Help Wanted… Apply Within

By | Building a Company, Culture, Interviewing | No Comments

If you’ve interviewed at Daxko, you know it’s a tough process.  (That’s the way we like it.)  Claire M. recently emerged from the process as Daxko’s newest Quality Assurance Engineer.  She’s got her own testing blog and shared some great interviewing/hiring insights in a recent post.  Check it out…

Help Wanted, Apply Within
from @aclairefication

In one of my favorite movies of all time, the protagonist Joe struggles daily through a truly dead-end job while Joe’s boss talks constantly on the phone to the unseen character Harry about hiring concerns. Hiring and retaining the right people worry even this manager whose employees accomplish simplistic tasks.

At the suggestion of a couple of programmer friends, I recently finished reading Peopleware by DeMarco and Lister, which also focuses on the right person for the job from a management perspective. However, the authors advocate a different approach from micro-managing and oppressive Mr. Waturi: get the right people, make them happy so they won’t leave, and turn them loose. But how do managers know the right person when they see him or her?

Employee characteristics the authors emphasize:

  • intelligent, making thoughtful value judgments
  • creative
  • wants to accept responsibility
  • gets very involved in the outcome
  • energy and enthusiasm, hellbent for success
  • worthy of trust, ethical behavior
  • protect the well-being of the psychological self
  • dedicated to the best quality the individual can produce
  • believe strongly in the rightness of the product
  • loyal to positive environments
  • learner, improving skills over time, higher proficiency to deal with higher risk
  • internally motivated
  • the proper mix of perspective and maturity
  • building safety, bonding rather than pretense, forming healthy & satisfying communities
  • peer coaching
  • involved in process improvement
  • replacing chaos with order

Mr. Waturi never acknowledges Joe’s competence or gives him any autonomy but continues to hold him responsible for duties that he prevents Joe from executing. As a result, Joe feels essentially no involvement in the outcome of his work and his existing depression from post-traumatic stress only worsens.

A neurochemistry doctoral student friend recommended the book Flow, in which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi tells us that “we must constantly reevaluate what we do, lest habits and past wisdom blind us to new possibilities” and “enjoyment depends on increasing complexity … the discovery of new challenges … the development of new skills.”

Joe simply accepts that his life will continue plodding on its weary routine way until he receives startling news that changes his life. Joe’s internal motivation is so weak that only catastrophic circumstances galvanize him for action. Csikszentmihalyi describes people in similar circumstances whose “vision to perceive challenging opportunities for action” change their mundane work into satisfying careers.

In her closing keynote presentation for STAREast 2011, Julie Gardiner encouraged us to take courageous action:

  1. Turn your job into a passion
  2. Retain your integrity
  3. Take your career seriously

But what does all this mean for us as software testers? In order to do our jobs most effectively, we must take these management concerns and internalize them, pushing ourselves and our companies to improve. We must take ownership of the quality of our products and encourage our non-QA team members to embrace it as well, taking pride in our skillful workmanship.

In an environment like this, we are most free to push the software to its limits. We can focus our creativity, intelligence, and judgment on the work at hand to produce better outcomes, such as more effective test cases and fewer bugs in production. We can be gentle catalysts and change agents rather than the “jolt” that Naomi Karten described in her STAREast keynote elaboration of Virginia Satir’s family therapy model.

It all comes down to self-discipline. We must first apply our intense concentration to the weaknesses within ourselves to build self-regard that strengthens us to deal with risk in a professional setting and ultimately achieve success.

Although Joe never learns to find satisfaction in his work, the movie closes with Joe hoping for a better future. We too can hope for a better future as we pursue a real-world self-transformation as the Believers but Questioners that DeMarco and Lister encourage us to be.

Daxko Hearts Interns

By | Culture, Free Career Advice, Interviewing, Talent | 2 Comments

One of the more common questions I get asked at career fairs is, “Do you have internship openings for the summer?” Sure, everyone in college tries to secure relevant work experience to list on their resume. Well at Daxko, interns get a lot more than just something to put on paper.

