Archive for June, 2007

Thoughts on hiring => writing a better resume part i…

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

We’re looking for a couple of developers and I’ve been going through a number of resumes. Unfortunately, its a frustrating process as most of the resumes are poorly structured and written really badly.

I want to offer some advice on writing your resume, which is based on my experience both as a contractor looking for work and an employer of dozens of tech people. I’m borrowing heavily from the book “Pitch Yourself” and I’m providing some general advice that is applicable to writing a resume for any industry. This post expands on the talks that I gave at the Summer of Code and Victoria University. (Here’s the powerpoint for my last talk)

The problem with current resumes

Here is snippet of a resume from Bob (Edited from a real resume)

June 2002 Developer – X Consulting company, Wellington

I was worked for 12 months with the X team as a developer on the Alpha project – a secure trading system . The Alpha project had 10,000 active users and clients included Y finance company and Z bank. The project used extensively Enterprise Java Beans, Open Java Trading System and Oracle technologies.

Ok, so what’s wrong with this resume snippet. The problem is that it only gives me half of the information I need. From this snippet, I can tell where Bob worked, what role he did, how long we worked there and some of the technology involved. BUT I don’t know what he actually did! Did he work on the front end, or the back end or did he sweep the floor ? More importantly, the resume does not tell me what Bob was good at ?

What an employer really wants to know from your resume?

What is an employer really looking for your resume?

1) Who are you ? What are you passionate about? What makes you the person that you are? What are things that you are passionate about, what are you motivates you.

2) What are you really good at ? What are your core strengths or competencies? What are the 4-5 key skills that you have and can apply to your job. What sort of things ?? Here are some examples

  • Strategical thinking
  • Building relationships
  • Problem solving
  • Problem Analysis
  • Effective Communications

3) Can you do it again? Your employer wants to know what are you going to do for them! They look at your experience as a guide to what you’ll do for them.

What are some personal attributes that an employer is looking for? Marc Anderssen (of Mozilla / Netscape fame ) suggests when hiring the best people you should look for three things.

  • Drive – “self-motivation — people who will walk right through brick walls, on their own power, without having to be asked, to achieve whatever goal is in front of them.”
  • Curiosity – “Anyone who loves what they do is inherently intensely curious about their field, their profession, their craft.”
  • Ethics – “What do people stand for”

I would add a slight twist on Curiousity and add learning. I love learning new things and I am always looking for people who want to learn new things.

So how do I decide what to put in my resume?

Here’s an overview of the process that the Pitch Yourself book suggests to help you find your key skills. The book promotes the “Objectives Analysis Action Results” (OAAR) approach as a framework to figure this out.

  1. Deconstruct your experience – You’ll need to look at your experience and deconstruct it to find your core skills. For of the major projects you’ve been involved in answer these questions.
    1. What were the objectives?
    2. What analysis did you make?
    3. What actions did you take?
    4. What were the results?
  2. Think about what you did – Look at your de-constructed experience and think about the implications of what you did. If you go through this process you’ll start to find a number of common behaviours that will start to identify your key skills.
  3. Build a list of competencies – You should be able to have a list of experiences that can be arranged like this.
  4. Your Story Behaviours displayed Key skills
  5. Arrange your skills list – Create your all list of demonstrate skills with a story how you can deliver.

So what does this look like in action, here is a snippet of one persons core skills.

Effective Communications – In the aviation industry it is essential to convey and receive information succinctly. I use effective briefing techniques that are imperative for a successful flight from the ground up (and down again). I have an approachable style and carry out my tasks in accordance to the Standard Operating Procedures, whilst liaising with all my fellow crew in an open and co-operative manner, resulting in a reduction of inherent risk and shared knowledge.

One final thing to think about when writing your resume, Tom Peters (Management and change guru) says that you should aim to add something significant to your resume every three months. If you’re not doing that then you should think about a change.

Challenges in writing your first resume

There are a couple more challenges in writing your first resume. Basically you don’t have so much experience to call up to build your skills profile. In truth you can apply the same process to your university studies. You can use the OAAR technique on each one of your courses. A employer is looking for what you’re good at and what you are really interested in. ie. If you really like AI then think about what you like about it and why and use that in your resume.

So what now ?

Your resume needs to be tailored for every job. Why? You’ll have a variety of skills and experiences where not all will be appropriate for this role. So you need to tailor it to fit with the profile that their looking for. Also if you tailor your resume for every role you’ll have more luck with the automated bots (Do you think Google process all 3.5k resumes a day by hand ???) and recruitment agencies that do key word searching.

Make sure that your recruitment agent knows that, so that you can put your best resume forward for every job.

How long ?

Your resume should be one page. Why ? 30 seconds – That’s the time you’ve got to make an impression. You have to hook some to want to learn more about you, so you need to short, sharp and to the point.

The basic structure should be

  • Name and contact details
  • Personal statement
  • Table of 4-5 core skills
  • Summary of Experience and Education – (Only where you have work, what role and for how long)

That’s it!

But what about my technical skills ? What about my academic results? They can be on other pages.

