Article by Del Crockett, Regional Director in Jobspring Washington DC
If you are one of the many tech hiring managers or HR managers out there right now, being tasked with hiring niche-specific technology professionals (i.e. Software, Mobile, Security, DevOps and Front-End Engineers among the most popular), there is a good chance you are utilizing recruiting agencies.
Congratulations, that’s typically a necessary first step for most companies outside of Google and Facebook!
Hire top tech talent in Washington D.C. today.
Unfortunately, many of you are still not getting the attention you want from your vendors. As The Regional Director of our entire Washington, D.C. based tech recruiting operations, I am here to give the inside scoop on why your vendors are not servicing your accounts the way they do some other companies.
#1 – Communication Is Everything
Anyone who has been in a relationship knows it all starts and ends with healthy communication. I often find it perplexing that company representatives (HR and / or hiring managers) want to limit the communication with recruiters.
Using a recruiter is like hiring a consultant from the Big Four – you are bringing on a specialist to provide a service that cannot be fulfilled by internal staff. So why muzzle that consultant? Isn’t the purpose of hiring a consultant to get their perspective and expertise on how to solve the problem at hand?
In a relationship where both company and recruiter have the same goal—namely, getting the position filled with the best applicant in an efficient manner—you would expect a healthy amount of interaction is expected.
The truth is that the best recruiters have deep networks, which means they are getting multiple requests from companies on a daily and weekly basis. Like everyone else, his or her time must be prioritized. When companies minimize or even restrict recruiter communication you can ensure your position will get minimal to no attention. Like anyone else, we find the lack of communication to be a major turn off. Our time is better served where company representatives see value in building a relationship.
The real truth is that the companies who have high communication standards with their vendors typically get first dibs on the best referrals and the best overall quality of service!
#2 – Great job Negotiating Your Vendor to Lower Terms than the Industry Average, But…
Listen, we get it! Every company and department has a budget and paying less when possible is the logical method to running a business. The problem is that in the tech world, demand grotesquely outweighs supply… and then some.
With tech department’s livelihoods dependent on the talent within their teams and the ability to retain and grow staff, handicapping your growth by negotiating below average terms isn’t doing your company any favors. Here’s why.
All respectable agencies know their worth and minimally know what the market standards are for recruiting services. Those standards are in place because a high majority of companies agree to those terms, if not higher. So to come in below those standards in a high demand market where companies have minimal leverage because of the demand is a very ineffective strategy to capturing consistent, high-end referrals from good staffing firms.
Obviously, tech recruiting is a for-profit business and no respectable sales organization is going to discount their services without a great reason. A trend that I have found to be more often true than not, is companies who pay below average vendor fees typically pay below average salaries—and this is a common viewpoint among those who work the industry. Again, this is not an ideal strategy for capturing talent.
In my experience working with companies across the nation for the last nine years, the most attractive companies to work with and work for don’t blink when paying industry standard vendor rates (and employee salaries); and most, pay slightly above to ensure vendors give them top priority when considering where to send their best of best referrals!
#3 The interview - It’s a Sales Job… for you, the Hiring Manager!
Simply put, this is a candidates market; the best in years for technology professionals. Unless your strategy is to wait for the next bubble, by now you should have realized an adjustment is necessary in the way you approach interviews with job seekers (most of which are passive and currently employed).
Some of the most successful companies I have worked with constantly evolve their interviewing practices with a focus on impressing the applicant, not solely just screening them. On the other hand, I often see companies overcomplicating the hiring process. Many of these same companies struggle in the communication department with vendors as aforementioned in the first section. The companies that lack proper communication and overcomplicate the process tend to make the same mistakes.
The most common mistakes?
Managers just screen for technology and culture… and forget to sell themselves and the company: If you want to hire good technical talent, your hiring manager needs to be impressive. Nowadays, it takes a manager who can really sell him or herself, their leadership, vision and management style to capture talent. How good are you at selling yourself? If you have to think about it, then it’s a good idea to put yourself in the position of the applicant and evaluate how the opportunity is presented from the interviewee perspective.
