Geosoft: Software Development Manager

May 18, 2012

Geosoft is looking for a Software Development Manager:

  • Day to day management of the Software Development and Project Management teams (both in Canada and the US.)  This includes accountability for team performance, goals, metrics and best practices.
  • Anticipate, change, implement, and continually evolve industry leading software development processes to meet future business, technology and customer needs.  The successful candidate will be responsible for Geosoft’s transformation into agile (including change management).
  • Contribute as a senior R&D team member to define and achieve on group goals, metrics and plans to support business priorities.
  • Accountable for the planning and successful completion of all software development projects to ensure timely and successful product releases, working closely with the Product Management team and customer facing personnel to ensure that standards and processes are continuously aligned with customer requirements.

It looks like Geosoft has been around for a while. They seem to be privately held, so I don’t know much about the company’s financial situation.

The Good
It’s a relatively clear and posting. It’s not vague, there are lots of honest details there that some companies would have obscured because they think job postings shouldn’t have those kinds of details. Those people are wrong. That’s what makes this job posting interesting.

It’s also a reasonably senior position.  There’s some travel opportunity, but not so much as to be irritating.  You can get a look at their software products from their website.  They were apparently “recognized in 2009 as one of the 10 Best Workplaces in Canada by the Great Place to Work® Institute”.

They’re interested in moving towards agile development.

The Bad
They may not already be doing any agile development. This isn’t the nineties anymore, or the aughts for that matter. What’s their current process like?

YMMV
Your mileage may vary when it comes to the team size. Some people looking for a managerial position are going to feel like they’ll be under-utilized managing eight direct reports. Others will probably prefer the sound of a small team, as long as the team members are sharp. I probably lean towards the latter, but the devil’s in the details.

I get the sense that their business is more in the desktop software side than the web side, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Then again, I could just as easily write the reverse.

What Should You Ask?
You’re going to want to get a good read on the team. After all, you’re supposed to manage them, and the difference between managing a small crack team and a small team of code monkeys is vast.

What’s their process like? Are the team members pushing for agile or being pushed into it? What’s their knowledge of agile and what’s the executive support for it? They’re saying they want to move, but what’s the drive here, and how important is it to them?

Where are the two remote team members? Why do they have remote team members, and is it working well?

How’s the company doing? Why do they need to hire a software development manager now? What’s the compensation like?

What’s their mix of software and technology like? Is it mostly desktop, is there a lot of web / integration work? It’s hard to get a sense of that from their website and posting.  Is it all C/C++, or .NET, or something else entirely?

The Location
GeoSoft seems to be located in Queen’s Quay Terminal. It’s a nice place, picturesque, not tremendously far from Union station, so reasonably accessible by TTC, not hard to drive to (although parking options aren’t great). There’s a few nice restaurants and shops in the area, although it’s not overflowing with either. If you live on the waterfront or near the gardiner/lakeshore, this is probably an appealing location. For the rest of you, it’s probably neither fantastic nor terrible.  If you do take the job, I recommend visiting the Harbourfront Pearl for dim sum regularly to get both a decent view and a decent meal. And while you’re at it, invite me, because I like that restaurant.

In Summary
It’s a reasonably senior position with a moderate team size, so it’s probably a good fit for someone who’s got just enough experience for the role, or for someone who really likes the smaller teams rather than a veteran used to and expecting something larger.


Canada Protection Plan: Software Developer

September 9, 2011

Canada Protection Plan is looking for a software developer.

They’re a client of mine, and I wrote good chunks of the posting, so I’m not unbiased about it. Accordingly, I won’t give it a full review treatment, but I will say a few things.

They’re a good client; I’ve been happy doing work for them, and I think that if we do a good job finding the right person for this job, they’ll be pretty happy too. It’s a small technical team with some fairly senior people, and we’d like to find some people with good skills and limited experience who can grow with the team, but are unafraid to take on new responsibilities. Of course, we’re not going to turn you down if you have deep experience, but we might not be able to afford you.

I know everyone you’d be working with closely, and I can say they’re basically all good people who are going to be working together with you to try and make things happen. The company’s also doing fairly well, growing and expanding as I’ve been working with them. The projects have good technical challenges, and you’d get to work directly with the users. There’s more work than anyone can possibly handle, so you won’t get bored.

