Thursday, April 30, 2009

Job seeker beware!

Normally I try to refrain from grousing or posting anything negative in this blog, but today just as I was wrapping up today's job search my phone rang and on the other end was a telemarketer (of sorts), and I just have to post about it. Actually this is going to be more of a warning for other job seekers than my grousing about what happened to me because once I figured out what was going on I actually had a little fun by just saying yes and going along with the scam for a while (plus I was kind of bored :)

As I stated above I was wrapping up my job search when the phone rang. As soon as I grabbed the phone and I said "Hello" an automated message started up stating that the call was from a company called Employment Select, and that they are a screening service for an employer who I submitted a resume to. The robo-message went on to say that I was to call back and talk with one of their screeners about the position I applied for. The number that I was supposed to call back was 646-520-0695, which is the exact same number that my Caller ID listed. Now what I found interesting was that my Caller ID listed the caller as "VOXBONE / NYC2". (If anyone can provide some insight about this ID, then leave a comment)

Instantly the little red flags started coming up, but I thought what the Hell, I need a job and the call should be covered by my calling plan. I called the number and right off the bat I got another robo-message, with this one telling me that one of their screeners will be right with me, and that I will need to be in front of a computer with Internet access to facilitate answering the questions. The message went on to say that the ID of the potential employer will be kept confidential at this time. (Hmmm, more red flags went up).

So I waited another 10 seconds or so and BAM! I was once again listening to another robo-message pretty much telling me the same thing as the previous message, and then it told me to wait which I did. Eventually an "Angela" came on the line and started in with her scripted speech about how she was supposed to screen me for an "IT Assistant" position that I applied for, and she needed to verify my information. She asked for my telephone number and after she entered it in her system she then asked me to verify the information she had listed - Name, Address, and all the other rot, which was all correct. She then went on to tell me the process would take up to 45 minutes, and repeated what the robo message said about my needing to be in front of a computer with Internet access to proceed. (I don't know why, but this sent up even more red flags)

Somewhere in the middle of all this I interrupted Angela and asked her why Employment Select didn't offer a toll free number for prospective employees to call in, so as to save us poor unemployed soles some pennies. Her response was something in the line of "Well for you to get the job I need to ask you some questions", and she proceeded on with her ramble.

I interrupted her again, and asked who the employer was, and could she provide me with more details about the job. All she could tell me was the the employer was confidential at this time, and the position was for an IT Assistant. Angela then went on to ask me if I was in the job market and interested in this job, and I replied "yes". She then continued on to ask a few more questions which I now forget, and then she asked me how long I had been in the business. I gave my answer, and she replied "Excellent! You qualify for the job, and I am going to refer you to the employer" I thought "OK, this is cool" and then this is where the sales pitch started.

"Mr. Cox, could you tell me about your education? Do you have a degree?" OK, at this point the red flags were really flying because I list my education history and degrees on my resume, and shouldn't this screener have a copy of my resume? I replied that I had an AAS, and then Angela asked if I was offered a chance to work full time and go to school, with all expenses paid would I do so. Knowing that this was way too good to be true I replied "Yeah, sure" She then went to say that she had set me up with a adviser from another, so that I could discuss my educational plans, and that I needed to call them right away. She then gave me the number; 321-249-1490, and once again told me that I must call them right away, "no more then 10 minutes from now". We then said our goodbyes.

I sat at my desk wondering why didn't the call take 45 minutes like I was told (and yes, I am grateful it didn't). Maybe the second call would take that much time, but I wasn't going to find out. Instead of calling the second number I decided to enjoy the Sun and went out for lunch, and then took a walk. Later in the day I called the number just to see who it was and I got yet another robo-message thanking me for calling the Education Advising Division of Education Connection.

What I figure had happened, and let this be a warning to others, is that I applied for a position at one of the less than reputable job search sites, and my information was then passed along to Employment Select / Education Connection just so I could be suckered in to some scam. Now I suggest that if you have read this far and are interested in looking into this scam, you copy the phone numbers I listed and do an online search for them. You'll come up with several sites where people describe experiences similar to mine.

What's really sad is that the people are literally preying on the hopes and dreams of people who are desperately looking for work, and while Angela and her coworkers also need the work, I personally think they could do much better in the food service industry serving burgers and shakes than trying to sucker people in to some sort of scam. Like I suggested above, if you are interested in investigating this scam then search out the telephone numbers, and from there make your own conclusions. If you happened to have a similar experience with these companies, feel free to leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you.

By the way, this experience is inspiration for tomorrow's "Friday Fun"

Cheers ~ Jim

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The ultimate air cannon robot from Vex Robotics

A friend recently sent me a link about what has got to be the ultimate air cannon robot, and I just had to post about it!

Check out "Air Cannon Looking for Targets (Video)" from ROBOTS DREAMS!

The robot was produced by Vex Robotics, and this thing is just freaking awesome! Once you view the video in the article showing all the mechanical aspects of the robot then move on to the videos of this thing shooting. Here's a picture of the cannon from the article:

Vex air canon robot

This has got to be the ultimate in cubicle warfare, but you wouldn't dare use it would you :)

This is definitely inspiration for me to get moving with my little NXT robot project, and then move on to bigger and better robotics projects. I'll definitely checking out both ROBOTS DREAMS, and Vex Robotics for lots of ideas and more great articles ~ Jim

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Friday Fun: Milton moments

Here are some of my favorite Milton moments from the movie Office Space!

