My job search experience

I started my search for a new job on September 29 2014, when my employer (IP Street) implemented some organizational changes, and I concluded it was time for me to move on. I accepted an offer on December 22. My search took 12 weeks.

My parameters, and some unease, at the outset

I was still gainfully employed, which helps when you’re job hunting. The changes that were the proximate cause of my leaving would be implemented in the November — January timeframe, so I wasn’t worried about future unemployment. For IP Street, this was as good a time as any to leave: The product was stable, there wasn’t a big product initiative in progress, and the impending business changes would cause a blip in the company’s pace anyway.

I wanted to stay in Seattle, but would consider positions as far north as Vancouver, B.C. and as far south as Portland. I didn’t want to commute to the Eastside, but I’d consider it if a really good position came along. (As it so happened, one did, at Microsoft, but they didn’t make me an offer.)

On the subject of age… I’m 57. My recent roles have been technical management (VPE, CTO, or Director), or Senior Developer. I haven’t yet encountered age discrimination, but my last job search was five years ago. I didn’t know what to expect this time around.

I’ve worked in Python since 2005, and wanted to stay in the Python community if possible. Python’s use in the Seattle — Portland corridor has grown in the past five years, and many openings mention it. But some of them are in QA/operations/devops roles, which weren’t my targets; and some list it as only an ancillary requirement.

November’s hiring activity is slow, and December’s is dead. There’re the end-of-year holidays, and teams needing next year’s budget before they can hire. The job seeker’s life has distractions, too: Dinners, celebrating, parties, shopping, travel, and decorating! I worried that if I didn’t find something by November’s end, I would be at IP Street through January.

How the search went

I looked for two kinds of roles.

  • A VP Engineering or CTO position, preferably (but not necessarily) in a small- to mid-range business. I enjoy this role and have had great success at it, IMHO. For roles that were hands-on, I wanted the work to be in Python. For roles that were more more about process and technology trends / selection, the technologies didn’t much matter.
  • A Senior Developer position, working in Python and open-source technologies. Again, preferably (but not necessarily) in an SMB.

I used, friends, and recruiters to define my compensation targets for each role. I like PayScale more than for compensation research. YMMV. Oh, and I recommend What Color is Your Parachute 2015 for a good job search / interviewing / negotiating refresher.

Conventional wisdom advises résumés to target the role you’re applying for, but I didn’t find this a clear win. If I used one résumé, it had to include information for both roles, but it could be forwarded and still be useful for the “other” role. If I used two résumés, a résumé forwarded to a hiring manager for the “other” role might be dismissed because it doesn’t list relevant attributes. I chose to use one résumé for most of my search, and then switched to two in the last two weeks. I wasn’t completely satisfied with either approach, to be honest.

I did my own searching and job submissions, using LinkedIn jobs, Indeed, Glassdoor, SimplyHired, GeekWork, and AngelList. I set up search alerts for various terms, and manually checked each site about once a week. Friends made introductions for me, and in two cases internally submitted me for a position. (Neither of those resulted in an offer.)

I also talked to 12 recruiters during the search. I quickly learned to avoid CyberCoders recruiters. If you search for their name along with negative adjectives like “scam” or “sucks,” you’ll discover why working with them is ill-advised. Two CyberCoders recruiters went radio-silent after (I believe) they concluded that I wouldn’t be an easy sell. No easy commission = bad investment. Buh bye!

All of the other recruiters were good, and two were great. All were more active with junior-to-mid level openings, and not so much with senior developer or management openings. And very rarely with VPE or CTO openings. I’m sure this is simply because there are more junior and mid openings out there. But everyone gave me great advice, and I took away valuable learnings from all of them.

My only real negative experience was some age sensitivity. I won’t say, “discrimination.” Let’s say, age-related odd behavior. For example, I picked up an odd vibe at one start-up: There were a few questions about my comfort with changing direction, my work pace, how quickly I embrace new technologies, etc. I suspected these were camouflaged, “Is this guy a dinosaur?” questions. Another company wanted me because I was a “gray beard.” Because of my experience, “which is much more than ours, because we’re all young here,” they wanted me to mentor them on technology decisions in addition to developing new product features. They meant it as a complement, but it was rather odd. That position didn’t work out for other reasons, so this just became a funny anecdote.

I received four offers during the search. This sounds like one offer every three weeks, but it wasn’t evenly distributed. All were interesting jobs at interesting companies, and I could see myself in any of them. But some fits were better than others. I declined two mostly for compensation reasons, and one mostly for questions about my team fit. But none of the three declined offers were totally out of the question! I could have made any of them work. I was pleasantly surprised at how many offers I received, given my initial concerns.

I accepted an offer from Solinea, who contacted me via AngelList. It’s a great business and product space, and very interesting Python work. The people are sharp and immensely likable. They’re headquartered in Berkeley, and I’ll work remotely in Seattle. On the plus side of this arrangement, I have a niece living in Berkeley, and I’ll get to see her when I fly down there for team meetings.

I’m very happy with the result, and look forward to starting the new job!

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