Christian Heilmann

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Archive for November, 2014

We have a massive recruitment problem

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

A few months ago, I flew over to see my parents for their 50th wedding anniversary. As some of you may know, I have a humble background. My dad was a coal miner and then factory worker and my mother has always been a home maker / housewife. I am the only one in my family that went to college and I skipped university as the thing to do was to make money in a job as soon as you are 18.

It was humbling and almost embarassing to have conversations with my family. Half of them are either unemployed or worried about their jobs. The rest are unhappy in their jobs but see no way to change that as they need the security. Finding joy in family life and leisure time is more important than enjoying the work. A job is a job, you got to do what you got to do and all that.

Futurama: you gotta do what you gotta do

That’s why it feels surreal to come back into “our world” and get offers for jobs I don’t want. A lot of them. Some with ridiculous amounts of money offered and most with perks that would make my family blush and sense a trap.

Why are we not recruiter compatible and vice versa?

We’re lucky to be that sought after and yet it seems there is no happy symbiosis between us and recruiters. On the contrary, as soon as you even mention recruiting most of us techies start ranting.

I feel uneasy doing that. I feel like an arrogant ass and I feel that we should be more grateful about the opportunities we get. The relationship of recruiter and job seeker should be high-fives and unicorns. Instead there is a massive sense of dread: “Oh god, another job offer, how tiring”.

There are reasons for our dismay:

  • A lot of headhunters/recruiters work on a commission basis and are measured by how many contacts they had that day. This leads to a scattergun approach and you get offers that are not “you” at all.
  • Many recruiters seem to just look for keywords and then send the offer out to you. That’s why you get Java positions when you have a JavaScript background. Just like you would send car mechanic jobs to a carpet expert.
  • Others go for company names. A great example was this recruiter trying to hire someone’s dog as a Java/Python developer.
  • Many recruiting sites are very pushy to get you into their database to show potential hiring companies just how many job searchers they have. This leads to very old and outdated profiles and you get offers for jobs you’ve done years ago. Basically they don’t want to find you a job, they want you as an ad.
  • People write ridiculous job descriptions and send them to us. In the past I wrote what kind of people I try to hire and once it went through HR and recruitment review something completely ridiculous ended up online. You’ve seen those. Asking people for two degrees, but not older than 20. Seven years experience in a half year old technology, and similar confusing points.
  • There is probably nothing more intrusive to someone who feels at home online to be called by somebody. Recruiters, however, seem to see the “personal touch” as the most important thing.

On the other side of this issue, we are not innocent either:

  • Instead of telling people why we didn’t want their offer, we just ignore them. There is no learning on either side.
  • We love our own tools and are not too interested in changing that. Every recruitment department I worked with needed a CV in a document format for filing and keeping. Instead of having one of those at hand we love to create online CVs and portfolios or point people to our GitHub account as “real people who would hire me find all they need there”. This is navel gazing and arrogant. If I want to go on a bus, I need a bus ticket. A macaroni picture with glitter on it saying “most amazing responsive bus ticket” will not get me on there. Have the tool for the task.
  • We don’t keep our presence up-to-date. If you’re not seeking, say so on LinkedIn. Have a template to send back to recruiters telling them “thanks, but no.”
  • We also shouldn’t create profiles of our dog on LinkedIn. This is a professional tool, if we don’t use these in a professional manner we shouldn’t be surprised that they go to the dogs.
  • Keep your skills up-to-date. If you never ever want to work with a certain product any longer, remove it from your online presence. That way keyword searchers don’t find you.

We need to communicate better

I feel there is a massive waste going on and an accumulation of frustration on both sides. We need to get better in helping another to make this the natural partnership it should be. I feel terrible hearing about friends not in our world who send out hundreds of applications and don’t get answers whilst we complain about people trying to offer us jobs. It feels almost unreal.

There are a few good ideas around and there is a start to clean this mess up. Joblint is a tool that comes to mind. It is an analysing tool that takes job descriptions and allows you to

“Test tech job specs for issues with sexism, culture, expectations, and recruiter fails”.

A lot of miscommunication could be avoided simply by using that.

Considering giving a helping hand

Maybe I should do something about this and use my time off to reach out and try to change something. I wonder if a workshop for recruiters about issues to avoid would be of interest? In any case, let’s try to be more understanding. Recruiters do their jobs the same way we do ours. By understanding their drives and goals, we can make both of our lives easier. By being arrogant and come across as divas we shouldn’t be surprised if job descriptions start calling out for rockstars, ninjas, gurus and mavens.

Let’s highlight the great experiences we had, and share what worked. Maybe that could be the lever we need to crack this nut open.

Taking a break

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014


Four years ago I announced that I will join Mozilla as principal evangelist and I was the happiest person alive. I exclaimed that I want Mozilla to be the “Switzerland of HTML5” and an independent player in the great browser wars around the early days of this new technology revolution. I also announced that I am excited to use my flat more as I can work from home.

Now I am here and I have hardly had the chance to do so as I was busy getting from event to event, training to training and meetup to meetup. And whilst this is exciting it is also superbly taxing. It is time to lean back a bit, relax and have some me time.

I feel the first signs of burnout and I think it is very important to not let a fast and seemingly glamourous lifestyle on the road as an official spokesperson get in the way of finding peace and tranquility. I spoke in my last TEDx talk about getting too excited about one’s own online personality and living for that one and how dangerous that is.

