When I was first getting into IT I started sending out CVs. Mine was terrible. I had been working in call centres for years at this point and all my "experience" was basically self-taught, so not really experience at all. As a result my CV was void of any actual content a hiring manager in IT would want to read, thus it was binned a lot.
I applied for a job at a nearby network hardware repair place. They needed someone to look after their Cisco kit and about 30 Debian Linux systems. I was attracted to the mix of responsibilities so I applied, sending in me not-so-good CV. I was eventually asked to come in to have a chat after waiting about a week to hear back from the place.
At the end of the interview, Bob (let's call him), said I was more knowledgeable than the RHCEs that were coming through his door. This was nice to hear, but then he said something that really made me smile...
Apparently my CV was worse than I thought. It was so bad, that Bob literally put it in the bin under his desk. About four days later, Bob was reading through a local Linux User Group (LUG) mailing list and he saw a name he recognised: mine. So he opens the email and reads the thread in which I helped another LUG member compile a sound driver for their kernel. The instructions I gave worked.
Bob was impressed but he couldn't quite remember where he had seen the name. At this point the business owner, John (heh...), was standing besides Bob's desk and noticed my CV in the bin. He pulls it out and reads my name across the top. The penny drops for Bob and I get the call to come in and have a chat.
I got the job.
I had the opposite happen.
I took a job doing some programming, some Linux administration, some helpdesk. I came across a convoluted database setup, nobody in their right mind would run multiple servers on the same machine this way... After researching the issue, I found that it was totally unnecessary, and likely a holdover from an earlier (like 15 years earlier) version of the software, because now it was natively support.
During my searching, on a mailing list I found a message from my now-boss. Asking how to do the exact thing they were still doing. And a couple messages from developers of the software basically saying, "If you did it this way, it would in theory work, but it won't ever be supported"
One day, I was trying to get Mac OSX to run on this particular system, and on page six of google search I finally found a guide to configuring the BIOS for this board that actually worked! It was one of the very first boards that supported UEFI (iirc, before the spec was fully ratified), and the documentation was very incomplete.
I dug a few pages deeper in the thread, and the same poster was describing the poor design of the heatsinks and how they interfered with the full length PCI cards that were used in pro audio at the time. The same poster described how they carefully prized the aluminum heatsink off, screwed it to a board and used a dremel tool to make a slot just wide enough for the card to safely fit.
That was strange... I had exactly the same groove cut in my heatsink...
Bought it, and filed off the ears so it would fit in my car's socket. Worked perfectly, for a small fraction of the price.
Of course, my car is full of aftermarket parts, so I am used to making "adjustments" to get them to fit.
But heck, even a parking light will flatten the battery if left overnight.
> But heck, even a parking light will flatten the battery if left overnight.
That might be an interesting experiment to test.
Probably not important in this case since it's just a light for parking, but lights for cars cost more due to having to meet exacting DOT standards/testing. I wouldn't do this with a brake light or real headlight.
True ... we just moved on from a car build in 1999 to one build in 2011 ... got the "non-extra" version which was half the price.
We still got an AC and bluetooth connectivity.
What we did not get was a multimedia center, a panorama roof, seat heaters and fancy front lights.
I can see that you quickly get used to that ... but tbh I think that most of these are just to justify a higher price because the actual service, getting you from A to B, has not changed in 30 years.
It becomes uncannily relevant, even to the point of familiar IP addresses or pathnames in the blog, at which point I realize it was written by my predecessor.
The obscure parameters are usually obsolete, and were required because they were running the very latest versions of the software before the defaults matured. The blog was something like documentation at the time.
When I was meeting the company guys, I'd updated and printed my puny resume in case they would've wanted it but realised they had "my resume" already. Basically the headhunter had copy pasted my puny LinkedIn profile data into their some sort of resume template and the guys were thinking I was actively looking for a new job.
Weird coincidences but ended up taking the job and haven't regretted after 2,5 years.
