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What am I missing? | Reply
Ok, help me understand something, because I might be missing something. TopCoder has a number of positions available for members which have opted into employment opportunities by registering here: http://www.topcoder.com/tc?module=Static&d1=contracting&d2=index. We currently have approximately 15 clients that are looking for software engineers. The opportunities vary in technologies, locations, industry types, and the annual salaries range from $80k – $130K plus benefits. For some reason the number of people signing up to be notified of these opportunities hasn’t been what we expected.

For those that don’t know TopCoder becomes the agent for the member looking to find a new job. We will handle as much of the negotiations as possible, and get the interview set up with the client.

Now my question to the community is … Why aren’t more developers taking advantage of this service? Maybe people don’t know the salaries that are available to them. Perhaps developers don’t feel they are qualified for the positions. Or, they are completely happy with their current situation. In any event we ask for your thoughts on the matter.

Also, if you know anyone that isn’t happy with their current situation, or would like to hear about what else is out there, tell them to get rated and sign up now.
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
I think it might be due to the process being somewhat unclear. Also, I don't have the statistics on this, but it's been my experience that the majority of active topcoder's are university students who might not be actively looking for positions.

As far as the process being unclear, there are two major points I can see. One, is getting knowledge about it out there. TopCoder is becoming an increasingly complicated site as you offer more services. For example, one of my friends, a frequent competitor didn't even realize there was an educational content section, a design/development competition or this service that you are providing. Getting the message out is key, I'd suggest at least pointing people towards it during SRM's. Of course there is a line at which people get annoyed with the service being advertised, but for example, adding a quite noticable image somewhere to the header of the site if you haven't signed up for the service might be an idea. Of course have an option to disable it if the person doesn't want to sign up for whatever reason.

The second big reason is lack of transparency in the process. Sure there are 15 companies there, but before this, I had no idea what kind of positions or salaries they were. Are they looking for fresh college grads, or experienced veterans? If they are looking for both, let people know that anyone and everyone is welcome to apply. What steps will I go through as a person who signs up for this service (which I have btw, I had signed up for it and I still forgot about it until TopCoder brought it back up recently)? How quickly can I expect to get a call? How many jobs are open? Etc, etc. I know some of those questions are hard/impossible to answer, but any information helps.
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gladius) | Reply
Thanks for the feedback. Perhaps we should create some type of FAQ to help answer allot of those questions. Bust just to answer a few here: They are looking for all levels of experience. The sign up process is pretty simple, rate yourself in a few categories and then we will contact you when we see a match. I will be completely honest. From where I stand it feels allot like it did back in the day when companies couldn’t hire enough developers (1999). Allot of companies are looking to hire great developers, and they can’t right now. In addition, companies prefer TopCoder because we are able to provide them with additional information aside from just a resume.

In regards to doing a better job getting the message out … this is something we struggle with constantly. Do we post stuff of the homepage or keep it lean? Should we stick with the promos on the /tc site, does that messaging go unnoticed? Is email a good way to communicate? Is RSS the way to go? Text messaging your mobile devices?
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
Creation of a FAQ would be probably quite useful. As far as the actual process, of rating yourself in various technologies and then a match being made, it appears to be suboptimal in a few ways. You are rating skills with specific technologies, but there are no intangibles. For example, does this developer love programming outside of work? Have they worked on a team before? For university students, perhaps a GPA would be useful. What kind of software have they developed before? Done any programming contests outside of TopCoder? And so on.

I realize this information is usually on a resume, but from what you have posted I'm led to believe the resume does not enter into the equation until the "numbers" match. Personally, I think this is perhaps not the best idea. It depends on what the companies are looking for though.

As for hiring great developers, by definition there are only so many "great" developers. They are a rare resource, and it stands to reason there is a lot of competition for hiring them. They can probably find a job they enjoy with a good salary without too much difficulty. This may be a limiting factor as well. Of course, anyone who puts in the time to compete on TopCoder is one (or a couple) of steps up on the crowd, but I'm biased :).
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gladius) | Reply
I agree with gladius. The process is definitely unclear. I had initially signed up to test my chops in algorithms. I had no idea there was a recruiting wing. The only reason I now know is that one of the TC recruiters called me!

