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Kimberly Blessing

Managing, Mentoring, and Hiring: Why is it so damn hard?

4 min read

Think sticker

The super-cool Think Brownstone stickers I gave away at BarCamp!

I had the privilege of leading a problem solving discussion at BarCamp Philly this past Saturday. The session was proposed at the last moment (while the first sessions were going on) in response to a few conversations I had over morning coffee -- I was amazed to end up in a packed room full of very vocal people! It's clear our community has a lot to discuss on the topics of management, mentoring, and hiring. Thanks to everyone for participating and making this such an engaging session!

Here are photos of the blackboard notes/mind-map -- they're a bit blurry, but you still make out most of the text and the lines connecting ideas.

  1. Define the Problem "Screen Shots": 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  2. Mentoring focus "Screen Shots": 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

A transcription of all the blackboard notes follows -- but I think the big takeaway of the session were the mentoring action steps we identified:

  1. Define mentoring: what are you trying to achieve?
  2. Carve out the time: make it important, protect it, make it part of everyone's job
  3. Ask: not for mentoring but for information, for input, "how can I help?"
  4. Do things together and make it visible
  5. Express thanks

Before you go through the full notes: I'm serious about getting together again to continue the conversation! Please leave a comment on this blog post, email me, or @/DM me on Twitter so I can be sure you get an invite to the meetup!

Define the problem

    • No mentoring at many places
    • Hard to mentor if you're not being mentored
      • No managerial/organizational support
        • Do you set aside time for mentoring activities?
    • No one gives a shit when trying to mentor
    • Bidirectional mentoring: [other party] not always interested
    • Finding people / the right people
      • People with potential
      • Headhunters [=] Noise
      • [Many] unqualified candidates
      • Depends on company: hiring for culture, skills, experience?
        • Do we even know what we're hiring for?
          • Speedy growth
          • Same job title (not description) means different things at different companies
            • Different responsibilities, different expectations (on both sides)
          • As person being hired:
            • Why am I being hired?
            • What am I doing?
            • Is it OK to ask questions?
      • Dilution of credentials
        • PhD [in CS] but can't code
        • As jobseeker, educationally over-qualified, less job experience
          • Resume format hasn't changed, how do you present yourself?
            • Cover letter still important!
          • For developers, where is the code portfolio?
      • What is the qualification to get through?
        • Puzzles
        • Quizzes
        • Essays
      • Can someone meet our expectations?
        • [Example: job posting asking for] 10 years of jQuery experience
    • Hiring
      • Tools are shitty and inhibit process
        • Broad job posting not effective
      • Expensive! Job portal posting and lots of asshats apply
      • [Managing/researching applicants]
        • Resumator + LinkedIn
        • Stack Overflow
        • Ranking candidates
          • Bullet Analytics
      • Where to post jobs locally?
        • Technically Philly job board - will have job fair in 2014
        • Local network and community
          • Be an active participant in community so people want to work with/for you
          • Most groups are for senior/advanced people
          • How to go from email to action?
        • How to find junior talent?
          • Campus Philly
          • Drexel Co-Ops (people love them)
    • At this point, we were 15 minutes into our time, so we voted on one area to focus on; the group chose mentoring.

Focus on Mentoring

  • This is a skill in and of itself!
  • Big difference between mentoring and training
    • What is the hidden curriculum in your organization?
  • Finding time
    • Carve it out
  • Care more!
    • How to make those NOT in this room care more?
      • How do we encourage more soft mentors?
        • Make it a requirement
  • Coaching
    • Helping people express themselves makes them better at what they do
  • Apprenticeship
    • Formal programs
  • Context/structure
    • "Soft" mentoring instead of formal
      • Team collaboration and valuing others' opinions?
      • Recognition is important
      • How to find a mentor as a junior person?
        • Look for someone who is passionate about what they do
        • Look for someone who is open
        • Show them what you're working on
        • Ask
          • We aren't taught to ask good questions
            • Are we hiring people who won't ask by looking for purple squirrels (super ninja rockstars are self confident)
            • [Nor are we taught] to recognize others, e.g. acknowledge someone in code comments
          • Conversation starters:
            • What's wrong with this?
            • What am I missing?
            • What have you tried?
    • Some organizations separate mentoring from management
      • [Why?] This introduces BIAS in management process
  • Why is this a corporate expectation? Why don't kids go out and find [their] own mentors?
  • Manager != Leader, Leader != Manager
    • Being a mentor is a differentiator

