Garner: Sr. Software Developer

May 9, 2012

Garner (websitelinkedin) is looking for a Sr. Software Developer:

You are proficient in at least Java, JavaScript and SQL. You have several years of experience developing server side business logic and web-based GUI components. You are familiar with Agile planning and XP engineering practices, especially TDD, refactoring, mock objects, pair programming and continuous integration. You have a mastery of design principles and the object-oriented paradigm of software development. You know the basics of shell scripting, jQuery, AJAX, HTML, CSS and HTTP.

You are curious and always striving to get better at your profession. You know that you will work in a totally different way 10 years from now and you are not scared by it. You like to experiment with new languages, tools, and libraries, applying your new knowledge to your everyday work.

Garner makes a platform called exdocs, and they used to direct people to; you’ll still find links pointing there. The new Garner website is still relatively young, I gather, so it’s a little lean on content, but it’s not hard to find out more about their product and company with a web search. You’ll even turn up ancilliary sites like and their old site (which redirects now to the Garner site).

The Good
First and foremost, this is a posting written by (or at least heavily influenced by) someone who understands technology and what developers care about. It’s written with care, and this makes it stand out over the vast majority of job postings.

As a result of that, you can get a much stronger vibe for their development culture than you can for most postings on areas like software quality and agility. The passion for software comes through. I like that the posting mentions technologies but isn’t pedantic about them.

This posting was given to me directly, rather than something I found on my own, by someone who I’ve known for a while. He’s looking for strong candidates and I hope that my posting this will help him find them. If we’re lucky, he’ll be able to respond to some of my points here to help clarify anything.

Garner’s industry focus on Oil, Gas, Mining and Pipelines mean that their market is an important one in Canada and one that has been doing pretty well over the last few years. Some of their older pages talk more generally about logistics, freight, land management and other sectors, so I suspect these growth sectors are becoming (or have become) their primary focus.

I’ve been curious about Continuous Delivery techniques for a while, but haven’t had much experience with them. I don’t get a strong sense from the posting of what they’re doing with continuous delivery, but the fact that it  gets mentioned at all is appealing to me.

The Location
Their Toronto office is near Queen and Spadina. It’s a nice area, and not terribly difficult to get to by TTC, GO or road vehicles. Lots of tech companies there, so many of their potential candidates will already be working in the area — if that’s you, then getting yourself into their office for an interview should be pretty easy.

Basically, this is one of the more common areas for tech work, and you probably already know the tradeoffs of this area well enough that I needn’t bother speculating on your behalf.

What’s Missing
Garner is privately held, so I don’t know much about how the business is doing, growth, finances.

The redirection of the website and refocusing on growth industries seem like normal business changes, but it’s hard to really assess those kinds of changes from the outside — you’d have to be really immersed in the company to understand the impact. Is this a recent and significant change or just gradual business evolution. Are people inside the company happy with these changes?

What’s the size and composition of the team? What would you be working on? What’s the compensation like?

What are they doing with continuous delivery?

How do they manage the mix of user experience design and agile approaches?

Your mileage may vary when it comes to working on a platform for capital projects in the oil, gas, mining and pipelines sectors. It won’t be everyone’s perfect job. If you’re looking for a consumer-focused startup, this isn’t it.

I know people who’d never take another Java job at this point. Even for many dedicated Java developers, the bloom is off the rose. The technologies they talk about sound like solid ones, but you might not be hyper-excited about the technologies themselves.

In Summary
If you’re experienced with Java and the Web and you’re looking for a new position, I’d guess this is likely to be interesting.

I’ve made some minor edits based on minor changes since I started writing, or things that I learned after posting. I don’t think they affect the content in a way that’s worth describing in detail.


The Rands Test

October 11, 2011

Rands has just written up a test to rate companies, a little like the Joel test, but based on a management role rather than a development role. How does your company measure up?

