Friday, July 10, 2009

Finding a job - an immigrant's perspective

I know of a few people both in my life and through social networks that are looking for work, here's my advice to them:

A little about me. I emigrated here when I was 8 years old, so I have just enough knowledge of the "old world" to be able to gain some insight from it, but I was raised in the US, and speak English without an accent, and can barely speak my "mother tongue". I saw my father work 2-3 jobs within weeks of moving to the US even though he didn't know English at all. He got one job as a dishwasher because he learned some French in highschool and saw a French restaurant while walking around and decided to go inside and ask for a job... in French... in Phoenix, AZ. I can honestly say while I wanted stuff growing up, I never went without anything I needed, and it was all because my father. I'm not going to say he never made any mistakes, because he had a hard time shaking off that "I'm an immigrant" mentality, and was constantly being put down and stepped on even though he is an extremely intelligent and insightful man.

My father never wanted me to work during high school. My friends all worked but he said I should concentrate on my school and that it was the most important thing in life. Even though he didn't want me to work, he also didn't give me an allowance, and I barely had enough lunch money (something like $2/day). I didn't get the newest video games consoles or computer components or clothes. I learned to be resourceful (I would borrow games from friends, learn about computers enough to know what was the best bang for your buck, and shopped at Old Navy :-P).

So once I graduated high school I had a few months before I started college and wanted to get a job to make some money. My dad bought me a car too, a 1986 Ford Mustang 4 cylinder, for $1000. It was stick shift, didn't have AC, and the windows barely worked. At first, I did what I thought people did to find a job. I looked in the paper, and sent out resumes by email and was generally honest about me only looking for work for 3 months, before I went to school. I got 0 offers in 2 weeks. Not one person called me back after interviewing me, even though I was very highly computer literate, and young, and could be of use in any position.

I must've sent out 50 resumes in those few weeks and got maybe three interviews. It was at that point that I felt my inner "immigrant" coming out. I decided I would do and say no matter what in order to get a job. So I did. I stopped saying I was going to school in the fall, I routinely called the people I sent resumes to several times a day to see if they had reviewed my resume, and in less than a week I had a job making $10/hr. That was more than my mom was making and would make for about 5 years (I think she was making $7-8/hr working retail and similar job and only in the last few years has she breached that barrier and I'm happy to say she is a manager and makes more than $15/hr).

In the fall I befriended a teacher in the college who taught 3D rendering and got a job in the computer lab (10-20 hours a week for $5/hr). When I met my future-wife in the dorms and we decided to move together in the summer, I knew I had to get a new job. So during summer break I went back to looking for work just like I remembered doing last summer. I submitted resumes to jobs that I didn't "really" have the skills to, I lied about going back to school in the fall, I hounded HR people. Within a week I had a job interview to become a web programmer within a small company. The job required PHP4 / Javascript / HTML. Technologies I barely knew from tinkering with on my own time in the fall. I was a Computer Science major but, the first 2 years they don't really teach you ANY programming languages that are useful to any business, and they DEFINITELY don't teach you anything about making websites. I got the call on Friday that I had an interview on Monday. I immediately went to the bookstore and bought a book on PHP and on Monday I did my interview, I told a few white lies regarding my programming knowledge but in the end I was offered a job.

Within 2 weeks of summer, I had a job paying $15/hr creating an internal web application. At the time that was DOUBLE what my mom who had been working for close to 7 years by that time in the US was making. It was nearly what my dad was making as an expert HVAC repairman. I spent a year and a half at the company and built a great application for them, but after 9/11 they had problems financially, so I was let go in February.

Again, I was looking for a job, except this time the economy sucked. So I went back to my old habits. Craigslist started becoming popular so I was constantly searching it and replying to posts and making pleas for someone to hire me. I must've had 10 jobs in 2 years. I cold called people in this guy's spare room in his house, I fixed computers in peoples homes, I learned 3 new programming languages, I made fake ids and wrote spam software for a ticket broker, I wrote the software for a porn website (heh the strange things I did for that job, when the site went under, I was paid with a router that I sold on Ebay), I worked telephone tech support for a small dialup ISP (I helped old people with their email), I did WHATEVER it took to get paid and to make money for my wife and me.

When my wife graduated we moved from Phoenix to Dallas because she got an offer with IBM. We had never been there before, and knew nothing about the city or the work they did there. Within 2 weeks, I had a great job working in the field I'm currently in and loved every minute of it.

