Sunday, March 16, 2008

The problem with tech recruiters

This quote was pulled from a post on the Joel on Software forum. The post is about providing a salary history to a recruiting firm. Partway down, a recruiter (likely with an axe to grind), makes a couple of serious posts. Most of the points are easily refuted or quite weak and somebody on the forums does a good job of picking these out.

But the recruiter also makes a good point:
Why don't we know the difference between a 60K and a 100K programmer? Because only a programmer could tell the difference and if the person was all hat, no cattle or the real deal. Most programmers would prefer to, say, program, than wade through 20 resumes and phone screens just to get to talk to two people who might be a good fit for whatever reason.
Of course she's perfectly right. And this is the fundamental problem with technical recruiters: They're completely unqualified to do the job.

It's not their "fault" per se, it's just endemic to the field. Being a good tech recruiter requires a ton of technical background, plus some business savvy, some sales skills, some research skills, networking skills and a ton of patience. Of course, if you already have all of these skills, then you have a job that pays way more than being a recruiter!

Personally, I would rather just avoid the recruiters all together and seek out the job I'm looking for rather than the other way around. Of course, YMMV.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Academia is doomed in the wired world

OK, so we start with the mandatory link;

Student faces Facebook consequences

Basic premise is simple. The University wants to ban the student for managing a Facebook user group where students helped out on Chemistry homework assignments. The interesting thing about these assignments, is that they actually weren't even given the same questions!

So here's a kid facing suspension for making a virtual study group where people can't even really share answers b/c they have different questions.

There are two big problems here:
  1. Study groups have existed forever and are a fundamental part of university, especially sciences. However study groups are prone to cheating.
  2. Online access to resources have made learning more accessible, but they've also made "cheating" far easier. Universities are mildly scared about the accessibility part as they are financially vested in remaining the key holders. Of course, they're also publicly funded (especially in Canada), so they have to maintain some openness. But what Universities are really scared about is cheating. Credibility is ridiculously important for Universities and "cheating" undermines that credibility.
So cheating is the common factor here. From the academic mindset, the math is simple:
Study Groups = maybe cheating
Online = maybe cheating,
therefore Online Study Groups = definitely cheating

The logic is clearly flawed, and in this case it's pretty clear that no wrongs were committed. In fact, if people were using the group to cheat, it would have been trivially obvious to prove. If two students really wanted to cheat, posting up answers to a Facebook group is the worst possible way to do it.

Of course, the problem runs much deeper than that, this type of behaviour demonstrates a deep-seated fear in the academic halls. And it stems primarily from problem #2.

In all reality, the University should be providing and managing groups for this type of "study grouping". My wife graduated from the University of Manitoba last April and they had a "WebCT" system (now Blackboard). Systems like this increase transparency and provide quality resources for students, but even today it's tough to get full support from the older academics.

I personally love this concept of openness, but maybe the older academics are on to something. They have long been the private gatekeepers of the secret academic world. By increasing accessibility and allowing things like on-line study groups, they've increased their burden of work while reducing the value of their time.

The wired world is a connection tool for everybody. The web is a democratizing tool in an academic world that is far from democratic. This whole concept of suspending a student for managing a virtual study group is nothing but a demonstration of a deep-founded academic fear.

The irony here is that kicking out our hero will likely cause a backlash that will cause the university to lose credibility in the eyes of the public.

It's a bad place to be, of course YMMV.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

4 Pillars Reply: Dave Ramsey

Quest for 4 Pillars, just put up an interesting post about Dave Ramsey Methods.

The main points are simple
  1. Make a commitment to get out of debt
  2. Start a cash emergency fund
  3. Pay off debt using a debt snowball
  4. Save 3-6 months of expenses in savings
  5. Save 15% of household income into retirement savings accounts
  6. College funding for children
  7. Pay down mortgage quickly
  8. Build wealth and give
And the conclusion from a Financial blogger's perspective is equally simple:
...these things that I do go against the “Ramsey” way but that’s ok because I’m not in need of any kind of financial rescue...I believe that for a lot of people, Ramsey’s methods can be very beneficial.

But I personally think that we're missing something really big here: Dave Ramsey is pimping a diet change and not a lifestyle change. This thing reads like a draconian weight loss plan and asks you to do things based on what he believes. He's imposing his lifestyle beliefs and telling people to save vast sums of money b/c that's what they should do.

Really, why should you save 15% into retirement savings (#5)? What if you don't plan to retire? What if you want to take mini-retirements? What if you want to invest that 15% into educating yourself? If you don't have a college degree, shouldn't that be a priority before retirement savings, how about before saving for your kids' education (#6)?

Paying down your mortgage quickly (#7) could turn out to be a horrible decision. What if you live in a mining town or a factory town? Throwing money at your home could leave you light on cash and investment money when the plant closes down and crisis hits.

Making a commitment to get out of debt (#1), is like making a commitment to losing weight without making a commitment to keep it off. The commitment here to live within your means.

This sounds like the "Wealthy Barber" plan of "Save lots of money so you won't be poor." The only two novel concepts here are #3 and #8. Giving, addresses the karmic nature of money which seems to be that those who give don't have trouble finding. And the debt snowball addresses the psychological aspects of debt payoff that some number-crunchers seem to forget.

But really, this is all just a diet plan for debtors. I know several people in debt and I wouldn't package up this advice with my name on it.

Of course, YMMV.