Monday, April 27, 2009

Since our last episode...

... we've hit the following developmental milestones:

- Jillian sight-read her first piece without having written in the note names first.
- Jason scored his first (and, this past Saturday, second) goal in a real soccer game.
- Rowan busted out a Caddyshack line on us.
- Joey spoke his first word: "Uh-oh."
- I got my first job offer since this mess started in January. Sort of.
- I have played very, very little piano.

If I were a full time blogger (heh, I may as well be, I've got some time on my hands), each of these would warrant their own lengthy posts. But let's just pick one: Rowan.

It started about, losh sakes, 3 weeks ago now. I was preparing for an interview with an IT Consulting Services Company. You may recall I had some reservations about this position, mainly because I have never sold consulting services. The recruiter who brokered this opportunity gave me a last second "Go get 'em!" call as I was headed out the door. He hung up after dropping these three words: "Be the ball!"

I said to Sue, "I can't believe he just told me to be the ball." She laughed, and said, "Well, be the ball then!" I must have been somewhat ball-like, because the company decided they liked me, just not enough to hire me in their present circumstances. You knew that already.

So about a week ago, over lunch, I was complaining about how annoying it was to be without a job, and have so many things on the cusp of closure, just to have them disintegrate in the 11th hour. Sue was doing her optimistic best to focus on the possibilities, and what we could do to make them happen. Ro was still at her lunch, not seeming to pay attention to what should have been, for a two year old, a very boring adult conversation. So I wasn't sure I heard her right when, from out of the blue, she said "Be the ball."

Long pause. "Rowan, did you just say 'Be the ball?'"

"Yep. Be the ball."

Sue and I look at each other, thunderstruck. She didn't believe what she was hearing, either. We look at Rowan, who is not looking at us... she's back to eating. After gaining some composure (no mean feat), Sue asks, "Why do you want daddy to be the ball?"

Now Ro looks up. "Well, because when daddy go to work, you say to him, 'Be the ball.' So I say, 'Be the ball!'" Yes, our two-year-old is quoting Caddyshack. Appropriately, no less. It has been sort of a mantra for us ever since. I'd embed it here, but the only clips I can find of this Caddyshack scene contain some Pg-13 type unrelated dialog, and that won't do, this is a family show here.

Latest on the job front is that a company is nearing decision time (today? tomorrow?) on a position for which I did a couple of interviews. There are three finalists for the position, and my recruiter (of course) tells me I am the best fit. If it falls through, I do have an offer from a small* IT company that wants me to be a salesperson. The catch is they cannot pay me a salary.

* - By "small" I mean 2 people. An elder at my church who runs this business, literally, out of his garage. And his wife, the company VP, who does the books. And oh, by the way, she is also our piano teacher.

- Aw2pp, who is the ball.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stop me if you've heard this one before

I had three (3!) interviews yesterday. (Yes, I slept well last night, thanks for asking.) All went great. Two of them were for consulting services sales positions (don't laugh), and one was for a Director of Pre-Sales position at a small Supply Chain Management vendor. I just got off the phone with Bob, the recruiter who had been lining up interviews with these IT Consultancies. Poor guy. He has been working his tail off for me. It's not easy. These IT Consulting Services sales positions are highly lucrative, and the hiring managers expect that you have a significant track record, 5, 10 years long, of success in the role. Me? I have none. I sold software, and sometimes services came with the deal. So the interviews have been uphill struggles, and I've had to work very hard to demonstrate I have what they're looking for, despite my utter lack of experience. Bob has been very helpful in this regard; so I could hear the pain in his voice.

"Aw2pp, they like you a lot. You've convinced them that you are what they are looking for, and that you fit the profile of successful people in their company. In fact..."

(Get ready, here it comes)

"... a month ago, they'd be working on putting together your offer at this point. And maybe a month from now, they'll be working on your offer. But they just promoted their Sales Manager to Branch Manager. And right now, without a sales manager in place, they don't think they can give you the support, the resources you need to be successful."