Like Joel’s test, I think you need to read it with a grain of salt, decide how many of those conditions you truly believe in, but, like the Joel test, it’s a good starting point for you to decide what kinds of things you might need to look for in a company.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

September 30, 2011

Your Company isn’t that Special

You may be above average, you may be a good place to work, financially healthy, growing, and everybody gets along. That still doesn’t mean you’re stellar or world-class or even a/the top <anything>. By piling on the superlatives, all you’re doing is encouraging me to roll my eyes at your posting. Even if your company really is that special, you won’t convince me by shoving a bunch of meaningless hype at the beginning of your posting. Rather than tell me that your company is world-class, tell me why you believe that’s true. Tell me something about your compensation plan, the recent growth of your stock, how your company offers RRSP matching and tops up maternity leave. Or tell me about the cool technologies that you use, or how your company is using technology to make the world a better place. Tell me something real.

Your Job isn’t that Special

It might be above average. It might be an interesting job, a senior position or or a very interesting product. It’s still probably not a once-in-a-life-time opportunity or the world’s best <anything>, it’s probably not going to be world-changing, ‘the next big thing’. And even if it is, you’re going to have to convince me that your job is better than all the other jobs that claim to be extra-special. So tell me something real. Tell me about how I’d be working on a great team of senior people who get along really well, have compatible opinions about software, really enjoy what they’re working on and they’re working to realistic timelines. Tell me that you have an opening for a really senior position where someone can really blossom and advance their career. Tell me enough about your project that I truly believe you’re going to succeed.

Your Candidates aren’t that Special

They might be above average. In fact, considering how many sub-par candidates float around the job pool, they might be the top five percent of the people actively looking for employment right now. But they’re not rockstars, ninjas or superstars. They’re probably not hardcore. They probably don’t need mastery of anything, they just need to be able to get the job done. They’re probably not the best of the best, world-class talent. If you really are looking for world-class talent, then convince me of that. Tell me the qualifications you expect to have, and that you know that in order to attract that kind of talent you’re willing to pay really well, relocate people or allow them to work remotely, explain how your project is so amazing that you need and can attract that kind of talent who might otherwise be working at Google, at Apple or on their own killer startup.

Drop the hype, and tell me something real.

Rypple: Sr. Software QA Engineer

August 27, 2010

Rypple is looking for a Senior Software QA Engineer:

  • An integral member of the team that makes sure we release the best quality software. Period.
  • Work cross-functionally to define testing strategy. This is not an order-taker testing position. You will have ownership of the test/release processes at Rypple.
  • Build the necessary frameworks, infrastructure and tools to increase the speed of releases and consistently deliver high-quality software
  • Leading automated testing efforts
  • Developing tools to improve product quality and automate processes

The Good
Rypple is a Toronto startup with good funding, founders and funders with a solid track record, and they seem to have managed to get some marketplace traction.  The technologies they use seem pretty solid, and they make the right noises about process, near as I can see from the outside.  I’ve spoken to the founders in the past, and they seemed like good guys.  I don’t know any of their staff well enough to really comment, but at a distance, they seem like they’ve managed to hire a pretty good team.  Ultimately, it seems like a good place to work in a company that may well “go places.”

Things to Investigate / Ask
What’s their QA team look like now?  What’s the size and composition of the team that you’d be joining?  What kind of testing approaches and technologies are currently in place?  What’s the culture of developer testing like at Rypple?  What’s “competitive salary” mean, and what’s the rest of their compensation package like?

Are they profitable?  If not, what’s the burn rate like, and how long does their funding take them?  What’s the plan for profitability?  If they’re currently profitable, how long have they been so, and do they plan to stay that way, or to do more R&D than their profit can sustain?  These are pretty normal questions to ask a startup, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve talked to a couple people who interviewed there within the last couple of years, and they felt it was a pretty tough interview.  Depending on your view of things, that might be great (“Everyone I work with will have been carefully screened!”) or  bad (“I get nervous in interviews, and they’re going to exacerbate that!”).  I tend to like tough interviews, but your mileage may certainly vary.

