Centre for Global eHealth Innovation: Hacker, Software Generalist, Researcher

May 27, 2011

The Personal Health and Information Technology department at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation is looking for a Hacker / Software Generalist / Researcher:

Every member of our tightly knit development team has full input into every stage of project architecture, design and implementation. We own our projects and get shit done that has real, meaningful and measurable impact on sick people’s lives.

  • Have enough experience in Java to be sick of it
  • Have experience with the JBOSS stack
  • Have professional experience with a dynamic language such as Ruby or Python or Javascript
  • Be a UNIX weenie
  • Have open source contributions they can show us
  • Have mobile app development experience, on any combination of the iPhone, Android and Blackberry platforms, or on Titanium, PhoneGap, or other cross platform tools
  • Be comfortable working in a Scrum process
  • Be fanatical about testing

Grant McInnes, who sent in the posting, adds:

we do everything from hardware development, up the stack through software development, to UX evaluation and finally randomized controlled trials on the built products

The Good
It sounds like a great cause:

We have good results. In a randomized controlled trial, our applications have been shown to significantly improve heart failure outcomes, in patients with Congestive Heart Failure. In another we’ve demonstrated a 10 point drop in blood pressure for hypertensive patients

How often do you get to look at a software job where you can contribute to saving lives?

It also sounds like they use a fair number of technologies and have pretty sound processes. There’s not a ton of detail there, but what’s there sounds good.

Who is the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, to which the Personal Health and Innovation department belongs, anyway?

The Centre for Global eHealth Innovation is “a joint effort of UHN and the University of Toronto and was built with funds from the Canadian government, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Ontario Innovation Trust”. Phew. And then of course the UHN is itself a bunch of different entities working together. The Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Innovation Trust are both government organizations created to foster innovation at the Federal and Provincial levels. So, basically, take a university, several hospitals, two branches of government and assorted others and put them together and you have the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation.

It sounds like the possibilities for endless meetings, paperwork and mayhem abound without even talking about how Conway’s Law fits into this. Of course, universities, governments and hospitals can be fulfilling places to work, so maybe your mileage may very a little, and you’ll find the combination appealing. It sounds a little scary to me.  The posting talks about some of the upside of this arrangement:

Being in a research environment, we are able to concentrate on this goal without being distracted by short term profit motives, or keeping investors happy.

The Location
Sounds like they’re in the Toronto General Hospital, over by MaRS, Hospital Row, etc. There are restaurants and shops around, although it’s not overflowing with great eats and hip places from my limited experience in the area. It’s very transit-accessible, but it’s not ideal for go train (you’d want to take the subway, at least in winter) or driving. The location is probably neither off-putting nor exciting for most of you. On the upside, you could take in events at MaRS pretty easily.

What’s Missing
What’s the compensation like for a Researcher at the Centre for eHealth Innovation? What’s the size and composition of the team? How would you fit into it? What’s that crazy organizational structure like in practice — does it get in the way or is it something that you’re barely aware of?

Is there a particular project that you’d be starting on? What are the technologies and platforms you’d likely be working with right away and what is the mix going to be like over the long haul?

What are their development practices like? There’s a mention of Scrum, but in practice companies vary quite a bit. It’s hard to get too deep into specifics without knowing more about the technological mix but: do they do pairing? Do they use digital issue tracking or card boards (kanban, etc)? Is there a build? Continuous integration? How often are deployments/releases made? What’s the workspace like?

Maybe Grant can answer some of these here, but these are the kinds of questions you might consider asking them yourself.

In Summary
If you’re looking for a good cause with decent technology and practices, this sounds like it’s worth further investigation.


Canada Protection Plan: Software Developer

February 16, 2011

I wrote up a posting for Canada Protection Plan, a client, who’s looking to start building an in-house software development team.

I won’t give it the full review treatment because I can’t be unbiased about a posting I wrote.  I will comment a little on the pros and cons, but you should read the posting for yourself and form your own opinion.

The Good
CPP’s been a client of mine for more than a year now, and they’re a great client.  I can’t swear that the experience of being an employee will be exactly the same, but I’m inclined to believe it’s close enough that this will be a pretty decent place to work.

They’re building new products and using decent technology to do so.  As the first permanent technical employee, you might have the chance to really shape the technology practice here.

I’m a part of the current team, and I can vouch for the two others you’ll be working with initially.  It’s a good team, and that’s something you won’t find everywhere.

What’s Missing
We’re considering people with a wide range of experiences, so I can’t be too specific about compensation — that’ll probably depend on you. I’ve tried to talk about the company, the projects, the challenge and opportunity involved, and the team, but there’s only so much I can write without making it a massive posting. If you apply to the job, I encourage you to think about the things I might not have already talked about, and ask, and I’ll be as candid as I can.