Asking applicants to take a test—especially before 1st round technical interviews: The truth of the matter is that most technical tests, especially the ones created by internal team members simply do not work. They screen out way too many candidates, many of which end up being great additions to other companies. One of the biggest common mistakes is when companies use Google style test to screen for talent despite not actually being Google. Just a reminder, your company is probably not Google, so copying their interview tools may not produce the same result for your company since Google can sell their opportunity on brand alone. Additionally, asking senior level professionals to take a test is almost insulting. Instead, invest time in human interaction first. Otherwise it gives off the perception that you don’t have the internal resources technically to confidently screen for good talent.
Both mistakes not only deter candidates from wanting to work for your company but also deter your vendors from sending you good referrals early and often. If the vendor thinks it is a waste of time because candidates can’t get interested in your opportunity then you can bet your account is not getting the attention it needs to be successful.
Overall, in order to get the best service possible from your vendors, it's important that everyone focus on the end goal. This means leveraging the expertise of your consultant(s) to put your company in a position to be successful hiring the best talent available. It's a competition for talent right now... don’t forget that. Get all the help you can get!
Looking for ways to get more out of your current vendors? Addressing these few pointers should start returning better results almost immediately. Have questions? Feel free to contact Del Crockett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article by Tom Parzych, Practice Manager in Jobspring DC.
There are a lot of articles on the World Wide Web that instruct potential job seekers on what they should do: how to conduct their search, format their resume, present themselves on interviews, and negotiate the right offer. Here, we discuss a different spin by discussing what potential seekers should NOT do in their efforts to find a new position.
There are certain misconceptions that people have when starting the search for the right role and making the wrong decision can sometimes make the search all that much harder. First, I will discuss what not to do while starting your search. Next, I will cover what not to do when formatting your resume. This can be especially critical since this is typically your first ‘in’ with a potential hiring manager. Lastly, I will cover how to not conduct yourself during the interview process, and how to handle some hard-to-answer questions.
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Do NOT expect the Resume Boards to find your next position...
In the technology field, there are more than enough positions open, which span various fields, niches, and locations. Many are under the impression that this means recruiters, HR, hiring managers, and others of the like are constantly checking the boards for talented resumes. While there is some truth to this, many positions get filled through networking and referrals. I’m sure every programmer, systems analyst, DevOps Engineer, DBA, etc. have gotten calls when posting their resume that are inappropriate for the basic requirements of what they are looking for (i.e. location, title, salary range, contract or permanent roles). This is because anyone has access to your profile and will try to make a square peg fit into a round hole.
In order to find the next position, you must be proactive rather than reactive. Technology is a very different industry than most other industries. You should be sending your resume to companies that you find interesting (regardless of a job posting or not). You should also be connecting with people at those companies through social media that is profession-friendly (LinkedIn, Google+, etc.), this is the tech industry; be creative! You should also be connecting with recruiters that are specific to your location and know the local market or have inside information. Furthermore, since the tech industry is very collaborative and sharing in their training, you should check out local tech-specific meetings and advocacy groups for introductions to others within the tech industry. Get yourself out there, connect with people who likely have similar interests, and market yourself to the open industry…do NOT expect your resume online to do all the work!
Do NOT make decisions for the individual considering your resume…
The first step in most job searches is to update your resume. This can be a very daunting task for some, as ‘selling’ yourself on a piece of paper is nearly impossible. You should have a copy of your resume that you update for specific positions, and use your experience to relay your qualifications for the duties of that specific posting. However, many people ‘screen’ themselves out of even applying for a job based on some ‘requirements’ of the posting. Most hiring managers understand the difficulty of conveying a skill set on a resume (remember: they are people too, and have probably even looked for a job themselves). If you make the decision that you are unqualified based on a ‘job requirement’, you are essentially making the decision for the person who is considering your resume, and that decision is ‘no’.
Now, this advice shouldn’t be taken too literally. I’m speaking to certain job requirements. Such as, if you have 5 years of experience and the posting calls for 7 years of experience, you should give yourself the shot. Perhaps you have had more diverse experience in those 5 years versus someone with the targeted 7 years. Additionally, if the role calls for 6-7 years of experience, and you only have 4-5/7 years, send in your application regardless! Most understand the room for potential and growth, which should be conveyed through your interview process.
