Questions for Your Job Hunt

Jobbies

While looking for a new job last year I slowly built a list of questions I would ask the various companies to help better understand if they were a good fit for me. Some of these questions are ripped from other blog posts, like The Joel Test, but many of them were from personal brainstorming and soul searching about what I wanted.

Hopefully this list helps those out there looking for something new.

Culture

  • Pretend I know nothing about the company, how do you describe it?
  • Who owns the company? What are their interests?
  • How would you describe the company culture?
  • What are its core values?
  • How is this evident in everyday action?
  • There is a great TED talk by Simon Sinek that has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?” He describes a circle with the word Why? in the center and then moving outward, How? and then What? — Simon explains that most people can answer the What, what do they do? — some fewer still can answer the How — but the truly successful can answer the Why? Why do they do it? Why does your company do what it does? Why does this company sell paper towels instead?
  • What can I see / download as a public example of your work?
  • Name something the company is struggling with and how you are trying to fix it?
  • Name something the company excels at? What are the lessons to be learned?
  • What’s going to change at this company over the next year? three years? five years?

Process

  • How does upper management communicate with the company at large?
  • How are projects and/or teams organized?
  • How do teams communicate?
  • How do you plan and track work?
  • How do you estimate?
  • Do people work on multiple projects at the same time? If so, how is time broken up?
  • What is the process like from napkin idea to deployed feature / service? Where am I in this process?
  • Who decides what to work on?
  • Who is the designer? Do they work closely with the development team? How much to they appreciate, expand on norms of the various platforms?
  • Is there a standard process for the handing off assets, specs, motion simulations from the design team to the development team?
  • Do you ever do retrospectives? If so when? end of the sprint? end of the project?
  • Do you ever have internal projects? How do they work?
  • How would you split up my weekly hours between different responsibilities?
  • How is customer support handled?
  • Do I have any interaction with the customers?

Process (Client-based work)

  • If I’m working on a client project, what is my interaction with them?
  • How does pricing work for client projects? How is development involved in coming up with these figures? What would my responsibility be in this?

HR

  • How do you run employee reviews?
  • How do you gauge employee happiness?
  • Are there any company events? travel?
  • Would I be required to interview people?
  • Do you have an official interview process?
  • Do new candidates write code during their interview?
  • How does overtime work? Are people compensated for overtime?
  • How does vacation work?
  • Are there sick days? Long term sick days?
  • Can people work from home? Do they?
  • Is there a 401K?
  • Is there a health plan? Dental?
  • Is there on-site parking? Do I have to pay for it?
  • Is travel involved for this job?
  • Do you have a company manual? Can I have a copy?
  • Do you have an org chart? Can I have a copy?
  • How is the development group organized?
  • Who do I report to? Who reports to me (if any)?
  • How transparent is the company with regard to it’s goals, it’s plans, it’s money?

Education

  • How do you make sure the staff is continually learning?
  • Do people get a dedicated budget for things like attending conferences, purchasing books?
  • Do you allow people to travel to speak at conference during company time?
  • How do you track staff technical skills? Current abilities, wanted improvements?
  • Do you have an official mentoring system?

Tools

  • Do you use the best tools money can buy?
  • Do you have testers?
  • Do you do hallway usability testing?

Code

  • Do you use source control?
  • Can you make a build in one step?
  • Do you make daily builds?
  • Do you have a bug database?
  • Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
  • Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
  • Do you have a spec?
  • Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
  • Do you do code review?
  • Do you do pair programming?
  • Can I have a tour of an active project’s code base?
  • How many developers are there?
  • What is the proficiency ratio between senior level / mid level / junior level developers in the company?
  • Do you let people jump around from stack to stack or do most people stay focused on their specialty?

End of list. Best of luck with your job hunt!

CocoaConf Boston 2014 Recap

After getting a solid recommendation from Curtis, who attended the Washington DC variant, this weekend I headed north to CocoaConf Boston. It was my first CocoaConf and so I went into the weekend with a lot of blurred expectations.

Spoilers: I say first with intention. TLDR; I had a really great time. The talks and speaker quality were really high and with luck I’ll be able to attend again during a future “tour”.

One of my expectations was size. I thought the attendee count was going to be a bit larger. It felt like ~130 but I’m not sure what the official number was. Not that a small count is bad for me but I’m used to educational events hosting more. I suspect part of this is that CocoaConf is hosting lots more venues now (three arguably “east coast cities” during this fall tour alone). This may make some events smaller but overall a win for the community so as to have more access for those who can’t travel far.

One thing that continues to make me proud is the people of our community. The attendees, the speakers and the event staff of CocoaConf are all incredibly friendly, approachable and inspiring. Meeting new people and catching up with old friends is a big reason why I like attending conferences and CocoaConf does a great job at supplying the “campfire” atmosphere to make that happen.

Daniel Jalkut's "Quit Your Job" keynote

As for my favorite talks I’ll mention a few:

Daniel Jalkut’s “Quit Your Job” keynote and Rob Rhyne’s “Make Them Care” session were both very inspirational. I leave Boston really hungry to jump into some side projects of mine and get back into the product game outside of my client stuff at work.

For technical wisdom I have to give it up for the full day “Swift Kickstart” workshop Daniel Steinberg ran as well as the Swift and Objective-C: Best Friends Forever session by Jonathan Blocksom. CocoaConf Boston is now cemented as the place and time where I really started to appreciate what Apple is trying to accomplish with Swift. This isn’t to say we aren’t in for a bumpy ride but at least now I have a good frame of mind as to the “why” behind it all.

Finally, it was great to meet the people that run CocoaConf. Rather than some large corporation, CocoaConf is actually a family affair. Dave Kline and his family run most of the operation and they seemed very dedicated to making sure everyone had a good time. For all their hard work I say thank you and hope to see you all again soon.

Quick CocoaLove Recap

CocoaLove was a huge success. All of the talks were well received and the attendee side conversations vibrant and interesting. I think I saw 2 laptops open all weekend which to me is a huge sign people were engaged with our content. If you missed out, check out the CocoaLove site for some highlights of our tweet/photo live stream.

While they’ll never capture the event in its full glory, we did record the presentations and will be editing them over the next few weeks to make the available on the web. To find out when the videos are up I’d signup to the mailing list or follow the @CocoaLoveConf twitter account.

I want to thank my fellow organizers, the speakers and the attendees for helping provide a weekend I’ll remember forever.

In particular I’ll give special props to Curtis whom sacrificed countless hours attending to hundreds of details that resulting in a level conference quality that is hard to achieve. Great job!

CocoaLove Tickets

It’s September, which means next month is October, which means CocoaLove is coming up fast!

We’ve got a great weekend planned and if you haven’t already secured your ticket I’d do so now since we are starting our last marketing push to sell out.

Additionally, if you or a company you know are interested in sponsoring to help show your support for CocoaLove let me know. CocoaLove is passion project from some great folks out of our local CocoaHeads chapter who have donated countless hours in helping to organize this incredible non-profit event. Sponsor support will help us reach our stretch goals and make an already great experience that much better.

See you all soon!

Philly Craftsmanship

Software as Craft Philadelphia

A community of professionals dedicated to well-crafted software

Was very happy to attend the inaugural meeting of this group last week. Was a great mix of discussion and hands-on coding/pairing. Thanks to Promptworks for hosting.

During the discussions, the Software Craftsmanship North America conference (as well as its manifesto) were mentioned. You can find a bunch of the conference videos on the eighthlight vimeo channel. Seems like pretty interesting stuff.

In related news (since I think all hosts were in attendance at said meeting), I want to give a plug to the podcast Turing-Incomplete podcast. Finally starting to catch up on this Philly showcase of talent and really enjoying the discussions. Keep up the good work!

July Recap

I’d hate to go a month without posting so here’s some random updates!

Philly CocoaHeads is going as strong as ever. Our WWDC June meeting filled the Apple Store Briefing Room to capacity (~50 people!) with lots of excited geeks. Our Side Project Saturday events continue to see some steady growth (15 people at the July event) and generate lots of interesting conversation and shared ideas. (Funny enough we were talking app bubbles right along side Edge Cases this week even though I didn’t know their topic at the time.) Finally our workshops are finally kicking back into gear with an Intermediate Objective-C course coming in August and a more beginner friendly Introduction to iOS Development course via the Girl Develop It group in September. Philly CocoaHeads is becoming so formal in fact I think we’re going to take the plunge and make it a legit non-profit group to help clean up the financial side of things.

In addition to CocoaHeads, there is also CocoaLove — our upcoming Fall conference. I’ll be doing the main talk Friday night and I’m doing my best to keep the topic upbeat despite my pessimistic tendencies. Big props to Curtis Herbert for really spearheading this event. It looks to be a really interesting and fun weekend. Buy your ticket while you can!

Through my job at Tonic Design things are busy. I have two projects right now, One is for a startup while another an internal app for a large corporation. Sadly these are not public right now so details will have to wait. That said, I’ve been spending a ton of time with iOS animations and I have two things to say. One, the Facebook Pop system is pretty cool and worthy of your time to play with. Two, I’m working on an abstraction system that should help apps with large amounts of animation stay organized. More to come soon on that.

At home, side projects have been back burnered, mostly for CocoaHeads stuff. I am spending time reading up on Swift and playing a little with Go but I’m also trying to keep plenty of time for playing games and relaxing. Can’t be focused on code all the time.

So thats it for July. Hope the summer is treating you all well. Hope to share more soon.

Side Projects

Sorry for the dead air over the last few months. Things got a bit hectic at my job and I couldn’t seem to find the free time to post. On the plus side, things are starting to calm down. We’ve shipped some more software and I’m finally catching up with some side projects.

One project which I started at the March CocoaHead Hackday is GoldCards. It’s an iOS reference tool for Hearthstone.

  • GoldCards Screenshot 1
  • GoldCards Screenshot 2
  • GoldCards Screenshot 3
  • GoldCards Screenshot 4
  • GoldCards Screenshot 5
  • GoldCards Screenshot 6

While I want this to be a Universal (iPhone and iPad) app in time I think I’m going to finish up a few more loose ends and release it as an iPhone-only app for now.

Another big side project is CocoaLove, an iOS-focused conference coming to Philly. I’m on the planning committee (sponsorship and AV to be specific). I’d also like to help build a simple conference app with the schedule and what not. Shouldn’t be too hard considering my history with such things.

In addition to all that I’m also trying to catch up with some web tech, Ember and Node to be precise. There are a few things on my idea board that could utilize such skills so I’m taking some time reading books and going through Code School examples to catch up.

Week in Review: WWDC, E3 and CocoaHeads

It’s been a crazy week. Some random notes and observations…

WWDC

Apple did a tremendous job streaming the Keynote. I watched it live on my Apple TV in the living room while chatting with friends on IRC and Twitter. It was awesome. As for the content, let’s review:

Mac OS X 10.9, Mavericks — Not a huge fan of the name. I liked Sea Lion! As for the user facing features, most are pretty meh for me, I will enjoy better dual monitor support. I also like the idea they are pushing iCloud Keychain and that it will suggest higher quality passwords for people. I myself will stick with 1Password but this is a great feature for users at large. The advanced tech of 10.9 looks great. Love the focus on battery life.

iOS 7 — I have very mixed feelings for the new UI. Some of it I like, some of it I don’t. Between the historic adoption rate of new versions of iOS and the complexity of delivering a consistent experience across iOS 6 and iOS 7, I can see many apps moving to iOS 7 only in the coming months, particularly ones that aren’t released yet.

While not reviewed in detail during the keynote, the real gems for me are in the developer tools and APIs released this week. Xcode 5 looks awesome. The new continuos integration services of OS X Server looks great (though time will tell if it can be a full on replacement for current solutions). Tons of brand new tech including: Text Kit, Sprite Kit, Game Controllers, UIKit Dynamics and better multitasking have been introduced along with some great improvements to current APIs. It’s going to be months until I have time to play with everything.

New Mac Pro — I’ve been a long time customer of the Mac Pro and was in the market for one in 2011 when I sadly, after continued uninspiring updates to the product line, had to settle for a loaded (max RAM / max Graphics Card / 256 SSD) iMac instead. Not to sound like a total dick, the iMac has been great and really fast but I still longed for the multi-drive, graphics card replaceable, mega ram slot tower that I was accustom to. So this new Mac Pro is actually in my eyes more of a loaded Mac mini style device. There is little chance you’ll be replacing these graphic cards (yes cards, it has two of them; probably to support the unannounced retina display this Mac Pro will probably ship along side with) and there doesn’t seem to be much room for extra internal hard disk space. That said, this machine’s stats looks awesome and I have been antsy for a retina display on the desktop. I’ll have to see a price tag before I commit myself but am happy I have options when it comes time to upgrade my current iMac.

There were also new Macbook Airs released at the show. I have and really enjoy my 13-inch Air and while the new extra battery life of these new models are probably very important for some people I am lucky enough to be able to plug-in when needed so will probably skip this generation. If it was a retina screen, maybe I’d change my tune.

Sessions — After the keynote, Apple, like they had promised, started publishing the session videos, usually less than 24 hours after they had been presented. By the end of the week we also had choices for HD or SD variants as well as the PDF slides. This helps take the sting out of not being able to acquire a ticket a lot and I thank Apple for putting forth the extra effort to do so.

E3

I haven’t been keeping up with E3 nearly as much as I have been Apple news, but seems like everyone had a great time out in LA. Playstation 4 announced it will not be following Microsoft’s lead and is promising very little DRM on the PS4 that will inhibit things like game sharing and used game sales. This, plus a cheaper price tag and arguably better under-the-hood tech has pushed itself to the top the console food chain. Time and games will tell how things end. For me, I’m not planning on a day one purchase. I’d like to see how things pan out and find a must have game to push me over the edge.

As for my Nintendo, for which I always have a love/hate relationship with, we saw a new Smash Bros, a new Super Mario 3D World, as well as lots of new info on the new 3DS Pokemon and Zelda titles.

Moving from back to front, I’m getting pretty jazzed for the new Pokemon. Even outside my previous fandom for the series, this new release has a lot of new elements to check out. Being a huge Link to the Past fan has me interested in this new sequel game though I’m still mixed on feelings of curiosity mixed with disappointment that they aren’t doing something more unique. I own Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS and it was not something I really enjoyed. The gameplay was very slow and continued use of the same old Mario platforming was exhausting. Considering the lack of interest New Super Mario Bros got as a Wii U title, you’d think they’d start to catch on that we need real NEW things but alas this seems lost on Nintendo. Finally, Smash Bros fans will inevitably enjoy a new release of Smash Bros. Even I get a little giddy seeing MegaMan added as playable character. Unfortunately I’m not a fighter fan. I no longer share a house with people to regularly play with and even when I do play these games at a party it becomes a button mash as no one knows all the moves. I think I’ve grown out of it. :(

CocoaHeads and our iOS 7 Hackday

On Thursday we had our usual monthly meeting for CocoaHeads. With the Apple event still in-progress there was lots of chatter about all the new stuff. When the meeting finally started we actually ended up with so many talks and demos we went over time. Reactive Cocoa in particular kept many a CocoaHead asking questions and thinking out of the box.

