Stack Overflow’s Careers 2.0 Service is Not for SysAdmins or Related Disciplines

(This post was published too early on Jan 7th, 2014 in an incomplete form. If you already saw this post pop up in your feeds, or wherever you get this blog, it was only a draft. However, if you’re reading this, then you’ve got the final post and should probably re-read it to get the full story and conclusion. =) )

If you’re not at least somewhat aware of StackOverflow and StackExchange then none of this will make sense. In one sentence: StackOverflow is a Q/A site focused on developers’ questions and hopefully lucid answers to those questions. It is part of the larger StackExchange system of Q/A websites that exist to serve a host of wide ranging topics including things such as bicycles, photography, and Biblical Hermeneutics. How’s that for diversity?

So Just What is Careers 2.0?

Put simply: Careers 2.0 is StackOverflow’s job board. Businesses can pay a reasonable sum to float their open positions to a very high quality pool of talent. In my experience, the average position that is posted on Careers 2.0 is more technical, better articulated, and the company itself is more interesting than is typical for other job sites such as Dice, Monster, or Indeed (the latter is a conglomerate of other job boards).

Who is Careers 2.0’s Target Audience?

Aye now there’s the question, is it not? Over on ServerFault’s “meta” site (the part of each StackExchange site that is purely for self-governing and introspective information is called the “meta site”) there was a question raised by a long-time ServerFault contributor: “Why does the careers 2.0 site cater to programmers only?” That’s a very good question.

I am currently in the process of applying to and interviewing for sysadmin / devops positions. (Anyone need a sysadmin? Holla atcha boy!) In fact, I’ve used Careers 2.0 to find some very good opportunities and sit some great interviews. I am not a developer. I am a sysadmin.

However, the user dyasny brought up a good point in his ServerFault meta post:

…there are career postings for sysadmins all over the site, so the careers site should cater to sysadmins, right? Wrong. They want to know if I’m a real programmer in order to provide an invitation. […] So my question is – why? Why only programmers?

User Ben Voigt who is a very highly reputed user on StackOverflow responded with an answer to the original poster’s question. An answer that was not popular and had, at the time of this blog post, earned four downvotes and only one upvote. His post was simple and to the point:

As a sysadmin, it seems like you’re looking for the “Careers by ServerFault site” (which I don’t believe exists yet), not “Careers by StackOverflow”.

[…]

StackOverflow, and the associated job search site, are for programming skills only.

A simple statement. An axiom. A vigorous whack on the side of the ServerFault beehive. The responses in the comments were rather strident. User RobM (Previous recipient of a rubber duck for the last StackExchange challenge!) draws a line in the sand:

No. Just no. While there is an obvious emphasis on programming careers on careers.so site, it’s not solely for programmers (see careers.stackoverflow.com/jobs?searchTerm=sysadmin)… and even if you werecorrect, the whole point of @dyasny’s question is that it shouldn’t be solely orientated towards programmers. […]

This difference of opinion made me wonder… just what is the target audience for Careers 2.0? Can it be improved, changed, and broadened to better represent system administrators / system engineers / devops, etc? Maybe I shouldn’t be using it so prominently in my job search efforts?

Let’s take a deeper look for the benefit of us all.

A Critical Analysis of Careers 2.0

The best analysis of Careers 2.0 can be had by taking it at its own word. Let’s examine the home page of Careers 2.0 located at careers.stackoverflow.com:

The first thing we notice is that baked right into the logo is a direct connection with StackOverflow. Not StackExchange, the larger network of 80+ different Q/A sites. Nope, just StackOverflow, the site dedicated to developers. Okay, so that seems to scope us down, but not necessarily. Maybe StackOverflow was its sponsor, but it also welcomes other crafts and trades.

Next up on the page, a list of common keywords that are found in the site’s job postings:

Node.js – C# – ASP.NET – PHP – iPhone – CoffeeScript

Android – MongoDB – Python

Hmm, interesting. Of those things, only MongoDB would be something that a sysadmin would need to have prominent skills in. Well, Python too, perhaps. However, most of those sure seems like developer-centric keywords. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at the featured jobs that are on the home page today!