Our interns get real experience working side-by-side with full-time team members, and many times doing very similar work. There’s no busy work or coffee runs here. If we hire interns, we have a big need to fill, such as a new project or more hands on deck to handle the day-to-day tasks. Usually, we don’t know we’re going to hire an intern until the need is upon us. Here are a few success stories from past Daxko interns…

Meet Saranda W. She started interning with Daxko in 2005, while she was majoring in Business Management at UAB. Reflecting on her internship experience, Saranda said, “You have to prove yourself and show what you can do in a short time frame. Always bring your “A” game.” That’s exactly what she did, and only 2 months later became a permanent member of the Daxko team. Saranda contributed to Support Services for 1 year and then moved into a Product Manager role, where she’s helped roll out meaningful software for the last 5 years.

Meet another long-timer, Keith H. He was hired as a sales intern in 2004, right before he graduated from the University of Montevallo with an education degree. During his internship, Keith said he learned to “keep his energy high and show commitment to working hard and getting it done.” This attitude made Keith a “shining star” and 3 months later he was hired full-time. Keith has contributed his talents in many areas (6 different positions to be exact) over his long tenure here.

Meet a newbie, Austin A. He started working at Daxko part-time in 2010 while studying Computer & Information Sciences at UAB. After he aced the project we originally hired him for, we extended his internship to work on an ongoing, part-time basis on our Production Support team while he completes his degree. Here are Austin’s thoughts on what he’s learned so far…

Being an intern taught me two important things that are useful today:  learning the domain of Daxko and settling into the culture of Daxko.  The first taught me how our products and services worked, which has given me a huge head start from coming in without that previous knowledge.  The second has taught me the Daxko way:  how we work together as a family to provide for each other and, most importantly, to our customers.

These are just three success stories. There are so many more! We have hired many interns over the years and will continue to do so because it builds great team members. Instead of hiring a new graduate based off a mere piece of paper, for us, internships provide a 3+ month-long job interview where students can prove themselves.

Are you interested in working for us in a full-time or part-time internship? A great place to meet us is at your college’s career fair. We regularly attend the ones held at UAB, University of Alabama, Auburn University and Samford University. Also, check our website often because as the need arises, we’ll be hiring!

Homework Before You Get the Job?

By | Culture, Interviewing, Talent | No Comments

Ahh, the Daxko interview process. There many facets, but let’s focus on just one aspect — the homework assignment. Homework, you say? Yes, not only do we want you to research our company, which can be called traditional homework for an interview, but we also want you to show us that you can do the job.

Daxko’s given interview homework for as long as I’ve worked here (which is almost 4 years). At first, it sounds painful; but most of the interviewees I’ve talked to actually enjoy it. Those are the people we want to hire — the ones that don’t mind spending 2-3 hours on a project so they can show us how they walk the walk instead of just talk the talk. The ones that are so passionate about what they do, they consider the homework to be fun.

For example, let’s look at our last .NET engineer opening. During the final interview stage, we had them create an application on their own time and then present it in front of the .NET team. When I first started, I imagined this to be very painful for a techie. However, like I said before, the passionate ones say they enjoy it.

Think we’re crazy for requiring this?  Think again.  Check out this TechCrunch.com article on “Why The New Guy Can’t Code”. The writer contributes poor hiring decisions to a poor interview process…

“A great coder can easily be 50 times more productive than a mediocre one, while bad ones ultimately have negative productivity. Hiring one is a terrible mistake for any organization; for a startup, it can be a catastrophic company-killer. So how can it happen so often? …Have the interviewee show and tell their code, and explain their design decisions and what they would do differently now. Have them implement a feature or two while you watch, so you can see how they actually work, and how they think while working.”

How does it work? Daxko’s .NET Development Lead Patrick B. walks us through the process…

“I like to craft an exercise specially for the candidate – to demonstrate either a skill they claim to have or one I’d like to see them cultivate. At the very least, the exercise should be original and applicable to everyday work on your development team – no Towers of Hanoi or binary search – and the solution should require application of original thought. We have the candidate discuss the solution with members of the team during their interview. This lets us not only statically assess the solution, but gives them an opportunity to walk us through the rationale behind it. The discussion is often more illuminating than the solution itself, because it quickly becomes obvious how well they really grasp things. This discussion is also much more akin to the conversations the developers will have while working together, unlike traditional interview questions.”

