TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
I empathize with you, Ken, and recall your dilemma from prior threads. My
nephew was doing the same dead-end ATL commute bit and it was wearing on
him. Finally he got downsized, so the choice was made for him. He spent his
downtime teaching himself how to code apps for iOS and Android, then wrote
two apps that continue to bring in about $12K annually. Not enough to
retire on, but it's good beer money.
His coding prowess landed him a cool gig with startup closer to Alpharetta.
One perk was a gift of a new high-tech bike that links to the company's
biometrics app. He loves that. I'm very happy it's worked out for him.
*No Room at the Inn*
Contemplating a move from NorCal to Albany, I found an opening at nearby
X-ray Optical Systemsânot a startup. Phone interviews went really well, I
was flown out to do the same in person, but then the ax dropped. XOS wasn't
going to fill the position, which I guess had been a directive of its
parent holding company. *Sigh...*
*I'm Your Captain.. Listen to Me...*
*Shh...Shh..Sh-AME...Shame On You-ooo!*
Then I thought I'd be a good mentor to a well-funded millennial IaaS
startup (having a name that sounds like a sugar substitute). This the
standup desk place with foosball, catered lunches, and the requisite craft
beer outings after work. You know, a fraternity house. Every guy who works
there ports a two-day growth so they can be just as cool-looking as the CEO
(never mind that many look like ridiculous dorks).
The personality test conveyed that I was a "Captain," which I was please
with. (Chris can take the ball and run with it while leading others.)
Meanwhile, the HR dood was taking every opportunity to throw up a wall. I
kept knocking them down, first by appealing to the co-founder/CEO, and then
having a phone interview with another c-founder and lead engineer. I
passed. Finally I had to take a timed online test. I got 4/5, explaining
that if I had gotten the job, I know how to quickly shore up those areas at
which I'm deficient (only because of lack of prior work exposure in that
realm). Oh-oh-OK... I was finally given an appointment to come and meet the
peeps in person.
The afternoon before I was scheduled to interview, Mr. HR Dood wrote me
again. "Don't bother; we've decided to promote from within."
A couple of weeks later I literally bumped into him from behind at a local
startup event. He was obviously embarrassed and didn't know how to act. It
spoke more volumes. Oh, and I haven't bothered to pursue that
startup/millennial/groovy workplace avenue againâespecially after reading
the HubSpot expose excerpt, written by someone like us who tried to make
the impossible work.
*The Man Who Knew Too Much*
*Kick 'Em When They're Up, Kick 'Em When They're Down*
As for me, I had a very good relationship with my Aerotek recruiter in
NorCalâthe first recruiter I felt really had my interests in mind, in
addition to those of her client. I had had a couple of not-so-good
experiences with TEKsystems, a sister company. Nevertheless, when I moved
to Albany I sat with a TEKsystems rep one morning at Starbucks (ugh!) and
told her what I was and wasn't interested in pursuing. Sure enough, the
meeting was merely a required formality, as she didn't listen at all.
Now thinking of what Gene wrote, I was contacted months later about a
two-year contract gig with Xerox State Healthcare. The req had that certain
smell about it, and in the back of my mind I was hearing, "Run, Forrest,
run!" I expressed my reservations and told the recruiter that if she could
get the rate up to the point it was worth my while leaving the house and
rejoining the rat race, then please call back. A few weeks went be before I
got the call. XSH was desperate. (I later learned that their NYS contract
had a penalty clause for each day that certain positions went unfilled.)
Given the better rate, I told myself, "Hey, Xerox is a recognized big
corporate name to add to my resume," as if I need that after 25 years and
prior relationships with Microsoft, HP, etc. (I really didn't need to be
concerned about padding out my resume at this point.)
Because I don't have a college diploma, this is the first and only time any
potential employer wanted my high school transcripts, of all things.
Besides introducing another delay in the hiring process, that should have
further served as a warning to me.
As the story unfolds, XSH could serve as another Wharton School case study
(DANGER, Will Robinson!). I could use up all of the bits allocated to this
thread in writing more, but I'll cut to the chase. My tech pubs manager's
sole qualification was that she was a former sorority sister of the woman
calling the shots. I've met more intelligent toast. Initially I was her
go-to person because she recognized I had the chops. But after two months
of her daily fire drill and inability to cope at that level, I became her
In short, my intuition had been correct all along, and I should never have
exposed myself to that oppressive/repressive situation. I don't need to
work in a top-down dinosaur environment, regardless of the rate.
Meanwhile, I'd been wooing people at the nearby Center for Internet
Security (a DHS affiliate) since discovering that its facility was a few
doors away from XOS. Finally a position opened up that had my name all over
it, and it appeared I was a fast-track candidate. I was to meet with five
people, as I recall. Thinking that they would have scoped me out on
LinkedIn and would have seen all of the linked rich media (work samples) I
have posted there, for the first time I didn't bring along my hardcopy
portfolio (aims phony gun at head).
Red flag #1: Only two showed up for the interview, as if they were merely
going through the motion and likely had already selected a candidate from
within. The hiring manager was someone my age, possibly older (he could
have been my older brother). The other bloke looked like a renegade from
the IaaS sugar substitute company (I'm glad I don't have stock in Gilette
these days). Nevertheless, the interview progressed and I thought I'd made
a really good impression by asking thoughtful questions, revealing my depth
of knowledge, confidence, etc.
Then came the whopper question that blindsided me: "Can you tell me about a
time when you disagreed with your superior and how you handled it?" I was
unprepared and blathered on about a prior impossible situation.
Although I took far too many words to convey the story, it boiled down to a
new delegated manager with no design experienceâand a total cultural
disconnect (think: decorated Pakistani trucks)âtromping all over the
company marketing image (and style guide) that had been carefully laid out
eight years prior, with me overseeing it for the last five. Because the new
guy was rarely onsite and deadlines loomed, I had to take his "design" and
retool it as best I could, making the proverbial lemonade from lemons. I
thought I was doing a good thing. (Little did I know that Mr. Megalomaniac
used that as rationale for my dismissal.) All the while I did my best to
remain professional and courteous to the madman, and this is what I
conveyed (in more polite terms) during my interviewâthat I'll inform my
superior when I believe a mistake is being made, but that in the end, the
boss is the boss, right or wrong. And I'm OK with that.
Toward the end of the interview, the hiring manager told me about how he
likes to run his department "as if it's a happy family." *Oh-oh...
koom-bay-yah... What ever happened to reporting for work, going your work,
and then leaving the work environment behind? And if I want to hang with
peeps from work after hours, isn't that MY prerogative? I don't go in for
the bi-monthly potluck coupled with the requisite feelie-feelie pep talk.*
Several weeks went by and I heard nothing back. Finally I InMailed the
original friendly contact person in HR, only to learn that, why yes, the
position had been filledâ"Thanks anyway...sorry no one notified you."
Enough. Today I'm happy to be a freelancer with a roster of satisfied
remote clients wanting more work from me. Praise God. What I bill wouldn't
work for most, but it lets me live reasonably comfortably without having to
dig into retirement savings. I'm perpetually beating the bushes looking for
more work, but then I've been a "gigger" all of my career, with a few
longer-term FTE stops along the way.
Now if it weren't for Obamacare...
Visit TechWhirl for the latest on content technology, content strategy and content development | http://techwhirl.com