Do NOT make your resume a Novel
(no matter how much experience you have)…
Any technical resume over 3 pages is not being read. Do NOT make your resume overly detailed. Especially in technology, most of the languages or systems you used 6 years ago may not be relevant to the current tech landscape. Technology is constantly evolving and those who work in the field need to do the same, and more importantly, show that evolution. This is directed towards those who would be considered senior in their career, of course, but you should not have to list every technology you’ve worked with since the beginning of your career. Instead, focus on those projects that are current, relevant, or that you’ve acquired on your own time (through mentorship, side projects, etc.).
When you are targeting a specific role, if the posting calls for a requirement you possess, but most other roles don’t- make sure to put the skill on the resume for that role and move on. For example, if you are a Microsoft Web Developer, your C# experience should be applicable for 98% of the roles you are applying for. That VB.NET experience from 5 or 6 years ago may only be applicable for one posting. Additionally, if you have 4 years of JAVA and 3 years of C#, but want to work in a JAVA environment, tailor your resumes appropriately and apply for those positions. Most hiring managers will pass on those who ‘walk the line’, because it shows some experience in a couple of things, rather an expertise in one or two things. You should NOT just have one copy of your resume, there should be a couple variations.
Do NOT get in your own way through your interview process…
Phone screens are sometimes a necessary evil. While the industry is moving heavily towards first-round in-person interviews, there are still some companies, hiring managers, etc. that conduct phone screens as the initial point of contact. With this being the case, there are certain assumptions you should NOT be making. Within technology, there is a misconception that the recruiter or HR representative conducting the phone call may not be technical or may not really know how to ‘screen’ you. However, more and more technical positions call for someone to interface with people in the company, both who are technical and non-technical. These screens can be a great way to show your diversity and ability to work with different internal constituents. When speaking on the phone with a hiring manager, some assume there is no room for fault or difference. Make sure to conduct the interview in a conversational way, if they ask you a ‘how to’ question, and you get the feeling that isn’t what they are looking for, clarify it with them! Do NOT assume that there are only black and white, yes or no answers.
A lot of people within technology are typically very good at what they do, but can have a hard time relaying this information in an appropriate way. For instance, one should never speak in absolutes and they should be very careful about the verbiage used. Recently, I had a candidate go to an in-person interview with a hiring manager for a local start-up. The candidate was a great fit for the role, and he was really excited about the position. When he met with the hiring manager, he was asked a question: “How would you rate your experience with ASP.NET”. Now, the candidate was a Web Developer with tons of ASP.NET (and he really knew his stuff), and he answered “Expert level”. Fatal mistake. The next question from the hiring manager was about some concepts of ASP.NET, and the candidate got all right but one. When the hiring manager was providing feedback, he said the candidate “shot himself in the foot”. He explained that while he was very interested in the candidate, his concern is that the candidate wasn’t an ‘expert’ and got a very simple (in his eyes) question wrong and that indicated a level of not only knowledge but naivetés that he could not justify. The candidate should have answered with “I’m very comfortable/confident with my experience, but I’m always learning”. This probably would have allowed for a more positive dialogue vs. the one that resulted.
In addition to remembering what to do in your technical job search, remember what NOT do to!
I’m hoping that this information will be helpful to those who are looking for more than the typical ‘how to get a job’ articles. While there are very specific recommendations and information out there on what to do to get a job, there are also a lot of things NOT to do that are sometimes forgotten. These small, but sometimes costly, mistakes can be the difference between you landing the ‘right’ job and the ‘next’ job!
Article by Julie Colgate, Practice Manager in Jobspring DC.
I have worked with countless clients in the DC area and when discussing what they are looking for in candidates, I hear a similar response over and over again, "I want the best of the best. 'A' talent." At this point, it's almost laughable. Of course companies want 'A' talent! The best part of my job is when I can be an advisor to these companies and help them capture that 'A' talent. There are three big pieces to reeling in those highly sought-after job seekers.
