Saturday, April 21, 2007

Buying a PC from Dell Canada

I just wanted to blog about this experience with ordering a PC from Dell. As many folks know or should know, Dell sells online and through the telephone directly to the consumers. There are no storefront or retailers hawking Dell products (maybe not entirely true as Dell have kiosks in some shopping malls) but the main sales channels for consumer products are through their website and telephone sales force.

In early March this year, there was a deal for a Dell desktop E521 with AMD dual-core processor and a 22" widescreen LCD monitor for just slightly over CAD$800. I went through the process of customizing my PC (type of CPU, memory, HDD, etc.) , entering the discount code given and paying for it. Final confirmation was to be sent to my email account. Well, nothing happened over the next couple of days; no e-mail and I had no order number. I phoned their telesales and checked with the sales representative on the status of my order. Nope, I was told that no orders were in the system that matched my mailing address or even my name. I was worried since the discount code was only valid on a short period and was told to place my order again which I did and gave a ball park figure for the price that I recalled from placing the online order. I got my system delivered about a week later which was quite surprising as I had expected it to be longer.

The kicker was a month later, I got a confirmation e-mail from Dell Canada telling me that my online order has been received and is now confirmed. Wait-a-minute, how could that be? Somehow my online order has been sitting in limbo for a month and nobody knew? Wow, Dell must have some server with serious memory cache (that can keep at least a month's worth of data). To make a long story short, I was told that it was too late to cancel the order as it had already shipped (took them 3 days to assemble and ship - damn quick, I must say) and I am to refuse delivery so that the shipment will be returned and my credit card credited with a full refund when the shipment arrives back at Dell. That one took about 2 weeks to happen as the courier company had to try three times to deliver the package before affirming that it is undeliverable.

All-in-all, the end results was good but not prefect as I still ended up paying about $70 more for my PC than I would have if the online order system had processed my order in a timely manner (a month is just too, too, too slow).

Hiring IT professionals

The other day a colleague talked to me about the temporary position that he is hiring for. The position is at intermediate level and has been advertised and the deadline has closed. He was going through the stack of resumes to shortlist qualified candidates. He was asking about what to do with resumes that obviously doesn't qualify and those that are questionable and wondered why folks would apply for positions tha they are unqualified for. For example, the position asked for at least 2 years of related work experience and there are many resumes from recent graduates of technical programs who don't have the required minimum years of work experience. I sympthazie with these folks as I was in that exact same situation when I first started out. I mean, how are you supposed to get experience if no one is willing to give you an opportunity to attend that experience? Well, one quick solution is to volunteer just to get the experience necessary and this can be done while at school or even after while seeking employment.

The other group are from folks who are not even remotely qualified as in no IT experience what so ever. For these folks, I would suggest that you go and register in some IT certification program.

The last group are from folks who are obviously over-qualified and yes, I've been there before. I have a couple of suggestions and the first one, being to tailor your resume to the position that the employer is hiring for. For example, instead of showing that you have been this or that (in terms of IT managerial positions), if the position calls for a hands-on technical person, then summarize your IT managerial positions and grouped them so that they don't take up 90% of the resume. I would further suggest that the cover letter contain an explanation of why you are seeking this technical position given the breadth of your IT experience. For example, prefer to be hands on with technology than to manage people or you have been hands on for the last x number of years and enjoyed the work tremendously. Obviously you will have to word it positively so that your potential employer doesn't think that you are a nutcase with mental problems.

It's not easy and the hiring process is a two-way street with the employer looking to hire the "best" candidate available and the candidate looking to join the "best" firm available. Each group has different drivers for what would consitute the "best". For example, the "best" candidate is someone who has the required skills and experience plus is a good fit for the organization in terms of the "corporate culture" and personality. I would also look for "passion" or "desire" in there too as I would definitely want an employee who is passionate about his/her profession and has the desire to add to their knowledge and experience.

For the candidate, "best" could be the best fit in terms of the whole compensation package with the desirable technical environment/challenges, balance between work and personal life (the individual's lifestyle), etc. I know that it's easy to say that the candidate is looking for all this when they are out of work but remember that the "ideal" period to be looking for employment opportunities are when you are still employed and not after.

For those of you looking and for those you hiring, good luck and may you find the "ideal" employer/candidate.

Monday, April 02, 2007

I have it pretty good...

The other week I was chatting with one of my colleague and the topic turned to work and work environment. Basically my colleague asked me if I can see myself working for my current employer 10, 20 years down the road and my reply was that I am not even looking that far down. It seems that he was getting pretty frustrated with some of the stuff that are inherent in the organization. We are a union-based organization and firing employees for just case is not an easy task and takes a fair amount of effort and time. I am also fielding quite a bit of employment opportunities now that the IT market in Vancouver has picked up pretty much over the last 12 months.

Anyhow, that conversation got me thinking about how good or bad I have it with my current employer.

- I work 7hrs/day for a total of 35hrs/week. Any time over that is paid at either 1.5 or 2.0 times the regular rate depending. It's 1.5 times for the first two hours after the end of your regular workday otherwise it is 2.0 times;
- I get paid an hour for every 3 hours of on-call time;
- I get 3 weeks of vacation to start and it increments for every year that I stayed (we have folks who been here 25 years and have 7 weeks of vacation!);
- I have approximately 2 weeks of special leave (e.g. Family illness, etc) per year which is to be used as needed;
- My wife's dentist told her that we have one of the better dental benefits plan in Vancouver;
- I have averaged about 3 to 4 weeks of training/conference per year since I've been here;
- If I want to, I could take a day off biweekly by working an extra 47 minutes for the other 9 working days which we term a flex-day;
- I am enjoying the work that I do now although there are challenges mostly to do with the softer side of IT work (people, politics and processes);

The downside is obviously the 3P's (people, politics and processes); we are not leading edge in technologies (and we don't have to be) and the compensation is not the greatest but other than that, it's pretty well good so I'm currently happy unless someone else can make me a better offer (and I'm not talking compensation).