I, Patrick, have been working, in various capacities, in software development for more than 17 years. During that time I have performed the roles of Project Manager, Team Lead, and Senior Software Engineer. Over the years I have reviewed countless resumes and participated in an equally countless number of technical interviews.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to review the resume of James Pendleton of Sahuarita, AZ who, according to that resume, has also played the roles of Software Engineer and Project Manager.
At fist glance, the resume looks pretty impressive. Good job titles, good career progression. Impressive amount of technical details.
But as we look closer, things begin to get a little disconcerting.
To cut right to the chase: this resume makes it abundantly clear that Pendleton, for the most part, has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. In short, if this resume were to come across my desk, it would certainly end up in the “don’t call” stack. Following is an explanation of exactly why, and how an astute reviewer would come to the conclusion Pendleton has little knowledge of what he is saying.
Public Disclosure of Security Clearance
Toward the bottom of Pendleton’s online, public resume he openly states that he currently holds Top Secret/SCI security clearance. This is very troubling.
As a general rule, people with active security clearance should never advertise that fact to people who do not have such clearance. And, without question, they should never publicly advertise the fact that they currently hold Top Secret/SCI level clearance.
The reason for this is that it can be presumed, if a person has such high security clearance then they also have access to classified and/or very sensitive information. Information which so-called “undesirables” may be very interested in acquiring. In other words, publicly advertising that you hold active Top Secret/SCI clearance is essentially putting a target on your back for anyone who might seek to exploit that from you – be it terrorists, “enemies of the state”, or common criminals looking to capitalize on the trading of such information.
Any person holding a security clearance, now or in the past, who publicly advertises that fact should immediately lose that clearance and be barred from obtaining it in the future.
And, even if they were not to lose their clearance, such a person should never be trusted with classified, secret, or sensitive information. They have already proven, by advertising their clearance level, that they are willing to release sensitive information for their own gain.
Too Many Skills
At first, I was impressed by the breadth of Pendleton’s technical skills and experience. The first thing I noticed is significant experience with C, C++, C#, and Java!
Being a C++ person myself, I’m always impressed by someone who is able to master and actually be good at developing in both C/C++ AND Java. Partially because such people just don’t exist! The two (or three, if you want to keep C and C++ separate) languages are at completely separate ends of the spectrum. They are so different from a philosophical perspective that they both require very different approaches to resolving the same problems.
Having looked at so many resumes where candidates claimed to have extensive capabilities with both languages, then interviewing those candidates only to find out either: a) they’re proficient with Java and incompetent with C++; or b) they’re competent with C++ but know nothing about Java beyond the core language; I am extremely skeptical of any resume claiming comparable strength in both languages.
When you consider the resume also claims experience with, and knowledge of C#, J2EE, and various assembly languages, you begin to get the impression that Pendleton is really just trying to put as many buzzwords on the resume as possible in order to improve the chances of it coming up in a search.
Moreover, the grouping of “languages” like AJAX, XML, and HTML, together with actual programming languages like C, C++, and Java also gives the impression Pendleton doesn’t really understand what a “programming language” is. Certainly no competent Software Engineer would consider HTML a “programming language”.
My experience has been people who claim to know as many languages as possible usually have very little competence with any of them. These are the people that try to know just enough about something to convince themselves it’s okay to put it on their resume.
Java Enterprise Edition (JEE)
The use of the terms “J2EE” and “J2ME” is also an indication of incompetence – or at least of being about 9 years out of date. Sun (now Oracle) discontinued the use of the term “J2EE”, in favor of “JEE”, in 2006. Since the first job listed on Pendleton’s resume was in 2005, we can assume he graduated around that time. Therefore, throughout his entire professional career, there has not been a “J2EE”. The same observation applies to Pendleton’s use of the term “J2ME”, which was rebranded as “JME” around the same time.
I’m not usually concerned when I hear old timers, like myself, use an outdated name or term – then it’s usually just out of habit. But when a person uses a name or term which has not been in use since before they entered the market, for almost 10 years, it’s usually an indication they have no idea what they’re talking about.
Including CVS in the “Skills” section seems interesting to me. I was not aware that anybody actually still used CVS – not since the late 90’s, anyway. I would think, since the resume seems to focus more on listing buzzwords, rather than providing useful information to an interviewer, it would have been better to include git.
Much like the C++/Java issues mentioned above, operating systems tend to have certain strengths which attract certain mind-sets. For example, I have never encountered a developer who likes both Unix (including Linux) and Windows. The two systems are, again, at polar ends of the spectrum. Developers who like Unix/Linux are typically people who like power, control, and flexibility, and are willing to put some effort into learning the system. Developers who like Windows are usually people who have never used any other system.