Alternatively I wonder if a modern version of geekcode could be created with a service that automatically compresses a submitted resume into a comprehensible string of Unicode characters?
Where are the semioticians when we need them? Syntax, grammar, pragmatics, all develop at a rate of knots, but we still use a subset of ASCII for the vast majority of our symbolic computation. Could we do better than a joke from the nineties?
The above is as necessary and unsurprising as rain falling to the ground. There is no other way that things can work. Thus the practical advice you can give someone is not only to learn something but to widen their professional network so that there are many people who know they've learned something.
It is the exact same thing in a big bureaucracy. You have to know how to sell yourself, which just means you need to successfully communicate your accomplishments. Too many people do great work, but they don't communicate their accomplishments, and then they are surprised that less qualified people are promoted over them, and they grow cynical or resentful when it is really their failure at communication that has caused the problem. Like many things in life, it's better to be mediocre at two necessary things rather than excellent at one and skipping the other. But no amount of righteous anger about the unfairness of life is going to change the fact that people are not omniscient and that talent is hard for strangers to evaluate.
So much to unpick in that statement.
The potential for communication differences in culture, gender, and personality to outweigh job performance.
That communication is a two way street, but poor communication is often attributed to one party.
The tendency for the promotion process to favour “upward focused” communication and communicators.
The fact that objective performance measurement, which could ameliorate some of these problems, is a joke.
It’s true that communication skills are essential, but laying the blame on poor performers just perpetuates problems.
I'd really rather go with "the more society discovers that we don't know how to obtain objective measures of excellence". We really don't have good tests that can fit in the interview slot for a lot of software engineering jobs.
Here's an example of how much it can matter:
* I co-founded my first company with people I met at university.
* We got our first investor thanks to a chance encounter between said investor and one of my co-founders at a bar.
* When we exited that company, our investors lawyer arranged a meeting for us with another of his clients, who hired us.
* One of the execs at that company hired me for his next startup, and introduced me to his brothers, so I could work part-time for them until he got funding.
* One of my co-workers at that company was one of my co-founders at my next company, and our other co-founders were friends of that person. One of them had worked for the VCs who invested in our first round.
* [I went to Yahoo for a couple of years -- no connections there.]
* The general counsel at my last pre-Yahoo startup pulled me into my next startup.
* [I then went to a web dev agency, no connections there]
* The co-founder of the company I worked at before the web-dev agency contacted me about some contracting, and I ended up joining full time (my current job)
So Yahoo and the web dev agency are the only places I've worked over the last 26 years where my resume has mattered. Even then, at the web-dev agency I name-dropped one of people who'd hired me previously, and it impressed them, so who knows how much my resume really mattered there either.
Funny, only one of the gigs I've gotten in my 30 year career has come from not networking...my first one. Every job after that has come about because of people I know recommending me for the job.
This has been super helpful over the past 15 years as I've been an independent consultant. In fact, I went indie because I had a network.
I don't need to look for gigs anymore, people come to me. I turn down way more gigs than I can take. And I haven't had to have an actual interview for a job in over 20 years.
I'm sure this isn't the norm, but it certainly makes work life a lot easier.
Does that not just imply that your network wasn't that good but not necessarily that the adage "who you know more is more important than what you know" is actually false?
My first summer jobs were with people my dad knew. The first actual programming job I got because I happened to be tagging along with my friend who had a job interview.
From there on in I got jobs mostly because I had a friend inside vouching for my talents.
This also goes the other way, I wouldn't join a company where I don't have inside information on how shit actually gets done.
For example, attend the tech conferences in your field. Contribute to open source projects they are involved with. Hang out where they hang out. Etc.
Make it easy for chance encounters to find you.
If they already know you, you can skip that step and the risks involved. Depending on your personality and flaws however it might also be a negative thing if people know you : )
In fact, looking back at my employment history, only one of my jobs was a direct result of someone seeing my resume before they even met me.
