In early April I received a message from Ben, delivered to my Reddit account.
I’ve been reading /r/resumes for, well, the whole time I’ve been actively looking for another job. I’ve noticed your comments on other posts and respect your opinion. Even though I’m not a “programmer” per se, I do enjoy reading your site and appreciate the time you take to help folks like me who are trying to make the best impression possible.
Ben wanted some advice on his résumé and career prospects in technology, and he wrote a quick bio. He earned a degree in religion and worked in that field for seven years before deciding that his passion was for technology. During his tenure in the church he dabbled in web development and learned to solve basic networking and hardware issues to reduce the church’s technology expenses. He resigned his church position to pursue entry-level roles, and ended up spending a year in retail before eventually being hired as a Junior Computer Technician.
Ben, on paper
After learning about Ben’s work history, I reviewed his résumé. The two sentence profile atop his résumé mentioned troubleshooting, managing hardware and software, vendor selection and training. There was no mention of programming experience.
Below the profile was a listing for certifications. None of his certs were truly relevant to programming.
His experience section was next. The first role listed was Systems Administrator, which had descriptions of his accomplishments in that role.
I was now halfway down the page and I have seen nothing about what he saw as his most valuable professional accomplishment. And then there it was – Web Developer. He had duties in both sys admin and development, and chose to list the sys admin experience first.
His technical skills section led with several operating systems, servers, and virtualization tools. Below that, a mere two lines from the bottom of the résumé (just above his degree), he listed programming languages.
“…not a programmer, per se…”?
After I finished reading the résumé, I thought back to his comment from the original Reddit comment. “Even though I’m not a ‘programmer’ per se…” At this point it was hard to tell if Ben would be more marketable (or happier) as a sys admin or a developer, so more information was required.
Ben then sent me a random email to tell me about his blog, which he had recently converted from WordPress to Octopress and had subsequently picked up some Ruby along the way. I checked it out and saw he had a couple small GitHub repos. This was all news to me. I asked if he had any other programming experience he was hiding.
It turns out he had done some freelance front-end web development work for a bit. He added that he had also contributed to the development of a template that was adopted by WordPress as a stock theme.
Ben might not have considered himself a programmer, but I expected others would disagree.
I sent Ben an email suggesting he focus 100% of job search efforts on finding a development role, and that his experience should qualify him for intermediate level slots. Ben responded that he had been reluctant to seek programming positions because he’d been doing that work for the least amount of time, but acknowledged that he’d probably be happier (and better compensated) as a developer. We worked together over the course of a couple days to rewrite his résumé, which emphasized his coding accomplishments.
Within five days of our first contact, Ben had a couple interviews lined up for web development positions. Fifteen days later Ben accepted a new job offer as a developer, which came with a 60% increase from his prior salary.
Ben now describes himself as a “Full-stack web developer” on his blog.
To the Programmers on Programmers’ Day,
To the childhood spent with cassette players and VIC-20s, and Saturdays loitering in the local Radio Shack for a turn on the TRS-80.
To those who maybe weren’t always the coolest kids in high school, but were often the smartest.
To the Rubyists and Lispers and Pythonistas, the architects, and the web and mobile developers who are able to show their children what mom/dad made. And to the embedded engineers who write code most people don’t even know is there.
To the thousands of Googlers, Yahoos, and Microsofties who make our email work and build tools to find anything imaginable. And to the many millions more who build things to run our homes and our lives.
To the hackers, the makers, the tinkerers, the startup junkies, the hobbyists, the open source contributors, the newbies and the grayhairs, who live in IDE’s and editors by day and often by night.
To those of you who have some of the best jobs in the world, with the highest hiring demand, yet are sometimes prone to saying that spending several minutes deleting potential job offers from your inbox can be a chore. And to those that are hustling for their next gig.
To those who solve the most complex technical problems in creative and elegant ways, yet are forced to distill their career for most people down to “I work with computers”.
Today, we salute you. Thanks for all you do.
With the deepest respect,
Job Tips For Geeks