Google Web Toolkit is a bit of a pain, from a testing perspective.  It’s very ajaxy, which not all testing tools are good at, and it’s not always amenable to JUnit testing of the internals.  That said, it also means that QA can be more important on a GWT project than some comparable technologies.  Just be prepared for the challenges inherent here.

It’s a startup, so their definition of ‘competitive salary’ may not be yours.  If you expect your mileage to vary here, don’t wait to long to clarify.

The Location
Yonge-and-Eglinton.  There are lots of shops and restaurants nearby, from Yonge to Eglinton, Bayview, Mount Pleasant.  It’s pretty accessible by subway, and not completely insane by car, although the traffic in the area tends to be sluggish, so TTC is probabliy the preference here.  If you live downtown, you might prefer a job downtown, but for most of us, Yonge and Eglinton is a totally reasonable location.

In Summary
If QA’s your thing, then Rypple’s probably a pretty good place to do it.  Do take the opportunity to learn a little more about how they’re doing QA right now, where they are in the startup phases and who you’d be working with.

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?

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: 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?

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.

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.

CPNI: Manager of Software Development

February 10, 2010

CPNI is looking for a Manager of Software Development:

We are seeking top candidates for the position of a hands-on Agile Software Manager to Lead and Mentor a Team of Java Software Developers. The position is of prime importance to the company; the selected candidate will be responsible for development of new products or extensions of existing products. The Manager of Software Development will receive specifications from the Product Management Team and translate them into software fully and thoroughly QA tested and delivered to the Operations Team.

This might be a replacement to this earlier role that CPNI posted.

The Good
A friend interviewed there once, suggested that the people he spoke to seemed intelligent, that the interview process at least was thorough and seemed solid.  They seem to be agile, which I find appealing.  Their technology stack sounds like it has some reasonable points, although there’s not a lot of detail there.  There also seems to be some mobile work, even though it’s J2ME.  Mobile payments is certainly a space that people continue to believe will grow, although it still hasn’t gathered a lot of traction in North America.

A source implied that he/she couldn’t come to terms on payment with CPNI, so their pay scale might not be the best in Toronto.  Then again, this is a pretty senior role, so it might be better-compensated.  A recent commenter suggested that he/she would rather have ebola than work for CPNI again.  There’s not a lot of information in that comment and I’m pretty sure it’s hyperbole, so it’s hard to read much into it, but it’s a pretty passionate statement.  In response to that comment, someone I know contacted me directly to suggest that that comment is ‘unfair’.  While he/she didn’t provide much additional detail, “definitely better than ebola” was made clear.

The Bad
As far as mobile work goes, J2ME is increasingly not seen as the area of expansion, with Android and iPhone capturing a lot of attention.   I’m personally not fond of using EJB, although if it’s EJB 3.x, I might consider it tolerable.

What’s Missing
What’s their approach to agile?  What are they using for web services?  What’s the compensation like at CPNI?  What’s the size and composition of the team?  How is CPNI doing in the mobile payment marketplace, and what are the challenges they and their products currently face?  Why are they looking for another dev manager already?

Your mileage may vary when it comes to Fitnesse; it was de rigeur in agile shops for a while, but it’s never really excited me.  Then again, a company that takes testing seriously is always a good thing.  And then, your mileage will vary if you need to drive out to …

The Location
CPNI’s out at 427 and Burnhamthorpe, which is not a particularly exciting neighbourhood.  If you’re already in the west end of the subway line, the transit route might not be that much worse than downtown, and if you’re west and used to driving, it might be fine, but for most of the rest of the city, it’s pretty far west.  I commuted from the east end to an office north of there for a few months for a contract, and I can’t say that I’d be anxious to do it again, all other things being equal.

In Summary
This is a fairly senior role for a company that claims to be operating in an agile way.  If you want to be in a management position at an agile shop, and the location doesn’t throw you, then this would probably be worth a look.  Try to coax additional information out of past employees who might give you a better sense for some of the rumors above.