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The Worst Job Offer

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Nothing profound in this post. It's just a bit of a rant.

As of this writing, there is an advertisement for a "Senior Perl Developer" that is part onsite in the Bay Area of the US. The salary listed works out to to about $15 an hour. For those unfamiliar with buying power in the US, $15 an hour is what many politicians are arguing should be the national minimum wage. This company is offering senior software developers a fry cook's pay in one of the most expensive locations in the United States.

At least they're up front about it. The worst job offer I received came as a shock from someone who owned a company well-known in their field, and a company I very much wanted to work for. My previous employer announced they were going out of business and I was scrambling to find work in a serious recession in Portland, Oregon.

I scored an interview with the owner of a small, but profitable consulting firm. They were working with some technologies I very much wanted to work with, but at the beginning of the interview, I discovered that most of their development was in C. I didn't mind that at all, but I confessed that I hadn't touched C in years. "No problem," I was told. He knew my background, had solid recommendations, and was sure I would have no issues picking up C again.

OK, that's a good sign.

Later, he was showing me a propriety programming language they had devised, targeting a particular industry. While showing me code examples, I noticed something strange. I asked the him "do you know what an SQL injection attack is?"

As it turns out, they had been vulnerable for years but only discovered that two weeks earlier. He was impressed. And then I noticed their sessions apparently used sequential ids to determine the user, an even easier attack vector! And they had no tests covering this behavior! And, and, and ...

I was getting excited about the amount of value I could bring and wanted to dive in immediately just to fix all of the security holes.

Yes, the interview was definitely going well.

The interview starting covering personal ground and we started talking about politics, food we love, and other things. This was rather unprofessional but happened naturally. Turns out we had quite a few things in common.

I was definitely breathing a sigh of relief here. The dice just kept falling my way and I was feeling like the luckiest many alive.

Then the offer arrived.

It started with a massive pay cut, but given that I was going to learn several technologies I wanted to get into and I was about to be unemployed, I could deal with that, albeit reluctantly. I could pay my bills on it, but was definitely going to have to cut some expenses.

Then I found out that there was not only no paid vacation, there was no vacation.

Um, excuse me? "We're a small company and we can't afford to have anyone take vacation. However, we need you to work overtime and when you accrue enough, we give you compensating time off."

The owner was shocked when I declined the offer. He thought the fact that we got along so well would count for something. Even when I pointed out the massive pay cut combined with overtime and no holidays, he said "that's just how being a small company works."

Sadly, that is how much business works: how much can we get for how little? But there's no employee loyalty when they know you're screwing them. I stuck to my guns and found a much nicer position handling Big Data in Perl. Even when desperate, acting desperate is rarely a good idea.

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