Maybe you need a separate portal with a distinct marketing message. To me, the TC brand means algorithm competitions. I have no stats, but I would guess that the vast majority of rated members are algorithm competitors, not design or development competitors.

Given that perception, even if I had known about the recruiting wing, I probably would never have tried. I'm a business intelligence / data warehousing developer. The most technical thing I do is SQL; no hardcore techie stuff here. To me, algorithms are for engineers, and I'm not an engineer.

To extend what CodeCruiser said, most development jobs are drudgery. You don't need to be a genius to do UI design, or to put together IBM mainframe reports. The idea that TC would offer those "normal" programming jobs goes counter to the perception that it is a hardcore, engineering site.

Hope this feedback helps, and good luck steering the brand. I'm working with one of your recruiters now and thus far, the experience has been great, even though nothing has come of it yet. I've worked with many recruiters in the past, and none come close.
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
Firstly, I already have a job I'm very happy with, and no interest in switching.

Secondly, I don't want anyone acting as an intermediary between me and potential employers. I did that once, and the experience was so awful I swore never again.

Thirdly, my rating isn't exactly top-tier, so I don't know how interested your clients would be. And since I don't believe TopCoder performance correlates very strongly to professional performance anyway, I'm a bit skeptical of the whole concept.

Fourthly, only 15 clients? So the 12 on the bottom of this page:

http://www.topcoder.com/corp/?module=Static&d1=corp&d2=tces_home

plus three more? Four of those 12 have already turned me down. At least two of them are way too evil. One is a government agency which I definitely don't want to work for. One is a game company, which is a field I don't want to get into for various reasons. A few of them look way too corporate. And half of them probably don't even have offices in the Bay Area, and I'm not willing to move. Meanwhile Craigslist has something like 50 postings per day just for Bay Area programming jobs, and you don't have to sign up for anything to browse them.
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by BradAustin) | Reply
To your third point: Any TopCoder member that has competed is a candidate. You say that you aren’t top-tier, but you are in 97th percentile. As a hiring manager if you saw someone’s TopCoder rating would you use that at all?

“Fourthly, only 15 clients? So the 12 on the bottom of this page:”
Nope they are all different clients, some are listed here: http://www.topcoder.com/tc?module=Static&d1=contracting&d2=index. The rest we can’t post their names in a public forum yet.
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
> You say that you aren’t top-tier, but you are in 97th percentile.

I'm not sure how you're figuring that. I'm currently ranked 236 out of the 2836 people who have competed at least once in the past six months, which would be about 91.7 percentile.

Anyway by your own classification system there are two tiers above mine - reds and targets.

> As a hiring manager if you saw someone’s TopCoder rating would you use that at all?

That's a difficult question to answer. Since I've competed something like 50 times (including non-rated events), at this point I have a pretty good sense of what TopCoder does and does not measure. But most hiring managers don't have that experience. To put myself in their place I'd have to forget what I know, which is difficult.

If I personally was going to hire someone, being able to take my own TopCoder experience into account, firstly I would have my own screening process, with the first stage involving a set of written, technically challenging essay questions. If they had a high TopCoder rating (like in the red zone), but had difficulty with my questions, I would probably spend more time trying to understand where their difficulty with my questions lay, than if they didn't have such a rating. If they breezed through my quesitons, but had a surprizingly low TopCoder rating (like if they had competed a few times and never reached Div 1), I would probably spend more time trying to understand why they had so much difficulty with TopCoder. But that's about it. Ultimately it would have very little effect on the final outcome.
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by BradAustin) | Reply
Actually I should add that if a cantidate I was considering was involved with TopCoder (i.e. competed regularly, not just tried it once or twice and quit), that by itself would be a plus in my book simply because it shows they enjoy coding and solving CS problems enough that they do it for fun, rather than just because they get paid.

Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
1800 is 97th percentile? Then why does my card say that I'm in 93rd percentile?

http://www.topcoder.com/card?cr=8527113
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by BradAustin) | Reply
"Secondly, I don't want anyone acting as an intermediary between me and potential employers. I did that once, and the experience was so awful I swore never again."

Could you elaborate on why your experience was so "awful"?
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by jhughes) | Reply
Well, the specific thing that soured me, and that prompted me to swear never again, was the incredibly abusive phone call I recieved from the agent in question, after the company he set me up with made me an offer and I turned it down.

When I met with the agent a couple of weeks previously, I spent at least fifteen minutes patiently trying to get it into his head that I couldn't give a specific salary requirement figure, since money was actually fairly far down on the list of things I was looking for in a company. I was much more concerned about working environment, how interesting the work was, how much opportunity it offered for me to learn and develop my skills as a programmer, etc., and at that point in my career I would have much rather worked for a modest salary at a company that offered those things than for a high salary at a company that didn't. The only way I could get him to stop asking was to describe a few different hypothetical cases, and give an approximate minimum figure I would consider for each one. I say "consider" rather than "accept", since programming jobs were plentiful at the time, and if I had offers from multiple companies I would have to weigh their relative merits against each other's and go with the one that looked best.

But of course he either forgot about all this, or simply disregared it, since all he remembered later from the conversation was that I had promised to automatically accept any offer from any company that was at least X dollars per year, where X was the smallest among the several figures I had mentioned (i.e. the absolute best-case scenario in terms of all other factors besides money.)

So he sets me up with a company that I already knew about, since they had advertised in the local paper every Sunday for the previous something like 12 years, but that I had never investigated before simply because their ad was so vague. (It was something like, "Programmers wanted, call this number...".) It turns out it would actually be a decent place to work, and they liked me enough to make me an offer. (Of course the agent had nothing to do with that. This company had their own system for figuring out who they wanted, and it didn't involve any input from third parties.) By an amazing coincidence, the figure they offered was exactly the same as the smallest one I had mentioned to the agent. (Which was pretty low, since I had used it in the context of a job that was so fun that I basically wasn't doing it for the money, so the figure was simply based on my minimal living expenses.) Anyway, by this time I already had offers from two other companies, and one of them was both for more money, and from a company with a better working environment, more interesting work, etc., so I said thanks but no thanks.

So five minutes later I get this incredibly belligerent call from the agent, who reams me for allegedly lying to him about how much money I wanted, screwing him around, wasting his time, etc. (And money wasn't even the issue. The company he set me up with had a policy of offering low starting salaries (or wages to be more accurate; this compay paid its programmers by the hour), and then giving near- immediate merit-based raises. So I have little doubt I would have ended up making more money there than at the company I did go to work for. That wasn't the point; I took the other job based on liking the environment, and the role I'd be able to play there better.)

So a few minutes into this tirade I finally cut him off, tell him never to contact me again, and hang up on him. And that's the last time I ever did, or will, deal with an intermediary when looking for work.
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by BradAustin) | Reply
hmm .. How long did you talk to agent ?

I feel that you give him too much information in one time and he forgot most of it.
Then discussing something very important - do not give too much information in one time.
Give only most important to know at this time.

As well - if you were unsure about salary - it was better to not tell any figures. This way your agent will not have any appology.

BTW, As for salary - this must be last thing people and companies must negotiate about.
You do correct thing - care more about job. Companies must do the same - care more about person they hire.

Salary is something regulated by market demand/offers, goverment law and your work performance.

I feel that good companies must have good performance bonuses - this must compensate low base salary/wage and keep workforce morale high.

BTW, Do not judge about all agents by your limited bad expirience. There are exists pretty good people who do good job.
Unfortunately - they are rare, just like in other field (like CS).
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by TAG) | Reply
> hmm .. How long did you talk to agent ?