So, when we see a resume which lists many different operating systems, we’re likely, again, looking at someone who is just trying to ensure the resume gets found in a keyword search.
And, again, just as with the dated use of the terms J2EE and J2ME, the presence of DOS and Windows 3.1 seems very peculiar for someone who began professional software development in 2005. DOS/Windows 3.1 dates back to the early/mid 90s. Even aside from it being a little unbelievable, since it was about 10 years before his time, there is the question of what relevance it would have on a resume today.
There is one more point about operating systems, which should lead the reader to conclude Pendleton has no idea what he is talking about: The listing of specific Linux distributions. Every Linux developer knows that “Linux” is a kernel and only a kernel. A distribution is all of the additional software and tools which a given vendor may package as a bundle. From a development perspective, the distribution is entirely irrelevant. An experienced Linux developer would know that it is sufficient to just say “Linux”.
Transition from Engineering to Management
As unlikely as it is you will ever encounter someone who is very good with both C++ and Java, it is even more unlikely you will ever encounter someone who is good at engineering AND management!
This is another area where the to are so radically different and require such fundamentally different philosophies and approaches that it is almost impossible for one mind to do well at both.
The naive person will argue they’re not that different because they both deal with solving problems. However, the nature, the crux of the problems to be solved, and the ways the problems can be solved; the approaches that can be used to solve the problems are fundamentally different – in fact, they are often entirely opposed.
Engineering deals with “rational” problem solving. Management deals with “fuzzy”, “human” problem solving. That is, most of the problems a manager must deal with are either man made (artificial), or require “motivating” humans in order to accomplish some objective.
Typically, those engineers that transition to management do so because they’re not very good engineers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that their thought processes are not well suited to addressing the rational problems of engineering.
According to Pendleton’s resume, he transitioned from engineer to manager in 2012. So, either he wasn’t a very good engineer and it took him 7 years to realize that; or, he was a good engineer who is now a poor manager. Given the questionable technical skills and experience (see above) listed on the resume, it is more likely he was not a very competent engineer and was transitioned to management because it was believed he would be more useful in that capacity.
When we take a closer look at the specific descriptions of his managerial positions, though, things seem, again, questionable. For example, as the Sr. Technical Project Manager, at Apollo Education Group, the points listed under “Skills Used” give the distinct impression Pendleton has never actually managed a project. In particular:
- he lists “Requirements Gathering” and “Requirements Analysis” as two separate points (though, right next to each other, so it’s not likely a typo). A project manager should know that “Requirements Gathering” is part of “Requirements Analysis”.
- a number of the points should be considered too obvious, given the job title, to list explicitly. For example, “identifying and mitigating potential risks”, “aligning personnel, and resources…”, and “improving customer/business relations”.
The absence of any mention of any involvement in the interviewing and/or hiring process is indicative of a lack of actual experience. Human resource management is, after all, one of the most significant aspects of a managerial role.
Too Many, Short Periods of Employment
I would also be concerned about the frequency with which Pendleton changes jobs.
You don’t want a high turnover amongst your senior engineers and your managers because the cost of replacing them can be very significant.
Looking at Pendleton’s resume, I see that he has rarely been with one company for more than 2 years. Most of his positions have been less than a year. The period from 2006 to 2008 is described as “independent” – presumably, that would mean “unemployed”. Though that, in itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Too Many Typos and Errors
A person’s resume is a reflection of themselves and of the quality of work an employer can expect from them.
A resume with a significant number of typos (including incorrect use of case, e.g. “J2ee” which should be “J2EE”) is probably a very strong indication that that person will make just as many, if not more, errors in their day to day work. When you consider that the person posted that resume on a public forum, never bothered to proofread it, and never bothered to go back and correct those errors – you really can’t expect too much from them as an employee.
It has been my experience the software designs and the source code contributed by someone who has a resume with a large number of typos generally has a corresponding amount of bugs. The management by such a person will likewise contain a comparable number of oversights.
Aside from the many insights Pendleton’s resume provides about what you might expect from his work, you may also want to consider the very website you’re reading this article on.
While we are supposed to believe you should not hire a person based on the choices they make in their personal life, well, that’s just not very realistic. For example, a person who is a chronic drug user – a drug addict, even – is likely to be much less reliable, do much lower quality work, and miss much more work than someone who is not a drug addict. At the same time, a person who cohabits with a drug addict is much more likely to be a drug addict (or at least a drug user) himself, than someone who is not in an intimate relationship with a drug addict.
I’m certainly not saying James is a drug addict (I don’t have proof of that yet). But he does cohabit with a known and admitted drug addict (Desiree Capuano). Not an official reason not to hire somebody, but something I, as an employer, would keep in mind when considering candidates for employment.