Open Letter to Recruiters


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An Open Letter to Technical Recruiters

Thank You!

Thank you for visiting my résumé! This letter is meant to fill in the details that a résumé doesn't generally cover and help you understand:

  • How I got where I am now,
  • What I can do for you or your client, and
  • what I expect from you.

What I've Done Before

For more than twenty years I have been a technical leader, architect, programmer, system engineer and administrator, writer, trainer, and spokesperson. I have managed, architected, contributed to, implemented, and supported projects ranging from simple web page authoring and printed newsletters to distributed systems comprising hundreds of servers on four continents. Over those years, I have demonstrated success in dozens of deployments and publications, with many systems still in production, supporting tens of thousands of users, many thousands of concurrent transactions, and many articles still referenced across the web and in libraries around the nation. As a spokesperson for education associations and related political causes, I have been quoted in the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury News, the Sacramento Bee, the Riverside Press Enterprise, and other newspapers. I met personally with the California Journal editorial board to discuss political reform in California, and more recently, have been interviewed by KMOX radio about the Great Recession's impact on job-seekers.

Additionally, I possess a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology, and have completed more than one-third of the coursework required to be awarded a Master of Business Administration. I am continuing work on the MBA on a part-time basis as my schedule permits.

Some things that have fallen off my résumé — because they are so far in the past and/or unrelated to my current career — are stints as:

  • Boy Scout camp staff
  • Answering service operator
  • Gardener/groundskeeper
  • Warehouse supervisor/forklift operator
  • Noon Duty Aide/lunch monitor
  • Vacuum cleaner salesperson
  • Mobile DeeJay

The point in listing these jobs being that I've paid my dues already, and learned more than a few things the hard way.

What I'm Doing Right Now

Since April 2014 I have been with MGM Resorts International as a senior systems design architect. Among my major accomplishments are a complete re-platform of the company's core property management system (Opera, which we migrated from AIX on IBM Power to Oracle Enterprise Linux on Exadata), a complete re-platform of the company's loyalty marketing system (Patron Management, which we migrated from Windows 2008 on HP DL980s to Windows 2012 on HPE SuperDomeX), both while updating application and database tiers and maintaining full operational capability. During the Opera upgrade in particular, I stepped in to lead a multi-disciplinary team when my executive director took unscheduled leave. These systems directly support 77,000 employees, 40,000 guest rooms, and many thousands of gaming machines, together with their associated food and beverage, retail, and other guest services.

A key part in achieving success in these two projects were frequent, regular meetings with executive leadership, both within IT as well as the hospitality, gaming, revenue management, human resources, and other departments to define requirements, specifications, budgets, and schedules. Typically, these involved my peers: directors and executive directors, as well as vice presidents, senior vice presidents, and property presidents -- although occasionally they included the CIO, CTO, and COO.

Previously, from late June, 2012, until January 2014, I was a "permanent" employee of Allegiant Air in Las Vegas, Nevada, where I was a systems engineer. Among my major accomplishments there was migrating their back-end DB2 database from AIX to Red Hat Enterprise Linux -- on the same hardware, with no unscheduled downtime and no interruptions to flight and reservation operations.

Further back, from February through April 2012 I was engaged with GCI in Anchorage, Alaska, developing the full-stack software and hardware infrastructure required to implement GCI's support for the Apple iPhone.

Earlier, from July 2011 through January 2012, I served Thomson Reuters as a contract senior systems engineer, supporting a trio of financial news-oriented, multi-platform Web applications used by a highly-demanding global customer base.

Between June 2010 and July 2011, I contracted at Wells Fargo Advisors as a senior Unix architect, developing system management tools to automate data extraction, translation, and loading (ETL) and implement centralized file distribution — inter-system data transfers among mainframe, Unix, Linux, and Windows environments within the company as well as with external business partners.

In the 2008 to 2010 timeframe I served for two years as the Unix administrator lead at St. Anthony's Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri, where I was totally responsible for all Unix servers and SAN devices, as well as project management for power, cooling, and other infrastructure enhancements to their primary and secondary datacenters. These are life-critical systems, meaning unscheduled downtime should be measured in seconds per year. In this role, I had one direct report and two contractors, as well as significant budgetary and vendor management responsibility.