Mentoring Action Steps

  1. Define mentoring: what are you trying to achieve?
  2. Carve out the time: make it important, protect it, make it part of everyone's job
  3. Ask: not for mentoring but for information, for input, "how can I help?"
  4. Do things together and make it visible
  5. Express thanks

Kimberly Blessing

Web Developer Job Search: Your Resume

6 min read

I estimate that I have spent a full work-week, over the course of my career, reviewing web developer resumes. That's enough time to produce some strong opinions on the topic. Allow me to finally continue the Job Search thread by sharing my advice for creating a top-notch web developer resume.

Resume Format and Structure

Your resume format should work to highlight your strengths. The chronological resume, perhaps the most traditional format, fails in this regard. A functional resume does a much better job of highlighting your experience in a specific role, but most web developers are good at more than one thing. I suggest mixing aspects of the two formats, organizing them in a way that makes sense for you and your strengths -- then you'll have a resume that stands out.

Here are the general sections found in a great web developer resume. With the exception of the first two, the rest can be ordered and/or further broken out according to your needs.

  • Objective: If you're searching for a job, you ought to know what you're seeking! Customize your objective, as needed, when replying to job postings. (Note: If you're not actively seeking a job, but still want to have a resume posted online, it's okay to omit this section.)
  • Summary of Qualifications: It's a cheesy headline, perhaps, and all too often the summary is filled with buzzwords -- but I have read really compelling summaries that made me want to know more about a candidate. Focus on describing your strengths and what you contribute to an organization.
  • Skills: This is where the keywords and buzzwords will start showing up. That's okay: you'll back them up with evidence in the other sections. You can subdivide this section in any number of ways: Technical vs. Soft Skills, Front-End vs. Back-End Skills, Design vs. Development Skills, etc.
  • Professional Accomplishments: Here you can include project accomplishments, awards, public speaking engagements, publishing credits, or descriptions of really awesome things you've accomplished. Like the Skills section, you can also break these out separately.
  • Work Experience: If you've done any combination of full-time work, freelancing, and volunteering, this is the most generic title you can use for your work history. Some people like to break out their professional experience from other work, but I think that can undermine the importance of having taken on freelance or volunteer work. If you list accomplishments for each job in this section, don't repeat them elsewhere, and vice versa.
  • Education: I don't like to see this section missing from a resume. Haven't gone to college? That's okay. Be proud of what schooling you have made it through and list it here. Oh, and that includes training programs, conferences -- anything you've forked out money for that you've learned something from!

Required Information

If your resume were to consist of only two things, it should be these:

  • Contact Information: You'd think this would be a no-brainer, but I have seen resumes where developers didn't list a phone number, email address, or personal web site (more on that below). In my opinion, it's a waste of space to display your full home address, especially if you are looking to relocate. No one's going to snail-mail you an invitation to interview, so city and state will suffice. HR will collect the rest of your contact information later.
  • URLs: I wish I could tell you exactly how many of those ~500 resumes didn't include a single URL... but my gut says that at least half didn't feature even a personal web site URL. Seriously? If you're a web developer, you should have some URLs to share. If you're brand-new to the field, put some of your school projects online. If you've only ever done intranet-type work, get permission to copy parts of the code and make it available, or create other projects of your own to demonstrate your skills. If you're serious about getting a web development job, you need this.

On the flip side, don't waste space on these bits of information: references (or the phrase, "References available upon request"), GPA, salary requirements, or personal information (except if you have hobbies that would be of interest to another geek and would increase the likelihood of getting invited in for an interview).

Frequently Asked Questions

Does my resume have to fit on to one or two pages? No, I don't think that it does. However, I think it's nice if a resume is so well edited and structured that, when printed, it fits to exactly one or two pages (one page if you're young, recently out of school, or switching careers; otherwise two pages). However, if you truly have so much awesomeness to report, then, by all means, go on! If you're really that super-duper, I'm sure I'll want to know all about it.

