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Ask HN: How can i help my dad?
151 points by eagerNewb on June 13, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments
My father has been working as a networking engineer for almost 40 years. He is exceptional at what he does. The problem is we live in a country, where things like perfection, attention to detail mean nothing. Also he is old, which is a big problem for most employers. 3 years ago he quit his job, because the owner of the company hadn't payed him for 7 months. My father didn't care for 5 months, continued doing his job, as if he was getting payed twice as much. After 7 months passed he brought the project to an end and the firm maid a substantial amount of money because of his work. He then resigned. My Dad didn't care if he wasn't getting payed, his work matters most to him and he proved it. It pains me to see him today (3 years later), still searching for jobs and going crazy, because he can't do what he loves the most. He started developing projects on his own, yet no one want to invest, because of the situation in our country(riots). This has had quite the impact on our family in all the ways you can imagine. I tried talking to him, yet he has grown distant and bitter. I'm loosing my father. He is in dire need of a job and i feel helpless.

Disclaimer: I'm a Bulgarian.

My story short : I recently moved to Berlin without knowing German. I was hired 2 weeks after I started to search for a job and I had enough offers to choose the job I want ( I've graduated law, but programming is what I've been doing my whole life ). Before this I was freelancing successfully in Bulgaria for awhile and had pretty decent amount of income anyway. I moved here, because of personal wishes ( I really like the spirit here ).

Nowadays is really easy to change country inside EU, but anyway I don't believe that Bulgarian economy is unstable especially for IT. You can also check out a lot of positions in Sofia and around the country that are in extreme need for specialists ( my friends still keep complaining they can't find people, because most of them are abroad ).

Whatever your father is doing if he really knows English ( working level ) he will be offered with a job here or if the position allows he can even work remotely from BG.

If you think I can help you personally contact me.

Super offer. I do note the OP's dad is somewhere past 55 and by the looks of it you are quite young so your story may not transfer. Thank you anyway :)

I feel your pain is genuine and I am sorry for is happening with your father. As a Bulgarian though I feel the need to say that there are several untrue facts in your post - e.g. there are no riots in BG. Also the IT sector is very strong with HP, Micsosoft, IBM etc. having offices + emerging startup ecosystem growing rapidly and I honestly have not heard anyone in IT having issues finding a well-paid job.

That being said I think you can help your father in many ways:

Support him by telling him he is doing a great job of being a father and caring for his family and profession.

You can help with the CV - I recently read an article on HN about an older guy in US in a similar position and basically it turned out that his CV was just not adjusted to the new realities of the IT world.

Be active in communities like HN and you might get unexpected help.

Checkout the portfolios of startup hubs - e.g. http://launchub.com/portfolio/ - perfection and attention to detail do mean a lot there. Contact directly, be creative -e.g. ask if they would like to have someone helping them with networking for free one month and they can then decide if they would like to hire.

If you are more adventurous try a small project on indiegogo https://www.indiegogo.com/ - I believe enough people from HN will back it. If it is a nice idea I know I will.

If it is not about the work itself but looking urgently for money - try mechanical turk or something like that to make ends meet for the time being..

Hope it helps, I wish you luck

What sort of networking engineer? Could you post a short summary of his skills and experience?

People in this type of situation usually volunteer. Your local library, school, or place of worship are the most common.

It's not as much fun as building a huge network, so you have to replace that part of the experience with the people - get to know the people there, and enjoy having them appreciate you (i.e. quality of interaction instead of quantity).

So I've got to ask - what country?. Riots and a controlling government doesn't narrow it down. Is there any chance of emigrating? How are your dad's language skills - how's his English for example?

What things has he tried? Sending out speculative letters? Taking unpaid placements (if possible) to get a foot in the door?

The country is Bulgaria. His English is fluent. He has developed a project which requires funding, yet no one wants to fund, because of the unstable situation.

Please ask your dad to send me an email (or mail me directly). I will be back in Romania in early July, I could conceivably hop over to Bulgaria to talk this over in person.

I've done a few other things like this with good results:


And I'm doing a few more as we speak.

My email address is jacques@mattheij.com

I just want you to know I teared up reading your post. I dont know the OP but I have gone through similar situation with my own father and am so grateful there are people like you trying to help total strangers.

You're one of my favorite people on HN. FWIW.

I second Thaumaturgy and Yepyepyep's comments. This was an amazing comment and you're one of my favourites.

Good for you - my current project started the same way (the kindness of another person).

Can you give more details about the project?

Bulgaria is an EU member, so he should be able to work in another EU country. I know Netherland has a shortage of good tech people. Maybe he can look for a job there?

Have you thought of doing a Kickstarter?

Kickstarter is US/UK-only.

