I Am Not Coal

Today, I am not proud of myself.

As of late, I’ve been looking for a new position. I loathe to admit that the situation at my current place of employment has depleted my morale considerably, and I can’t deny that this loss has affected my better judgment. It has been almost two years since I’ve been on the job market and there were certain lessons that have been forgotten since my last foray.

A little background to understand my situation. I work as a Software Developer. The field is in considerable demand, and the nature of the workplace environment has given rise to the business of recruiting. Thus, once a programmer places their resume for display, they are often swiftly besieged by phone calls and soliciting emails. Swarms of headhunters descend upon us, individuals with no concept of timing or personal space. There are only a couple, and I strictly mean only two, whom with I’ve developed any rapport. That is how rarely it is to be treated well in the placement industry.

Last week, I took the call from a random recruiter I had never met before. Out of the many, this one proved tenacious in speaking for a particular client, insisting without modesty that everyone placed under this employer never quit, the turnover nonexistent. When I tried to discuss salary, my position was battered down to the absolute minimum of what I would accept. I eventually agreed to be submitted as a potential candidate.

The recruiter, with unyielding optimism, took it upon herself to insist that I maintain a positive attitude. This sentiment aggravated me, but I said nothing.

I was submitted and the day hadn’t passed when the client showed interest. Shortly thereafter, I was invited to a phone screening with the manager. The process took roughly 40 minutes, and I nothing about the call bothered me. I actually wasn’t dissuaded by the manager, which piqued my curiosity about the job in question. I agreed to a face to face.

But shortly after, there were red flags. The first interview had to be postponed due to a patch release. I understood. Server updates aren’t always routine affairs and there are plenty of possible pitfalls. But I perked my brow when the recruiter emailed me asking how the interview went, oblivious to the rescheduling.

The weather and other circumstances caused a series of rain checks. And each time, the recruiter contacted me again, hoping for a placement and the resulting commission. The manager, it seemed, excluded her from the loop, and she further taxed my patience with prods for updates. But the man seemed determined to meet me and persevered.

At last, I went in for the face to face. To their credit, the commute was not bad. But the moment I entered the office, I immediately felt a sense of dread. The lighting was paltry. Entire hallways were converted with incredibly small cubicles, where the cramped employees sat with their backs turned, and their monitors for all to see. There was not even a modest attempt to feign privacy. My spirits sank even further when I entered a conference room barely bigger than a full bath, and was seated sandwiched between the wall and table.

I hadn’t even begun my employment and I utterly detested the work environment.

Are they going to fit you and a laptop in a shoebox? A voice in my head seethed. Did you see those other employees? Droning away in this hole as co-workers pass by, walking this labyrinth of close corridors. Denied sunlight and quiet.

As the interview began, I was informed the process would take two hours, to which I shirked and said that I only had time for one. And the questions immediately started on the wrong foot, as they asked for details of the smallest features that developers use and never really think about. On the job, we never really worry about this issues because the answers are just a Google search away or consorting through Stack Overflow questions. A good developer is heuristic.

Let me get this straight. That voice echoed in my psyche again. They’re expecting you to fight, grovel and struggle to prove what you know, just so you can sketch out an existence in this shit hole? For less than you want?

And no matter how dark that voice sounded, I realized it was right. I could sit there and smile, nodding my head, wasting time in my ever dwindling life, scrapping my brain to obtain answers for something undesirable. Or I could take a stand.

I stopped the interview. And I told the manager, point blank, that I didn’t want to work there.

The manager, who needed perhaps two seconds to get over his initial shock at what is effectively a powerful insult, responded tactfully. “That’s fine. It’s best not to waste either of our time.”

He of course showed me the door, guiding me with both swiftness and silence to the office entrance. He didn’t even bother to escort me back to the lobby. As I walked out of the building, I sent the recruiter an email informing them that the interview went south. She responded with an immediate phone call, completely failing to understand or even listen to the problems. All she knew were the statistics, how no one placed in this agency was ever dissatisfied. And of course when I told her what had happened, she informed me that her recruitment firm could never represent me again.

I asked her if she had even been to the site. She said she had not. When I tried to explain my grievances in detail, she ignored them, screaming over the phone, “You burned bridges!”

Then let them burn, the voice responded. To her, you’re nothing but coal she’s shoveling into the furnace anyway.

At this point, I told her to go fuck herself, and hung up.

My disappointment with myself wasn’t because of how the interview went. Or even my handling of the recruiter. It was because I let myself be dragged into this situation. I should have listened to my gut and told the recruiter no. I should have known that the eternal optimist is often terrible at empathy. I’m tired of not caring.

