Experienced Software Developer

Sometimes a company changes direction, sometimes you work yourself out of a job, sometimes you leave a job for reasons totally unrelated to the job, but no matter what the cause, it’s a hard reality that sometimes, you have to look for a new job.

How do I present myself in this market? I regularly sit down with clients and talk about their wants and needs. I participate in planning meetings. I do technical support when something goes wrong. I became a subject matter expert in something I knew nothing about (psychometric testing) to understand the best way to help other people do their jobs better. I taught myself statistics, reviewed legal regulations from different countries, created educational videos, translated complex concepts into working code and translated hundreds of pages of text into English from Dutch. I acted as the first contact for English-speaking customers, did trainings, wrote ads . . . how do I write a resume that doesn’t read like “War and Peace”? Which job title covers all of that?

In my heart, I think of myself as a Software Architect, solving problems both for my company and for our clients. I’m a wizard creating magic black boxes that just work and do what you expect them to do, quickly and reliably, on all platforms, without a lot of fuss. All of the other stuff I do is, to my mind, just supporting my coding addiction. “Software Architect” doesn’t cover all of those other things and “Coding Junky” just seems like a bad title to put on my resume.

After working on a product for 14 years, thinking about it, tinkering with it, sweating bullets over it and cheering it on, I am starting to look around and see what the job market is like. The biggest thing on my resume is the language I program in, Perl. I love Perl, I love the community, I love the flexibility and the fact that every year there are new tools being added to my set of possible solutions. But Perl is not the language du jour, it might still be the duct tape of the internet, but when was the last time you thought duct tape was interesting or exciting?

The problem is that job listings mention specific technologies and buzz words while I have been focusing on solving problems as efficiently as possible. At various times in the last 14 years, I’ve:

  • written a ton of Javascript
  • hacked PHP code
  • tinkered with NodeJS
  • played around with statistical libraries
  • submitted bug reports and pushed the development of some core Perl modules
  • used three different bug tracking platforms and 2 different version control systems
  • taught myself to make whiteboard videos
  • taught myself audio editing
  • written marketing text
  • learned about SEO
  • learned enough SOAP and XML to be dangerous
  • wrestled with PDF generation
  • agonized over gettext translations

… and so many other things that I have, frankly, blocked them out. But “Really Good Problem Solver” doesn’t bring up any hits on job search sites, either. I will continue to try various titles and industries in these searches, I will just have to hope that my definition of “Experienced Software Developer” means the same thing to me that it does to a hiring manager.