Signs you should not take that programming job

From the job description to the final offer, here’s how to avoid getting stuck in a dead-end coding gig

By Paul Heltzel
InfoWorld | JUN 12, 2017

A new programming gig can be a great path forward—or a dead end you didn’t see coming. Not everyone caught in a heads-down job at a coding sweatshop knows that’s what they were in for when they agreed to the job. So, if you’re one of the 75 percent of developers open to new job opportunities, how can you tell if a new development gig is a good fit before you sign on? Or, more to the point, what’s the best way to avoid a disastrous new coding job?

To weigh these questions, multiple factors come into play: job satisfaction, including regular hours and the amount of crunch time worked; salary and benefits; satisfaction with the product; and work-life balance. We sought expert opinion and hard-fought wisdom from tech pros who’ve made their way to leadership and software engineering in various phases of their careers.

What we found is, yes, there are in fact red flags in these areas—and positive signs to look for—as you investigate a new job, from the listing to the interview to negotiating your salary.

Here’s how to avoid a heads-down gig and stagnation while others move on—and up.

What to watch for in the job listing
Consider this scenario: You’ve done the smart thing and signed up for job alerts to get a sense of the market and what positions are most in demand before you need a new job. You get a tempting job alert that mentions a series of requirements, desirable skills, and benefits, and you want to read between the lines. Can you get a sense of the work environment just from the job post?

Bob Hadick, president of recruiter Russ Hadick and Associates, says there are potential red flags to look for in the job description. “Pay attention to the number of technologies they list,” Hadick says. “If they list a lot, such as C/C++, Java, C#, etc., then you know they either have multiple products written in different languages, which either shows a lack of structure and modularity, or that they are in transition of going to another language and have legacy products in other languages.”

Although the listing might offer some insight into what to expect, it can be deceiving. A job that looks good on paper may be hiding a range of work-related problems. “I remember during an executive job search, I came across a job listing that was a perfect fit—it almost seemed as if I had written the job posting myself,” says Shawn Kessler, senior director of technical operations at AgileCraft. “I landed the job. The catch? It became arguably the lowest point of my career. I entered an environment of extreme micromanagement, lack of corporate vision and strategy, toxic politics, and archaic—and sometimes brutal—policies. The job listing, as well as the interviews, could never have prepared me for the chaos I encountered.”

The job came to an abrupt end when nearly a third of the staff were laid off, including Kessler, but the upside came when he got his next job. “It was the best, most rewarding gig in my career—filled with loyal and compassionate co-workers, a clear path for growth and development, a killer product, and a work environment that promoted collaboration and agility. Oh, and that gig didn’t come with a job listing at all—it was obtained through informal conversations and a handshake with a progressive entrepreneur.”

If you think you do want the job, your head may be swirling from the list of requirements or the level of experience preferred. But if you otherwise think the position is a good fit, charge ahead, says Jean-François Lemire, senior practice manager of application development at Teksystems.

“Hiring managers often put a laundry list of skills into the requirement section,” Lemire says. “If the job sounds like one you can do and you have most of the traits or equivalent skills, apply anyway. Many job descriptions are outdated or were written by HR, so if you’re working with a recruiter, ask what else they learned from talking to the hiring manager and other candidates they’ve placed there.”

What to watch for in the recruiting
Sizing up a development gig can be difficult when you’re unfamiliar with the company and its culture—or the recruiter. But if you don’t have a personal connection to the place, there are some things to look for.

Kamrin Klauschie, senior career developer for Dev Bootcamp San Francisco, warns that a take-home project “with little scope or context can often signal that a company may be using your code in the actual product, especially if it’s a small startup without funding.”

She also says to keep an eye out for a nontechnical company co-founder building his or her dream project. “It’s usually not what it’s cracked up to be, because that person should have some technical knowledge themselves and be willing to put in the effort.”

Some aspects of the job sold as benefits may, at least in some cases, mostly benefit the company. It’s all in the execution, so find out what you can from others who’ve worked there or ask around once you step in the office. For example, “all the rage lately is ‘unlimited vacation,’ which is basically reverse psychology for ‘no one takes time off and neither should you,’” says Katy Martin, career developer at Dev Bootcamp Chicago. “In the interview, be sure to ask the interviewer how many days on average employees take in vacation time if the company has an unlimited policy.”

