Subscribe Now

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Hopkins Family Circle of Trust and Orlando Code Camp: A Brief (or not) Recap

For everyone that was holding their breath in anticipation of this post, well, I have good news! You can breathe easy! Kevin made it out of the Hopkins' house unscathed and holding the heart of MamaTechNuts in his little coder hands. From our visit at my mom's to our trip to Orlando for Code Camp, this weekend was a huge success and we had an awesome time...though we were dead tired!

Our weekend adventure began around 7:30pm on Thursday night when we boarded our plane at SFO to Ft. Lauderdale (by way of Land O' Douchebag...or LAX). Because Kevin has a little "thing" for Richard Branson, we ended up taking Virgin instead of an airline that would fly us direct to PBI (closer to where my mom and the poodles live). If it was any other airline, I probably would have been annoyed by this (I mean, come on...taking a red-eye sucks enough, but then driving an hour or so after at 6:30am sucks worse), but Virgin is a beyond awesome airline and if it made the mister happy, I was happy. Besides, this gave me plenty of material to tease Kevin about his mini-man crush so there was a little something for both of us to make it worth it.

We took off a few minutes late but once we were in the air, I remembered why I liked flying Virgin so much, too. Everyone (seriously, EVERYONE) that works for them is super nice, so helpful, and their safety videos crack me up. I can appreciate a company with a sense of humor and that incorporates a little bit of sarcasm into their customer information. They also have the sweet touch system (I think it is called RED) on the planes where you can order pretty much anything you want (well, not everything...I would have loved a massage but they were fresh out). Because of RED, I filled up on my share of Coke (it kept coming and coming) and watched a lot of junk on MTV. (I can probably list every teenage mom they featured on their show about teenagers getting knocked up. Don't even get me started on that...) It was a very enjoyable flight. It was about halfway to LAX (where we had a connection) that Kevin remarked that he couldn't hear anything. (Poor Kevin is sick with a nasty sinus infection, courtesy of MIX.) Your typical girlfriend would probably dote on him and baby him a little bit. I am not your typical girlfriend. Instead, I tried to convince him that he actually went deaf by moving my lips as if I was talking to him. This freaked him out (though he won't admit it) for a bit but then he caught on. Needless to say, I was thoroughly entertained.

We landed in LAX and had about a 20 minute lay over before we left for Ft. Lauderdale. This leg of the flight was pretty uneventful for me. I drank a few more Cokes (much like the five year olds in elevators that insist on "pressing the button" over and over again, I was still quite fascinated with RED), I tried to sleep (with little success) and Kevin worked on his MEF presentation for Code Camp. (Another reason to fly Virgin: wi-fi and electrical outlets at every single seat!). After five hours we finally landed. From there we went to pick up our bag and rental car, from E-Z Rentals (which I found pretty ironic, considering E-Z is fully staffed with a bunch of asses and was anything but E-Z to work with.) After our dance with E-Z, we were finally on the a little after 6:30am.

By this time, we were sleepy, hungry, and dirty and wanted to get to my mom's house as quickly as our little rental could get us there. We made pretty good time and within an hour, Kevin was standing face to face with three poodles...and the Mama poodle, MamaOrlandoTechNuts, otherwise known as Maggie. Kevin went right in for the hug, my mom did some little awkward thing with her arms to be funny (now he knows where I get my wackiness from), and they were off to the races, so to speak. Shortly after their first encounter, my mom (who, by the way, was looking pretty hot. Age has been nothing but kind to my mom. Bitch.) left for work, and Kevin and I went to grab some breakfast at a local diner. My food was awesome. Kevin found a hair in his...and then after my prodding, finished eating it (minus the hair, of course). After his first experience with a South Florida Jewish diner, we came home and slept.

And slept.

And slept some more. 5:00 in the afternoon, finally woke up, feeling mildly refreshed.

At 5:17pm we met a gentleman by the name of Glenn. Glenn is my mom's new beau and the first man she has dated since my dad passed away two years ago. No wonder my mom had a little spring in her step...Glenn was a pretty cute, really nice....wait for it....IT guy! (Heck yes! Score one more for Team Geek!)