When a candidate is looking for a new job and they are starting the interview process, they want to be as prepared as possible for their interviews. They will research the company, look over the job description, and brush up on their tech and interviewing skills. What companies don’t always think about is that job-seekers are also looking at company reviews, using sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Google, and Yelp. Have a low rating on these sites? A candidate may not be as inclined to interview with your company or they might get a bad taste in their mouth before even interviewing. Have your employees write a review of their experience so far with the organization to get your rating up. Reach out to customers/end-users that you have been in touch with and ask them to write a review on your organization. Candidates that see a positive review on your company will be more excited to interview and have positive preconceived notions before interviewing.
When a job seeker is interviewing with your company, he/she is selling themselves in the best way possible. Discussing relevant experiences, talking about the cutting-edge technologies that they have worked with, and how/why they can be a good fit for your organization and a great addition to the team. As a potential employer, you should also be selling them on why they should want to work for you and your organization. Give real life examples of what "a day in the life" looks like. Talk with them about the retention rate of the organization and growth potential for them—these things matter to job seekers. As much as you are interviewing them, this candidate will be interviewing you and the company to see if this is a place where they want to work.
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For a more difficult job seeker, or someone that the team is very excited about, you may have to have a more personalized recruiting effort. Have candidates sit down with an employee that has been with the company for around a year or less and have that employee share their experience with the company so far and why they joined the organization. Also, talk with your team about what they are touching base on with job seekers. Each person that a candidate sits down with should share a different part of the organization or story, that way you can ensure that you are covering everything and that there is no unnecessary overlap.
Speed of Getting Someone through the Interview Process
The one thing that makes it difficult to capture 'A' talent is a long and lengthy interview process. Anything more than 2-3 steps to get someone on-board is way too long and will result in a job seeker taking another offer. Specifically, if someone is top-tier talent, they will have a lot of interviews going on. Having a 4+ step process is the best way to lose a candidate that you are interested in. They will either take another offer or lose interest entirely. To ensure that you are getting candidates through a speedy process, ensure that you are covering everything: a 30-45 minute phone interview covering their background and some technical questions, and an in-person and final interview on-site lasting around 3 hours. After that, you should confidently know if you want to hire that person or if you’d like to pass. Any interview process that goes longer than that will result in job seekers losing interest or accepting another offer.
These might seem like simple or even obvious things, but implementing them will go a long way in ensuring that your company captures the top talent out there.
Article by Del Crockett, Regional Director of Jobspring DC.
As the Regional Director of our Washington DC-based technology staffing operations, I am hyperaware of the number of requests we receive from clients and candidates surrounding specific technologies. In the ever-changing landscape of web development, there is no denying that the buzz around AngularJS cannot be ignored.
Here, we will take an insider's look at Angular's impact on the Washington, D.C. web development community from a non-technical point of view.
First: What is AngularJS?
1. Two Way Data-Binding – Write less code!
2. MVC – Done the easy way!
3. Dependency Injection - Ease of development!
4. HTML Templates – Programming within the browser!
5. Unit Testing Ready!
It goes without saying, but is still worth noting, that almost anything that Google puts their hands on is probably worth having in your tool belt!
- 41% of web developers have 3 months or more of professional AngularJS experience.
- 77% of client front-end job openings included AngularJS.
Of those companies…
- 60% requested AngularJS as a must-have skill. 40% listed it as a plus.
- 95% of clients request some variation of framework experience.
(Stats only include commercial/private sector company request)
Finally: Is AngularJS for You?
The choice of framework is clearly subjective and its use is largely dependent on the task at hand. With that being said, there is no denying Angular’s current influence within the community. At the same time, you can find many technical white pages and blogs illustrating why AngularJS is not a great solution and will ultimately flop as a long-standing integrated solution.
Regardless of how you feel technically about its application, there is no denying that the amount of community chatter surrounding AngularJS and the statistics supporting its demand in Washington, D.C. make it worth your attention!
Written by Sandra Zawacki, Practice Manager in Jobspring DC
A few recent stories about failed background checks, resulting in rescinded offers, has caused me to reflect on the golden rules of passing one of these inquiries. Clearly, the easiest way to pass is to have a completely clean record, but we’re all human and many of us have made mistakes at some point in our lives. The key to a successful job search and subsequent offer is how and when to reveal those slipups.
