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What are employer's looking for now?

Sam Smoot
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 18, 2002
Posts: 238
What do you find most employer's look for in an applicant? I'm looking at some major career decisions and I haven't been in the market for quite a while (14 years at same company, Maniframe Assembler programming, last 3 in Client Server using various Web technologies). We're now branching into a major project using JAVA (I was drafted, and that's why I'm here) and I feel that my background may be a little lacking. Most of my skill/talent comes from O.J.T., not much on the formal education route.

Thanks.
Simon Brown
sharp shooter, and author
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 10, 2000
Posts: 1913
    
    6
Generally, it seems to be a fair amount of Java/J2EE knowledge, coupled with design patterns, UML and so on.
Simon
Elizabeth King
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 11, 2002
Posts: 191
Get ceritified! It is a good learning process
plus a certification.
Kevin Thompson
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 04, 2001
Posts: 237
I wish I wasn't so sarcastic. But I think I am honest.
Employers are looking for somebody :
1. Young
2. good looking(not fat, dresses nice)
3. cheap
4. who promotes themselves well - i.e. sells themself and promotes themself (I could be real sarcastic and call this a "bragging ability") but I will call it self-promotion ability.
Over and over again I have seen "image and appearance" + "self-promotion" win over actual technical skills.
That is just the way it works in IT. I wish I would have known this earlier.
Kevin Thompson
[ July 18, 2002: Message edited by: Kevin Thompson ]
Tony Evans
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 29, 2002
Posts: 573
Employees are looking for a candidate who have no home life as he happily develops both a Oracle and Sybase Database, rebuilds a exiting legacy application, builds a new application keeps the network running and carries out Unix support in his spare time, when he is not working at the front end office or taking clients out for lunch. Any time left is spent studying.
Cheers Tony
Shura Balaganov
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 22, 2002
Posts: 664
Well, in my career I've met IT folks who literally held big corporations "by the udder". People, who were running quarterly SEC numbers, and when report came out, Big Ol' Fart Boys at board of directors looked at it and said "hmm, the numbers don't look right, they should look like this, why don't you rerun the report", and similar sh@t. I honestly thought these techies deserved corporate cars, private jets and stock options in equal manner to CEOs. But they didn't have it.
See, the problem with us, techies is that we don't aquire powerful partners and don't form coalitions. If we did, we could've had a voice on stuff like that, and on our lives too. But we are mostly alone (excluding our tech friends, who are in the same boat), so job security keeps us in obiding bay. :roll:
When corporate folks see that techies start aquiring power, they can pull the plug, for instance switch technologies. What is a few million buck in comparison to complete and total control.
Join small companies, or good luck climbing bottomles skills pit.
Shura
[ July 18, 2002: Message edited by: Shura Balaganov ]

Any posted remarks that may or may not seem offensive, intrusive or politically incorrect are not truly so.
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Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
I almost completely disagree with Mary, Kevin, and Tony.
Originally posted by Mary King:
Get ceritified! It is a good learning process
plus a certification.

If you do a search on "SCJP" or "certification" you can find a number of discussions on this. I think certifications are bad, personally. Check the other threads for the whole discussion.

Originally posted by TonyCavanagh:
Employees are looking for a candidate who have no home life

Again, only the stupid companies. Wiser companies know the employees will leave when the market picks up. I even know some hiring managers who will ask "what are your hobbies?" and if the person doesn't have an answer, i.e. no life, they won't be hired, because those people are most likely to burnout.

--Mark
Carlisia Campos
sanitation engineer
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 22, 2001
Posts: 135
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
I almost completely disagree with Mary, Kevin, and Tony.
Again, only the stupid companies. Wiser companies know the employees will leave when the market picks up. I even know some hiring managers who will ask "what are your hobbies?" and if the person doesn't have an answer, i.e. no life, they won't be hired, because those people are most likely to burnout.

--Mark

Mark, you make a suggestion to search for the subject of certification, and this is my cue to ask what I've been wondering for the past week or so: Where is the "search" link???
More on the current subject, I think when people generalize about the working conditions of companies we all agree that they are bad companies... which automatically implies that there are good ones. But the good ones are so few and hard to find...

As for hobbies... if I say I consider programming a hobby would I not be the least stressed out and most desirable employee ever??


