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Ask HN: I got let go this morning. What should I do next?
215 points by thecolorblue on Jan 30, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 200 comments
I went in to work this morning, in downtown Cleveland, ordered a BLT for our free lunch friday, and got called into a meeting. I was told my position was being removed (probably to cut costs, although they did not say), and I needed to clean off my desk. I'm a javascript developer. I built a large angular application while there, but it is now built and there are other developers who can support it.

As far as I see it, I have this great opportunity to break out of the regular 9-5 job world, which I have always wanted to do. I have been working weekends on pearmarket.co, which is a website for small farmers to more easily promote their products online (I have recently open sourced the core of the project at https://github.com/thecolorblue/beetpress). Unfortunately, it is not currently in a place where I can dedicate all of my time to it and see any income. I would say I am 3 months of solid work away from having a good beta. I do not see this as an option as it would clear out most of my savings, and leave me in mostly the same position I am in now.

I have looked into doing freelance work, but as I am self taught my CS skills are not as solid as other developers, and my design skills are just about average. I am more product focused, I try to work as closely to the end user as possible and clearly define what they need. There does not seem to be a need for freelance product people (is this a good assumption?). It's also important to note that I am 28 and just got engaged. Moving is an option, but living on a spare couch for a couple months is not.

So I really have two questions. What would you do in my situation (would you stay in a smaller city?), and if you could start over in web development, what would you focus on?




So my guess is this is the first time you've been let go, or this is the first time as an adult (post-college) during your profession that you've been let go.

Relax, it happens. This doesn't mean you aren't a terrific developer and person to work with. Take a little time to think about what you've worked on, what you've accomplished in the past 6-12 months I think you'll see what a great position you really are in. As others have said it's a golden time for both developers and particularly Javascript coders.

Once you've had a little time to reflect on all this then dust off your resume, update your linked in, and basically get ready for a lot of recruiters calling you.

If you have the means financially don't rush, take your time and really interview your next potential employer as if you were hiring them.

You'll be amazed what kind of work is out there if you take your time versus jumping into the next gig you are offered.

Lastly, at 28 I would seriously consider a startup. You are in a great position to take that risk right now. Since you aren't in a tech hub like San Francisco it might take a little more time to find something there, unless you want to relocate. Perhaps look under Gigs in craigslist, I've found local (Denver) startups looking for coders that way in the past.


What's the benefit of a startup? Seems like more hours for less pay while always needing to get things done. I fail to see the appeal. They just have lunches and dinners which appeal to people.


Never getting a raise because that's not built into their budget and there's not a system around it. Having to beg for vacation time and getting maybe a week a year. And after a few years or a few ventures, your friends at big corps are already starting to talk about retirement and pensions, and you realize that's an extra million you gave up. But hey, you can wear shorts!


I work for fortune 300 non tech company (despite their NASDAQ listing). Our pension program has been frozen - no new employees can join and years of service no longer accrue additional benefit. There has not been a 401k match in four years, the continuing education program ended with the merger 10 years ago. And the healthcare is marginally better than Obamacare. And raises. Last year they were 0.75%.

A startup looks better and better.


I'm guessing when most people [on HN] are comparing big companies to startups they're thinking of tech companies. What you describe may not be unusual for large non-tech companies - but it's pretty horrible compared to large tech ones.

If it's feasible you may want to consider looking for a new job. [And FWIW some great advice I got when starting out as a developer was never work where software is a cost-center].


This cost-center point is key. I work for one of the big international electronics corps as an enterprise web dev, but they have no interest in the quality of our work. They don't understand it, they have no belief in codebase maintainability (everything is new development or bugfix, basically as soon as an app is written it becomes frozen legacy code that will sit for 5+ years until a rewrite is finally budgeted).

A lot of the superiors they hire really affect the architectural policies of the company. For example, we can use Spring & jQuery but little else. Now they are trying to write apps with heavier front-end & getting into trouble cuz its a mess of jQuery callbacks with no real js framework. Why? The main architect has never heard of React, Angular, backbone, etc. (not to mention the fact that I'm one of like 2 devs who can actually write js, and unfortunately the other does not possess the equally rare skill: "uses proper design patterns"). You'd think I was joking until you met a bunch of corporate consultant programmers.

Basically, these companies try to boil web development into an old-school "IT" process but the level of intellect is astonishingly low. I've been lookin for a new gig at a tech company for quite a while but it was tough to make a change cuz this is my first gig out of grad school, had to prove myself a bit & build resume.

The only relief is that the corp "cost-center" IT kindof job I have is such a mess that its a good place to study & relax, pace of work is veeeeery slow.


> I've been lookin for a new gig at a tech company for quite a while but it was tough to make a change cuz this is my first gig out of grad school, had to prove myself a bit & build resume.

Why not try to apply for some jobs now? You don't know how good your resume is until you try it


heh thanks for the words of encouragement. i'm going to try now, yes. but basically.... to be fair i'm getting paid a pretty good wage so i really just need some experience to avoid looking like a dabbler. I'm looking at senior level positions now & they seem to want to see that you're really committed to a certain type of code.

I went from research Matlab / dabbling in C# at a dayjob, to RoR, to javascript, to now pretty hardcore backend Java (EE, Spring, high concurrency for last 2 yrs), trying to move into Clojure a bit more. Most well-funded companies don't seem to like polyglots from what I can tell... But yeah I will be looking for the ones that do, plus I am studying C++ to make a bit of a more lateral move into audio digital signal processing / data-mining / machine learning.

I don't know... companies tell me I'm too expensive for the level of experience I have, yet all the high-paid seniors I work with are awful so I don't want to lower my salary expectations unless I can find a company thats actually worth sacrificing for.


Retiring in your 30's? What an age we live in. What an industry we work in.


I work at a startup and I am 25. I have saved up some money and seriously considering retirement by the time I am 30.

Not that I have a lot of money saved up. I just have a couple of thousand bucks. Nothing fancy. But to me it is a seed money to try out new things, at an age where making huge mistakes wouldn't result in me being 70 and penniless. There will still be enough time to return back to IT once (if) I fail miserably. And it will also be an extended break in the worst case.

I want to explore the world, jobs, hobbies, people. I have realized the 8 hours everyday I spend on my desk is the best time to be out and about. The sunshine is literally gone by the time I get off work. If this is what hundreds of years of progress and planning has led to, I think we have failed.

So yes, I support people who think about retiring early, and actually living their lives when they are still young. If youth is the best time of one's life, it shouldn't be wasted on the desk.


>So yes, I support people who think about retiring early. If youth is the best time of one's life, it shouldn't be wasted on the desk

It's funny, the different perspectives people have on retirement.

I don't plan on ever retiring. What would I do? Very much the same things I'm already doing. I've tried to organize my life that way.


I agree. I'll only retire when my body gives out. I decided what kind of old man I want to be and I won't be one of those hunched and shriveled guys. I intend on making it to 140. People who retire die.


Ahh, to be 25 and single again. Trust me by the time you're 35 and have kids you'll have a different sense of what's important. Your kids will be your sunshine but also your responsibility. Early retirement, living on a couple thousand dollars a year, will seem like the dumbest idea ever.


>Ahh, to be 25 and single again. Trust me by the time you're 35 and have kids you'll have a different sense of what's important. Your kids will be your sunshine but also your responsibility. Early retirement, living on a couple thousand dollars a year, will seem like the dumbest idea ever.

That's a choice that a 25 year old need not make.

For those of us who have hit or are even beyond 35, and chose not to have kids, things look very different. Particularly if you work in North American IT, you're able to funnel all of that extra disposable income into things like early retirement, as well as improving your day-to-day quality of life (that could be vacations, gadgets, whatever you'd like...).


Yes, don't get me wrong, I think it's great to have early retirement as a goal, and maybe even try it out for a while (it was my goal from an early age and I tried it out for three years in my late 20's / early 30's). It's excellent motivation to save money when you're starting out.

And I was in the same boat; when backpacking through Thailand I thought, "Thailand is cheap, I'll just raise a family here". Well sure, for backpackers it's easy to live on 3K per year. But with a couple kids, you'll likely want a safe car (stupidly expensive there), decent schools (again), something nicer than a backpacker hostel, etc. Heck, flights home to visit family will run close to 10K per year alone.


A couple of thousand? 9k won't even allow you to retire in Afghanistan.

:-)


Retiring at 30 = being a boring person for your 40s, 50s, etc.

I think a better situation is to be financially secure by your 30s (be completely out of debt, pay off a mortgage, have money for children, etc.) and then have the ability to start companies or work freelance for the rest of your life rather than being a slave to the 9-to-5 grind.

I do like the concept of getting rich slowly and learning slowly. I would love to peruse multiple degrees (I already have two) just out of the love of learning and also meeting other lovers of knowledge.


I think you simply value the work environment much more than anyone that "retires" at 30, much similar to people that continue to work after winning a large lottery. And that's ok. For most people that want extremely early retirement, though, it is time to spend with family: Time to learn: time to experience. Not a lot of people acheive this, but that's the dream.