Also be warned that having unlimited vacation, as some developers have found when they move to their next job, means the firm won’t cut you a check for unused time.

What to watch for in the interview
As you sit down for your first meeting, you want to get a sense of the corporate worldview when offered a chance to ask questions. You’ll be spending a lot of time—maybe too much time—with your new co-workers.

“I always ask what the team culture and company environment is like,” says Laura Thorson, a partner engineer at Facebook. “After a bad experience at one company, I decided that it was a nonnegotiable question for me. And depending on the job, you may be traveling with these co-workers—spending even more time with them. So it’s critical that you like each other. Perhaps you won’t become best friends, but you want to ensure that they respect you, that they will support you, and that you will feel comfortable when you come to work every morning.”

Be ready to ask questions that will give you a sense of the team’s attitude toward work-life balance. You may talk to nearly half a dozen managers and potential co-workers, so use that time to find out how they operate and plan to work with you. “Depending on how closely you may have to work with some of them, do you have similar or very different work styles?” Thorson says. “Do they have a fairly positive or negative disposition? Do they seem to be excited about their role/job/future or are they sort of over it? While you might not have a ton of time to determine all of their personality traits, most people can get a good feel for how a particular person is the minute they meet them. Go with your gut.”

And keep in mind you’re signing up for a job, not your last job. There may be some upside, even if you do end up sweating a bit if it leads to a later, better gig. “It may not be your dream job, but if it’s one that can launch you to that dream job, it may be worth taking,” Thorson says. “In my experience, the job that I disliked the most ended up being the catalyst for eventually getting me to my dream job with a dream company. I literally put my head down and worked so hard that I was the top performer on my team every month. Because of that, I was able to get some opportunities to work on high-visibility projects within the company, and I used that work and those numbers to prove in my next interview that I was a great candidate—and I ultimately got that next job. So, while that isn’t always the case, sometimes the heads-down—seemingly dead-end—gigs have more long-term benefits than initially meet the eye, so be discerning when making that choice.”

What to watch for to avoid a sweat shop
Disorganization is the calling card of a badly run firm and it’s the most frequently mentioned red flag by our experts. It can be painfully obvious from the start: From the listing to the daily grind, a lack of focus and clear direction could mean you’re heading into the development equivalent of a sweatshop. And, for those who sign on, it leads to increased crunch time, burnout, and attrition.

“When I was a new grad, eager for my first job in high tech, I remember being extremely wary of development and programming sweatshops,” says AgileCraft’s Kessler. “Several of my friends had already taken jobs as heads-down coders, working insane hours under taskmaster supervisors. For some of these friends, it actually became a self-fulfilling prophecy, where they were so tired, burned out, and depressed in their jobs that they didn’t have the energy or time to search for a new gig. So they remained there, unhappy and stagnant, for years.”

Kessler has a short list of warning signs. Lots of contractors and high turnover? Not good. Low wages in a high-wage field and location? Also a bad sign. And if the company seems overly eager to sign you up right away, you might think about looking elsewhere.

The warning signs often start with the first personal encounter. “Sweatshops usually lack the appropriate focus that should be given to an interview process,” says Lemire. “So watch for interviewers who get distracted by phone calls or answer text messages during the interview. An interview that is conducted by someone who is too general or doesn’t know much about the position is also a red flag. Sweatshops won’t usually focus on training their employees or career progression. So ask questions on coaching, training, and the average tenure. Make sure that you are feeling like you are not just another check in a box.”

What to watch for in an onsite tour
Not every firm will offer an onsite tour, but if you’re given the chance to look around before the job offer, take it. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Andres Seminara, an automation engineer at Belatrix Software, says he prefers to check out the office around noon or whenever the employees are typically having a lunch break. Or not having a break, depending on how overworked they are.

“I can see firsthand how the employees are, how the environment is—relaxed or stressed—and what the atmosphere is like. It gives a lot away especially if employees don’t take lunch, or seem to not talk to each other; that could be a sign that they may be under work pressure,” Seminara says.

“Check for the overall vibe and ask yourself if you would work in such an environment,” says Teksystems’ Lemire. “Are there a lot of people around? Are people talking or collaborating with each other? Is there a common area for people to gather like a cafeteria? Are people friendly with you? Also, make sure that the work environment matches with what was said during the interview.”

