how the other guy is doing and you are still graded in life, just not the way you're graded in college.
11 years ago
A $2000 increase works out to about $167 extra a month BEFORE taxes.

There has never been a point in my life, no matter how little I was earning, that an amount like that meant the difference between success and failure, prosperity or starvation, rich or poor.

Regardless of school experience, there are other factors and you cannot allow yourself to fall into the folly of basing your expected financial worth on your college scores or location.

Your college scores are NOT an indicator of intelligence, though it is often an indicator to me of how seriously someone took their college career. I could easily ace any class I had an interest in. If I didn't care, I didn't try that hard. Now that I'm no longer some punk kid right out of high school I always go for the 'A' and I can almost always get it. I don't think I am any smarter than I was back in college, I just take courses more seriously than I used to. Not that I've had one recently.

Your colleague might be a better negotiator, he might have more confidence, he may just interview better. He might have struggled with algebra but does just fine in a real world situation. I scored low in my intro computer coursework in college because instead of using real world examples and technologies they were stuck on an esoteric system that I have not seen since. So I am less interested in someone's college experience and more interested in that they have a degree and demonstrate to me in an interview that they can do the job.

Though the best advice I can give is not to worry about the other guy but worry about yourself. That turns into a long lonely road when you tether your success based on how others are doing.
[ June 18, 2007: Message edited by: Jason Cox ]
11 years ago
I was all geared up to learn .NET as soon as a project was thrown my way. At one point I was routinely mentioning to my supervisors at three different employers how willing I was to be on a .NET Project and how ready I was to learn the technology. (I tend to learn by doing)

The problem has been, and continues to this day, that the projects simply have not been there. So I am really curious as to where this "market dominance" is. I have long since lost interest in learning .NET as it appears that it will add very little value to my overall career.
11 years ago
I'm of the somewhat odd mind that if I can do my job in 40 hours then I am going home at the end of the day. If someone else needs 50 hours to do their job, I don't feel obligated to hang around the extra 10 hours a week just to make them feel better. If there is something I can do to help keep the project on track, even if it means I go over 40 hours, then I generally will do it.

In terms of development I am one of those people that tends to be at least twice as productive as anyone else on the team. I have completed numerous tasks, helped others with their issues, and mentored junior developers all in a 40 hour week. I generally don't have to go over and if I knuckle down and get the work done I can do a lot in a surprisingly short amount of time. However, my productivity drops dramatically as I get tired. At 14 hours straight I am pretty much writing 80% bugs. That's with a good amount of rest the night before. I then have to spend the next two or three hours of the following work day undoing the bugs I wrote the night before. I simply do not believe more hours is more productive.

While the 40 hour work week may seem arbitrary, there seems to be something to it. I've seen shops that routinely work their people slavishly and I see very little in terms of creativity or innovation. Code quality tends to be bad and bug fixes are endless. There are days I'm surprised those places actually write any functional code at all. On the flip-side, I have worked at a client site where the regular employees routinely worked between 30 to 35 hours per week and it was also frustrating. There was no sense of urgency and having employees effectively miss a full work day worth of hours had about the same impact as having employees work too many hours.

If someone likes working long hours I think that is fine. I have met very few people who are actually effective when they are working every waking hour.

From a career standpoint, I don't think long hours means better opportunities. I know senior people who routinely work 60+ hours that have peers that work a standard work week. To be honest, I kind of admire the guy who can do the same job in less time. I will say that it is damn hard to climb the corporate ladder if you're never willing to put in the time. My general philosophy is that most things can be done in a 40 hour work week and I'll be right there with you walking out the door at quitting time. However, if there is work to be done or a problem crops up, I will work to get the problem solved. Some things, no matter how tired I am or how long the day has gone, simply cannot wait until tomorrow. If I were evaluating one of my subordinates I'm not going to look at how many hours they worked per se but I am going to want to know if they've used their time efficiently and if they've been willing to take some extra time when it was needed. I am not so impressed by people who will leave at their usual time while we're in the midst of a crisis.
[ February 20, 2007: Message edited by: Jason Cox ]
11 years ago
This is a cut-n-paste from something I posted somewhere else on this very topic -


I had a conversation with a respected co-worker a little over a month ago about unionization. He had some great points about what labor unions bring to the market, but I felt really dubious about the prospect of working in a unionized environment. Most of my points were about open market and the real value of a person�s labor on the market versus union gouging. Still, something about the discussion just did not sit right with me.

I�ve been a member of a union in the past, I was a member of the Travis Country Sheriff�s Association. It was a good union and at the time it made a lot of sense to be a member. While I was having that conversation with my co-worker I kept thinking about that union and if I regretted being a member. I did not. So why am I against unionization if I belonged to a union that I still think is a good idea? Finally, the answer dawned on me.

