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So it's not as though I work in the pollution industry, or the cancer industry, or the war industry. And I'm at least a couple of steps removed from the Grand Theft Columbine industry. This isn't remotely comparable to the experience of a tobacco company low-level executive watching his mother die of lung cancer, or a bomb manufacturer having to visit a bombed-out ruin with dying children.

Still. There is a human cost to what I do, and I encountered a bit of it today.Read more... )
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One of our weekly meetings often starts with the officiant asking if anyone's heard a good joke. So yesterday I told Robert's joke about the atom, prefacing it by explaining he'd read it in a physics book.

Everyone laughed. "I'm going to remember that. It's worth repeating," one guy said. All were impressed that a nine-year-old not only understood it and thought it was funny but also could explain it to a seven-year-old.

They just mostly stared, however, when I mentioned that he is insisting that I explain relativity to him (he saw it in a book from the school library, but he needs it more thoroughly explained and needs to know why it works the way it does.)
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We are looking for Perl experts interested in working in the Nvidia architecture infrastructure group. It's more interesting than it sounds. :)

Anyone who knows anyone who wants a job, let me know...
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You experience a lot of life and it leaves less time to write about it, I guess.

Nvidia is intense but cool. Low incidence of craniorectal inversion; I like it there a lot. It was mysteriously easy to just take advantage of their 7 PM dinner and work long -- but since I had people dinnering me Tues and Thurs and Fri, I still worry that it's not long enough. (They work /hard/ there.) Plenty to do, plenty to learn, friendly people, and I'm not thrown immediately into anyone else's critical path, so I'm not feeling pressure yet except self-imposed (to excel, impress, and in general be good at what I do).

I missed the kids, though; by Friday I missed them terribly, and that's even with a visit on Tuesday. At least next week it's just Monday and Tuesday out and then off to Disneyland till Sunday night. (And then it's back into a week without them. 'Make it count' is what I'm living by at the moment, which is another reason there hasn't been much log.)

My attitude seems worth another bit of comment. It occurred to me that I never really wanted to be working at Malibu; before that, neither PacAcc nor Intensifi had anything resembling high expectations (it was easy to figure out that the projects were doomed no matter what I did, and I was essentially marking time). I was excited by the TRT environment for a while, and I did work long and hard when I had good people to work with, but ultimately things collapsed and I was marking time there too. And before that, I was really too young, and my boss too much of an ogre, for CSS to be something to really grab me.

This is different. Nvidia is not something to pay the bills and balance against home life; I want to /excel/, and make an impact that's felt. Maybe it's that for the first time I'm working for a successful company; more than a little of it I'm sure is that by doing this arrangement there's no direct competition between family and work (if I'm 140 miles from family, there's no reason to rush out the door, is there). Maybe it's just what I wrote a week ago: break's over.

Anyway, kids are done with quiet time now. Break's over.
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"Seems to me we've all been taking a little break... thinking about our personal lives, or thinking about keeping our jobs... Breaks are good; it's not a bad idea to take a break every now and then, and I know how hard you all work.

"There was this time that Annie came to me with this press clipping... seems these theologians down in South America were all excited because this little girl in Chile had sliced open a tomato, and the inside flesh of the tomato had actually formed a perfect rosary. The theologians commented that they thought this was a very impressive girl. Annie commented that it sounded like a very impressive tomato. Don't know what made me think of that...

"Naval Intelligence reports that approximately twelve hundred Cubans left Havana this morning. Approximately seven hundred turned back due to severe weather, some three hundred and fifty are missing and presumed dead. One hundred and thirty-seven have been taken into custody in Miami and are seeking asylum.

"With the shirt on their backs they came through a storm. And the ones that didn't die want a better life, and they want it here.

"Talk about impressive.

"My point is this: break's over." -- Josiah Bartlett, September, 1999.