My mom made us all a really yummy dinner (she hasn't cooked in ages, by the way. My dad was the cook in the family.) and we all got to know each other. Kevin hit it off with everyone and my mom really took to him. The poodles really took to him, too. So much so, in fact, that Griffin, insisted on sleeping with us, and Little Ed gave Kevin a nice little tongue bath as he woke up. It was borderline creepy...but oh-so-funny at the same time.

After dinner, the family videos came out...and the fun began. Kevin got to see the complete awkwardness that is my family and my sweet dance moves in one tape from 1990. Initially, I was pretty embarrassed but pretty quickly came to realize the pure hilariousness that we were viewing. I had about three or four "signature moves", including a revised version of the Running Man (I say "revised" because I was doing some weird thing with my arms...kind of like spinning an imaginary jump rope, if you can picture that), some Vogue poses, some arm-spinning down-to-the-ground action, finished up by a move where I pretty much felt myself up. My "jam" was Step By Step by New Kids On The Block. My outfit of choice was a t-shirt I made with puffy pant flowers all over it, a huge hair-bow...and my big bunny teeth. (My front teeth were out of control.) I believe Megan, circa 1990, falls into the "hot mess" category.

But, it was funny. Reallllly funny. So funny, in fact, that I think Kevin and I are going to get the taped transferred from VHS to DVD and then put it on You-Tube...and the blog for your viewing pleasure. (I figure I have no shame so why not let my readers experience the awkwardness, too...) We might even make t-shirts and if Ellen DeGeneres asked me to appear on her show, I'd probably do it. (Just putting that out there. You know, in case Ellen reads my blog...)

Anyway, I'm rambling (huge shocker). After Hopkins' Family Video Hour, we all retired to bed. Kevin and I were up again on Saturday morning at 4something to get ready for Code Camp. (Well, I had to "get ready". Kevin had to throw on a shirt and jeans. Bastard.) I deposited Griffin, the poodle, in my mom's discover Glenn in there, too. Super awkward and I might have thrown up in my mouth for a brief second...but I'm glad "Stella is Getting Her Groove Back". Maybe they'll reproduce and give me another brother. Kidding.

After I saw my mom in the quasi-buff, Kevin and I hightailed it to Orlando for some glorious Code Camp action. We got their a little late (fashionably, of course) and got to see some of our old buddies. I met the new Orlando Kforcers (Robin, Megan, and Brandon) and got to reunite with @devfish and Co. From there we went straight to the room Kevin was using for his presentation (MEF U...which was awesome AND really funny). We watching VS crash a few times (which contributed to the funniness) and got the entire room to complete our "Name That App" survey. Kevin (@sundriedcoder) got some really good Twitter traffic from his presentation, so it was a huge success. I got to see Danny (my little Coder baby that I met at last Code Camp and got him his first development job) and some of my Twitter buddies (@codermarc). Following the MEF presentation, I went to the cafeteria where I got my lunch-lady on...and got to serve all of the Code Campers sandwiches and collect their lunch tickets. I was kind of like a glorified hall monitor and I loved it. I loved having the power to deprive someone of their soda and Jason's Deli lunchbox. (Just kidding. I actually let a few people without a ticket collect a lunch. I'm a softy, what can I say?) One thing I found particularly amusing about the day was a lot of people didn't recognize me because I colored my hair brown. I felt like I was in disguise and I loved the surprise look on peoples' faces when they realized it was me. (Kind of like little babies when they play Peak-A-Boo...)

From lunch, we went to @NikitaP's presentation on Windows Phone and then hung out with Ryan and Carl for a bit at the Kforce booth before we went to Kevin's last presentation on Silverlight Streaming Media. He was in speaking in a huge auditorium and had a little too much fun messing around with the microphone. I think he was secretly envisioning what it would feel like to give the keynote at MIX or PDC but he never confirmed this... He gave another great presentation (and I'm not just saying this because I'm the girlfriend) and @BillReiss was also there to pipe up. (Batman and Robin comes to mind right now...)