Next time…

That’s enough to chew on, in my next post I’ll be outlining some thoughts on how to put your technical skills / experience down on paper.

Geek is good

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Bill said it, so it must be true.

A rewarding experience

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

At the Creative HQ graduation, I was presented with Creative HQ Community award by my friend and fellow entrepreneur Rod Drury. The award was in recognition of my contribution of Wellington entrepreneurial community and development of the Summer of Code programme.

I want to say thanks for the award on behalf of myself and rest of the team how helped make Summer of Code. We had a lot of people help with Summer of Code, my thanks especially goes to …

Peter Torr Smith, who stepped in and got things done things done when I had to do real work. Sarah Wattie – Summer of Code organiser extraordinaire, who ran everything smoothly. The team at Creative HQ and PWB, who on hearing about the Summer of Code, got behind the programme and said yes to our crazy ideas. And finally, Joseph Stuart and his team at FRST. Without Joseph and the support of FRST, Summer of Code never would have happened. Thanks Joseph, for all your support and help to make Summer of Code a reality.

Honestly, the Summer of Code was a blast. It was a lot fun and its been great to have so many people involved. Summer of Code in essense is about people ie How we get smart students into smart companies!

For those of you that don’t know what happened on last years Summer of Code, here’s a run down.

Summer of Code Key numbers:

· 44 students applied (36 from Victoria University, 8 from Massey University)

· 32 students were tested across software development fundamentals, web development and database skills

· 19 students were interviewed

· 14 students hired by 6 companies

· 2 students exited the programme to take full time jobs

· 3 students are now working full time for their companies, 6 students are now working part time for their companies.


We ran seminars to increase our students knowledge from some of the best mind’s in the world.

  • Rod Drury of Xero on “Software Development in NZ” and Nat Torkington of O’Reilly on “Start-up culture”
  • Microsoft presentation of Xpressions platform
  • Hayden Vink of Hansel on “Interaction design” and Sam Ng on “Usability”
  • Paul Gold of Trade Me on “Running High volume databases”
  • Milton Ngan of Weta Digital on “Distributed systems”
  • Stephen Cheng of Innaworks on “Mobile phone Development”
  • Rowan Simpson of Trade Me on “What I learnt from Trade Me”
  • Tomek Piatek of ProjectX on “Code Management”
  • Michael Koziarski, Rails guru on “Ruby on Rails”
  • Mark Robotham from Creative HQ on “Incubators”
  • John Clegg of ProjectX on “Writing better resumes”
  • Chris Di Bona of Google on “Open Source and Google”

Here’s some quotes from CEO’s of the companies involved.

Summer of Code’s been a huge success, look forward to more of the same next year, this is set to become a key recruitment channel for us, and I’m certain that this is raising the bar on young IT talent in NZ and providing clear incentives for that talent to stay in Wellington and New Zealand and make it happen.” Tim Norton, CEO of PlanHQ

“We had two awesome students working with us over the summer break, and I’m proud to say I think we gave them a good dunking in the deep-end of the life of a web 2.0 start-up (the rough and the green!). They formed a core part of our team over for 3 months and brought a lot of energy, enthusiasm, insight, and innovation with them.”

Peter Torr Smith, CEO of


“Absolutely fantastic effort all round. I honestly think it was one of the most impressive efforts toward massive productivity I have ever had the personal pleasure to witness being coordinated.”

Andrew Mayfield, CEO of Spikefin


“When you put smart students and smart companies together, amazing things happen. It’s been a fantastic experience to see the students develop and the companies prosper during the Summer of Code. All of the companies involved have benefited tremendously by the input of their students.”

– John Clegg, CEO of ProjectX

“The Creative HQ Summer of Code was a fantastic success for SilverStripe. We found two excellent students, Andrew O’Neil and Jeremy Shipman, who fitted naturally into our working environment. Their skilled contributions (programming, testing and documentation ) have noticeably improved our CMS product and adoption by our open source community. They are now working with us through their University year, and based on this success, we look forward to supporting Summer of
Code next year.” — Sigurd Magnusson, SilverStripe.


Thanks everyone, and one last plug for Summer of Code 2.0 from Rowan Simpson

If you’re a smart Comp. Sci. student you should be all over Summer of Code 2.0!”

More info on


How to survive getting Digg'd…

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

Here is a really interesting post about how Andre Gunter survived 100,000 instant visitors on a small budget.

His site is hosted on a Virtual Private Server (VPS) with 256MB guaranteed RAM and 1GB burstable RAM. Its not designed to scale ! Andre outlines some of the tips and tools that he used to survive 100k visitors over 1 day.

He leverages using caching and redirecting content to other services. Its a great read and illustrates that you can improve performance with some subtle changes to your software infrastructure.

iTunes now 3rd biggest music retailer in US

Monday, June 25th, 2007

iTunes became the 3rd biggest music retailer in US behind Walmart and Best-buy. (It over took Amazon in January) Wow!

I wonder if anyone has any figures for NZ iTune sales. We now buy our music via iTunes, our CD purchases have all but dried up.

