The story between world travel and France

This was originally a note I wrote on Facebook dated December 6, 2007:

Hello everyone,

This is the long overdue story of my life. I was going to just write about France but so many people ask my why I came here so here’s a bit of a background. I was going to talk about France too, but it turned out to be really long, so don’t worry, France stories are coming, but that will be a different note.

Some of the following is a bit of rant towards my former employer which doesn’t necessarily have a whole lot to do with the story, but I felt like talking about it, you may find it comical, or you may just think I’m nuts.

So after returning to Montreal for a few months figuring out what I want to do, I’ve somehow ended up working in France. How did it happen? Here’s the story…

After traveling around the world for 6 months the thought of sitting in front of a computer made me sick. I wanted to continue traveling, but of course this was not possible. I had to move on with life, so I figured why not work abroad, then I can at least see some other countries.

At first I had a potential position in Hong Kong which would have been cool, but it fell through in the end. So it turns out if you have some “IT” skills it’s really easy to get a job these days. I went on and created a profile. My phone was ringing like crazy. Problem was none of the recruiters bother to read your profile. I specified all kinds of countries around Europe, also Australia + New Zealand, even west Canada like Calgary or Vancouver. But probably 90% of the calls were Montreal based companies. France wasn’t even an idea, it was just one of many European countries but I got a call from this company (not the one I’m working for). They interviewed me and liked me but it didn’t work out. They hire consultants but then I would still have to sell myself to one of their clients. This process was slow and I didn’t feel like waiting.

Then came PSL Consulting, a Montreal company. Another case of the recruiter not actually reading the details of my profile. So the recruiter says this company, in Montreal, needs Java developers ASAP and they’re looking for a 3 month contract. Here’s a rough transcript of that conversation:

Recruiter: “can you go for an interview tomorrow”

I’m thinking to myself I don’t really want this job but it is only 3 months and I had been sitting on my ass for around 6 weeks at this point.

Me: “Umm… I guess…”

Recruiter: “It’s a really great company, they’ve been in business for over 30 years and are very successful”

Me: “Oh really, well I’d prefer to work for a successful company but I’m really looking for some kind of overseas work, but since it’s only 3 months I’ll check it out.”

Recruiter: “Ok, please see xxx xxx tomorrow at 2:30PM”

Me: “I’ll be there.”

Fast forward until 2:30PM the next day at the interview. So I don’t know how this happened, I was probably the most relaxed job candidate the guy has ever seen. I didn’t even want the job so there was really no pressure. I wasn’t sure why I was even at the interview yet somehow I ended up working there.

Manager: “Hi, nice to meet you ” … blah blah blah … “so we’re in a bit of crunch here and we’re looking for some Java developers”

Me: “Great, I have lots of experience with Java”

Manager: “Can you tell me about some of your previous work experience”

Me: <technical crap here>

Manager: “Wow, I think we can really use someone like you, can you start on Monday?”

So I’m thinking to myself, wow, that was easy, now this is a very abridged version, but I took the job.

Me: “Well I’d kind of like to think this over a bit, you think I can get back to you tomorrow”

Manager: “Sure but we could really use you, please get back to me as soon as possible”

So this guy was almost begging me to take the job. I should have seen this as a sign of a problem, but at the same time I was thinking my bank account was running low and the job did pay pretty well.

I won’t go into the incredible details of why I hated this job so much, but “hate” is the only word that describes it. By the end of it I felt very lied to about what my job was supposed to be. The way they run their “IT” department is just ridiculous. I don’t even blame that manager who hired me, he actually tried to improve on a lot of what I considered to be problems, but unfortunately the management above him have their heads up their asses.

So just a few bad signs which I kind of overlooked.

– Eagerness of the company to hire me
– Within the first week I find out that quite a few developers have left recently. In fact I even met one of them who happened to join the team for lunch one day and said “… I just had enough of PSL … ” and I could really sense that fed up feeling in the way it was said. But I thought, it can’t be that bad.
– Another discovery that week, most of the development team was new, no one had been there more than a year except for one guy who’d been there forever.

Had I known things like this beforehand I probably wouldn’t have taken the job.

So all I’m saying is do your research before accepting a job. Ask a lot of questions during the interview. Anyone watch Curb Your Enthusiasm? One of my favorite lines this seasons was when Leon is going for a job interview and Larry tells him to flip it, meaning to answer a few questions but then flip it and start asking the questions yourself, then Leon goes “yeah, yeah, topsy turvey that mother fucker”. If you haven’t seen the show it’s probably not funny to you, but I was on the floor when he said it. But it’s good advice. I should have asked things like:

– How long has this team been around? (not long)
– Do you follow any industry standards? (they don’t)
– How is this team regarded by the rest of the company? (shit, bottom of the barrel, useless, expendable… I think you get the point)
– What kind of system will I be working on? (a shitty one)

and that’s just scratching the surface. As much as I enjoy talking shit about this company, it’s not really the purpose of this note.

So one day at PSL I got a call on my cell from a company call s-one Canada. It was a voice message actually, it was in French but in English it would have sounded like “Hi Matt, I’m calling from s-one Canada, I found your CV on monster and wanted to know if you’d be interested in working in Paris, France, please call me back at 514….”. I was ecstatic, finally someone actually read my profile and saw, oh look, he wants to work anywhere but Montreal, and we have jobs in France, which is not Montreal. WAKE UP RECRUITERS!

I think at this point I was doing nothing at PSL… nothing important anyway. So I went outside to call her back. We had a nice chat and set up an interview, it was funny because when I asked where her office was she said 1250 Rene Levesque, I paused for a second, oh that makes it really easy, I work in 1250 Rene Levesque. At the time PSL was in that building although they moved about a month before I left. So after that interview and a technical phone interview they made me an offer. Their offer was similar to the other company, meaning I would go work for their clients but they were willing to fly me out to Paris before actually finding me a client.

I forget exactly when but the president of company was in Montreal at some point after I accepted the offer but was still working at PSL. He had organized a 5 @ 7 (happy hour for those non quebecers reading this). So I met him as well as many others from the company and a lot of them, including the president already knew who I was… wow, I like this company, you think the president of PSL even knew my name … ok enough talking shit about PSL, I’m bitter, end of story. So yeah, turns out the guy is jewish and so are his close associates there, this is a good thing 🙂

So now I’ve accepted the position in France. At this point I had about a month and a half to prepare myself for this trip. I really didn’t prepare much. Time just kind of passed, I spent day after day being miserable at PSL. I had finished that 3 month contract 2 weeks before it was actually time to go. So at this point things start to feel more real. Not much involved in packing. Mostly just clothes, and I didn’t pack until 2 days before (as usual). November 21 I was on the plane. The Paris adventure begins… part 2 coming soon.


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