Facebook’s Thorson looks for visual cues—including the office layout and the employees’ body language—when she’s sizing up a firm. “Does the office have enough light? Are there enough windows? Are people in the work area talking to one another and looking like they’re enjoying themselves, or do they look rather miserable? Be observant when you are in the space and when you are talking to your interviewers. If people are putting on a charade, they generally can’t do it for very long, so you should be able to notice the cracks in the façade fairly quickly.”

What to watch for in the offer
If you do decide to move forward with a new gig, you obviously will weigh salary, title, and benefits. But you also want to think about the overall health of the firm as well as some other factors that can help you make sense of what’s on the table.

“For me, it was always more important to evaluate the team and supervisors I would be working with when judging an offer,” says Kessler. “Compatibility with teammates and bosses—building meaningful relationships and working together to solve problems and reach goals—is what tipped the scales for me. Nothing is more efficient than a cohesive team with a sense of purpose.”

Seminara says he considers three factors when measuring the offer: “If the company has a relaxed environment, offers a competitive salary, and a chance to build a strong career. If two of the three aspects are fulfilled, I will consider moving forward with the offer.”

How this last step is handled may show your firm’s true colors, says Dev Bootcamp’s Klauschie: “Especially if there are signs of manipulation or aggression. The negotiation should be an expected, straightforward process that’s not too stressful or pressure-filled on either side.”

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How unfilled tech jobs impact the U.S. economy

How much are those open IT roles costing the economy and your company? The answer is probably a lot more that you think

By Sharon Florentine
Senior Writer, CIO | MAR 4, 2017

With IT industry unemployment hovering at around 2.8 percent (as of Q3 2016) and organizations struggling to find talent, many companies find themselves with open, unfilled jobs.

That’s a problem not only for individual companies, but for the U.S. economy as a whole.

“Filling open jobs doesn’t just help workers. It also helps companies and the broader economy. Every job that’s open is money left on the table in the form of lost productivity for employers and earnings in consumers’ pockets. When more open jobs are filled with the right people, economic gains include greater business productivity and consumer spending, thanks to more people earning wages and then saving, investing, and spending those wages,” says Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor.

Open roles are costly
In IT, a combination of rapidly changing markets, high demand for, and short supply of talent means thousands of open, unfilled roles are costing companies — and the economy — money every day. In fact, the value of the approximately 263,586 unfilled IT jobs posted by employers in the United States adds up to $20.1 billion, according to new Glassdoor research.

Glassdoor calculated the value of unfilled U.S. jobs based on unique, online jobs that are open, direct from employers in the United States on Glassdoor as of Dec. 9, 2016. Glassdoor used a proprietary machine learning algorithm to calculate salary estimates based on millions of salary reports, and this was used to calculate the annual median base salary estimate for each open job. Annual median base salary estimates for each open job were then added together to determine total value.

The value of IT jobs
By industry, IT ranks 5th for the highest value of unfilled jobs (263,586; $20.1 billion) and 4th for the level of economic impact those unfilled jobs have on the economy as a whole, says Scott Dobroski, a Glassdoor community expert who works closely with data scientists in Glassdoor’s Economic Research group. When broken out by job title, roles with the highest levels of demand and in shortest supply tend to have the greatest value associated, like software engineers, for which there are 13,198 open jobs with a value of $1.3 billion.

“This reinforces what we’ve been seeing for years: Demand for these roles is far outpacing supply. There’s a lot of economic opportunity that’s going unfulfilled in technology right now, both inside and outside purely IT companies. Retail, professional services, manufacturing, healthcare, web, and mobile platforms — all these types of companies are IT companies, and they all need software engineers,” Dobroski says.

And these unfilled roles don’t just represent money left on the table; they also represent lower productivity and morale and, potentially, missed market opportunities for innovation and sales, Dobroski says.

“These aren’t unnecessary roles that companies can simply ignore or leave vacant. These IT roles, in particular, are critical for growth, innovation and competition. Companies can’t just reallocate those budget dollars elsewhere — they really need tech talent with the hard skills and the ability to understand the market, the business, and the competitive landscape,” he says.

Hiring is a major concern
The recent Tech Hiring and Retention Survey from executive search and technology firm Harris Allied also shows that management’s top concern is with finding and hiring elite tech talent.

