November 2013 Archives

Being in the middle of a job hunt means pondering personal presentation as it relates to interviews. Get the suit out of the closet, make sure it's clean, figure out where the ties went, that whole thing. I've been working for offices where the dress code is, "funny T-shirt and jeans," for 10 years now so my dressing-up part of the closet is sadly depleted from when I worked in a business casual environment. Thus, thinking about presentation.

If you've been laboring under the assumption that only women are subject to fashion and style dictated presentation rules, you're sadly, sadly mistaken. As a case in point, I give you the presentation of sales people trying to sell me on six-figure products and services.


People pitching me and my department knew where we fit into the world of buying things: higher education, publicly funded.

Because of this every single person that came to us to try and sell us on expensive things came in a suit, and left the suit-jacket with their bag as soon as they could.Tie optional. All of them, to a man (we never had any women in the pitch teams). They knew our buying cycle for big ticket items could be 18 months long, and that our technical higher-ups are almost always old white guys with gray hair. So they sent older white guys with gray hair to pitch to us.


Logik... we were hard to figure out. We worked in the Legal Services sector but were actually a tech startup, two dress-codes that are on opposite ends of the spectrum. You could tell how pitch-teams slotted us by watching what they wore.

  • Logik is a Legal Services Firm: Suit with ties, probably older than me. Though if they came back for a second visit they left the jackets in the car.
  • Logik is a Techy Legal Services Firm: Suit with tie but left the jacket in the car, about my age. Though, the lead of the pitch-team would keep the jacket. If they came for a second visit they left the ties in the car.
  • Logik is a Tech Startup: Nice polo shirt with dockers, my age or younger. Never had one come for a second visit since that was always done over the phone.

All of the men had short hair, minimal facial hair, and no jewelry other than watches and a single ring. Even the teams pitching to a startup didn't let the men have facial hair.

I had exactly two women come through during my time with Logik. The first was canvasing the whole building for ISP services, so defaulted to "Suit". The second lead a pitch team serving the legal-services market in the area so also wore a suit.

The second-visit variations were always informative because by then I knew more about who was pitching me. Yes, we were legal services (sort of) and some of them outright said that a different marketing group should be serving us but they were right there and may as well get on with it. Seeing how they tuned their appearance to pitch to us was interesting.

The thing that struck me this past week and a half is that an interview is very much like those pitch teams trying to sell me on six figure expenses. Because that's what I'm doing, selling an employer on a potential six-figure ongoing annual expense (after you factor in fringe benefits like medical, 401k contribution, and employer-side social-security contributions). I find myself making the exact same presentation calculation those sales teams were making for me:

  • If the job posting (or "About the team" page) says, "we don't care if you wear flip-flops to the office," find a nice non-logoed polo-shirt and my best non-suit, non-denim pants.
  • If the posting is for a large national corporation and the posting and website doesn't give any clues about the corporate culture, default to assumptions based on the market the corporation works in.
    • Default to suit-with-tie, unless their market is something known for down-scaling dress-codes for some reason
      • Some non-profits (leave off the tie, or maybe the jacket as well)
      • Serves the educational market (leave off the tie. Maybe leave off the jacket if the vibe after the phone screen suggests it's appropriate)
      • Markets the company to outdoorsy types (dress-shirt and dockers)
      • etc.
  • If the job posting is for a startup, default to dress-shirt-with-pants, unless their culture pages suggests aggressively casual; in which case go for the polo-and-dockers.

And so on.

Same problem, only I only do it every few years rather than as my day-job so I have to think about it more.

If the sales people trying to sell me stuff are anything to go by, the old dictum, "you can never go wrong doing an interview in a suit," is very much wrong.

The dictum, "dress one step classier than the place you're interviewing at," is very much born out by watching the professional sales people work. The hard part is guessing how an office dresses without having been in it at all. So pay attention, and do your research; social media is a good way to figure out what the unofficial office dress-code looks like.

Having "flip-flops OK" on a job posting is awesome, since it tells me I can get away with a polo-shirt, dockers, and dressy shoes and I don't have to do much more research.

Have me work for you

My time at Logik has come to a close. Their latest product, Logikcull, really is hot stuff when it comes to eDiscovery in the SaaS space, and I've enjoyed working on it. It's a very interesting distributed processing problem and it fed my intellectual curiosity every day. I like that kind of thing.

That said, I'm available now. DC area if you need physical presence, but I'm set up for remote working too (I even have an office-like room at home). I've done cloudy distributed systems, hybrid distributed systems, and academic who-the-hell-knows systems. And now speak Ruby!


