Archive for June, 2007

Senior Developer Issues
June 22, 2007

We’ve been talking about tech, our country, and our capabilities in starting startups. Now let’s look at something common to small, new companies and large, established ones alike. Software Developer Talent.

First of all who are the “seniors” and what makes them senior? While this was a PinoyJUG mailing list discussion on junior Java developers, it’s not limited to that skill set. The different criteria discussed were: tenure, technical skills (but are they all applicable?), talent, salary, maturity, and even political skills.

Once we have defined who the seniors are, are they available for hiring? Or did they move abroad? What does it take to get them back? There is current discussion on how Philippines-based companies are now boosting salaries to never-heard-before levels to attract or retain talent.

Of course, keeping talent is not just about salary. Pay is just 1/3 of Joel’s Criteria for Geek Job Satisfaction. Then Gabusch adds tips on keeping creative people happy. I had some thoughts on it as well comparing the developer situation in the Philippines and abroad (within my limited experience of course.)

There is seniority in terms of age. There was a discussion about the maximum age posted in local job ads, and postings for in other Asian countries. It seems that this is ageism is common in Asian work cultures, even as it’s illegal in US (and probably elsewhere.) I suspect this is because Asians are not comfortable with working with older or younger people as their peers. The younger people would look at an older person as someone who should be more senior to them in the organization. The older people would feel insecure that they are at the same level as younger people. But then again, it could also be due to the higher salaries that older people would get, or perceived higher costs and lower productivity.

What are the positions for senior developers outside of a traditional organization? There has been a discussion on PinoyJUG and a parallel one in PLUG (Philippine Linux Users Group) regarding the proper salary for a telecommuting US job. The most important point has been: should the candidate ask for a higher salary, since the US employer is expecting to spend, and to keep up the price expectations for Filipino developers? Or should the candidate avoid this “‘entitlement”‘ and ask for what they would normally want or need if it were a local company hiring. This has our country’s outsourcing competitiveness in mind – at least price-wise.

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I, Unfilipino?
June 16, 2007

This is a rant about myself.

First, I’m apathetic. I admitted as much when
Nick of tingog.com asked me to write about Musa Dimasidsing. I didn’t even vote in the last elections (though that’s since I’m out of the country, and not due to apathy.)

I don’t care about Pinoy politics – I find world politics much more interesting and important. Nick did point out it is a social concern. There are some social issues I do care about, and I will post about them in the future. It looks like my blog topics are shifting. I guess there’s only so much I can write about business and tech!

Second, I have a lousy score on Lakbayan.



My Lakbayan grade is C-!

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out at
Lakbayan!

Created by Eugene Villar.

On my first take, I got a D. Then I answered it again and remembered some places that I visited before but have long forgotten. The low score is because: I’m not fond of traveling. I really only travel for work. I have only lived in Metro Manila.

I do have plans of improving my score. There are some places I want to visit, more of the historical spots than the leisure places. Some are even inside Metro Manila – I’ve lived there my whole life but I have never been to Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela, and Pateros!

On a tech note: I just have to commend Eugene. I’ve been struggling with a web app concept for weeks, but have come up with nothing. Here he comes with something viral!

Blogging about Mental Illness
June 16, 2007

Blogging about mental illness is difficult.

Gail’s interview post where she answers my interview questions is insightful and revealing when talking about a family member. Now, I want to post more about my own experiences but to be honest I’m still quite embarrassed just thinking about them. These events transpired in 1998. Maybe next year, on the 10th anniversary, I will post and tell all.

For now I can just share that I have bipolar disorder, and am taking medicine until now. Yes, I’m still quirky. And I did my time in psychiatric wards, or “basements.” I had the strangest psychotic experiences there, and outside, and the crazy thing is that I can remember most of what happened. I can remember the warped thoughts I was thinking.

It wasn’t fun, in retrospect, so I don’t recommend doing something that will force you to go. (Like taking illegal drugs.) But, if you need to go, you should go.

Interviews and Building my About Page
June 7, 2007

I was interviewed, then interviewed other bloggers. They replied:

(Waiting for Rico. Hey it’s my turn to ask questions!)

Now, Jayvee points out the need to update the About page. My own About page is very bare. I don’t know how to describe myself. It’s much easier to do that in corporate profiles where we can make things about me sound really good. I want my About page to be honest. Perhaps the stuff in my LinkedIn profile can be a start, but which of those are relevant?