Wow. Software Studs and Studettes? Aside from being about as tacky as taxidermy jewelry, that’s not a sysadmin position. Neither is “Coding Genius” (tacky), “Developer at FUN/FAST Virtualization Provider” (Tacky), or “Full Stack Developer” (Tacky – because “full stack developer” is code for “You do everything because we don’t have the money to hire enough people.”)

Okay, well… this doesn’t make me feel so good. It appears that my skillset isn’t going to have an easy time finding any matching positions. Not one to give up easily, I’ll keep looking. Oh hey! Jobs near my location in Phoenix, Arizona!

Oh look! Engineering… Manager? Wellll, I guess that’s kinda close to my skillset, right? Engineering? Nope. The position was pure management, and the “engineers” were software engineers. Also, the position required many years of past experience as a developer. And the five other positions that are listed as being near me all have the words “Software” and/or “Developer” in them. Things aren’t looking terribly welcoming for my kind.

But hey! That’s merely the positions that have been posted! That doesn’t mean that system engineers aren’t welcome at all. It just means that there’s a plethora of development positions available that bubble up to the home page. It’s purely a matter of statistics, right?

And look! There are quotes from satisfied employers who used Careers 2.0 to find workers!

“Nerd Gold?” Okay, whatever. “We got experienced developers and also well-educated…” gulp “…developers.” Sad face.

You know what? Now I’m really curious. I wonder what the site looks like from the perspective of an employer. Maybe I’m missing who the site is being promoted to. Let’s go on over to the page made for employers to start at.

Well…

…I…

ಠ_ಠ

Okay, so this changes things. This is a defining statement. But hey, let’s keep reading (emphasis mine):

Post a Job Listing

  • 20+ million developers use Stack Overflow every month

Yes, but how many administrators?

Reach a dedicated community of professional developers and technologists

Oh! Oh! Okay, now we’re including “technologists” in the list. So for the first time in… ever, I’ve seen a mention of something other than a developer. But what exactly is a technologist? It’s defined in the sentence as something standing apart from a developer. The term is a very broad one, and the dictionary definition doesn’t explicitly include or exclude system administrators / engineer / devops, etc. In fact it’s so broad, its inclusion seems to add confusion rather than clarity.

$350 per 30-day programmer job listing (or less)

Aaaand now we’re back to specifically targeting programmers.

Search our Candidate Database

  • Search 125,000+ profiles of top developers, including 27,000 active and 97,000 passive candidates

Top developers? But no one else? Okay…

  • Filter by location, technology (C#, Linux, Ruby) or objectives (full-time, contract, remote, etc.)

Of the three example technologies, two are languages and one is an OS (I get it, it’s a kernel not an OS. Pedants be silenced!). While those two languages have roles to play in a SysAdmin’s life, typically you’d list them as prominent features for a developer. Add that to the already developer-centric text we’ve already encountered, and I’m not being soothed.

A little bit further down:

We have over 5,000 happy customers using our developer job board to hire programmers. Here’s what they have to say:

Well, there you have it folks. This is a developer job board and it’s used to hire programmers.

Further down:

Have more questions?

If you have questions about programmer job listings or how to hire developers, call our dedicated sales team at

So this site is all about programmer job listings and getting developers hired. So far we have had absolutely ZERO discussion about non-developers. (except for a very vague reference to the term “technologists” which is not an industry standard term within Information Technology, so there’s no telling what that term was meant to add support for. I suspect it was just an extraneous word to salt the sales talk a little bit.)

Hark! What did mine eye catch as I was looking over the web page? I see the page’s title in the browser tab:

“Hire Software Developers and Programmers – Stack Overflow Careers 2.0” I think I’m making the outcome of my critical analysis for the purpose of Careers 2.0 rather self evident.

To further lash the dearly departed equine, when one fills out their own profile for Careers 2.0, there are little nudges and reminders that the site is geared towards developers. You’re encouraged to add your GitHub, Codeplex, Google Code, BitBucket, and SourceForge accounts to show off what you’ve done. You’re encouraged to tell about any Open Source tools you’ve created or contributed to. To add links to any software you’ve developed, such as apps in an app store. Not things that necessarily exclude the larger population of SysAdmins with finality, but those are not-so-subtle hints that this isn’t a place that caters to SysAdmins (which is fine – I’ll address this in fulness later, but just know that I’m not complaining about the focus on developers).

