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Ask HN: I actually need a job now
54 points by berrypicker on Nov 21, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 65 comments
I've been working in startups for the last few years, using a lot of the latest tech that startups often use (Rails, Node, Mongo, Angular etc.).

Now I'm back in my home town (failed and can't afford to be out in London doing this any more), and seeking any job for a developer. But all I see is PHP, .NET, VB, Java and everything that HN seems to hate.

I actually haven't touched this stuff since school, and everything I've learned and used over these last few years seems to be useless in the corporate world here.

I'm renting alone and therefore need a job quickly. My options are finding a quick job (e.g. waiter, shop assistant) while brushing up on PHP (or maybe something else has better career opportunities?) in the evenings, or just doing something completely different.

Truth is I want a stable career now and care little about whether we're coding in Erlang or Java.

Who cares about what languages HN likes or doesn't like? If you have bills to pay, get a job and let go of the need to "please" some random people on the Internet, whatever that means. Imperative, object-oriented languages are all very similar, so just go get a job doing that. All you have to do is make clear to the interviewer that you may not have the precise pedigree in $FOO_LANGUAGE, but are willing to learn.

I think "what HN likes" here is throwing you off. I don't think this is about fashion.

Good programmers care a lot about good tools. Different tools also have different communities, which means different views, different standards, different approaches.

I've done projects with great tools and projects with shitty tools. For me, it makes a giant difference. I can spend my energy on solving real user problems, or I can spend it on beating back the idiocy of bad tools. I can spend it on learning from a community that is serious about pushing the field forward, or I can spend it trying to motivate a bunch of no-hopers who picked programming over dentistry because the Computer Information Systems degree was shorter.

I think it's totally reasonable that this person wants to avoid the mire of clock-punchers and half-assed enterprise tech imposed for "business reasons". They're trying for a tactical retreat, not abject surrender. That's the spirit I think HN should support.

Bravo. As a longtime enterprise reporting guy turned Rails dev, this resonates deeply with me.

Since you seem to be based in England, I can recommend Red Gate, a small-ish (200+ people) software shop based in Cambridge. I interned with them this summer and they're simply an amazing place to work for.


they're a windows-only shop, bear in mind - or at least they were when I last checked. not necessarily a problem, but may be an issue for some.

actually, these days, we're getting into all sorts of things, including a lot of big data and node.js. (I work in the Red Gate Ventures division)

personally, I'd rather starve.

Plus Cambridge is a pretty awesome place to live.

Just want to clarify, I added the HN comment because I was a little surprised (having been in the startup cultural bubble for so long) at the jobs available, not because I'm complaining at the tools these businesses use.

IMO most interviewers don't look for a very specific skillset in a particular language. If you have experience with a wide range of languages and a number of projects, I don't see how that isn't a plus. Good luck!

+1 to this, I've had friends with a strong programming background join companies with zero knowledge of the language being used. They just learned it on the job. Fundamentals won't really change, syntax can be picked up.

Question, and I realize that you said you want a "job for a developer"... Have you considered interviewing for a job a level above that? I imagine with a few years' of experience at startups, you've learned a lot at a "design" level rather than simply an implementation level (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Consider interviewing for a developer management position. Instead of focusing on specific languages & technologies, maybe take a step back and figure out how to apply other things you've learned: how to direct a project, how to take higher-level ideas and turn them into realities. Those types of jobs tend to be more marketable than "I use X, Y, Z technologies".

If not management, I'd still say try to get a little more "meta" than just "I know Rails, Node..." Market yourself at a business-level, if that makes sense. In my opinion, the tools you use to solve a problem aren't as interesting as how you approach a problem and solve it.

Just some thoughts, good luck!

> If not management, I'd still say try to get a little more "meta" than just "I know Rails, Node..." Market yourself at a business-level, if that makes sense. In my opinion, the tools you use to solve a problem aren't as interesting as how you approach a problem and solve it.

This is fantastic advice for every programmer, and once I actually started believing it was when I started getting interesting jobs that pay well.

Stop thinking in terms of the technology you use. Don't focus on it in interviews. What you should stress is the problems you've solved & how that delivered value to the company (revenue, efficiency, etc.)

Being a Ruby master means nothing. Being able to deliver a tool that lets the company fulfill their million-dollar contract is what makes you a rock star.

For me, jobs and projects come and go. Working with good tools is something I do all day. That matters a lot to me.

I can't help but visualise an empty suit when people start talking about "delivering value" in the abstract, with a smug sense of superiority. People like you are mostly just lip service.


There's a happy middle ground here, no need to split hairs or be black and white. One formula that works is, be a legit programmer/developer/hacker, but be able to communicate with business people on the business level about business problems. Preferably using your own original language, rather than pre-packaged MBA-speak (though sometimes even that stuff is useful if a particular client needs to hear it).