The evil genius of OSv

One of the talks here at LISA13 was one about a new Cloud-optimized operating system called OSv. This is a new thing, and I hadn't heard of it before. Why do we need yet another OS? And one that doesn't even run a Linux kernel? I was frowning through the talk until I got to this slide:


That's the point when I said:

Holy shit! They've built a 64-bit NetWare!

  • Cooperative multi-tasking? Check!
  • A shared memory space? Check!
  • Everything runs in Ring 0? Check!

There were a few other things that made the parallel even more clear to me, but this is a stunning display of evil genius. Even though Novell tried for ten years to promote NetWare as a perfectly legitimate general purpose server for application serving, it never really took off. There were several reasons for this (not exhaustive):

  • It was a pain to develop for. The NLM model never got anything approaching wide-spread adoption so you had to get everything just right.
  • The shared memory space meant that the OS allowed you to stomp all over other processes running on the system, something that other OSs (Windows, Linux) don't allow.
  • If something did manage to wiggle out of the app and into the kernel, it had free reign (though in practice all it did was abend the server; writing exploits is subject to the first bullet-point problem).
  • It didn't have any concept of forking, just threads. Which changed the multi-processing paradigm from what it was on most other platforms and made porting software to it a pain.
  • There were no significant user-space utilities (grep/sed/awk/bash), though they did get some of that well after they'd lost the battle.

All of these made NetWare a challenging platform to develop for, and challenging platforms don't get developed for. Novell tried to further encourage people to develop for it by getting the Java JVM ported to NetWare so people could run Java apps on it. Few did, though it was quite possible; search for "netstorage" on this blog to get one such application that saw a lot of use.

Have I mentioned that OSv's first release ships with a JVM on it?

The Evil Genius part is that they're not wrong, things really do run faster when you write a kernel like that and run things in the same memory space as the kernel. I got pretty nice scaling with Apache when I was running it on NetWare.

The Evil Genius part is that they're designing this system to be a single-app system, not a general purpose system like NetWare was supposed to be. It runs a JVM, and that's it. The JVM can only stomp on itself and the kernel, and apps can stomp on each other within the limits of the JVM.

The Evil Genius part is that if it does fall over, it's designed to be flushed and a fresh copy spun up in its place. Disposable servers! NetWare servers of old were bastion hosts that Shall Never Go Down. OSv? Not the same thing at all.

The Evil Genius part is that they're doing this in an era where a system like this can actually succeed.

The Evil Genius part is that everyone looks at what they're doing and goes, "...uh HUH. Riiiight. LIke that's a good idea." And like evil geniuses of the past will go unrecognized and slink off to some dark corner somewhere to cackle and dream of world domination that will never happen.

Degrees of offense

I'm at LISA13 right now and I have a couple of blog posts percolating, but this one I can do right now. I went to the two Women in Advanced Computing events here and as usual they covered things allies (people not recognized as women who wish to help out) can do to help out. One of the best ways is to call people on their sexist bullshit when you see it happen, but sometimes we can't use the language we otherwise would or maybe indicating dissent is an actively dangerous thing to do.

That is some sexist bullshit right there.

What you'd like to say. Maybe you actually can, and if so, great! Do so. Maybe the culture of the group you're in accepts that kind of blunt statement and it's ok.

Or maybe it isn't. Maybe that's the kind of statement you make when you're perfectly prepared to break all relations with everyone else in there, but you don't want to do that. There are graduated ways to indicate that something is problematic and still maintain relations within that group.

Someone might be offended by that.

To people from the American mid-west, where non-confrontation is taken to a high art, this is actually a moderately strong statement. It indicates offense is possible here, and we should be wary.

To everyone else in the US it's more, "aaand so would me saying you don't look good in that color. What?"

It's weak-sauce. Don't use it unless you're in a room full of mid-westerners or simply can't indicate stronger offense without consequences you can't live with.

Someone will be offended by that.

Very strong words to a midwesterner, and language that even the coasties would recognize as 'possibly a problem here'. It flatly states that offense will happen, but doesn't identify who might be offended. This might be strong enough to get people to think about what they just said/wrote. Or not.

$Group may be offended by that.

This identifies the offended group that may be suffering offense. This starts the process of assigning ownership of the offense to something other than an indefinite 'they'. Identifying the $group may make people thing about what they just said. As with the indefinite version of this, it's still a pretty weak statement but at least it names who the offense will be experienced by.

$Group will be offended by that.

This flatly states that $Group will be offended. This is stronger than the nebulous 'someone' in that it identifies the group and is more likely to promote empathy towards the group and thus be a stronger prod towards change.

I am offended by that.

The strongest thing you can say without resorting to profanity or explicit accusation. It assigns ownership of the offense to the person right in front of them. You are offended, so own it. They can't dismiss the offense without dismissing you, and if they do that, that's a very useful thing to know about the people in the group.