Thoughtful pause on my end. Then, "So, Bob, how you doing working on getting them a Sales Manager? Anything I can do to help?"

I have mixed feelings on this. I would like to make the kind of money these positions supposedly command, and of course would highly prefer an offer over any other outcome. But I never sufficiently overcame my own doubts about whether I could make this kind of transition. Clearly I did a fair job of stifling those doubts, since I got (yet another) almost-but-not-quite offer. So although I would rather be evaluating an offer at this point, there is a small sense of satisfaction at having overcome their initial, highly significant doubts about me. Either way, poor Bob is working the phones with the next IT Consultancy on his list, with whom we'll restart the whole exercise possibly as soon as tomorrow.

The good news here is that the third position I interviewed for yesterday, the Pre-Sales Director position is a much closer fit to my profile. The company is comfortable with my sales and technology background, but (here it comes) has some reservations about how little SCM work I have done. So, for now, they are going to continue their conversations with two other candidates. Nevertheless, the inside scoop suggests I might be a better fit than those guys. We'll see. This should conclude quickly, possibly as soon as this week.

With all this going on, I've not had any time to sit at the piano. I made very little progress either on Le Onde as my recital piece, or assignments in Alfred's. And based on this, I admitted to the piano teacher that I didn't think I was going to have Le Onde ready in six weeks. I might be able to struggle through it by that point, if I did nothing else in the meantime. But I think it would be highly unlikely, in that case, that I would be far enough along with it to perform in front of, you know, actual people. For this reason, I Due Fiumi is now my recital piece. Expect a Youtube clip sometime after the June recital.

If I can get Le Onde presentable, I'll let you hear it. Sometime before Labor Day, perhaps. Thanksgiving maybe. Almost certainly in time for recital day, June, 2010.

- Aw2pp, whose cold calling skills are getting a real workout in this jobless period.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

This is a new one

Hyatt finally got back to me. After a week trying to decide between me and the other finalist for their Enterprise Architect position, they reached a conclusion: they would not be extending offers to either of us, and in fact, will not hire anyone for the position right now. Maybe they will revisit in 6 months.

Rejection has taken on many forms over these last two months. "We like you, you're perfect in fact, but..."

"... Sales pipeline fell through, and we can't afford to bring anyone on."

"... We're concerned that what you did at IBM is not relevant to our business model."

"... You're too tall, and would intimidate our customers, since they are mostly short."

(Yeah, I made that last one up.)

So I move on. In fact, I had a first interview yesterday with a small-ish ($100M) company that has been in business for 9 years and yet... get this... has never had any sales person. Literally, their product (a suite of Supply Chain Management solutions) has sold itself for 9 years. Of course, they figure it would sell even better if they had some people to, you know, sell it, hence my interview. Went well. Hoping for a follow-on next week.

I also have some interviews set up for later this week for Business Development positions selling IT services. I am getting some conflicting messages on whether this would be a good move, but as time passes, I'm finding less room to picky.

- Aw2pp, who re-certified for unemployment benefits early this morning.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sunday afternoon piano blogging

Yesterday afternoon was rainy and windy, with temperatures in the 30's. Basically, my least favorite weather. With Sue gone to work, charming customers and colleagues alike at Costco, the kids and I spent the afternoon indoors. For a couple of hours, we rotated between playing Mariokart Wii, reading books to Rowan, playing a new game on the computer, and playing piano.

My assignment at piano lessons this week is Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody #2. No, not the full thing... in fact, to say it is simplified does a disservice to the word "simplified"... but Alfred's did indeed distill it down to bare essentials, and in fact, made it pretty easy. I've reached the point in Alfred's to where "pretty good" is good enough, and since I am not striving for (nor attaining) perfection, what I recorded is good enough. For me. For now. So here it is.

Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (Theme) - Aw2pp link

By now, you know this recording process. I play something, record it, play it back with the laptop connected, etc. Jillian, in between Marioakart Time Trials, watched me do this. Asked me to explain myself. And was all over recording her own stuff. So she tinkered with one of this week's assignments, and asked me to record it.