And don't just say "I participate in some LUG"... that can mean you show up to the meetings once every couple of months to eat the free food. Show your helpfulness in an email chain. Show a project that you did with them with a link that explicitly says you did a big portion of it. If no such link exists, get one created!
By no means do I promise wonders if you do this. HR filters may still eat your resume. But if you do get through to a real human, they may look at those things, and the ones who will understand what this means are the ones you want to work for anyhow.
If you've got the skills to pay the bills but your resume looks like any other high school dropout's, I can tell you, from the other side of the desk, you've given me no way to tell any different. It may stink that all we have are resumes in the initial process... but at least that resume is under your control. (Mostly. Sometimes it gets chewed on. But speaking for myself, I'm looking at raw resumes straight from the candidate and that's not uncommon.) Don't be afraid to use it, and don't be afraid to toot your own horn, that's the whole point of this particular document.
(Similarly, to the extent possible without lying, don't say "I participated in some project" as your work experience. Write something you did in the project. Don't say "I participated in a billing system upgrade", say how you rewrote the UI in React to conform to accessibility standards and made it run 10 times faster than before and customers uniformly loved it and paid lots more money or whatever. "Participation" could be "I had my hand held for every bug as I struggled to keep up" and it could be "I stepped up and took more responsibility than anyone expected and almost single-handedly completed the project, freeing up the other developers" or anything in between. Unfortunately, based on experience, I kinda have to assume the worst because it's usually right. If "the worst" interpretation of that phrase isn't right, don't leave it open to me!)
Believe me, if you're doing Linux support on a mailing list, or anything even remotely like that, you stand out, at least to the right people. Do whatever it takes to work that on to the resume somehow. The "standard resume form" is a skeleton to be fleshed out, not a straightjacket of form.
My first job I got the interview because at the time I was attempting to turn a snowmobile into a hovercraft. I had plans and everything.
I put this on the resume.
The first question in the interview? "Look, if nothing else we had to bring you in to ask. How the hell are you planning on turning a snowmobile into a hovercraft?!?"
The project never went anywhere, but it got me the job.
A resume page isn't very long, especially presented as bullet points as expected. And especially when you have absolutely no idea who it is will be reading it. I can tell you great stories about every project I've ever done, but not in a bullet point.
I have no doubt that most resumes are incredibly bad. But I'd venture to say that a substantial fraction of the resumes you think are very good will be considered very bad by the next hiring manager over.
You can turn this to your advantage, which I alluded to in my original. If you want to work with people who thing making hovercraft out of snowmobiles is awesome, put it on there. If you want to work with people who think that is a strange distracting thing to put on a resume, by all means leave it off. I'm sure HN is largely biased towards the first, so let me say I'm not being snarky at all about the second and I'm totally serious; if you are interested in a banking or government job you may well have those sorts of external interests yet find it a bad idea to put it directly on your resume.
Really my main message here is, take advantage of the fact that the resume is free form and don't just thoughtlessly put your name, work and educational experience, and three one-word bullet points about your hobbies or something on your resume, and then stop, because "that's what a resume is". Put whatever will get you hired. If there isn't a standard category/heading for whatever that is, make one.
If you can figure out some way to distill an important project down to a point or two, it's definitely going to work in your favor. A resume is not the place for great stories but it should make me want to ask.
I agree with your last sentence, although I don't think you will find anybody wanting a long resume from you. You could always provide a link to your online CV that is complete while the one you submit is an edited down version tailored to the company and position you hope to interview for.
If they get through to an interview, fine, they'll get a chance to be specific, but failing to be specific might well get them filtered out before that.
HR might not even understand what the link is about, but if they see something technical they don't understand but is related to the job, they will ask some technical person.
I got a call when I was younger because I was the maintainer of a package with several million downloads on RubyGems. It wasn't even a Ruby job, but the HR person's rationale was that "at least he's making stuff people are using".