I start at Nvidia Monday.
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Opportunity to move (+/--/??)
More interesting job (+)
Hard work to the point that it's a bit intimidating (-)
Better cow orkers (+)
See bay friends from time to time (+)
Telecommute 3 days/week after two months (+)
Two months in the bay (---)
One week in six in the bay (-)
Nvidia stock (+/+++?)
Health insurance (++)
Permanent (+)
401K (+)
PTO (+)

More status quo (+/-)
Less work (+)
See kids and Sherilyn every day (++++)
Clearly some office politics (-)
No telecommute (-)
Contract; no bennies, no stability (--)
Marginally more money (+)
Very little coding (--)

The family is on such a different axis than the rest of this that it's not so simple as adding up the plusses and minuses... but this does clarify my thinking. The only downside to Nvidia -- the only one -- is the family time. If I make them a clear priority for the time I'm not in the bay, and do what I can to get them out to visit me when I *am* in the bay... ingh.

I will cope. But what if after three weeks the kids and the wife are just wrecked?

Then, I guess, we come to the point of either quitting or putting the house up for sale -- neither of which I would particularly want to do when the wife and kids are wiped out... but it would at least be a strategy to move out of a hole.


Mar. 11th, 2002 08:33 am
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Well... we see. I lean Nvidiawards again but I have to see the details of the offer.

Waiting today. Probably getting a book on shell scripting sometime. What's a good one? Is there a definitive animal-on-the-cover, I wonder.
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Ya know, I should just not post anything until I make a decision. Bungee moods are just, well, y'know.

I feel better about Cirrus, first of all, having spoken to the boss guy and convinced myself it's not simply tech support.

Second, Nvidia called me with a 50% telecommute offer. (After an initial startup period of one month solid out there and some number of weeks at four days a week out there, we'll move to two days per week plus one week in six in the bay.) They have to approve it; it's nonstandard, they say.

I was reminded by Harold of a good question by the Nvidia manager; "make sure he's still interested in the job, not just the environment." I did have a question that got itself sidetracked by the whole local-offer hooha last week (whether I was being hired as a build engineer, because if I am I think I'd rather do tech support; I write software for a living and, as a rant from a few months ago said, it would be NICE if someone would pay me to do what I'm good at, since it needs doing and people make money from it.)

But I doubt "build engineer" is all Nvidia wants from me. I'll verify this, but I'll still assume it's true because otherwise the question has a clear answer... so I'm spending the weekend thinking carefully about the kids and Sherilyn and what this fifty percent schedule will mean. I don't have an objection to it in theory; I just worry.

Mostly I worry about Bobby. While I was working for Malibu and not getting home till seven PM, he got sullen and recalcitrant. He's improved markedly in the last two months (while I've been home), largely into a more informed and mature cheerful personality. I would rather take a shitty job than lose that.

Then again, I'd rather leave a job that was causing him development issues than not take the job on the assumption that it possibly could. I can't spend my whole life with the single decision point 'well, what if this affected the kids?' -- kids are resilient, and more to the point generally communicate change over time, so if something has the potential to damage them long-term, I will hopefully notice it before it can't be undone. Bobby's sullenness had something to do with Joshua and with kindergarten, anyway; he doesn't only revolve around me (thankfully).

So if this sounds like I'm leaning toward the Santa Clara position, well, I am. Not toppled over into it (for one thing, there's still the possibility that HR could say no -- or ask for three days a week) and certainly not ecstatic about it like I was about Intensifi. But there's a growing determination that this is not for kicks, it's to make something of myself and participate in a success story.

It's surprisingly easy, too, to say to myself "after tomorrow's games, my life is going to shrink for a while to work, Sherilyn, kids, and house. Gaming is going on hold." Ars Magica is a struggle to run and has been for a couple months; D&D is still lots of fun and doesn't take much prep, but even with the story I'm trying to advance it's still more a board game than a realized fantasy world. And of course I killed off the KoCS players last week, so that campaign has reached a natural suspending point.
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It was fun to think about for a few days, but ultimately the roots have gotten too deep. House, local friends, schools, even location and star parties, and ultimately inertia and roots -- some things are more important than stock options, and even more important than work being fun.

Maybe Nvidia will still offer me a telecommute. Maybe Cirrus will turn out to be more interesting than it sounded. Maybe HP or Agilent will be hiring again someday. Maybe another thing more interesting will get uncovered.

