Perspective on disability requested

One of you sent me this today, which was pretty useful in keeping up moral. Software Engineer Gets Job After 357 Rejections, 6-Month Hunt

At the same time, I have been rejected WAY more than her and I am more qualified. So, I may need to say some things very directly in order to start a conversation with myself about the challenges that may or may not be confronting me. Feedback on my thought process is appreciated, even if its harsh. Being ‘nice’ is not the same as being ‘kind.’ Often its much kinder to just be honest (at the risk of hurting feelings) with people so they can troubleshoot. I learned that through many conversations with people about disability.

After being rejected this many times, I can see patterns.

1.) The first time my interviewer is a non-American born male developer, I get cut. That might be on the first interview, or it might be on the seventh. That’s a big problem because the industry is filled with non-American born males. That’s not to say that American men and women don’t cut me, too. But, they sometimes give me a chance. I drum up a lot of interest from female recruiters (especially ones with medical conditions). I get occasional interest from male and/or foreign-born recruiters. The most exploitative offer (an offer that was less than $3.00 an hour) came from an American dude recruiting on behalf of UHG.

What’s up with this?
1.) Foreign perspectives on illness are VERY different than American ones.

1a.) I had to monetize disability in order to convince anyone to talk to me.
I don’t think that this was unethical and do not believe there is anything false in what I’m selling. Given the option, I would only work with people with disability. I find higher levels of empathy, more tendency to collaborate, less rigidity, more experience with out of the box problem solving, greater ability to put things in perspective, and higher work ethic among people with disability than in the general population. I find people with disability (and those who advocate for them) ‘likeable.’

1b.) I find really difficult perspectives on health and illness among (not ALL, but the vast majority of) foreign born individuals in software. There can be an enormous cultural divide here that just can’t be overcome. It regularly hits me in the face like a brick wall and it is always awful. A brick wall will manifest towards me in a few different ways, in general. 1.) They see no benefit in my experience with healthcare; 2.) They see no benefit in hiring a woman. They don’t want to work with a woman and their behavior is hostile and asinine in ways that I have never experienced outside of a software development context.

1c.) It took me ten years to monetize diabetes. That was never my intention. It just happened because it was such a large part of my life experience and I did so much work surrounding diabetes and work with other people’s chronic illness. I explored it in depth, which led to an interest in discussing illness through art, which led to communicating through writing, and talking to people in healthcare and technology. I recently applied to a State art grant to explore what’s going on with everybody’s relationship to health and illness. It all just merges together somehow over time into one, big overall goal.

I will never be able to monetize epilepsy. I’m super uncomfortable talking about it directly because I feel like its more exploitable than diabetes - especially in a software context. For example, you see attacks like this somewhat regularly. Epilepsy Foundation Says Hackers Posted Seizure-Causing GIFs To Twitter Account | HuffPost Latest News

I can see the moment during a technical interview when an interviewer says to himself, “This person doesn’t think like I do. This person is stupid.” I have no strategy or mechanism for dealing with this inevitable moment. Because there are some broken bits in my brain, I DO think differently than other people. They can sense deficiency related to the fact that I can’t add or subtract in my head and that my memory recall is poor. They don’t know what causes that deficiency, but they see it and they cut me immediately.

In real life, I have lots of strategies to deal with that deficiency and don’t find it to be a problem. I know how to turn that deficiency into a benefit and safeguard against it causing me harm in day to day life. But those tools aren’t applicable and they don’t work in an interview setting. I simply do not think like the others.

I’ve seen classmates with other disabilities than I hit the brick wall, but we were able to work as a team and get them through the door. Once we all kicked down that wall to entry, they did exceptionally well in the job, as I knew they would. People just have to get through the door.

No matter what I do or accomplish, I don’t seem to be able to get through the door. I don’t know how much of this is attributable to disability and how to not internalize it any longer. https://www.linkedin.com/in/mortensenheather/

I will never drive an ambulance with flashing lights. I would never attempt to because of the risks involved. Maybe I didn’t fully see the risks of attempting a career in software. I thought software was ‘safe’ for me to do. Its not as safe as I imagined. I don’t think of myself as very disabled. I think of myself as the opposite of that. But I see the obstacles.