I have seen some awful resumes, including for people with PhDs and long records of accomplishments. Even people who have been through resume writing seminars at job search organizations.
If interviews worked, then Bob would not have not needed two slaps upside the head to get it right.
Eventually word got out to the controls department that some student worker knew a ton about the controls system, and I got moved there. They had an issue that they wanted to know the forecasted weather, so we could get the central plant going before demand started kicking in, and the vendor kept telling them custom development was coming in a couple of years. I ended up writing a server for BacNET/C that did it for them, and it ran under the desk for years.
I assume you didn't write a BACnet stack from scratch so I'm very interested in what the "server" was running.
I'd like to hear more about the details of how this worked. Did the college have its own power source like a research reactor? Was this technically legal or in some part of a grey area?
The steam tunnels were somewhat notorious for awhile there, played a role in the Dungeons and Dragons chapter of the satanic panic of the 80s.
Still, there were always a couple ways to get in. Fond memories.
Not the person you're replying to (and never directly involved in electricity generation), but my university just had it's own small power plant: https://www.fs.utoronto.ca/utilities-and-building-operations...
I assume it was a mix of historical coincidence and a solution for less-interruptible power supply for the labs, but I'm not really sure.
I don't believe it generated incremental energy, but it was used for irradiation.
I worked there one summer and enjoyed it immensely!
I got a student job at that company and one of my first tasks (and that of several students before me) was to open measurement results on the device and type them into excel spreadsheets. I did this for an hour or so until I became totally bored so I started to tinker around. The measurement device had it's own PC that booted Windows (I think it was 95 or 98) and autostarted their software in full screen/some sort of . This was easy to bypass via the task manager and running explorer.exe. I found out that the proprietary file format was simplay an MS Access file with a different extension. I tried to open it, but the file was password protected.
At this time I had little to none experience with programming or anything else that was "low level" computer stuff, but I occasionally stumbled about writeups about hacks and exploits and skimmed over them. So I was pretty sure that there had to be a hardcoded password somewhere. I started to open every file I could in a text editor with no luck. Then I got a hex editor and opened the binaries and finally, in a dll there was a password.
The next few days at this job I spent teaching myself enough Python to read the Access files and write the contents into an Excel file.
This worked and I used the free time to study/eat/sleep while getting paid for it but then one of my supervisors found out that I wasn't doing anything but still got results and wondered how I did it. He immediately put me onto another problem they had, thus starting my career as a software engineer.
My boss took one look, freaked out and I was back at the Temping agency.
We are still very far from a Software Literate society.
Went to her retirement party a year later and got the truth: Her pension was tied to her salary as a manager as an average of her last three years, and her salary as a manager was directly tied to her number of reports. If she'd have given up half the team as she could have, she would have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars over the rest of her life.
There was a lot of that type of stuff going on when computers first came in and hackers here and there started optimizing things. Individual interest and politics doesn't disappear.
Then a few days later, I happened to talk to someone from the accounting side about this experience. She mentioned that they were actually also tracking these same numbers and apparently had an automated system already. The production floor just knew nothing of it and had been doing the same task by hand forever. I guess the realization how inefficient organizations can be was probably the greater learning experience for me there.
This might be the saddest thing I've read recently.
I think a lot of resistance is due to, like others have said in this thread, unexpected incentives.
If someone's career progress, financial incentives, or work politics require the status quo, no changes will be welcome, and might even be perceived as an attack. (Yep, been there.)
If you miraculously can get the incentives changed, then you can make progress...
Got reamed because "there's no way that is accurate and it might mess something up".
They where renaming the file based on the date of review, and the creators name.... Both of which were in the damn metadata.
Or if there was storage space enough, make a mirror directory with copies renamed, so there was obviously no loss of original files, then invite them to check as many as they wanted.
I do understand that many people don't trust automation like this, I've been there too.
I showed the bosses, and was immediately put to work on some much more interesting stuff linking Lotus Notes with SQL Server for reporting and dashboarding, and then I was off to the races.