Maybe this will, over time, clearly have been the right decision. I suspect, though, that it will just be one of those things that when I'm in a melancholy mood I'll wish I'd done differently.
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The thing with BOM is going forward at company-speed, which is not at all like person-speed (this certainly isn't like Cesar's fault or anything). I meanwhile am probably going to get an offer from Cirrus today or tomorrow. Cirrus is brain-numbing tech support that hopefully will turn into designing and writing at least a little code some day. It will pay well because the support is hard to do -- supporting people who are porting code.

Among the possibilities I see now:

  • Do my best to negotiate with Nvidia for a telecommute before I commit to anything else, even if Cirrus falls by the wayside.

  • Go to work for Cirrus. It's contract-to-full, which means I should have no hesitation leaving it if I find something I'd clearly rather do.

  • Work for BOM, a contract that I am envisioning-without-evidence to be a three to six month contract that pays better than Cirrus, and meanwhile keep looking for a permanent position.

  • Find that BOM is really a part-time contract, and do both Cirrus and BOM for a while.

  • Take the BOM (or Cirrus, or both) position(s) and meanwhile negotiate with Nvidia.

  • Take the BOM (or Cirrus) position, tell Nvidia I can start in June (it's implied they will accept that), and start planning to move to the bay.

  • Turn everybody down, keep looking.

Every single choice has disadvantages, but at least I have choices... I'm still thinking, and I belive everyone -- including Cirrus -- will at least let me think over the weekend. Meanwhile, I have to get responses from all three; I can't choose without more information.

And meanwhile meanwhile, I can always keep looking at the job boards and mailing more resumes.
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So Nvidia called me.

I'm great. I'm terrific. She is going to make an offer even before getting all the feedback because I was stellar -- I answered questions that people with far more experience in the relevant disciplines had problems with. I'm brilliant. Great ego boo. She's going to submit an offer and expect to have it available for me to look at by Friday.

A local offer.

No month starting up and telecommute. Nothing resembling the suggested situation we'd talked about initially.

I cannot even begin to say how that twisted me up.

I made many urgle noises. I said I'd think about it. That I'd need at least several days -- I have roots here, I have a house, I ... and Sherilyn most of all.

The news is an hour old and it's still churning me up. If I move... every thing I have to give up, every time I have to go to another room and it's not quiet because the place we're living is too small, every time Bobby or Sherilyn breaks down because the move is too stressful, every time I pass a large house... I will resent the job that made me move.

And if I don't move, for the rest of my life I may resent this house.

These emotions will pass. The larger questions -- what do I want to do with my life; what do I want to own, why do I want the house I am in, what do I want to earn money towards, what do I want to achieve with my career, what am I going to decide -- will be around for a while.

I should have expected this. I was blindsided. I have to wonder, seriously, if I'm really as bright as they seem to think I am.
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Teched at Cirrus. More on that in a minute. For now, since Cirrus went reasonably well, after thinking on the drive home about iTopia I realized the only reason I was trying to string them along was for ego; I wanted the idea of having four companies all offering to me. Since I had already discounted them in my mind, I figured I'd call them and decline so they wouldn't have to talk to me tomorrow.

So I call. I give my spiel, about how I know their time is valuable and after thinking it over and after attending another interview I felt there were other places that would make a better fit for me, and rather than take more of their time I'd thank them for their consideration yada yada.

The HR person I'm on the phone with responds. "Oh, that's all right. (Manager guy) reconsidered you over the weekend anyway, and decided he would prefer someone with more telephony experience."

I'm basically stunned speechless. First off, sure they'd want someone who interviewed better, but I have eight years of telephony experience; how much did they think they were going to get? Second... oh my word that's rude. If the interviewee turns you down, you say thank you and goodbye and best wishes, you don't tell him "that's all right, we didn't want you anyway." I'm sure she didn't mean to be rude, it was the tone of "see, this is working out great for both of us" -- but still. I was way too amused -- and way too glad I'd turned them down first -- to be offended.

iTopia is now off my radar. Good riddance.