Does one resume fit all jobs? NO! Don't be afraid to tweak your resume format or content to the job you're applying for. In fact, if you have diverse enough skills and interests (design vs. development) you should probably have completely separate resumes for these purposes.

I am graduating soon and don't have much web development experience. What can I do to beef-up my resume? Use the "Objective" area to make it clear that you're looking for an entry-level position. Highlight your strengths in the "Summary of Qualifications" area and place the "Education" section next, so it's clear you're just coming out of school. List your technical skills, as well as any soft skills that you can support with extra-curricular or volunteer work. If you have been active in a tech community or have attended technical or web conferences, list those.

I'm switching careers. I've taken some web design and development courses and done some small projects. How do I reflect all of this in my resume? First, don't hide the fact that you're switching careers! Your prior experience, even if in a completely different industry, has (hopefully) taught you how to deal with people and has helped you understand your strengths. Start your resume with an "Objective" statement that spells out your desire to move into web development. Then list your skills, training and experience with the web so far before providing your employment history and other educational details. Highlight any experience that translates across industries, but otherwise keep the non-web details short.

I hope the above helps you create an awesome resume. Remember, your resume (supported with at least one awesome URL) helps get you in the door for an interview, so take some time to craft one that truly reflects you!

If you have questions I haven't addressed above, I'm happy to accept them in the comments below.

Kimberly Blessing

Preparing for Your Web Developer Job Search

6 min read

It's a new year, and perhaps you're a Web Developer looking for a new job. As a long-time Web Developer, here are three things I prepare when looking for work, whether it be freelance or full-time. And as a hiring manager, these are the same three things I'm looking for from the candidates who apply for work!

A Resume

I don't care whether I get one page or three pages from Web Developer candidates -- as a hiring manager, I do review the whole thing. Just don't fill it with fluff. I'm looking for dates of employment, size of company/product/team, type of work performed, and skills utilized. The general stuff which you do on a regular basis (emailing with Outlook, writing documentation in Word, slicing of assets in Photoshop or Fireworks, etc.) can just occupy a general skills section rather than be repeated for each job. Starting the resume with a technical skills overview gives me a quick snapshot of what you say you're capable of, and is a likely place for a hiring manager or recruiter to start with questions -- so don't list technical skills which you can't back up with experience! (Saying you have experience with HTML 5 when you haven't done much more than read a few blog posts is a sure-fire way of getting your resume nuked in a company's recruiting database, thus removing you from future consideration.)

While a beautifully formatted resume is always nice, don't agonize over it: using a Word resume template is just fine. Keep in mind that your resume doesn't always get through to the hiring manager in the format you sent -- so prepare a plain text version for textarea uploads. I know that typos sometimes make it in to a resume, and the occasional one will be forgiven or overlooked -- but do make sure to spell and grammar check everything! After all, if you don't QA your resume, how will a hiring manager know if you QA your code? (Need help? Read this and this.)

A Portfolio

To me, your resume is a formality of the hiring process, just metadata. Your portfolio is the real content which will be reviewed with a far more critical eye. The fact that portfolios aren't requested 100% of the time when seeking Web Developer positions only speaks to a hiring process which still treats the Web Developer role like a traditional programming job. Web Developers know otherwise, and if you truly want to be seen as a professional Web Developer, you'll have a portfolio at the ready. Do not slap something together on an as-needed basis -- proactively prepare a portfolio and send it even without request!

A portfolio should highlight your best work -- not all of your work. Don't include every project you've ever worked on. Choose three to five of your code samples which exemplify things like your coding style, ability to reconcile project requirements versus technical constraints, attempt to put HTML 5 into practice, etc. No one project will demonstrate all of those things, obviously, so make it clear why each project is included -- give a short narrative for each project to point someone to what you want them to focus on. Remember, you won't be the room when the portfolio is reviewed (unless it's brought up during an interview, which the portfolio will help you to score), so hand-hold the reader a bit.

I'm going to write a more in-depth post about what should go in a portfolio and how hiring teams review portfolios, so stay tuned.

A Web Site

May I vent for a moment? I can't believe how many Web Developers apply for jobs and don't have a Web site of their own. Where, pray tell, do all of these folks do their testing and noodling with servers and code? Why would you not want some online repository of your code? OK, venting done.