Carlisia Campos<br />--------------------------------<br />i blog here: carlisia.com
Sam Smoot
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 18, 2002
Posts: 238
Ok, next question as to Education... There is a similar thread that I read on this topic, but I am trying to get back in school and finally get the degree, and I'm just wondering if the Software Engineering degree would outweigh the Computer Science degree? It will take more time to get the SE, but would it be worth it (in the long run) vs. the CS ?
Thanks!
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Carlisia Campos:

Mark, you make a suggestion to search for the subject of certification, and this is my cue to ask what I've been wondering for the past week or so: Where is the "search" link???
...
As for hobbies... if I say I consider programming a hobby would I not be the least stressed out and most desirable employee ever??

We replaced the search link with a Google search at the bottom of the page; but for the life of me, I can't seem to find the right old topic using it. Ask in the JavaRanch forum how to best use it.
Some mamagers would prefer it be a non-computer related activity, but I think most are just happy that you do something outside the office, even if it's open source development, or playing computer games.

--Mark
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Sam Smoot:
Ok, next question as to Education... There is a similar thread that I read on this topic, but I am trying to get back in school and finally get the degree, and I'm just wondering if the Software Engineering degree would outweigh the Computer Science degree? It will take more time to get the SE, but would it be worth it (in the long run) vs. the CS ?
Thanks!

We've got two current threads addressing this topic... here and here.

--Mark
Daniel CarMichael
Greenhorn

Joined: Jun 10, 2001
Posts: 15
Honestly, if you've 14 years of experience or more, I think you know more than most of us here. A degree wouldn't help a lot to locate a new job or for salary raise. The study would be just for self-fulfillment.
Tony Evans
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 29, 2002
Posts: 573
re :Again, only the stupid companies. Wiser companies know the employees will leave when the market picks up.
Hi Mark, I agree with you on this, only one snag, where are the wise companies, or wise HR types do they exist.
I have had two what were good companies shot out from under me (went down) each time when we had some corporate suit type come in, and fill the place with coperate clones, great at meetings real purty at talking something sweet, the skys the limits can do sort of chaps; bit lacking in the common sence department, but that is today a very rare and very much ignored quality .
Net resault loads of promises loads of suits, loads of fast talking and loads of meetings, oh and lots of failed projects.
Nowdays talking the talk is more important and pays better than walking the walk.
Cheers Tony
Dan Chisholm
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 02, 2002
Posts: 1865
Originally posted by Daniel CarMichael:
Honestly, if you've 14 years of experience or more, I think you know more than most of us here. A degree wouldn't help a lot to locate a new job or for salary raise. The study would be just for self-fulfillment.

There was a time when I had a similar point of view, but now I see it differently. I spent more than 12 years at the same company developing code for a machine control application in the semiconductor industry. I think spending that much time in one place is a great way to become technically obsolete. Although Sam has fourteen years of software experience, 11 were spent developing assembly language programs. Although I'm sure that Sam is now a great assembly language programmer, his OO skills probably didn't improve a lot during that 11 year period. As a result, both Sam and I have some studying to do.
It is also important to understand that graduate level degrees have value far beyond the learning experience. Most MSCS programs that I have looked at do not address leading edge technologies, but employers have a tendency to specify graduate level degrees in job postings. There reason for the master's degree requirement is not a desire to find a guy that has taken a class in compiler design or operating system design. Instead, companies use the education credentials of the technical staff to impress institutional investors on Wall St. Corporations sell far more than just products and services. Most importantly, public corporations sell themselves to investors. That's how stock prices get inflated and that's what puts money in the pocket of the CEO and other members of the management team.
In summary, the master's degree is about selling yourself and the company.
Yes, a few schools do offer masters programs that cover leading edge topics. The MSE Client/Server Computing Programat San Jose State University is a great example.


Dan Chisholm<br />SCJP 1.4<br /> <br /><a href="http://www.danchisholm.net/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Try my mock exam.</a>
Dan Chisholm
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 02, 2002
Posts: 1865
Originally posted by Kevin Thompson:
I wish I wasn't so sarcastic. But I think I am honest.
Employers are looking for somebody :
1. Young
2. good looking(not fat, dresses nice)
3. cheap
4. who promotes themselves well - i.e. sells themself and promotes themself (I could be real sarcastic and call this a "bragging ability") but I will call it self-promotion ability.
Over and over again I have seen "image and appearance" + "self-promotion" win over actual technical skills.
That is just the way it works in IT. I wish I would have known this earlier.
Kevin Thompson
[ July 18, 2002: Message edited by: Kevin Thompson ]