>One formula that works is, be a legit programmer/developer/hacker, but be able to communicate with business people on the business level about business problems.

That's what I'm really getting at.

At the end of the day the person who decides to give you money in exchange for your code is a business person who wants to pay you to solve their business problems. Showing them that you understand and have experience solving those problems is as important as proving your mettle to other programmers.

And personally I've always had a much harder time with the business people interviews than the technical interviews. It's something that I have had to really work at, but it's helped me much more than I could've imagined.

Yup. I'd say if you're capable of doing both, do both. But if not, focus on being the best programmer you can be. It's the foundation for everything else.

"People like you are mostly just lip service." Err, ok? I'd argue that the interviewer's job is to determine that. If the interviewer just wants to banter back and forth on specifics of languages and whatnot, that's fine, but in the big picture I don't find it helpful.

So to use an example, if you want to hire someone to build a deck onto your house, do you quiz the person on Craftsmen hammers, Stanley measuring tapes and Black & Decker saws? I wouldn't. I'd ask what similar projects they've done, what problems they've run into, etc.

Call it lip service, but I think the big picture is more valuable. Specifics of language syntax & conventions is OK, but knowing how to wield the tools is far, far more valuable in my opinion.

Nope I hadn't because I always considered myself 'just a coder', and immediately discarded any other kind of job. Thinking about it I have full stack experience and have often been part of the design process, so thanks for the advice I'll consider other areas too!

Product Management might be a role worth considering. There simply aren't enough technically-savvy PMs in tech companies.

HackerNewsLondon will occur tonight (in about an hour) http://www.meetup.com/HNLondon/ and if you turn up and blag your way in (you're meant to buy a ticket in advance, offer cash on the door to pay for your pizza!) you'll see companies talking and often talking about jobs. Just network like crazy, most people there will know people hiring. Everyone is friendly, the organisers try to help startups. Go speak to co-organiser Steve (he's an ex recruiter), he'll know who is looking.

http://www.techcityjobs.co.uk/ has a lot of London-focused tech jobs, lots of Ruby etc. Ruby is definitely in demand in London. Avoid being a waiter if you can, your skills will rust.

http://siliconmilkroundabout.com/ occurred last weekend, over 100 startups were there pitching for jobs, go through the list of companies and cherrypick, then drop them a line? The CTOs I spoke with noted the lack of Rails folk. Most of the companies had 2-8 job openings each.

Bon chance, i.

Also, http://hackerjobs.co.uk/ run by Peroni (aka Steve Buckley).

http://www.jobserve.com/ is also decent...

You can brush up PHP in a week or less. Don't go the waiter/shop assistant route. Just start interviewing for every and any position you see until you get one. Unless you are absolutely broke with zero money. Then take the first job you can, but make sure you take something that allows you time to be able to go for interviews.

This is very good advice. Except that I would brush up on .NET (in a week or less) instead. He would make more money.

Good point. You can't learn Java that fast (at least not well enough to make money at it... that's why they're the highest paid developers... people pay lots for souls.)

Also if you're gonna go w/ PHP give Laravel a shot it's syntactically VERY close to rails, and just makes PHP beautiful.

Laravel is pretty awesome, I agree. But if you haven't touched PHP in a while then I'd recommend getting familiar with the vanilla language again first. Beacuse who knows what kind of frameworks you may be using in a future gig, but PHP is PHP.

My company was looking for a Scala dev in the UK desperately. Yes, perhaps there are not too many Scala jobs out there as there are Java, .NET and PHP, but good Scala developers are not easy to find either. So adding a bit to your list of which language to add to your resume, I would go and spend more time on Scala than on PHP personally.

Why Scala? well, if you came from Ruby, I bet 9/10 you'll like it more than Java, and I bet 10/10 you'll like it more than PHP.

More and more enterprise software companies adopt it (citation needed, but I know my company does). at least it has more chance in being adopted in the enterprise than Ruby

Also it is not completely uncool for startups, you can find your handful of Scala based startups, and I think there is a trend of more and more using it (as it's not as bad as Java in terms of fun, and much better than Ruby / Python in terms of performance)

Sorry I can't offer you a job at the moment, but as a middle ground between cool startup technologies and boring corporate Java EE / Spring etc... I think Scala might be a niche that will get you that job you want (perhaps not the one you need to get immediately)

That might be the best pro Scala (your "Why Scala?" blurb) statement I've heard yet. :)

You can probably handle .NET, and if you want a stable, enterprise-fueled job, then an enterprise language like .NET is great.