"Are you sure, Jillian? It doesn't sound like your best work."

"I know, Daddy. I want to hear my mistakes." Well then. Here is Jillian, and an in-progress version of Little Indian Brave.

indian brave by jillian 4-5-2009 - link

By this point, Jason was interested. In fact, he took the process a step further, by asking if we could put recordings of ourselves on the iPod. "You bet, Jay!" So Jason busted out the following, his version of Jillian's first composition, which is called "Dance of the Dolphins" (formerly "Dance of the Unicorns", but remember, "Daddy, I am so over unicorns!").

dance of the dolphins - Jason link

Then, of course, Rowan wanted a piece of the action. Unfortunately, we never recorded any of her excellence, but here is a picture of it. You'll notice little brother Joey is helping her with the pedals, since she can't reach them just yet.

Speaking of Joey, he has his own piano.

- Aw2pp, who sure is happy we elected to finish this Bonus Room now instead of later.


There are rumors that Winter has ended, but in these parts, 41 miles west of downtown Chicago, we are unable to confirm this.

- Aw2pp, who took this picture at 7:30 this morning, thinking soccer practice might be canceled today.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hmm, still unemployed (I think)

Remember that Hotel and Hospitality Provider? The one who was considering me as one of two finalists for their Enterprise Architect position, in charge of defining company-wide IT strategy? It's interesting, 8 of the first 10 people I met at this company offered me something to drink. That includes 4 of the 5 people who interviewed me on that first whirlwind day of interviews, several admins, and someone I met on the elevator. I later learned that this is part of the corporate culture: a service-minded approach to doing everything, because hospitality starts at the top.

Apparently, it doesn't extend all the way to the HR department, who told me on Wednesday that they would get back to me on Friday with a final decision. Friday came and went. No word from them. I'll call tomorrow.

- Aw2pp, whose LinkedIn profile is up to 140 contacts (and Nicaraguan contingent, why aren't you there?)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

You know the job search is getting old when...

... corporate job boards (hello, Hewlett-Packard) are telling you your profile password has expired*, and you need a new one.

* - How funny. I have typed the "experienced" so much lately, it naturally flowed out as I typed the first few letters of "expired". Maybe that is a suggestion that I am using this word too much.

Remember those five strong opportunities I had a month ago? Let's review them.

- (Large pharmacy / retailer) interviewed me three times for an SOA Architect position. After the third visit, I got the sense this was not something I wanted to do, since it seemed all the interesting work had been done.

- (Small vendor of contact center / CRM software) interviewed me three times for a Sales Engineer position. They decided they liked me, but their sales pipeline disintegrated about that same time, and could not afford me.

- (Small vendor of SOA Governance and Virtualization software) interviewed me three times, then flew me to Dallas to meet with the executive team. They all "loved" (their word, not mine) me. But they concluded that my pre-sales experience with IBM was not relevant to their sales model, since they are so small and emerging, and can't rely on established sales channels. This one hurt, as I was surprised by it, and was sort of counting on this opportunity coming through. What's telling, though, is that they had three or four candidates prioritized behind me, and now that they told me "No", they have not restarted talks with them, either. Methinks they weren't in quite the hurry I thought they were.

- (A global hotel and hospitality chain) has interviewed me twice (well, six times, since once was a rapid-fire series of interviews) for an IT Strategy position. All along, dating back to January 26 when I first applied for this position, I regarded this as the most interesting job I could realistically compete for. Good thing, because it's the only opportunity that is still alive. I am told the hiring manager and team like me a lot, and have probably concluded I would be great in the role. Problem is, they said they feel the same way about "the other finalist". Decision due tomorrow (April 3). Here's hoping it comes through.

In the meantime, I have been laying the groundwork for backup opportunities, which I hope to not need. I must be over 200 applications by now.

- Aw2pp, who thanks you for considering his candidacy for your software presales engineer role...