(The previous year I'd spent the summer making concrete garden ornaments with a group of ex-cons in a shed in the back of a farm - an experience which certainly made me appreciate the comforts of doing spreadsheets in an air-conditioned office, though my muscles were never quite as good.)
This was in early 2001, I was an exchange student in Japan, and I'd bought a really cool gadget in Akihabara that almost nobody had heard about: a hardware MP3 player. For storage, it used MMCs (precursor of SD cards), affordable ones held 32MB. To get music onto those cards, I also bought a USB card reader.
And there I ran into problems: the PC in my dormitory room was a used Pentium Pro desktop I'd gotten very cheaply without an OS, and I'd installed Linux on it. But at that time, USB support on Linux was still rather spotty, and while the card reader was in principle supported as a mass storage device, the USB driver would reproducibly freeze up after a short time accessing it.
As mentioned above, my C skills were basically non-existing,
but compiling your own kernel was at that time still a pretty common thing for Linux users to do, so I had some experience with that. And I was motivated. I enabled kernel debug output, and discovered that just before freezing up, the driver would report that it had received an event with a certain ID. I found the code that handled events, and I found the code that handled the problematic event. I looked at it and realized that I was many months of learning away from being able to fix it.
So instead, I deleted it. I simply made the driver ignore that type of event.
It worked. I could use the card reader to put MP3 files on the MMCs and listen to them on the player.
I felt a strange mixture of achievement and embarassment.
Being a naive dumbass, that did not stop me, I looked through the source files and thought "why not just edit the voltage/frequency tables in all of the files?"
And it worked. Could've easily bricked the device, but it didn't. I believe I had the same feeling as you. Yay for ignorance, I guess :D
Well I looked at where it crashes, and simply nopped out the code where it crashes (it was a null pointer access I think) ... and we haven't noticed any weird effects of that so far ... one of these days I'll get around to making it an if (ptr) fix and see that happens then, but it is not this day!
Diffing the game.dat we use vs an "untouched" cracked one there are a few more differences than I expected (I at one point fixed the random version number and the 3:30 auto defeat if the game thinks you copied the game illegaly).
If you send me a mail to the email in my profile, I'll send you the binary!
I hope the pun was intentional.
The sales agent from this "big" Italian company arrived, unboxed the PC, and started to explain to my dad the default MS-DOS commands. I was sitting there sneaking the prompt commands he was typing when, while installing the accounting software (which was the selling reason) the installation utility failed with an error twice and the sales guy was in a panic. A new version of the software was shipped early that week, and this was the first live installation of it. He tried some commands, started to screw up turning the PC OFF and ON, and at the end, he was completely clueless.
That's when I've stepped in - I've gently asked him permission to touch the keyboard and once got access, I started to play with MS-DOS and found the batch file that was responsible for the installation. The guy was looking at me with an expression that mixed surprise and hope when I've found out this file was a script that was similar to Basic and I've found a way to edit it. After poking for 1 hour in tests and trials, I've finally fixed a bug on a conditional that was bringing the data loading to a dead disk path.
The guy talked with his department the same day, and a manager from the company called me to understand what I did. They were so thankful! Nobody paid me a cent for this but after that phone call, I realized my passion could also be my future job and life, and 36 years later is still true. Thanks again!
They had a computer system there to keep the inventory, running dBase III and hooked up to a NetWare network.
First day: No reports could be printed. Reloaded the various drivers, re-ran the reports.
Second day: They told me about a bug that caused the counts to be off so after checking things in, I had to manually add the right answers to the totals. Fixed the bug in dBase app.
Third day: The pull me to the front office, I'm working in the IT department and somebody's else kid is working in the parts shop.
But the real take-away is that this era of computing was a true green field for the kids growing up in it. My cousins, who are over 10 years younger than me, grew up in a totally different world and, despite having used computers their whole life, have no idea how they work or how to build stuff with them.
