Wednesday, August 7, 2013

my new job and why I think it's cool

I've been pretty quiet since mid-May, and the reason for that has been that I've started a new job.  I'm working for a start up called True Ability, and the 2 second pitch is "We provide a flight simulator for hiring technical talent."

The "Oh, I got your attention" pitch is that we do technical skills assessment by providing candidates with a series of tasks to complete in a virtual server.  It's basically a break-fix test on a VPS that allows non-technical people to gauge the ability of a potential hire.  Our ultimate goal is to get rid of the process of weeding through resumes and help recruiters narrow their search down to qualified, interested candidates as well as allow qualified and interested candidates to escape from getting weeded out for non-technical reasons.  Right now we're pretty much focusing on Linux administration, but should be moving into other areas in the not too distant future... I'm pretty excited to start expanding our offering.

The company itself is unbelievable.  It's one of those rare times you find awesome people with a truly complimentary mix of skills and expertise with a worthy goal and a clear roadmap to achieve it.  My job title is ostensibly "Linux Engineer", but in reality I'm working on the automation code for breaking the servers and evaluating the candidates' solution.  It's a funky hybrid role doing software development, but requiring a pretty good system administration base... kind of devops but without the drag of on-call duty. \o/

If you'd like to know more, hit us up.  The site's mainly geared for the recruiter types now, but we're planning on doing some cool stuff for the technical folks in the future.

And if you're wondering why I think this is a big deal, read on.

So for the first half of the year, I was pretty much unemployed.  I'd been doing some contract work for the government that had dried up and decided it was about time to give up my mercenary 1099 lifestyle.

The catch was, I hadn't really, truly searched for a job since 1999 and I'd made the mistake of thinking that everyone else shared my views on the No-BS Interview Process.  As I soon discovered, I had a lot of things working against me in my search.  One major problem was that I had avoided getting certifications.  Another was that I was relying on the reader to understand how past experiences translate into today's world (which is ok if the reader is technical, but most recruiters screening resumes aren't).  The final one I'll list here was that there was a lot of uncertain language in job postings that led to interviews where my skills only marginally matched up with what the employer was trying to fill.

The end result was that I spent a long time in a Sisyphean limbo where I could see jobs I knew I was qualified for but was unable to convince the initial screeners, while at the same time being pelted with inquiries for jobs for which I was clearly a bad fit (Java developer, MSSQL DBA, etc).  I decided to try some recruiting firms, but their luck wasn't any better.  I just didn't fit any archetype for any of the openings they had, and they didn't know how to pitch me.

I finally decided to try and apply for a job with a former employer who has now grown into a billion dollar company.  I thought my past experience with them would merit a little bit of latitude and that if anyone knew how to handle my jack-of-all-trades resume it'd be them.  Two and a half months later, I was still stuck in limbo with their hiring system and starting to ponder whether or not it was time to give up the IT game altogether.  I hear mud engineers make decent money... maybe it's time to see what's going on in the Eagle Ford play...

From looking around at other places like reddit and talking with some other colleagues in the field, it was starting to sound like similar story.  There's clearly an impedance mismatch in the system:  job seekers aren't getting calls, so they're spamming recruiters, the recruiters don't have time to accurately review applications and resumes because they're getting spammed, and all the while the hiring manager is left sweating bullets because he's been down a Linux nerd for 6 months now and there's no sign that's going to change any time soon so he's thinking about just outsourcing the work or maybe even closing the position.  No one is winning here:  people aren't working, and jobs aren't getting done.

I started to think that what was needed was a way to demonstrate what I know to potential employers, and they needed way to tell quickly whether or not I was being truthful about what I claimed to know.  And that was about the time I remembered being part of a TrueAbility beta test last October and decided to see if there was anything I could do to help them out... and here we are.

Our mission statement is to "make resumes history".  While that might be a little tough to do (I mean, look at how long we've spent trying to kill business cards, and yet there they are in your wallet right now), I think if we can reduce the friction in the technical hiring process by even a fraction it'll be a good thing for everyone.  We've already hooked up people with jobs for our first few customers, and I'm pretty excited to start bragging about some of the stuff we've got cooking up in the labs now.

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