That concern edged out other pressing concerns, including “keeping the teams they have in place” and “staying competitive with regard to salary and bonuses,” according to the survey, which polled 120 IT executives in November and December of 2016. Fifty percent of the executives surveyed say finding and hiring top tech talent was their biggest concern, followed by 20 percent who say their biggest concern is retention. Only 14 percent of respondents say remaining competitive with salary and bonuses was a major concern; 10 percent say they are concerned about having more work to do with fewer people, while 3 percent say managing their current team was their most pressing issue.

“The 2017 survey results confirm what our clients have been saying: The demand for top talent is at an all-time high, and companies are stepping up to attract and retain the best and brightest stars,” says Kathy Harris, managing director of Harris Allied.

Executives are employing a number of strategies to find and hire that top talent, according to the Harris Allied survey. While compensation and benefits packages are still top-of-mind, the survey showed that strategies focusing on corporate culture and unique and exciting work have grown in importance.

“CIOs, other C-level executives, hiring managers, and recruiters realize that money is not enough, especially in tech. When it comes to what keeps your talent engaged long-term, it’s not a leading factor. Culture and values, career opportunities and growth, the ability to work on exciting and meaningful projects — these are what tech talent wants,” says Dobroski.

More opportunities for workers
With so many opportunities available, tech talent has a lot of options when it comes to finding work, Dobroski says. That’s why companies must differentiate themselves with culture, values, and meaningful work, he says.

“In the case of software engineers in particular, they’re often doing very similar work regardless of the company they land at. So, having an opportunity to do meaningful work for a mission-driven company, building interesting products that touch millions of lives, and having clear communication so they know why their work matters will help companies fill these roles,” he says.

This story, “How unfilled tech jobs impact the U.S. economy ” was originally published by CIO.

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Health Care Occupations – Outlook

Employment of healthcare occupations is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 2.3 million new jobs. Healthcare occupations will add more jobs than any other group of occupations. This growth is expected due to an aging population and because federal health insurance reform should increase the number of individuals who have access to health insurance.

The median annual wage for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (such as registered nurses, physicians and surgeons, and dental hygienists) was $62,610 in May 2015, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations in the economy of $36,200.

Healthcare support occupations (such as home health aides, occupational therapy assistants, and medical transcriptionists) had a median annual wage of $27,040 in May 2015, lower than the median annual wage for all occupations in the economy.

– U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2017

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IT as a Service for Legal Firms

The legal industry is now focusing more on changes in Information Technology.  IT changes, or not keeping up with IT changes, can create risks for their clients and their practice.  Case Management Software, document management, email encryption, time tracking, billing contacts, case calendars and more have created an even greater reliance on IT infrastructure security, performance, and reliability.

Document collaboration, video conferencing and mobile devices are making IT security surface as a critical business problem.  However, with all of these demands on IT,  fewer than 60% of legal firms have a “formal” IT budget and 25% of legal firms still have no IT security policies.

Technology Trends in the Legal Industry

Posted on the Lexus/Nexus Business of Law Blog, the Top Technology Trends in the Legal Industry are described.  Based on our knowledge of providing IT infrastructure, hosting, management and support services to our legal clients, here are some of those trends which we feel have come to fruition and will continue to mature.

  • With the focus on data/information security on the rise and driving needed attention on law firm environments, we expect more firms outsourcing in 2017..  They’re asking themselves, “Why should I host and manage all of these applications and data when I can get an expert to do it and satisfy my clients need for an ultra-secure legal data environment?” In 2017, more will move to an outsourced model.
  • An acceleration of legal departments getting comfortable with alternative models by “unbundling”, re-aggregating previously unbundled tasks and using managed service providers to get work done.
  • An acceleration of small to medium law firms “outsourcing” their core operating platforms to the cloud to begin to level the playing field with larger law firms allowing more work to seamlessly flow to smaller law firms.
  • 2017  will see attorneys and law firms continue to adopt and utilize web-based software and services at an ever-increasing rate.  While the legal industry has historically been slow to adopt new technology, firms that conduct the cost-benefit analysis of these services conclude that it’s almost a “no brainer
  • BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Starts Spreading to Laptops and Tablets, especially in smaller firms and will continue to grow.
  • Firms will spend most of their extra money on Document Management Software rather than Practice Management Software.
  • A law firm website is now the essential element of its marketing. Hinge research showed that 77% of professional firms generate new business leads online. 70% of law firms in another survey said their website generated new matters.
  • The firms that have focused on improved business processes and supported them with smart technology will have many more opportunities in 2017  than the firms that are simply trying to make the standard technology tools work well together. It’s another case of the haves and have-nots.
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6 Technical Interview Tips for Prospective Software Engineers

This is article is courtesy of the Galvanize blog. Interested in entrepreneurship, web development, or data science? Check out the Galvanized Newsletter, bringing you the best content from The Learning Community for Technology.