Kevin,
There is nothing sarcastic in your comments. Even in engineering, salesmanship skills will allow a person to climb the corporate ladder more quickly than technical skills.
Hiring managers are evaluated by their own managers and the quality of the new hires is among the evaluation criteria that is applied to a manager. That's why new managers tend to give the best projects to their own hires rather than the old timers in the department. The managers want to give their hires every opportunity to look good. For the same reason, managers tend to hire those that present a positive image and have the ability to sell themselves and their ideas.
Maybe it isn't fair, but that's how it is.
If you want to learn to play the game, then try joining Toastmasters. Basically, it is a professional organization for those that are trying to sharpen their communication skills and their ability to play the corporate career game.
Dan Chisholm
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 02, 2002
Posts: 1865
Originally posted by Mary King:
Get ceritified! It is a good learning process
plus a certification.

Mary,
I agree. May I take this opportunity to blatantly promote my mock exam at the URL contained in my signature. Currently, there are four comprehensive exams and eight topic specific exams. The best place to start is the Basics exam on the Topic Exam page. Please try to use the latest version of the exam since the older exams are removed without notice.
With the exception of the Basics exam, my exams tend to be difficult, so don't get discouraged.
Sam Smoot
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 18, 2002
Posts: 238
Thanks Dan,
You've made my point better than I could... My mainframe/procedural skills are good, but, without the "ticket", I'm trapped. I can't complain much about where I work, they're really pretty decent for the most part (all have good and bad points), but knowing that you're here because you can't go anywhere else instead of being able to stay because you want to makes a difference..
OO development is NOT and easy concept to grasp when you begin a career path with Fortran, Basic, Cobol, RPG2, Assembler, and others. I need a better base to build on in that respect. That's why I feel that the courses leading up to the degree will help. Certification would too, but I think the degree would outweigh the Certification at this point (not to mention the fact that I would have to pay for that myself as well, and when you have an ex-wife draining you financially, it ain't easy).
It's a big step for me and I'm sure it would be for anyone. Especially when it gets handed to you with the upper mgmt going "it's just a programming language. They're prgrammers. They'll have it done tomorrow!"...
Ah well.... I appreciate the support here. At least some folks understand what's going on..
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by TonyCavanagh:
re :Again, only the stupid companies. Wiser companies know the employees will leave when the market picks up.
Hi Mark, I agree with you on this, only one snag, where are the wise companies, or wise HR types do they exist.


Well, it takes some looking to find them. I apply to companies based on things like technology, position, and location. I will agree to work for a company based not only on compensation, etc, but also on the people working there. I insist (politely) on meeting my potential co-workers. If the hiring manager feels that's inappropriate, that's a warning sign.
I also recommend large companies like IBM and Oracle. They know the value of long term investing. Obviously particular managers will vary.
Originally posted by Dan Chisholm:

Although Sam has fourteen years of software experience, 11 were spent developing assembly language programs. Although I'm sure that Sam is now a great assembly language programmer, his OO skills probably didn't improve a lot during that 11 year period. As a result, both Sam and I have some studying to do.
It is also important to understand that graduate level degrees have value far beyond the learning experience. Most MSCS programs that I have looked at do not address leading edge technologies...

I disagree here. (I'm sure that by now, Shura expected this ;-)
Yeah, granted his OO skills may be rusty, although frankly 3 years is a decent enough time to be strong. Where he is strong is on his software skills. Presumably, he knows about requirement gathering, and planning, and good documentation, and support etc. Most of these lessons are external to the code. Yes, requirements are different under OO then under assembly, but if he learned the meta-lessons, he can apply them to the particular domain. (Of course, it's possible he worked for 14 years and missed these lessons, but it's also possible he didn't. I don't know him well enough, personally.)
As for graduate school, the same rule applies. We don't use cutting edge technologies at MIT. Heck, we teach our undergrads in Scheme! It's the meta-lessons that are important. The technologies themselves will change every few years.

