Mary Dickson Diaz

Code, Life, Learning

laid off

Gentle readers,

I had planned to get back into tech blogging this January with the Code Newbie “blog more” challenge — but then everyone in my house got sick and would you believe I am still sick today — this is the bronchitis that keeps giving, I tell you.

I had also planned to start prepping for tech interviews to launch a job search sometime later this year. I have been happy working at ExpertVoice (formerly Experticity, formerly ReadyPulse) — where for two years I’ve been doing full-stack software development with a fantastic team. My hours and work location are flexible, I get to work on interesting projects, the snacks are plentiful, and the time off “unlimited.”

Job perks aside, I’ve always known that it wasn’t my forever job. My commute isn’t ideal, and the company is heavily skewed towards the outdoor industry, which meant that a large segment of clients are gun manufacturers (hunting and whatnot). They don’t sell guns directly, but they definitely help gun manufacturers sell guns and shooting accessories to military and law enforcement officers. This has never aligned with my values, and sometime after the mass shooting in Vegas, I remember thinking, crap, I have to find a new job.

You know… sometime.

all my free time goes to this kid

Anyway, an unexpected round of layoffs (30% of the company) has turned “sometime” into “right dang now” and I find myself facing down my nemesis, the tech interview. Just like finding a job out of boot camp, finding a(nother) job now requires dedicated and specific preparation. I took some baby steps at the end of last year and did a few interviews with little to no prep — and failed spectacularly. Apparently the fact that I have a few years of actual job experience, have built real software that people use, and can provide great references means nada if I can’t solve a specific technical challenge on a whiteboard or on a shared screen, while my interviewer watches, within the time allotted, which SPOILERS:

…I am not great at doing.

So, here is The Plan for Operation-Git-Job, the “yay I have some experience now” edition:

  1. Cracking the Code Interview — work through this classic interview prep book. Pick a language (I work in Golang, Ruby, and JavaScript in near equal amounts, which means I am consistently elegant in none of them) and stick with it for all exercises. Have a test-driven-development workspace ready to go in that language so I can spin up an exercise and work through it without any environment woes.
  2. Interview Cake prep course — comes with a “get the job guarantee.” I’ve found these problems helpful in the past and am willing to invest $99 in the full course.
  3. Kal Academy — This is tough, because classes are on weekends (prime quality baby time), but for a “help I need a technical tune-up,” Kal is the best bet money can buy. I may try to re-enroll in the Data Structures and Algorithms class, or at least re-work through the syllabus on my own (I got about halfway through once before, and then I got hired!)
  4. Code Fellows — right on cue, I got a notice from my bootcamp alma mater, Code Fellows, that they are launching a “Job Placement Assistance Services Program,” including: “various activities that we coordinate with our industry partners, including mock interviews, mentoring, and networking events. This program is open to recent graduates as well as alumni who are seeking support for landing their first, second, or third opportunity in the industry.” Oh hello, that sounds relevant to my interests. Anyway, it can’t hurt and can only help, so I’ll do it!
  5. Update Portfolio and Resume — This should probably be #1. I have which is built in Rails, but it’s pretty rusty. Needs an overhaul.
  6. Networking — oh no, not networking 🙁 Ok, well, I’m involved in several tech and networking groups (even if I haven’t been to an event or hung out with friends or done anything other than work and baby care in 17 months) — and I can reach out to those groups to find connections and leads.
  7. Ooooh cool, free time — I should RUN EVERY DAY and get back in shape.  Based on prior experience, this is super not happening, so I’m not even going to put it out there. But I do need to take steps to keep myself motivated and not get depressed or stagnate. Number seven is Self-care TBD.

I plan to continue childcare as long as we can afford to, so I can treat this next job search like the full-time job it is.

I’m a little frustrated that success in my current job as a software engineer doesn’t automatically translate to success in technical interviews for future opportunities, but that’s the industry. Maybe it will surprise me.

I’m also pretty shocked and sad, because I really, REALLY liked my team. I’ve had my ups and downs with this company, but the team and the work was what kept me around and kept me motivated. This week as I waited to find out my future, I found myself working late into the night to finish my current project, even knowing that I was likely to be cut — not out of love for the company or a sense of obligation, but desire to hold on to the work — that sense of stability and purpose — and eek out as much as possible before it gets taken away from me. Working Mary = Happy Mary.

I’ve been laid off once before, it was a net positive. I know this time will be the same, but I grieve for this parting that I knew one day would happen but I wasn’t yet prepared for.



1 Comment

  1. Mary, your list is comprehensive, and each of the items will stand you in good stead for a technical interview, but may I offer a few words of advice from someone who has administered these interviews many times?

    Don’t be daunted! Whatever problem is set before you, understand that the interviewers are not expecting a perfect solution, they are assessing your reasoning process, how well you apply other things you have learned to the problem at hand. Remember that your skills in communicating in a technical realm are being examined, so don’t be too shy to share your reasoning process aloud, that is essential. Listen and reflect on everything that is said, converse, and incorporate what is said into your solution, if appropriate, or, if you think its not appropriate, explain in detail why you are not going with that direction. Don’t be afraid of being wrong. In fact, if you are corrected in the middle, its an excellent indication that the people administering the interview are interested, and want to see more.

    You are a solid developer who excels at collaboration, so have confidence!

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