Monday, August 30, 2010

Should resumes give exact dates and complete work and educational histories, and down periods?

Tory Johnson did another interesting report this morning (Aug. 30) on ABC Good Morning America, on the five resume mistakes to avoid.

One is using an unprofessional-sounding email address, or using your current employer’s email server domain name.

I buy her advice on keeping dates of employment down to the year if you have been out of work for a while. But I question whether you can leave off dates of degrees, or should leave off older jobs.

In 2007 or so, a recruiter (in the mainframe area) told me that clients want to see a complete reverse chronological history, with all time periods filled in. She (from Baltimore) told me then that employers and clients appreciate honesty and candor.

It was on Aug. 30, 1972 (I believe a Wednesday) that I took a shuttle from DCA to Newark, rented a car, and interviewed Univac in Montclair NJ, for a job I would take and that would take me from “home” again on a long sequence of my life. That was 38 years ago today.  The interview expenses were company-paid.

I recall an earlier interview in maybe June 1972 at Bell Labs that year, at a Univac contract around Morristown NJ, where a Univac project leader asked “Do you like programming.” An odd question.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Images show examples of OOP

If you look at any of my Blogger images “from the Right” in Google Chrome, you’ll see the html code, and on the right you’ll see the CSS panel for the image with a log of “inherited from” tags. These would give “the OOP student” and idea of just how inheritance works in the real world.

During my last two years at ING in 2000-2001, we did have a some classes in OOP and especially UML from a local Twin Cities guru.

I still strikes me as remarkable that java had been barely invented by 1996, was used to rewrite the Data Access layer of the Customer Service Workbench at ING as early as 1999, and as well accepted in a production environment by 2000. It was becoming a skill people needed to have, so quickly.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Contractors, job fairs chase professionals with high-level clearances; but the polygraphs are intrusive; what about DADT?

The Washington Post has a big article on p A14 of the Wednesday paper by Dana Hedgpeth, “Clearing way for job seekers: Job fairs help seekers; Top-secret credentials in high demand”, link here.

This talks about clearances within Top Secret, SCI’s (compartmentalized information).

People don’t necessarily make more with these jobs, but they are likely to be in high demand because it takes so long to clear someone, so contractors (holders of about a third of these jobs) prefer people already cleared. It is possible for an uncleared person to get hired into one of the jobs and wait, a subject discussed here before.

Dealing with the extra bureaucracy is a headache in some of these jobs, as is the “risk”. Also, it is more common that anything someone publishes – conceivably any public online posting – would have to go through “prepublication review” (COPA blog, February 8, 2010).

But the most intrusive part of the experience seems to be the polygraph, not normally reliable enough to be used in criminal cases or in many ordinary employment situations. Why is the polygraph acceptable here? It might be replaced by “No Lie MRI” technology – effectively electronic mind reading – in the future.

The polygraphs do get into family and sensitive matters, although since the early 1990s the intelligence services have been able to accommodate LGBT candidates (and Bill Clinton issued an official executive order allowing gays to have clearances in 1995). The military “don’t ask don’t tell” policy certainly complicates security: what if a CIA employee has a person in the uniformed military as a same-sex partner? That sounds like a good premise for a movie.

Here's a YouTube video that maintains that there are 38 levels "about top secret".

Imagine working with classified knowledge of alien civilizations around M stars 30 light years away.

But even uncleared amateur bloggers sometimes have very sensitive information (good or not) passed to them by others with agendas.

On April 11, there was a discussion here about the controversy over "introversion" and people who avoid relationships in the clearance world. It may take a degree of introversion to be able to "connect dots" the way intelligence work requires. That's the rub.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In I,T, contracting, technical phone interview quizzes are popular

With all this talk about interviewing tips, it’s well to note that for I.T. contracts, many screenings are done by phone.