In most cases, companies will have you fill out an employment application as part of your interview process. This application will typically ask for prior employment history, education, and will ask you to outline any past felonies or misdemeanors.
If your prior mistakes resulted in a felony conviction… well, Houston, we may have a problem. For the purpose of this discussion, we’ll focus on mistakes less severe in nature that may not be immediately revealed by looking at your resume, but would be unearthed through a background check. Some examples include: unpaid parking tickets, credit issues, charges not resulting in conviction, misdemeanors, or being let go from prior positions. In my experience, managers, for the most part, are willing to overlook these types of mistakes, provided you are honest and appear to have learned from the situation.
Each of the stories I was recently told started with “I decided to roll the dice”. This sentiment is equal to the unfounded optimism one has at the end of a long night at a casino poker table: “I’ll win it back”. The truth is that just as the house (almost) always wins, your skeletons are almost always unearthed through a standard background check. If you are fairly confident that the employer will run a check, I would always recommend honesty as the best policy. Being branded as a liar will be far more damaging than those late payments.
That being said, there are some standard rules of engagement to adhere to throughout your interview process that will help you navigate the “how” and “when”. First and foremost, always be honest with recruiters about any potential issues with your background check. They know their clients well, and they can help you figure out which will take issue with your past and which won't bat an eye.
In the event that you are navigating the job market on your own, here are some simple rules:
Just because you are intending to be honest about your gaffes doesn’t mean you need to air all of your dirty laundry in detail during the first conversation. I would recommend waiting until after a first round interview before bringing up this type of information, and try to find out how detailed of a background check the company typically does before volunteering everything about your past. If you have something criminal that you feel confident will show up, get a head of it directly with the manager rather than letting him/her be caught off guard later in the process.
Own the mistake, then focus on the now
No one typically cares what “really happened”. Any and all long-winded explanations you may provide end up sounding like excuses more often than clarifications. Keep it simple and focus more on what you learned from the situation and how it’s impacted the person you are today. The manager will be impressed with your accountability rather than distracted by storytelling.
Express genuine regret and let the manager know that while you made that mistake in the past, it’s not a mistake you’ll make again.
I’d be remiss not to mention that in this day and age, most managers will probably Google you before they make a decision on whether to bring you on as a new employee. It’s a good idea to google yourself from time to time to see what comes up, and to have an opportunity to address what’s out there. Make sure your social media reflects the image you would want to project, (maybe it’s time to take down those pictures from freshman year in college?) and make sure your profile on networking sites like LinkedIn are updated and current. Should you find negative content about yourself online, don’t bring it up unless there is a real issue with a manager seeing that information. If there is anything out there that you feel forced to address, do so briefly, with a focus on what you’ve grown from the situation.
In the end, you can only hope that your decision to be honest and mature about your prior faults shows your potential employer that you will make a valuable employee, if given the opportunity!
Written by Lyndsey Lustig, Lead Recruiter in Jobspring Washington, DC
In the land of software development, there's more than one correct way to solve a problem. Since technology itself is limitless, it should come as no surprise that the available tools and resources are boundless as well. Now the question is, which tools should we choose, not only to get the job done, but also to best express oneself?
I work with technical people every day, particularly those proficient with Microsoft technologies. I've found that often the best technical people don't limit themselves to one brand of tools or frameworks. They step outside their technical comfort zones and experiment with anything they can get their hands on.
This article presents four reasons why you might benefit personally and professionally from trying out new technologies.
Learn New Paradigms
Learn New Ways to Use Old Technologies
Speaking of functional programming, your experience may cause you to look at LINQ on the .NET platform in a new light. One of my hiring managers was explaining that his organization’s use of Angular.JS (with its draconian dependency injection) caused his team to think differently about DI containers in their .NET server side, resulting in more flexible and more testable C#. In this way, working with one technology influenced how they interacted with another.
Here are four basic ways that broadening your technical repertoire can open up possibilities for career advancement.
- You can contribute to different areas of the same project (front-end to back-end, application to data analysis, etc.)
- You can move to new projects entirely (has your organization been piloting a new tech stack?)