So that's my story, and here's my advice:

  1. Finding a job is a job. It means waking up at 8:30 and calling people and sending resume's by 9.
  2. Custom tailor your resume for each job you apply for. Change the order of skills, emphasize ones that are relevant, change your goals to match what the job is asking for. Don't send a resume that says "I want to be a secretary" to a retail job.
  3. Write a custom cover letter or email for every resume you send. Really sell yourself. Say you're a hard worker, and that you're great at X Y Z.
  4. If you fit 80% of the skills and you know that you'll pick up the other 20% quickly, tell a white lie and say you have those skills. Make sure you know what you're talking about at least for the interview. If you've never done a particular job before, tell the interviewer how it's like other jobs you've done, or what skills you think will make you good at the job.
  5. Never be too proud to take a job when you have no other choice. Money is money, no matter what you do to make it. Some money is better than no money, and who knows who you'll meet and what skills you might pickup.
  6. Don't give up. Seriously, if you want a job bad enough do what it takes to get it. Sell yourself more, beg, plead, whatever.
  7. Continue to develop your skills. It's easy to find a job if you have skills that businesses need. Find out what skills are needed and LEARN ON YOUR OWN. Grab a book, search the web, figure it out. This is the easiest way to get a good job. I don't care how hard it is or how many kids you have or other obligations. People do it every day, so can you.
  8. This is an extra bonus tip. Constantly look out for other jobs while you have a job. Look for jobs that will allow you to increase your skillset, allow you to jump up a position, or allow you to be happier going work (ie, your dream job). This is a great route to make sure you're never out of work again. It's also safe, because if you apply for a job and don't get it, it doesn't matter you already have a job. You also have a lot of bargaining power over salary and benefits when you don't "need" to get the job.

So that's it, that's my story, and some tips to help those looking for work, find meaningful work.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

New Release: SvnCommitToFTP

A co-worker was looking for a program to upload changes to a subversion repository to an FTP site automatically because they did not have any other access to the production server but FTP. I volunteered to write one and I spent about 4-5 hours knocking one out. I put the download and source up on google code at: http://code.google.com/p/svncommittoftp/

There is no native C# / .NET implementation of the subversion libraries, but someone has created some wrappers for the C++ version. It is called SubversionSharp.

I hope it is useful to someone, if not the app itself, just as an example of how to use the SubversionSharp libraries (since there is little or no documentation out there).

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Friday, February 22, 2008

The Battle Begins

So I work in Times Square NYC, yet I rarely do anything cool or different. Everyone that lives in NYC hates Times Square so they are never up for exploring or doing anything fun.

So today I heard a coworker exclaim that she was bored (a few meetings got cancelled, so she had nothing to do for a few hours). I took the opportunity to suggest we go do something different and go to the Toys 'R Us in Times Square. It's got a big ferris wheel inside, a ton of lego's, etc. She agreed after some coaxing and we walked a few blocks in the slush (snowed earlier) to Toys R Us.

There we found the Lego section an proceeded to go a bit wild. I bought 3 small Castle sets, and she bought a large Batman complex. Throughout the day we built our Lego armies for battle at a later date. Here are the pictures from the Castle set, I will post her's when she's done (she had significantly more pieces).


A skeleton scout discovers a human encampment.



The scout retrieves his captain and the humans call for reinforcements.


The Humans bring in the heavy artillery and wait
for the skeletons to make their move.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Install HP LaserJet 5SI drivers on Mac OS X


I recently acquired a HP LaserJet 5Si printer for my home office.  It's a bit overkill (this thing weighs over 100 lbs), and was a bit hard to get across the city (in a cab),  but my wife loves laser printers and prints like 20-30 pages a day.

I started installing the drivers on the various computers around the house and ran into a snag when I wanted to install it on my MacBook Pro running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.  The OS recognized the printer on the network and configured it correctly, but when it printed all I got was junk... 50 blank pages then random characters.  Apparently this printer doesn't support PostScript.

After searching around I found some information about the HPIJS printer driver and installed it and it's dependencies (foomatic and ESP Ghostcript. 

Here is what you need and in what order:
  1. Download and Install ESP Ghostscript - espgs-7.07.1.ppc.dmg
  2. Download and Install Foomatic-RIP for Mac OS X - foomatic-rip-3.43.2.15.ppc.dmg
  3. Download and Install HPIJS for Mac OS X- hpijs-2.7.10-UB.dmg
  4. Go to System Preferences -> Print & Fax -> Click the "+" to add a new printer.
  5. Choose "IP".
  6. Choose "Line Printer Daemon -LPD" for the Protocol
  7. Type in the network address for your printer... ie 192.168.0.100
  8. When it finished finding the printer, select "HP LaserJet 5Si Foomatic/hpijs" for "Print Using".
  9. Click Add.
  10. Print a test page by going to the printer and selecting "Printer -> Print Test Page" from the Menu at the top.