A childhood spent writing batch files in order to run DOS X-Wing is very different than one spent loading a CD into the 1st gen Xbox.
I feel bad for my own kids, who are surrounded by technology that is walled off and inaccessible. Even 'View Source' on web pages is virtually useless now-a-days. It's a lot harder to get into the internals of systems than it used to be.
"View source" is not only virtually useless on many pages, but also unreasonably difficult to access in the first place (if not completely impossible) on systems like iOS.
UX, generally, seems so rigid now that, especially if it's on a more locked-down platform or a web-app, it seems there's often almost no way to use an app in any way other than the developer intended. The barrier to entry for hacking seems incredibly high now.
I don't know when the concepts of batch processing and scripting — or even keyboard shortcuts — came to be seen as a hindrance to UX, but I have a feeling it developed in parallel with touchscreens and the ever-increasing incentive to make apps addictive. In that respect it seems like we haven't really evolved in the last 10 years (at least), but actually regressed to some pre-computer, pre-automation age.
Perhaps everything I've just written is a load of rambling nostalgia. These thoughts come to me almost on a daily basis though.
In the meantime, I’ll start the kids on my old Apple ][e if I can smuggle it by my spouse.
For starters, this was largely a phenomenon confined to a narrow strip of time from the late eighties to the late 00s. Before that, computers were too expensive and restricted for most teens to have access to, even fairly well-off ones. After that, smartphones hit, people moved away from desktops and local computing/admin to phones and consolidation in the cloud(SaaS etc), and a generation that didn't grow up with computers was replaced with a generation that did. So the days of "Hey, I know how to do that computer stuff!" "Great! Get in here!" are largely over.
Second, even in that time period, most teens that knew their way around a system never managed to hook up with one of these sweet deals. You'd (begrudgingly) provide support for friends and family for free, and maybe make a few bucks off some extended work for a friend of a friend, but nothing large or ongoing. It's like hitting sports really hard in high school and college: some will go pro. Most will not.
I'm not trying to be a downer with any of this. But the story of the wiz kid who makes it big by accident has essentially become an archetypal story by now in some circles, and it's important to remember it's more mythology than reality. Most teenage nerds who liked messing with computers as a hobby didn't spin it up into an explosive career overnight. Some decided to get more formal training, and gradually built a career in the traditional way. For many more, it never became anything more than a hobby, in part because the labor demand for people who are just "pretty good" with computers is actually fairly small, and has shrunk dramatically over the past two decades due to consolidations (SaaS again), offshoring and outsourcing.
During high school, I worked two summers as a lifeguard and didn't really care for it. It was boring, hot, and didn't pay particularly well, especially for what we had to put up with (read: incompetent management and being sorely understaffed). There were days where we had so few staff that we had to get untrained gate staff/food&bev to run slide dispatch since that didn't require a lifeguard license, but I digress...
My senior year, I decided to do something different– tutor online for computer science and math. Pay was much better and I definitely enjoyed the work more. One of my returning clients was working on his Master's and was taking a class that was central to his major involving python scripting. He didn't know much Python, but found me online and I taught him the basics and we had a good relationship going.
After he finished his course, he was very happy with the work I had done, and he actually offered me a job! I've been working for his company for several months now and just recently converted into full time for the summer.
So, yes, the era of "wiz kids" might be over, but getting jobs that you might not technically be "qualified" on paper for through strange connections absolutely still happens.
OP dates from 1982. I actually had a comparable experience in 1982 as well, with a Commodore PET-like. There are similar stories dating back earlier, with minicomputers. And I don't think it has stopped, if you know where to look for it. The days of BASIC may be over, but there are more business critical spreadsheet macros around than ever.
> So the days of "Hey, I know how to do that computer stuff!" "Great! Get in here!" are largely over.