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You’re in a tough spot. I remember how vulnerable I felt when set out to find work after spending two years in a technical school to pick up an employable skill when I was 30 years old. That was 38 years ago!

My biggest challenge at the time was the fact the economy was in the dumps and most companies were just not hiring. The ones who were, paid very low wages.

Looking back, I can now appreciate that my edge to gaining a job back then was the fact that I was white, male, and no criminal record. My recent training certainly helped but the fact that I looked liked the interviewers allowed me to get past that initial screening and get them to look at my abilities and credentials.

What I’m trying to say is that I empathize with what you face in this unfair cultural situation. I don’t have many suggestions but I can think of a few.

Have you thought about a volunteer gig that would allow you to showcase what you can do and give you time to create a few allies “on the inside”?

Is there any way you could freelance, writing code for example, that will allow your work to speak for you instead of the more subjective features of your demographic?

How about another year at school? Maybe an intensive code writing curriculum might help.

Hard problems are often solved by going around the barrier instead of trying to jump over it.

My last idea is finding a coach to help you in this challenge. Sometimes someone else can help reframe your strengths and weaknesses so that you can polish off a few rough edges that are not working for you.

I recently watched a video of Tesla CEO, Elon Musk. He was talking about finding the right talent to staff his burgeoning businesses. He wondered out loud if his company’s namesake, Nikola Tesla, applied to work for his firm today, if he would be hired. He left the impression that he doesn’t think his company would hire that engineering genius today.

I feel for you. Life can be hard and this is a puzzle that you do need to solve. You can do it, but perhaps only by taking some unusual path.

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Over about the last decade of my working career I formed an impression that large corporations tend to bring out the inner sociopath in their middle managers (the ones that do the hiring). You are just a number to them, a line on a spreadsheet. The bottom line is the only thing they care about. Unfortunately I don’t have any red hot ideas to get one of those jack a**es to hire you. They are part of the system and the system hires the person they can make the most short term profit from.

If there are any small businesses, local government agencies, smallish non profits etc that would have a job for you, I’d recommend a full court press for one or more of those. Focused effort towards a smaller batch of potential jobs would probably work out better than the hundreds of applications. These efforts might uncover some hiring managers who will be more fair in their dealings with you, and might uncover some volunteer opportunities as suggested by @Terry4.

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This.

I would highly suggest you look into your local library, community college, or even YouTube “University”. Resume/interview education is actually a hot topic in just about every single community, and there are cheap and/or free resources for anyone who’s willing to look for them.

The reality is, no disability should be a topic of discussion in a job interview. That’s not what you want them to remember you for. I know that’s hard, because it’s such an integral part of our lives, but it’s not the right time or place to disclose this facet of your life. You need them to remember you for characteristics directly related to doing the job well. Days after the interview, when they’re looking at stacks of interviewee resumes and deciding who to cut, you do not want to be remembered as “the sick lady who talked about her struggles.” You want to be remembered as “the confident lady who really wowed my socks off.”

The HR people have most likely already vetted for basic qualifications and any serious red flags. By the time you get to the interview phase, they’re looking to see what sets you apart from the others, judge the finer points of your skill set, if you can improve production/profits… And largely, how you fit into the peer group and company dynamic. It’s your job to be healthy, lively, likable, and unwaveringly prove you can do the job well while fitting right in. I’m sorry, but highlighting an illness (or illnesses) doesn’t do any of that. It’s irrelevant to the job. Every moment you spend talking about a potential weakness is a moment you waste selling your strengths.

Job interview are Darwinism at it’s finest. Survival of the fittest, in all it’s definitions. They’re looking for the absolute best in the pool of interviewees. Anyone who’s perceived as sickly, slow, or weak get eaten! I mean that a little tongue-in-cheek, but it’s true. It’s illegal to not hire someone because of a disability, but it’s certainly not a selling point. They’re completely irrelevant until you bring them into the conversation. All things created equal between candidates, the more likeable one gets hired. Just because you can personally emphasize with those people, doesn’t mean you should ever expect someone else to like that about you. In many cases, all it’s going to do is demonstrate how different you are from them, which is difficult for many people.