Immediately prior to my tenure at St. Anthony's, from 2005 to 2008 at MasterCard Worldwide, I built and maintained a system configuration and monitoring solution that managed thousands of Unix and Windows servers on four continents in a 24/7/365 SLA environment. The system used Perl, Mason, Apache, Tivoli Management Framework, and the Korn Shell to provide a web browser-based system management interface for their operations centers in support of more than a trillion (with a "T") transactions annually.

What I'll Do in the Future

I am always willing to consider new challenges. So, yes, I am looking for a good career move, including direct-hire, right-to-hire, contract, and corp-to-corp.

And I do have a few ground rules...

Stand out from the Crowd

What can I say? I'm popular! In any given week, I receive at least a dozen personalized inquiries from recruiters, not counting more than a hundred spam-ish pitches by automated systems and the less thoughtful. Unfortunately, a majority of these personalized contacts are very clearly made by people who have not bothered to actually read my résumé (a keyword search does not reveal all), and (unfortunately) most of those recruiters won't read this, either.

As a result, those recruiters probably won't receive a helpful reply.

Fortunately, you are performing your due diligence, and I am grateful! So, when I receive an email (preferred over a phone call, thank you) from someone who has made a minimal effort to understand my career history and aspirations, I make every effort to respond promptly and with sufficient information to move forward, if the position interests me.

Four things you should be aware of:

  1. Location, location, location

    I currently call Las Vegas, Nevada, my base of operations. Please do not ask me to move unless either you or your client is prepared to offer an appropriate compensation package. I'll expect a written employment agreement stipulating specifics, not just a handshake deal, too.

    I have listed these requirements to be sure you understand that this is the value I have placed on uprooting my household — we all have a price, and that's mine.

    As a U.S. citizen, I am authorized to work anywhere in the United States. Other than remaining in Las Vegas, my preferred destinations are:

    • San Francisco, California, the nearby Bay Area, and the Interstate 80 corridor eastward through Sacramento;
    • the Lake Tahoe Basin and Reno, Nevada;
    • Portland, Oregon;
    • Boulder, Colorado (or the nearby I25 corridor);
    • Seattle, Washington;
    • Vancouver, British Columbia (appropriate visa required);
    • Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario (appropriate visa required);
    • the Florida coast and nearby U.S. or British possessions and protectorates (appropriate visa required if non-U.S. territory);
    • Costa Rica, Belize, Panama, and Guyana (appropriate visa required);
    • Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England (appropriate visa required);
    • Australia and New Zealand (appropriate visa required).

    I'm also quite open to a telecommute/fully remote position based out of my home or a local office at very reasonable rates.

  2. Compensation Expectations

    Over the past several years, I've often been asked about my "salary requirements". When I explain what I'm looking for, some recruiters have said, "No problem!" while others have balked. The reasons my compensation expectations are justified can be summarized as: market value, client cost savings and revenue enhancement, competitive advantage, and risk mitigation.

    Because the market values my skills, I am competitive with my peers in my specialized technical niches and the business needs that they serve. Hiring a consultant with a similar background will frequently rack up much higher costs than you will find with an individual like me. I routinely see contractors and consultants of similar skill and experience charging in excess of $250 an hour for substantially the same services I can provide. Therefore, base salary should be appropriate for the level of expertise I bring, the responsibilities, and the region. (Please note, I am specifically not expecting offers of $250 an hour and up — although I would not object to them.) These guidelines apply in roughly equal measure to contracts as a 1099, contracts as an LLC, contracts as a W-2 employee of an intermediary, and to direct-hire roles.

    Specifically, because I bring significant skills and experience with me to a project, they either save my clients money through efficiency gains, or enhance the profitability of their companies by increasing their ability to sell products and services to their customers. The reward for my contributions should be commensurate with those savings or profits — I believe in being a partner with my clients, not a human resource to be exploited.

    Even in cases where my work cannot bring about additional revenue, I have skills and experience that can help a company preserve its market share and reputation in the face of fierce competition, regulatory and compliance burdens, or a declining market.

    If the project is not in easy commute range of my home, then expect to compensate me for the additional travel time required. If the project requires that I relocate, then expect to compensate me for travel and lodging expenses as well as the logistical costs associated with a household move.

    Further, if I will be expected to take a leadership role, or the project entails significant internal or customer-facing visibility and concommitant executive visibility, then a higher rate is justified.

