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Tell HN: booking.com is looking for 40+ Perl programmers (in Amsterdam)
116 points by thibaut_barrere on Oct 12, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 68 comments
Note: I'm not affiliated with booking.com - they mentioned these offers at the open-source developer conference in paris/france this week-end, so I'm forwarding the information.

Booking.com is looking for more than 40 perl programmers (either seasoned or beginners willing to learn).

They are based in Amsterdam, provide a "competitive salary + relocation package".

They use Perl, Apache, mod_perl, MySql, Memcache, Mason, JavaScript, Git etc.

They are facing a huge growth, which definitely results in interesting scaling challenges :)

You can contact Sheila Sijtsema at sheila.sijtsema@booking.com or have a look at http://www.booking.com/jobs

I never realized until recently how hard something like this is. People do not want to move. People that hear about your job post usually have some reason to have heard about your job post, like they can't program at all and their last employer finally figured it out. Unfortunately, you can't know this until they show up and you ask them a few questions about Perl. (I love how one candidate tried to BS me on a basic Perl question. "Do you know OO Perl?" "Yes." "What's the first argument to a Perl method?" "$_". "Don't you mean $_[0]?" "They're the same thing." Congratulations, you have clearly never written any Perl.)

I work at a bank, and we need Perl programmers too. We can afford to pay a lot better than booking.com, but we can't find anyone, either. It's very odd. (And it's not just Perl, we had the same problem with Java and C#, and are having the same problem with C++. Might as well rewrite our app in Haskell... at least those languages have a community.)

The other thing that I see as being difficult for booking.com is that people don't want to work with 40+ other people. Between learning "the rules" from the people already there and teaching the new folks how to program, there is never any time to get anything done. (My second "real job" was like this; I was not even a "team lead" and yet all I did was teach other people basic Perl + Database stuff. We got exactly no work done. At least if I was by myself I would have been able to do one person's work.)

In fact, I find the other Perl team in my office to be too big -- and they only have 4 people!

Why is Perl knowledge a requirement? I've been writing Perl in my new job since June and almost the entire team of 10 (myself included) knew no Perl before joining.

Check that your candidates know how to develop software, make sure they are comfortable with functional programming so they don't break anything, and give them a couple books (programming perl & higher order perl) to read for a week after joining.

Same here. At my current job I knew exactly 0 perl to start with. I haven't learned all the object oriented stuff yet, but I'm cruising (and have been for at least the past three months or more) at 4 mo. in, and I was capable of writing some of the simple stuff after a week or two.

This is even harder to select for. Now instead of the keyword "Perl", we have nothing.

I stay away from applying for a lot of Perl jobs because my skillsets don't seem to match what's used in production environments often, though I've been doing it for >5 years.

For instance, my webby experience with Perl is CGI::Fast, POE::Componenet::FastGI, Plack::Request with my own dispatcher, DBI itself. Where often the places are looking for Catylist or mod_perl with DBIx::Class / ORM, and I feel uncomfortable applying for a positon where my current skill set doesn't meet the technologies they use even if I could pick up either quickly.

In general my non-webby Perl experience is sufficient.

Does anyone else run into this, and if so how do you handle it?

I like it if candidates know about testing and OO. If they don't know Moose yet, that's fine. Catalyst and DBIx::Class are not something I would expect. Not everyone does web/database stuff. I don't, and I wrote a freakin' book about it!

It's a little odd if you know OO Perl but don't use Moose, but not a deal-killer. Honestly, I've found that there is a large faction of Perl programmers that refuse to leave the 1990s behind, and those are the people I don't want to hire. If you just don't know something but are willing to learn, then that's perfect. It's the "I will absolutely not use Moose" that == unemployment :)

I know OO and testing (at least Test::More and general test writing), though I haven't played with Moose more for a lack of time than an aversion to it.

Half the jobs I've taken give deadlines for projects that make it impossible for me to learn more than I know to complete them and the list of things I have to learn in my time (that also competes with lists of projects, blog articles and other things) is growing constantly. I miss having free time.

I am in the same place.

I'm thinking about a couple of months vacation after this job, to do some web hacking and learning the newer frameworks.

I really like the present place, but I almost doesn't touch the web/CPAN. I have managed to drag people here from 1999 to 2005 or so, but that is probably the limit. :-(

(The killer now, is that I seem to be in the worst place in Scandinavia to have a peanut allergy. [Edit: The lack of challenge to learn new things is not good either.])

I have an almost diametrically opposed experience. I have good Perl skills, and 8+ years experience, and can't get Perl work in Sydney Australia, primarily due to the fact that recruiters looking for Perl devs here don't know anything about Perl tech.

The few Perl dev jobs I've interviewed for and taken have relied on unbelievably basic programming tests.