In my business I work with a lot of mediocre people. I have been in IT long enough that I am starting to realize the reason why people are mediocre is because they have no aspirations to do any better. I am not an �ber-programmer at all, yet I have been recongized for my contributions and work. The difference I see is not in intelligence or even ability, but in that I have a desire to try new things and take on tough challenges while many of the people I have worked with since entering this field are content doing the same-ole same-ole. Yet when it comes time for evaluations, those people still want the raises and promotions, regardless of the fact that they have not put forth any additional effort.

Unions usually want standardized payscales and compensation. The union method is says your labor is worth [X] dollars and that is what you should be earning. The problem with that philosophy is that it assumes that everyone will work to the same level. Yet in the technology field we routinely find employees that are twice as productive, five times as productive, sometimes even ten times more productive than the average IT worker. Is that person supposed to just earn as much as the employees that don�t even try? Do you believe that people who essentially think for a living can be commodified? I don�t even mind so much if someone comes in at a higher salary than me, but I do not want to think that they get the same compensation increase and chances of promotion that I do just because they work in the same field. I desire to compete and come out on top. Levelling the playing field is just a way for mediocre employees to have an additional chance to overtake people who are good at their jobs.

So then, what about the Sheriff�s Office? Well, in the Sheriff�s Office you do have commodified labor and the rate of pay cannot exceed what local government could pay. What happened though is that the Austin Police got a large pay increase and so the Sheriff�s Office wanted one to. It made a lot of sense. The officers were not asking an unrealistic or unsustainable amount either, nor would they be in a position to. Furthermore, everything at the Sheriff�s Office was standardized. Want to promote? You take a test with everyone else. Raise based on seniority rather than ability? Makes perfect sense when you�re not really an industry trying to get a product to market. What is my labor worth to the county? Not really anymore than anyone else, I can be easily replaced no matter how good I perform. You cannot be ten times as productive as another officer, there is no way to measure that.

Maybe unions do have their place, but I am still very wary of them. I look at the industries we have now that are heavily unionized and none of them seem to be healthy. You cannot lay the blame on management at that point, the workers end up sharing some of the blame as well. If salaries and demands go beyond what the market can take and businesses are cornered into using union labor, than the industry will not be healthy in the long run. Sadly, we got into this whole mess because businesses were exploiting their labor. I can�t help but wonder if all the damage we�ve seen in the long run couldn�t have been avoided if some sleazebag wasn�t so worried about trying to recoup what was likely a minimal cost rather than do the right thing.

11 years ago
I have to say from your somewhat stubborn tone it seems as though you almost want for the US economy to be in trouble despite others giving you evidence that it's not necessarily the case.

The housing bubble is not a national phenomenon by any stretch but there is severe danger of a housing bubble in certain parts of the country. I have seen this first hand from my travels in the past two years. North Virginia is begging for a bubble to burst, but I don't see any real rise in housing costs where I am living and there has been little concern. Our typical doomsayers (ie: the news media) have been incredibly quiet.

I agree that if the economy tanks, jobs will be lost. However, don't mistake a dangerous situation for becoming a repeat of the dotcom bust. What it likely means is that jobs will become harder to find in areas of the country where real estate does not return to realistic levels before hitting a crisis.

That said, it will not be the first time where one area of the country is having difficulties while other areas are chugging along just fine. That is the beauty of the US and something our own media overlooks all too often. We are large enough and diverse enough that one bad thing happening in one region does not necessarily reflect what is happening in all regions.
11 years ago
As a baseline, if you assume all candidates are equally ineffective, then at least someone with more experience will have had more time to work on more problems. The argument of course is that they just might have had more experience at being bad as well.

Unfortunately, there is no real quantative way to measure how effective someone is as a developer. If I have someone with 2 years of experience who seems to know what they are talking about versus someone with 6 years of experience who seems to know what they are talking about, I'm going to go with the opinion of the 6 year veteran. Fortunately, it has been my experience so far that people with knowledge are easy to identify, and people with knowledge and experience even moreso.

The problem lies in companies where someone may have found there comfort zone, their niche, their corner of the office and have decided they are perfectly fine there. They would rather have security than challenge. When an employee hits that point, they have no incentive to continue learning.
11 years ago
It seems like to me that it is very trendy to hate people in management, especially the person you have to report directly to.

I have had my share of bad bosses, but in recent years I have had a string of good ones. Even when I had a bad boss I didn't hate them though, I just sort of tolerated it. Not too long after I finally starting having good bosses I realized that no one has to work for a bad boss. In fact, many of the people who devote their time to complaining about their boss were not even good employees. The best employees never complained about the boss, they just found work somewhere else or promoted out from under them.