You probably need ~1.7 to 2.5 million to retire, and even that's not going to be at 30


depends on the lifestyle you want to live.

My wife and I might retire in our mid-30s, in the US but not in an expensive area, and be completely comfortable with well under $1 million in assets. Because we live a laid back, low cost lifestyle -- with the house paid off (as of this week) our burn rate is dropping to under $20k per year.

You might need considerably more money to maintain your desired lifestyle. There's nothing wrong with that -- but recognize that not everyone is you.


May I ask what is your definition of retirement? I just can't imagine to stop working at that age (maybe it's because I haven't even started).


raise the kids. Make indie games, with the understanding that it doesn't matter if they never make significant revenue. Write. Read. Study. The key point here is really "not needing to earn more money" rather than "not doing anything".


> If this is what hundreds of years of progress and planning has led to, I think we have failed.

You're saying this after complaining spending eight hours a day (presumably five days a week) at your desk. That leaves far more leisure time than most [working class] people had "hundreds of years" ago.


While this comparison is true for 100-200 year ago industrial jobs, and farming in subsistence conditions, the original hunter gatherers had plenty of free time, and that's what we're evolved for. Main problem is, there's to many of us for hunting and gathering to be sustainable...


a couple hundred thousand is not enough to retire at 30 though ....


He is 25, and he plans to retire at 30, in 5 years he may save another couple thousands more. Let's put on the lower part of the "couple" spectrum and say he have 200.000, in 5 years he will have 400.000 USD. This money is enough to retire early with the 4% rule http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/05/29/how-much-do-i-need...

Maybe you are assuming that he want to live in the states, with the interest of this money he could live easily in Spain, Thailand, Argentina, etc...


When someone says "a couple thousand" you think of 200k as a lower bound?


The English colloquialisms "a couple" or "a few" are generally accepted to mean 1 < x < 5.


A couple and a couple of hundred are quite different though!

The original post suggests ~$2000, not ~200k


thailand maybe - spain seems like a stretch


It can be [1]. Instead of saving 10-15% of your income, suppose you cut your expenses drastically and started saving 80% of your income. The math works out that you will be financially independent within 5-7 years and no longer have a requirement to work for money.

[1] http://earlyretirementextreme.com


Note he said a couple thousand, not a couple hundred thousand.


I personally would not do a startup, unless I was one of the founders. Or they provided me with a non-nedglible equity stake or the best salary I could get.

Most developers get tiny, tiny amounts of equity at startups which don't pay off in the end.

And the appeal of "interesting work", soon dissipates when your up against deadlines, and the focus is speed not quality code. As is in most startups.

Just working at a successful startup won't automatically bring success, you have to be in a position to capture that success. The easiest way to do that, is be a founder.


Could you attach some numbers to what you consider tiny and adequate equity?


Simple bit of math from much earlier in my career:

* Google salary is $180k

* Startup salary is $125k

Expected value of stock options must be >$55k per year to be economically equal. If we assume 5 years to exit, 20% odds of successful exit, and $50 million exit, that means I must own about 3% of the company at the time of exit, assuming I have no risk aversion (and more if I do). Assuming reasonable dilution over the 5 years, I need to get substantially more than 3% today.

In most cases, only founders get that level of equity. The equity offered to future employees is, quite frankly, a complete joke for most startups I've seen. The assumption is that there aren't enough developers who can't value options well that some sucker is gonna get fleeced.

That doesn't make startup the wrong option (I went with it), but the incentives have to be non-financial. Startups can be great or horrible places to learn, depending on how much exposure you have to business processes and similar. In Google, you're in a specialized box. In startups, you can see many more aspects of the operation. Getting into a position with that kind of visibility, however, can be difficult to properly negotiate early in the career.


> Could you attach some numbers to what you consider tiny and adequate equity?

That depends entirely on the company and the developer, there are no absolute numbers. Keep in mind though that often it's entirely fair that even the earliest employees get vastly less than the founders. After all, they probably didn't spend the last three years living in their parents' basement to get the business to the point of being viable for full-time employee #1. E.g. I think it took Kickstarter something like seven years to actually get to launch.


For a typical startup, anything less than 5-10% for a first engineer (non founder) is tiny, negligible, and just not worth suffering (lower salary, lost health, long hours) a startup for. Of course, there are startups that offer decent salaries and normal working hours. They're just rare. In those cases, equity isn't necessarily an issue and even no equity can be just fine.


For me, there's no amount of equity that would be "adequate" - if a company wants to include some in an offer, great, but it's not going to be a factor in my decision.

Most likely the equity will be worth nothing or very little - I thus value it at zero so I'm not willing to give up any amount of salary for it.


I tend to agree with you in that I do not weigh a decision based on the amount of equity they are offering. A little side story as to why I do not weigh equity as I used to. Back in the first bubble (1998-2000) I went to work for a startup that had good leadership, big investors, and really came to define the SaaS model (although we called it an Application Service Provider at the time). I took a slight pay cut to come to work there, but I saw upside and they offered me a great equity package. A year and half down the road we were growing and planning to go public. They had not planned well and given out too much equity. Prior to the IPO we had to do an 8 to 1 reverse split, meaning that for every 8 shares you had you now had 1. Although the IPO was fairly successful out of the gate, moral was destroyed by the reverse split.

However, with that in mind, I will still give up salary in return for equity if I am (a) passionate about the business idea, (b) believe that there is a good chance that the business will succeed, (c) believe in the founders and team that is already in place, including any investors. And looking back (I am in my 40s now) the younger you are the more risk you can absorb in terms of equity. I enjoy the startup world and am willing to take risks. Plus, like any other job if it doesn't look like it is panning out or you are unhappy there is nothing holding you there.


I like equity for what it does to me. It makes me primal and on top of my game. It helps me continue to give a shit. All these things benefit me because instead of wasting time (On HN :P) I am focused on delivering and increasing the leverage of my contributions to my team (ie, Making bigger moves) .


Probably would be better for your career if you learned how to motivate intrinsically, rather than relying on carrots and sticks. At some point the carrot is going to disappear, and you'll realize that the folks holding the stick made off like bandits.


The very "needing to get things done" is the appeal - even if the pay is lower (which isn't always the case these days) think of it as investing in your own abilities and skills.

I spent all my days, nights, and weekends out of college working on a doomed startup during the first bubble and I'd still describe it as one of the best experiences of my life. It prepared me for all sorts of experiences since then. I was ideating, researching, designing, building, and even publicly presenting multiple new products for a company that didn't have the staff to specialize in any of those needs.

I've used those skills at companies big and small since then and have worked alongside those who haven't forged their abilities in the pressure-cooker of a startup - I wouldn't change a thing.


The real appeal to a startup has little to do with compensation. It's about "benefits" and intangibles. Obviously these will vary depending on the degree to how "start-upy" your company is but I think you can measure it most by the size. In the extreme example, when you start your own company, you own it all. You want casual Fridays? It's done. You want a remote/results-only workplace policy? It's done. Cubicles, private offices, or wide open desk farms - you pick.

From a developer's perspective, you don't have to support someone else's code (at least for now). It's YOUR code - but it's also YOUR bug when they do come up. It's much less stressful fixing your own bugs then a "senior" developer who's worked there for 15 years and supposedly knows what he's doing but fails to take responsibility.

I previously worked at a large ad tech startup (using that term loosely, they had just gone public and had about 250 people) and it drove me nuts. Particularly, it was the strain of having to work for someone I didn't respect. I left and now run a company with some friends - all of whom I believe to be smarter than I. There is no better feeling than being the dumbest one in the room. That is a luxury rarely afforded at large companies. Invariably, you're going to end up with people at the bottom of the barrel. When you're the owner/boss/hiring manager - you get to pick the people you work with.

TL;DR: Startups aren't about compensation it's about the enjoyment of picking the workplace you want to be in. You don't have to worry about working with people you dislike, because you pick them all!

Edit: Also forgot to mention, I have learned exponentially more in the last 2 years of running my business than I feel like in the rest of my life combined. It's like software development/product management/sales special forces training - you really end up pushing yourself to do more than you thought you were capable of. Mostly because there is no one else to pick up your slack.


Big companies provide better benefits, in tangible terms. A lot big/medium companies now have flexi-time, days to work remote. You probably won't get free pizza, but with the extra pay you can buy your own.

I've never worked at a startup where you can personally chose the staff..

I've noticed people at startups tend to be developers focused on the latest trends, coding fast, the latest js framework etc, less focus on writing clear maitainable code.

Developers at larger companies focus on writing maintainable code, SOLID, TDD etc, less focus on the latest js framework.

What do you want?


I'm a big startup advocate, and for roughly GolfyMcG's reasons.

But all things depend on the individual companies, in some startups you won't get to hire. And for my luck, of the 2 large companies where I worked there was no chance of flex-time, or remote - or any kind of non- 9-5 schedule even for devs. On the other hand at 1 of them everyone left at 5 on the dot cause no one cared about their jobs - and a strict 40 a week feels like vacation a lot.