We hit the after party after Code Camp (hence the entire "after party" thing...) and had a chance to grab a few beers with the old crew! Everyone was there: @willstrohl, @estebanfgarcia, @adamhill, @billreiss, get the idea. (For the record, @tampacoder, @josebueno, @mitchlabrador, @scottdensmore, @davidjustice: You all were missed!). After a few beers, some delicious food, and sweet tech talk, we hit the road (again) to go back down to my mom's house. We arrived very giddy (high off of Orlando Code Camp fumes). I think my mom and Glenn were caught off-guard because Kevin and I were really loopy (no sleep, colds, and constant traveling will do that to you) and even asked "what do they serve you exactly at Code Camp?" We hung out for a bit with my mom and Glenn before saying our goodbyes (we had to be up at 4:00am the next morning to catch our flight).

I've never seen my mom give anyone a bigger hug...ever. She completely enveloped Kevin in her mother arms and even kissed him (on the cheek, people). She told him how much she liked him and went on and on...and on...and told me she knows he is "the one" (no kidding, Mom, that's why I brought him home!). Since everyone was in the hugging mood, I went in for the kill with Glenn, too. (Why not, right?) After the big love fest, Kevin and I...and Griffin, went upstairs for a few hours of sleep. (It was at least midnight at this point. Kevin and my mom hugged for hours. Kidding.)

We woke up at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning and did the entire travel thing all over again. The only highlight was getting to be in the presence of Richard Branson again (more so for Kevin) and getting some sleep on the plane. We had a gross lay-over in LA again where we ate overpriced clam chowder and watched countless jackasses in over-sized sunglasses walk by. I'm definitely not cool enough to live in LA. Hell, I wasn't even cool enough to hang out in the airport.

By time we landed in San Francisco, we were both beyond exhausted. We were both sick. (Thank you, MIX.) We both smelled like airport and LA loser. In spite of it all, though, we'd do it all again. We had such an awesome time and it was really great to see everyone again. I knew I missed everyone but I definitely didn't realize how much until we were at Code Camp. To say that community is outstanding is a gigantic understatement. They have their crap together and put together an tremendous event (over 600 people!). Beyond being able to organize a successful event though, that group is chalk full of good people. I definitely felt like I was at home and I am so appreciative of the warm welcome Kevin and I received. It is good to know that even though we are 3,000 miles away, we'll always have a home with the Orlando development community. Seriously, to all of my .Net UG buddies, you guys are the greatest and I love you (like brothers...the "special" love is reserved for Kevin.)

Seeing my mom was surprisingly a lot of fun, too. I'm so happy she and Kevin hit it off because he is definitely going to be the last guy I bring home. We're doing the "official" move-in in three weeks and we couldn't be more excited. I'm elated to know my mom thinks I finally got it right and finds him as wonderful as I do. All in all, the weekend was a huge success and I can't wait until we get back to Florida again!

...and yes, Kevin, next time we go, we can fly Virgin. I know better than to keep you away from Richard.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hello, World!

I'm finally registering the thoughts of OrlandoTechNuts on I'm hoping that this is going to drive a heck of a lot more traffic and my wonderful sense of humor and sarcastic, candidate knocking ways (my intentions are good...I swear!!) will be available for the rest of the world to see. Let the games begin!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's Time to Play...NAME THAT APP!

That's right boys and girls, I have a little game for you! There is an awesome new app in the works and we're looking for a name! This is your chance to be apart of the awesomeness. Sadly, because I do not have the bank account of Pat Sajak, I can't reward you with a sizable check, luxurious vacation, or new car, but I can give you a Microsoft Arc Mouse and a $50.00 gift card to the establishment of your choice (within reason, of course. I love my readers but you aren't going to catch me in some shady store purchasing gift cards because you find it amusing. Sorry.)

Please visit this link to go to the survey. A few different name choices are presented and every suggestion will be considered! At the end of the week, a random survey-completer will be selected to win the Arc Mouse. For the record, I got my boyfriend one of these bad boys for Christmas and it is pretty freaking sweet. Besides being nice to look at, it is very portable (just fold it and go!) and would make a lovely addition to any good geeks' household. And for those would prefer to embrace their inner entrepreneur, chuck it up on eBay or something. Bottom line, for 3 seconds of your time (and nobody is so busy where they don't have 3 stinkin' seconds!), you could win a sweet geekerific toy! Oh, and it gets better, folks...wait for it....wait for it....For the 20th person to list on the survey that they were referred by this blog, you'll get a $50.00 gift card. Not too shabby, right? I didn't think so.