    Finally, when exploring opportunities I have a general rule on compensation: the shorter-term the project I take on, the higher my hourly rate. Anything less than a month, I bill at my highest rate. One to three months is more reasonable. Three to six months more reasonable still. Six months to a year is like hiring a senior contractor. After a year or more, we get into ranges typical for a senior employee. If your project is particularly interesting, I'm pleased to negotiate a lower rate — but don't expect much wiggle room for run-of-the-mill business.

    In other words,, shorter projects entail more risk. If the project is to be completed in a few weeks, or a month (or three, or six, or twelve), then I require the additional cushion to tide me over until the next paycheck. Given the vagaries of the economy, that could be several months. In the meantime, I do what I can to help hold us all out of a deflationary spiral.

    In short, the additional value for my clients and risk to me more than justify the rate I am seeking.

  3. Ex Officiousness

    In particular, I could be interested in the following types of opportunities (in preferential order):

    • Technical leadership — strategic direction and management in a technical environment (small company CIO or CTO, medium company IT executive director, large company technical director, manager, team lead, etc.)
    • System architecture — integration of multiple systems into a cohesive whole or design of new systems (solutions architect, information architect, system architect, etc.)
    • Web development — middle-tier and browser- agnostic UI development (webmaster, web developer, UI designer, etc.)
    • Sales engineering — pre- and -post-sale support (sales engineer, implementation engineer, etc.)
    • Systems engineering and administration — Unix and Linux system engineering, administration, and configuration management (sysadmin, systems engineer, configuration manager, virtualization engineer)
    • Technical communication — documentation for multiple audiences, both technical and non-technical (technical writer, technical editor, contributing writer, publications manager, etc.)

    I am most emphatically not a DBA or data architect, although I can fake it enough to be comfortable building applications around databases that have been implemented by someone who knows how to do it right.

  4. Tools, techniques, and trade secrets

    My preferred development and engineering environment is fundamentally based on vim on Linux. However, I am an equal-opportunity technologist and support the rights of those who lean toward the churches of EMACS and Eclipse, or even heresies like Microsoft Visual Studio and SharePoint. I also prefer the LAMP stack on the server side, building Perl (and PHP or Python as appropriate) applications with MySQL, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, Oracle, or DB2 backends, served by Apache. Sure, there are other alphabet-soup initialisms and acronyms that do the same kinds of things; but LAMP is widely deployed for a reason.

    Additionally, I do AJAX/XmlHttpRequest DHTML/XHTML/HTML/XSL frontends, JavaScript, and related development work to support the User Experience.

    Yes, I am proficient with the Adobe Creative Suite, including Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Premiere, Aftereffects, Flash and Fireworks (although I prefer to avoid these tools in favor of Open Source equivalents where ever possible), as well as all of the usual office productivity tools on Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, and Unix platforms.

    Further, I can specify, design, build, harden, document, and maintain complex, multi-tiered, multi-architecture systems from the bare metal while referencing only the documentation and Google: storage provisioning, physical server deployment, virtual server provisioning, containerization, web server, application server, database server, interfaces, clustering, monitoring, and configuration management — and I can do all these on converged, hyperconverged, virtualized, cloud, or traditional single-box platforms depending on the requirements.

    Finally, I speak both Geek and Suit: I can make a fully buzzword-compliant business case and still hold the respect of a technically-oriented audience (although probably not at the same time in all venues).

What I expect from you

Professionalism is paramount. If you wish to open a productive dialog with me, I expect that you will have already read this open letter.

Please do not ask me about my willingness to relocate if you are unclear about my requirements. (Listed above, thanks.)

Also, please do not ask me about my willingness to accept a short-term contract if you are unclear about my compensation requirements. (Again, listed above, thanks.)

Further, if you are a third-party recruiter contacting me about an opportunity, but you are not located in the same region as your client, please be prepared to tell me what you and your firm have to offer that will demonstrate to the client company (and me, of course) that you are a better supplier of technical resources than is a local competitor. I will not work with an out-of-the-area firm if it has no prior connections with a local client, or some other rationale.

Having said all that...

For More Information

I can be persuaded to provide a tailored résumé to you, if you would be good enough to send me a detailed position description.

In the meantime, as you have probably already seen, my generic résumé is available. Additionally, my profile is On LinkedIn

Please feel free to contact me by email if you'd like to discuss a specific opportunity.

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