--Mark
Carlisia Campos
sanitation engineer
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 22, 2001
Posts: 135
Originally posted by Sam Smoot:
[QB]
OO development is NOT and easy concept to grasp when you begin a career path with Fortran, Basic, Cobol, RPG2, Assembler, and others. I need a better base to build on in that respect. That's why I feel that the courses leading up to the degree will help. Certification would too, but I think the degree would outweigh the Certification at this point (not to mention the fact that I would have to pay for that myself as well, and when you have an ex-wife draining you financially, it ain't easy).
QB]

Hey Sam,
You started out asking about the attractibility of a CS Masters program versus a Masters in Soft. Eng.
You could look at the curriculum at see which one offers the most in therms of things that you don't know but would like/need to. Which one has an edge in giving you substance for completing your projects successfully and continue being picked for projects with cutting edge technology. That's really what's going to make a big difference when someone is looking at your resume. The degree titles by themselves... I don't think there's a huge difference.
Also, if you're definetely going for a degree, you probably can start taking the basic classes and decide which degree to go for a little later in the program, as I imagine they'd have requirements in common.
As for the certification versus degree, that's not a sensible comparison to make. The certification would give you a much faster credential and it would help you learn the intricacies of the language faster. The later would actually help you in a degree program, whether you'd be developing in Java or in another OO language. On another hand, the master would give you much more than an education on a programming language.
Sam Smoot
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 18, 2002
Posts: 238
That's true, and when I finish the Bachelor's degree, I'll consider the Master's degree... Actually, where I'm looking at going, both are the same, except the Engineering has more math involved as well as some other issues (Software Quality, etc.). Both, however, are more technical and current than the others in the area, so I won't miss out on too much either way and I can take the Engineering classes as well. Besides, If I take the CS degree, I have already completed most of the core for it at this point. Shorter time to get there.... Cheaper, too.
Mark, you stated this...

Yeah, granted his OO skills may be rusty, although frankly 3 years is a decent enough time to be strong.

I never had to really use OO until these 3 months. No time for rust... I started in this field in 1980. No such animal existed... I was mainframe based, EBCIDIC all the way... The last 3 years were ColdFusion, html, javascript (Kinda got the oo concept here), and such.

I think this may be more of a mid-life deal at this point.
[ July 19, 2002: Message edited by: Sam Smoot ]
Reid M. Pinchback
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 25, 2002
Posts: 775
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
I almost completely disagree with Mary, Kevin, and Tony.
quote:
------------------------------
Originally posted by Mary King:
Get ceritified! It is a good learning process
plus a certification.
------------------------------
If you do a search on "SCJP" or "certification" you can find a number of discussions on this. I think certifications are bad, personally. Check the other threads for the whole discussion.

Ok, my turn Mark. I almost completely disagree with you!
I've seen some of those threads, but did the search anyways. To be honest, I didn't see any hugely persuasive arguments, but I think because different perspectives may cause people to draw different conclusions. One thing I learned working at MIT was that across the whole range of students and faculty there were a great many teaching and learning styles. I've found the same to be true since I left. It is hard to say any particular learning mechanism is good or bad; really only that it is or isn't effective for the people involved.
I think Mary's comment makes my case... for her, at least, getting certified helped her to learn. Isn't that a good thing? I mean, we do think that personal growth is worthwhile? Obviously somebody shouldn't have unrealistic expectations of what an employer may conclude based on you being certified or not. If they aren't doing it to learn, getting a cert for the sake of the paper I think is of doubtful value. That said, when you work in this field long enough, it is easy to find periods when you 'drift'. If somebody finds that working on a cert helps them to learn and get enjoyment from the activity, what exactly would be the benefit of discouraging it? Not everybody tackles cert learning via rote memorization and regurgitation, as you've discussed on one of those prior threads.
There is more than one way of getting value out of life. I've known people who look down on those who get extra pieces of graduate degree paper, and no doubt from your experience you would disagree with that viewpoint. Maybe there is something about the process, not the product, of getting certified that you are similarly overlooking.
[ July 19, 2002: Message edited by: Reid M. Pinchback ]

Reid - SCJP2 (April 2002)
Roseanne Zhang
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 14, 2000
Posts: 1953
Thank you, Reid!
You said exactly what I want to say. Certification is bad for certain people or managers like Mark Herschberg. However, it is good and valuable to certain people or managers.
It is a good learning process for Mary or Roseanne or Paul Wheaton. Even we are probably not as smart as some mesa members or some MIT graduates.
Variety is the spice of life. The world is made of mostly normal people (smart on certain things, not so smart or even stupid on certain other things), even we have some genius out there.
I suddenly remembered a person whose name is Forrest Gump...
Thanks!
Roseanne
--------------------
There is more than one way of getting value out of life. --- Reid M. Pinchback
[ July 20, 2002: Message edited by: Roseanne Zhang ]
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20575
    ∞

