Shibboleth Resumé

HeadshotResumés are funny things because the one thing they don’t tell you is the one thing you want to know. As an employer, what I suspect I really want is a way to separate wheat from chaff. I want a way to say “Yes, fine, you have all the necessary checkboxes in place, but are you one of the good ones?” Even if you allow yourself the confidence necessary to believe that you are indeed one of the good ones, a resume is a terrible medium since, stylistically, it tends to force people down the path of enumeration-sans-substance. What is needed is a shibboleth. Don’t tell me which certifications you have, tell me that you are part of the culture. Don’t tell me what programming languages you know, tell me that you can kick ass and take names. Everyone who isn’t a bozo (seriously, go read that if you’re ever hiring someone) should be trying to hire the brightest lights in the building, so show them how you roll, or find another job to apply for.

That is how I would like things to go down, but even very hip HR folk would have trouble with a shibboleth resumé, I’m guessing. If I were applying for a job tomorrow, it would probably be something involving usability, security, and overall technology development. The resumé I’d send to a shibboleth-friendly company might read like this (standard disclaimers about the fact that any decent resumé almost automatically sounds boastful and egocentric; my apologies):

Johnathan Nightingale

Minimal Bona Fides
University of Toronto
2001 Hon. B. Sc. with High Distinction.
Cognitive Science & Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Philosophy

2001-2003 Software Developer, Eclipse Solar, WebSphere tools UI
2003-2005 Staff Software Developer, Better WebSphere tools UI
2005-2006 Usability Specialist

Security Chops

  • I’ve got Schneier’s Applied Cryptography, Garfinkel and Spafford’s Practical Unix Security, and Kahn’s Codebreakers on my bookshelf and I’ve actually read them.
  • I’ve discovered, documented, and found resolutions for security problems with Cisco’s VoIP phones, Firefox’s web storefront, and a pretty excellent breach at FedEx, among others.
  • I’m trained in ethical hacking and penetration testing.
  • I wrote the e2 pages on Attack Trees, WEP, and WSDL, back before wikipedia took over the world.
  • My PGP key ID is 0xE84ADB09. The fingerprint is: 968A CF51 C6EA 5A5F 9D71 909B 94EA D5B5 E84A DB09. This information is on my business cards.

Usability Chops

  • When Message Broker, IBM’s flagship, $150k per-cpu license, middleware product took a beating in the press on ease of use, I was the usability guy tapped to make suggestions. Our group put together a list of 84 usability and design recommendations. More than 60 are being rushed into the product for end of year.
  • When IBM bought DataPower (makers of plug-and-play integration machines) for an undisclosed amount, I was the one asked to review their UI situation and put together a user-centered design plan for getting their web gui on track.
  • From Mike Beltzner, Usability Lead for Mozilla Corporation: “Johnathan is a rare breed of interface programmer, who can mix with the most technical people about EMF models and core infrastructure, and yet also dance the fine ballet of solid UI design.”
  • Design is not just about having great ideas. It’s about having great ideas that fit the problem and actually driving those designs into reality. I get that.

Technology Chops

  • I’ve written graphical editors for WSDL and XML Schemas from the ground up. They’ve each won praise for ease of use. If you think that making WSDL usable is easy, think harder.
  • I’ve got an article in press with Software Development magazine (now part of Dr. Dobb’s) on improving software process to focus on cross product interaction and seamless integration.
  • I can’t brag on the quality of my code until you’ve seen it and judged for yourself, but I’ve been told that it’s hot stuff: tight, elegant, clean.
  • Whatever your programming languages and environments are, I’m rusty on them, if I have ever used them at all. It has also been my experience though, that I will kick their ass. This isn’t intended to be pompous, call me on it: if I’m not utterly owning a codebase within a reasonable amount of time, fire me.


You see what I mean? It’s all totally circumstantial – anyone can get a PGP key, and absolutely anyone can claim that they “get” design. On the other hand – the masses out there, the chaff, are not likely to care about any of this because they’re too busy lining up their checkboxes. If you need to see “5-7 years C++ experience in the financial sector,” then this isn’t your resumé, obviously. But no one ever actually needs 5-7 years C++ experience in the financial sector, what they need is people who don’t suck. They’re using 5-7 years as a filtration mechanism to remove some suckage, but I submit that a shibboleth resumé is more effective. I would be a happy man if everyone accepted shibboleth resumés as an unspoken rule. To speak it would invite the clueless to copy examples out of books and invalidate the whole idea, but if it were an unspoken secret handshake, it would be that much easier to get good companies and good people together.

I would love, LOVE, for my friends (and other readers?) to write up shibboleth resumés. If you do, let me know.

One thought on “Shibboleth Resumé

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s