I'd say there are more low grade computer problems out there waiting to be fixed than ever. You could probably ring a random person's door and they'd have a dozen issues with their computer / smartphone / WiFi / Universal Remote bugging them.
> Most teenage nerds who liked messing with computers as a hobby didn't spin it up into an explosive career overnight.
And I don't think the story was about that, in the sense of turning that job into a business as such. It was more about the insight that there was gold in them thar hills.
My 1982 experience was that an acquaintance of my parents got kicked off his mainframe account, and needed a different way to process the responses to a questionnaire he needed for his work. His program was written in some "real" programming language like PL/I or Fortran that was not readily available on the CBM machines that were available at school, so I wrote a replacement in BASIC for him. No exciting or sophisticated technical details, I'm afraid.
Details of payment were not worked out in advance, so I was quite pleasantly surprised to earn a multiple of the hourly wage I had made in a factory vacation job earlier. It was then I realized that this might be the right profession for me.
That acquaintance with the questionnaire happened to be a school guidance counselor, so he actually found me a career without even trying to do so…
However, those who love tinkering with computers and technology of their own accord have far more opportunities and resources than we did when we grew up.
If you love tech, you've been teaching yourself for years -- it will shine through during those first interviews and through all the years of your career.
He smiled and said great, which let me know I had absolutely left money in the table. A trusted colleague then told me if that situation ever came up again, take your real, reasonable expectation, double it and add 20. The situation has never come up again.
I had found a solution to save the business 100k+ when another contractor charged 10k+ and failed to complete a job because the business couldn’t pay them any more. The thing is, once I started digging into it, the other contractor had done 95% of the work; It just needed a nudge to get finished. But As far as the business was concerned, it was 0% done because it was an all-or-nothing situation (either it worked or didn’t).
I did the final 5% and charged $3,000. I presented it as “I can fix the problem for 3k.” Was that completely fair to them I sometimes wonder? I don’t lose any sleep over it — they had a problem and I fixed it. I think it was wrong for the first contractor not to finish the work up and deal with a final invoice rather than insisting on pay in advance and abandoning them that close to the finish lone.
As far as the business was concerned I was a very cheap solution, and I made an hourly rate of about $2k per hour.
But yeah, it was a 100k problem. All or nothing. Either it was fixed or not. The previous contractor had completed 97% of the work, had billed $10k, and then left when the company wouldn't pay any more.
I swooped in, finished the last 3%, got all the glory, and charged 3k. The business thought I was a miracle worker.
To be clear, the previous contractor did a crap job communicating with the business to explain how things were progressing and made it look like this would be a black hole the business was throwing money into. Had the previous contractor said "we're really close, we just need a little bit more money" the whole thing likely would have resolved without my intervention. But communication matters, I suppose.
In the first, I was a temp worker for a P&G re-packaging facility. This means some temp agency was paid $12/hour and they passed on $9/hour to me. The job was backbreaking, in intense heat, and with very strict management rules (e.g. no lunch break, sitting down for even a moment was grounds for being fired).
In the second, I did lawn mowing for individual families for $20/hour. I found them by referrals and networking, and could control my schedule for when I went to do jobs.
This taught me that being creative to find good jobs was super important.
In college, I found a series of high-pay, flexible or comfortable jobs. A few examples:
$1000 for one week's work to hand out 2 pallets worth of coke zero to college students. I was allowed to keep the extras and ended up with a 1 year supply of coke zero for myself and all my friends. Oh, they also gave me coupon for 1,000 free burritos and despite a very diligent effort to hand out as many as humanly possible was left with ~300 burritos and told to just keep them. Qdoba was my primary diet for quite some time.
A job selling cameras on eBay for a camera shot that went out of business. They paid me a 25% commission and had one of the largest private collections of highly collectable cameras (I sold one for $8,000). I only did it for a summer, and probably should have taken a semester off college to just do this full time and could have made enough money to significantly reduce my college loans.
A freelance role, for a German re-insurance company to write white papers for $50/hour and could create my own agenda for what I needed to write, and work whenever I wanted.