You can find more information about using this print driver at: 
http://www.linux-foundation.org/en/OpenPrinting/MacOSX/hpijs

I had one problem though.  If you have only 4MB of RAM / Memory on your printer, you will receive a 20 MEMORY OVERFLOW DATA LOST error.  I found some memory on EBAY for $10 and it now works fine (I bought 96MB).

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Friday, August 04, 2006

And now for something a little different...

Things I've learned recently:

  1. Manute Bol is not a valid topic of conversation during foreplay.
  2. Apparently there are a lot of chinese and not a lot of chinese beaches.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Overhaul of Education System

It's no secret to anyone that knows me that I am a huge proponent of public education. I believe it's very existence and success is critical in our country's future. I am going to outline a plan for bettering our current education system.

The first and most critical aspect of my plan is the involvement of the federal government, as much as I dislike the idea of large government (I like to think of myself as a mix of a liberal and libertarian). We need a federal standardized testing system in the following key subjects: Reading, Writing, Math, and Science. This testing system will apply from grades 1 through 12 and a passing grade will be required to move from grade to grade. This will ensure that each and every student has the tools necessary to be a productive member of society. There should be no exceptions. The standardized tests will be evaluated yearly much like the SAT's and improvements will be made.

Second is a centralized computer system for managing lesson plans. Each teacher would be required to choose or create a scope and sequence (an outline of the class with milestones) for their class at the beginning of the semester. Every two weeks, each teacher will submit their lesson plans for the following two weeks. Including in these lesson plans will be documentation on which standards the activity covers. The teachers can choose to use pre-existing lesson plans or create their own activity. This relieves the burden on each teacher trying to come up with original lesson plans. They can use tried and true methods for teaching or if they have enough experience they can create their own. This whole system will be based on sharing of information between teachers.

Third, is a central grades database. One large centralized computer system which is accessible by every teacher. All grades will be posted in the system. Students will be tracked throughout their education. When they move schools, when they move states, etc.

Fourth aspect of my plan is correlating the data from the lesson plan database with the data from the grades database to determine which lesson plans are most successful at teaching students. This system would help teachers improve the education they provide, by providing feedback on the methods they are using to teach. They could compare how other teachers are doing with the same lesson plans.

Last and most important aspect of my plan is a large increase in teacher salary. Starting pay would be $60,000 per year, with increases based on how long they've been a teacher and average test scores over several years. This would increase competitiveness in the industry, and while it will be rough for a couple of years the system will balance out and only the best teachers will remain in the system. As it is now, there is no incentive for those that work hard in college to become a teacher. The work is hard and the pay is low.

Teachers should be able to make $100,000 a year if they are the very best. Why do we as a society reward a salesman that sells widgets with a high salary but we are unwilling to pay a person that affects the lives of 300 students a year.

This plan has some caveats. Obviously with a federal standardized testing system, states rights will be diminished, but the education of the future of the US should be decided by the entire country ... i.e. the federal government. The United States of America should start acting more United. A student that grows up in one state will very likely not work in that state, so he will be at a disadvantage when he is competing against students in other states.

I have left out intentionally the Arts, and other classes. They are very important but art and extracurricular classes such as Agriculture, Religion, etc should be controlled by the school itself. One school might want to have an Agriculture class because they are in a rural community and agriculture is important. Other schools might see importance in technical classes such as computer programming or metal / wood shop. These types of classes would not be regulated because each community has different needs.

So, in conclusion, we need federal standardized tests for each grade, a central repository of grades and lesson plans, and a sharp increase in teacher pay. Implementing some or all of these ideas will ensure that our education system creates the best possible students. Exit tests for High School students is not enough. It is too late for most students by the time they are 17 years old. A solid educational foundation is created in the first 10 years of a person's life. What and how they learn in the first 5 years of school will be more important than what they learn in the last 2 years of their education. Learning to write, read, do math, and understanding the scientific method is more important to the average person than calculus, or the works of William Shakespeare.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Evolution:Biology :: Atomic Theory:Physics

I read this post on Slashdot today and I thought I'd write it down because I feel it is highly insightful.

"Evolutionary theory is to biology as atomic theory is to physics. Both have been exhaustively proven by legitimate scientists, and both offer crucial insights that underlie their overarching fields. Unfortunately, one of the two theories runs counter to the teachings of a narrow strata of religious zealots, and so suffers from the hands of a particularly aggressive strain of ignorance. But there are crackpots in both fields. Antievolutionists are pretty much the biology version of the Timecube guy."

Link To Post

Edit: I hate to continue posting stuff I've read on Slashdot, but again, it's a very interesting discussion.

Is response to a person asking some tough questions such as "What caused the big bang? or What external force was there that caused the big bang?"

This response was given
"To paraphrase Stephen Hawkings "that's like asking what's north of the north pole". It's also like asking "who created god?"."

Link to Post