This re-iterates the acceptance of digital content as a medium and the need for Music companies to fully embrace digital media.

Still waiting for more selection on iTunes NZ and hanging out for iTunes movies, I’d like to be able to download movies rather than buy the DVD. 🙂

Clock is still ticking for the NZ music retailers…

Sage advice in thinking about the Amazon EC2 / S3 disaster planning

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Artur Bergman (who has recently joined O’Reilly radar and gave a kick-ass talk about his experiences in scaling live journal at foo camp.) offers some sage advice for those people that are comptemplating using EC2 and S3.

Artur seriously knows his stuff, and he lists some points that you should consider when using EC2 or S3, but the principles hold for any other webservice. To cut a long story short, read the small print of your service agreements and figure out your worse case scenario and how you can mitigate those risks.


Monday, June 25th, 2007

The Wellington Inner City Bypass, in all its (ahem) glory, is now properly represented on ZoomIn and Smaps. We’re working on our regular update of all the map tiles for New Zealand, but we figured that a major change to the State Highway system, that also reorganised the one-way system in an urban area, was worth getting right straight away.

New map tiles showing the bypass

We thought we’d taken much longer than we would have liked to get this done, but since changes to the one-way network on the surrounding roads kept on happening right until a couple of weeks ago, we thought it was best to get all the changes done in one go. As it turns out, it looks like we’re the first major mapping system to show the bypass: Google, Multimap, Microsoft and Yellow Maps all still have the old configuration. I can understand why it’s taking them a while: it turns out that we had to do a lot of manual editing of the streets data, and our local knowledge came in handy.

While Karo Drive is now visible on the maps, we haven’t updated our addresses database yet, so you can’t search for it. That shouldn’t be a great hardship, since at the moment there seem to be no actual addresses on Karo Drive (Martha’s Pantry is the only business there, and its address is on Cuba St), and the relocated heritage buildings there and on the adjacent Tonks Grove will remain empty for a year or more. Some would argue that Karo Drive doesn’t deserve to be listed as a “place”, since it’s a means of getting between places rather than somewhere to be, but I couldn’t possibly comment! In any case, we’ll be including Karo Drive and Tonks Grove along with all the other street changes nationwide in our next database update.


Friday, June 22nd, 2007



Starting a company means giving up…

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

Just found this blog post by Mark Fletcher that nails what it means for a person to start a company.

As an employee climbing the corporate ladder at a company, it’s all about getting more. More responsibility, more control, a larger salary, a bigger title. However, the exact opposite is true when you start a company. A big part of starting and building a company is about giving up. A founder is in a weird position. When you first start a company, everything is yours. You own all the stock, you make all the decisions. This point of creation is the only time this will be the case, however. Forever after, the founder must give up more and more control to other people and more and more ownership to employees, investors, etc. The founder must do this for the company to be successful, but at the same time this is the opposite of what many people are used to doing.

I don’t look at it as giving up, I look at it as working together. Its better to have 20% of $100M than 70% of $1M.

To be successful, you got to build a team of people dedicated to achieving a common goal. By working together anything is possible. Look at Rod Drury, in developing Aftermail, he built a team of skilled people that came together and executed brilliantly. After the sale to Qwest, Rod rolled a lot of his team onto his next project – Xero and their kicking ass now.

Food for thought!

CHQ graduation next week

Thursday, June 21st, 2007


On Tuesday DeNada, Star Now and Karactaz are graduating from CHQ. (We missed the cut off this year, but we’ll be good for next year.)

It great to see such great companies flourishing. They will join companies including Optimal Usability, Virtual Katy, Spikefin, Calcium Communications, Innaworks and SilverStripe as Creative HQ alumni.

Here are some information about the companies.

Star Now

With over 500,000 members worldwide and clients including the BBC, MTV and high-profile reality TV stars, chief executive Cameron Mehlhopt says has no intention of slowing down.

“ gives talented entertainers like actors and models the chance to manage their own careers, be their own agent and sell their talent to casting agents and directors around the world,” he says.

“The UK is our main market, however we are expanding our local profile and planning to officially launch into the USA and Australia in the coming year.”


Karactaz was founded by Dylan Coburn in 2002 to sell creative services, especially animation products and technology.

The company has received multiple international awards for television commercials and advertising campaigns, and has a strong and growing export market.

“We’re fast becoming a major player in global animation – original property development, production services and proprietary technology,” says Mr Coburn.

“Now we’re developing our own in-house software product ‘Karactaz Eclipse’ to transfer the techniques created for short-form work into long-form forms like television.”

De Nada

DeNada is the first fashion company to graduate from a New Zealand incubator.

Co-run by Nada Matthews and Stewart Island-based Jo Learmonth, deNada launched a new concept in fashion and retail with the opening of their Featherston Street store.

The collection of street-styled and urban garments in sizes 8-16 is extended to include off-the-shelf garments in curvy and tall, catering for different body shapes.

Jewellery, accessories, good coffee and a boutique selection of low-fi and café style music are available to listen to and buy.

It’s going to be a great party. Last year seeds of Summer of Code were planted… Who know’s what will happen this year ?!?!