Yes, I do realize why some Web Developers don't have Web sites, but when you're searching for a new job, you need to have one. No, you don't need to have a blog with a lot of profound blabbering about technology, but yes, you should have an online copy of your resume and portfolio. When a recruiter or hiring manager Googles you (oh yes, we do!), you should want something more than your Facebook page to come up in the results.

I really think the most important reason for having the Web site is to host your portfolio. With an online portfolio, you can still highlight a few key projects while hosting copies of all of your code. This way, at a moment's notice, you can direct someone to (or, in an interview, walk someone through) a code solution that exemplifies a point you're discussing. Plus, you can preserve your code as it was when you finished it (delivered it, launched it) -- no longer will you have to make statements like, "I made the templates for the CMS but someone else maintains them now, plus the content folks don't know XHTML, so I don't know if the pages still validate." Worried about keeping copies of your code online? Just password-protect your site. If you give each recruiter a unique username/password to access your site, you'll be able to check your server logs to determine who's actually checked it out.

How will having all three of these things prepared and submitted help you in your job search? First and most importantly, it will get you in the door faster -- literally. If you have decent experience and great code samples which are hosted online, I'm more likely to tell a recruiter to just bring you in for an interview, rather than go through the preliminary phone screen. Why would you want to wait and let someone else get interviewed (and possibly get an offer) first?

If you're looking for your first Web Development job out of school, as a new career, or if you're switching from freelance to full-time employment, the portfolio can be especially helpful in leveling the playing field. If you're able to demonstrate strong skills but have little or no job experience, you're more likely to get an interview than someone with years of experience but no portfolio.

Of course, while you're in the midst of a job search, all of these tools are equally useful for getting short-term contract work, too!

What else do you think is crucial to a Web Development job search? Leave your thoughts in comments. If you have questions, I'm happy to answer those in the comments as well. Best of luck with your job search!

Kimberly Blessing

How not to recruit talent

2 min read

Robert Scoble alerted readers to Jeff Barr's post about Google recruiting. I had to laugh out loud here, because I've also been subject to some strange Google recruiting crap myself.

Most recently, I got an e-mail from a Google recruiter (who clearly did look at my Web site, because she commented on the pink-ness of my blog) with regards to a technical solutions engineer position. The first thing that struck me as odd is that, if you actually read my resume, you'll learn that I've been in management positions for a while... so why would I be interested in an engineering position? The next oddity was the requirement that I complete a self-evaluation before discussions could proceed. Uh-huh. No thanks.

Of course, when I got that e-mail I was laughing pretty hard, because in the many years I've attended the Grace Hopper Celebration I've talked to Google folks many times about job opportunities there -- and was basically told again and again that "Google doesn't recruit Web developers because that's not important to [their] business". Whatever.

I have some friends that have gone to Google, but honestly, the more I learn about them, the more suspicious I am of them. I feel like they're one giant social engineering experiment, and we're all their guinea pigs.

Kimberly Blessing

My Accessibility Story

4 min read

Over at Accessify, Ian's asked folks to tell the story of how they got into accessibility. Like Ian, I get asked this one a lot, so here's my story.

Back in the summer of 1995, I was working as a student technician for Bryn Mawr's Computing Services department. One day my supervisor told me I needed to install some special software on the library computers. I took the disks, went to the library, and started installing.

What I was installing, it turns out, was MAGic -- screen magnification software. The software was requested by a low-vision member of the college community. She needed the software in order to be able to read our online card catalog -- the Web, at the time, was still barely a factor for most of the folks that I interacted with. (That same summer I started teaching an "Intro to the Internet" course to adults and the focus was still on e-mail, except for a brief demo of Lycos and/or Magellan.)

Once the install was complete, I tried the software for myself. I was horrified; I wondered how anyone could adjust to using such a clunky application. As interfaces were enlarged, small flaws in certain apps stood out and attracted my attention. Words flew off screen, and I had to scroll horizontally in order to finish reading a line of text. As both a tech support person (I wondered if I had even installed the software correctly, for a while) and as a computer science student (I hadn't taken any HCI courses, but clearly I was thinking about related issues) I was concerned on behalf of and for the user.