And honestly, I just want something I can be passionate about again. I won’t allow myself to do this again. But I also won’t be put in this situation again, either.

Job Hunt and Writing Women

A brief update today. My day is not as productive as I hoped. I needed a few moments to write this out as to help me focus.

On the job hunt, I’ve got a really good one tomorrow. It’s a phone interview plus an assessment test I have to take. My Java studying has not been successful as I had hoped. I study but screwed up an assessment test last week that really ruined my Friday.

I’m determined, however, to finish everything on my “to do” list this week. And it is a very long list. Some of it is day-to-day, including working out, writing and studying. I’ve added cooking at home to cut back on expenses and to eat better. Besides this, I also have a number of other chores that need doing, such as getting my passport and doing my taxes.

I made time to do some writing this week. Or rather, I’ve set aside five sections of my list with 1,000 words a piece. What’s made this new piece more difficult is that it is:

1) More political, focused on the issues of a kingdom.
2) Takes place in an Arabian fantasy theme.
3) The main character is a woman warrior.

Now, that last one throws me. Anyone who claims to know what is going on in a woman’s head is absolutely lying, even if they are another woman. They don’t want you to know. And many will tell you they don’t like the thought of someone to have “cracked the code” on the mind of women.

The Yoga Master 5000.

Robo-Ripley, rip!

So I ask, why bother? Don’t get in her head. Let her have her secrets and just look at the action, at what they do. Besides, what people do is what really defines them anyway.

For every awesome strong female lead, there are probably a handful of bad ones. It’s pretty hard to do a great action heroine, but I can still think of a few examples. Sigourney Weaver in Alien and Aliens certainly was. Sometimes, certain actresses do well in that strong support role, like Lena Headey who played Leonidas’ wife in 300.

I can list off bad heroines, but why bother? In scientific theory, one can learn more from mistakes and failed theories than one can from a theory that is proven correct. But in engineering it’s the other way around, as those successful theories are widened and improved upon, expanded and further uses and applications are found.

Considering that I’m drawing inspiration from games like Diablo and stories like Berserk and 1001 Arabian Nights, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not pioneering a new frontier. So I’d rather figure out a character that works drawn from successful and interesting heroine, rather than try to devise a new archetype.

Long Day, Longer Night

I want to tell you that I spent my day writing and trying to finish up my final story for my anthology. But that would be a lie.

No, today I had an interview that both the company representative and I thought would take only 30 minutes. In reality? It took 2 hours plus change, plus… still, kind of going on. I’ll explain in a minute.

My resume wowed them enough that he introduce me to two other faces who work among three separate bureaucratic divisions within this company. After two hours of being grilled and repeating myself, I was subjected to a technical assessment test for Visual Basic.Net, despite the fact that they wanted me for a Java position.

I took the test and did as best I could without references, scoring about 50%. They sent me home with a packet of information to review and gave me access to an online site for studying Java. I then took two Java tests, one for entry level and another for J2SE, as well as letting me retake the VB.Net test.

On the retake, I pulled off a nice 83%. As for the two Java tests, I scored 50% and 52%. The test results even have the “global average” which is interesting because I can compare my results to every other programmer (or wanna-be programmer) who attempted it.

Apparently, if you do average they’ll let you retake the test. So I agreed to do so. Which means that, tonight, I’ll be studying Java out of my ears, eyes and any other orifice known for leaking code.

The things that really trip me up are the terms and conditions of various methods and classes. These are not simple. It’s a lot of information to keep handy mentally.

In truth, I don’t have to take this assessment test. But if I don’t, I’m just delaying the inevitable. If this is what I want to do, then I would be challenged anywhere else I went. I would be tested regardless. So tonight, I’m going to play my game for perhaps an hour, go get stuff to make dinner. Work out, write for an hour. And then load up on coffee and study all night long.

C’est la vie.

The Week’s Demise

My job interview went alright today. It was clumsy, but I touch upon everything they needed to know. I suspect they’ll consider me, but only in comparison to everyone else they’ll interview next week. I need to sit down and re-articulate my interviewing skills a touch before I do that again.

That’s on my plate for Monday. For now, I’m going to work out. My alternate history horror story was completed and send to Raziel4707 and Lord Lucan for review. It needs work in cutting some words from the beginning and middle to improve the ending.

Tonight, I am actually going to my mother’s and bringing a load of goods with me. I’ll be busy with around-the-house projects and spending time with her. I’ll be pulling down a few short stories into a lap top that’s coming with me so she can review them while I do house work.

Here’s hoping I hit next week harder than I hit this week, although I wouldn’t say I was soft this week either.