Perhaps it should be a FAQ? Ask me something here, fun or serious, and I’ll answer.

I’d like to find out more about you as well. Tell me something about yourself. I got this idea from Noemi’s Tell Me More About You.

Startups and Geek Job Satisfaction
June 6, 2007

Joel (a software developer) wrote about
criteria for geek job satisfaction. I noted that he left out work-life balance, to which he replied, he never had a problem with that.

That’s good for him, since work-life balance is a common – even stereotypical – tech working problem. I myself have always had a balance, but it’s mostly out of choice. Since I started my career in my own startup, even after I left and got employed (by other startups!) I still had that startup mentality. I guess startups seek to employ people who are willing to imbalance their life versus work, for some greater reward (hopefully for real.)

I can see another geek criterion in action. I’m now working abroad – onshore outsourcing – in a more “advanced” country. Here they can give away some things for free, and have a better physical working environment than the typical Pinoy IT firm. Not the computers, but the floor space and desks, and private offices for many. Needless to say, this is something I’d like to look at when I get home.

How come more Pinoy companies don’t spend more on these? One thing would be the lack of cash, from the lack of capital for companies. Another is that for the typical company who is not outsourcing, they earn less money per person in absolute terms, compared to their foreign counterparts. Nevertheless, I have read experiences where benefits are cheaper to provide than a higher cash salary, especially when recruiting.

Podcasting thoughts
June 2, 2007

I haven’t been an avid podcast listener. Blame that on the lack of hardware: I don’t own any personal music players (iPods or their competition) since listening to music on earphones in painful. (I have tinnitus – ringing in the ears. I’ve had it checked and there’s no obvious cause. On the bright side, my hearing is perfect.) Listening to the podcast while working on the PC isn’t practical either since I can’t concentrate.

Lately I’ve had some listening success with the Nokia 6233 with its useful music player software (on Series 40 3rd Edition) and a headset. I also found out that it can record up to one hour to the memory card, in AMR format. Could I now record my own podcast?

I gave it some thought. What is there to talk about? While some podcaster/bloggers have no trouble recording their ‘casts, these are the people who have no problem blogging either. I on the other hand push out new posts with some difficulty. I also have no skills in sound editing and mixing music for post-production.

I think I’ll wait until I have other people to converse with – like the Band of Bloggers. Unless something significant really comes up that I need to record and broadcast in the spoken word.

Making Fresh Software Developers Productive
June 1, 2007

How to make fresh software developers productive has long been a concern of mine, through various jobs in my career. At my current job, the concern is how to make tool-oriented Computer Science graduates productive. These are people that by the choice of their school or their own decision, orient their education on certain tools or technologies.

This is not good. We need them to think logically and clearly, regardless of what they studied.

They could start in school. I received this email from my alma mater, the Ateneo Department of Information Science and Computer Science (DISCS):

DISCS will have its annual planning session soon and we are trying to gather some data for this meeting. We were thinking you might have some answers/thoughts on the following questions.

1. What are the current technologies that IT students (CS and MIS) should learn?

2. What are industry trends that IT students (CS and MIS) should be aware of?

3. What do you think are the important skill sets IT students (CS and MIS) should have?

4. DISCS is exploring the idea of offering Minor concentration, currently we have something like ‘Games Development’ in mind (i.e. BS CS Minor in Games Development). What do you think of this idea? Do you think there are other areas we could consider developing a Minor in?

Notice that the questions pertain to skills and knowledge of both CS and MIS students. You may specify unique requirements for CS and/or MIS students as well.

Now this makes me feel, “the kids of today have it so much better” – they have the Internet, faster PC’s, better languages (Java, not Pascal!) But of course that will always be the case.

This is related to Winston Damarillo’s (Exist Software) lecture on global opportunities in software development – as covered by Sacha Chua. His ideas are good, but how can Philippine software companies be competitive if the talent is lacking?

Time and again, industry/academe cooperation has been full of wasted opportunities. The cause may be related to what a colleague of mine believes: that academic institutions in the Philippines are profit-making institutions. In the Western world, universities do not make enough money from tuition but get their needs from grants.

The result is that the fresh software developers need to be trained by their hiring companies. That is, if they make the grade at all. User groups can help as well. For Java developers, there’s the Pinoy Java Users Group which I help with.

This is a serious situation, but there’s still room for fun.
Jayvee has coverage of the Exist “geek cocktails”, an event I missed.