The Bad
It’s going to be a pretty quiet team at first.  There’s already three of us working on software for CPP, but we’re consultants, we’re not onsite every day, and so you won’t be immediately surrounded by tons of other software developers.  Some people would have trouble with that.  I’m expecting that the team will grow, and that the first employee will be a key member in recruiting the rest of the team, but for the first little while you’ll probably need to be comfortable with having days where you’re the only software developer onsite.

The location is pretty good for me, since I live in the east end of Toronto and I can drive there quickly. Another consultant I’m working with lives on the waterfront and can get there in ten minutes by car.  If you’re mid-town near the Yonge line, I imagine the shuttlebus makes the trip palatable, although I haven’t tried that myself.  On the other hand, if you’re coming from the west end, or fighting through a ton of traffic to get to the CPP office, it might not be your cup of tea.

There’s three restaurants in or very near the building, as well as a GoodLife fitness.  There’s free parking.  If you’re willing to walk a little, there’s a grocery store, a few more restaurants and the Science Centre (if you have children and a stay-at-home partner, that might be appealing, as it is for me).  On the other hand, there aren’t a pile of restaurants around or very very close, so you’ll probably end up bringing lunch and eating in the cafe.  Depending on your perspective, that might be a good thing or a bad one.

The goal here is to get someone who can really own these applications and the practice of software development for CPP.  Someone who’s in it for the long haul, at least by comparison to the consultants already building software for CPP.  We don’t expect you to make any guarantees, of course, but if you’re not interested in being that person, then it’s probably not going to work.

In Conclusion
CPP needs to build an in-house software development team.  If you’re interested in being the first member of that team and taking increasing ownership of software at a growing insurance company, this might be a good fit for you.

I wrote the job posting.  CPP is a client of mine.  If you were to be hired in this position, you’d be working with me.  As a result, assume that I’m somewhat biased about the role, and be sure that you do your due diligence.  Of course, you should do that with every position.

PharmaTrust: Platform Service Developer

September 3, 2010

PharmaTrust (PCA Services Inc) is looking for a Platform Service Developer:

PharmaTrust (PCA Services Inc) is a cutting edge dynamic start-up in the field of telepharmacy, producing the MedCentre remote medication dispensary. The MedCenter provides pharmacists with the ability to remotely counsel and dispense medication using IP based audio/visual conferencing and a remotely controlled dispensary robot system.

Platform Services develops and supports the PharamTrust Platform and provides shared enterprise services to the PCA Services group of companies.

The Platform Service Developer has the responsibility for developing the PharmaTrust Platform Services, integrating other systems applications and databases (both internal and customer), and evolving the Platform Train of the MedCentre application software.

They’re also looking for a Platform Technical Support & Maintenance Specialist.

The Good
These robot dispensaries seem like a good idea to me.  The Albany Medical Clinic had one, and it was interesting.  IP-based audio/video conferencing and e-health all rolled into one project.  There’s definitely some interesting elements to this, and these dispensaries are new enough that PharmaTrust might be on a good trajectory over the long haul.

It sounds like they’re in the middle of a technical overhaul from a .NET system to a Java/ESB system (and the support/maintenance specialist would continue to maintain the existing .NET side, looks like).   That means there’s an opportunity to really get in on the ground floor of the new architecture, as long as the architecture sounds like something that would work for you.  Personally by the time you throw ESB and BPEL together, I’m already starting to get nervous, let alone combined with WS-*, a platform shift and technical challenges like SIP.  Your mileage may vary significantly from mine, but I’d want to get a stronger sense for the architectural direction, and whether or not there’s any astronautics involved.

On the other hand, if ESB and WS-* sound like the right way to build a robust, enterprise-class, scalable system with all the -ilities you need, by all means, this might be the perfect fit for you.

What’s Missing?
Why the architectural shift from .NET to Java?  What are the driving factors behind the choices of ESB, BPEL, WS-*?  What’s the current size and composition of the technical team, and how will that change on the new platform?  What’s the compensation like for this position?  What’s the growth and outlook for MedCentre like?  (It seems promising to me, but if this is going to be your company, you might as well have more details than I do.)

I don’t really expect a company to describe the reasons for their technical decisions in a job posting, but it seems like the sort of questions you’re going to want to ask.

The Location
It’s in Hamilton, Mississauga, Oakville or Toronto?  I’m going to assume that’s a result in trying to cast a wide net for candidates in any of those locations.  Their office seems to be in an industrial park in Oakville, which means that if you’re not already in the west end of Toronto or out of town, the location will probably be too far out.  I don’t know much about the area; if that area is somewhere you consider, you probably already know more than I do.

In Summary
Looks like it’s be well-suited for someone with enterprisey leanings, health-care and some exposure to both Java and .NET, in the west end.

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: 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.

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?

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.