This trend of boss hating seems to be more about resentment of authority than actual performance though. I have known some really good managers who still receive nothing but contempt from some of their employees. Indeed, I see people get promoted who instantly earn ire from some of their former co-workers.

When people complain about the boss, is the boss really the problem?
11 years ago
I pondered some more on this last night.

Too many places use interviews as the end-all, be-all of the selection process. Once the candidate gets in the door at some businesses they're in for good.

I personally favor businesses that use an iterative process for new hires. Most good employers I've worked at give six month reviews for new hires, most everyone else is only reviewed annually. Even for employers who don't want to go through the pain of firing an employee can still start giving disincentives to bad hires. Don't give raises, don't move them beyond junior, withhold some kind of reward they were supposed to receive if they perform well. Make it clear that they need to improve their performance. If they don't, then go ahead and release them after a year.

You can attempt to do contract-to-hire, unfortunately I think this shrinks your candidate pool. Anyone really competent is not going to want to do contract-to-hire. You might occassionally get that odd desperate person who is actually good and can't pass up the job, but for the most part your limiting your search. I am not bashing people who do contract-to-hire, they are not inherently bad. I will say that I have refused to talk to recruiters or consider jobs that were contract-to-hire. I don't need that position, so why would I enter into circumstances where if things go wrong (company is downsizing, poor management, etc.) I might be out of a job? Why would I give up benefits and security to go do the same thing?

Employers need to realize that a good interview does not mean you have a good candidate. Their resume might look good and they might interview well, and you might still have a real dog. Performance is key. I think in some cases employers don't want to admit they've hired a bad employee because it makes them look like they can't conduct an interview. The problem is that perspective assumes that an interview should be a perfect process.
11 years ago
I pondered some more on this last night.

Too many places use interviews as the end-all, be-all of the selection process. Once the candidate gets in the door at some businesses they're in for good.

I personally favor businesses that use an iterative process for new hires. Most good employers I've worked at give six month reviews for new hires, most everyone else is only reviewed annually. Even for employers who don't want to go through the pain of firing an employee can still start giving disincentives to bad hires. Don't give raises, don't move them beyond junior, withhold some kind of reward they were supposed to receive if they perform well. Make it clear that they need to improve their performance. If they don't, then go ahead and release them after a year.

You can attempt to do contract-to-hire, unfortunately I think this shrinks your candidate pool. Anyone really competent is not going to want to do contract-to-hire. You might occassionally get that odd desperate person who is actually good and can't pass up the job, but for the most part your limiting your search. I am not bashing people who do contract-to-hire, they are not inherently bad. I will say that I have refused to talk to recruiters or consider jobs that were contract-to-hire. I don't need that position, so why would I enter into circumstances where if things go wrong (company is downsizing, poor management, etc.) I might be out of a job? Why would I give up benefits and security to go do the same thing?

Employers need to realize that a good interview does not mean you have a good candidate. Their resume might look good and they might interview well, and you might still have a real dog. Performance is key. I think in some cases employers don't want to admit they've hired a bad employee because it makes them look like they can't conduct an interview. The problem is that perspective assumes that an interview should be a perfect process.
11 years ago
A.) Your co-workers are jerks

or

B.) You ask bad questions

My general rule of thumb is anyone gets to ask the same question twice. However, until they hit that limit, I'll answer most any question they ask.

For the more basic stuff that is easily researched I'll usually recommend some websites. I do tend to answer those basic questions and then give them the website(s) as a future reference, with a strong implication they should research for themselves first.

I also understand what it's like to be in "the zone" and then be interrupted. Regardless, I see it as my responsibility as a senior developer to mentor anyone junior to me and my responsibility as a teammate to help those that are also senior. I've also had a situation come up where the architect was asking me a lot of questions because he was new on the project and needed to get up to speed.

From my experience, I think people who try to avoid answering questions don't appreciate the investment they are making in the team by taking time to answer. Those who feel they can belittle others because they have more experience are probably insecure.

I don't have time for junior developers to blow up a project. I'd much rather take the time to answer questions to avoid losing a lot more time later.
11 years ago
The problem with this whole scenario is that I doubt anyone here would admit if they write bad code. In fact, I'd bet most everyone here thinks they write good code.
11 years ago
Really depends on the interviewer and what kind of questions they ask.

I can actually buy something like this happening, especially if the interviewer had a non-technical background.

I doubt this would happen if they had interviewed someone who actually knew something about technology. It's awful hard to bluff your way past someone who actually understands the questions they're asking.
11 years ago