You Beat That Horse! Beat it Good!

No! I refuse to give up! I’m forging ahead and continuing my examination of the focus of Careers 2.0! Any Good SysAdmin is a thorough forensic investigator, and I’m not going to leave many stones unturned! Let’s go straight to the about page (Once again, emphasis is mine):

Careers 2.0 matches great programmers on Stack Overflow with great jobs.

HNNNGGG!

Programmers create profiles highlighting their work on Stack Overflow, which gives employers an in-depth look at their expertise.

ლ(ಠ益ಠ)ლ

Employers search for programmers by location, objective, and skills, and screen them based on peer-reviewed work.

ᕙ(⇀‸↼‶)ᕗ

Programmers on Stack Overflow are selected for Careers 2.0 based on the quality of their peer-reviewed work.

ಥ╭╮ಥ

Employers and hiring managers search through programmers’ profiles by technology, location, and objectives. Currently there are 125,282 candidates interested in being contacted. Employers can also search through the public profiles of 15,201 top Stack Overflow users, and request to contact them.

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Each programmer fills out a profile based on their interests, experience, and education. They also select their favorite answers from Stack Overflow to highlight their great work, and they can link to blog posts, github repositories, and other URLs which showcase their professional credentials.

(ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻  ┬─┬ ┻━┻

Oh but wait! There’s a Careers 2.0 FAQ! Let us partake of it (once again emphasis is mine):

What is Careers 2.0? Careers 2.0 matches great programmers on Stack Overflow with great jobs.

OKAY I GET IT.

Why should I post my jobs to the Careers. 2.0 job board?

Because your jobs will be found by great programmers and can be featured on top programming sites on the internet. Job listings run on:

stackoverflow.com
serverfault.com
joelonsoftware.com

Programmers will also find you searching by job title, keyword, company name, and location.

This is just a little confusing. This is the first time that ServerFault is mentioned anywhere on the site, but it’s framed entirely by the topic of programming. No mention of a different skillset that focuses on operations.

How many people will see my job listings?

Careers 2.0 job listings reach over 20 million programmers across Stack Overflow.

Sounds of whimpering.

I’m not even going to go through the whole FAQ. Click to expand each answer and search the text. There are 20 mentions of programmers. Zero mentions of sysadmins, administrators, engineers, devops, webops, cloudops, buttscale, or wingdings.

At this point, I’m exhausted from weeping. I’d give you more examples, this time from the Careers 2.0 Blog, however I’ve already stained my desk with enough tears. Just know that I can’t find mention of systems administration, engineering, or devops on the first page of posts, and there are a lot of posts and words. It’s all about software development, programming, etc. and etc.

And in case you want some MOAR DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! here’s the official StackOverflow Careers Twitter account: https://twitter.com/StackCareers

WHO CARES YOU WHINING NINNY?!

I’m very glad you asked. Contrary to what you might be thinking, I am not butthurt. I am not a pouty sysadmin grousing about not being invited to the developer ball. The point of this post was twofold:

  1. To determine what Careers 2.0 is intended for so that I can use it better, or not use it at all.
  2. To suggest improvements and additions to the site to make it better.

So, let’s come to the conclusion of this analysis.

What is Careers 2.0 and Who is it For?

Careers 2.0 can be described best by its own words:

Careers 2.0 matches great programmers on Stack Overflow with great jobs.

Yet I can almost hear some exclaiming “But! But! But there are sysadmin positions on Careers 2.0 too!!” Yes, there are! Check out a search of the keyword sysadmin for a good start. Or maybe the ever popular, much overused, often misunderstood, frequently misapplied, and terribly divisive term “devops.”

However, nothing changes the fact that Careers 2.0 is self defined in dozens and dozens of cases as being a place for programmers to find development jobs. If there are any jobs that can be said to be within the sphere of a system administrator, they are out of place. The abuse of a thing does not define the thing being abused. Sysadmin positions are off topic on Careers 2.0, and if money wasn’t involved to the benefit of StackExchange, I would imagine that the off topic postings would be shooed away.

To reiterate, Careers 2.0 is not StackExchange’s version of Dice, Monster, CareerBuilder, LinkedIn’s Job Seeker features, or any other job board. Careers 2.0 is what it says it is, which is a place for programmers to find development jobs. And that’s just fine.

