Pew Pew Laser Blog

Code. Glass art. Games. Baking. Cats. From Seattle, Washington and various sundry satellite locations.

Blogs about development

Common Resume Feedback.


A resume is a marketing document. Its job is to get you a phone screen or interview. During that interview, the resume can guide the conversation. Each bullet point should be able to start a story which demonstrates the specific ways in which you are awesome.

When I was unemployed a number of years ago, I learned a lot about resume writing from books, articles, and especially the career counselor that I saw. Because of this, I've offered to review friends' resumes. After a few rounds of this, I've put together the common pieces of feedback that I've shared:

Finding Projects for Open Source Contributions.


Have you been thinking about contributing to open source projects, but didn't know where to start? Here are a few ways to get started. find projects which are actively welcoming new contributors by highlighting their "starter" issues - bugs which are small in scope or otherwise make a good introduction to the project.

Interviewing a Front-End Developer.


A while ago, I interviewed for a job with a company that I was absolutely in-love with. I'd been excited to see that they were looking for a front-end developer and I applied right away.

A front-end developer is a highly specialized skill set, and it's pretty different than the skill sets of other types of developers. An experienced front-end developer (I've been doing this for 10 years) is deeply familiar with current HTML, CSS, JavaScript, as well as current browser support and debugging techniques. I know about image compression and optimization, accessibility, content management systems, and even a little about design and SEO. It's a role akin to the kicker or keeper on a football team.

Back to the interview, we'd gone though a few basic questions and the interviewer had moved on to the algorithm questions. It was a little more complicated than Fizz Buzz, but it wasn't too tricky. But I flailed around for a while trying to both understand what the interviewer was asking, as well as trying to logic out the solution. I didn't solve the algorithm easily enough, and I didn't get any further in the interview process.

Why evaluate a front-end developer based on a algorithm? It's such a very small part of the job, and especially over a video conference after a full day of work, and it's the wrong test to get the front-end developer to demonstrate their best. It's like evaluating an NFL kicker based on their tackling skills - sure, they need to do it sometimes, but a proper blocker will always be more skilled at tackles.

How I Got Started As A Developer.


I thought that I would share the story of how I "broke" into development. This was some number of years ago, and naturally what worked for me may not work for you.

Long long ago, I was working at a tech support call center. I had a headset, call routing system, and few internal web-based knowledgebases to search through for answers. This job suited me because I already had the secret pre-requisite amount of computer knowledge (having built machines for myself and others), and it was fairly high-paying work. As I earned experience in the job, other folks came to me for help with their calls. This got awkward when I was also on a call. So I re-purposed an extra computer under my neighbor's cubicle into an IIS intranet server to host a "for us, by us" kind of knowlegebase. I learned basic HTML and JavaScript; and the kind of CSS where you can change an <h1>'s color with inline style attributes!

After many years, the call center job was further outsourced to Canada. By this time, I had just completed an 2 year community college degree (and a 1 year certificate in "electronic commerce"), so I figured I was ready to pursue web developer as a career. This coursework had included an assignment to "make a website", so I took care of the whole gamut of webmaster duties for a friend. My unemployment benefits included community college tuition for retraining, which I used to take a whirlwind PHP / MySQL development class. Then I applied for local web development jobs. I'd also picked up a second "client" - a local non-profit organization which needed a webmaster to put their affairs in order and make occasional updates.

Six months later, my unemployment benefits had run out, and I wasn't working as a developer. Though I had built my very own PHP and duct-tape blog system. So I took another tech support job. This one was a the corporate headquarters for local video rental chain. (I told you this was a long time ago.) After several months of learning the business through tech support, one of the other groups at headquarters posted an opening for a web developer. They needed another developer to help build intranet reports for the retail store managers to detect theft. Since I had experience with the business and doing web development, I got that job and became a professional web developer. After a year or so doing that, I got another full-time development job, and that's what I've been doing ever since.

A Glassblower's Career Outlook.


Let's examine the job prospects of one of my hobbies - glassblowing. Blowing glass is tough work. Even in Seattle's winters, it's hot sweaty work. It's a full shift of physical activity, requiring both heavy lifting and repetitive controlled movement. Glassblowing has a high degree of difficulty, and success depends on good teamwork and timing.

It's common for beginning glassblowers to pay to take classes, and for folks looking to get a foot in the door to intern for free or very cheaply before scoring paid work at the journeyman level. Most paid glassblowing work is done as independent contractor, with no guarantee of work or benefits.

Entry- to mid-level glassblowing work is competitive; there are always more glassblowers with free time than there are open spaces in shops. Within a glassblowing team, the successful entrant will be enthusiastic and attentive to the needs of the rest of the team. A production glassblower doesn't have off-hours work like responding to customer emails or preparing a sales report. But they commonly spend free time improving their skills by taking classes or doing independent work.

Seattle is a great city to be a glassblower. There is a multitude of schools and small studios which offer classes. There are also multiple production facilities which can be counted on to need a comparatively steady supply of glassworkers such as Glassybaby and Glass Eye Studios. Olympic Color Rods hosts a board with postings for jobs and equipment.

Glassblowing is a rock-star occupation. Very few glassblowers will become wealthy or famous like Chihuly or Marioni. Many glassblowers own and operate a studio (which is full of money-hungry equipment) as well as store to sell pieces, which means they are managing a small business in addition to making art.

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