Likely Posting Rates for the Near Future

In May when I started this blog I was working the final weeks as a contractor at a soul-killing corporation on a testing project that was as mind-numbing as it was dysfunctional. I started the blog as a creative outlet for me; a means of venting my frustrations constructively, since I felt like nothing I said at “Mega-Corp” made any difference.

In addition, I thought, I’d soon be back on the job market. The blog might become a good extension to the tired and typical job-seeker’s resume and cover letter. I saw it as a potential means of showcasing my philosophy and thought processes, as well as my writing style and personality, outside the tight confines of a job interview.

I had no expectations beyond that. I figured blog traffic would max out at around a visit a week. Probably those would be my polite and supportive friends, whom I’d pester to check out my latest ramblings (even though they had no interest in testing, software, or epistemology).

Then something funny happened. As near as I can figure it, a friend tweeted about one of the posts. This tweet was apparently seen by Michael Bolton, who presumably read it, liked it, and also tweeted about it. Suddenly there were intelligent comments from strangers (and respected industry celebrities) who were located all over the world. Suddenly posts were being mentioned elsewhere and included in blog carnivals. Suddenly people other than me were tweeting my posts. Wow!!! Who knew there was a large and vibrant testing community out there? Who knew I actually said anything interesting? Suddenly I felt pressure to maintain a consistent output of new, interesting material.

My contract with Mega-Corp ended. Based on the sparse job prospects over the previous six months, I fully expected to be facing a long stretch of unemployment. I have significant savings, so the idea didn’t scare me. In fact, I was genuinely looking forward to it. Aside from now having ample time to write blog posts, I could engage with this newly discovered testing community via Twitter, their own blogs, LinkedIn, the Software Testing Club, and elsewhere. I could spend a few hours a day learning Ruby–something I’d wanted to do for a while but seemed never to have time for.

Although I went to one interview during the first week of unemployment at the behest of the staffing firm I’d been contracting with, I wasn’t particularly interested in looking for work. I jokingly referred to my unemployment as an “involuntary sabbatical.” What little effort I put toward a job search was haphazard and frivolous. The few job listings that turned up were basically of the sort that had been appearing for the previous several months. They fit into one of three categories:

  1. Positions for which I was overqualified
  2. Positions which I knew I could do but I’d never get the interview for, since they listed specific technical requirements I couldn’t in good conscience put on my resume or in my cover letter
  3. Positions that were the software development equivalent of Gitmo prisoner stress positions

Then something funny happened. On day 11 of the sabbatical I got an email from a headhunter asking if I were looking for work. I wrote back and said that I was. She called. We talked for about 20 minutes. I think most of that time was me saying that my technical skills didn’t match what they had on the list of requirements. She said “Let’s submit anyway.” I said, “Sure. What the hell?” I was convinced it would go nowhere and went back to the exercises in my Ruby book. Less than an hour later the headhunter called back and said that the company wanted to interview me the next day at 9 a.m. I said, “Sure. What the hell?”

Armed with the company’s name and address, I started the requisite Googling. I found out that the company’s culture included things like letting people bring their dogs to work, giving everyone a Nerf gun and, most importantly to me, no dress code (based on photos on the company’s blog, shorts and flip-flops were standard fare, so my Vibrams would fit right in). So far, so good. Even better, the company was apparently wildly profitable and newly purchased by a larger firm, also profitable. No worries about job evaporation due to investor indictment!

I’ve been on a lot of job interviews this year. In all of them I felt a lack of control, like I was being forced to justify myself or excuse myself. For this one, though, I decided to take a different tack, since I truly didn’t care if I got the job or not. I took a copy of the advertised job requirements with me and went through them line-by-line with the interviewer, saying “What do you mean by X? My current experience with it is limited. I have no doubt I can learn it, but if it’s really important to you, then I’m probably not your guy.” I must’ve said some variant of that a half dozen times. I felt like I was trying to talk them out of picking me.