Yes, recruiting basically sucks for Perl, and probably programming in general. The only way I have ever successfully found people to work with is through pre-existing relationships. (In the case of my current job, Perl Mongers; in the case of past jobs, people I know on irc.)

You also mention location specificity -- this hurts employees and employers. Employees don't want to relocate, and employers don't want the communication barrier that telecommuting raises. (And FWIW, having telecommuted at an all-telecommute company... it kind of sucks on both ends.)

if you're looking for perl jobs in Sydney, drop me a line at mwotton@gmail.com. I have a few friends who are constantly looking for good perl devs.

Agreed. At one of my previous (financial sector) employers we had a crack perl team (the team had a number of well known members of the Perl community) and we still struggled to find decent Perl developers despite offering a decent pay package and a strong team.

What about people that haven't used much Perl but can pick up languages quickly? Do you look for people like that or do they get screened out because they have little to no Perl experience?

Odd to see this on HN now. I took the job with Booking, just finished packing and will be flying out to Amsterdam tomorrow. See http://blogs.perl.org/users/aevar_arnfjor_bjarmason/2010/10/...

For anyone considering this I can tell you that their whole relocation package (including the assistance they give you) is very impressive.

Working with both Ovid and Avar makes this a great opportunity to learn from two big-hitters in the perl world.

Ovid signed on as well. Do you know if they mentor well? I can program in Perl and have created a few websites and internal stuff but some things are best taught.

Prediction: SocialText 2.0.

It's probably a bad sign. Almost no one is in a position to bring that many on board and use them effectively, and I'm tempted to say no one is unless they're already a fair multiple of that size. When you combine that with being open to "beginners willing to learn" which almost no one can afford, it makes it sound like one of the "We need 5 times what our ten guys are doing and that means 40 more." bad decisions. Generally you don't need forty more. You need one or two geniuses and perhaps management and replacement.

This is all based on information in this posting. I know nothing about the company or its situation or even if they really are looking for 40+. I'm just generally suspicious about this sort of recruiting.

Obviously a management issue. 40 Perl developers is overkill on many levels.

If I were a Perl developer who wanted to live in Amsterdam, I would be scared of a place looking for 40 people - it means that their management is doing something nonsensical.

Nonsensical is an understatement here, imho.

Unless this is their humorous way of celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Mythical Man Month...

40 salaries + X! That's at least ~2mio down the drain, even if someone comes to their senses and pulls the plug within the first year.

This company is part of the Priceline group of companies.

Comparing http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=PCLN+GOOG shows size-related statistics that are about 10% of GOOG, whatever that may mean in reality given the difference of marktes in which they operate.


While Erlang and Haskell may get you laid, Perl remains the glue of the web.

Not that I don't know but for the other readers here, how would one get laid with Erlang or Haskell?

quickly and in parallel.


Are they trying to prove the infinite monkey theorem, empirically?

I don't think really. Based on some discussion, it seems they are more adding a pile of new servers everyday, and they also seem to do a very good job at automating their process etc.

I don't think the number of servers you need is even loosely related to the number of devs you need.

You need more people to manage 1,000 servers than you do for managing just 10. Sure, you can automate processes, but as automation becomes more sophisticated it takes more time and resources to build and maintain. So, yes, the number of devs does not grow linearly with the number of servers, but maybe it grows logarithmically, or even slower. But it does grow.

Note they are looking for developers, not sysadmins.

Yes, 1000 servers translates to roughly 40 racks and you'd better have a team of sysadmins to babysit them.

Imho that doesn't have much to do with hiring 40 perl developers in one fellow swoop, though.

They are also looking for DBAs if your skills lean that way.

I've worked with them as an affiliate and they have a pretty good system. The travel industry as a whole is pretty fast moving.

I've worked with them as an affiliate too - and their XML service, in some cases, is very slow compared to their competitors - like orders of magnitude slow. I hope 40+ engineers can help them catch up with the rest. Although 40 seems like a crazy number.

I find IAN to be much slower than booking.com or Priceline, but maybe that was just a personal experience of mine and doesn't reflect the usual case.. hmm..

Can't be that good if they need 40 more keyboardists.

They do a lot of A/B testing. So you need to code each feature a few times to see which implementation results in more conversions.

It's not what a startup would do, correct, but they are swimming in money and this practice apparently gets them even more.

Hmm, so the news of Perl's deaths have been exaggerated then?

Perl is still very much alive and well.

unfortunately if I may add :)

If you search on indeed.com, perl has more hits than python and ruby combined by a solid margin. Certainly many of these are for sys admin positions, but I still think it's a pretty telling statistic.

Well, something that surprises me is why hasn't this post been upvoted at least once (after 25 minutes) ?

I'm pretty sure it can be interesting to many more people (I would be if I loved perl, but I don't practice it).

Perl is easy to learn. It also borrowed from a lot of languages, and a lot of languages borrowed from it, which makes it easier.