It was probably something like an hour.

> I feel that you give him too much information in one time and he forgot most of it.
> Then discussing something very important - do not give too much information in one time.
> Give only most important to know at this time.
>
> As well - if you were unsure about salary - it was better to not tell any figures. This way your agent will not have any appology.

Perhaps I wasn't being clear. I wasn't *trying* to talk about salary, and I didn't just spontaneously volunteer 15 minutes worth of information on the subject. He just kept asking the same question over and over - how much money did I want? And I kept answering that there was no figure that would apply in some kind of general case, without even knowing the company. Show me a particular company, let me talk to them and get a good sense of what the job would be like, and then I can name a figure. It was only after I mentioned some figures (in specific hypothetical contexts that he completely disregarded) that he finally stopped asking. That's what he was waiting for. He just picked the most favorable (to him) number that I mentioned, wrote it down in a notebook as being the figure that I would accept for whatever job he found me, and ignored everything else. If I had never mentioned any figure, the interview never would have ended (at least until I got fed up and unilaterally walked out).
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
I agree with what gladius said about the majority of contestants being university students and don't think about positions just yet. I, as a university student, am more interested in having a good internship in some good company. This is something that I haven't seen (yet?). Moreover, most of the offer is in the States (unless I overlook lots those pages). Being a non-US citizen, I feel somewhat discouraged by the nature of the employment itself (most of the company/job locations are in the States). I think this may be another discussion topic, but I'm sure those companies will like a US-citizen much more as an employee rather than some random person living in some random country, unless he is exceptionally good like tomek. (i don't know whether outsourcing should be discussed as well or not)
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
Not sure what you mean by "taking advantage"... I'm signed up for potential contracting gigs but so far none of the jobs are in a geographical location that is suitable for me (New York area.)

Heck, even Glastonbury is too far for me. :-P
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by dplass) | Reply
and those that have been posted appear to be full time positions anyway (not contracting gigs)
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
Just an idea that poped up, not sure whether it's a good one or not: what about having a tournament where only people who are looking for a job are allowed to participate? Not sure how that would work out in practice, I leave the details as an exercise...
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by Yarin) | Reply
Sounds interesting, but do you then rely on the person being honest about his/her intentions? Jobless? Out of school? Contractually bound to accept any offer that matches some criteria you enter before the tournament? etc.

(Not directed towards you specifically, just thinking out loud.)
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by duner) | Reply
"criteria you enter before the tournament" = "criteria the coder specifies prior to his/her participation in the tournament about his conditions for employment"
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by duner) | Reply
Right, those were the details I left for someone else to figure out :)
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
From the rating distribution, green and grey seem to make up the majority of coders at TC. So, here is a simple suggestion that might help: assign a color (or colors) to each of the specific positions available; company A may have positions available for the green/grey coder, while most others companies might desire blue and yellow applicants...I'm not sure where the reds belong, however :). This may make applying less intimidating for the greys and greens competing for positions against the blues and yellows.
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by Steven) | Reply
I think that is a great idea.
I'm alot older than most of you, having coded now for almost thirty years. I've done alot of stuff: software developer, management consultant, contract programmer, technical consultant, worked for IBM, SSA, Peat Marwick, others and yet I was amazed at the level of programming knowledge demonstrated here.
I pride myself on self-educating myself and have only begun to seriously study algorithms. But I do intend to compete and build up my java and C++ skills.
Believe me: I have know many programmers and the ones I knew were not as conversant with hard core programming knowledge so much as tool familiarity.
Alot of programming work involves just being a good team player. Unless you are coding games or trading systems or operating systems or compilers, most coding is relatively simple, bordering on drudgery.
I specialized in a non defunct language called "RPG"-Report Program Generator-- IBM's version of COBOL and while it has become more C like with RPGIV, most of my work was "maintenance". Not real sexy. Most programming work is not development or cool stuff unless you are in the right areas. I know because this is what I have been doing.
Now I do plan to get into more sexy stuff like trading systems which I really love and which I have done some work when I owned my own firm, but unless you are working on open source(which to me is the coolest--Eclipse, for instance), the real world of programming is not at all like top coder stuff. Most programmers in the real world, in my humble opinion, would view most top coders are "uber-geeks". I mean, don't get me wrong, I love this stuff, but most real world "professional" programmers do this stuff as a "job", and when it is over, they quit and do other stuff like raise families or engage in their various and sundry hobbies.
But back to the point: job entries color coded and perhaps with some indication of experience required would make this employment pitch more attractive.