I think regardless of where you go you have to pick wisely (and I only picked large because my options where limited and the salaries where good.).

But as a rule small - not just startup, means you have more power and control over yourself and your fiefdom. And that freedom is what you like that's where you should go. (Or research - there's a lot more paperwork with research teams, but there's a lot of freedom as well.)

And yes - if you like writing good code you are proud of years later a big co is good place to do it. At my government gig, we wrote prototypes we'd knew would have to be thrown away, perfectly - because really why not? There were no hard to meet deadlines, or particular concerns about the grants running out. So we built things we'd be proud of, every time.


In my experience startups are not that much about freedom. They are often dominated by autocratic personalities, and short deadlines.


Startups are great experience. If you are lucky enough to be a technical co-founder then you get to pick the platform, design the system and generally call all the shots on the tech side. That alone can be quite rewarding. I'd say that was the most compelling reason for me personally.

There are a whole litany of standard answers to that question such as greater risk = great reward potential, the ability to choose and work on something you are truly interested in and/or passionate about.

I feel like the reasons are somewhat obvious as most HN'ers are aware of the pros/cons of this choice though I encourage others to chime in, I'm sure I'm forgetting a bunch.


I've never worked for a start-up in a development role before, but I think I would like it. I am 28, fresh out of grad school and working for a bank currently. I like my coworkers and the work but when I walk by management and I overhear "We're not a development shop," I get disheartened because banks are becoming data centers and have to be in the software game.

Take a look at...

Dwolla: they are out to destroy the Automated Clearing House industry. Bitcoin: banks need to know how to interface with that! Micropayments: same deal. Mobile: OCR for check deposits! Data science/analytics ("big data"): obvious.

Banks that fail to adopt a hacker culture because IT is a "cost center" (despite the fact that all operational units of any business are) will crumble.


Is your background more tech or more finance?


Not to discredit your question which is important in context... I feel like Both of them overlap and there are some really, really interesting problems in finance which most people don't have the balls to solve. There's a reason fintech startups are few and far between in comparison to the rest.


I was asking because I used to work in a bank, participated in two fintech startups, and have returned to banking due to circumstances with my family. I was going to target my advice based on the answer; however, after thinking this over some more, my advice would be the same for either answer. Stay in banking. There are a lot of problems in banking that need to be solved, and I think being on the inside of the bank gives one the best chance at solving those problems.


Tech definitely.


I left an agency job for a startup and got ~double the pay. Also, the work is WAY more rewarding. I don't even feel the need to work on side projects at home every night anymore...


I think the startup/established company debate boils down to personal taste, but I do prefer startups for the control you get over your future. My experience with start ups (at least in their growth phase) was that there was no need to switch positions or leave the company to grow professional, you just grow with the company.


Benefit of a startup (depending on the stage) --

You get to be involved more broadly, but you will also be working way more. You will learn a lot.

Downside of a startup -- you are putting a lot of personal time in for others benefit. Unless you are a Facebook/twitter/google/etc. (all based on luck) an early engineer at a startup is basically wasting away 25-50k/year (depending on level) he could be getting at a public company.

I've played the odds, out of about six or seven startups I worked at, one managed to pay out for the previous couple of years of work (and I am was back at market salary).

I love startups. I work with some now in my current role, I've consulted with many others over the years, but if your goal is pay for time, they are the wrong place to go.

One more potential battle story -- discussions for non-founding CTO of a seed stage startup. The personal sacrifice at the time to accept would have been about $70k/year in guaranteed money for sub 10% equity in the company and a ramp from 45ish hours to 60+hours/week. On paper from everything you can find via glassdoor/angels list/hackernews, the numbers were right regarding the offer. However, what needed to be built (in terms of the service) consulting for the same type of gig would have been $150+/hr and probably much safer/lucrative -- but wasn't an option.

Despite adoring the lead angel investor, I passed. I have my own projects going on and battle scars that kick in when I go back to thinking about being an early stage in building out other's startups on salary.


Aside from all the other (very good) answers regarding technical and corporate culture, the potential for a windfall--either monetary or career--is higher than in a company that either already has or likely never will go public or otherwise exit.

I say career because even if you don't make a lot of money, being an early technical member of a successful startup usually A) gives you a fair amount of visibility and credibility in the tech community and B) leads to a number of other job opportunities with startups with more responsibility and/or equity. Being able to execute under pressure is a valuable quality, and once founders or even VC firms know you can do it they start cherry-picking you.

Edit: should also add, don't go working for a startup just to go make money off equity. The grand majority won't make you much unless you're a very early hire; you'll probably make more over the same amount of time by investing your higher salary, ESPP, etc. at a more established company. Make sure the other factors are the "real" reason, with potential cash being a secondary one.

But I mention it because you ask why other people do it, and that's one reason why.


There's a lot of appeal in ownership of large parts of a product, building something from the ground up, lots of green-field development, fun chances to fiddle with new things, and of course lots of equity in something (you want to make) great.


"Startups" is a very broad brush. But I'd say that creating your own startup is almost always a valuable experience, wheras working for one is often a waste of potential earnings and time.


Leverage.

Everything you do is magnified, good and bad.


The advantage is learning curve. If you're in the right startup, you'll learning faster than you will anywhere else.


Risk vs reward. When you are young, it makes a lot of sense to take risky ventures with potentially huge payoffs, as you tend to have less responsibilities. As you get older, you tend to become naturally more risk averse, and look for more reliable income streams to keep your responsibilities filled.


Make sure that risk, is balanced with a potential reward though. To many young people think just because a startup sells, your going to end with some of that cash.

Most likely your not going to end up with any of that cash, unless you get into the right position first.


There are a wide range of stages for startups. Many post-series A startups pay very competitively in SF (~120-200k). Early stage startups won't usually pay as well or offer as great benefits, so your main draw for working there would be if you really believe in the product and want the equity.


In theory, equity in a startup. In practice ego and the slim possibility to grow with an organization.

Basically, it’s extremely unlikely for a junior developer to be chosen to manage people, unless they happen to be the most senior person there.


If you look at LinkedIn profiles of developers and designers a fair majority don't last long and go from one job to another every few months, to a year to two years.

This has been my experience too due to contract jobs, not getting along/connecting with the web agency owners (office politics) and having unrealistic demand thrust on me. Such demands being ok in 20 hours we need you to design, code, make it responsive, skin it into WordPress, configure widgets & create custom post types for a 20 to 30 page website. For, me that's not realistic, unless I'm working 12 to 16 hours a day and only putting down 4 hours a day.

My most enjoyable experiences in this field have been working at large companies (projects are not rushed due to a bureaucracy & people there are older/more mature) vs. at web agencies (get things done fast or your out and I'm king crap here I'll get rid of you whenever I feel like it).


+1 on the startup idea. I left a big company to go to a startup and I think its really been a great choice. You'll be exposed to so many new ideas and technologies and really get a chance to expand your skillset. Maybe if you work at a big company like Google or Facebook you get exposed to more -- I don't know -- but where I came from it was night and day difference. For me, the people and experiences outweigh the slight difference in salary (which is still great all things considered).

Sorry you got let go, that sounds like a really unpleasant experience.


> You'll be exposed to so many new ideas and technologies and really get a chance to expand your skillset.

This will vary greatly by person and by company. For me it was the reverse - I went from a very small non-profit where I was the only developer to a large tech company and my skillset has expanded more in the ~6 months I've been here than in the 2.5 years I was at the non-profit.


Sure. I think this is a good point. I suppose when I was thinking startup I was envisioning a group of more than 1 developer. At least a 3-4.


The OP says they are engaged - depending on the situation this may mean the increased risk of a startup is not a great choice.


Or a great time since you can decrease risk with another income?


Try to retain your former boss as a customer, likely they'll need you two weeks time.


This can work very well (experience + know many who have done this). Make sure to http://doubleyourfreelancingrate.com !


I've posted a blog post I had in the works for a while on that subject:

http://jacquesmattheij.com/the-army-of-the-new-independents


This deserves to be the top answer.

While I've never been "let go", I've made a strong effort to keep the door open at every place I was a full-time employee. In every case, this has led to more and better work down the road.


I haven't thought of this. Thanks!


This seems so obvious I'm baffled I didn't immediately think of it.


Can someone explain this more in detail?

It's bad ethics to write stuff that only you can maintain, so what other methods can one achieve this/what do you mean?


Of course it's bad ethics to write stuff that only you can maintain. But if you built it, regardless of how well you documented it and how easy someone else could maintain it you're the current expert and by the sound of the OP the rest of the team is not in his league. So the employer thinks to cut costs now that the major work has been done and they're in 'maintenance mode'. That might work, for a while. And then in a few weeks when they want something a bit more elaborate it may very well turn out that letting the OP go was a mistake.

Being good at something (or at least, much better than your co-workers) is the other method you're looking for, no need to resort to evil stuff.

Likely this was reflected in the OPs salary, note that he's let go but his co-workers are not, so probably he was making more per hour than they. And now he'll make more per hour still and his former boss will be more than happy to pay once he realizes that OP could turn him down just as easy as he was let go.

Don't burn your bridges...


And the OP's former boss gets to pay for the actual hours needed to implement the desired feature rather than a monthly cheque.

Could be a win both ways in that sense. OA gets a customer with a regular need and existing investment. Former boss gains flexibility and can show headcount reduction.


> It's bad ethics to write stuff that only you can maintain

However, even in the best codebase, it takes time for somebody new to come up to speed. If they need help now, it will make sense for them to call in the original developer.

So, if you were a good developer and something happens, you can get called in to consult. Make sure you hit them for 50+% more than whatever your salary was; that's the penalty for the company gaining the flexibility to not use you when they don't have work.

And, even if something doesn't happen, they might want you to train the next person, again, make sure you charge appropriately for it.

Don't be a dick--especially if the company is going down, there are going to be other people springing loose shortly and you might want to work for/with them.

Good luck.


Not necessarily.

It's bad ethics to write something only you can maintain for self-interest.

If your boss tells you to throw hacks in or pile up a bunch of tech debt, it's your job to say, "this is ill advised, and here's why", and then do it anyway if that's his or her informed decision. There are often pressing business needs that mean having feature X now, and possibly paying more in the future to clean it up or for other features, is a fine tradeoff.

Lots of code is in the place, where test coverage is poor or there are grungy hacks to make things work, and hence is much more easily maintained by the original author.


Brilliant Jedi mind trick.

"These aren't the droids you're looking for."


If you want to stay in the midwest and build for farmers, come join us at FarmLogs (YC12).

farmlogs.com/jobs


Looks like you guys are doing some awesome stuff! I'll have to keep you in mind if I ever decide to leave my cushy DevOps job in Troy.


Where in the midwest are you? I couldn't tell from the page.

[edit] Found it on the contact page: Ann Arbor, MI


I love what you guys are doing!


> I have looked into doing freelance work, but as I am self taught my CS skills are not as solid as other developers, and my design skills are just about average

Skills have very little baring on success as a freelancer. 99.99% of clients will not care what language, framework, algorithm or pattern you use to create their product.

The biggest issue as a freelancer is clients. Clients are absolute hell.


Clients generally don't care about or understand your technology choices. People and process management are at least as important to freelance success as programming or design skill. That much I definitely agree with.

I wouldn't describe my clients as hell, though--not by a long shot. But I've been freelancing full time for seven years, moonlighting five before that, and I've learned to avoid (and am able to do without) bad clients for the most part.

Way back in the beginning, when I didn't much know what I was doing and sold even that work way too cheap, there were some pretty bad times.


It just takes a certain type of person to be a freelancer that can deal with clients, and I am not that person. I had "good" high paying clients that were still not fun to work with. It's probably less about them and more about me wanting to control every aspect of the product.


1) Sprint on a side project using tech you're excited about to keep you motivated while you're looking for jobs in parallel. Don't limit your job search geographically but also don't rush to leave unless the opportunity is worth it.

2) ClojureScript, React, Datomic are my preferences. A well-designed language with JS as a compilation target, React Native, and a graph database with ACID guarantees and scalable reads are powerful tools.

My story:

I was fired 2 weeks after moving to a suburb ~90 min from nyc (employer had ok'd remote work, oh well). I came up with a good side project using all the technologies I was excited about and sprinted on that while I 1) signed up for unemployment, 2) updated resume, 3) updated linkedin, 4) started looking at freelancing marketplaces, 5) go to all the relevant meetups, etc. This worked really well because it gave me something fun to focus on while grinding through all these job channels.

3 weeks later I found a local job using some of the technologies I was excited about (Clojure, ClojureScript and Datomic!) and I'm working there now. The market is nuts.


> I am self taught my CS skills are not as solid as other developers

There are a lot of, like, regular companies in a lot of regular, not silicon valley cities, that hire regular developers working on boring software products for a very good salary. You'll very likely get a raise out of this. Don't freak out, work on your open source thing for a couple weeks while you set up five interviews. Once you have an offer you can step back and relax, and decide what you want to do.


Success with clients will have little to do with your technical chops.

Hand hold them through the design process, be firm about informing when you think they are making the wrong decision, overly attribute the success of the project to them.

Nobody sues a doctor that has been kind to them.

Everybody loves a freelancer/consultant that gets a job done, is humble and makes everyone look like a success.


1. Realize that as a developer you will be in high demand in the workforce, surely you will find something better in no time.

2. Work on your startup idea / prototype during this downtime. It doesn't have to be perfect, just hacked together well enough to provide value to someone.

3. Brush up your skills on sites like Codeacademy, W3C, Tutsplus, etc. Take a few free online university / MOOC courses.

4. Sift through projects on Odesk / Elance. You may find some part time work that may provide some supplemental income while at the same time improving your dev skills.

5. Hustle. Knock on doors. Be proactive. Let your passions shine through. Don't take no for an answer.


> Sift through projects on Odesk / Elance. You may find some part time work that may provide some supplemental income while at the same time improving your dev skills.

You're probably better off taking unemployment and working on some quick projects to spiff up your github account. I experimented with Odesk/Elance for side income and the best job I managed to find was $20/hr.


Ah, the American way: Why work when you can get the same pay from the taxpayers pocket without having to?

I rather work at McDonalds for half that @dminor and still have my pride, than to be a burden on society.


thecolorblue has already paid unemployment insurance, via his employer, for exactly the situation he's in now. He is his own burden.


Do you expect lawyers or doctors to work for $20/hr? How about plumbers and electricians? But you expect a competent developer to work for $20/hr?


Unemployment benefits come come unemployment insurance. If the government is going to force us to pay the premiums, they best be willing to pay out the benefits.


Also based out of Cleveland -- feel free to contact me privately if you'd like to be put in touch with a few people.

My suggestion would be to go to some of the meetup groups. CleRB, ClePY, NodeJS, Burning River Developers, there's plenty of others. Dont' be scared to go outside of your area of expertise. Check out some of the startup groups... LaunchHouse, Bizdom, Flash Starts.


Pearmarket looks confusing, but honestly, just launch it. Remove stuff and ship.

btw, map doesn't load: https://order.pearmarket.co/map

About page is very very interesting, my suggestion: move the Offers and Needs to the frontpage, that looks like one of the most important things in the whole site.


Thanks for the feedback. pearmarket.co was kind of thrown together for this small beta test we ran in november. I haven't taken the time to update it.


> I have looked into doing freelance work, but as I am self taught my CS skills are not as solid as other developers, and my design skills are just about average. I am more product focused, I try to work as closely to the end user as possible and clearly define what they need.

A couple of points if you choose to go the freelance path:

1. Very few clients will care about your CS skills. If you can develop commercially viable solutions that work, which it sounds like you can, you're ahead of 90% the freelancers out there. Dirty secret: a lot of people with CS backgrounds don't write beautiful code and couldn't architect a commercially viable application on their own to save their lives.

2. A lot of freelance developers are incapable of working with clients to shape product, and a lot who can don't like doing this work. The people who make the most money as solos are those who can craft solutions, not those who crank out code. So it sounds like you have skills and interests that would serve you well.

Good luck!


Very much agree with the second point. And not just how it relates to the actual project work, as a freelancer, you also need to be prepared to do a lot of things that aren't development. Tools and consultants are available to help, but invoicing, insurance (if applicable, depends on your client types), taxes, proposals, etc etc all have to be overseen by you if not actually done by you. Personally I have been fine with those tradeoffs, retaining a high degree of autonomy in exchange for some less than interesting tasks. But it's a tradeoff you have to be willing to make if freelancing is going to be the source of your livelihood.

Edit to add: especially if the target client js less than savvy, they're going to really appreciate working with a consultant who has the skillset the OP does. Frequently (and sometimes frustratingly) less savvy clients can take a very wide view of what a web consultant should be providing for them. Marketing as a product development and management guru can absolutely become a viable business as a freelancer. There are tons of other freelancers with other specialities whom you can sub to (if the budget and agreement allows) to fill out any gaps you may have in specific areas. Particularly things like design and UI that lend themselves to well-defined scopes and deliverables.


Freelancing is not about having top-tier CS skills or being an amazing designer. Those help, but they aren't what gets you hired.

Companies will hire you because You Are A Likeable Person That Gets Shit Done.

Both of those things matter. If you have zero people skills, you will not close deals. And if you can't Get Shit Done, you will quickly poison your network, which is where the best jobs come from.


From my experience, having top-tier CS skills is definitely a harder requisite than being a "likeable person" in the hiring process. Yes, companies are looking for culture-fit and making sure you're not a total weirdo, but hard skills will always trump how sociable you are.