I don't think HN hates .NET or Java, they just don't make the frontpage as much. .NET (with C#) was quite a pleasure for me to work with and sometimes I miss it while hacking on Python+Django for my daily work.

Also, don't sell yourself short. Let the interviewers decide you're not worthy. Put your best foot forward and hit up some of those shops. If they like you, they'll have you come in and train you. They'll probably have their own deploy strategies and such already setup, so you'll have time to learn the language. Remember these are established places, not move-fast-break-things startups, so it isn't necessarily like you'll be writing production c# or Java the first morning. (If you do that's awesome, but I find that to be unlikely)

Seconding that .NET/C# can be a pleasure to work with. Stuff like LINQ is awesome, Visual Studio is a great IDE. I've often thought that if I wanted to just rake in some easy cash I'd go work for BigCorp doing .NET and save up my cash for my next adventure.

EntityFramework + LINQ is an amazing combo for getting things done quickly. And Visual Studio provides the best debugging experience I've ever had. Couple it with ReSharper[1] and you're in code heaven. At least until you run into one of the INT_MAX subtle quirks of C#/.NET, at which point you feel like throwing your dev machine off the roof.

[1] http://www.jetbrains.com/resharper/

As a hirer I can tell you, if you can code in any language just create a cover letter and resume that proves you can code. Do not be intimidated by laundry list of acronyms you find in job listings, but acknowledge them and talk about your confidence in your ability to get up to speed. hth.

I would second this. Obviously it depends on the position but I'd take someone inexperienced (in a particular technology) who looks like a good learner over someone experienced in just a single technology.

Often you're hiring someone because of the potential they demonstrate.

This is something good to know! Thanks.

HN does not hate PHP, .NET, VB, Java. Its just older languages and HN is about discovering new things, and working on cool new languages.

Even if PHP or Java aren't "cool", they are really nice to program with when you master them.

And its good to learn to quickly learn other languages. In 20 years Rails, Node or Mongo might not be there anymore, its good to not get "habits" in IT.

PS: Java has one advantage, you can create web/software and android apps with it. Mobile is pretty trendy right now. But it will take you a lot more time to learn then PHP.

My 2 cents, having gone through a few job searches in off markets...

1 - You may need to go lateral or a half step back from what you want, but don't take 3 steps back. There's no reason to be a waiter or a shop assistant unless you want to do that for the next 20 years, or want to automate those industries.

2 - Find your way into the industry or company that you ultimately want to work for. Even if the job isn't perfect. If you want to learn PHP or .Net, get a job doing QA at a shop that uses them.

3 - Small companies are much more likely to respond to resumes tossed over the transom than big ones. This is only based on anecdotal evidence.

4 - Searching for a job needs to be your full time job until you get one. If you're not doing it 8+ hours a day, you're not trying hard enough.

5 - It's best to do both high contact (meeting people you know for coffee, and asking them to introduce you to their friends) and low contact (sending 100s, yes 100s of resumes every week) searching.

Good luck! If you have technical skills, it will all be good in a couple months.

Hi - if I can help I'd be happy to. I build teams for companies such as Stripe, Twilio, New Bamboo and others - you can contact me on thayer@team-prime.com and check my creds on http://www.linkedin.com/in/thayerprime

Cheers, and good luck with your hunt.

PHP is easy to pick up from JS/Rails/Python [1] (or any other more sophisticated language). The latest version 5.5 is actually a real OO programming language with first class functions and the like [2], and you can get good performance with Apache 2.4's Event MPM + php-fpm [3] and/or the in-memory Phalcon web framework [4]. I've recently been helping a friend with his side business based on PHP and had to pickit up again after not looking at it since 2003, and it's not bad. They're doing good things with it.

Also check out the remote development work jobsites [5] [6] for stuff you know.

[1]: http://www.sitepoint.com/becoming-php-professional-missing-l...

[2]: http://www.php.net/manual/en/langref.php

[3]: https://wiki.apache.org/httpd/PHP-FPM

[4]: http://phalconphp.com/

[5]: http://weworkremotely.com/

[6]: http://jobmote.com/

Have you checked out https://weworkremotely.com/ ? Might find it helpful. Also, there's always things like elance. I know you won't make much $, but it might help in the short term. There are occasionally node projects there.

Was going to suggest this as well. It seems like the right combination of remote work and newer technologies. Could be very useful.

Keep in mind that most of the jobs you will see on job boards are posted by recruiting agents on behalf of typical large companies, hence Java and .NET.

If you don't want to join a MegaCorp then you need to look elsewhere - the 'who's hiring' thread for Nov is here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6653437

You could apply speculatively to companies close to you (where are you based?) but this is a hard road to travel alone.

I'm kind of in the recruitment business so hit me up if you want a second opinion at any point. My contact details are in my profile.

