It's coming up on a year since I left the public service and joined the team at FinalBuilder. We're recruiting again so I thought I might run through what it's like here and why I enjoy it so much.
To be honest, when I started I wasn't sure what to expect. It was a nice surprise to find that the products (FinalBuilder, FinalBuilder Server and Automise) are of a very high quality and are really appreciated by our customers. The new product we're working on is following in the same vein.
It's great to work on great software.
I'm programming probably 90% of the day. The other 10% is spent doing support or brainstorming. The new product (which gets most of my attention) is being built in the latest MS stack technologies: ASP.NET MVC, WCF, (Fluent) NHibernate, jQuery etc. Having a mostly old-school background (Oracle stored procs, .NET2.0 WinForms etc) I've learnt a lot. It's been awesome.
When I say "programming" I mean coding, designing, testing, releasing etc. End to end stuff, from whileboard to deployment. You're not sitting in the corner being handed a spec with no input.
I'm writing this on my quad core, 8GB RAM, dual 24" monitor dev machine. The keyboard I inherited when I started was bugging me, so the boss bought us all new ones. I've got admin access to everything: my machine, our local servers and even our web host server. If I need a VM, I just run one up.
It's quiet. At first I thought it would bug me, but it turns out that once again Joel was right. Being able to work without interruption is wonderful. Oh, and there's a coffee machine, water cooler, buscuits and fruit etc.
Basically: we're appreciated and well cared for.
We're only small, so there's no hierarchy. Which means there's no ladder climbing or political bullshit: you turn up, do interesting work with smart people, then go home. You're trusted to do your job and not screw things up.
The CEO is a developer and spends most of his time writing code. There's no translation from management speak to dev speak. There's no wondering about what the vision for the company is and what we're trying to achieve. There's no talk of "maximising our value proposition", either. And in almost a year we're yet to have formal meeting.
Support, although it doesn't take up too much time, is an important part of the culture. There's a strong focus on genuinely helping customers. It's pretty common for us to get a bug report or feature request, make the changes and send the customer a new build within a day. That level of responsiveness blew me away initially.
But the risk!
If you're a public servant it might seem like a huge risk to leave safe a job to work for a small dev shop. That's how I thought for a long time. Although we're small, the company has been running profitably for 10 years. You're not coming to work in some guy's garage (although, of course, that's how the company started).
Personally, I think the cost of spending your career doing something you don't really like is much worse than the risk involved with going after what you want. And perhaps I shouldn't mention this, but I work less hours with less stress on more interesting stuff and get paid more than I did as an APS EL1.
And if it turns out you were wrong, there's a lot of APS jobs in Canberra...
Who we're looking for
You have to be in Canberra and be able to competently write and speak English. We can't really negotiate on those two.
Qualifications matter less than the passion to create great software and the desire to learn.