Certification: I think that a lot of companies value it. I think that they will place greater value in past experience, but there is still some value in certification. Plus, I know that when I got certified, I learned a thing or two that helped me better understand Java!
"Employees are looking for a candidate who have no home life"
"... only the stupid companies"
I think both of these statements contain truth although neither is absolutely true.
fat and good looking: depressing and true.
degree: Not having it closes about 10% of the doors out there in the tech industry. The weird thing is that a lot of the most senior people I know don't have a degree. For mid level and senior engineers it seems that 95% of the people have degrees. But for super-senior types, it seems like 50/50.


permaculture Wood Burning Stoves 2.0 - 4-DVD set
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Reid M. Pinchback:

Ok, my turn Mark. I almost completely disagree with you!
...
Maybe there is something about the process, not the product, of getting certified that you are similarly overlooking.

Perhpas there is. I've never said, about any topic, "I'm right, end of story." Many people on this forum like certifications, they express their opinions. I don't like them, I express my opinions. All readers can draw their own conclusions. That's what makes the ranch great.
Viva la difference! :-)

--Mark
[ July 20, 2002: Message edited by: Mark Herschberg ]
Dan Chisholm
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 02, 2002
Posts: 1865
Any Java programmer will benefit from the acquisition of the knowledge required to pass the certification exam. If a programmer takes the time to acquire the knowledge, then having a piece of paper (or a logo on a resume) that states that the programmer has indeed acquired the knowledge can only be a positive asset.
Setting the goal of passing the certification exam serves as a motivating force for the study of the material. Without the goal, the motivation might be lacking.
The study guides for the certification exam are an effective roadmap for covering the material and the mock exams serve as a tool to verify that a programmer is indeed absorbing the material. The greatest value of the certification is the knowledge acquired during the preparation for the exam. Even if the logo on the resume fails to impress some subset of the hiring managers in the industry, the knowledge acquired during the exam preparation process will always be of value to the programmer.
Knowledge is good. Don't hesitate to acquire it and don't hesitate to declare that you have it.
Rob van der Horst
Greenhorn

Joined: Jul 20, 2002
Posts: 2
Sam, many people tend to think that Java and OO makes the world go around. It does not. Number one programming language, especially in the financial world probably still is COBOL, as awefull it may be.
I have done dozens of interviews and below is what I learned from them. They are my humble opinion.
Having said that, the first thing you have to understand is that your new employer is not just one person. Normally, you have 3 roles: HR, the project manager (or line manager, or whatever) and the team-member.
Try to skip the first two, or at least HR. If that is not possible then often, the first person you meet is someone from HR. After fourteen years of experience you must show HR who's boss. HR always takes the offensive with lots of acronyms and will keep doing so until they come to one you don't know, or you honestly admit you have little experience with. You and I both know that design patterns, EJB's, servlets, SOAP or whatever they come up with nowadays is just re-inventing the wheel.
Realise this and keep this constantly in mind during interviews! HR people normally have no experience at all in computing or have failed as a developer; the latter being proud of their programming experience with Focus or equivalent.
The second person you meet is the project manager. The project manager is always convinced that his (or her) team is up-to-date with cutting edge technology, do IT the way it was intended and that you will have to adapt to fit in. Do not argue with that! A good way to take this hurdle is have a team member join the interview. An old-timer is a sure way to get in because you and he (or she) are on the same level. With a newby it is best to pass questions from the PM on to him (or her), but go easy on him. Remember that the team member present during this interview is of big influence to the project manager! With a newby present you will have to stay in charge and lead the interview. Ask them about the difficult and boring stuff in IT like SLA's, fall-over systems and escalation procedures, or even documentation standards.
At the end, let the project manager assess your value and your function level. Make a note of this because you'll need in your next interview with HR.
If they decide to hire you, then in your second interview with HR they will try to convince you that your 14 years was a complete waste of time, and your career in IT starts now, oh how lucky you are to join their company.
Hold on to the function level proposed by the project manager and make sure you get just as much as anybody else at that level with your kind of experience.
I do not dislike HR people, I even have some friends that are HR. Really!
Good luck!


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