You know you are in trouble when they fix the glitch, take your stapler, and move you down stairs. Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Broadcom makes a bid for Emulex, and someone want's to talk to me about it?

I guess the big news item for me today has got to be Broadcom's unsolicited offer to buy my former employer Emulex for $764 million, or $9.25 a share. For the sake of reference here is the ZDNet article about the offer: "Broadcom makes $764 million bid for Emulex"

While the news of the offer is interesting enough, for me what's even more interesting about this news item is that I didn't find out about it via the normal tech sites or RSS feeds. Instead I found out about the offer via an email from a 2nd tier contact on Apparently this person represents a consulting group, and they wanted to know if I was willing to offer my services as a "consultant" and speak with an analyst about Broadcom's offer, and provide any insight into the matter.

Now I am an "Experienced Technology Professional" (who's also unemployed and can use the extra funds), but the fact of the matter is that's all I am, just an experienced technology professional who really can not not provide any insight into this whole shebang. My only guess as to why this person contacted me is that as soon as they found out about the offer they then searched through their Linkedin contacts for anyone who had worked for Emulex, and who also listed their contact info. Once they had my contact info. they they shot off the email.

If this person had actually read my Linkedin profile they would seen that I was never in any real position to be able to offer an insight into something so significant as Broadcom's offer. I can definitely provide insight into some technology not covered by an NDA, but no way in Hell would I be of any use to the analyst, so this whole "consulting" thing is nothing more than a shotgun approach to finding information and profiting from it. I also state in my profile that while I am open to consulting, said consulting must not involve any current or past employers. Of course that fact is only visible if you are logged into Linkedin, but this person had to be logged into Linkedin to get my contact info, so they should have seen the limitations I set.

Such are the joys of being an open networker, lot's of potential offers (aka spam, scams, and shams), and only a few real offers or contacts that mean anything.

Since I am on the subject of Emulex, I want to take this time to mention the "Emulex Alumni Group" on Linked in that I started just last week. If you are a current or past employee of Emulex, you are more than welcome to join. It's sort of weird that I started this group last Thursday, and then this news hits today. Talk about coincidence!

Well that's it for this post. Keep an eye out for the next Friday Fun post ~ Jim

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Friday Fun: Spam, spam, spam, spam.......

In my previous blog entry I listed a Slashdot article about a study commissioned by McAfee that determined email spam uses close to 33 billion kilowatt hours of power each year. Hmm, let's see how many kilowatts hours we can use with today's Friday Fun post about spam?

Let's get going with a little Weird Al Yankovic shall we?

Now check out this humorous anti-spam cartoon (commercial) from Commtouch

Will Spam blend? Hell yes!

And of course I must include the obligatory Monty Python Spam skit!

Have a great weekend, and remember to delete your email spam and reheat your breakfast Spam. Cheers ~ Jim

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Still plugging and slugging away.

Today started out blah, blech, and maybe even a little blue, but eventually I kicked myself into gear and got going.

With respects to my job search, Wednesdays are usually an off day for me. Most of the postings I came across today are not relevant to my experience and skill set, and this seems to be the case for most Wednesdays. Because of this "Wednesday bump" I have come to use the available time for doing research on some of the companies and organizations that I have already submitted my resume to. n

This has paid off very well for me in that I have enough knowledge that should I be lucky enough to be called in for an interview I will have an idea about what I am jumping into. It's also paid off in that on one rare occasion I found a blog entry about one company that I was thinking of applying for, but the comments from past employees made me decide not to apply for the job. I won't go into details, but let's just say it was not a go

Even though today is a little slow for me I have noticed over the last month or so more and more developer positions being listed, and recently there have been more project management listings too. This is a very good sign! This means that companies are moving forward with projects, albeit slowly, but they are moving forward. Hopefully in the not too distant future one of these companies will need an experienced technology professional (Geek) like me. I am keeping my fingers crossed because it would be nice to get back to work.

If you are a reader of this blog, and you happen to know of a potentially good fit for me please by all means send me an email. Even if you don't know of a good fit it would still be nice to hear from you so feel free to drop me a line, or leave a comment. Yes, comments are welcome here too as long as you aren't a spammer or a troll looking for a flame war.

By the way one resource I recently became aware of and I'd like to point out to other job seekers is a site called It's fairly new site that may be of use to those job seekers who want to put their resumes on line. Click here to take a look at my resume. (Yeah, I know I need a new picture :)

As for there news I came across an interesting link today on Slashdot. Check out "The Ecological Impact of Spam" According to a study commissioned by McAfee email spam uses close to 33 billion kilowatt hours of power each year. That's a lot of power being wasted for phony "blue pills" and other nonsense. Take a look at the Slashdot article or go directly to the two links below for more information:
All this talk about spam has given me some inspiration for the next Friday Fun post. Let's see what I can dig up. Cheers! ~ Jim

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Fun: Workplace hazards!