You can do Indiegogo anywhere I believe. But even for Kickstarter to set up or find intermediaries&friends in the US is easy. Many European projects there that way.

What did the company he worked for provide to the client that he couldn't/didn't provide directly? It sounds to me like he should start doing these projects under his own shingle.

Could he start a hacklab? Find an old warehouse, put in some big tables and some equipment then invite people to come in and learn about engineering?

Some people got together nearby, got a government grant and setup a building to do just that. Charge a monthly fee to members and BAM! He's a business owner doing what he loves.

Even that takes some seed funding, which he likely does not have (after 7 months of unpaid work).

Bulgaria is not the most rich place in the world and government grants are reserved mostly for those with connections.

No matter how much you love your father. you can't 'fix' him.

You can however be supportive. In part that means putting aside what you think he should do because it's not your call. Provide love without being asked. Provide advice only when.

Don't expect him to suddenly stop acting in ways in which he takes pride. He would work without pay again if the circumstances were the same. Accept him for who he is. Doing the right things will be hard because it is about him not you.

Good luck.

What I am saying is not a solution to your problem but have you considered suing the organization that did not pay your dad for 7 months? It won't help him get a job but I think it is quite unfair that the organization which profited immensely from his hard unpaid labour should be allowed to walk away. I am assuming of course that being involved in a lawsuit would not lower is his prospects of finding a job.

It will, even if he was located in the US.

even if he is just trying to recoup unpaid wages? there are fairly strict laws in this country surrounding that. I understand how being in litigation with a previous employer would look bad to a potential new one but I'd like to believe there is at least a little leeway there.

Yes. It will hurt his employment status. Companies don't want to hire employees who are suing former employers. Not always fair, but it's because there are a TON of people who frivolously sue their employers.

I strongly disagree. He should absolutely go after his lost wages by any means possible and it will do nothing to affect his employment status. There's no reason for him to inform future prospective employers of this and there's no way they will find out. As a hiring manager I would have absolutely no problem hiring someone who had to sue a previous employer for lost wages and I doubt anyone else would. If there's a long pattern of suing employers in various situations that's obviously different.

He's in Bulgaria. I wonder how that fact and the rule of law go together...

The probability of recovering something is related to the legal environment, the determination of wanting to recover and other specific of the situation. If this company does any business out of Bulgaria there may be various levers to push there. The situation may also change going forward so at least documenting the situation and the efforts may end up being able to recover something in the future. Given that Bulgaria is in the EU it seems at least worthwhile to try. Sometimes the legal environment may actually limit your ability to recovery debt (e.g. bankruptcy) so having no rule-of-law can be an advantage.

At any rate, future employability prospects should not be a factor in going after unpaid wages.

Even if Bulgaria sucks, it's a member of the EU. Workers have a right to get paid here. I don't see why prospective employers would even know that he's suing a former employer. The only real obstacle is probably that the lawsuit itself costs money, but even then, he should definitely sue.

What use are worker protection laws if employers get away with this? Only employers on the verge of bankruptcy should get away with this. If a healthy company doesn't pay its employees, it wouldn't surprise me if that's criminal. Try getting the police involved.

Note: I'm not a lawyer.

Can he do these things remotely?

Can you help get overseas projects?

Can you setup a profile on eLance/etc where he can get projects?

Can you get an investment from Kiva or another crowd-funding site?

I felt a similar predicament with my father after he was made redundant at the age of 65, having working for large US corporations (working from the UK) for most of his working life. He spent many months searching for work, at first for equal/lower calibre roles in similar industries (he was a manager for a large telecoms company), later just looking for anything to fill his time and bring in some money. You could argue that he could've tried X or Y, but the truth is it seems (at least for his line of work) that job-hunting in the "twilight years" of your career is always going to be a struggle.

At first I thought this was wholly unfair. I know have come to think it's more an unfortunate fact of life. That said, it's not as if our ability to do go work just vanishes as we get older. For sure we aren't as sharp; but I don't see this as a deal breaker.

I'd like to think when I reach his age there will still be a meaningful role for me to fill?!

He can try on http://angel.co where mostly startups are listed and he can get what he loves may be. (there are remote jobs as well)

Bulgaria is in the European Union since 2007. Your dad is eligible to work in any of the 28 Member states without any restrictions. Why did you not consider this yet?

Because people have lives. You can't just pack up and leave normally speaking. Also, being from Romania or Bulgaria is not exactly treated as a preferential attribute when trying to locate work in other European countries. It shouldn't matter but it does.

So even if there are no legal restrictions there are plenty of barriers.

aside from that most people can't afford to go that far for work... by a long way. it takes money to make money.

I don't think it's primarily the distance. It costs less than $200 to travel from Sofia to London by bus. This is less than half the median monthly income.