So, what are you waiting for? Get off your butt and get creative! It's time to play...NAME THAT APP!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mama, I'm Coming Home!

This weekend marks a very important moment for me...well, technically, two very important moments. Not only am I returning home to sunny South Florida with the mister (you might know him as Kevin, or @sundriedcoder, or the boy that I'm always tweeting about which causes you to throw up in your mouth, get the idea) and introducing him to MamaOrlandoTechNuts, we're also making the trek to Orlando for...wait for it....freaking Orlando .Net Code Camp, 2010! Heck yes! Both are very big deals to me and I couldn't be more excited!

This is actually the first time (ever, ever) I've been really excited to bring a guy home to meet my mom. Before Mr. Kevin came into my life I looked at the "Meet the Parents" fiasco as a necessary evil...and dreaded it every single time. I brought my ex-husband home kind of on accident. I needed someone to help me transport my poodles, Willard and Griffin, home to Jupiter from Orlando because I couldn't bare to do the drive with them alone again. (Inevitably, one of them always ends up on your lap, very shortly followed by the other one...and then you end up careening off the side of I-95 because you can't see over the massive pile of poodle fluff in your face. Game freakin' over.) In any event, my brother decided he had something better to do than help his sister, so I had to resort to asking the guy (Mr. Ex) that I was quasi dating. I was on the fence about him so I wasn't jazzed about him meeting my crazy family, but alas, in the spirit of getting Willard and Griff home to their poodle brothers (yes, there are two more: Patrick, and Little Ed. We like poodles. Shut up.) I ended up asking the man formerly known as Mr. Megan Hopkins for his assistance.

On the car ride there, I silently planned how "the drop" would go down. I figured I'd call my mom when I was about 5 minutes away from the house, have her come outside, grab her two fluffy children, wave to the newly acquired almost-though not so sure what he is-boyfriend, give her a hug and kiss, maybe extend my palm looking for some cash, and then get back up to Orlando STAT. That way, I figured, she saw the guy, but didn't have a chance to talk to him...AKA embarrass the living crap out of me.

Sadly, it didn't happen quite like that....or ANYTHING like that, for that matter.

Instead, Willard managed to launch his fat poodle butt out of the door as soon as we parked in the driveway, causing Mr. Ex to get out of the car in hot pursuit of fat, black, spoiled poodle.

And then he met my mother.

And then she invited him inside.

And she was wearing her ratty scrubs.

And then she put on her lawyer cap and interrogated the living hell out of him.

And then my brother, Casey, came running downstairs with "family videos" and naked pictures of me (when I was little).

And then my other brother, Kevin, told the story about me eating the last piece of his birthday cake (many, many moons ago) when I was chubby.

And the humiliation continued.

And then I tied a cement block around my feet and threw myself in the Intracoastal Waterway.

Seriously, though. It was awful. (Maybe I should have taken it as a sign of things to come, but clairvoyance was never my strength).

I am, however, quite excited for Kevin to meet my mom. I have waited a bit to bring him home, (mostly because we moved clear across the country together shortly after we met), and I vowed to myself to not bring a guy home again that I didn't think was the real deal. I've never been more certain about anyone or anything in my entire life so I'm very ready for whatever naked pictures, fat pictures, humiliating stories (you get the idea), that gets thrown our way this weekend, by way of the Mother. (He has already met my brothers...and they approved :) It is a nice feeling knowing I'm bringing him home by choice and not because a couple of poodles need an escort. I guess that's what love is?

After we see my mom on Friday evening, we are waking up bright and early and heading to Orlando for Orlando .Net Code Camp and to reunite with the old crew. To say I'm excited about this is a massive understatement. One of the things I miss most about Florida (other than my mom, brothers, and girlfriends) is the development community. I made a great group of friends and leaving all of those guys was one of the hardest parts about moving to California. Since I've landed here in Cali, I've started to rebuild my "network" in the development community, but truth be told, nobody can replace my buddies in Orlando.