So Cirrus will probably make me an offer unless they think I'm overqualified. The only problem is, the position is more tech support than software programming, and after realizing that I got rusty in four months of QA at Malibu, I'd have to be pretty hard pressed to take another non-programming job. (It's code support, since they sell their source to other companies who need to port it and add to it, and you wind up helping them write their code, but it's not writing code itself.) They hope to make the position involve more software writing over time, as they better document the code they're selling.

They're also clearly dealing with engineer ego issues, office politics, and craniorectal inversions in their marketing-engineering relationships. But the people are good, and smart, and friendly.

I think I rank them below BOM.com in desirability. The question now is whether Nvidia in fact offers me a job, and whether it promises to make use of my skill (or whether it's just a glorified build engineer).

Tomorrow may tell a whole lot more. I'd like to hear from Cesar and Alfonso though...
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I called iTopia -- since their email said 'call over the weekend'. Well. This explains their silence for the last month: their board of directors had not ever actually approved a contract position until yesterday, so they're now attempting to grab someone as soon as they can. I told them I had a couple of opportunities I'd be quickly evaluating, and that I'd be making a decision within the week; their reaction: "I don't think [the boss] will wait that long."

My my. Do contractors always get treated like this? They tell me nothing for a month and then expect an answer by the next business day?

I said I wanted to talk to someone face-to-face. They wanted me to come in Monday. I told them the day was full and suggested Tuesday. Assuming their massive hiring skills don't nail them a better person than me before then, they are dubiously and tentatively willing to spend precious time on me Tuesday morning at ten A.M.

And I'm pretty sure of the following:
- iTopia's is a fairly dull product, compared to any of the other companies.
- iTopia is a strung-out venture-funded place on the verge of closing its doors.
- iTopia will pay less than any of my other opportunities.
- iTopia's job is shortest-term save probably BOM.
- the expectation of time spent on the job will be higher than anyone save possibly Nvidia.
- the boss at iTopia is abrasive.
- multiple recruiters I've spoken with are unhappy about how they and their clients are being treated by iTopia.
- the people at iTopia don't smile. Even while conducting interviews.

They're in Roseville... and they're first to offer... but the scales don't come close to leaning their way. (This could change in a week if everything else falls through, of course.)
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Of the current potential opportunities in the queue, this is how I came upon them:
- a friend brought in my resume
- initial contact from an ex-cow orker
- via a recruiter's post on dice.com
- serindipitous email from a friend needing contract work

Of the longer-range active things in my queue (continuing to worst-case plan that all four of the above might yet come to nothing), two ex-employers have said "we may/will have contract work available soon", and a neighbor (parent of my kids' friends) is shopping my resume around people he knows at Agilent after failing (thru bad timing) to get me considered for a position at HP where he works.

It is a worthwhile thing to recognize where most of these leads come from. The world really does run on personal contacts.


Mar. 2nd, 2002 08:50 am
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The Nvidia manager who's making the decision on me had interviewed me in person on Wednesday, and was then going to be out of the office for a week. She had told me I wouldn't hear back from her till late next week.

So her email late last night was a total surprise. They liked me! They want to talk to me "about the next steps" as soon as possible!

I keep in mind that I as yet have zero firm offers. It is not time to celebrate yet (at least not in a go-buy-everything-I-deferred-for-the-last-six-weeks sense). But oh my god.


Mar. 1st, 2002 10:30 pm
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Okay. To appreciate what I'm about to say, read my previous entries (back to the original iTopia and Nvidia interviews) for context. At the moment, Nvidia and Cirrus and BOM are all expressing some level of interest.

Now reread the iTopia comments. No, really. Reread them.

Now, they didn't do a particularly competent job at running the interview; nevertheless let it be said clearly. I really sucked at that interview. Face to face, I came off as someone who'd padded every single item on his resume. I couldn't solve a single coding problem they put to me. I was challenged to describe at least six different things I said I was good at, and I couldn't talk about any of them cogently. There were moose whangs hanging off the ceiling. If I were them, I not only wouldn't have hired me, I would have contacted everyone who I knew had a copy of my resume and warned them about this faker, and kept a transcript of that interview as a valid defense against being sued for defamation.

This is the context in which I bring up what just happened.

I just received email from iTopia. It says: "If you are still interested in work could you please ring our HR Manager over the weekend to discuss the opportunity of a contract position."

I fail to grok. I fail even to parse. Whatthehell do they want me for? Are they really so bad at interviewing that they managed -- in today's job market -- to drive away all the other potential interviewees? I am way too curious not to call them.

So that makes... four. (All of which could still conceivably fail to turn into employment.)

Someone has evidently whacked me really really hard with the karma stick.
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Returned from two days of Nvidia interviewlattio. It went well. How well I can't say for sure; I cannot claim I aced every question I should have. (I am red-faced; vector algebra and trig gave me problems -- it never even occurred to me that this would ever get swapped out of immediate-access memory. But after ten years of not using it, and stupid me not putting together that duh, of course a graphics company is interested in trig and vector math, I had to look blankly at things I would have solved in a minute without even thinking when I was half this age, and then give precisely the sort of excuses I used to think meant 'he must never have really known this well; I would never let myself forget vector math.' Creeeeak.) But I didn't implode with anybody, I fairly represented myself in general (except for the math), and it seemed that I got a number of 'Hope to see you back here soon' as opposed to 'Thanks for coming in' sendoffs.

Their standards are high. I am neither a graphics PhD nor a chip designer. I am not a perfect fit. And I would work remotely. Not a sure thing by any means. But it was flattering to be taken seriously, and it would be stunning to get an offer.

Got back home to find that Cirrus has postponed till Monday. Yes, three days of tech interviews in a row would have been a lot, but I feel sorta like I'm on a roll, so in a way I'm disappointed.

And then I find email from Cesar saying that the contract job he talked about might actually be happening.

Buh. Okay, I could still be unemployed a week from now, but I'm beginning to think it would take some pretty bad luck.
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It took a week, but Nvidia finally broke their silence. They liked me! Woot! They want to talk to me some more, sometime next week.

And then in the "famine to feast" department, I just phonescreened with a person from Cirrus, who are doing a wireless product and need help with some of the application management software they build. Phenomenally good interview; good chemistry, nailed the tech questions, and seemed to have exactly the right experience up and down the line. They'll be bringing me in for a half-day tech interview in the near future, possibly also next week.

My word. The turnaround in the last twenty-four hours has been just dramatic. I am stoked and happy and wow. One more phone call to take, from the Nvidia supervisor who didn't get a chance to meet with me last time, and then -- what a way to go into the weekend.

Next week is what it's all about.
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Still no word from Nvidia. I could read this as discouraging (if they wanted me, they'd have responded by now) or encouraging (last time I interviewed they'd turned me down by the following Monday) but frankly I think it's neither; I suspect the group I interviewed with is simply busy-like-bee (I knew this already) and hasn't had time to make or communicate a decision yet.

That said, I've prodded their quasi-HR droid, who said they're 'working on it'; you'd think if they'd already made the decision to turn me down they'd have answered me, since it's simple to say no...

Patience is hard but it is one of my strengths. I'll prod and poke and jitter but for all that I'm also still willing to wait -- it's certainly not the case that I'd rather be turned down than kept in suspense.

Meanwhile, someone else wants me to do a phone interview tomorrow or Friday at Cirrus, and a former Malibu cow orker says his wife's company Best Software, here in Roseville, needs programmers, so off goes my resume. And there's still other potentials out there, including Cesar's BOM.com which at last report is still waiting for someone to sign off on budgeting for the contract work they need done.

And the email making the rounds? I just have one thing to say: 21:12, 21/12, 2112.
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Back from Nvidia.

I could yet be turned down just because they needed someone that much better to justify my requested arrangement and my lack of specific expertise -- like I said before.

And there's two questions I'd like to have back -- one with some basic pre-calc vector math that I muffed (I stripped the gears trying to shift suddenly, see...), and one algorithm design where I should have asked more questions instead of flailing for a while. And of course I can't read minds and know if I otherwise impressed them like I believe I did. Strike that -- I got a number of 'whoa, nice' comments. I know that much of what I did really did impress them.

But offer or not, it doesn't matter -- I already won. I proved what I had to prove. My best shot may or may not overcome the built-in disadvantages of this particular interview -- but my best shot was damned good.


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