The Shining Path of Least Resistance


Archive for March, 2008

My Job Went To India

Posted by mattray on March 31, 2008

Today was the last day of my job with a large, public software company. My job went to India.

The product I was working on had matured to the point where development was being offshored within the company and my job became expendable. From a business standpoint, I guess it makes sense, but I was a little bitter at first. It was my understanding that everything was going great, at least as far as we were supposed to know, and no one in management had ever let on that things weren’t going well until the hammer came down and the transfers and layoffs started. The worst part was that I had turned down a job offer a week before the first round of layoffs began (I said I didn’t see it coming, I didn’t say I wasn’t looking).

It wasn’t the first (or second, or…) time the company had offshored a product, and I work in an industry that it is the norm to have layoffs when times are good and bad. We were in a “culture of layoffs”, and despite management’s protests to the difference, we knew inside that someday it would be our turn.

My plan had been to complete my masters and then look for a new opportunity. My side business had mostly stalled out and I figured when I finished my thesis I would be ready for a new challenge. Unfortunately it got a jump on me before I was quite ready. I was offered positions within the company, but this event made it apparent that it has happened before and it will happen again, so off to greener pastures.  We were given plenty of time to get our affairs in order, and I had plenty of time to determine what was best for me.

I was already a fan of the Pragmatic Programmers publishing series, and I’d had my eye on My Job Went to India (And All I Got Was This Lousy Book) by Chad Fowler, so I bought the book the same day I found out what was going on. Luckily for me, the transition was easy and I had plenty of time to read the book.

The Book

My Job Went To India

All in all the book is a great introduction to career-planning for developers. I wish someone had given it to me when I was getting started (wouldn’t have changed much, but I might have appreciated it) because it points out a lot of things I’d been doing instinctively, rather than by plan. Tips like:

  • Master the domain you’re working in, don’t just skate by on programming alone.
  • Never tie yourself to a single platform or vendor.
  • Keep thinking about where your current job is going to get you, and work towards it.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, side projects make you more flexible.

There are 52 essays covering skill development, getting ahead in your career, marketing yourself and how to keep your non-coding skills growing. The book is essentially a politics and career companion to The Pragmatic Programmer, only with a titillating cover and title. It’s a quick read and I highly recommend it, especially to new developers.

Posted in book reports, career, sausage | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

BarCamp Austin Presentation, Part 2

Posted by mattray on March 27, 2008

Picking up where I left off, my Python screen scraper was working, iCal events were getting published for general consumption and I was on my way to BarCampAustin. Pleased with my script, I figured everyone would be using it and my session would be well-received.

The Big Board
The Big Board
Once I got to there, I noticed the crowd mulling about The Big Board, adding their entries and shuffling around sessions. Much to my chagrin, I realized no one had bothered syncing up the board with the wiki entries, so the 10 or so entries there weren’t represented. I asked a volunteer who was syncing them up and he said nobody was. So unless I felt like syncing the Big Board back and forth between BarCamp and the wiki, my script was screwed.

My script was screwed.

Changes were happening all the time, between sessions, all day long and there were way too many for me to track so I gave up. I figured it would be a good reminder about the fragility of screenscrapers for my presentation.

I attended a handful of sessions, ranging from managing social media to interacting with social media (apparently it’s a popular subject). I should have realized I was in trouble when the session I was in before mine got hijacked:
Twitter dominates all
Yes, I had the misfortune of scheduling head-to-head with the most popular session of the day.

My session started poorly, technical difficulties in the fact that I didn’t have a VGA adapter for the projector (I had the fore site to bring my DVI adapter though). Luckily for me, Cote’ loaned me his laptop and we transferred the source over and got started. Attendance was sparse, besides Cote’ and I there were 5 people, but at least they were all Python hackers and participated in the review. I walked through my code, asking questions about proper Python technique and explaining decisions and code throughout. I picked up a couple of good pointers and at one guy said I showed him a better iCal library. A minor success, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Source is available here: barcamp.tar.gz

Posted in leastresistance, python | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Interviews from Hell, Part 2.

Posted by mattray on March 24, 2008

Back to John’s interview. Despite his run-in with Dave, the interview continued on to the VP of Engineering. After a few perfunctory questions, he hands John a list of acronyms.

VP: Can you define each of these?
John: Yes.
VP: It's important that you know these.
John: ummm... OK.

John quickly rattles of acronyms like “XML” and “SQL”.

VP: Very good.
The interview continues on to some more of the business-side stuff.

VP: So one of the things we do here validation of leads for our CRM app. If a customer doesn't know exactly who has purchasing authority, our call center in Manila will call in and pretend to be running a technology survey and try to get a hold of the person in the lead app.
John: (thinking this sounds sleazy) ...I guess that makes sense.
VP: It sure does, we used to have a center in India, but those guys were getting expensive.
John: What about quality control?
VP: That's the beauty of it. We have another call center here in town to cross-check some of the leads. I've got one guy who calls up the companies and tells them he's a student researching technology here in town. People are always more sympathetic to college students, and for all I know, he really could be a student.
John: Right...

After the interview, John is pretty creeped out on the company and know they have hired at least 1 crazy person. Even though he didn’t enjoy the process, at least he has a few good stories out of it.

Of course they call him back a few days later and make an offer.

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Interviews from Hell, Part 1.

Posted by mattray on March 19, 2008

This wasn’t my interview, but I had to get this out in public. One of my recently laid-off friends (we’ll call him “John”) was interviewing with a CRM-type company for a Tech Lead/Senior Developer position. He did the standard in-house process of several 30-45 minute interviews with assorted people on the team until he got to “Dave” (John said he doesn’t even know if he gave his name).

Knights Who Say Ni

After a series of mumbling technical questions, here’s a paraphrased transcript:

Dave: ... and that's why Left Outer Joins are so great.
John: Sure thing.
Dave: So in Monty Python's Holy Grail, what is the word that the Knights who Say Ni can't stand?
John: What?
Dave: You know, Holy Grail.
John: Seriously?
Dave: It's "it". Moving on.
John: OK.
Dave: What is Asimov's Second Law of Robotics?
John: What?
Dave: You know... I, Robot?
John: I have no idea.
Dave: Hmm.... ok, here's a tricky one.
John: OK.
Dave: Given an 8 hour workday with lunch and breaks, how much wood would a woodchuck....
John: Don't know. Next question.
Dave: Oh... well how about...

Dave continues to ask a series of nerd questions to which each response is:

John: Don't know. Next question.

Dave: (at end of list) Well, it looks like the only thing you have going for you is that you knew about Monty Python.
John: (stands up and walks out of interview)
Dave: Wait!
John: Insulting people in an interview is a waste of time, I'm not a sci-fi geek.

To quote a former IBM tech writer… “YOU GODDAMN NERDS ARE WEARING ME OUT!”.

…to be continued.

Posted in interviews | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

BarCamp Austin Presentation, Part 1

Posted by mattray on March 19, 2008

I recently attended the third Austin BarCamp and gave a brief presentation on “Hacking iCal and Python”. Since I was in the process of learning Python, and there seemed to be a dearth of technical subjects (lots of social media type stuff), I figured I’d look for a presentation subject.

Thursday night before BarCamp (Saturday) I started brainstorming. There it was, the BarCamp Schedule, a wiki of presentations and times, updated regularly with planned presentations. I figured I could write a script to parse it, convert it to iCal format and publish it and everyone would have access to an up-to-date schedule and sync it to their iCal/iPhone/Google calendar. Plus I’d get a presentation that I’d like to see myself.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in leastresistance, python | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Welcome to

Posted by mattray on March 17, 2008


My name is Matt (AKA mray) and this is my little corner of the Internet where I’ll be writing my hopefully pithy observations on the sausage-making that is software, as well as whatever else strikes my fancy.

The title for this blog is essentially the easy way to do things. When you look at your options and you see one straightforward way, and the difficult alternatives. When the easy way shines brightly, most people will follow that. Hopefully this is also the right way to do things.

Posted in leastresistance, sausage | Leave a Comment »


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