Monthly Archives: September 2012

Just signed up for the Blenheim Triathalon

Will be raising money for Leukemia, Lymphoma and blood cancers which, as those of you who know me, will know is a cause very close to my heart.

Just got to get fit now.


Last night was Corcoran Lock’s first IIT night! If you know anything about IIT then you will appreciate that we had a pretty eclectic bunch turn up – and with lots of beer on the table we had a pretty good night too.

The best description I have heard of IIT is that it is the “ivy league” of Indian universities. It is an elite technology university, it’s very tough to get in and the technologists it churns out tend to be very good as well. As the Indian’s say “you fight to get in your whole life, and then they fight to get you”! Today there are 15 colleges, each one is about the size of a normal university in England, but for a long time there were 5 core universities: Kharagpur (the oldest), Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kanpur. I think IIT-BHU (based at Varanasi) came next and so there was some banter last night with the guys from the original 5 universities saying that IIT-BHU guys are “wannabes”.

As with any institution they actually have quite a few sayings and terms specific to them. I heard some new ones last night but the best one I know refers to NIIT, which I believe is some kind of training college in India; “The difference between IIT and NIIT is the difference between heaven and hell.”

To get in to IIT to have to pass an entry test call a JEE (nothing to do with me!) and your score is called an AIR*, or All-India-Ranking as your score used to rank you against all of the other entrants in the country that year! Its quite interesting asking IIT guys what their AIR is… I’ve met numbers 47 and 13 so far.

I have worked with quite a few Java developers from IIT, both as candidates and clients, and I can personally attest that they are good performers at interview stage! Strangely though despite IIT guys being found in some pretty senior positions in the London financial markets (we had a CTO, a “head of” and number of senior dev managers at top financial institutions there last night), I consistently find that not many people have heard of IIT – which is nice for me because I get to tell them about it, but strange that not more people know about it. When you tell them that it was an IIT alumni who helped write the Java programming language they start to listen!

In the end the evening went on well into the night and it was good company with lots of good jokes. This is one of the things that I love about my job – and London – is that I get a little insight into a culture that comes from the otherside of the planet with out ever leaving the square mile.

* They must really like their TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms)



Is Portugese for Recruiter!

On the other hand a programmer is a “Programador”


What is wrong with these people?

I was reading the front page of CityAM this morning and new head of the FSA FCA Martin Wheatley has said he will take a “shoot first and ask questions later approach to regulation”.

What is wrong with these people???? Can’t they see that the current level of regulation is stifling the national economy? The financial services  industry drives London’s economy, London’s economy drives the rest of the county, ergo we need to be super-charging financial services not appointing swivel eyed bureaucrats to heap more red tape on our struggling recovery.

How to write a perfect Java developer CV

This is it boys and girls… the real thing, all you need to know about writing a good CV.

What is a CV for?

To get you the first interview. And nothing more. When you are writing (or re-writing) your CV, bear in mind that Java developer CVs are reviewed on the following criteria:
– does this candidate have the necessary intelligence?
– do they have the necessary skills?
– how have they applied those skills?
– have they done anything interesting with their career that makes them stand out?
– what is the ratio of achievement / career progression to years of experience?
– are they going to stay in my team for enough time to make it worth me hiring them? (minimum 2 years)
– are there any warning signs on this CV?
Hiring managers value one thing above all at this stage: honesty. So if it looks like you are trying to hide something or can’t get the dates right, that is an instant reject.

Writing the perfect CV for a Java developer comes down to two things: Format and Content. I like to start with the Format first, because it gives you a skeleton to hang the rest of the CV on.

Formatting, believe it or not, is probably one of the most important things about your CV and one of the most consistently ignored by developers. Most of all your CV has to be easy to read and a well formatted CV will deliver the most important information in the most accessible way. The trick is to keep the formatting logical, uniform and simple.

At the CV weeding stage hiring managers will have somewhere between 20 and 50 CVs to get through. At this stage they are actively looking for a reason to reject your CV, so if your CV is not clear and easy to read you put a question mark above your name. Any question marks get put in the same pile as the rejected CVs after all what is the point of following up on a strange CV if you already have 5 good CVs you want to interview.

So it needs to be easy to read and answer all of the questions above.

When ordering your CV I suggest you stick to the following section headings:
– Introductory Paragraph
– Education (with training and certifications as a sub heading)
– Technical Skills box
– Career history
– Interests
Both the introductory paragraph and the Personal headings can often be deleted.

No automatic spacing. No text in boxes. No boxes at all. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES use any colour other than black. No italics. No boxes. No Certification badges at the top. No underlining. No dividing lines. No highlighting of key words in sentences. No random use of font sizes. No different use of fonts. No random paragraph alignments. No photos and no banner pictures at the top. No hyperlinks to or descriptions of companies that are household names.

You can convey everything you need to using Arial, font size ten, bold for section headings, justify all paragraphs, bullet points and good use of the English language.

If you fill your CV up with all the word processing cr@p that Word has to offer what you have got to say about yourself will be lost on the intended audience as their eyes struggle to negotiate the kaleidoscope of diversion you have hidden your experience in. Many hiring mangers tell me that they purposely don’t even read the keywords that have been highlighted with bold or underlined.

What to write:
– only the truth
– no hyperbole (don’t bulk it out with waffle, less is more).
– try to repeat yourself as little as possible. Does it make any difference if you send the same letter twice? The message only needs to come home once
– try to describe each job in this format: Say what challenge was that the team was addressing, then say what the solution to that challenge was (including main technologies) and then say what part you played in that solution.
– Gaps in your experience – explain them! Don’t leave question marks on your CV, just explain any gaps.

