Monday, July 11, 2011

Junior/Mid-Level and Independent

The other day, a guy called to talk about a PHP developer position for an e-commerce site in Washington state. Washington is friendly territory for Amazon affiliates which makes it very appealing just on account of my own web sites. Having a solid background in PHP with no financial incentives certainly doesn't hurt as credibility goes. The qualifications matched beautifully. With a list made up of PHP, Javascript, CSS, SQL, and HTML, it would be difficult to be a more perfect match to my own skill set.

The only warning sign was getting an email before the official phone screen that the position required 5 years of PHP experience. Now experience is a funny duck. Any developer whose history is even remotely interesting will not spend 5 years working with one core language for all projects. My own experience was a delicious sandwich of server and client side technologies for all kinds of projects. Since PHP was what I started and ended with, you could call that language the bread I guess.

Here is something I find interesting. Back in college, a 3D site called I.L.B. Productions was my first personal web project which I did in PHP.  Fast forward to present day and you have Uncle Squirrely and Blender Python Tutorials which were my other two. Very little money was made on any of these projects but much fun was had. However, when it came down to the REAL phone screen, the woman I spoke with was not impressed enough with this or any of my non-PHP work to give me much consideration for the job. Experience with large scale e-commerce projects was a biggie and they wanted someone senior level for it.

Now there is a general rule that "senior developer" and "5+ years experience" of paid experience go hand-in-hand. My caliber is absolutely junior to mid so being judged as under-qualified for a "senior" role is fair. Part of the issue was because it was largely expected to be remote work and the client likes their junior and mid-level people to be physically there. So while relocation at this point in the job search is absolutely back on the table, senior is senior and there is no getting around that.

The "senior" vs. "junior" problem is interesting as job hunting goes. searches show Connecticut has 26 senior developer job openings for every 1 junior position. The root cause of this situation is subject for debate. Still, this makes a layoff in the 2 to 5 year experience zone look like absolute death to such developers.

These are the challenges I face in the search for paid work. It's neither good nor bad but it is reality. So why on Earth do I still bang out code and throw that stuff out on the Internet if the odds are against me? Well, it's just plain fun. As for the job search itself, I like to quote Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back when he says...

"Never tell me the odds."

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