And here I am finding myself being excited about Chris on the road and forgot about Chris who just lets go and leaves things to sort themselves out.

This is why I am taking a break from Mozilla. I am going on a sabbatical for a while and be a spectator watching the rewards of all the work we put in the last years. Firefox’s 10th anniversary is coming and great things are afoot.

I think we’ve shown that we can be the “Switzerland of HTML5” and it is time for me to have some time for myself and see what my colleagues can do. That’s why I am stepping down as “the Mozilla guy” and be plain Chris for a while.

I want to thank all my colleagues over the years for the great time I had. It is amazing to see how many dedicated and gifted people can work together and create something open and beautiful – even in traditionally very closed environments like the mobile space.

I will of course be around and you will be able to meet me at selected events and online. People in London and Stockholm will also see more of me. I will only take it slower from now on until the new year and represent myself and not the large, amazing and wonderful world that is Mozilla. As it stated on one of our summits: it is one Mozilla and many voices. And I will lean back, listen, and enjoy.

[review] Hybrid and future web meetup at Jayway in Stockholm, Sweden

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Yesterday evening I went to Hybrid and Future Web Meetup at JayWay in Stockholm, Sweden.


The three hour meetup was an informal meeting with 3 speakers, great catering and drinks and some very interesting topics:

new skills for developersAndreas Hassellöf of Nordnet and Gustaf Nilsson Kotte of Jayway showed how they built the Nordnet banking app in a hybrid way. The interesting parts here to me where that they used Angular for the main app but native controls for the navigation elements of the UI to get the highest possible fidelity. They also created a messaging bus between the different parts using a pub/sub model for local storage. They are right now trying to find ways to open source their findings and I would love to see that get out. The other, very interesting part of this talk was how they used Crosswalk to inject a more modern Chromium into legacy Android devices to get much better performance.

firefoxOS architectureAnders Janmyr was next with a solid overview and live demo of Firefox OS app creation, distribution and debugging. Anders works for Jayway on Sony projects and it was interesting to see someone not from Mozilla or mobile partners talk about the topic I normally cover.

I closed the evening with a kind of preview of one of my sessions at Øredev tomorrow. In it, I talk about “modern” browser features that to me should be a “given” but got forgotten as we promised them too early to developers and legacy browsers did not support them. The slides are on Slideshare.

The unedited, raw screencast of my presentation is on YouTube (I say that because I made some mistakes in it – for example I bollocksed up the child selector explanation and one code example was missing a property):

This was the first time Jayway ran an event like this and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A good “after work” experience. Moar!

Reward my actions, please?

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

(this was first published on Medium, but kept here for future reference. Also, I know how to use bullet points here)

I remember the first time I used the web. I found these weird things that were words that were underlined. When I activated them, I went to a place that has content related to that word. I liked that. It meant that I didn’t have to disconnect, re-dial another number and connect there to get other content. It was interlinked content using a very simple tool.

My actions were rewarded. I clicked a link about kittens and I got information about kittens. I entered “what is the difference between an Indian and African elephant” in a search box, hit enter and got the information I needed after following another one of those underlined things.

Then the bad guys came. They wanted you to go where you didn’t plan to go and show you things you weren’t interested in but they got paid for showing you. This is how we got pop-ups, pop-unders, interstitials and in the worst case phishing sites.

Bad guys make links and submit buttons do things they were not meant to do. They give you something else than the thing you came for. They don’t reward you for your actions. They distract, redirect, misdirect and monitor you.

Fast forward to now. Browsers have popup blockers and malware filters. They tell you when a link looks dodgy. This is great.
However, the behaviour of the bad guys seems to become a modus operandi of good guys, too. Those who don’t think about me, but about their own needs and wants first.

More and more I find myself activating a link, submitting a form or even typing in a URL and I don’t get what I want. Instead I get all kind of nonsense I didn’t come for:

  • Please download our app
  • Please do other actions on our site
  • Please do these tasks that are super important to us but not related to what you are doing right now
  • Please use a different browser/resolution/device/religion/creed/gender

Granted, the latter is a bit over the top, but they all boil down to one thing:

You care more about yourself and bolstering some numbers you measure than about me, your user.

And this annoys me. Don’t do that. Be the good person that shows behind links and actions the stuff people came for. Show that first and foremost and in a very simple fashion. Then show some other things. I am much more likely to interact more with your product when I had a good experience than when I feel badgered by it to do more without ever reaching what I came for.

You want an example? OK. Here’s looking at you LinkedIn. I get an email from someone interesting who wants to connect with me. The job title is truncated, the company not named. Alright then — I touch the button in the email, the LinkedIn app pops up and I get the same shortened title of that person and still no company name. It needs another tap, a long spinner and loading to get that. I connect. Wahey.

Five minutes later, I think that I might as well say hi to that person. I go to the LinkedIn app, to “connections” and I’d expect new connections there, right? Wrong. I get a “People you may know” and a list of connections that has nothing to do with my last actions or new contacts. Frankly I don’t know why I see these people.

I understand you want me to interact with your product. Then let me interact. Don’t send me down a rabbit hole. Make my clicks count. Then I send you all my love and I am very happy to pay for your products.

You don’t lose users because you don’t tell them enough about other cool features you have. You lose them because you confuse them. Reward my actions and we can work together!