How to write it:
– write in a professional tone but keep it in normal English, don’t get flowery or rely too much on jargon. Use the first person. If you are struggling to find the right tone, try writing your experience down as if you were explaining it to a friend in the pub
– write your CV in the best English you can – if you want a job in an English speaking city you are going to need good English communication skills.

How to stand out:
– examples of when you have taken some initiative
– facts and figures (latencies achieves, volumes handled, deadlines hit, impact of solution on the market, etc.)
– what you did that you are proud of and explain why
– examples of programming in your spare time, including details of any web and mobile applications built
– events, conferences, meetups attended. Competitions you came pole position in

How many pages should it be? If you can get it down to one page, great, if not 2 or 3 is average. To justify writing any more than 3 you should have quite a lot to say. So if you have 10 years experience and a PhD, then I can see all of your skills, experience and work academia possibly justifying 4 pages. But no more. Remember the more you pages you have less chance you have of anyone actually reading them!

The difference between OO programming and Functional programming

I had this explained to me in the pub last night… I hope through all the beer I got it right!!

With Object Orientated programming you have objects and to do anything you must ask each object to change itself. So for example if you have a stock and you the value has changed you need to send a message to the object asking it to change its value. Objects cannot receive multiple messages at the same time so a process called “locking” is required to lock all but one of the messages and queue them up so that they can be dealt with one at a time.

With Functional programming the value in question (you don’t have objects) doesn’t change but instead you get new values every time something new happens. (Confused yet – I know I am!) But it does make sense if you take a simple sum: 1 + 2 is 3 right? 3 is a new value. You didn’t ask the “object known as 1” to change it’s meaning to become the same of the value of 3 right? So with Functional programming multiple requests can be dealt with very quickly because each one doesn’t require a fundamental change of the original object’s value.


So what? You’re a recruiter.

I know, and I know this is probably so simple that its all wrong but it makes me happy feeling that I understand a tiny bit more about what Java actually is.

Films where the sequel was better than the original


Godfather II

Matrix reloaded

Hot Shots part deux

(all further suggestions gratefully recieved)

When is the best time to explore new career opportunities?

Ever tried to do the weekly supermarket shop when you were hungry? If you’re anything like me you would have got home and found a half eaten box of jam donuts and a load of expensive items like icecream and chocolate that probably weren’t on your shopping list when walked in.

What happened was that you went shopping for something when you were desperate… and the same applies to each career move you make, if you only look for a new job when you hate your current one (or think you are starting to be pushed out) you are never going to be in the optimum frame of mind to make a valuable career move.

Ever meet a girl who only fancied you because of the wedding ring on your finger? Well it’s the same thing for potential employers – you are the most attractive to employers when you are performing at your best and things are going well in your current job. Imagine going in to an interview where you have all the cards in your hand: you can be confident, self assured and evaluate the opportunity before you with a clear mind – and if it’s going to make your life better in the long run you know you’ve done the right thing.

But my boss would be devastated!
So what? If they really like you so much he/she will be disappointed but if the role is better for you they will understand your decision. And its your responsibility to manage your career progression, not theirs.

What is happening to the financial IT contract scene?

Will things ever be the same again?

In this recession some people continue to do well, some people are just bobbing along as usual and some people are really struggling. In the main this final diagnosis applies very much to IT contractors for the big banks.

Things were starting to look bad at the start of the year when it became clear that certain banks were actively stopping the renewal of large numbers of contractors (HSBC was one of the first in January). Some of this may have been a natural result of the fact that certain banks have 2 year limitation clauses on their contractors’ contracts and a lot of hiring was done in 2010, but with the economy continuing to flatline it begins to look more and more like the banks are making actively trying to reduce their manpower expenditure.

Then in May and June en masse cuts began. Deutsche Bank, RBS, Goldman Sachs, Barclays Capital started putting legions of contractors on notice. Most of these guys are still around, kicking their heels waiting for the next contract.

Are things really that bad?

In some ways yes. The question is, have we seen a paradigm shift away from contracting towards permanent members of staff? In the long term, no. I don’t think so. When the banks are making money having a section of the employee base which is highly skilled and highly mobile is very useful to the banks, and that hasn’t changed. In the short term it’s the steadily increasing level of regulation, increased capital requirements and general global economic melancholy that means that a £600 a day Java developer looks much less attractive than an AVP on a £65k base. And to make things worse for your career contractor most team leads report that many contractors take a box ticking approach to their daily duties and clock off on-time, everytime.

I have to say that things are the worst for developers with Winforms and Swing specialisms. My advice is get down to Skills Matter and upskill with something modern (Flex or HTML5 anybody?) as soon as possible.

What is happening to rates?

For the first 6 months of the year contractors who were getting new contracts managed successfully kept their rates high, perhaps only seceding £50 or so on their rate. Some of which I believe is down to the Government’s restriction on Tier 1 visas. For BAs and PMs my colleagues report rates falling more dramatically to 500 or just below. I expect the new round of contract positions we are expecting (hoping for) later in September to continue that trend of pushing rates down.

I had lunch with an old contact of mine yesterday who used to be a contractor but successfully made the transition to perm 3 years ago. He told me he thought that it was inevitable that, painful as it may be, contractors would have to start to accept lower rates, as he told me “I may eat with a spoon but I do eat”…

Speak like a recruiter 102: “Time Kills Deals”

time kills deals (spoken)
the concept that any delay to the recruitment process will reduce the likelihood of that candidate becoming a placement.
Sandy: Whatever happened to that guy you had at second interview a couple of weeks ago? I thought he was really keen? Gavin: Only got positive feedback after he’d accepted another offer. Sandy: Time kills deals.
See also: maintaining a sense of urgency