Finding that dream tech job

Startups are looking to hire, assuming you know what they’re looking for

Anyone who lived through the dot-bomb implosion in the early Aughties has probably developed a healthy dose of skepticism -- especially about all those caffeine-fueled high-tech jobs that shriveled up when the tech downturn hit. After the great bust, many techies began looking for more down-to-earth opportunities, namely opportunities that led to solid jobs with companies that were likely to still be in business a few years down the road. New worlds to conquer, stock options that could vault one into the eight-figure income bracket, high excitement? Thanks, but no thanks.

Well, guess what? It's 1999 all over again, and startups are springing up faster than vulnerabilities in a Windows app. Unlike last time, many of these new companies have credible business models plus low overhead, even lower development costs (thanks to commodity hardware, Web 2.0 technologies, and open source) and a thrifty approach to spending. Those attributes should give them legs, even when the inevitable economic crunch descends. So there are suddenly some great jobs to be had, and we've got a practical guide on how to get them: How to get hired by a hot startup, by Contributing Editor Bill Snyder.

In researching the story, Snyder heard one message over and over again: that managers are looking to hire techies with business chops. "That's not to say you don't need hard programming skills," notes Snyder. "But those are just your ante; a lot of people have them." Possibly as a response to excesses of the past, today's startups are lean, and their employees must be capable of wearing many hats. At this new breed of startup, "engineers often need to go out on sales calls," says Snyder. "Software is complicated stuff, involving business processes that need to be understood from both a business and a software-implementation perspective. Who could be better than an engineer at explaining that complexity to laypeople?" he asks.

Bill was surprised at the way his subjects' excitement and optimism rubbed off on him. "Typically, when I go out on a reporting assignment, after four hours of interviews, I'm exhausted," he says. "This time, that didn't happen. These people are enthusiastic about their jobs, about where software and business are going, and about their prospects. That energy level is contagious."

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