If it’s really important to you, and so much so that you wouldn’t want to work anywhere that doesn’t fully accept this part of your life, then I would limit talking about diabetes to just ONE single point. And I would wait for the right moment to open that door. And only open that door if you can demonstrate relevance to the job. Such as, if they ask you about a favorite piece of software you use, you could say how much CGM analytics have helped you modify your treatment and improve your quality of life. That thanks to this, recent studies show Type 1 diabetics are living longer, healthier lives than our non-diabetic counterparts. Phrasing it like that paints the picture of health and vigor so you can better serve the company’s agenda. This may spark interest and more questions from the interviewer. If not, let it go. If it does, you have to be exceptionally careful not to mope and bemoan the hardships. Nobody wants to hire a Debbie Downer. Only talk about it as much as you can spin positivity into it. And if they never ask a question in which you can tie your diabetes into an answer relevant to the job… Let it go.

There’s an art to interviewing, and it applies to both sides of the desk. There’s no promise that the person doing the interviewing will be good at it, or ask the right questions. The aforementioned education will help you learn to gently guide the interview or bend your answers to a more positive light. They’ll teach you how to sell yourself with every answer. They’ll teach you subtle tricks to make the interviewer think you’re a peer that fits right in. But most importantly, you’ll get to practice with others who can give you feedback, so you can modify your behavior. Something you seldom get from a real interview.

If nothing else, at least pick up a book of common interview questions and practice. Practice specific to the company/job you’re applying for. You should research the company and the interviewer first, so you go in confident and prepared with solid answers ready to fire. I would suggest writing your practice answers down so you can go back and review them later with fresh eyes. You want to eliminate anything negative as much as possible.

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Would you guys mind taking a look at my resume?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/mortensenheather/
I think the illness stuff is why I get interviews with Mayo and Tesla’s competitors.

I’m worried the epilepsy stuff is getting me cut from technical interviews and I don’t know how to change that. I do fine if its a project that I work on during my own time over a week, but if they want me to do technical problem solving and hold an interview conversation at the same time, I can’t do it. Its like reading a book while simultaneously singing a song. I just go blank. @MM1, Do you think this is an indication that my brain is broken? Or, is this just a goofy interview methodology?

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@mohe0001, you’ve had some great recommendations above. But I, as an older woman whose work experience started during an era when women were viewed as handicapped in the workspace for just being women, will give you my point of view.

My first job in the U.S. was quite an experience. I applied to and was hired by a major corporation to work for a vice president of their international division. I had 4 fluent languages to offer. After the first week, I found out to my horror that I was getting paid much less than any of the others working in comparable jobs but without the requirement of anything other than English. It was then that I decided I would never work for corporate America again and eventually went into business for myself.

My suggestion to you is to find something that you can do on your own. Look around you in this climate of dying small businesses and see where there is a need, then fill it. You will be your own boss and no one will judge you except you yourself. Networking with others in your field is a big plus.

I know that I have not made a concrete suggestion. But sometimes looking sideways shows you a better path.

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I think Mayo would hire me, @Willow4. They have interviewed me a ton before I graduated school. A really nice engineer there helped get me in the door to explore it further. We did a little work together. At that time, it was my dream to work there. I eventually worked for/with an Indian man on a special project at Mayo. He turned me from a technical lead on the project into a secretary and wouldn’t allow me to speak in meetings or do development. He teamed up with a Russian. Things got worse and worse. The amount of cooperate sociopathy was so great that it crushed my very soul and it will be years before I ever consider working with them again. The Mayo was supposed to be the White Night in town against all the bad eggs. That experience crushed my very soul. Working with the bad eggs is like getting transported back in time 100 years. I’ve never seen anything like this until entering software. I think its because American guys aren’t like that.

