A while ago, we decided to move from Toronto to Kingston. We sold our house in Toronto, bought a house in Kingston, and planned and implemented the move. The last step in the process was for me to find a job in Kingston. We knew that wasn’t going to be easy. Kingston is a much smaller place, with less demand for programmers. As motivation, I decided that one of the things I would buy with my first paycheck would be a new ukulele. Well, I can now shop for that ukulele! I start my new job on Monday!
How did I get to this point? My “sabbatical” started getting a bit too long. So back in the Fall, I went to the KEYS Job Centre for advice. To start with, my councilor gave me some great advice on resume writing. She also recommended the MCF Kingston Practice Firm. What’s a practice firm? It operates very much like a real company, allowing participants to gain real work experience, albeit without a salary. But in addition, participants are expected to spend time searching for jobs and learning the skills needed to look for work. I decided to give it a try.
I decided to concentrate on developing skills in PHP, since that’s used by some local firms. I was assigned the task of developing a new software system for the local Operation Red-Nose organization to replace an old DOS-based application. I visited their operation on New Years Eve, and for what they were doing with that ancient program, they could just as easily be doing everything on paper.
To cut a longish story short, what I had implemented in five weeks using PHP and CakePHP, I had originally expected to spend most of my 12 week stint at MCF working on. Within weeks, I was able to confidently add PHP to my resume. I had expected to be at MCF longer. But an opportunity arose, I sent off my resume and cover letter, and I went for an interview and testing. I accepted an offer, and finished my stay at MCF after just those five weeks. Granted, there’s still more work left to do on the ORN project. But I expect to finish that in my spare time.
What have I learned from this? First, that CakePHP is a great way to implement a web-based application. Some point out that it has a harder learning curve than other PHP frameworks. And sure, you need to understand why the framework insists on doing things a certain way. But having strong conventions is not a bad thing. In all, I think CakePHP was a good choice for that project.
Second, it helped me convince myself that the things I wrote in my resume were true. I can learn new skills. I got the skills. I know what I’m doing. I demonstrated that nicely with the ORN project. Sometimes it seems we can forget what we’re capable of, and lose confidence in ourselves. Especially when between jobs.
In my previous job, I used Zope and Plone, but without ever really reaching the point of fully mastering those frameworks. I took that job because it offered me the chance to use my favorite programming language, Python. But while I still love that language, I would never recommend using Zope. We just could never get the Zope-based project to where we needed to be, partly due to the complexity of the framework, and also due to some nasty intermittent bugs. These were the kinds of bugs that you could never really be sure you fixed. And no one should have to depend on that kind of system.
(Fortunately, the Zope-based project was shelved. Unfortunately, development moved on to an ambitious .net based system, which is not really a good place to be for a Linux/Unix geek. Frankly, I was glad that moving to another city offered me a good excuse to quit that job.)
But now my new job beckons, and I’m really looking forward to it. From what I’ve seen so far, it seems like a really great place to work, and I know I can make a difference there. And soon, I expect to add a new ukulele to my modest collection. A banjo-ukulele perhaps?