Social Networking: Insurance For Your Career

Photo Credit: Jeff Turner

If you’re a software engineer, what is ed especially if you’re in Silicon Valley, you will no-doubt have been pinged several times by recruiters and former coworkers about exciting opportunities at their company. How should you respond? You might be really happy at your current company and not even be thinking about leaving. Being a technical recruiter in the valley, I hear this all the time. People love their jobs and aren’t interested in discussing opportunities.

My advice to you is, always take the time to listen to the opportunity even though you might not be interested–at the time–in taking it. Listening to opportunities is like taking out insurance. You might not need it, but it’s critical to have when you do.

Think of the reasons why you love your job:

“My boss is the greatest and I flourish under him or her.” Your boss can leave at the drop of a hat and their replacement can be worse.

The company atmosphere is great. Your company could be sold or go through lay-offs. Or after a certain amount of time the environment of your company could no longer fit your lifestyle.

When these things start happening, people start scrambling to try and remember that person who reached out to them. The person they never even responded to. It’s good to keep a list going of all the recruiters or coworkers that have reached out to you. Thus when you do find yourself on the market, you won’t be starting from scratch. You’ll have a clear path of leads to reach out to at your own pace when you are ready.

What if you don’t like the company a recruiter is working for? The Valley is all about relationships, and recruiters are known to go from agencies to big named companies to start ups and back to big named companies again.  (I should know. I’ve done all three in my career.) Recruiters keep lists of top candidates, another reason it’s good to connect with them. Because down the road, they might go to a company that you would be very excited to work for. Or they might know someone that can help you out.

It’s also good to remember that companies can change when considering opportunities. Nine years ago, a certain big-named Bay Area company’s stock was going at $22 per share. People thought they were done. The stock is now at $250 per share! When that company was recruiting they recruited their future vision. Now some of those people who took the leap are benefiting from it.

So how do you get your “social networking insurance” ready? You should keep your social profiles current, and not wait until you’re in need (just like insurance). This way it’s ready when you need it. Get LinkedIn recommendations during your tenure at your company and not when you are ready to leave. Also, take part in groups and other interests that encourage networking. People like to hire people they’ve known via blogs, meet-ups, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc… People (not just recruiters) will always reach out to their networks first. A lot of the time when a manager hires a referral, it isn’t someone’s aunt Margaret, or their neighbor, but someone they’ve connected with via social media. This can also come in handy when it’s your turn to hire people for yourself.

So remember it’s like insurance you might not need, but when you do, it is there for you!

The Comfort of Spammers

Photo Credit: Stacie Brew

As part of our Women in Technology (WIT) group at Yahoo!, heart we invited a group of sixth graders last winter to our Burbank campus to learn about technology and the different roles that women have here.  Our goal was to expose them to technology and hope they would leave unafraid of entering a male-dominated field.

During one of the sessions, I taught the girls basic HTML, CSS, and some JavaScript. What impressed me most was their determination to understand and absorb everything. There was no, “I don’t think I can do this” and no, “I think this is hard” (even when looking at and using complex JavaScript libraries).  Instead, there was amazement of how much they could do with a few lines of text on a computer screen.  At the end of the session, a few of them started to grasp the window of possibilities and begin asking how to do more complex interactions.

These girls, most of them with very little exposure to computers in their day-to-day lives, were daring, brave, and eager to try new things. Programming did not daunt them at all. Self-doubt wasn’t an issue.

The WIT group holds leadership and career discussions among ourselves in order to provide support and networking opportunities. Self-doubt is a big theme that comes up in these discussions. I have heard so many women say, “I could never do what you do”, “I want to learn, but I am scared to try programming”.   I, too, have similar feelings when trying new things.

What causes these insecurities?  How did they come about? Are we really incapable of doing what I could teach eleven and twelve year olds to do in an hour? Is it a generational difference?  I think most of us feel men and women are equally adept at executing their tasks at work. So if these doubts are truly only in our heads, what put them there?  Passing comments by our mothers, fathers, and brothers?  The tendency for computer games to be boy focused? Is it cultural, where we were inundated with a stereotype of  what a cool girl is and not exposed to technology at an early age?

Do men have the same issues in significant numbers or are they shielded from this internal torment by social constructs?

I hope the sixth graders we taught that day remember the excitement they felt when writing a piece of code and visually seeing its effects on their browsers. I hope at least some of them decide to come into technology and that they don’t have to experience the self-doubts and fears that some of us face today.
Email, plague
blogs, herpes
social media, podcasts, print-on-demand, etc. Thanks to Internet, never have so many people been able to make their thoughts available to such a large number of listeners. But isn’t it that much painful when this potential audience of billions fails to connect with your message, leaving you feeling foolish and ignored?

Are you despairing to see your Twitter followers stuck at a ridiculously low number? Who will post a comment on your latest blog post, proving that you touched someone and brought value to the world? Who will write you an email and bring words of comfort in times of hardship?

Know my lonely friend that when all else fails, spam is always there for you. The obsession with money-making schemes of this nice-looking twitter follower with an unpronounceable name may seem suspicious, but she’s also your long-awaited 50th follower and it would be a shame to block such a sexy avatar from your list. Maybe she’ll even notice the wry comment you just posted about the Flash vs HTML5 controversy? She may even chuckle at your “bon mot” as she builds her vast pyramidal empire…

You may wonder why concerned people feel the need to send you kindly email messages about how herbal remedies can help you make your partner so much happier. Thankfully, an unexpected love letter from a lonesome Russian lady soon restores your feelings of adequacy by her earnest request for companionship. Sure, her spelling can be very approximate, but love may be just around the corner! If only you could send some money to resolve those pesky visa issues…

You may wonder why bother posting to your website, exposing the beauty and degradation of humanity in 500 words installments, when your comments section lay bare, exposing the indifference of the world for, apparently, no-one to see. Thank you, mister Chinese World of Warcraft gold farmer, for keeping my forum alive with dreams of massive virtual wealth and power, bringing with you a taste of the Orient with your exotic typography.

The futuristic vision of alienated and forlorn people being comforted by robotic custodians is now a reality. Thank you, mister spambot, for keeping me company in cyberspace with your eternal vigilance. Your bountiful email and forum messages keep letting me know that something, somewhere, knows I exist and wants to connect!