The Indian gentleman pocketed the entire sum of money that we won during a competition. His ethics were very, very poor. I had to call him up and yell at him like he was some dirt bag construction dude who neglected to pay me for work that I already did. I had to make viable threats in order for him to send the check. He got the wrong idea about me because I have a face like a baby garden gnome.

No one in town would try something like that with me. He was a fool. They were all fools. For some reason, I assumed that software would be more professional than construction. Perhaps I was a fool, too. American women were fuming there and some reached out. They recognized there was bad business going on. But, I don’t know what anybody can do about it. I don’t do anything.

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@mohe0001, for some reason corporations like to hire fools. And fools like to wield power. You had a very bad experience. Make a good experience happen for yourself. Software developers have big opportunities for innovation. Can you develop a game? Lots of money in that. You can do that while you are waiting for corporate America to recognizer you. And, if successful, you won’t need them at all.

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The medics used to say, “Never give power to someone who wants it.” They would never put someone into management who wanted to be a manager.

The man who declared himself leader at the Mayo was that guy. He would have killed people to get to the top. Sometimes he would brag and told stories about how many kids at his school committed suicide and how he was able to get to the top instead of them. Those stories made my hair stand on end. He was a creepy dude.

No one did any actual work except me. They were just drumming up fear about employee safety among middle management in order to inspire support for the project. They were doing a creepy, exploitative Safety Dance that benefited no one but themselves as individuals. They didn’t do any actual thinking about how to improve safety, so I lost interest. It was very depressing. I wish I had never gotten involved. Their motives were ugly. I gave up on them all eventually and declared this the theme song of our project.

Is Healthcare for me? I really have doubts about that after the Mayo project. I take it seriously if people live or die. Maybe there’s no place for me in healthcare because of that.

Can’t answer that, but I have little experience in this area since my last interviews were in early 80s, and IT jobs meant using punch cards! Some of my first assignments were using a ‘mainframe’ spreadsheet program before Lotus 123.

I recently retired after 28+ years with same company, and lived through many IT transitions with PCs, Cobol, PL1, and ERP systems. (I missed the punch cards era, though they were still in use at company). I have no idea how I would do in an interview now.

I would suggest looking into something like this

To get advice on techniques or accommodations you could request during interview process.

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I have hired many dozens of people in my life. I think your resume needs updating. The resume you present would make me wonder if you would fit in the places i have worked. Which has never included a software shop. So I might be way off base. To that end i suggest getting a career person at a university you have attended, to look over the resume and give advice about how to make it more modern and approachable.

Just a thought.

rick

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I worked doing software development at three different computer hardware companies over the last forty years. I agree with Phil that your resume needs work. It does not read “nerd” to me. My opinion is that if you want to be a programmer, then your resume needs to focus on your programming skills, experience, and goals. Just as one example (but there are more), maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see what programming languages you have learned and used. If you don’t have work experience with a programming language, then your educational experience with it/them would suffice. But it needs to be there, because that’s what nerds do.

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Hey @mohe0001 , I haven’t ever had to interview for a job since I have worked for my family my whole life but I have applied for volunteer positions and I am a terrible interviewee. If the position doesn’t require an interview I not only get the position but am able to work well within the project/s and bring my unique experience/perspective to the table.

Have you considered just being self employed? Build an app with ads, become a social media manager, build websites, affiliate marketing, etc.

Is beyondtype1 hiring for any software positions? :wink:

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Yeah, I see your point. It’s hard to notice/parse out the technical skills section on LinkedIn and I took that part out of the cover letter. I’ll add it back in. Some people really liked a skill summary on the cover letter. (Its in the formal resume.) LinkedIn is not the best interface. I find it confusing.

I need to carefully read through everybody’s comments again and implement new strategies. I’m getting interviews for positions that are WAY over my head/experience level, or WAY under. That could just be market upset.

This is pretty darn hard. You really need a team of people with different specialties - you need web developers, security dudes, backend developers, front end developers, integrators, business analysts, etc. Groups of people with a lot of experience & connections & money sometimes do this.

You can’t just build something, release it into the wild, and walk away because its like a living breathing thing that needs to be maintained all the time. That requires a HUGE amount of money and time.