Can Careers 2.0 be Improved Upon?

This part is written especially for anyone that has any influence upon Careers 2.0 and / or StackExchange.

First, Careers 2.0 is awesome. Great companies typically frequent the site, and in many instances they “get it.” They understand the role that technology can play in fostering business, furthering goals, and making life easier. They understand that great talent needs great incentives, and employment packages on the site typically offer the kinds of things that great “technologists” want (I used that word!). Things like respectful pay, flex time, deliberately communicative environments, and a myriad of other perks.

However, Careers 2.0 is currently scoped down to just programmers / developers. While some “devops” and system administrator positions trickle in, I think those are nearly by accident and are flying under the radar and they are in spite of the very specific focus of Careers 2.0 being programmers only.

Second, I think Careers 2.0 could take its success with matching up great workplaces with great programmers and translate it more intentionally into the operations camp. As it stands, I’ve found many great operations positions through Careers 2.0, and applied to quite a few. However if it was more friendly to sysadmin people, I think you’d see the amount of positions skyrocket.

Perhaps it could be separate, like “Careers 2.0 by ServerFault”, or just a re-vamping of Careers 2.0 to specifically add mention of and catering to the operations side of things. I’m not sure, and I won’t pretend to know what’s best in that regard. However I do believe it could benefit the sysadmin community and StackExchange as a business if the Careers 2.0 platform more intentionally courted the operations camp.

Finnito

Have you found a job through Careers 2.0? What was your experience? Do you know of any other gem job boards that focus on operations?

Furthermore, you might want to vindicate Ben Voigt’s answer and upvote it. Maybe if we get enough productive discussion on the topic, we could add some value for operations people to Careers 2.0

Do you have a Careers 2.0 profile? If not, and you want an invite, I’ve got some invites that I can send out, however you have to promise to fill out your profile because invites only regenerate if an invited person fills their profile out. Let me know in the comments below.

7 Comments

  1. Mark Henderson

    January 8, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    td;dr.

    But the disdain that the SF has for the wider SE community I’m surprised that SE hasn’t just set us adrift. I brought sort of SO-centric attitude years and years ago. I was doing it before it was cool; 2010 in fact: http://meta.serverfault.com/q/165/7709

    SO is their money maker. I don’t blame them for putting all their efforts into it.

    Reply

    • voretaq7

      January 8, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      That’s basically the rub: Careers makes its money from Stack Overflow’s shadow, because StackOverflow is THE brand of Stack Exchange.

      A developer with high Stack Overflow reputation probably knows their stuff, and is therefore a valuable resource.

      To be fair the same could be said for Server Fault users with high rep (the correlation between high SF rep and knowledgeable sysadmin is pretty darn high in my experience), but we’re an infinitesimal drop in an ocean compared to Stack Overflow. Building a custom Server Fault careers site – even just forking the code – probably doesn’t make sense (how many high-rep SF users are looking for work? Would it offset the not-really-professional crowd that would flood the site offering cheap, albeit destructive, labor?)

      Now that said, I have a careers profile (and 5 invites, so if anyone wants one let me know). I don’t think it’s a BAD job site for sysadmins.
      Were I looking I don’t think I’d be likely to find a job through Careers.SO though – the sysadmin jobs on the site aren’t that numerous, and few come close to macthing my skill set or interests.
      And I’m OK with that – I’m a very tiny corner nipped off the side of their target market (a sysadmin who used to be a programmer) – I can’t expect great things.

      Reply

    • Wesley David

      January 8, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      Yeah, I’m not keen on the genuine bad will that seems to have developed, even though I tease with the sentiment for jokes. I don’t blame them at all either, but I think it could be made better and be one of the few, if not the only, solid place on the internet to find great ops jobs.

      Reply

  2. freiheit

    January 10, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I’d love if the “Top 20% [SO] for [tag:linux] [tag:unix]” thing at the top of a profile could also pull the same thing for SF tags, while visually indicating it’s from SF instead of SO.

    Reply

  3. […] yes, before anyone says it, I did write a post titled “Stack Overflow’s Careers 2.0 Service is Not for SysAdmins or Related Disciplines” but before you get too confused, let me explain. The findings of my post were that Careers […]

    Reply

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