Additionally, "getting shit done" is very hard to measure unless the company is asking for contract work before extending an offer (which is rare) - so it again comes down to lots of technical questions which test your CS and language-specific skills.


I hate the focus on "Get Shit Done", I think the focus should "Get Shit Done, Right in reasonable time".

Nothing that slows me down more than being dumped in a awful code base, because the focus was "Get shit done"


It's funny to see how many comments advise about beginning a Start Up. Of course, this is a Start Up forum. If this was a farmers forum, would many advise about beginning a farm?


1) Sign up for unemployment. It takes a little while to start getting checks, but it will help extend your savings.

2) Relax a bit and get your head together.

3) Go on a trip (you'll be starting from scratch at a new company, so use the time for a bit of a vacation)

4) Polish your resume & LinkedIn profile

5) Broaden your horizons geographically and interview at lots of different locations around the country and choose something you love.


Please be aware that if you do (1) and also do (3) you may be committing Unemployment Insurance Fraud. Most states require you to not only be actively searching for work, but to be "Able and Available" to work and frequently investigations and audits turn up fraudulent UI claims on this basis. Even though much of job searching is online and can be done anywhere, the assumption is that if you are out of state, you weren't available to work in your home state that week.

Source: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/collecting-unemployme...


I did this. I highly recommend using the time to take a vacation. And by vacation, I mean searching for jobs in other states and countries.

I disagree with your interpretation of "able to available".

Even nolo is not 100% on this: Vacations and travel MAY mean you are "unavailable" to work.

I am not a lawyer, and this is only my non-lawyer non official, non-professional opinion of what I relied on for myself.

1) Jobs are available all over the country and all over the world. 2) If you are actively applying and interviewing and able and willing to take the next flight home in the event of an offer or unwillingness by a company to interview you over Skype.

So for me, I had a justification. If the state did not agree with me, I risked them taking the money back. I didn't exactly push it by mailing my claims in postmarked from a foreign country either. I found a way to get them mailed in from my home area as to not cause undue focus on me.

Bottom line. Go take that vacation.


I'm pretty sure that in some US statess, that's considered fraud. FYI. =)


You can always just ask the employment office about out of state trips and work requirements. That assumption that you will be viewed as unable to work might not be valid. Like you said you can apply online, and you can always visit a place you are interested in working and then you will be available for in person interviews.


Thanks for pointing this out. I wouldn't have thought of that.


To add to this, figure out insurance and freelance taxes. Those two nearly came back to bite me when I first went independent.


Always have a beer after getting laid off.

First off, how much cushion money do you have? Are you living paycheck to paycheck? Do you live in your parent's house? Roommates? Married? Kids? House?

How strong is your network? As in, how many people in the industry do you know? If you know a lot of people go freelance. How often do you get unsolicited job requests? If you get 1-2 a year then take some time off and work on a personal project without worrying about employment, while always keeping an ear to the ground.

Here's the thing, it's hard to give concrete advice without more info. But, in the end, as a Java programmer you're probably fine, don't sweat it, someone will hire you soon enough.


Java? didn't he say he was a Javascript developer


I've always told myself that if I'm ever laid off in my 20s or early 30s (at the latest) and I don't have kids yet or a mortgage then I'll become a dentist.

It's something I've always wanted to do, but I can't really justify giving up a great job with a great income to go back to school. But should I find myself unexpectedly without said job, then maybe I just would, unless other obligations prevent it.

My point is simply -- is there something for you which plays the equivalent role of dentistry? If so, maybe this is your opportunity to pursue it without feeling guilty about giving up a great job. If not, then I recommend following all the other advice here.


Start saving, study anything you can that would help you achieve that dream and just go for it. Don't waste your life away on the chance of being laid off.


"So I really have two questions. What would you do in my situation (would you stay in a smaller city?), and if you could start over in web development, what would you focus on?"

2 years ago I got laid off from a job I was at for almost 8 years. File for unemployment and make sure that's set. Clean up your resume and LinkedIn then enjoy some time off. For me, it was early July so it was nice to sit outside on the patio for a while. I freelanced through the summer, made a bit of money here and there - We survived until the following March when I found a job.

I don't think there is any starting over in development. Why through away any # of years of experience? If you can find a job using your existing skill set - awesome! If not - well, you've got 6 months to find a new language.

My primary language has always been PHP. I used it at the job I got laid off from as well as the 2 jobs I found after unemployment. Side projects are causing me to learn new languages / frameworks and I'm working on a big site in AngularJS myself. Will AngularJS open any doors for me? No idea - but it's another skill that'll go on my resume / LinkedIn for sure.

My current job and last job found me via LinkedIn - as much as most people I think like to hate it, it does have it's value. Spend some time there and see what you find.


File for unemployment, yes. Clean up your resume and LinkedIn, fine.

Enjoy some time off? Not so much.

If I understand correctly, he (she?) said that he only had a 3 month runway of money. In that situation, finding a job had better be your full-time job.

I mean, look, take a day off. Take two days. Take even a week. Breathe. Look around. Do a couple things you've wanted to do and haven't had time for.

But don't take a month off. You don't have that kind of time. After your bit of down time, work at hunting for a job as seriously as you would work at a full time job.


I was in a very similar situation about 6 months ago, but with even less of a runway (sidenote, lesson learned there). While taking a whole month as R&R time is not really adviseable (plus 12 new next big JS frameworks will come out in that time, right??), I will say that taking a week or even a few days as a brief pause is not a bad idea. I needed a few days to get my head on straight and to push through the less productive emotions that are inevitable in that situation. Though it sounds like the OP is already a lot less angry than I was.


One thing that I think is interesting is how some people have said, "file for unemployment, then enjoy some time off." That sentence right there really pisses me off, when each week some portion of my paycheck is being taken by the government. Unemployment should be a safety net and not a beachside hammock. Take all the time off you want, but I don't think the rest of us should pay for it. This is a topic for another day, but we should remember who's money we're spending when we are 'recharging' at taxpayer expense. If every unemployed person delayed their job search by two weeks, think of how much money is not being spent helping people that actually need it. The HN community is generally a rather ethical bunch -- so imagine the conversations that are happening in other areas of society. Let's remember this conversation when we file our tax returns this April.


First, sorry to hear it, that sucks but it seems like you get that it isn't necessarily about you which is good. Sometimes people take it too personally, and usually it isn't personal, just business, but that doesn't mean it won't still sting some.

Second, javascript is a great skill to have and it is looked for quite a bit. Remote work isn't out of the question just because you aren't a degreed CS person. You said you have some savings. So take 1-2 weeks, polish up the resume, take it easy and start sending out resumes locally if you can find anything and also to remote positions. You might feel more comfortable starting to send out resumes right away and then taking a couple of weeks before you start a new gig, but either way, take a couple of weeks to decompress between jobs. I have skipped that in the past too many times and regretted it later. Also use that time to reassure your bride-to-be that all is good and will work out, tech is a great place to be.

Just a side note, I live in a small city and almost every client, job or thing I have done has been remote or outside my city, so it is very doable. If you go into freelancing, there is a thread from the other day on here about it, look it up under Ask HN, it has some good points from a lot of people.


Hello fellow Clevelander! Sorry you were let go.

I hope you stay in Cleveland. I collected links of tech companies and job resources in the Cleveland area.

http://faehnri.ch/cleveland-careers/

I don't know any one directly that is looking or could help you, but feel free to contact me if you think I can help you with anything.


Angular is hot. You're very employable, in whatever capacity you want to be.

Post in the hiring/freelancer threads that come out Sunday (and January's, if you want). Apply to positions that interest you.


We're a LAMP shop that is doing more and more angular. I contract with many HNers. Please email johnny d0t goodman @ cpap d07 com if interested in discussing further and setting up a fizzbuzz.


Props to you for reaching out, but would you still apply a fizzbuzz test to someone that has just been the major driver behind building an angular app?


Yes. While I mean no disrespect the pass to fail ratio on them is 5:1 or worse. I've got to check so that when I pay for an hour of work I get an hour of value.

I read blog posts to the contrary. They say how awful it is that these "dumb HR people" ask these basic things. Well, I've probably done 200 technical interviews, mostly from HN, and unfortunately this is my experience.

If I must choose between unpopular and ineffective, then bring on the fizzbuzz. If you do pass the screen, I guarantee you those you will be working with are smart and effective too. So effective and so enjoyable in fact, that I keep doing these interviews in order to find them!

@jacquesm - You are internet famous, I love your blog and admire your work. I know we're on different sides of this. If you care to pick this apart, I will read it with an open mind and respond as factually as I can.


Being internet famous is overrated. Anyway, if you're going to start off from the premise that the OP is fibbing about their capabilities then you're starting off your relationship based on distrust. I'd rather give them the benefit of the doubt, give them a real test of their capabilities than to start off with something that has value when you're evaluating 100's of applicants for a specific job position so you can save yourself some time but here you're only dealing with one applicant and effectively you're the one now reaching out to him.

