Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ted's Excellent Adventure (1 of 2)

Q: How comfortable would you be hiring a guy based on a 10-minute phone interview?
A: Not very

Nevertheless, that was the position that we found ourselves in after scouring the country for WinCE developers. I suppose it meant that either the CE developer market was very hot and no one was available to work on new projects, or that the market was very cold and no one was available to work on new projects.

To be fair, we were asking a lot. We needed an experienced, on-site developer who was free within 3 weeks and available for about 3 months. We were looking for our own personal Moses, come to free us from the shackles of our DOS world and lead us into the promised land of Windows CE. There were other people (and companies) available, but none that met those criteria.

After searching every way we knew how, including using a national developer contracting service, we ended up with exactly three prospects. One was Daron, the WinCE training instructor. He was a Microsoft MVP in whom I had every confidence. The other two were prospects from the independent contractor agency.

On the telephone, Sudeep Swarnapurishwara sounded every last bit like his name foretold. Although he lived in the area and was very experienced, he had a few strikes against him. His English was terrible (despite having lived in the U.S. for a dozen years), he sounded too confident about anything that we asked him (including topics where he misunderstood what we were asking him), and he was taking a month-long trip to India during the month the project was scheduled to end.

Our next call was more promising. Ted Nulder lived in California but was willing to relocate to Chicago for the duration of the project. He had experience with two previous CE projects and he interviewed very well. I think the call with him gave some people in the conference room that warm fuzzy feeling.

So between Daron and Ted it came down to a matter of price. Daron didn't come cheap: between $160 - 200/hr, depending on whether he worked off- or on-site. I tried to beat up his company on the price--I've learned a thing or two from our killer purchasing manager--but they weren't willing to budge. By comparison, Ted cost about half that. In our selection discussions I pointed out that productivity between different programmers varies by an order of magnitude, but at that price difference I could feel the hollowness of my own argument.

Our own engineers bill out at $200/hr, so for us to balk at that kind of price conjures up images of pots and kettles. But balk we did. Ted made arrangements to start on Jan. 4, the first working day of 2005. For $90/hr, we were the proud new owner of a CE expert. Our Moses was on his way to lead us through the desert of development into a future flowing with milk and honey products and profits.

Or so we thought.

I was interested to meet the kind of guy that would move to a different city and live there while working on a long-term project. (I'm married, with a 2-year-old son and another on the way, so it wasn't something that I would've done.) So Tuesday morning, when the receptionist rang and said that Ted had arrived, I walked to the foyer to greet him.

An old quote says that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and I believe it. What kind of impression I made on him, I'll probably never know. But the impression that he made on me, I'll never forget.

Even to this day when I think about it, I can still feel the way my heart sank. I think it was the jeans and sneakers that said it best.


At 3/25/2005 12:33 PM, Blogger Stacey said...

Oh Thank God, you've parted the red sea, and me eyes can finally see something on the other side of the WindowsCE jargon...

At 2/21/2007 4:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 2/28/2007 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did you find it? Interesting read »

At 3/04/2007 6:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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