In fact, sometimes a staffing company will call and indicate that a client is interested, and then a testing company will call and give you about a twenty minute oral exam by phone. Typically for COBOL and mainframe jobs, they will ask short answer questions. The classic question is about how to do a binary search, but in COBOL and JCL there is a tendency to ask to see if the candidate knows some of the less commonly used clauses on various statements. For example, does the candidate understand how “OCCURS DPENDENING ON” allocates storage, or understand Inspect, Tally, String, and know how to perform certain manipulations efficiently. There can be questions about static v. dynamic linking. There will be some specific questions about areas in IMS, IDMS, or DB2, or whatever the position requires. For example, in the DB2 or any SQL area there could be a question about correlated subqueries.

The technical phone interview concept is a nice one because it focuses on the specific job and tends to push aside nebulous concerns about social posture, online reputation, personality, etc. It is usually scored numerically like a test in college and reported to the client.

I one time had a phone screening from a client (in the health care field) who asked if I had put my books away! Unfortunately, I had to wait for him to call and the experience was a bit disruptive as he was late and I had moved on to other things. The interview didn’t work out.

Clients should be courteous enough to follow up with candidates promptly. Even in a slow economy, loss of interest becomes a two-way street.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Certification environment is very operating system and engineering technology dependent these days

Erik Eckel has a Tech Republic blog entry on “The 10 Best I.T. Certifications: 2010”, link here.

Leading the list is Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional (MCITP) (link)

In 10th Place on his list was PMP, Project Management Professional.

What’s interesting is how his list moves away from programming and development disciplines, as with Brainbench certifications, or concepts like “procedural programming”, OOP, and systems engineering, as with the ICCP, with which I was certified in the 1990s. Sun has very elaborate examinations for certifying professionals in java.

But the whole certification environment, while having grown a lot since the mid 1990s (“Before Java”)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Federal jobs mauling private sector in pay, benefits

USA Today reports, in a story by Dennis Cauchon, that the gap in pay between federal jobs and private industry jobs has doubled since 2000, with a link here.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (link) reported that federal civil servants averaged $123,049 in 2009 whereas private workers made $61,051. Maybe this is apples v. oranges. The government is claiming that its jobs require skill. Really?

People call the federal government "Uncle Sugar", particularly in the DC area.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

How to get stats out of Wordpress blogs mapped to sites

I do plan to restructure much of my web materials soon by consolidating into fewer blogs and mapping into new domains. How do I get the statistics from Wordpress if I use it?
Let me start this discussion by saying that the way many ISP’s install Urchin, some directories get reported only by directory, such as /photo on (I can see counts of individual .mpg files, not of individual .jpg files; embedding doesn't explain all of this).

I have a small Wordpress blog on an experimental site ( and I’ve noticed that the Urchin stats from my ISP show only the requests for the entire blog, not for individual posts.

I do see that if I go into the log, I can see the individual posts, as in the access to post #39 with a search word of “census”. So theoretically one could write a program to access, parse and summarize the counts of the accesses to individual posts by search engine.

However, bloggers know that Google Analytics can show the accesses and stats on individual posts when visitors access them individually, usually through search engines on specific word lists. (“Next blog” probably brings up the whole blog in most cases.)

How to do this with a Wordpress blog mapped by A-records to an owned domain name? There are plenty of writesups on how to install Analytics. The best writeup seems to be on “Word Press Beginner” , and it says there are three ways: (1) Direct Paste; (2) Functions.php; (3) Third party plugins. The link for the writeup is here.

Joost de Valk has a robust example of a typical Analytics plugin here.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Plenty of renumerative jobs don't require a degree

Thursday, MSN sent out a Career Builder email and link “20 Jobs that Pay Big Without a Degree”, here. Yup, we all know that Mark Zuckerberg developed Facebook after dropping out of Harvard.

A lot of them are blue collar (carpenter) or particularly people-oriented (“Home care aide supervisor”). Some of them might be jobs like managing individual franchises.

At KU in graduate school in the 1960s, I had an engineering student as a roommate who had trouble applying himself and talked about what he could do without a degree. I lost track of him, but in the early 1970s he already owned a home in Oakland, CA.