I tell candidates a lot to focus on finding their tribe and really taking the time to get to know those people. Usually, your "tribe" consists of people that share the same passions as you do. For me, that was the group in Orlando. Some (*ahem* Fabio...ScottyD...David...) have moved, too, but most of my tribe is still in Orlando. It is going to be wonderful to see everyone again and see what they have put together for Code Camp this year. Last I checked, they have over 500 people registered, with more registering each day, and a good group of awesome and well known speakers. From Silverlight to MEF, to Windows Mobile/Phone, to SharePoint to SQL to DotNetNuke, to Technical Interview Prep to Social Media pointers, Orlando Code Camp is chalk full of great topics and a track for anyone with an interest in emerging Microsoft technologies. I've seen a preview of the Silverlight Streaming presentation by Kevin Rohling (my boyfriend...assuming he survives his encounter with MamaOrlandoTechNuts) and it is freakin' sweet. I'm really interested to see the different presentations on Windows Phone (finally, MS is getting is right! Suck it, Apple!), and will be checking out MEF U, and as many of the others ones as I can squeeze into. Code Camp is free to all that register and if you register, lunch is included, too! (Make sure you check off that you will be eating, though, and if you want a vegetarian lunch, make sure you say so!) I have the honors of being lunch lady extraordinaire, so look out for my smiling face (hair net and all) as I serve up yummy sammies to accompany all of the technical yumminess you'll be getting! As always, there will be some great sponsors there (Carl Dunn and Ryan Bell from The Force!) and some even greater raffle items! The fun doesn't end at 5:00pm either...for all that are interested, there is a pretty sweet After Party, too! For more information on Orlando Code Camp, please check out their website! You can register there so be sure to do it! For those that are tweeting on Twitter, make sure to follow @OrlandoCC (hash tag OrlandoCC#) for additional information!

This weekend is going to be a flippin' party! I can't wait to get back to Florida for a little sun, warmth, "Meet the Parents" humiliation, and technical goodness! For those of you that aren't planning on hitting Orlando Code Camp as of yet, get with the picture and put it on your calendar! After all, folks, if I am flying clear across the country, you can get in your car and drive a few miles...and if you need an escort, I heard my ex might be available. (Poodles optional.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Crank Yankers: Staffing Special

Part of growing up with three brothers is learning to take a joke and the art of playing practical jokes. Growing up, my brothers and I were constantly at it and constantly pissing one another off with things we thought were downright hysterical. Whether we were locking Casey in my mom's trunk and "forgetting" about him, putting peroxide in Ryan's shampoo, tainting the Hawaiian Punch with soap and laxatives, or pretending like we ran away, Ryan, Kevin, Casey, and I were ALWAYS up to no good.

Part of our reign of terror also included making inappropriate phone calls. Lots of them. Some of our favorite people to call included the 911 operator, adult phone operators (we LOVED trying to convince them we were 18), and Ryan's second grade teacher. Occasionally we'd just get the White Pages out and start dialing. We passed many a summer (and winter, spring, and fall) day messing with other people and it was wonderful. As we got older, we began to see that calling 911 was not acceptable, nor was it OK to call "Destiny" to talk about going on a hot date. Instead, we resorted to physical forms of entertainment and would just beat each other up. When we tired of that (Who am I kidding? We never grew that tired of punching each other in the face.) we decided to act like normal humans. Kind of.

When I went away to college, I lived with all girls for the first time in my life. As "non girly" as they were, I still had no idea what to do with myself. I was used to my brothers walking around with their hands in their pants, farting, and making insanely inappropriate jokes. As hard as I tried to fit in with the girls, I could not shake my natural inclination to joke around and tease others. Fortunately, I got to know two of the girls on my floor pretty well and discovered that they weren't nearly as girly as they seemed. In fact, personality wise, they were pretty "manly", in that they loved a good practical joke. We quickly hit it off and began to terrorize each other and the rest of Flagler Hall on a regular basis. Still, though, aside from them, I really didn't have too many girlfriends.