LOL. I’ll check.

Think of web apps as if you built a Frankenstein. Things always go wrong with it - its breaking all the time. If you don’t keep really close controls of it, it goes out and starts murdering other things on the internet and becomes a public nuisance that can get you sued. Its dangerous. "It's Alive!!!" - YouTube

Anything you can build, as an individual, someone else can build cheaper/easier/better with a team/company, so there’s not much financial incentive for someone to pay YOU. Its very difficult and expensive to file IP (Intellectual Property) to protect it. If the Mayo Clinic ever files for IP (they won’t), I get kickback $. They would use most of the revenue they received to fund patient care. The VAST majority of money would go to people other than developers. If I got some small portion of IP rights, that might be a small amount of money I get. Mayo would keep the vast majority because its so expensive and difficult (and high risk) to file a patent.

Thanks you all for helping.

I think I’m gonna stand (like a bum) on the street in strategic locations with a cardboard sign that reads, “Dev for hire. Will work for food or experience.” I’ll have a hat for people to throw coins into. They will laugh. They know what industry is like. It will also give me a chance to size them up.

I think I’m shopping for an American shop. Chinese only hire other Chinese. Indians hire Indians. I need a shop that’s full of American dudes. If a friendly American says something like, “Most of our developers are from China and I think you would be good for them,” that’s an indication to run. There are insurmountable difficulties brewing.

Very good advice Phil. Most universities have career offices that former students can access.

@mohe0001 the one item I would strike immediately from your resume is “I’ve run out of things to fix and explore.” This is never the case in any organization and is an immediate turn off for recruiters. I would flip that and talk about your initiative and innovation in combination with your skills.

Good Luck!!

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Hehehehe, Jim. I added that yesterday because I’m getting frustrated. I’m tired of working for free.

I was the only software grad student to utilize those services. There wasn’t much of value there because they weren’t familiar with industry. They don’t do that stuff anymore. My school sees a surplus of candidates in my field, so they have stopped teaching programming. I called the U of MN yesterday. There used to be a 6 month waiting list and you could pay around $1,000 for career services. They won’t offer that anymore, except to current students.

I don’t have any problems getting interviews. I often make it through 7 interviews and then get cut on the final one. Probably, I should have taken one of the previous job offers instead of foregoing that to do research. Typically, when recruiters reach out, they have already done initial vetting.

The female recruiters say that the problem is not a lack of education. They say more education does nothing to help me (unless maybe I need to change fields…again). They say that I already have too much education.

I don’t know. Thanks for helping me think it over. Its hard to see the forest through the trees. Now that covid is over, perhaps I could move and escape all the Medtronic and UHG recruiters. Those aren’t a good fit.

Generally, your interviewing with at least five different companies at a time. (I often have no idea what company I am talking to, or what they build because it doesn’t seem to matter).

Each company might do 6 interviews (sometimes more).

So, you fit as many interviews into the week as you can and the process last around 6 weeks for each company. Some people put technical interviews upfront and some people put them at the end of the process. They can ask you anything about anything that you have ever learned AND you MUST be able to answer without a long pause. I’ve been asked, “Beetles or Stones.” I’ve been asked questions, like "Write code to put all the words in this sentence, individually, in alphabetical order. My last one was a take home where they asked the following. The American said I passed and scheduled another interview with Russians. The Russians said I didn’t pass. So, you start the whole process over again. Every entry to mid level programmer I know has been doing that full time for 2 years.

"Create an automation project using Python, C#, Java or Kotlin that has both web and api test cases. The project should be in Github and available to VP interviewers to review before the technical interview.

The candidate will use Pet Swagger and automate the following requirements:

Requirements:

  • Create a new pet and add a picture to it
  • Search for new pet and similar pets
  • Validate the user can expand and collapse the rest method sections that provide endpoint information on the website"

Its like doing a 60 hour work week, but never getting paid. Everybody has done it. Everyone finds a different kink in the system in order to get through the door. Some people kill themselves during the process, so you gotta make a concerted effort to find those kids jobs quick (which I have done a number of times).