Picture: McCollum Hall, where I lived as a grad student at KU, 1966-1968.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Teamwork, and "it is my job"; "Team Handbook" is still out there

I thought I would pass along this Tech Republic blog posting from the “Career Management” column of Toni Bowers, “It’s not my job: a self-fulfilling prophecy”.  The link is here.

She goes in to discussing the topic of teamwork, and that whole notion grew in the 1990s with notions like “Total Quality Management” and “Team Handbook”.

However, in many mainframe IT shops in the 1980s, it had become common for individual associates to “own” their own specific programs or batch jobs, especially those that ran in nightly cycles. As systems and interfaces grew more complex (often because of corporate mergers), personal turf protection had to give away to teamwork, even as employees got more nervous that they could become redundant.

In the “new age” workplace of web-based businesses, it seems that a lot more of the work is strategic, and sometimes “creative” (although some aerospace companies had encouraged “creativity time” as early as the 1960s). You certainly get that impression from video interviews conducted at Facebook by ABC and CBS, about what it is like to work in a place like Facebook or Google.

I encountered a different kind of teamwork issue in 2000 when I switched to the CUI customer service workbench support. There would be a lot of tickets (notification by pager in those days) where it was difficult to track the problem based on documentation that development analysts, without needing the help of more experienced support analysts. A similar work environment might exist at a cable, wireless or ISP company in customer service, where the home user notices patterns to problems that the support tech is unaware of. I had to make up a “cheat sheet” dataset and later internal web site to make a road map for solving support problems.

"Team Handbook" can be accessed here. It;s still out there.

And so is "TQM", or Total Quality Management, here.

I also remember the "customer service" parties, T-shirts, and balloons.  Sorry, I don't have any souvenirs left to photo.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

25 top hiring companies: People skills predominate; Tory Johnson on interview tips

I thought I would pass along MSN and Career Builder’s list of 25 companies that are hiring, compiled by Anthong Balderrama. Here is the link

A lot of the jobs are related to customer service and marketing, and many to health care and personal interaction. The information technology aspect still seems more specialized and dependent on specific experience.

On ABC Good Morning America this morning (Aug 3), Tory Johnson talked about interview questions. One favorite question is “what are you goals for the next five years” down to “what do you want to accomplish in the next 90 days”.

For sales jobs, nitpicky details on appearance matters, such as having shined shoes.

Don’t seem overprepared. That’s a two way street. An interview with RCA in late 1969 involved giving a technical talk. And feedback from a Sept. 11, 2002 interview in 2002 in Minnesota from the recruiter was that I had “tried too hard.”

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Could outplacement companiers have steered middle-aged professionals to teaching after the 2001 recession?

Do outplacment agencies really help laid-off professional workers?

I had my own experience after the December 2001 layoff from ING, with Right Management (link), centered in Philadelphia.

We had an orientation meeting right after the period of unemployment started, and could start the three months of formal counseling at any time. It is true that we went through the Myers-Briggs surveys (link), which can identify personality types without trying to moralize about them.

What I think would have helped in early 2002 would have been the outplacement company’s informing us about the opportunity for “career switching” in teaching, including education about the effect of “No Child Left Behind”, which increased the job market for teachers until the 2008 financial crisis sent school district budgets into crisis. But from the viewpoint of the earlier 2000-2002 recession, a switch into teaching would have made a lot of sense for a lot of people. We could have been informed about the fact that many states don’t require substitute teachers to be licensed (although Minnesota, where I was located, did), and about the rapid licensure programs, which in some states were relatively quick and inexpensive.

Given what I had already done (outing myself with respect to my chosen political controversy, gays in the military), a “switch” in 2002 would have been daunting (recalling for me concerns like the 1978 California Briggs Initiative, still in the pre Lawrence v. Texas period). But the outplacement companies should have been tracking NCLB (as passed in 2001) more closely.