Of course, these are insurance software products, so the domain isn’t probably going to be thrilling for most of you, but the work itself is interesting anyway. The location, at DVP & Eglinton, would probably work really well for some of you (as it does for me) but if you’re in the west end and travelling on TTC or you live downtown and you’re used to working downtown, it might not be a perfect fit.

What can I say? It’s a good gig, and I’d be happy to talk to some of you about it, or answer questions posted here if that works.


Autodesk: Java Architect – Enterprise Cloud

June 1, 2011

Autodesk is looking for a Java Architect – Enterprise Cloud Software:

We are currently looking to hire software development rock stars to help us move the processes of our design customers to the cloud.

 Will design, architect and implement an enterprise grade cloud application
– Development of multiple web-based applications
– Active member of a highly skilled and motivated agile development team
– Work closely with product design and product management to collaboratively define and build elegant user interfaces
– Collaborate with other developers and colleagues to validate your designs
– Drive adoption of standards and common UI components across multiple teams

If you don’t have enough experience to position yourself as an architect, you could try for their Sr. Java Developer or Java Developer positions, also for their Enterprise Cloud.

The Good
Autodesk is an established player with a big client base. If you build something good for them, it will probably get used by lots of people. It sounds like a reasonably senior position. They’re willing to make lip service to agile at least — although there’s no detail on that point.  Cloud technologies can be interesting, although they don’t talk much about what Cloud means to them.

They certainly believe their compensation package is a good one:

Autodesk provides one of the most exceptional compensation and benefit packages, including stock options and employee stock purchase plan for all regular employees, RRSP matching program, generous vacation policy, ongoing employee training and development, flexible work hours and more!

The Bad
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I find the ‘elite’ metaphors for technology positions to be annoying. They’re not looking for a rock star, they’re looking a Java architect. If you’re looking for a really great one, make that clear, and make it clear that you’re willing to pay accordingly, otherwise you’re just “fluffing.”

What’s Missing
More detail on almost all fronts. Where’s the Autodesk Office? What does Autodesk pay a Java Architect, and what’s the net effect of all their compensation programs? What does cloud mean to them — AWS? Rackspace Cloud? Or just “a client-server system we can sell to our clients as ‘the cloud'”? What’s the software they’re trying to build? What does agile mean to them? Why do they want both GWT and Struts/Tiles?

The Location
Although Autodesk doesn’t mention the location, their primary Toronto office seems to be near King and Sherbourne. It’s not a terrible area, moderately central, walkable (although far) from Union Station, accessible via the King Streetcar and not terrible to get to via the highway. If you’re in the Beach or Leslieville (hi!), it’s probably a pretty great location, but if you’re north or west, it’s probably just ok. There are good shops and restaurants around the St. Lawrence Market, and over to Yonge, although it’s not as close to the shopping core as many central offices.

In Summary
If ‘Java Architect’ sounds like something you’d want to be, then a Java Architect for Autodesk’s Cloud is probably appealing. And if you’re not sure that you can pull off Architect, it sounds like they’re hiring for the rest of the team too.


Sun Life: Practice Manager, Development

April 19, 2010

Sun Life is looking for a Practice Manager, Development:

The Practice Manager, Development reports to the VP, eBusiness and Call Centre and provides leadership in people development and talent management along with technical excellence and innovation to Java, Microsoft and Vignette practice. This manager has a demonstrated track record of working effectively within a shared services environment (matrix model) and is a strong people manager.  The successful candidate will work closely with Delivery Managers & Director PMO & BSA to allocate developers across projects.

The Good
It’s a senior role for a well-known, large company with an $18B market capitalization.  They seem to be doing well enough financially.

The Bad
I’m personally slightly biased against Vignette, having had some awkward experiences in the past.  I’m vaguely surprised they’re still around, although perhaps they’ve made progress since I last used their technology.  That said, it’s not like they’re hiring you to be a vignette programmer.

What’s Missing?
How big are the team(s) you’ll be managing?  What’s the corporate structure — who are you reporting to, working with, and who’s reporting to you?  How exactly are you working with the PMO, Delivery Managers and BSA?  What’s the technology mix really like?  Is it mostly Vignette, heavy on the Microsoft, or a 25% mix of each plus a smattering of others?  What are the challenges facing sun-life and the role you’d be filling?  What’s the compensation for a practice manager at sunlife?  Where’s the office located?