Job interviews are absolutely terrifying. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve prepped. The stress of having a small window to prove your worth is a daunting task no matter how great you are. Even the most confident coder can turn into a sweaty mess at the prospect of a technical interview.

The good news is that with the right preparation, you’ll be ready to field complex questions without hesitation:

Be a Problem Solver

Obviously, you need to have the hard skills to excel in a position. But a passion for problem-solving and hard work will give you the one-up on a similarly skilled candidate who acts less-then thrilled to be there.

If you’re asked a question you don’t know how to answer, don’t freeze or go quiet. Many interviewers like to put you on the spot to see how you work through a problem and communicate complexities. Attention to detail and the ability to ask relevant questions are also areas of focus, and your answer is often secondary to how you got there.

Show Your Work

Interviewers want to know that you’re checking and double-checking your assumptions, and will also ask you why you choose the code solutions that you did. Don’t get defensive – they likely just want to see how well you can take feedback, as well as gauge your ability to critically evaluate your own work.

Getting Technical

If the prospect of fielding a barrage of technical questions makes you cringe, you’re not alone. Don’t panic. The key to understanding and conveying some of the more technical facets of a job is to prepare, prepare, and prepare some more. The last thing you want to do is get stumped on a question and not have a way to circumvent a solution.

Know Data Structures

Knowing the basics of computer science can go a long way in keeping you in the fight for the job. Data structures are the basis of computer science, and you should be familiar with arrays, linked lists, hash tables/maps and binary trees. As software engineer Aakash Basu writes on Quora, “Without them, you will be reinventing the wheel – not always successfully.”

Understand Search Algorithms

Interviewers often focus on your understanding of search algorithms to gauge your skill set, including the nuances of breadth-first search (BFS) and depth-first search (DFS), and when to use one vs. the other. Make sure you understand these algorithms so you don’t get caught with your pants down on a difficult question during the interview.

Get Efficient Sorting

Efficient sorting is vital when optimizing the use of algorithms. The interview will likely be filled with a few examples of this. CareerSource recommends focusing on Merge Sort and Quicksort to refine your knowledge and determine when to use each.

Source: http://tech.co/6-tips-software-engineers-interview-2016-10

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US temp jobs fall by 9,800, but still rise over year

The number of US temp jobs fell by 9,800 in February when compared to January, according to seasonally adjusted data released today by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the temp penetration rate — temp jobs as a percent of total employment — fell to 2.03% in February from 2.04% in January.

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ASA index dips over year

The American Staffing Association’s index measuring employment in the US staffing industry was 92.65 for the week of Feb. 8 to Feb. 14. Temporary and contract staffing employment decreased 0.76% from the prior week and was 3.31% lower than the same week last year — one of 19 consecutive record high weeks that began in mid-January and continued through mid-May.

Staffing employment during the past four weeks averaged 93.28, down 3.03% from the same period last year.

– See more at: http://www.staffingindustry.com/Editorial/Daily-News/ASA-index-dips-over-year-37009#sthash.rCnJObcL.dpuf

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ASA index dips over year

The American Staffing Association’s index measuring employment in the US staffing industry was 92.65 for the week of Feb. 8 to Feb. 14. Temporary and contract staffing employment decreased 0.76% from the prior week and was 3.31% lower than the same week last year — one of 19 consecutive record high weeks that began in mid-January and continued through mid-May.

Staffing employment during the past four weeks averaged 93.28, down 3.03% from the same period last year.

– See more at: http://www.staffingindustry.com/Editorial/Daily-News/ASA-index-dips-over-year-37009#sthash.rCnJObcL.dpuf

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IT jobs still outperform despite deceleration, TechServe Alliance reports

The number of IT jobs in the US edged up 0.2% in January from December to almost 5.1 million, reported TechServe Alliance, an association of IT and engineering staffing companies. Year-over-year IT employment in the US rose by 4.0% in January.

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Job Postings, hirings climb in U.S.

U.S. employers advertised slightly more jobs in November as overall hiring edged up and more Americans quit their jobs in signs of a healthier environment for workers.

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