Homeless Techies and Other Working Wonders

Do you know any homeless techies? Are you one? I consider techies ‘homeless’ if they don’t work for a company. It’s not really a bad thing, it’s just a different way of living and doing things. Perhaps I’m getting a bit old, and at times it feels like that, but it seems like the cycle is shifting lately (the worm is turning?). It appears that techies are going back to coveting traditional jobs and desiring to find a ‘home’ instead of wanting to pursue the ‘homeless’ dream.

I wonder when this started happening again. For a good long time the idea of homelessness was vastly appealing to the masses, and techies particularly. The independence of running your own business, working for yourself, setting your own working hours and location… those were once the dream of many. Yet suddenly it seems as if a new tide is sweeping people toward the old-school traditional work environment again.

Google comes to mind. Everyone is fleeing their companies to work at Google, and with some good reasons. Google is making huge leaps in the tech industry and they are ‘the’ company to be associated with. EXCEPT … if you prefer being a homeless techie. If you take a look at the ‘Life at Google’ page on their site, there is no mention of working offsite or telecommute, and lots of mention about how great California is. That is enough to discourage some of the homeless techies out there – people, in my opinion, who a progressive company should really be going out of their way to get because they are people who already operate outside the box. So even without the homelessness… Google is still attracting people from all over.

I can say for certain that I would never work at Google because of that. It’s a shame really, because I think Google is a great company with innovative ideas, but I would more easily cut my own arm off than give up my freedom to work where ever I want. Recently there has been a lot of talk about a Microsoft data center moving to San Antonio (where I live). Someone actually had the temerity to ask me if I was going to get a ‘real job’ and go jump on working for Microsoft when they move here. That was, utterly and completely, hilarious. First off, that assumes I would want to work for Microsoft (which I would not ever, even if they did offer full telecommute), but it also assumes that they’d hire me after I’ve spent years writing articles about the flaws in their products! In fact, if I really wanted to look for a company to work for… it would probably be someone like Automattic (AKA: Those WordPress guys.) or someone with a similar work ethic/process. They are, by the way, a fully virtual company.

So I was writing this article and I started to wonder.. how about people who haven’t started in the field yet, people who are still in school. I swapped tabs and flipped over to my trusty Meebo, and nudged a friend who is going to college in California for his Computer Science Bachelor (and wants to create MMORPG games) to probe a little bit more. I just wanted to find out what the up-and-coming tech gen wanted to do when they got out in the tech world… here is our little Q and A (please ignore my typos).

[13:17] Nicole: What sort of work are you interested in the most? Company employee, self-employed, etc..
[13:17] Richard: well I would eventually, in the future like to own my own business
[13:18] Nicole: so eventually you’d like to be self-employed, but you would not start that way?
[13:18] Richard: nope
[13:18] Richard: I know I need more experience with how things work and how to run a business successfully
[13:19] Nicole: And would you subcontract on a temporary basis, work as a temporary employee, or prefer work as a full time employee?
[13:19] Richard: well while I’m attending school temporary/part-time is fine
[13:20] Nicole: (Clarify temporary employee or temporary contract.)
[13:20] Richard: either one
[13:20] Nicole: Okay, and after school?
[13:20] Richard: I’d like to work at a business
[13:21] Richard: so I can see what’s going on
[13:21] Nicole: Do you think that working full time as an employee at a business will teach you to run a business, or that it will give you the experience in tech that you are seeking for knowledge?
[13:22] Richard: both in different aspects
[13:22] Richard: of course it won’t teach me HOW to run a business but it will help me understand the position of being an employee which will better help me run one in the future
[13:23] Nicole: So since you want to observe and learn from a traditional employment environment, is that the kind of tech company you would later want to create? A traditional employment environment, where people work onsite, etc..
[13:24] Richard: well I have worked as an off-site IC and experienced that kind of business and while I understand the concept, it greatly limits the control you have and the order you can keep
[13:25] Richard: so I would probably keep things internal unless a better way of involving and controlling off-site located people is developed
[13:25] Nicole: On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being strongest, how large a deterrent is work onsite for you in regard to working for a company?
[13:25] Richard: you mean how much do I hate working on-site?
[13:26] Nicole: Essentially how big a factor does the fact that they would want you to work onsite play in your overall job decision.
[13:26] Richard: 2 because I don’t mind working onsite with other people
[13:26] Nicole: On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being strongest, how large a deterrent is work onsite AND also relocate to a different city or state for you in regard to working for a company?
[13:27] Richard: that would be more of a 4 or 5. While I don’t mind moving I’ve lived in california all my live which is one of the most beautiful states to live in weather wise. I don’t know if I could deal with some of the more extreme weather states
[13:27] Nicole: On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being strongest, how important is it for you to have a group or department of people in a similar technical field to collaborate with in person?
[13:29] Richard: I guess it depends on the project
[13:29] Richard: but I’d say between 4 and 6
[13:29] Nicole: Go for overall.
[13:29] Nicole: Okay. 3 more questions.
[13:30] Nicole: On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being strongest, how important are company provided benefits (medical, dental, 401K, etc..)?
[13:31] Richard: I guess it depends what type of company it is, some “just getting off the ground” companies don’t have the financial backing as the larger companies
[13:31] Richard: but honestly benefits is very important so 9
[13:31] Nicole: Considering that last statement though.. does that mean you would be willing to forgo benefits to work in a start-up company that had a good idea?
[13:32] Richard: yes
[13:32] Nicole: Okay
[13:32] Nicole: How soon from now do you plan on applying for positions like this?
[13:33] Richard: in a year
[13:33] Nicole: Last question …
[13:33] Nicole: What, if any, companies do you have in mind that you would ‘dream’ of working for, or plan on applying to?
[13:33] Richard: Blizzard is one
[13:34] Richard: and then there are a few smaller start-up companies that have some great ideas
[13:34] Nicole: Okay, that’s it! Thanks 🙂
[13:34] Richard: 🙂

(BTW, I should probably contact Blizzard about their site, it’s an absolute code standards train wreck. Not that I should be surprised, I’ve seen few game sites that actually care about that.)

In any event, it answered my question. If what we’re seeing with people going to more ‘traditional’ work, and newer techies wanting to find ‘homes’ then there may end up being few of us old ‘homeless’ types around. Is this a problem? Not really. The world turns, cycles happen, tech shifts regularly. I was just curious today about new tides and what people are looking for. I don’t mind being a part of a smaller group of ‘homeless’ techies – I am one since I’m rather antisocial anyway 😉