If you already know C, bash, Ruby, Python or PHP, you will find a lot of carryover to Perl.

Oh man, I <3 Perl...

If it weren't for the whole family/rooted thing I would go for it - plus not to mention I already speak Dutch.

Maybe you can still try to get in touch with them. They are apparently struggling a bit (why I posted) to hire that many people; maybe they would agree to see some remote work at some point (just extrapolating!).

Speaking Dutch is not necessary at Booking.com.

But definitely a plus in Amsterdam.

You can get by fine with English but to really feel at home - you should know the language. This is assuming you want to make the place you live in feel like home.

I lived in Den Haag for three months and I was surprised at how little Dutch was spoken on a day-to-day basis. Everyone defaulted to English all the time, and the only people I met who didn't speak it were immigrants from other countries (usually Russia).

I was eventually able to pronounce Scheveningen, though.

Edit: All this is to say, of all the non-English-speaking countries to go to as an English speak, The Netherlands is probably the easiest to get by in.

I live and work in The Netherlands and if there is a non-dutch speaker in one of my teams we default to English so everyone can follow the discussion, although it's a bit harder for everyone to follow and it takes a bit more time. For the younger people here English isn't a problem, for the 40+ (aged) people it can be. For even better adaption of English you should visit Scandinavia; In the short time I've been there I couldn't find a single person there that didn't speak decent English.

Default to English just because there is ONE person who doesn't understand? Come on. Be proud of your native tongue and speak it. This is how languages die. Are the dutch willing to have their language replaced with English in 50 years?

All I'm saying is... if that one foreigner is motivated enough to stay in the Netherlands, he better damn well learn the language. He/she will have to anyway, in order to adapt in social settings.

If the foreigner is motivated enough he will learn Dutch anyway, in the meantime a common language is far more productive. English is the business language of choice in most European countries. Also if you need to work with teams spread all over the world it is much easier.

I guess English will evolve too, there will be a lot more influence from other languages, caused by the internet.

That's how we dutch people roll.

I was recently in The Netherlands, and was surprised to find that the taxi drivers spoke better English than they do in Sydney.

(In Sydney a lot of taxis are driven by recent immigrants who's English is sometimes less-than-ideal, despite some kind of mandatory-English requirement. If they have a mandatory English requirement in The Netherlands for taxi drivers then the bar must be a lot higher than in Australia!)

Actually, according to european study [1], the ability to speak English is 87% for NL versus 86% in Denmark. I've lived in both, and I think what you're describing is selection bias?

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/education/languages/pdf/doc631_en.pdf

Agreed, it is a plus in any country to know the local language. But you can get by adequately in Amsterdam in English. I would argue better so than in most northern European cities, non-native English speaking.

Damn, being 41 years old I thought I finally find a ".com" that wasn't practicing ageism! Guess I'll have to take my 15 long years of perl experience and keep looking!

Link: http://www.booking.com/jobs (although I believe email contact may be better).

Here is the link to the actual job I believe:


40 decent perl programmers in Amsterdam is going to be tough to fill.

The only ones I know of that are good with Perl you wouldn't want to hire for any reason.

First I thought they meant Perl programmers 40 years and older, but age discrimination is illegal here :)

If they are "good with Perl," then why would you "not want to hire them"?

I think that he's saying that their other characteristics would make you not want to hire them, even though they are good with Perl.

I was trying to be slightly diplomatic, but I seem to have failed. Let me put it more blunt:

If you're looking for 40 people you'll be looking for team players, these guys are really good, on their, own doing something that will never need maintenance.

Hiring 4 people at the same time to work on the same project is a questionable idea- 40 is just absurd. I hope we eventually hear about the aftermath of this.

If this was about four years from now, I would be all over it. I've been toying with the idea of someday expatriating to the Netherlands.

Why wait?

I'm not quite finished where I am now. :)

Gee, I'm a 40+ Perl programmer. But Amsterdam is a few time zones away...

Maybe they'll finish Perl 6?

Booking.com are a heavy user and investor in Perl5:

* http://www.booking.com/general.ja.html?tmpl=docs/pressreleas...

* http://news.perlfoundation.org/2008/12/bookingcom_makes_a_ma...

* http://news.perlfoundation.org/2010/02/grant_proposal_fixing...

NB. Last two links look a bit naff at moment! I think they're in process of some CSS amendments.

So Booking.com want perl5 developers and not anything related to perl6. However if you are interested in perl6 then you can find the latest version of Rakudo (perl6 on Parrot) here: http://rakudo.org/announce/rakudo-star/2010.09

And I thought I was crazy looking for 40 unicorn trainers in los angeles

No you got it all wrong. These are dutch people after all.

They are looking for 40 grams of "perl".. You know what I mean? Shmoke it wiff a pancake.

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