If you are half-decent at JS (specially if you actually can use Angular) I can get you a job in London (or even near Basingstoke if you now happen to live there) no problem, I'm literally swamped with work requests and got so many colleagues looking to hire decent frontend developers (probably Rails too but I don't do that so don't know that well)

IMHO if you are in UK there's no financial sense in staying outside London as jobs (and their compensation) are much better here

(contact: paolo-at-paolomaffei-dot-it)

Totally disagree with staying outside of London. I'm in Glasgow, and there is an emerging growth of trendy Scottish startups (I'd like to think my company fits within that bracket too, haha) who are using some great technology.

If you're interested in some android or rails development work hit me up at hello@farmer.io

I'd say you are in a good position. People hiring for 'PHP' or '.NET' or 'JAVA' are all most likely also looking for someone who knows javascript. Even if you only know the basics of those languages, the fact that you know javascript and angular are good. Many companies here in my local area are all advertising for .NET but when you get to the specifics they are making web apps... and javascript is what they should hire, but they don't...

Would that I could offer you a job, but I'm curious, how did you "fail?" Did you just have trouble finding another job in London to keep you afloat?

Well the startups weren't doing too well (two failed) and I was getting paid a relatively low salary... I could probably have found another job but I didn't wanna burn up the little money I had saved up just being 'between jobs' in a really expensive city.

My experience as a developer in London right now is that there is a huge shortage of talented developers, compared to demand. You shouldn't have had trouble finding a well-paid job, especially if you have experience with a front-end framework like Angular.

Out of curiosity: Why didn't you try to get hired by a bigco in London? Wouldn't it compensate for months of shitty pay at startups?

Would you travel in to London for work or are you totally away from the city now?

Thanks to everyone for the advice, I feel a lot more confident now and will try to write a CV in a way to display my general skills as opposed to specific experience. I initially thought my application would get binned because I lacked their requirements. Also I guess a lot of coding experience is transferable I just really panicked at first...

I'll be in touch with those of you looking for a developer. Thanks again.

As a CTO mad keen for senior Ruby types in London I'm amazed you can't make it work. I'm in a company that has been trading for 4 years, has decent revenues, is just in the middle of a pivot with a decent round of funding...

... and we're small. There are a lot of firms like us and bigger than us with seven figure investments. What the hell have you been doing?

He has been looking for a job in his hometown after returning from London. Firms like yours should be more open to remote workers, particularly in a small country like England where most everybody can take the train to London for a half day meeting on a regular basis. Heck, I knew people who commuted from Leeds every day, but not everyone can handle that lifestyle. The best part of it is that the British train system makes it easy to be productive while travelling. Leave home 15 minutes before departure time, step on the train just in time, sit and relax and code for the hours that it takes to get into the city.

Lie on your resume. Then grab a copy of "PHP For Dummies."

Development is development, no matter the language.

We could put some use to your tech experience, if you are okay to relocate to India & completely open to fresh new start. if so send me a mail at sid@justunfollow.com http://justunfollow.com

Bunch of YC companies in the U.K. maybe reach out to one of them. I know GoCardless from S11 is there. I think there was one more from my batch at a minimum.

How good are you? We might be open to doing the paperwork for you if you want to move to Chicago:)

As a coder, refreshing other languages is a breeze. Do not despair and stick to coding.

Keep coding. Don't stop. If you have to take other jobs to support your habit, oh well. Find out what the local scene wants and start doing that for free on the side. Eventually someone will hire you.

I have a lead on a contract role for a Ruby dev in Central London. Ping a CV to info@silexresources.co.uk and I'll be in touch.

Have a look here as well http://workinstartups.com/

In Bath/Bristol (UK), we can't get rails guys, they are as rare as hens teeth. Where are you based?

Look at mature PHP frameworks like symfony2 , if you know rails you should be fairly at home.

HN hates a lot of stuff. Most of the people here are out of touch with reality. I see a lot of "entrepreneurs" whose startups didn't go so well, or people working in a super cool stack for peanuts, but hey! they get to work on all those cool languages.

Don't mean to sound harsh but... Suck it up. I work with C# ASP.NET. Do I like it? No. Do I hate it? No Does it get the job done (performance wise)? Sure does. Would I prefer to work on another language? Yup. Does it pay well? Yup.

If you are a good programmer it does not matter the language you work on. I know a lot of sucky RoR, python, [insert cool language here] developers and I also know a lot of great PHP, ASP.NET, [insert HN hated kanguage here] programmers. As long as you are a good logic thinker, work on whatever puts the food in the table and hopefully enjoy it.

Hey give me a shout and maybe we can work something out. reechaurd@gmail dot com.

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