YMMV
This role looks like it’s all management, no tech.  If you’ve got the technical background they’re looking for, this will either be interesting or horrifying on that basis alone.  Some of you might be looking for a less hands-on, more upper-management role, others of you really like to get your hands dirty and you’re not going to get the opportunity to do so in this role, I don’t imagine. Your mileage may vary when it comes to working in insurance.  On the other hand, if you want to be a manager in a big company, you’re somewhat less likely to be cuddling kittens, saving the world, or working on cool technology, so some of you are well-prepared for this already.

The Location

The only office that I know Sun Life does development work in is at Yonge and Front, which is a pretty solid location, easy to access by go train and subway, reasonable selection of food and shopping around, including the St. Lawrence Market and Esplanade.  That said, the position doesn’t specify a location.

In Summary
Seems like managerial role for someone with a background in tech but without the need to be very hands-on.


FreshBooks: TeamLead, Developers, QA, Designer, etc.

April 15, 2010

FreshBooks is hiring a boatload of positions including two enterprise developers, five software developers, a QA analyst, senior designer, web developer and more.  I’ve talked about the pros and cons of working at FreshBooks lots of times, so if you’re a new reader, do feel free to read over some of my past postings.

In this case, I think the sheer volume of open positions is also a strong positive.  Although I doubt the need to hire a lot of people would cause FreshBooks to hire people they don’t really want, it does mean that if you’re one of five worthy candidates, they could hire all of you, instead of just the one they like best, so it’s a good time to be interviewing at FreshBooks.

Disclaimer
Although I’ve found FreshBooks an interesting company for longer than I’ve been doing Toronto Tech Jobs, in the last couple of years, FreshBooks has given me a couple of referral rewards, so you’re welcome to consider my opinion biased.


FreshBooks: Enterprise Developer & Bounty

March 24, 2010

First of all, congratulations to FreshBooks on another successful hire via Toronto Tech Jobs; I’m happy it worked out.

Secondly, I’m also happy that FreshBooks is again offering me the referral fee, and as I’ve said before, my current stance is that it’s ok for me to take them as long as I’m pretty clear on the fact that I’m doing so.  If anyone wants to start a dialogue on the subject, now’s your chance, I’m listening.

And, co-incidentally, I saw another FreshBooks job posting go by today, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and take a quick look at the posting.

FreshBooks is looking for an Enterprise Software Developer:

If building out super-reliable, high-performance applications in a disciplined, agile manner is what you love, drop us a line and let’s see if there’s a fit.

We NEED you to have:

* 5 years’ experience building enterprise-class applications
* 3 years’ experience working with ORMs and DAOs
* A demonstrable passion for unit testing, continuous integration and code coverage
* Communication skills like whoa

The Good
The usual for FreshBooks.  I like the company, they’ve got a good product, a clear profit model, a sizeable customer base who is generally pretty happy, an interesting company culture and some good people, some of whom I’ve been fortunate enough to help find homes there.  They’re a real product company with real customers, not a banking business, marketing company or insurance agency, which already sets them apart from a lot of the jobs in Toronto.  It’s a product that you can run out and try before you even interview, get a sense for what they do — that’s a great way to get a sense for whether or not it’s something you could be interested in building.  Some of the technologies they’re using appeal to me.

The Bad
Some of the technologies they’re using don’t immediately appeal to me.  Their largest codebase, last I heard, was PHP, and while I respect the fact that PHP powers much of the web (anyone heard of LAMP?), it’s not a language that makes me perk my ears up out of excitement.  I’m told that there are some challenges in the codebase, although I also believe that they’re on the path to something that I’d be happier with, and that they seem to know where they’re headed and why.  I don’t want to say too much more on the subject because I don’t know the extent to which the conversations I’ve had were in confidence.  For some of you, the location will be the strongest detractor, but i’ll come back to that.

What’s Missing
What’s the compensation like at FreshBooks for an Enterprise Software Developer?  Why the relatively new ‘enterprise’ tone in the posting?  What technologies will you be working with?  What’s the size and composition of the team, and where would you fit into that?  Do the languages and tools in use at FreshBooks really support refactoring in anything but the most basic of forms?

YMMV
Your mileage may well vary when it comes to the technologies, but you’d definitely want to get the full story from them on what they’re using before making too many assumptions; it might appeal more than you think.  And my mileage definitely varies when it comes to the location.

