Saturday, February 25, 2006

More on Resumes and Interviewing...

Scott Mark asked that I post on resume points that I consider important and figured I would discuss a few thoughts on interviewing too.

There are two types I see most frequently...chronological (I worked here, then here, then here) and functional (this is the kind of work I have been involved with). It's really up to personal preference (avoid the hot pink paper) but I recommend stepping back and considering if YOU were hiring YOURSELF which version works: have you had 4 jobs in the last year? (consultants excuse that last comment please) Have you had several different roles at one company for many years?

Four things I encourage folks to consider:
a) Spell much as this sounds obvious, I do see resumes with typos and grammatical errors. Read your resume bottom-to-top (backwards) will see your grammar differently. Last but not least, ask someone you trust to give honest feedback review and critique.
b) Real estate... least number of pages required to sell yourself. Some people say 1 or less than 3...use good judgment and careful with abusing margins and font size.
c) Which points do you want to consume the most real estate? I worked for 3 years in high school at a grocery store, probably not the topic I want to write a lot about...unless Fred's Food-o-Rama needs an Architect. The length of details you provide on a position should decrease as you go back in time. Ask yourself after having re-read your resume 3 times: What one unique message, talent, or theme do I want my audience to remember about me? (even if you do not get the position this time..having a memorable hook may open a door later on)
d) Know you audience. If you do not know who is interviewing...Ask! If your audience is HR or General Management, having grainy techno-babble may not work. If a potential peer is interviewing having some clear technical references using common industry terms may help sell your skills.

I do feel strongly about writing your own resume. It's your should tell it...use your words. I do encourage getting feedback from others and reusing sentence fragments that resonate for your experience. If you lack the skills required to write effectively its only going to become apparent later on when you get hired. If you have a glorious resume that is so pretty its almost artful...and that resume does not reflect your voice during the will show. You will get 1 point for having a good resume but -1 point for confusing the interviewer. A power resume may get you an interview, but assuming you have the necessary talent and motivation to do the desired job...a resume that accurately portrays who you are will improve your chance of me recommending you for hire.

Okay, so right now I feel a bit guilty, because I am not the best from a grammar perspective. I admit (on occasion), slipping into passive voice, not having enough spaces after my periods, abusing my periods-of-ellipses (kind of my trademark style) or duplicating the work "the" across lines...I am human after all...but I would not make the same mistakes on my resume.

Five things I encourage folks to consider:
a) Be yourself. Its how you are most comfortable. Don't be a poser. I remember a manager who hired this well-groomed guy with a suit and tie ...first day of work out came the messy hair and baggy skate boarder clothes. If you want a job where you can wear baggy skate boarder clothes...don't wear a suit to the interview! Hello!!
b) Smile and make eye contact. Big shocker, not the first person to advise this...its clearly a borrowed concept. I have interviewed people who wouldn't maintain eye contact...and remember one where this woman stared at me the whole time. Weird. Have the confidence to maintain a professional conversation or go flip burgers.
c) Be prepared to discuss the standard interview questions and also have the facts about your recent work ... avoid referencing own resume during the interview unless you are directlyng the interviewer to topic. Do not come off as a "yes man" , have a positive attitude, show them you are a team player, and explain how you are self-motivated.
d) Ask questions. As much as interviews are designed to convince the interviewer you are the best candidate for the position, make sure you understand the position and talent being expected. Most people can cope with a bad fitting job for a while, but let's not waste each others time here. Asking questions demonstrates interest, furthers the dialogue, and alludes to an inquisitive personality which most IT positions require.
e) Follow-up with a thank note. This may seem old-school, but it demonstrates manners which are always a plus.

Finally a few special notes for the architects...
a) Do not sell me on EA, tell me what your viewpoint on EA is...
b) Do not sell me on how you've implemented SOA, tell me about the challenges and what aspect are most important to you...
c) Not every service needs to be a web service, tell me you understand this concept...
d) UML is good, Visio is good, RUP is okay, Agile is okay...tell me about how you apply them to architecture and that you are not hung up in documentation.
Comprehension comes from our discussions not documents.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"Resume Points To Consider If You Want A Job At A Large Enterprise " -Scott Mark

Amplifying Scott Mark's recent post on resume points.