However, getting a job in London or another city will take time, and the cost of essential services like accommodation and public transport will quickly add up.

The connections you're going to get out of the comments on this HN thread will probably be a huge gift to your dad. You're a good kid.

I don't have any specific ideas for you but just came here to say that your dad is very lucky to have such a caring son/daughter.

How about he approaches some Bulgarian accelerators, seed funds etc and offers to first help them, even if pro bono to begin with. Mentor startup teams on technology and other issues. Build a network. You build great contacts and definitely something will show up if he is good. Not starting from "I need a job" or "I need an investment" but just getting involved in the scene? A network engineer is usually a good all-around tech guy and as such can be very valuable to young people. Also participate at events there and help out.

Quite often in that situation being part of a community and being useful can do wonders to your mentality and self-assurance. But networking is just as important.

Why not go visit http://11.me/ and http://launchub.com/ and http://www.betahaus.bg/ and others?

Do you have an E-Mail address or some stuff? I know a Network company that has a lot of people working remote.

Yes, my e-mail is kk.manoilov@gmail.com.

Get him a book on Amazon Web Services... pay for him to get an architecture certificate... and try to get him consulting work.

Would it be possible for him to get a remote-work job? That would get around some of the problems specific to your country, and it might also help somewhat with the ageism issue.

In times of crisis sometimes is good we try new areas, maybe your father finds happiness working with something else.

A small business, something that he can be independent, owner.

I've been in the same position, as you with my dad. The best thing to do is network. Put his resume on indeed.com, dice.com, working with rails (or something of that sort). There are a few cofounder sites as well (techcofounder.com is one). Rest is all chance, people with the stupidest startups are making quite a bit of money.

You could always team up with your dad and create the coolest app your country has ever seen.

How about taking some jobs from freelancing websites? (eg. ODesk or Freelancer)

I've heard that these can sometimes lead to ongoing arrangements.

I imagine that him doing computer networking work has been a refuge from the bad kind of social networking the country imposes...

> we live in a country, where things like perfection, attention to detail mean nothing

Is this actually true? Seems like a kneejerk generalisation. If it is true, then surely this is a huge opportunity.

Cultures really are different, diverse, and have different priorities, in deep and meaningful ways.

Political correctness' "diversity that is disguised homogeneity where every really just agrees with me deep down inside, whether they know it or not, and all cultures are the same except for the superficial trivialities of what songs they sing, what clothes they wear, and what holidays they celebrate" is not an accurate picture of the world, and really quite provincial and imperialist (imposing your view on the whole world) on its own, despites its pretenses to sophistication and worldliness.

Yes. Yes it is. The country is Bulgaria.

I dunno. I get the same feeling at my work a lot of the time.

There are entire countries where the modus operandi is finding a position of some power, then finding a way to cheat there so you can get something for yourself. Corruption is a measure of success.

Knowing the loopholes and exploiting them means you're the smart one among a sea of clueless idiots. People get "secret" respect for being corrupted. Former Soviet block countries are one example of this mentality.

There's a reason certain countries can't make quick progress, while others can. Culture is the operating system of the mind, it affects how we perceive the world, how we make decisions, and ultimately where we're dragging the entire society with us.

I never understood why somebody would not find a way to arrange themselves with these types of situations.

There seemed to be three option, either actively start a movement to change the system, or position yourself to profit from the system, or leave the system. Just going around "the system is against me" is one of those victim positions that make yourself feel good but won't make any difference for anyone.

That's easy to say. If you were actually living in that situation, the solution would be less obvious. People have home, roots, family. A situation like that is not black and white. Life is complicated and things are difficult. Be kind.

Who is assuming that "system is against me" victim position you're talking about? I don't see it.

People do what they can in their position. Spontaneous organization leading to system change happens, but it's spontaneous.

Maybe you're imagining some kind of movie montage set to 80s bad disco music, where a guy Decides to Make a Movement, and a movement gets assembled and in the end we get a wide shot with hundreds of thousands of people doing system changy thingies, but reality usually doesn't work this way.

You can't just decide this, especially if you're a ~60 years old network engineer. Deciding to build a life abroad at that age is also quite unlikely.

I don't think your father need any help. You will just waste your time trying and there won't be any benefit for him.

He is an adult. I assume, because he is a IT professional he has a good education.

I bet he knows that there are countries where he can get a better pay job. But for his own reasons, he has decided not to pursue this endeavor. I bet he made a choice of staying where he is now consciously. Maybe it's not his cup of tea moving between countries.

Of course no harm talking to him and reiterating the above. But I bet he knows and made up his mind already.

"Sorry Dad, a guy on the internet told me to be a dick and tell you it's all your fault"

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