In that situation I think a fizzbuzz test is a bit strange.

But, it's your company and I don't think anybody should tell you how to run it, I was just curious about why you'd administer this particular test on someone that should be able to not only ace it but will likely be insulted by it.


What do you think of Regan's "trust by verify"?

How do you define "a real test of their capabilities"?

While we start the hour long skills test off with some fizzbuzz weeders, we quickly move into harder questions pulled out of issues we've resolved in the real world that are likely to be of the same shape of future work.

If people are offended by fizzbuzz, they don't express it often during interviews/employment/exit interviews. The most common reaction from someone who can solve it is a bit of a wink and a nod as they slay it and move on to the "real" stuff.

I've never had anyone ace our test. No one is a 10 everywhere. I think there's a lot of value in how you approach things and react to a blocker or limitation. We watch this closely too. It isn't just about saying "Every answer is correct, so hire me".

Lastly, we're out of Houston, TX. I'm guessing the culture is very different in CA and perhaps that's the mismatch.


> Lastly, we're out of Houston, TX. I'm guessing the culture is very different in CA and perhaps that's the mismatch.

For what it's worth, I'm a native Texan out of Dallas and wouldn't dream of giving someone with demonstrated development ability, like OP has, a fizzbuzz "test" as part of hiring. I'm guessing the culture is very different in Houston and perhaps that's the mismatch.


I'm about as far from California as I could be without moving to Russia or China.

Anyway, as I said, you're free to run your shop any way you want.


I also say bring on the fizzbuzz. If I were looking for a job, I would welcome any opportunity to demonstrate my skills and set myself apart from the competition.


Do candidates have access to the Internet/own laptop while taking a fizzbuzz? If not, I would certainly fail it, eventhough I have over 15yrs of experience! See, in my case I have concluded that the best use of my brain is to solve problems not to remember stuff that is easily accesible online (or other sources like stored code, manuals, etc). Heck, I am sure that even if I'm asked to write down an HTML page from scratch I would stare for hours at a blank screen. I hope these type of tests are conceptual, even taken on paper using pseudo-code. No?


Umm, no. You write it on a piece of paper or white board while the interviewer watches. And it's gotta be pretty close to runnable as-is when you are done.

If you can't write a loop, conditional and dump something to some output destination, all from memory, you have no business applying for a job as a Software Developer.

I will say that I'm lenient about knowing the modulus operator, since that's not an every-day thing for many people (though I would think it's pretty common with webdevs since that's traditionally been a popular a way of doing alternating row colors on tables).


For someone like that a FizzBuzz would take like maximum 5-10 minutes so...


What does "setting up a fizzbuzz" mean?


"fizzbuzz" is coding exercise, used by companies looking to screen out applicants who claim to be able to code, but in fact cannot. The applicant is asked to write a short program that prints the numbers 1-100 (or whatever). When the number is divisible by 3, instead of printing it, print the word "fizz". When divisibly by 5, print "buzz". When divisible by both, print "fizzbuzz."

To anyone who actually can code, it seems ridiculous that people are applying to coding positions who can't come up with a solution to this, but anecdotally many hiring managers routinely encounter such applicants. I suspect the parent here is using the term "set up a fizzbuzz" as shorthand for "set up some time to see if you can actually cross the bare minimum coding hurdle."


Still sounds like the developer version of the annoying "have your people call my people, let's do lunch" cliché.


Not sure if you're serious, but in case you are, it's a simple programming exercise to make sure that you can program your way out of a paper cup in your proclaimed language of choice. Details on wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fizz_buzz


As mentioned, a phone screen, to check if the person is minimally capable of doing the job. So named for the FizzBuzz problem, described for example here: http://blog.codinghorror.com/why-cant-programmers-program/


I believe it means setting up an opportunity to evaluate the skills of the professional inquiring about the job.

See http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?FizzBuzzTest


A Captain Kirk card game? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v77SF4TFUoM


Phone screen.


There should be a "Who's Hiring?" thread on HN in a few days which might give you some leads. I doubt there are many jobs in Cleavland, but there might be some remote job leads.


> your situation

Staying in Cleveland depends on if you like Cleveland or not. Unsure about the opportunities there, but I have an inkling that there are more varied and interesting opportunities elsewhere.

Consider taking the opportunity to move somewhere that is going to be a great area for you to raise a child (if that is something in your future).

Not many people have the luxury (as we do in our industry) of being able to (mostly) freely choose where they work.

> starting over

I wouldn't do much differently. Any dev worth their chops can learn whatever the hot technology is these days. I'd focus on learning how to learn, how to communicate effectively based on your audience, and how to find interesting people that you can learn things from.


>Staying in Cleveland depends on if you like Cleveland or not.

This. I have no experience myself living in Cleveland, so I have no opinion on it, but from the outside it doesn't seem to have a lot to recommend it. In fact it's sometimes used as an example of a generic city. [1]

BUT if you [OP] have a strong network of friends there, that alone could be reason to stay.

If you're at all considering starting something new instead of just looking for another job, there are advantages to staying away from the coasts. With Google and others offering developers $200k+/year in compensation, it's hard to find good people to work with -- and you'd be farther from your network if it's primarily located in Cleveland.

But look at your network and figure out where it's concentrated. If you do know a lot of people in another location, it's a prime opportunity to move there.

And if you are looking for a new job, the coasts are great for that. I know I could have my choice of job if I were willing to work on the coasts. I'm in the Boulder area now, though, and I'm not leaving -- though I'm working remotely for a company on the coasts. [2]

For me, I decided to move to Boulder because Boulder is awesome. I grew up in California, but hated the congestion and insane housing market. The K-12 schooling system left a lot to be desired as well (again, if you're looking at kids as an eventuality).

But Boulder was partly an attraction because I have family here; take your own situation into account and figure out what you want. There is a lot of tech in the Boulder/Denver area, so that's one option, but there are fewer big companies offering crazy salaries (Google has a Boulder office, but it's not nearly as huge of a presence here).

Good luck!

[1] e.g. “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” -- Tennessee Williams

[2] Full details of my working arrangements are more complicated than that, but not relevant.


"We have never been to Cleveland, know nothing about it, but you shouldn't live there".

No. No. No. No. No.

Don't move because other people don't think your city is cool enough. Move because you want to.

I live in Northeast Ohio and have never had trouble finding a job. There are plenty of opportunities locally and you always have remote options. OP lives here, has seemingly been there long enough to evaluate it, and should be able to figure out what location makes sense for him!

If you'd be happier elsewhere, or think there are more interesting companies elsewhere, you should move. But people's uninformed opinions need not be considered.

Cleveland's tech ecosystem isn't great but it's improving.

You could try checking out opportunities at younger companies via JumpStart (http://www.jumpstartinc.org/jobsatcompanies.aspx)

Cleveland isn't San Francisco or New York, but it's not BFE, either.


You do make a very good point that there are opportunities outside of Cleveland -- and Boulder is awesome! -- but Cleveland does have things to recommend it.

My sister-in-law works part-time for a tech company in Cleveland. The cost of living is insanely low (like $400/mo for an entire house in some places) and that allows her to be a full-time artist without needing a full-time job to live. I'd imagine the low cost of living would also make it easier for a freelancer to be selective about clients, should OP choose to take that route.

Many of these Rust Belt and Midwestern cities are becoming centers of hipsterdom. Who would have thought ten years ago that you would see young people moving to Pittsburgh, Detroit, Des Moines, or Omaha to start trendy restaurants and open art galleries? But now I see the reason: it's cheap to live, you can probably afford to buy a house, the public schools are decent, and there's a small community of likeminded people who'd rather do meaningful things than stay on the work treadmill to afford SF or NYC. The same thing is happening in Cleveland, at least from what I've seen.


The Cleveland food scene has had a pretty remarkable renaissance over the past few years. Downtown is growing as more people live there (occupancy rates upwards of 99% as apartments can't be converted fast enough to meet demand). We have seed accelerators. The arts are perfectly fine here. University Circle has more cultural and art institutions within one square mile than any other square mile in the country. There is plenty of live music and touring acts come here frequently.


Its funny that you brought up that Tennessee Williams quote because I have heard people in Cleveland try to twist the words around to sound like an endorsement of Cleveland. I am not one of those people, for the record.


Sounds eerily similar to my situation a month ago. I'm 28, grew up in Cleveland, worked mostly with Angular, and was let go the other month too.

I'd start sewing seeds in every direction and see what takes root. Apply to jobs locally, and all over the country. You only have to consider moving if you get an offer. You can try kickstarter or getting an angel investor if you want to try your own software. Freelancing kinda sucks unless you have connections. It's hard to differentiate yourself and get a decent rate if you are just another person online. But again, you can give oDesk a shot and see how it fares.


Hey man, I feel your pain. I was just let go today, as well! Along with 40% of this company.

I was laid off last year so this is my second time going through this in a year. I can tell you, I'm not nearly as worried this time around.

