Short and Sweet
Not that long ago, I considered going to the nearest baked goods specialty shop, Starbucks, if you consider them one of these shops, for a sweet snack. I was craving something sweet. But serendipitously, I looked into my satchel and realized I had brought about 12 cookies — the fudge striped kind — with me this morning. So I’m now sweetened while inscribing this message. Let’s call it “Short and Sweet”. Or “Short, serendipitous, and sweet”. Or maybe even “Non-fiction at it’s best”.
No news is good news
The important stories are non-stories: slow, powerful movements that develop below journalists’ radar but have a transforming effect. The more “news factoids” you digest, the less of the big picture you will understand.
When I heard that the physical structure of my brain had in all likelihood been altered, I knew something had to change. After reading this back in April, I decided to stop being a compulsive news junkie and turned off the news. I’m glad I did and can honestly say I feel better as a result.
Why? Because the news was making me feel like a sponge that full of liquid no longer of much use. Each day was a struggle to figure out how much news I could digest in the shortest amount of time possible. Shorter because if I could save time, then I was winning. I was drowning, addicted, and seriously injuring my fragile attention span. Concentrating on one thing — not just news articles mind you, but work, family, friends —for longer than a few minutes at a time became excruciating.
Yet during this period, I knew something was wrong. I knew that I was a cognitive mess. But I didn’t know why. I thought I might just be dumb (probably still true) and following conversations like most normal people was just going to be extra difficult for me.
To compensate, I thought I needed to put even more news in front of mu face, hear more podcasts, and *try* to think about the next thing faster. This only made things worse.
When I stumbled upon that article, I said to myself, I should try it. It couldn’t make things worse.
I had stopped using twitter back in mid-2012 because I thought that was also contributing to my inability to focus, but I knew there was still improvement to be made. So I stopped opening my New York Times multiple times a day. I stopped going to daringfireball, hackernews, and even stopped listening to my favorite tech podcasts. I no longer skim every single thing I read. I now try to read books, (and news articles forwarded to me by friends) slowly, so that I can understand them.
And because I read books, I’ve learned about non-violent communication, which helps me be “present” with people, and I’ve learned how to write well (ok, I’m still learning). These books have helped me feel even more “balanced”.
I guess if I hadn’t been so up on hacker news, I might have missed the original Telegraph article. Perhaps even in our errors, if we are willing to make a change and seek out knowledge and wisdom, we’ll find it eventually. So I’m glad I’m no longer a slave to the editors writing their slick sentences that discourage deep thinking. I’m glad I started reading books again. I recommend it to you as well, reader.
Stick it out
All of a sudden overnight, the unthinkable happened — I was going to be out of a job around the end of the year. Doubts like you could not imagine entered my mind — how was I, an incapable fool going to ever find gainful employment in this world? “I guess I could always dig ditches”, was one thought I had.
I tried to brush these thoughts to the side as I began posting my resume on job sites like Dice, Monster, and Careerbuilder. I also paid more attention to the daily emails from these sites that contain positions that have been posted in the past 24 hours.
I had heard that October is the best month of the year to look for a job in DC because that aligns with the Federal contracting cycle. I’m not sure if that was what happened or if it was just the fact that my resume was incredible, but the next day after posting my resume on Dice, I started to receive phone calls from a couple recruiters.
The screen calls went pretty well, and soon I had a couple of interviews lined up. Interestingly, about 2/3 were for government contracting positions, and the other third were for commercial work. There were days where I didn’t get many calls at all, so I would try to get a new interviews by emailing friends or by sending in a resume to a posted position. I would try to do the following for each job I applied for:
- Send in the resume
- Write a custom cover letter for each position
I ended up having about 4 different cover letters that I could choose from:
- IT Business Analyst
- Healthcare IT Analyst
- Software Engineer
As I got more interest from different companies, I would make my cover letters more and more generic and just do “find and replace” for the company name. After listening to DHH and Jason Fried, I found out this is really bad practice. They recommend, doing at least a few minutes of research about the company before applying and tell that company why they are cool. Basically, flatter them a bit.
In the beginning, I sort of adhered to this advice and looked for companies that I thought were cool. This was because I had roughly 2-3 months to actually find something, so the first 3 weeks or so doing more targeted searches would make sense. As the end date got closer, I would have less luxury to pick and choose.
That didn’t really work out too well for me. I applied to a few development, silicon-valleyesque places in DC. They didn’t get back to me. I even remember one of my cover letters to one of these places saying how I was sad that there are so few places in the area that actually care about the craft of software developement and try to do it as well as possible and have Jason Fried style of management. I was also sad that I probably wouldn’t get a call from them because I was certain that they are hounded by great talent looking for work.
So right, I became a bit depressed. Plus there were dissappointments early on such as feeling good about your interview and the possible work, and then hearing back that they “didn’t think you were a good fit.” I tried to brush these aside because I was also receiving some good feedback from telephone interviews. I was moving forward with several other companies.
I tried to continue to treat each recruiter as a potential opportunity and explain to people my approach to software development, my desire to build quality products, and my personality. And also be curious as to what these companies products were, their philosophies, etc. I tried to think of it as fun and interesting to get a feel for how IT is viewed by people.
As I was slightly out of touch with the BA world, having worked more on the testing and documentation analyst side of things, I brushed up on agile, Scrum, and Use Cases. I think this really helped because I felt like I had grappled with the material and wanted to talk it through with the folks I was interviewing with.
Eventually, a few firms, including CPA Global, discovered that I had something that they wanted and offered me a position.
What I’m especially excited about with this new job is that I will be able to vastly expand my professional network and therefore if CPA ever goes under or needs to let me go, I will have a network of people that I really want to keep in touch with and work with going forward.
I have that now, but unfortunately, my network if fairly small and not super diverse. I know a few people at Europ Assistance, a few people at the Air Force, a few people who I used to work with at the Air Force, and then I have my GWU and church friends.