Saturday we held a hackday, our first CocoaHead event in some time. The hackday was focused on iOS 7 and had people work solo or team up to experiment with the latest API toys. Throughout the day we provided breakfast, snacks and a home made lunch from IndyHall’s own Kara LaFleur (@KaraLaFleur). At the end of the day we presented our results to the group and awarded book prizes from the Pragmatic Programmers and Big Nerd Ranch. All in all things went great and it was good to see some people attend who normally can’t make our nightly meetings.

Sunday Rest

It’s now Sunday and after an extremely busy week I’m relaxing. I do have plans to head out for some dinner later to wish my Mom to wish her a happy Father’s Day but otherwise am enjoying a lazy day around the apartment.

For all my Apple and gaming friends, I hope you enjoyed this week as well and enjoy the upcoming releases. Have fun!

Philly Startup Weekend

This weekend I got to take part in Philly Startup Weekend!

My Startup Weekend Badge

Startup Weekend is a world wide organization dedicated to hosting events to help educate and inspire entrepreneurs. The goal is to launch a startup in 54 hours. There have been several past Philly incarnations leading to some well known companies. I’ve always wanted to go but have had too many commitments. This weekend worked out and I’m glad it did.

The overall format is pretty self explanatory. For us there were about 110 attendees, 50 pitches, 16 projects selected based on a popular vote via stickers and then informal team formation. The teams worked on their new startup for the next two days with occasional drop-ins from local coaches to help out. The event hosts 4-minute presentations with 3-minutes of Q/A from the the judges for each project. Things closes with awards and a final party/mixer.

What I Liked

The attendees I interacted with were good people. No one there was slacking, nor did I see people looking to milk free work out of volunteers for their pet projects. Everyone genuinely seemed to be there to learn and do what they can to launch these startups.

The coaches that showed up were extremely helpful and provided great feedback as we matured our startups.

Overall, the whole event was a blast.

What I Didn’t Like

The venue / wifi. Once work started it was clear the organizers couldn’t support everyone on the main floor via wifi. Workbridge who is located in the same building was gracious enough to host moving a few teams up to their offices to help the congestion and while it did fix the wifi issue it also disrupted the “single open floor plan” which I think is extremely welcome for events like this.

The value in having an open floor is that you’ll overhear ideas and problems your fellow attendees are having and be able help each other out. It’s a great way to meet people and share ideas. On our 2nd floor space each team was isolated into their own offices so there wasn’t as much cross communication as I would have preferred. To balance things I took walking breaks back down to the main floor and talked with people. Even just having the ability to see the other team’s whiteboards was pretty interesting.

Some Take Aways

When you are given a project to do with a team of people, make sure you modify your plans to get the most out of these people and their skill set. Don’t get bogged down in that you are missing out on a specific developer or designer skill set. If you have someone who has experience with WordPress, figure out how to integrate WordPress into your solution. Make the most of what you have. Embrace constraints!

The overall entrepreneur community is maturing. I think it has been common to think that having a working prototype at the end of a weekend like this is a major goal however from my experience this weekend I was very pleased to see a larger percent of time focused on customer validation and the business model than code. More than working code what I think you need to at the end of the weekend is strong visualization of your product, and this need not be working code. I think UI renders or even a mocked up Keynote deck that fakes your website or app suffices. What you don’t want to do is let the complexities of the code implementation get in the way of prototyping different ideas during the weekend.

Our Project

I helped out with MentorShake, a website that aims to help connect mentors with students. Over the weekend during our validation we actually got back a lot of contradictory feedback from mentors on what they wanted and also struggled with the business model. By presentation time I think we ended up with a pretty good business plan and verbal commitments from over a dozen locals who were willing to be listed as mentors. Time will tell if the idea has legs but if you’re local to Philly and interested please sign up to the mailing list by visiting this page.

Thanks!

I’d like to again thank the organizers of the Philly Startup Weekend. It was a great time and I appreciate their hard work. If you are at all interested in this kind of thing I recommend you be on the lookout for a Startup Weekend in your area.