Marc Nathan on landing a job, the world of recruiting, and navigating job offers

By Matthew Keas, Front End Engineering Instructor


Marc Nathan gave a talk at The Iron Yard on Monday (August 13, 2014) to chat about:

  • the world of recruiting,
  • the current landscape of tech jobs,
  • hiring trends,
  • navigating the hiring process,
  • and negotiating job offers.

Marc recognizes that for the world of programmers and technical folk, recruiters and salespeople aren’t always respected, but they are a necessary role.

At Chai One, where Marc and the Houston Ruby Instructor – Jesse Wolgamott – first met, there was a funny rule:

Sales guys aren’t allowed in the room on Tuesdays.

Jesse argues that it should have been Monday through Friday. 🙂

All in all, Marc, an experienced recruiter and business development specialist dropped wisdom on the class that had everyone focused and at attention.

Marc shared many nuggets of wisdom and perspective, including that there is a massive gap in talent sourcing for technically literate employees.

He defined technical literacy as not only programming, but being able to use the tools and resources available to us today to get the job done. This includes being patient and literate enough to learn how to setup a blog and post pictures to the “cloud”.

Technical literacy and the ability to problem solve is a key-factor that makes a programmer useful at a company – he or she (the programmer) can solve problems with technology.

So, with that said it is time to distill many lessons-learned from Marc’s expansive history for our students (both current and future) to use a springboard for their resumés and careers.

The Lessons
  1. The programming languages you are learning don’t always matter, but the keywords on your LinkedIn page and resumé do.
  2. Make yourself available to connect. That means put your email and phone number on your LinkedIn. This shows that you are ready for a job. You will get “spammy” recruiter calls. But you will receive legitimate inquiries, too.
  3. Fortune 500 companies are paying extraordinary salary for developers and technically literate workforce. In Houston, many junior level jobs are listed at a $90k salary at Fortune 500’s. Large agencies that make-up the “hacker” community here in Houston are hiring for ~10-20% less, around $50k-$60k. (According to Robert Half Salary Guides)
  4. Houston sometimes has a hard time paying for creative talent, but when you establish your name as a creative/design expert in Houston, it really sticks.
  5. So instead of just relying on the websites you made, market your skills as being able to solve a company’s problems with technology.
  6. Always start your job search by researching the companies you like, and discovering new ones. Houston has many large companies, and many large trade associations. Some particular trade associations have job boards. Some of these would be:
  7. If you like a company and you don’t see a job posted on their site, call them anyways!
  8. quote:

    “Be memorable in the right way. Show what you know, who you know, and be persistent.”

    • Marc Nathan
  9. quote:

    “If you are talking to a hiring manager, get an answer from them as quickly as possible. Make them tell you “yes” or “no” within a week so that no one is wasting their time.”

    • Marc Nathan
  10. quote:

    “Fish are where the fishhooks are”

    • Marc Nathan

    Meaning go to where the companies are looking for employees. 🙂

  11. Join the Houston Digital Jobs Facebook Group. There are local tech jobs posted almost every day.
  12. Join Meetups! The best way to land a job is still to receive a personal referral. There are several Meetups in Houston:
  13. Search through the biggest jobs boards, ignore the rest:
  14. Job descriptions fall prone to human-error when being written, so sometimes the job description isn’t entirely accurate: it could be missing data or have too much.
  15. quote:

    “What you are worth is the problem you are solving for the company.”

    • Marc Nathan

    So show enthusiasm, creativity, and drive to solve real-world problems; not just the code. Why? Because that is what gives the company an ability to pay you. 🙂

  16. Oil & Gas, plus many finance and medical firms, are largely .Net shops. So if you have curiosity, learn C#.
  17. Ask questions. Interviews are about matching a company for you and matching you to a company – It’s a two-way street! So if you want to know about dress-code, ask point blank: “What is the dress code?”
  18. Want to freelance?
    • Charge per week, not just per hour.
    • Houston freelance rates average $60-$75 per hour, or $2400-$3000 per week.
    • Projects should normally not be less than 20 hours. There is always administrative overhead, and some small projects may just waste everyone’s time.
    • Agencies charge, normally, around $150 an hour per person working on their client’s project.
    • If you give work away for free, the client will always think that is what it is worth.
    • Thus, if they can’t afford it, limit the scope of the project (cut back on features), don’t cut your hourly wages.
  19. The softest and hardest skill to learn for a developer is estimating how long something should take to build. Practice this religiously. Develop your skills as an estimator. Accurate estimations help everyone communicate expectations.
  20. Online code schools don’t do a great job of teaching you how to build software on time, on budget, and how to do it with a team.
  21. Clients don’t buy software, they buy solutions.
  22. In interviews and on the job, be mature, be curious, ask constructive questions, and learn to solve problems together with a team. That makes you valuable.
  23. Interviewers and hiring managers mainly look for three things: initiative, curiosity, and “coachability”.
  24. Constantly strive to learn something new. Learn a new language every 1-2 years.

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The Iron Yard exists to create exceptional growth and mentorship for people, their companies and their ideas through code education and startup accelerators.