As you might have noticed, here at OSR we’ve been trying to hire an entry-level engineer or two for, oh, the last millennium or so. Give or take a few hundred years. And we’ve gotten lots of interesting letters/applications during that time.
The most intriguing ones have been from folks outside the US who would like to come work here. We’ve gotten a good number of resumes from folks who have a degree from a top-notch university, a good knowledge of kernel mode programming, and the ability to speak multiple foreign languages. Seriously, there was one guy who claimed to be fluent in English, Hindi, and Japanese. These folks all seem perfectly willing, even eager, to move to the Greater Boston area where OSR is located. Sadly, such stellar qualifications aren’t sufficient to allow us to hire any of these folks. Being a small company, we just can’t make it through the process to obtain the necessary visas, even for the most qualified candidate. Maybe we’ll have to revisit that in the future, but for now, we’ve been looking for folks who are either working here in the States or in Canada or Mexico.
Aside from the aforementioned visa hopefuls, we’ve gotten a pile of resumes from guys (yes, they are specifically guys) with about 60 years’ experience who used to work at DEC or Wang or Data General. They live in the Greater Boston area now, and some might even like to work here. Given that we already have a guy working here who used to work at DEC (that would be me, so don’t start mouthing off) and a test and support engineering lead who used to work at DEC (that’d be Brenda), we’ve pretty much filled our quota for former DEC employees. But it was nice to hear from some of these folks just the same.
Aside from these two groups of folks we’ve gotten… oh… really close to zero applicants.
Now, I’m not saying we’ve gotten exactly zero interest. Just close to zero interest. There have been a few nibbles. I met and talked with one really exceptional woman who was seriously intrigued by the kind of work we do, had the best attitude I could have hoped for, and was even darn well qualified. I met and spoke with her on one of my many trips to the West Coast. After our talk, I was ready to immediately fly her back to OSR for a real interview. Then it hit the fan:
She:Sounds so cool! So where are you located exactly?
Me:Well, we’re in a little town called Amherst, New Hampshire… about an hour from Boston. It’s really lovely, and we’re near the mountains and the ocean and…
She:Hmmm… My fiancé will be finishing school soon. Are there lots of computer companies in your area?
Me:Well, ah, there’s EMC, and Citrix, and ah… Stratus. And, I dunno…Oracle. Does Fidelity count?
She:Hmmm… I’ll talk with my fiancé and see what he says, and I’ll let you know.
Queue the crickets. That was the last I heard from her. Too bad. For us, of course. I’m sure she got an awesome job with founder stock at some company in Silicon Valley.
I asked a buddy of mine out at Microsoft why he thought we weren’t getting more applicants:
Me: Do we stink or something? Why do you think we’re not seeing more people applying?
Buddy:Duh…Look at where you’re located.
Me:Well, I admit, we’re not in the most gorgeous building in the universe, but…
Buddy: No, fucktard, not your building (rolls eyes). You’re in New Hampshire. Almost nobody even knows where New Hampshire is. (thinks for a minute) They probably know that it’s cold. And it’s not in Silicon Valley.
Me: What do you mean they don’t know where New Hampshire is?! We’re just North of Boston. Harvard. MIT. These are actual schools that actual people have actually heard of.
Buddy:They’re in Cambridge. And it doesn’t matter. Nobody wants to work in New Hampshire. There is no high tech in New Hampshire. Or Massachusetts. Or in any of those other tiny states over there. Suppose they come work for you, discover what an asshole you are, and want to change jobs? How would they interview? Fly across the fucking country?
Me: Have these people never heard of Skype? If not, they should try it. I’ve got a friend from here on the East Coast who got a sweet job with stock at one of the hottest VC funded startups in all of tech. He did all his interviewing via Skype. He never saw the place in person until his first day of work.
Buddy: He was from the East Coast, you said?
Buddy:And he got a great job at a tech startup? With tons of stock?
Me: Yup! Yup! (sits back in a satisfied way)
Buddy:Where was this job located?
Me:Ah, Mountain View, I think.
Buddy: See?! You’re gonna need to move your company to someplace civilized. Have you considered Mountain View?
We’re not moving OSR anytime soon. The Boston area is already very civilized. Where else will you find people who talk with an accent that’s as cool as the one here in Boston? Silicon Valley might be the flavor of the month (OK, flavor of the past three decades… whatever) but, as my friend Tommy from Quinzee would say, “That is nawt faayah! We wah heeyah first! No one denies this!” Before there was a Silicon Valley, the Boston area had Route 128. Heck, Route 128 is America’s Technology Highway! See below, a page from Wikipedia about the Famous Route 128, with a few notes I made.
OK, so a lot of old high tech came from here. That doesn’t mean the Boston area sucks. There’s tons of new tech happening in the Boston area, too. Microsoft has a research lab in Cambridge. There’s something of a growing community of speech recognition specialists in the Cambridge area as well. There’s actually a special concentration of expertise in both storage and system virtualization located in the Boston area: Oracle, EMC, Citrix. I’m sure I’m missing a few. Virtual Computer, which was bought by Citrix and made a lot of folks a ton of money, started here. Heck, Redhat even has a development team here.
Bottom line: Despite what people tend to think, they do not have to live in Silicon Valley. There’s plenty of tech here in the Boston area. Even tech for kernel-mode devs. In Both Windows and Linux.
Real estate is cheap compared to both the Valley and the Seattle area, and the quality of life is amazing. Art, music, universities… quick access to what we on the East Coast consider skiing, awesome beaches. All in a background steeped in American History – think Pilgrims and Paul Revere’s ride.
We like New England. It’s great here. Now we just need to convince a few engineers that this is a fun place to be.
Peter Pontificates is a regular column by OSR Consulting Partner, Peter Viscarola. Peter doesn’t care if you agree or disagree with him, but there’s always the chance that your comments or rebuttal could find its way into a future issue. Send your own comments, rants or distortions of fact to: PeterPont@osr.com.