Advice For Someone Starting Their Careers

The other week my friend asked me if I (we, including Brian) had any advice to give her niece who is starting out her career. I thought about it for a bit but there are a few things I would say.

Don’t Give It Your “All”

I gave this advice to a guy I used to work with. He would put in extra hours… when there was a deployment outside business hours he wouldn’t count that as part of his 40 hours. He took PTO for errands and appointments, etc even though he was already giving the company more than 40 hours of his time.

I told him to stop doing that. The company doesn’t care… well, they do but in their own selfish way. They owe you, you don’t owe them. You owe them your best work and your time… 40 hours a week. Anything you give them extra, they don’t appreciate.

And I know a lot of people say this isn’t true but I’ve given three of my four companies this “extra time” of mine and received nothing in return. My first company, as I was leaving, I put in 10+ hours of work every day to get them this certification they were working towards. I didn’t see an extra dime in my final paycheck when everything was calculated (PTO I didn’t spend). My second job I pulled a weekend once for a big deployment and we didn’t get anything extra for it. I would stay extra a few times for my various jobs but never received anything… not even a “thank you” some of the times.

Don’t bust your butt for your employer. Don’t be a slave to them. Work your mandatory 40 hours and go home and enjoy your life.

You Have To Jump

My uncle once joked that I changed jobs more than he did underwear. I changed jobs four times in my 14 year career. (Five if you count the “fuck up.” But I needed that “fuck up” to get a better salary… hence this point…)

In order to get a pay increase, you have to leave. Once you’re with a company, they don’t give big raises. Shit, even if you get a “promotion” it could be months before you see a pay increase. And if you do, it’s probably going to be miniscule.

I know of this from experience and talking with other people. My first pay increase was 5%. I was only making $38,000 a year and I got a 5% increase! I thought that was awesome! But I did the math on that. While 5% is huge, I kept going with that… Even if I got a 5% pay increase every year I’d only make around $62,000 when I got to ten years there. It would take me over 20 years to get into six figures.

One company, I was so close to making six one year. I got a 1.5% increase (not even COL). I didn’t get to six that year but I did the year afterwards. And that 1.5% I got, compared to other people, I did really well! Others I know only got 0.5%! And no bonuses.

The only time I have been able to get pay increases is when I switched jobs. So every three years, no matter what, I started looking. My last job I even threatened to quit in order to get what I deserved. My pay they were giving me wasn’t keeping up with inflation and I called them out on it. I put in a two week resignation notice then they started talking. They met me close to my number so I was happy.

You gotta jump. And keep jumping.

Bonuses Are A Thing Of The Past

There aren’t many companies out there that give bonuses. I was lucky to be with two companies who gave out bonuses. But it was miniscule. It was $500… maybe $1,500. Nothing like that National Lampoon’s movie where the dude was able to take everyone on his family a vacation with his bonus. Nope, that shit doesn’t happen in the real world.

Be Good At What You Want To Do And Do What You’re Good At

Try not to take a job that you don’t have any passion for. You’re not going to be good at it. You’re not going to want to give it the time and practice it takes. You need to have a passion for what you do.

I was very good at what I did. I’ve gotten so many complements throughout my career of how good I am; bosses and coworkers alike.

The best advice I was given was from my uncle (not the underwear uncle, lol). I just got a call back from two companies (for my first career job). One offered me $38,000 and one offered me $32,000. I wanted to go with the $32,000 because it seemed like more career growth even though I would be doing Java which is something I did not enjoy at all. He told me to go with the $38,000 one because you don’t want to be miserable.

You need to have a passion and a drive in what you chose to do. Trust me, it does help.

401k’s Are A Joke

When you need to jump companies so much, and especially with the stock market taking big shits every ten years, 401k’s are a joke. It takes years to become “vested.” And if you need to jump jobs so much,  you’re not going to be “vested” so that company can take all what they “gave you” away.

Plus… the fucking stock market crashed four times during my life alone and I’m still a few years from 40!

I don’t know what to do for retirement income. I mean, the stock market is so evil and unpredictable and you could lose all your money if you don’t keep up with it and invest it correctly. Remember, that’s on you. Your company isn’t picking and swapping out the best bonds and stocks. You need to keep up with your own 401k.

There are no pensions anymore, thanks, Boomers!  So if you don’t want to do a 401k route, you can save up to buy a rental property. But even there, that could be a shit show. I did it and it didn’t turn out like I’d hoped.


I know others have had different, wonderful experiences with companies and I’m not one to judge all companies. These just have been my experiences with the four companies that I’ve worked for. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

You just have to be cautious and look out for yourself. Your company usually isn’t.

Again, these are just my opinions and my two cents. I’m sure a lot of people have had a lot of success doing the opposite of what I’ve stated here. But they’re lucky. And you can find really good companies that you want to stay and work for for the rest of your career. I wish I had found one.

In the end, this is what worked out for me.

Vacation Days

When I started working my first job out of college I only accrued 10 vacation days a year. I calculated it out and that was roughly a month and a week I had to work in order to get ONE day off. I needed to have stayed with the company FIVE YEARS in order to get 15 vacation days a year. It was complete hell for my first few years. The first actual vacation I took was over two years after I started working.

My second job wasn’t much better. I started out with accruing 10 vacation days a year (same as before) but I think after three years with them I could get another week for a total (and maximum) of 15 days a year. The first two years of this job I actually got less time off than my previous job. However I decided to leave after two years and it just so happened I left when others left as well. They (and me) sighted not enough vacation as one of our reasons for leaving. After I gave my notice the company changed their policy. They now gave everyone 15 days off a year as well as two extra floating holidays (for a total of four floating holidays).