- You can move to new organizations entirely. If this is the case, I can refer you to a specialist. (Wink!)
- Some organizations only fill full-stack or generalist positions. It’s worth mentioning that this is often true of smaller product development companies or startups.
Right Tool for the Job
Many organizations are pushing the limits of relational databases. The high performance or high availability required by their applications call for something new. NoSQL databases are answering this call, but often each in their own way. Spend some time understanding their relative merits and you can be your organization’s hero. Can you drop joins and go for the high performance of key store or document databases? Is your problem better suited by a graph database? What these specialized databases give up in the relational model they make up for by excelling in their particular area of application.
The following books are a great resource if you’re looking to expand your knowledge of current and new technologies.
- “Seven Languages in Seven Weeks: A Pragmatic Guide to Learning Programming Languages” by Bruce Tate
- “Seven Databases in Seven Weeks: A Guide to Modern Databases and the NoSQL Movement” by Eric Redmond
There are many benefits to be had from interacting with a range of technologies. Whether you’re looking for new ways to tackle an assignment or hoping to advance your career by opening new doors, I highly recommend not limiting yourself to one brand of tools or frameworks.
Carl Gieringer, a Darmouth College Computer Science graduate and Software Engineer at RevMetrix, was consulted on this post.
Written by Julie Colgate, Practice Manager in Jobspring Washington DC
In cities as competitive as Washington, D.C., individuals are constantly looking for new ways to evolve professionally. But with everyone looking to have a competitive edge, what is the best way to get ahead in your professional life?
Having worked extensively in the market, a pretty clear pattern has emerged from the most successful individuals across the board. They all have three things in common-- They’ve developed a network, they are constantly learning, and they are incredibly passionate.
I’ll let you in on a little secret-- you can get help with all of these, plus beer, at your local tech meetups.
Develop a Network
We’ve all heard, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Relationships are at the core of getting ahead in the business world, and there is no better way to foster these relationships than discussing your passion over a drink, in a room filled with great minds and innovative ideas.
One thing to remember when developing these rapports is that you need to give as much as you take from the relationship. Don’t create superficial exchanges just to get ahead, but build strong bonds that will benefit you and the other person throughout your careers.
There is no better way to learn about local companies and emerging trends than being able to talk to the individuals behind them. Sure, you can read newsletters like the Potomac Tech Wire, but that’s not going to provide you with half of the learning opportunity that being actively engaged will. Attending a meetup allows you to actively learn about technology by seeing it first-hand, meet with the founders and employees of different local companies, and talk with like-minded tech enthusiasts who may provide a different perspective of how an industry or technology is developing.
Find something that you are interested in and love doing. Maybe you haven’t gotten to this point in your career and need to be inspired, or you have and want to share that passion. A meetup is a great opportunity to explore new interests, be exposed to new ideas, and share your talents.
I’ve been to many meetups, and it’s hard not to get excited about a company or an idea when you’re engaged with a founder who eats, sleeps, and breathes their idea. Someone who listens to your feedback, loves answering your questions, and has a passion for creating a great product.
Meetups are also a great way to get up and do something different. Sometimes it feels like you can get stuck in an everyday monotonous routine. You get up, go to work, go home, eat dinner and go to bed; rinse and repeat. Tech meetups in DC are a great way to break out of this routine and add some excitement to your weeknights.
Whether you have a passing interest in what’s hot in technology or you’re an IT veteran, a tech meetup could be just what you are looking for. They are typically hosted at a central location right in DC or just outside of the city, and start around 6pm or 6:30pm for easy access right from work. If you are looking for a place to start, check out the meetup that we sponsor-- Tech in Motion. Looking forward to seeing you soon!
Article by Del Crockett, Regional Director in Jobspring Washington DC
As a Regional Director that oversees technology recruiting operations in the Washington, DC area, I am often confronted by various levels of Software Engineers that have the misperception that the best, and possibly only real career options in this market are in the federal space. Now I must admit, even I made this same assumption prior to coming to DC. I moved to DC after working in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, cities where ‘government contracting’ isn’t exactly common talk. But in DC, this is as common as 80-degree weather or grabbing a cheesesteak respectively.