One of the reasons I loved the Kforce team in Orlando is because in many ways it was like a locker room. For a long time, my team was all guys...and me, and I was pretty much considered one of the guys. Alysia soon joined us, too, and fit right in. Jokes of all form were made on a daily basis and there was a lot of "ball busting" to be had. One of our favorite jokes to play on one another was the classic crank call. Angel, the ultimate joker, would typically be the caller while I died laughing in the background. He would call our fellow recruiters, managers, my now name it, and keep them going for as long as possible. For us, it was the funniest thing in the entire world. Typically, for the person on the other end who was trying to figure out who was really calling them, it was annoying, frustrating, and a huge waste of their time.

Since I've joined Signature Consultants, I have been working at rebuilding my candidate network. Part of this, obviously, is speaking to a lot of people on the phone. The other part is meeting these people and trying to develop a lasting relationship. The practice of meeting my candidates is not new to me. It was part of my job at Kforce, and frankly, I assumed other staffing firms required this, too. Apparently, I assumed incorrectly.

Last week I was having coffee with a woman I located on one of the job boards. We were having a great conversation and she happened to mention that she was shocked I actually wanted to meet her. As it turned out, in the six months she had been searching for a position, NOT A SINGLE recruiter that called her actually expressed an interest in meeting her and getting to know anything about her other than what was written on her resume. Instead, they'd call and tell her they'd call if they got a bite on her resume. Nothing more. Half of the time she didn't even know who was calling her, where they were located, and why exactly they were contacting her, as nothing about her resume matched their position. For all she knew, it was some weirdo (...or bored 12 year old kid) calling her to waste her time. As weird as I found this, I thought that this couldn't be the norm. It made absolutely no sense to me.

After my coffee with her, I began to ask candidates I met with how many other recruiters had asked to meet them in person. Alarmingly, my inquiry was met with the same response every time. The majority of the candidates in San Francisco (both active and passive) were not meeting their recruiters in person, and not by their choice. To them the interactions were all very transactional and left them feeling very uneasy about their job search. They had no earthly idea who they were giving their information to and who they were trusting with their livelihoods. A lot of the companies that called them weren't local, many had zero web presence, and almost all were impossible to track down for a followup conversation. Clearly, this does not inspire a lot of confidence for the job seeker.

This really disturbed me because if you can't feel comfortable with your recruiter you aren't off to a good start. A candidate shouldn't wonder in the back of their mind if they are getting a crank call (and yes, that was a concern of some), and if some wacko sitting in their basement was just calling them to make a quick buck. Back in the day, this industry was based solely on relationships. With the good recruiting firms, it still is. There is no reason a candidate shouldn't be able to put a face to the name of the firm they are working with. People work with people they trust and are less inclined to work with a person they've never met and never hear from. To me, that is pretty freakin' obvious.

One thing I like to urge candidates to do is keep track of the recruiters you are working with...and don't work with everyone and their mother. Typically working with about three recruiters you trust is a good number. Make them earn your trust and business, because even though they are a free service to you, if they do manage to find you a position, they do profit. If you can help it, only work with people you can meet. Go to their office. See their shop. Know about their clients. Interview them as much as they are interviewing you. Ask questions. A recruiter should be honest and forthcoming with follow-up. You shouldn't have to pry it out of them. Set your expectations with your recruiter upfront. Ask how frequently you are going to be speaking. If a recruiter tells you they'll call you once they have feedback and that's it, that's a pretty crappy answer. A good recruiter should make it a point to connect with the people they speak with and meet about once a week. They don't have to be calling about a job; touching base is always good because it is nice to know what is going on in each other's world. I'm pretty involved with the majority of my candidates and call many of them friends. This doesn't come from calling them solely when a position is released.

Just like dating, if the relationship is a priority, it tends to be positive. That recruiter might not end up finding you a position, but at the very least, you will have the peace of mind knowing you aren't talking to a complete stranger. At the end of the day, you are putting your career in the hands of the recruiter so whatever you do, educate that way, when a pack of brats crank call you, you'll know what's up and have the last laugh.