So, how does the candidate feel? Here’s the response from our newest .NET hire, Jace B…

“First off, I like the fact that there is homework. Of the places I spoke with, the two that required a practicum of me were the two most attractive. Not sure exactly why that is. Maybe it’s the knowledge that everyone working there had to pass one. Another part is that it was a way to show off. I like showing off. Perhaps the biggest part, though, is something about the organizational mindset that would drive you to require that… it’s something about that mindset that’s attractive.”

Thanks, Jace – that’s exactly why Daxko gives homework, especially to developers. It also explains why we have a killer team!

Nice is the New Cool – Especially If You’re Rockin’ a McJob

By | Culture, Interviewing, Talent, Workplace | No Comments

Every morning, I go through my local McDonald’s drive-through. I love their coffee. I’ll rock a Starbucks if I need a great wifi spot, but for a quick cup of delicious coffee, McDonald’s is my go-to place. I don’t care that the coffee is cheaper (which it is)… I just like it.

So, every morning, between 6:00 and 7:30am, I pull in the drive-through and order the same thing. “I’d like a small coffee with one Splenda please and that’ll be it.” I say that same thing every day. My husband says that their nickname for me is “Small Coffee, One Splenda.” And I’m certain if I’m a no-show, someone on the line goes, “I wonder where Small Coffee, One Splenda is today?”

And so I go back everyday. Everyday. Because beyond the good coffee, what I find amazing and refreshing is the happiness of the McDonald’s employees at this location. I know this happiness is not always universal in the McDonald’s galaxy, but at the Riverchase, Alabama location, happiness seems to be the universal component for the a.m. crew. Some may say the universal differentiator. They know me and are, frankly, nice. I was going to go through a long line of business pluses like they always say, “Come again!” but that crap doesn’t matter. They are just all really nice. And they get my order right.

I’ve wanted to write about this for sometime, but even more so now that the McDonald’s “McJob” campaign is getting some heavy press. McDonald’s, trying to compete with the Starbucks talent and recruitment image (candidate pool, benefits and recruitment branding all included), has launched an ad campaign leading to a one day hiring blitz on April 19th. McDonald’s, simply put, has two goals: to hire 50,000 workers and to be cool like Starbucks in the eyes of the minimum wage job seeker, shedding its “McJob” rap.

Certainly they will succeed in the mass hire. It’s McDonalds, and it is their summer hiring blitz.

On the other hand, I’m certain they will not succeed in gaining a cool factor or tapping into the same candidate market as Starbucks. Listen, I don’t discredit McDonalds for not liking the “McJob” moniker they have inherited. No one likes to be labeled, especially if it falls short of one’s own perceived vision. But McDonalds just isn’t cool (Ronald McDonald vs. cool Starbuck Mermaid lady?). But guess what… they don’t have to be.

McDonald’s doesn’t have to be cool to be successful. Just like Starbucks doesn’t have to be “fast” like McDonald’s to be successful.

To be successful, the workers simply need to be nice. And to remain nice on the job (which we all know work can suck the nice out of you really fast), they need to have engaged managers.

Pouring coffee, serving fries and pulling burgers off a shelf takes absolutely no skill. I’ve worked fast food, so I can say so from experience. Dealing with customers, handling complaints, and keeping rushed people happy does. It takes tremendous skill. And that skill is what keeps people coming back.

So, the McDonald’s and Starbucks applications should have just a few questions on it:

  • What is the last nice thing you did for someone? When did you do it?
  • If I asked 5 people to describe you, what one common personality trait would all five say about you?
  • What do you want out of a career at McDonald’s/ Starbucks?

And if you are a manager:

Career longevity is nice and if someone likes long-term career ops at McDonald’s, that is icing on the cake. But to keep your model rolling, which is more contingent than not… hire for nice; hire for engagement.

This post originally appeared on Fistful of Talent, a blog for recruiters, HR, consultants, and corporate types to talk recruiting and hiring.