Architects need to post on this topic more!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bloom's Taxonomy Revisited...

Donald Clark
documented the 3 forms of learning with reference to Bloom's Taxonomy.
Today I will revisit Bloom's Taxonomy with an angle towards architectural decomposition.

The ground floor of "my" pyramid also begins with knowledge. I have written before about making the tacit -- explicit and about the knowledge crisis in which most of us exist. In order for us to learn we must start with the residual knowledge which we have harvested on our unique walks through life.

The next floor up I call comprehension. Knowledge expressed and regurgitated with rote memory recall is insufficient. I can teach a child that 1+1=99. That child can recall that as knowledge, but not comprehend its meaning and inherent incorrectness. This requires comprehension...and the capability to fully understand with intelligence.

The third floor is analysis. This is the critical thinking challenge, questions, and decomposition of every problem architects seek to solve. I can know a need for web development... I can comprehend that .NET is a good approach...I can also comprehend that Java is a good approach. It is through analysis that we discover the best fit.

Up to the fourth, application...ah yes the sweet sound that rings in all architect ears every day. For this purpose application means taking the results of a problem's analysis and applying it. Application refers to the ability to both apply knowledge via the common mechanisms of communication and the ability to take that which has been communicated and construct its core essence. (e.g. writing your first HelloWorld program.)

The fifth story is all about evaluation. This capability is about taking your own knowledge and applying critical thinking skills. Its also about looking at other's applications and making judgments about its characteristics, qualities, efficacy, and weaknesses.

DING! Welcome up to the Egyptian penthouse everyone. Sixth floor... everyone off! Welcome to the enlightened capability called synthesis. The proverbial 1 + 1 =3 . This learned technique is both innovative and evolutionary. Taking distinct components and applying them together to form a new, unique, integrated solution. This is the harmonic blend of reuse and creation. This is what good architects strive for...

So this is "my" pyramid:

What do you think? Does this resonate? Does this help with something you are working on?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Music in All of Us... (Part 1)

Peers and fellow bloggers of mine have often discussed the common threads that bind us together--beyond our interests in technology.

Today I want to tell a story about music, more specifically the ability to play an instrument. I have a theory that many of us SuperGeeks have played a musical instrument or two. For me, its drums. Specifically a 1989 Ludwig Rocker 5 piece in classic black with Zildjian cymbals. My set is not new, has scratches from its travels, and no electronics...but it has hours of memories. Jazz, fusion, rock...lots and lots of improv. Music was, and is, a great form of personal expression. Just as people are not born with the ability to write code and understand design patterns, so to are musicians required to learn and practice. Although my drum set is "how" I expressed myself, the real channel of this energy came from my teacher Mr. Noga. He took a wanna-be...taught him to read music, gave him some chops, and introduced him to the real meaning of jazz. As much as I am so appreciative of that gift, he knew he could not do it alone. In order to set the glue of my instruction I required two more steps:
(1) Play. Work with peer with skill. One of my fellow percussionists was on his way to college soon on a drum scholarship. He was good, real good. He practiced religiously and clearly had talent. I on the other hand, needed honing. This was how it was done. Mr. Noga gave me passes to the music room twice a day for 3 months. The first hour was for me to practice. The second was a jam session with my new mentor and two drum sets. He was intimidating. I crumbled the first few times I attempted to keep up with him. And then, after being significantly frustrated with his showmanship and lack of impress, I closed my eyes and exploded on the drums. I never thought I had it in me, but I finally opened up and became part of the music...and the confidence that comes with it. My peer somehow now vouged for me...I COULD play. Do not get me wrong, I was no Buddy Rich or Neil Pert...but I could keep up with my peers that had been playing for many years longer.
(2) Performance. I needed to take what I learned and apply it publicly for others to judge...and only then earn new confidence.

It is only recently that I learned the third step in music. The power of passing it on. My soon to be 5 year old son and 2 1/2 year old daughter love to play on my drums and see me play them. A great feeling comes from jamming and seeing children dance.

So what's the moral or points of the this personal story?
(1) There is amazing commonality in learning to play music and learning to play technology.
(2) Its not enough to learn your skill, you must work with peers to both perfect it and gain acceptance.
(3) You need to pass it on...give advice, provide documentation, teaching another your art.
(4) Above all? Practice. Make mistakes. Look forward to new mistakes everyday. Learn something new. I have nowhere near the chops I had when I was in high school...but I can still practice.