But I was also intrigued. I got one of the women that used the software to demonstrate it for me. We talked about other assistive technologies that were out there, and I tried to learn as much about them as I could. I installed JAWS for DOS at some point, to find out what screen readers were all about. I researched alternate input devices, and for a time used a Twiddler (chord-keyboard).

During this time I was also developing some rather amateurish Web sites, but I didn't put much thought into making them accessible. Of course, at the time, the sites were just images and text, so there wasn't much to think about! As sites got more and more complex, however, I learned about Web accessibility via that same community of users, which continued to call for tech support any time MAGic or JAWS failed to give them access to the content they desired.

In 1999, after I had joined AOL and learned they were being sued by the NFB, I had to chuckle to myself. When interviewing with them, I submitted a technical skills sheet in addition to my resume, on which I listed "Henter-Joyce assistive software" as something I was familiar with. I was clearly over-optimistic in thinking that AOL would already know of these products, since only one person asked me about that particular bullet point. Not only did I have to explain what the products did and who would make use of them, but I also had to explain why it was important for all people to be able to use computers and access the Internet. *forehead smack*

So, this story ends the same way many of my stories end... by crediting and thanking Bryn Mawr for the best education, opportunities, and community a school could offer to a student. When I say that I wouldn't be where I am today if it hadn't been for Bryn Mawr, I really, truly mean it.

Kimberly Blessing

Standards Evangelist Wanted!

3 min read

It was through Steve Ganz, whom I met at SXSW, that I learned PayPal was making the move to Web standards -- entirely due to the great job he'd been doing evangelizing them! It was also because of Steve that I got hired at PayPal. I was excited that we'd be working together... but disappointed when, after just 10 days on the job, Steve resigned. (As Ducky would say, "Do I o-ffend?")

Despite Steve's departure, progress must continue to be made, and PayPal is in need of a standards evangelist! I'm out to find the best person for the job -- someone with great knowledge, passion, and commitment. Is that you? Someone you know? The job description follows, along with instructions for applying. Contact me with questions, or just submit your resume!

The Web Development Platform team at PayPal seeks a senior-level Web developer to work across multiple projects and teams to drive the adoption of Web standards. The ideal candidate will have prior experience working as a senior developer on a high-profile site with a cross-functional team under tight deadlines. The ideal candidate will also be well-versed in Web standards (HTML/XHTML, XML, XSL, CSS, JavaScript/DOM scripting, accessibility) and protocols, coding for multiple browsers/platforms, and current JavaScript frameworks.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Standards evangelism: Requires extensive knowledge of Web standards, a passion for advocating their correct usage, excellent communication skills (written and verbal), and a high comfort level speaking to large crowds.
  • Code analysis: Candidate should have experience with reviewing others’ code, delivering constructive criticism, assisting developers with making changes/fixes.
  • Prototype coding: Based on user interface and visual design specifications, rapidly create necessary HTML, CSS, and DOM scripts to produce working model.
  • Documentation and training: Create and deliver training materials to groups of developers.

Job Requirements

  • 5+ years experience in Web development, including hand-coding of semantic HTML/XHTML, CSS-driven layouts.
  • 3+ years experience of DOM scripting, including DHTML, Ajax, and JavaScript frameworks.
  • 3+ years experience with XML/XSL or a content management system with template scripting capabilities.
  • Expertise with cross-browser, cross-platform development practices.
  • Experience developing accessible Web sites that conform to WCAG 1.0.
  • Solid understanding of Web protocols.
  • Knowledge of software design principles, OO concepts, and/or C++ or Java programming.
  • Excellent time management, problem solving, teamwork, and communication skills.
  • Experience in internationalization/localization a plus.

Education: Bachelors Degree or Equivalent

Interested parties should apply online at under Req . Please provide at least 3 web site URLs that showcase your work.

Kimberly Blessing

Where Are All the Women?

1 min read

Carly's departure from HP has really stirred up a hornet's nest of discussion about women in computing. Now Wired News is picking up the thread, which is good. But is anybody listening?

Seeing as how I'm a female senior manager leaving a tech company, I really wonder about this. I don't have any job offers yet (no cracks about my resume not being up on this site yet, please), and my current employer has made no effort to keep me around. So I have to wonder if the news about women in top management is really getting through to top management.