A lot of places need good developers, and I already have recruiters calling me. If you end up needing a 9-5 you can get one.

Me, I think I'm going to put everything into my side project. Then follow my dreams and move down to South America for a while and backpack.

Hopefully, I can pick up some part-time remote work along the way.


You're in Cleveland? Email me, I know someone local who might be able to give you advice and leads.


Every 1st of the month, there are a few hiring posts here on HN - https://news.ycombinator.com/submitted?id=whoishiring

The next one is tomorrow (1 Feb). Make sure you post to them, saying you're looking for work.

And yes, you can get freelance work as a self-taught programmer. Most people I know do exactly that.

If you do Ruby/Rails in addition to Javascript, I might have some work for you. Email's in my profile.


This could be a good thing.

Step 1: Register a business

Step 2: Get a domain and some cheap hosting

Step 3: Start building an MVP

Congratulations, you are now working on a "boot-strapped startup". But with Step 3, you can spend your time learning about full-stack web development. You'll have to learn some back-end stuff, improve your front-end stuff, design, art, graphics, etc.

Once your MVP is up and running, then you'll have to move into sales and marketing and learn that part of the business. Come up with some kind of monetization strategy and implement it as part of the product.

While doing all this, split your time between building this thing up, and applying for your next gig. Bonus, when your MVP is up, put it on your resume so future employers can go see it and eliminate that gap in employment right off your resume.

You now have a portfolio, business experience, sales & marketing experience, executive experience, product development, design, QA, art, improved technical skills and no gap on your resume since you've "been working" the entire time.

There are many employers who would kill to have employees with that kind of experience, and it shows you can turn a minus into an opportunity.

Bonus, if you can't find a job, keep plugging away at it and maybe your startup will turn into something.


I don't have any advice but wanted to note that this is a very well written ask HN: clear, with all the relevant info, and to-the-point.


Also, remember, 1st February is coming. First of every month there is a who is hiring thread here on HN. Lots of JS jobs. Keep an eye out


Sounds like you're in a fine position to follow some dreams and set yourself for a future in either startups or freelancing (both of which offer a lot of freedom).

> would you stay in a smaller city?

I think you should. Your cost of living is much lower there than what it would be in a major metro, so it's much easier to afford a great life (especially if you're looking to build a family).

It sounds like doing some contracting would be a great opportunity for you. Generally nobody screens contractors for their CS skills—what matters is that you can execute. Also, having a product-driven focus can be a major asset: user empathy is one of the biggest things I look for in developers.

If you're interested in working on some Javascript for Cafe.com, I've hired a number of contractors of HN and would be happy to talk to you. morgante@cafe.com


You're getting a lot of fantastic ideas and advice. You're in the position to cherry pick any that makes sense to you. Best of luck in landing your next gig!

My suggestion is to go to meetup.com and look for groups you'd be interested in. Then spend time mingling with those people. I was going to add tips for how to network effectively, but I don't want to assume - you may already be good at it!

Here's a link of meetups in your area related to startups: http://www.meetup.com/find/?allMeetups=false&keywords=startu...


Hey fellow Clevelander here, if you're interested just last week someone hit me up for some long term (3-6 months) JS contract work. Contact info in profile, I have a line on a couple other opportunities but this one might float you while you figure out your situation


In terms of your bootstrapped business, if you haven't already found some of these resources, have a look:

* http://www.startupsfortherestofus.com/ - great weekly podcast with a transcript.

* Nice, focused, friendly forum: http://discuss.bootstrapped.fm/

* Book by the guys who did the podcast above that I would highly recommend to pretty much anyone: http://www.amazon.com/Start-Small-Stay-Developers-Launching/...

Those should be enough to lead you to other resources.


* I would stay in the smaller city, and look for work in a larger city amenable to your future spouse. It is very important to me to always have a pool of local work in the case that my current company becomes my previous company.

* I am personally not fond of webdev, so no reply.

I would suggest eyeballing odesk for their contract work, as you can find reasonable work in the > 1K range - for small odesk jobs you can make more at MickyD's. Better take that unemployment insurance.

Also, I'd personally suggest not making any major decisions until Monday morning, after you've slept on it, thought about it, and so forth. My experience is that my judgement is impaired in highly emotional moments.


Maybe check out Farmlogs. It sounds like you could be a great fit. We're in Ann Arbor so not too far away either.

https://farmlogs.com/jobs/front-end-engineer/


> I have looked into doing freelance work, but as I am self taught my CS skills are not as solid as other developers, and my design skills are just about average. I am more product focused, I try to work as closely to the end user as possible and clearly define what they need.

in my experience unless you are interviewing for a huge silicon valley company, most companies don't get into the nitty gritty of algos. and data structures. rather they will ask more fundamental front-end questions like 'what does this refer to in js' and 'what is prototypical inheritance' and might have you do a small project to showcase your skills.


File for funemployment.. drink wine.. make art.


...while reaching out across your personal and professional network. If I were in your situation, which I have been (let go from a development job), I would file for unemployment while searching for another job everywhere you go.

Do everything it takes to prove to other firms that you got the programming skills to pay the bills (as Weird Al would say). Use the funemployment money to sustain life.

I can also tell you what not to do. Do not move back in with your parents if their hometown is small. I did this and I languished.


I don't have much actionable advice, but - this is a good time to be a JS dev. If you just built an Angular app you should be in demand. I bet you are pretty shaken, so just keep in mind that you're overall in a good spot.

Good luck out there, sorry to hear it. For whatever it's worth, I know people who got fired from jobs that turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to them.

I am from Pittsburgh. I would recommend moving west for all sorts of reasons, but I know that's not realistic for everyone. Look into it if you can.


This was probably for the best. I'd suggest you take some time to really think of what you want to be doing. If you're gonna work for another company now is the time to choose it wisely. Or if you're gonna go the freelancer way, it's also a good time to promote yourself as one. I wouldn't tell you what to choose because that really depends on what type of person you are. Do you like being around people?, are you good working by yourself, etc.


I would live in a big city with plenty of opportunities. Find an interesting job, where to work no more than 20 hours a week, and earn around 60K. I think your Angular experience is very marketable. And you can always tell your prospective employers the truth, that you made an application too good to keep working there for maintaining it at your salary level. Then use your free time for whatever you want, including meeting lots of people. You could find cofounders...


Sorry to here about what happened, but when one door closes another will open!

We're hiring senior/mid JS developers (Angular specifically) out in sunny San Francisco. If you want to relocate please send an email to Zak.Brown [at] target.com

Don't worry, the position is for a tech company recently bought by Target and not actually Target itself.

If relocating isn't your thing, I would always recommend freelancing, as JS is in demand. Be your own boss, you owe it to yourself to at least try it.


I got linked this article (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/6-things-id-do-i-got-laid-off...) today, actually. Thought it had some interesting thoughts.


I have no compsci - I would recommend you do some interviewing to find out what you don't know and fill in the gaps on coursera. Mostly the stanford algorithms 1 course will ensure you have what you need to interview IMO. Apart from that, I don't see much else you miss compared to your compsci peers that isn't directly obtained by work experience and effort.


If you don't mind doing freelance work you will probably find it surprisingly easy. Offer your skills to design shops; they tend to be strong in design but weak in engineering.. the best part is that a lot of them will build their designs into flat html; so you just implement their html and css and do the backend work.

If you can build stuff; you are ready for freelance work.


> I would say I am 3 months of solid work away from having a good beta. I do not see this as an option as it would clear out most of my savings, and leave me in mostly the same position I am in now.

That won't be enough. You have to count with at least a year, if you are very lucky, for your own start up to start generating revenue.


If you do become interested in another fulltime job, we are in downtown Cleveland and are looking for a full stack web developer and an iOS developer. We're a profitable startup in the broadcast space. Small development team. Good people.

Send me an email if you're interested; it's in my profile.


Just a vote of confidence and a thumbs up from another self-taught programmer. Don't forget that we are very desirable in our industry, having demonstrated a fantastic ability to assimilate core skills as self-starters (instead of needing these skills spoon-fed). Good luck!


I'm not sure what the market is like in Cleveland, but in Columbus there is a great demand for web developers. I work out of a coworking place there with several freelance web developers and I'd be happy to put you in touch with them if you're interested.


I am in Cleveland and know a few of the local startups and such. You can drop me a line if you want.


Hey, send me a message so we can chat - our company is looking for talented JavaScript developers.

https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=43649275

www.helloinnovation.com


I can relate, I'm 29 just engaged and I feel my job will be disappearing here pretty soon. Self taught dev, and average design skills. If there is anything you want to work on I can help.

s a n c h o k d @ g m a i l . c o m


I work for a small web dev startup in Boulder, CO. I'm going to post in tomorrow's HN Hiring thread for a JS Dev. If you're interested, shoot me an email (address is in my profile).


If you're interested in Chicago: GoHealth is hiring Javascript devs. (We're looking for those with Angular Experience)

If thats cool then contact our internal recruiter, Gina, at: gcontella@gohealth.com


If I had the chance I would spend one or two days doing nothing, the next few days thinking of what I wanted to do... making a plan. Then would start walking towards my goals.