Below are two simple, yet often overlooked reasons, based on my experiences working with technology managers in various cities across the country, for why I am an advocate of private sector engineering careers over the commonplace federal route in the DC market.
Government Technology Playing ‘Catch Up’
Every day, I talk to software engineers with varying degrees of experience. In DC there's a common story of engineers who graduated from local universities only to be recruited by one of the big federal consulting shops right out of school, therefore entering the federal space by default. After a few years, they often reach a point where they crave the excitement of what they know is available in the private sector. Grand visions of Google, Facebook, and Twitter-esque development shops take over!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a vendetta against big federal consulting. In fact, I think they offer a fantastic start to one's engineering career. The problem is that most federal work does not prepare you for a switch to the private sector. There are several reasons for this.
- Heavy use of legacy systems and/or slow to integrate new tech. The government relies on private sector companies for their technology. Just look at the investment made into AMAZON WEB SERVICE for cloud computing solutions.
- Many lack implementation of agile methodology. Think of any technology company that has had an impact on your life. They run agile.
- Creativity and ‘thinking outside the box’ is often not rewarded or promoted due to heavy ‘federal’ restrictions and red-tape. I think Congress paints a clear picture of the red-tape I’m talking about.
- Major dichotomy between the working cultures of the two. You just have to experience it to understand the difference.
- Most solutions are not ‘Full-Life Cycle’, minimizing your exposure to how end-end solutions are created. Many federal projects offer just a piece of the overall solution to work on. This depth of knowledge will not suffice in the commercial space.
I meet with Engineering Managers all the time on both sides, and it’s not unusual to hear a manger in the federal space say something along the lines of, "I’d love to see a candidate with commercial product experience." Of course they would, and so would managers in the private sector! The difference is that I have yet to hear a client in the private sector ask for an engineer with federal experience. In fact, I often get requests not to introduce government contractors unless they are extremely unique. Now, is that fair? Probably not, but such requests originate from the five points above. And if developers have such a hard time making a career shift in DC, where government work is fairly common on a resume, imagine what it would be like if you moved to another city. I’m not sure how sexy the government projects you worked on will be to companies on the west coast.
Of course, there's always a counter-argument. Government work might be perfect for you, especially if you plan on living in the DC area forever, can acquire a high level clearance (which is money in the bank as far as job stability) and are capable of maintaining those lifestyle restrictions to hold onto it.
The Money Argument
Let’s cut to the chase on this one. Government consultants can make a ton of money! I would even go so far as to say that some are overpaid. Now, with that being said, so is Alex Rodriguez, and I am a believer that if someone is willing to pay it, then to that person (or company), YOU ARE WORTH IT!
On the flip side, I also see a ton of candidates who are underpaid in federal and private sectors. There's no universal rule here.
My point on this topic has to do with the job seekers that are used to making Silicon Valley money in their government job, and now decide they want commercial experience on their resume. These job seekers are often shocked, since salaries in the private sector are usually about 10k lower, on average. I see this shock on a daily basis, and usually it's a conversation of adjusting expectations.
The reality is that for most Engineering positions in the private sector, a premium is put on those who have the skills to create end-to-end solutions using newer technologies. Think Big-Data, cloud, and mobile, for instance. These are the most requested types of projects Engineers are looking for right now. Unfortunately, if you don’t already have relevant exposure or a history of working in a commercial type of environment, the compensation is not going to compare on day one.
If you are going to get into the federal space, you have to face the facts. The government prints money (probably too much) and the private sector is the engine that creates the real growth. The resources available are not the same, so adjustments in expectations have to be made when going from federal to private. Going the opposite way? Well then, be ready to likely cash-in!
At the end of the day, the general consensus is that you can make more money doing potentially less cutting-edge or challenging work in the federal space. But if you are looking for the bleeding-edge opportunity often only found in the commercial sector, then expectations need to be a bit more realistic.
Often, the difference between private and government sector engineers is the mentality. Commercial product managers want developers who are in it for the reward of the work they're accomplishing, and for the innovative tech they get to work on. If you want to work in the private sector, that's the mind-set you'll need to adopt.