My two cents.
Code Cruiser
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
Here's my two cents. First, some background: I took the opportunity to sign up for Employment Services awhile back and for the most part I am glad I did and I really have to thank the people involved with it. Even though I have a decent GPA and a good attitude/work ethic, I had been having absolutely no luck finding a job, or even getting an interview for one. The career fair at the school I went to was basically a joke. I was almost to the point of giving up, but Topcoder helped me out.

Topcoder did get me an interview which I just got back from a few days ago. Finally, results :-D. I didn't get the job, but I'm still happy since I wouldn't have even made it to the interview stage without Topcoder. It would have been really helpful to have had another Topcoder member interview for the job and report back what happened in order to help other Topcoder candidates (like me ;-)), but unfortunately I was the first one to interview there.

The first job opportunity that Topcoder notified me about didn't turn out that great and I was about ready to give up. I had sent some questions to the company, through Topcoder, and waited about two months for a response. Finally, Topcoder informed me the company had not answered any questions asked by Topcoder candidates and had not reviewed any Topcoder candidates. This kind of left me a bit sour, but I know it wasn't Topcoders fault.

I agree with what some people are saying about Topcoder not being able to find positions that are in certain geographical areas. I'm from Idaho and wanted to stay in the northwest, but I've come to the decision that I'll probably have to move far away to find a job. I'd be a lot happier if I could find a job closer to home, such as in Washington or southern Idaho, but most positions Topcoder has found are located nowhere near here.

When I've talked to the Employment Services people at Topcoder, they have mentioned to me that they are really trying to find members to fill jobs. This is really heaven for someone trying to find a job. I have tried getting my friends to join Topcoder and do some SRMs, but for some reason they don't. One of them is career Navy and won't consider trying to quit unless he gets $100k salary (maybe he doesn't believe these jobs are that good). The other one is trying to get a job in Seattle for personal reasons (back to the job location problem I mentioned before). One thing they both mentioned was that they don't have the time to try SRMs. I think they also aren't willing to put forth the effort. At one point, I almost convinced one of them to become a member a couple years ago because I was winning money in SRMs, but after the prizes went away, so did his interest.

I do have one question though. Are the salary ranges really from $80k – $130K? I ask because out of the three positions I've been notified about, none were in this range. Two were less and one was more. Perhaps if there was a job that payed $100k, I could get my friend to try out Employment Services at Topcoder. I know it shouldn't be all about the money, but that seems to be important to him.
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by uler3161) | Reply
Yes, we have several positions that are paying in the $100K range. Some of the companies are Akamai, GoldenGate, ESPN, Gentiva, LimeGroup, UBS, DE Shaw, JumpTrading.
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
here are my reasons for not using your services yet, in no particular order:

(1) i'm still in the university. So i'm not in need of a position right now. However, soon i'll have to write my diploma thesis, which could be done in a company... but TC is probably not the right place to look for such things.

(2) I live in Europe. I am willing to relocate, but switching to another continent is not what i want.

(3) I feel that my rating wouldn't help me anyway. That is a questionable point, because, as already mentioned, everyone crazy enough to get up 2am regularly to participate in a SRM deserves some credit.

(4) I would have to create a resume in english. I have no idea on what is important (that differs from country to country i guess), plus I have trouble creating a resume in my primary language.