What do you play?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Me-Too On SaaS and Mashups...

There have been a flurry of postings recently on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Mashups.
Sandy Kemsley posted on this recently and folks like Robert McIlree were quick to pick up on her thoughts.

My two-cents on SaaS is that it poses an interesting angle for accessing external data and hosting opportunities (for me especially with disaster planning). The analysts seem to be pushing hard on this... For the mid-sector this may provide a try-before-you-buy opportunity. For the larger sector, not so sure. There needs to be a key differentiator with uniqueness/specialization of the service, performance, ease of engagement, or quality of the results. I will chime in with the others with my cautions on security, business continuity of your data and scalability. On the hosting matter, servers get bigger and bigger...and come in smaller and smaller boxes. What happened to doing real capacity planning and did not have to worry about what server and what hardware provider will demand manage and provision it new? Am I alone with this one?

FYI, the term SAAS has a both interesting and respectful meaning for Muslims .

Now on to Mashups...uh boy. Where's James McGovern and his B-Boy references... I think mashups are on a fast hype curve.

Bottom-line composing two or more heterogeneous services into a single solution is the job of every portal, enterprise integration project, and sometimes orchestration solution out there...Hello? Again...different play for the smaller sectors...but we really need to educate our customers on where wisest to spend their money. What is it that these providers have figured out that we haven't to deliver on the benefits of EA and SOA? Looking to be educated by someone with a mature thought who knows of a quality and worthwhile option. Please comment and help me out here.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

American Architect LIVE 10pm EST...

I think it would be awesome to turn on my overpriced basic cable at 10pm Wednesday night and instead of seeing played-out reality show season #9 or that used-to-be-funny program searching for the country's worst singing talent...and instead see "American Architect LIVE". It could be as technical as that hospital show or maybe that one about forensics we all love. Then a spin-off series called Design Pattern Busters could keep our eyes glued. Just think...a 60min episode dedicated to the life of architecting that's deeper than a sit-com but would make me laugh more than the Comedy Channel. Instead of lame commercials created by retired XGamers we could have architects delivering their video resume'-- live. No wait, it could be like that dating show...CTO's could invite architects in and the longer they last through interrogation... the more money they will earn. Now that would be funny!

Ah...youth. What about instilling some icons during childhood? Forget Superman...I want to go buy the latest DVD for SuperArchitectDude. To SOA...and beyond! Complete with a game for your portable A.D.D.Boy console or PDA.

Ha! We will have every american youth salivating to get accepted to an ivy league school with a computer science program.

Oh, and remember that police show, how about EA Whisperer ...on the life and times of architects...requirements work sessions, crisis meetings, strategic planning, design reviews...where's my camera crew? Make-up!

Sometimes life is so serious...take time to relax, smile with your family, and be thankful that you have a job and its not a Dirty Job.


At the risk of sound like a poser posting the one millionth reference to a Dilbert cartoon, here goes...

Scott Adams often hits home with his wit and wisdom.


Its almost trite to say -- but we all know requirements can make or break a project.
Today, I offer two opposing viewpoints on requirements gathering and ask others in the blogosphere to chime in with comments--and prove that I am not alone in this interest.

Theory #1:
Customers are NOT capable of providing good requirements.
Sub-theory A:
IT requirements frameworks are too abstract and prevent the customer from giving the information we need in the format we need it.
Sub-theory B:
People that have learned the sacred skill of providing good requirements are not permitted to advance to positions where they would become agents for change and provide them directly.
Sub-theory C:
Good subject matter experts and business analysts are assigned to projects where they do not have experience. Thus, additional time and semantic churn is needed.

Theory #2:
Customers DO provide us with all the information we need.
Sub-theory D:
Developers and architects are poor listeners.
Sub-theory E:
Customers provide dialogue and desires. Developers and architects need to convert that to facts and prioritized assumptions.
Sub-theory F:
Architects should write the requirements for projects to ensure she/he understands them and presents the vision in a manner that optimizes developer understanding.

But what really matters is what YOU think.