This is very adjacent to what you're saying, but every time I hear this idea, I can only think that it's really taking an entire year off. Most of my courses were structured in a way that if you took a term out of the normal hierarchy, you'd have to wait until that course came around again at the same time the next year.
On the other hand a friend's brother had to do an extra semester at a state school because a class he needed to graduate filled up before he got a chance to register.
that's pros or con? :P
I emailed them all, and wound up with two interviews. One was a wordpress sweat shop, and the interview went poorly--the owner had not even read my resume, started my interview while on a conference call, and told me my job responsibility was to "make her happy." When she said that, I politely declined to finish the interview.
The next went fantastically, and I wound up landing that job in a 3-person shop. I loved those people, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity they provided me. I also think we provided a lot of value for some important causes, which makes me remember the work very fondly, despite being in way over my head many, many times.
1. Would this still be possible today? It's a certain timeframe (for software) where this was possible. Today it's things like SAP, integrated systems and DMCA on top of it (or Excel).
2. I did the menial route and am still happy for it. Flipping burgers, cleaning dishes, repairing truck tires and cleaning office buildings. It's a different sort of grit and stamina than the one that gets you far in your office career, but I still look back fondly on the lessons about hard work. It was also an introduction into diversity. I've met people on those jobs the 16-year old me never met before, and since. For me the lesson is: whatever my kids will do in jobs on the side, it pleases somebody enough to give them money and them enough to do the job it's a worthwhile lesson.
I run a "CTO-for-hire" service with about 25 devs, product managers, and designers. I'd say at least a quarter of what we do is dropping in to rescue projects that have gone bad.
We're often treated like gold just for showing up, doing decent work, and bailing them out of a problem.
There's tons of work out there like this if you grow a reputation for being good and trustworthy, and you're willing to work through those really hard moments of everything being broken with no reason why yet. I'm 40 years old, and still just got the rush of excitement last week as I solved a major production problem for a company after a string of late nights. It's just fun.
2. Totally agreed about the value of other types of jobs as well. I will treasure my teenage and early 20s experiences as a Pizza Hut cook, Grocery cashier, and bet-taker at a race track for what I learned about those industries, how people work together, and the differences between intellectual and manual labor. As a salesperson, I also STILL reference knowledge from my experience in those industries when talking about new projects.
There's still a lot of utterly awful, sloppy business software around, especially for SMBs.
Maybe a more accurate headline would be
"Deciding not to take a job filling potholes was a good move"
"Show up and be being willing to try to fix difficult problems"
Other things of note: Character matters. If he'd lied to his mom about the outcome of the highway department job she wouldn't have known to connect him to the used car shop. She helped make a safe place for him to tell the truth. He made good by admitting a difficult thing.
Gaining skills and learning to solve problems pays off.
Being poised to take an opportunity that arises is probably a sound life strategy.
$100 was actually a reasonable number. It recognizes that computer work is not equivalent to minimum wage labor, is a significant discount off of professional software work and gives the client room to make a compelling offer for continued engagement.
People ask if we'll ever run out of software jobs. My answer is, "will we ever run out of business problems to solve? Opportunities for efficiency, laborious tasks to automate?" Not in any future I can imagine. Maybe when AI learns to code. But at that point the world as we know it is over anyway.
And therein lies a fantastic reminder that if you can frame tthe cost of your work in terms of the value you will provide to your customer, rather than a flat labour rate for your time, you stand to earn a lot more.
> I created a “good” BASIC file from scratch [...] Then I compared it to one of the “bad” ones.
... mate :P
You could read the docs or find the right person to talk to but its just faster to poke the black box and watch it's behavior.
Aka the scientific method of debugging
1) You turn it off and then on.
2) You look at one that works.
Seriously though: are there are any other steps that everyone knows?
* change stuff at random, look for observable differences
I can only imagine what this must have looked like.