(3) is not a big issue
(4) could be overcome by a collection of useful links and tips, or a faq
(1) nothing to be done about that
(2) it's the job of Topcoder to come up with more companies or with companies that are not only seeking employees in the US.

These are my reasons to not use your services so far -- but i might not be the only one with those reasons.
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
I have another question, which is stronly related to yours :)

I am not old, not stupid, I've uploaded my CV, I've mentioned that I am looking for a job and I can relocate, I am always clicking "Yes, please please please give my information to Yahoo, Google, NVidia, Intel, Bill Gates and anyone else", I am quite high in the ratings - but nobody never contacted me with an offer.

Am I doing something wrong?
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by Olexiy) | Reply
If nobody contacts Olexiy, I wonder who will contact me. Anyway, I would like to ask a similar question: When, before the SRM, TopCoder asks whether we would like to have our contact information shared with major companies and we answer "Yes,please" what happens next? Do these companies have any immediate need or are they simply "fishing"? Also, if they have some immediate need, is this located to a specific place?
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by prekageo) | Reply
Maybe you guys aren't getting contacted because you aren't American? I've gotten one interview, and another contact (after I've accepted a job) from two big name tech companies, and I also got an email from a Topcoder rep who seemed to be interested in helping me find a job.

And I am significantly lower rated than both of you...
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by rrenaud) | Reply
Yes, I suppose this is the main reason, because relocating me costs much more than moving one from the US, so I think companies do that only for really TOP coders.
In this case it would be nice to have some notes nearby the job offers, like "For US citizens only" or smth like that, so we will be able to estimate our chances better.
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by Olexiy) | Reply
I agree that we should have more information about geographical location on the specific postings. We will look into adding that additional information.

In regards to companies hiring from outside of the US … As I mentioned in the other post it all pretty much depends on the company’s requirements, the number of H1 Visas that the government will issue, and the candidate’s willingness to relocate. We are working with companies that are hiring globally such as Yahoo, Motorola, NVIDIA and Google. We are currently in the process of trying to identify the correct people within each of these companies that are responsible for hiring in their specific areas. Once we identify them, and make sure they have a need to hire, we will look to source more candidates internationally.
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
I am interested mostly in those companies you mentioned, so could you please roughly estimate terms of when you will start international hiring?
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
I'm in the same situation... I've said "yes" to every employment question except "are you a US citizen". :) Haven't had a single opportunity or approach.

The possible "in" with big international employers such as Google were a major reason for me doing Topcoder competitions - what am I missing? I figured I just need to get my rating higher, but the fact that one of the top reds is in the same situation says to me that the doors might just be closed on the international market. :(

Cheers
Hilton
Re: What am I missing? (response to post by gt494) | Reply
I am a graduating senior and living in Idaho. I've been looking for a full time job since early February. Of course, my personal situation limits my ability to relocate. This seems to be a common issue with many other TopCoder members as well. Personally, I'd be open to contracting jobs where I don't have to work on site. It seems to me that this type of job would be ideal for many TopCoder members, especially for college students that need temporary employment, either for the summer or part-time during the school year.

I signed up for this service when I first recieved the email announcing it. However, I don't recall recieving any information about specific job openings. Now that I visit the page again, I see that the openings are listed there, but it is not obvious how to "apply" for a position. The description page for each company has links to "Register for this position" and this takes you to the same registration questions I filled out when I first registered. Do these registration links also send your information to the employer? There is no obvious indication that this is the case.

Another draw back for me is that I don't feel very qualified for many of the positions I find. I would only be comfortable applying for one of the jobs currently listed. There's a second one that I *might* fit, but I'm unsure enough that I question whether I should bother looking into it. Of course, this isn't limited to the jobs currently listed here at TopCoder. I feel the same about many of the jobs I find on Monster or other employment websites.

Anyway, that's my two cents about the situation. I'm not sure if I have any good suggestions about how to change things.
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