Chicago has an awesome start-up community. Check out http://www.builtinchicago.org/.


Hey thecolorblue, if you are interested in some contract work I'd like to talk to you. You can find contact info in my hn profile.


You should contact GrubMarket and apply to work for them - they are YC + funded + in the same space as PearMarket. cs@grubmarket.com


Sounds like working full time on your project or freelancing aren't great options, so just get another job?


Was the headline of this edited to change "laid off" to "let go" or am I seeing things?


Send me your resume on fameoflight@gmail.com if you want to move to SF Bay area and work at Postmates


File for unemployment. There is a waiting period. The money always helps.


Make sure your severance is fair. If not, consult a lawyer ASAP.


Sign up for Hired.com, move to the Bay, make bank and love your life.


Older and bit WISER elder. THE RULES OF LIFE, imho. your mileage will varyy a LOT. fiction, of course. LOL

1.) DREAM BIG. don't limit yourself. if i had your skillsets i would pitch mish shedlock directly. no endorsement, no conflicts of interest. do the top 20 financial blogs.

2.) mish shedlock? who is this guy. career changer and former cobol programmer who got KICKED INTO THE REAL WORLD. Welcome 'brave and sad new world.' this is a literary allusion. LOL

3.) philosophy. does sad come first or the brave? rhetorical question, my dear Mr. Ut. Opian (LOL) first. "self taught my CS skills are not as solid" COMPLETE RUBBISH. THE BEST are self-taught and self-teachers. I, myself did barcamp.org and i prefer to teach the teachers FOR FREE. Because I get back ten times the investment.

Oh, by the way, when I am CEO, I always have a small interview trick i play on the applicants, like you. I LOVE MY FAMILY AND my 'future children.' SO MY MOTIVATION is extremely high. some companies will try to negotiate you down. AKA kicking you while you are down. Others and most will change the 'social contract' or even the job description. THAT MEANS even if you have the job or future job, these companies are TRASH.

LOok only for the gold. Where the CEO says, I understand. been there myself. WHATEVER happens, whether you get a job here or not, we continue the GREAT JOURNEY that is your life. repeat WE. we even recommend you to our competitors.

5,) don't be AFRAID of taking food stamps. for even those with a college degree... welcome to the USA.

6.)thank you for your open source.

7.)the standard in wall street, nyc, ny, USA is 250 dials. that is COLD CALLS. Sure, linkkd in and networking works. Rule NUMBER 20. Always call on weekends, 6am, etc. The secretary screens the calls when she comes in a 8:30am. THE REAL WORKERS will pick up the phone.

22.) obviously moving is difficult. been there done that. there are many CAREER actors. GENIUSES, they NEVER got there first break until moving to the large city, LA.

23.)plenty of folks are sleeping in their cars /trailers in new york or the big city, which will really suck when it snows.

how amusing. mostly big city, engineering, cellphone and software but I STILL WANNA make big money and move to the SMALL FARM COUNTRY WHERE YOU ARE.

ps. now go back and sell a small RIDICULOUS small amount contract to your former employer. IF YOUR CODE IS A BAD as you think it is. (FOR IT IS NOT) then there is a great demand for your patching the codebase.

get together with unemployed lawyers and write numerous weasel words into the contract. My favorite is time dependent upon prior commitments to non-profits EXPLAIN non-profits are not competitors) and your top priority is the contract.

When the time comes at Saturday night when their website and e-commerce engine crashes, YOU ARE CALLED. Make sure that you are working on that non-profit work, UNTIL THE COMPANY JUST HAPPENS TO DECIDE THAT additional lucrative contracts are issued.

THEY WILL NOT CALL YOU UNTIL THE LAST RESORT. Isn't that the case, fellow CEOs?

i cite as case history the cobol programmer MISH SHEDLOCK. no endorsement and I am not selling you gold (literally).

CAREER: difficult code >> good job lasts only 6 years >> this is COBOL >> capitalism boom/bust cycle >> layoffs so only the best survive >> MANUFACTURING GOESE TO CHINA >> bank IBM (you know the names) crash because the OLD LEGACY CODE finally MEMORY LEAKS over ten years

>> PANIC and sudden need for FORMER EMPLOYEES.

freelance is great, but only in order to gather INTELLIGENCE. Remeber, you will competing with the so called OBAMACARE website, where the Javascript comments are in Gujurat.

get together with your community college teachers, who are from INDIA and ask them to translate the comment sections in Gujurat, which is a POVERTY section of India.

LOL. you think your skillsets are low, wait till you get to the world. Please BUY my second hand Yugo car (the one that tends to go on fire.)

LOL


www.hired.com


First, this is common and it's not a big deal.

Layoffs happen, even to great developers. Ask about severance, but don't get pushy or threatening if not offered it (you don't want an extortion rap). Ask about a guaranteed positive reference (by contract, and with LinkedIn recommendations) and do be pushy or threatening if not offered it. Have your references checked in any case by a third party. Don't sign non-disparagement for less than 3 months' severance, although you should almost never disparage an ex-employer. Do sign non-litigation if offered a positive reference and a cash severance you can accept (which may be zero, if you have savings and confidence).

Take a week or two to recover, emotionally, but no more. Being unemployed on dwindling savings is no fun, so get yourself in the game immediately before you start getting depressed or moody or whatever. Work so hard that you don't have time to get moody. Looking for work is your new job. Job searches have a lot of latency and you can work on your side projects while you wait for emails and calls to get returned (otherwise, you'll go fucking nuts refreshing your email client).

Describe your situation as a layoff for economic reasons (even if it wasn't) and say that your performance reviews were excellent (even if they weren't) and don't say anything negative about former colleagues, managers, or employers except in a you-or-them situation (such as a 6-month job, where someone will come off looking bad and your job is to make sure that it's not you... but even then, minimize what you say.)

What would you do in my situation (would you stay in a smaller city?)

Take your job search national. It's not about "leaving Cleveland". A good company will give you at least $5k post-tax for relocation. (Add $4-5k for NYC because rental brokers collect 15% on tenant side.) It's about going where the jobs are. Obviously some locales are better than others. Seattle, Boulder, Austin, and Chicago have strong tech markets and (relative to SF or NYC) moderate cost of living. NYC is an option if you don't need a lot of space and you're willing to downsize on furniture. If you choose NYC, include the broker fee (again, 15% of a year's rent) and loss-on-sale for your car (you'll be getting rid of it) in your relo calculations. San Francisco... some love it, some hate it, and I doubt I'd move there without a stellar offer (I'm 31) but if you find something out there, give it a go.

if you could start over in web development, what would you focus on?

Don't fret about starting over. You can't and that's a good thing. The knowledge you've gained is more transferrable than you think. But if I were to start over, I'd jump either into the Python or the Clojure stack (and maybe move to Haskell after 2+ years if I really wanted to build extremely robust, large systems).


Describe your situation as a layoff for economic reasons (even if it wasn't) and say that your performance reviews were excellent (even if they weren't) and don't say anything negative about former colleagues, managers, or employers except in a you-or-them situation (such as a 6-month job, where someone will come off looking bad and your job is to make sure that it's not you... but even then, minimize what you say.)

Why?


Thanks. This is great.


Near as I can tell, you sound a bit like my javascript skills - that's not where I choose to focus though. My CTO, co-founder (we got rejected by Ycombinator, but, also applied super late) is a self taught programmer who, if you read what he writes, doesn't know a whole lot.

However, he's a genius. I'm 100% certain you have skills you aren't aware of, at your age, non "Tech," town, well, it's always possible you're better than us in the valley.

Write down what you want to do. Step, by step. Start a business or be an employee? Caution: too much self employment makes people not want to hire you as an employee. Ever. I was self employed for five years, took six months to find a job; this time, took that long so I'm staying self employed because groveling and begging isn't what I'm about.

I might be starving, but, I have dignity.

Next, after you have those goals identified, it's time to review the financial options, talk it through with your fiancee ideally so you're both on the same page (my ex-wife of 13 years was also the co-founder of my first 10 businesses, trust me, it sucks to lose a wife, or a business partner - sucks worse when you lose both).

Consider doing contracting, don't worry about it being on your resume, or not, while you explore and make enough money to slowly pad the bank account.

Since you did mention angular, and even though we're broke, we have a very powerful, open source social media & SEO tool that we're giving away. The project is gaining a lot of traction and if you contribute even a bit, we can definitely help promote you and your skills.

Plus, if some nice VC decides that my team and I are going to take over the world, we hire remote and don't have a central office. 3 team members now, hiring an intern next week who's a PhD candidate with experience in natural language processing.

Contact info in profile, and whatever you do, make sure it's your dreams you are following. Only those will lead to any kind of meaningful happiness.


> I built a large angular application while there, but it is now built and there are other developers who can support it.

what startup/company was this again?




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