Don't you just hate it when the email goes down?

While this one is "work safe" I still suggest you wear your headphones :-)

Murphy's Law at the office!

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Dealing with bureaucracy, disappointment, and file conversion.

Today was one of those days that can just take the wind out of your sails if you let it. This morning I found the perfect job, and I spent over half the day jumping through all sorts of hoops just so I could apply for the job only to be told that the position was no longer available.

I got up this morning ready to go so I dove right into the listings at the WorkSource site (Washington State's employment resources service) Right off the bat I found a job that was perfect for me! It was a perfect fit for my skills, it was in a perfect location, it had everything! But there were a few hitches.

The first hitch was that the employer wasn't listed which meant that I could not apply at the employer's site, but instead I had to apply directly through WorkSource just to get a referral for the position. The second hitch was that one of the requirements the job was for a BS in Computer Sciences. Now in the past I have come across other listings that either required a CS degree or equivalent work experience, but I didn't see the latter option for this position so I decided to check with WorkSource to see if equivalent work experience would be acceptable for this position.

I made a call into WorkSource and was told it would be best for me to come down and check with one of the recruitment specialists at WorkSource to see if I even qualify for the job. I wasn't all that thrilled about having to go down to the local WorkSource office then wait who knows how long, and deal with whatever bureaucracy just to be told whether or not I even qualified for this job, but I really wanted this job so I bit the bullet and drove down to the local office.

I went through the process of signing up to see a recruitment specialist, and then waited for almost an hour until one was available. Now the recruitment specialist I met was a great person to deal with. Not only were they very nice to talk to, but they were also very encouraging. After talking with me for a bit, and then taking a look at my resume the specialist determined that I my education and background were perfect for the position. They told me that the position was for another government agency (which shall remain nameless) and, then set up a referral for me and told me how to apply.

After thanking the specialist I drove home feeling really good about this job, and my future. Once I returned home I powered up my computer, and went directly to the agencies site. I didn't see any option to log in and submit my resume, but I did find a general HR email address, and a link for the application forms. I polished up my cover later, and tweaked it to perfection, and then downloaded the application forms which were a total of eight pages in Adobe .pdf format.

Virtually everyone who has filled out an employment application dreads having to fill in all that information in by hand. I think most would agree we would feel more comfortable being able to edit application forms with an editor such as Word, and not have to worry about our hand writing. At least this is the case with me. I don't have any way to convert .pdf formatted documents to a format such as Word's .doc format which I can then edit. I've gone through this before, but never had any luck finding a format converter that worked, so I just manually filled out the documents. Given that this application was eight pages in length, and the my hand writing pretty much sucks, I decided to once again search around for a .pdf to .doc conversion application. After trying three different "free" applications that either didn't work, or only allowed me to convert three of the eight pages plus leave a watermark across the converted text I gave up.

Since I was only submitting my resume for consideration, and not at the stage where I was actually applying for the job, I decided that maybe I should call the HR Department for this agency and see if I really need to fill the out application forms at this time. So I muddled through the telephone answering system several times just to get the correct telephone number. I dialed the number in hopes that the person on the other end would tell me that I didn't have to fill out the forms at this stage, but instead I was hit with the bombshell. The person who answered the telephone asked me for what position I was applying for, and when I told them they told me that the position had been filled over a week ago.

Needless to say I was a more then a little crushed by the experience. I had spent half of my day hopeful that I would be able to apply for a fantastic job, jumped through all the hoops, only to be told the position no longer was available. Talk about a gut punch!

Now I am not upset with anyone at WorkSource or the other agency. I just wish that they had communicated between each other a little better because not only did I waste half a day applying for a position that didn't exist, but I also wasted resources such as gas and paper. While I am down about all of this, I am not going to let this experience keep me down. I am going to take what I can from the experience and move forward. On the upside, I met a great recruitment specialist at WorkSource who now has my resume, and since I had the email address for the other agency I went ahead and emailed my cover letter and resume to them. Who knows, maybe they may take a look at it, and keep me in mind for a future opportunity.

The one thing that I am a really miffed about is that Adobe doesn't offer a low cost product to convert .pdfs into other formats. The "standard" version of Adobe Acrobat is something around $250 which unemployed people like me cannot afford. Now I understand why companies and agencies place their online applications forms in .pdf format, and I understand Adobe needs to make a buck, but you would think that given the current economic climate that Adobe might want to offer a low cost tool for converting .pdfs to .doc format. Even if the license for the application was valid for only six to twelve months, and afterwards the application would be disabled, a low cost conversion tool that actually worked would be a great benefit for many of use who are unemployed and have to deal with application forms that are in .pdf format. Maybe someone from Adobe's product development group might read this and consider the idea. If that happened then my day wouldn't be a complete wash.

Well that's enough for now. I am going to take the rest of the night off and watch "The Big Lebowski" because the Dude abides, and I love his style :)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Friday Fun - Stress at work!

This is NOT how you do a print screen!

When dealing with a co-worker who is trying to quit smoking it's always best not to tickle the piranha!

And this is why you shouldn't sing at work.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim