Vermont 3.0 Creative/Tech Career Jam – impressions

Update: Video Here
The Vermont Software Developer’s Alliance is a trade organization of 60 companies that create software applications, shrinkwrapped programs and software tools. As part of a consortium with Seven Days, Burlington CEDO and our state and local colleges we created a creative/tech career fair for job-seekers who were looking for positions in the green technology, scientific, software development and creative arts.

It is really a kick when you can Make Stuff Happen, and it was evident right from the start that the event would be a success. But then on Saturday I was overwhelmed… I started talking to people at 9:30 and didn’t stop until 4:30 with a brief lunch break. I was at the vtSDA table the whole time wearing my vtSDA hat.

I think it is great from the other comments that people did think that there were a lot of qualified attendees. I was encouraged by the number of companies participating, but wasn’t sure about the people I was talking to. I found a mix:

1. C++/C#/Java programmers, often seniors or recent graduates

2. “Web Developers” – lots of people calling themselves this, a few who could cite more substantial accomplishments (work with database back-ends) and others who clearly were fishing around. A couple cited experience with ASP.NET

3. “Project Managers” – former programmers who may have failed to make the next leap to current development technologies. (?)

4. Some “Career Changers” – I explained to several folks that all of our vtSDA companies weren’t just looking for hard-core techies but will need account managers, financial folks etc.

5. I had several folks were were IT/Network Managers, and interestingly, I wasn’t sure who to send them to except to suggest larger companies, and the colleges.

6. Lots of comments that started with “I had no idea…”

  • I had no idea there were so many cool companies in Vermont
  • I had no idea that I could actually get a technical job here, I thought I’d have to go to Boston, or Silicon Valley. (the two places most mentioned…)
  • I had no idea what I need to know to have a career in software development
  • I had no idea that company XYZ had done animation for Lord of the Rings

I think there are some challenges and opportunities for us on the “low end” and entry-level. I talked to several folks about Vermont HiTec. Several wanted to know how to get started or how to improve their situation or how to transition. Some were discouraged to find out that a B.A. was considered a minimum qualification for many of our companies. Most were short on specifics…. nobody mentioned that they knew much about software engineering, source-code control, ECLIPSE, RUBY. “Web Programmers” didn’t mention XML or CSS. Lots who identified themselves as programmers mentioned VB6….and were interested in taking the free Visual Studio CDs. (This I find a little worrisome.) Nobody complained that the CDs were from VS 2005 (!) If I was hiring a “Microsoft” programmer, I’d sure like to hear that they had been using Orcas (the VS2008 beta versions) for the past six months.

There were enough take-aways here for another discussion about career planning. In the meantime, here is a link to the Stuck in Vermont vBlog which has a video showing Dealer.com‘s new offices. Can’t get any more innovative than their digs.

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5 thoughts on “Vermont 3.0 Creative/Tech Career Jam – impressions

  1. Scott Gale

    Larry,Off hand I didn’t see anything mentioned about your background, so it’s hard to gain perspective while reading your recent post about the Tech Career Jam Do you work for one of the companies that was there? Are you one of the guys looking for Microsoft programmers?

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  2. Larry Keyes

    Hi, Scott…I was not hiring Microsoft programmers; my company is in start-up mode, and we’re actually still on the fence regarding our final platform choice for an embedded application that we’re working on. We’ve been evaluating both Windows Embedded and various Linux embedded OSs At the tech fair I was representing the Vermont Software Developers Alliance. As a trade group for software development companies we are platform agnostic. From what I’ve heard of companies exhibiting at the Jam, many of them were very encouraged by the people they were talking to; some found job candidates that they had been looking for for many months. Since our booth was not specific as to particular skill sets, I spent considerable time talking with job seekers with a wide range of interest, background, and experience, and several of these, I might guess eight or nine, described themselves as Microsoft programmers. Virtually all of them were unfamiliar with VS2008, and several were not familiar with .NET or the free magazines that we gave out, including the MSDN magazine and CODE. My thought is that if and when I hire programmers for the Microsoft platform, (or any other platform), I would certainly be much more likely to hire candidates who are familiar with the current state of the development platform, software tools for leveraging that platform, and the “ecosystem” surrounding the platform, including things like the superb dotNet user groups, magazines and conferences.

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