The Location
Their location is off the beaten path for transit users up at Dufferin and Glencairn.  It’s about a 15 or 20 minute walk from Glencairn station, or you can take the Dufferin Bus up from Bloor.  If you’re coming in off the 401, it’s probably pretty reasonable, and there’s a fair number of food options in the area if you have a car.  The options are somewhat less exciting on foot, but there’s still food options and shopping around.  For some, this location is normal, possibly even better than some because you don’t have to fight your way to the core.  On the other hand, if you’re out in Pickering and you like to take the Go train, this is probably not something you’d even consider.  For me, the location takes just long enough to get to from my house that it would be a constant, if minor, irritation.  So in this case, your mileage really will vary.

Disclosure
And, in case you missed the first paragraph and any previous posts on the subject, you should know that FreshBooks has twice offered me a bounty for referrals, which I’ve accepted.  I don’t think that unduly biases me towards the company, but it’s important that I be clear about it.

In Summary
If FreshBooks sounds like your kind of company, and you’ve got a background in enterprise software development, there may be a good match here.


Reconsidering Direct Leap

December 13, 2009

I’ve mentioned Direct Leap before, as some of you will remember.  Recently, Simon Rowland of Direct Leap has posted to the comment threads in previous posts and sent me a few emails to try and share his side of the story, and I’ve been doing some re-examination of what I know, what others have said, and what I’ve said, and it seems worth trying again to be as clear as I can.  It’s hard to be really clear in this scenario, because I don’t know much and what I’ve heard is both suspect and confidential.

What I Know
Nothing.  I haven’t worked with Direct Leap or Simon personally.  I’ve heard several stories from both sides now, and I don’t have anywhere near enough evidence to form an opinion, let alone suggest that the matter is clear.

What I’ve Heard
I have heard a caution from more than one source that claims to have had dealings with Direct Leap that didn’t go well.  Each of these sources has talked to me claiming that they hope I can protect others from going through the same.  It’s motivated by that desire that I’ve been moved to talk about a subject about which I know nothing.

Simon Rowlands, acting on behalf of Direct Leap, argues, as you might expect, that these sources aren’t to be trusted and may be suspect in motive.  Perhaps more interestingly, I’ve also heard from another unrelated source that it’s not black and white and that there’s enough blame to go around, and that potential sources might also have axes to grind.

What I’ve Said
Mostly, I’ve just tried to communicate that I’ve heard some things that give me pause, and that if you’re considering working with Direct Leap, you should do your research.  I’ve used a lot more words than that, but I hope that’s what it comes down to.

Bias
It’s true that everyone in this mess is probably biased in some way, the more so the more directly they’re connected.  Even though I’m not connected in any tangible way, I’m trying to err on the side of the candidate, since that’s really why I’m talking about Tech Jobs in Toronto.  That is itself a bias, though, and one that factors into my willingness to say anything at all, but also something to bear in mind when considering Direct Leap.

What Does That All Mean?
Not a lot.  This is the breakdown, as I see it:

  • I’ve heard some negative things thrown towards Direct Leap and towards people who once worked for direct leap in some way.
  • I don’t have any evidence or first-hand knowledge with which to confirm or deny the things I’ve heard.
  • Business relationships can be complicated and messy, particularly when things go wrong.
  • Most of the people involved in this discussion has a bias and an agenda, even if they don’t mean to.

What am I not suggesting?

  • That I recommended that anyone should definitely work for, or not work for, Direct Leap.
  • That Direct Leap is a good or bad employer.

What am I suggesting?

  • Anyone considering working for Direct Leap should try and do research before getting too involved.
  • Talk to your friends, put out feelers and find out what you can.
  • Talk to the company, talk to past employees and contractors, if you can find them.
  • Frankly, that’s the same advice I’d give you about any company you’re considering working for.

I’m not sure I can be any more clear than that.  As always, I’m happy for Friends and Foes of Direct Leap to get their words in edgewise below, because my opinion, even when I don’t have one, is not the only word in the subject.  Similarly, if you have a question that I can answer, I’ll give it a crack.

I’m also going to go back over what I’d written previously and make sure I haven’t erred to much in one direction or another, but I consider this to be the most complete statement on the subject anyway.