Wanted: One developer / sysadmin / masochist

Penny Arcade gets points for honesty in their recent job posting, but not much else

overworked-290x218_0.jpgImage credit: flickr/Paul Lowry
This could be you!

There’s been some interesting discussion in the developer community in the last week over a recent job posting by Penny Arcade. Penny Arcade (PA) is a popular webcomic based on the world of video gaming that has spawned a small empire of associated products, websites and even a reality show. Last week, PA President of Operations and Business Development Robert Khoo posted a job listing on LinkedIn for a Web/Software Developer & Sysadmin that lays out a job with a whole lot of responsibilities and seemingly not alot by way of compensation. Some of the highlights of the posting:

"We are quite literally looking for a person that can do four jobs: Web Development, Software Development, Sys Admin, and the (dreaded) GENERAL IT...."

"Flexibility to travel up to 30% of the time."

"...if something breaks in the middle of the night, you are expected to be on call to address that issue 24/7."

"We’re terrible at work-life balance."

"...you should know up front we’re not a terribly money-motivated group. We’re more likely to spend less money on salary and invest that on making your day-to-day life at work better."

Sounds great, right?

Not surprisingly, given the high profile of the company, it quickly generated a lot of strong responses from developers. Quite a few found the listing downright offensive in how blatantly they advertised a job which sounds, well, crummy.

"This is everything wrong with tech-startup culture, unreasonable expectations, and workaholism in one job posting...." Marco Arment
"Only someone desperately looking for work and having relatively low skills would willingly take this job, assuming he's not an idiot." VexXtreme
"Suggesting the job will be shitty and low paid seems to be a great way to filter out competent applicants." Tloewald

Some, though, gave PA and Khoo points for honesty, at least.

"...it seems to avoid the typical grinning-HR-guy-speak and sounds more like they're being honest about things. This clearly isn't the job for everybody..., but there are plenty of people out there who ... would be willing to work hard to be in a cool environment with cool people." snogglethorpe

Interestingly, the man who currently holds the job, Kenneth Kuan, weighed in on it with a detailed post describing his experience in the position and working for PA. He related how he was leaving not because he’s unhappy but because he's pursuing a career in teaching. He described the job and the company as being a good fit for him.

"I have never, ever felt uncomfortable, abused, or taken advantage of. People seem to disregard this notion of a 'work family', and it is certainly abused in other contexts, but it is really really real here. Folks at PA take care of each other."

Fair enough but, as a former developer, my take on the job is that there’s no way I would ever have applied for it. I was never a big fan of having any sysadmin (or, worse, desktop support) tasks officially foisted upon me (that’s a very different job with a different skillset). I also wanted no part of being on call 24/7, no matter how unlikely it was that I would ever be called in the middle of the night or during a vacation. Finally, I'm also a fan of getting paid a competitive salary; ping pong tables and free office snacks are a poor substitute for fair pay and a life outside the office.

While I, too, will give Khoo and PA credit for at least laying it all out there and not trying to sugar coat anything, I think it would be better if they restructured the job into something more sane (probably two jobs; a developer and a sysadmin) and offered competitive salaries. It just feels too much like they’re trying to take advantage of people who would (understandably) like to work for such a company. 

But who knows? Maybe the next person will love the job as much as Kuan did. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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