The Storage Warehouse (from Grig)
The first recession I remember was in the early 1990’s, and I remember it so well because I was looking for a job. The want ads listed an opening for a UNIX admin – something which was right up my alley – so I gave the company a ring.
“Ye-LLO!” was the greeting after a couple of rings. In the background, it sounded like John Philip Sousa March music was playing on a 1960s AM transistor radio.
“Um… I am calling about the want ad in the paper for a UNIX admin?”
“Yeah yeah, sure sure,” he responded enthusiastically.
After a long pause, I asked “is the position still available?”
Another long pause led me to ask “So it is?”
“Would you like me to come in for an interview?”
“Nah, I can do it over the phone,” the sound of a chair squeaking came through the line and the music stopped playing, “Okay… I am looking for someone who can program UNIX. Also, has to know PASCAL pretty well. Processor design. Vast familiarity with X.25 protocol. Some BASIC, ALGOL, Lisp, Borland, relational databases, Lotus spreadsheets, VAX administration, PC repair, all those sorts of things. Oh, and also, have a degree in engineering and computer programming.”
“Um, really? Processor design? What kind of job is this?”
“Well, it’s an assistant manager of a storage warehouse.”
“You mean, like a data center?”
“No, no,” he chuckled, “self-storage. You know, like U-Haul and EZ-Storage.”
“So why would an assistant manager of a storage place need all those skills?”
“They don’t. I am just sick of getting dumbass applicants. I thought I’d raise the bar a little and only get smart college guys and the like.”
I didn't know what to say. I wished him well, and hung up. That ad was up for nearly a year in the want ads.
The Customizer (from D Lewis)
When I walked in for my interview, I saw that the receptionist was on the phone so I smiled at her to make my presence known and waited quietly near the back of the room. Looking around, I admired the outdated wallpaper falling off the walls and the non-framed artwork Scotch-taped to the wallpaper. I also couldn’t help but overhear the receptionist’s conversation; it definitely wasn’t business related.
“They better give me my raise,” she said with an attitude, “it’s been three years and I am well overdue.” A few moments later, “mmmkay, well I’ll talk to you later then, I gotta go anyway.”
The experience didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Eventually, the receptionist let them know I had arrived and the development manager lead me to the board room. She boasted that the company made three million last year, and they were really on a growth path. As she described their application portfolio, she kept mentioning that they’re doing all of their work in Microsoft Access.
“But this is something you’re looking to move away from,” I said inquisitively, “as part of the expansion?”
“Oh no no,” she replied, “Microsoft Access is by far the best model for our company. Here, let me show you why.”
She then pulled out her laptop and navigated to a folder on her drive that had a hundred or so different Access databases. Each was for a different customer and was slightly customized to have proper label names, field names, form fields, etc. A large part of my job would be rolling out “product wide” features to each and every database.
“You know, a .NET-based solution using SQL Server would scale much better,” I explained, “you could use plug-ins, templates, or all sorts of things to keep each customer’s database unique but share a common code base.”
“Well,” she responded, “they already do, we just make sure to copy and paste the same module code across each database. Everyone’s familiar with it, so we’re sticking with Access.”
Shortly after that, the HR Manager walked to discuss other aspects of the job. When he opened up his briefcase, a Knife, Fork and Spoon fell out onto the table, making a loud clanking noise. “The cleaner has a habit of stealing silverware,” he quipped, “so, I tend to bring my own.”
By this point, I had decided there was no way I’d ever work at such a place. Of course, I was too shy to walk out, so I let the HR manager give his spiel.
“We have had a problem with people leaving prematurely,” he said, “so you would need to sign an agreement that you’ll work here for two years.”
I said nothing.
“But after that, we give great raises.”
The URL Rewriter (from Jon)
Despite overseas developers getting some bad press now and then, one has to feel sorry for the working conditions they must have to put up with. According to this guy's CV not only did he have to code on paper, but they also made him stand in for the web server some of the time.
Responsibilities: * Coding in C#.net (asp.net). * Written Java Script functions, bug fixing. * Url rewriting.
The Most Ethical (from Fred Rosenberger)
“We’re different than all the rest,” the smiling account manager at a recruiting agency told me, “we pride ourselves on being the most honest and the most ethical of all placement firms.” That same line was repeated by nearly everyone I met at the organization: the technical interviewer, the senior headhunter, and even the president himself.
They all seemed nice enough, but in a nice used car salesman sort of way. As we reviewed different job openings they were trying to fill, one in particular was seeking a candidate with an Electrical Engineering degree who had moved over into software.
“You mentioned that your father was an Electrical Engineering professor for thirty-five years, right?”
I nodded, not sure where that was going.
“Well, I’m sure in all those years you learned a thing or two about Electrical Engineering? I mean, how could you not with your father talking about it so much.”
I furrowed my brow a little bit.
“Let’s figure out a way to get your father’s experience in Electrical Engineering on your resume – that’ll certainly get you past HR and score an actual interview.”
I almost laughed out loud. Not wanting to get in an argument with them, I made some excuses that I didn’t want to drive that far. In retrospect, they still may have been the most honest and the most ethical of all placement firms.