Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tech buzzwords explained

Software technologies have blossomed in the past decade, and the tech jargon can be confusing for anyone not using them daily. Techsaurus is here to help.

Reptilian-sounding name aside, Techsaurus is a thesaurus for tech buzzwords, aimed primarily at casual users. Here are some common use cases:

* job seekers looking to update skills or compare salaries,
* tech recruiters trying to make sense of job descriptions and find the right candidate,
* managers looking to understand the newest buzzwords and ecosystem around a problem domain,

Techsaurus covers a full range of modern software engineering terms for web, mobile, data science, and other topical areas. The app provides a brief, readable description for each term, along with related terms, average salaries, and links to great follow-up resources (e.g. StackOverflow, Wikipedia, Quora, and tutorials).

Available now for browsers. Coming soon to iOS & Android.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Layoff advice

Update - Official reports of 1,351 Microsoft layoffs layoffs in Seattle area and 18,000 total. Unofficial reports that SDET roles hit particularly hard. For everyone affected, the below advice still works and Job Agent is your new best friend:

- Android :
- iOS :

Sorry, no Windows Phone version.

With sudden chatter about 'likely' layoffs at Microsoft, this seems a good time to surface job-seeker advice I've provided over the years.

Those laid off will receive all sorts of traditional advice and support, so I'll just touch on a few areas less likely to be covered.

The 1990's called...

Employment agencies operate on very old technologies and understanding of the labor market. The labor market will be cruel for those who actually need to upgrade skills and learn MS Windows, Word, Excel, etc. Use the available resources where it makes sense, but don't limit yourself to these.

I hear you knocking...

The hiring process changed a lot since you last looked for work. In particular, most companies now use sophisticated, automated systems to receive and process digital resumes. Before a person ever views resumes, the majority are screened for keyword matches, as well as undesirable age and employment (lack thereof) qualities. That's right - in most states companies can legally exclude candidates who are unemployed.

So expect a low response rate on applications submitted directly through HR, and adjust your level of effort accordingly.

Free is good

Being newly unemployed, you'll be inundated with offers to spend money on landing a new job. But we live in a golden age of free resources and you should avoid paying for any service without a near-certain return. It's not possible to cover all resources here, but some key sites and categories are:

LinkedIn - is really a category by itself. Recruiters search for candidates here, and vet those they've found. So you can and should build a profile that shows your best qualities. Here's mine. Contact me with questions. You can also use LinkedIn to research companies, find job postings, and find contacts in target companies.

Glassdoor is also useful for company research and job listings. Especially handy are employee reviews and salary benchmarks.

Meetup and EventBrite are essential resources to find relevant networking events. Through Meetup you can find recurring, topic-based gatherings and like-minded individuals. Eventbrite provides ad-hoc events such as open-houses, conferences, etc. Many companies leverage Meetup and Eventbrite for recruiting high-demand skillsets.

Quora is another great source for company reviews, interview advice and various other unstructured information.

Education has moved online rapidly and you can find a wealth of free or inexpensive courses, tutorials, and books. A few of note are Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, YouTube. Focus and persistence are keys to using these successfully.

Your personal brand

Due to the resume arms race noted earlier, employers now seek out candidates with a 'personal brand' rather than wait for the right resume to appear. Personal brand means a consistent and attractive presence across diverse venues such as:

- Books, articles, blog, or other publications
- Website or applications that showcase personal accomplishments
- Contributions to open-source or community projects
- Profile and rating on crowd-sourcing sites such as Quora, StackOverflow, Kaggle, etc.

For a glimpse of this brave new world, see or

Nothing is permanent

Having been employed for many years, you may feel the need for another full-time job. But times have changed and companies may set a high bar for bringing a person in full-time. Working on contract can be a excellent way to bypass this bar and get back to work right away. In fact, it's not unusual for companies to bring back laid-off staff as contractors, since the work didn't go away. Side benefits of contracting - no meetings, no unpaid overtime, no annual reviews, and no committement if the company or team is not a good match.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why German?

A few weeks ago, we updated Job Agent with support for international listings and localized into German.

Why German? Surely it makes more sense to localize a US-based app into Spanish before other languages. But let's look at the data.

Since launch, a significant portion of iOS app downloads are from Europe. A surprising portion, considering the app provided only US job listings until recently.

Closer inspection of the european audience shows even more striking differentiation:

Because Switzerland has four national languages, we also look at app-user language breakdowns to avoid bad assumptions:

So German localization should appeal to current and potential users, with more ROI than other languages.

The question still remains - why are people in Switzerland using a US-centric job search app? The language data provides an interesting clue. While Turkish comprises a small portion of total users, a comparison of language against city shows these users are in Zurich. Wikipedia notes increased turkish immigration to Switzerland in the last 2 decades, with ~80% of the immigrants living in German-speaking cantons, and are concentrated particularly in the cities of ZurichBasel and Aarau.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Several years ago I formed a company to execute on software ideas of personal interest. One of those - Job Agent - has shipped for both iOS and Android users and it's time to share the experience.

Job Agent arose naturally from circumstances of the time.

I often advise people to learn development through a project with personal meaning. Having personal motivation helps to overcome technical challenges and with good product design. So if you like games - develop a game, if you like sports - develop a sports app. If you're looking to change jobs, develop a job search app.

Ideally, Job Agent will make loads of money, but the original goals are more modest - learn native mobile development and the full product lifecycle. Achievement unlocked!