Saturday, July 6, 2013

Getting Laid Off

Well, it happened.  Older, wiser engineers than myself told me it is not a matter of "if" but a matter of "when".  And my time finally came--I was one of the folks included in Logitech's round of layoffs last February.

The purpose of this post though is to not analyze my specific situation.  Instead I would like to pass off some things I did to keep my head together and get another job.  What I'm providing below isn't a one-size-fits-all solution.  And really, I'd love feedback if any of this actually helps.  I'm unsure if the ideas below are what got me job offers, or if simply now is a good time to get laid off given how hot the market is.

So without further adieu...

Understand your full time work isn't gone, it simply has changed.

When I got home after being let go, I found that everything necessary to find a new job took just as much time as my old job.  Updating my resume, synchronizing it with linked-in, calling recruiters and contacts for opportunities.  The days after getting laid off were 8-10 hour work days, and these continued until I accepted a job offer shortly after.  I couldn't stop working knowing that the severance clock was counting down.  I went from being a coder to my own sales person and marketer.

Create an Excel sheet.

This is absolutely critical.  My way of problem solving myself out of unemployment was to create sort of a Sales Force style excel sheet to track opportunities.  For each potential company, I had a column for the point of contact (often friends at other companies or the recruiter), the hiring manager (if I made it this far), when to ping them next, and a rating of how good the opportunity is.  The rating of the opportunity was not just based off salary.  I made a scoring system based off of glass door reviews, type of work, commute distance, perceived company culture, benefits package, etc.

Use Glassdoor.

An amazing website with everything you need to know. Pay.  Salary.  Company culture.  Interview questions.  You name it.

Relationships, not cover letters.

I hate writing cover letters, didn't write any, and had no problems what-so-ever.  My beef with them is that they are a formality that state the obvious, and have to follow a weird sort of corporate/business/overly-formal tone.  I focused on connections, contacts, recruiters, and relationships instead.  I would argue most of the hiring managers I worked with didn't seem to care about whether I had a cover letter.  If you have skills, experience, and connections, a company will pursue you.  If you don't, they won't.  A cover letter won't make any difference.  Maybe they are needed if you are a fresh-out, or in another industry than computer engineering.  But for me, nope.

Not decked out, but preppy.

It is better to be overdressed than underdressed, but your attire should come in close to those that interview you.  I wore business casual slacks, a button-up shirt and tie, with a collared sweater.  With engineers in the pacific northwest, I think this is as classy as it gets.

Last (and most important): don't dwell.  Let it go.

Getting a new job is the easy part.  The hard part is to not dwell on all the details of what happened.  There are the questions that will haunt you.  Who made the decision?  Why were we chosen?  Why did they get to stay? What did we do wrong?  What could I have done? And the statements.  We all worked so hard.  Bad f'n choice.  If they only understood everything I did.  It is okay to think these things.  But then take a deep breath, let go of the thoughts, and understand what is done is done and now it is in the past.  And, when you get hired again, odds are the growing company that has added you to the workforce will have a much better environment than the shrinking company that let you go.

For those that are laid off going through the struggles of wondering how they will support themselves and their family, I hope this helps, I feel for you, and good luck!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Poor Designing

It's that time of the year again!  Time to start blogging.

I have noticed a trend of "poor designing" at most places I have worked at.  Note that I am not saying "poor design" but "poor designING".  At the end of the day a product often turned out okay, but at varying expense (schedule or cost overrun, turnover, etc) due to bad designing.  Sometimes the end product doesn't turn out okay.  I briefly want to jot down what bad designing is. Maybe this will help you identify when your company is bad at designing--recognizing there is a problem is the first step.

Side note: By desigin I mean technical design.  As far as touch/taste/visual/feel design of a specific product, that is a whole different category.

Bad designing is when you don't have a medium to store your design.
Often times a great technical design comes to fruition, but it isn't stored anywhere.  Efficiency goes down the drain when the same decisions have to be re-hashed again and again via boring meetings.  Whether it is a requirements word document, a complex feature/specification/requirements tracking piece of software like DOORS, or set of power points, a solidified design needs to be documented somewhere.

Bad designing is when you don't plan ahead.
Any project is going to have a "design as you go" mentality.  There is simply no way to envision everything that possibly needs to be considered.  But to what level you design as you go can vary depending on how much time is spent on planning ahead.  And when you don't plan ahead, reject feature creep, and keep everything scoped, you have to design everything as you go.  Designing everything as you go = pain.  How can you predict development schedule and cost when the end-technical-design changes on a daily basis?

Bad designing is when key decisions are made by personality.
Key design decisions need to be made by things such as technical merit, trade studies (evaluating trade-offs between features, schedule, cost, marketing, etc) and a team of qualified individuals coming to a consensus.  Often though fundamental design decisions are made by whoever has the "strongest" (aka douchiest) personalities.  In a poor work environments, product life or death technical decisions are made in backrooms that exclude important schedule/cost/technical whistle blowers.  Design decisions have several stakeholders that each bring a consideration to the table.  These considerations--the pure data and strategy--should be what drives the decision.  Personality shouldn't be part of the equation.

Bad designing is when you don't recognize you are designing.
I've been in a meeting where everyone goes in circles about how bad things are that you have to spend so long to visit a technical aspect and tear it down (to discover it was more complex that what was originally assumed).  Spending 3 hours to have a large discussion that tackles a technical glitch discovered in a meeting that was supposed to take a half hour, or to dig into the we don't know what we don't know questions, is time well spent designing.  As I mentioned before, to not design as you go is impossible in any project.  Instead of rejecting the fact you are designing, embrace it, organize it, and accept it.

Designing is hard.  It requires good company culture, creativity, responsibility, planning ahead, and a process.  The design process is often overlooked by the thing that is being designed.  Everyone just cares about where the project is at on a given day, not how it is being developed.  I'm hoping that by listing what bad designing is you can take the next step on improving how you design.