Somehow the interview lasted three hours. They told me they were going to talk with two more people, but that they wanted to move fast on a decision, so I would know either way by the next day. I could tell they liked me. For my part, the company struck me as a happy place, and what they wanted to hire me for seems to have become my own career specialty: Use your skills and expertise to do whatever is necessary to create a test department where there is none. As I was driving home I was thinking, “Dammit! I may have to cut my sabbatical short.”

I got a call from the headhunter less than two hours later. They were offering me the job. They wanted me to start tomorrow, if I was willing. I agonized over the decision for most of the afternoon. Three to six months of taking it easy, blogging, and learning Ruby, while looking for the perfect job–I had a really hard time giving up this romantic notion, but it seemed like the perfect job had already arrived, just way ahead of schedule. What if I turned it down and the next one didn’t come along for another year, well after my savings had evaporated?

I took the job.

This post has turned into something much more long-winded and shamelessly self-indulgent than I imagined it would be. Thanks for putting up with it. My only point has been to explain that my new job responsibilities over the coming weeks will probably sap my time and my creative energies. The testing problem I’ve been given is very interesting, and I need to focus on how to solve it. So, for the next few weeks, at least, there’s little chance I’ll be writing a post per week. I can’t imagine, though, that it will be too long before I feel a strong urge to vent again.

  1. Congratulations on the job, Abe.

    Although you may think this post is self-indulgent, it is more than that. It’s a great example of how the biggest argument in favor of certification of testers is just an overblown fear. It’s a great example of how to be a buccaneer tester.

    You ignored the stated requirements. You walked in, showed who you are, and they wanted YOU. They suspended the requirements to hire you. I think this experience can apply to anyone– as long as they take their craft seriously and develop themselves as you have done.

  2. Abe,
    I reckon one of your next blog posts (when you get the time) is a type of “first impressions” about the new place.

    Tip: If you haven’t got one then get a moleskine – because when you’re too busy for concerted writing inspiration and ideas have a habit of creeping up on you.

    Good luck with the new place – my philosophy, it’s just a stepping stone to the next thing – and if you love the place then it might be a very big stepping stone that takes a while to cross.

  3. Thank you both for the support and inspiration! It is an honor and a privilege to have you as readers.

    The moleskine is a good idea, Simon, though I find that, consistently, inspiration strikes me at 3:30AM. I can’t count the number of times when I’ve awakened and seemingly had an entire post just sitting there in my head, waiting to be transcribed. I’ve learned to just go with it (because I’ve regretted it later when I haven’t), but sometimes it’s rather annoying.

  4. Congratulations on the new gig. It sounds like a lot of fun!

    But don’t use this as an excuse to slack off on the blogging! Writing about your experience in creating a new test department would be very valuable to others (and I think you’ll find that it’s valuable to you, too).

    Last time I changed jobs, I made lots of lists for myself, and decided to post some:

    Good luck – make sure to let us know how it’s going!

  5. Sounds like a series of events that can happen to every tester, if it didn’t already

  6. Let’s hope so, Sebi.

    Joe, thanks for the link to the lists. I’m sure I’ll find them handy!

  7. Abe,

    Great story. Very well written. While it might sound like a cliche, who you work with, what the work culture is at the company you’re at, and how people value you is wildly important to happiness and fulfillment. Lanette Creamer (my hero of the week this week) and I were talking about this topic yesterday at the STPCon conference.

    Life’s too short to work at soul-crushing companies.

  8. Abe, thanks for this wonderfully encouraging blogpost. And congratulations on the job, too. At the Agile Testing Days in Berlin, a couple of weeks ago, alternatives to certification (or self-certification) were a hot topic & the debate still continues.
    You just illustrated one very effective way to stand up against overly simplified or idealized job requirements. You managed to convince them to hire you, on the spot. You showed enthusiasm and intelligence. You are now a certified self-certifier 😛 !

  9. Thanks, Justin and Zeger!

    (and I’m very sorry it’s taken me so long to approve your comments. Work has been all-consuming, lately. I do, however, have a new blog post coming up!)

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