Since they changed it, it actually got me to come back. I was very happy in earning 15 days off a year.

The next job I got I had 15 days off a year as well as some government holidays off. After one year I accrued 20 days off a year. That wasn’t so bad. I actually felt like I had time.

I got another job and now I get 21 days off a year. I’m moving up!

I can’t help but feel kind of happy that me (and I’m sure many others) voiced our displeasure over vacation time and made companies change it. Talking with some people fresh on their first job out of college and them earning 15 days off a year makes me feel like I helped to accomplish something. I’m glad they’re getting more time off than what I had when I started.

I also have to note that my first and second job there came with a week sick leave. However sick leave could only be taken if you’re sick and it was not paid out when I left. I would sometimes fake being sick so I could get a mental health day. My third and now my fourth jobs do not have sick leave so I did not/do not have to do that.

It’s still NO EUROPE but it might be getting better. And minimum wage workers (and I’m sure MANY, MANY other people) do not earn vacation or sick leave. The United States has a long way to go as we are still the only first world country that doesn’t offer guaranteed paid time off.

Validation In Life

I’ve been really, REALLY stressed out a lot lately. So stressed out to the point I’m breaking out, forgetting lots of tiny little things, messing up plans, not able to concentrate, slurring speech, messing up A LOT at work, etc. And it’s definitely because of work. I feel like I have too much on my plate right now and no down time. I just do not feel like I’m very good at doing adult things right now.

I took off last Thursday and Friday and went to Ocean City for the crusin weekend which was nice. However I don’t feel like it was adequate enough time to recharge. I still feel stressed. The last real vacation I guess was Panama a year and a half ago.

This kind of stress is something new to me though. I’m just not handling it well. I feel like my work is sub-par and I’m just not as good as I used to be. I feel like I could get fired for messing up so much.

Talking with Brian last night made me realize that it may be because I don’t get validated. When I was in college, sure I’d get stressed and mess up and stuff but I also got validated. I would get grades back that made me feel good about myself. In the real world we don’t get that. The only validation I get for the work that I do is MAYBE once a year, an annual review. Other than that, nothing. No, “doing a good job”, “wow you did that really great/fast”, whatever. Just no validation. And it’s not only this job, it’s been since I got out of college… every job I’ve never received enough validation.

I realize this validation problem in my personal life as well. Like the Young Turks did a story on social media and how it hurts our self-esteem and our self image. They covered just what others say, etc. For me it’s not like that with social media. For me it’s how many likes and comments I get.

I’ve kind of quit Facebook again (not like anyone notices) but I’ve stopped posting my pictures from Instagram. The likes I got were just not good enough. Especially when I see a lot of other friends get likes and stuff after one hour of a post… If I post something the first like will be like hours from then. Other friends post things and they get like 20+ likes all the time. My world record for a post is like 20 likes.

I feel like social media has made me less validated as a person. If I don’t get enough likes on a post or a picture, I delete it. It makes me feel inadequate if I don’t get likes or comments. No one is talking about that. I could write the exact same thing as any other friend on Facebook, they would get like 20 likes and I wouldn’t get any. Twitter is the only social media I actually like and I don’t feel the pressure to get likes or retweets or anything.

And yes, I get plenty of validation from Brian but it’s not the same as a boss or a friend just telling me I’m doing a good job or that I’m an awesome person and that I’m liked. I’m not getting what I need right now to feel better about myself and I really don’t know how to solve this issue.

Just stress like everywhere. Work and social media. I can quit Facebook but I can’t quit work.

Delivery Fee

I wanted to do a quick blog post about pizza delivery fees. As some of you know, I used to do pizza delivery for Domino’s back in college. Fun times. Lots of stories.

Anyway, pizza drivers are making less today than what I made when I did it due to delivery fees that pizza and other delivery places put onto the price of the order.

The summer I delivered pizza, it used to be $15.75 for the 555 deal from Domino’s. People would usually be nice and give the full $20 for tip; so we’d get $4.75 tip. I come into work one day, first order is a 555, go to the dude’s house and notice that it’s now $16.75… I thought he might have ordered an extra topping or something… Nope, it was the new $1 delivery fee. All of a sudden I was getting less money with the 555’s. Not only that, a lot of people stopped tipping as much since they were under the false assumption that the extra $1 went to the driver when it did not. It went to corporate profits.

The Huffington Post did a good article on it.

So just to set the record straight: a delivery fee DOES NOT go to the driver. Please tip these guys. It’s hard for them. It’s their wear and tear on their cars. They live off minimum wage and tips and whatever minuscule money they get per run (when I did it it was 85 cents a run).

New Adventure 2012

I am ready to embark on another new adventure. I have resigned from my company of whom I’ve been with since July 2010. I regret that I wasn’t able to make it a longer stay. This job was my second since I’ve been out of college.

The experience I’ve gained with this company has been profound. I look back and think I knew very little before coming here. My knowledge in CSS has gone up exponentially. I was just a noob but they threw me in the deep water and now I’m an expert. They also taught me 508 compliancy which is huge right now and fits well with my web background. I learned how to remediate PDFs, learned more about SharePoint administration (though I don’t put that on my resume). I’ve also learned Drupal; which is huge for me. They helped me grow my skill set and experience so much.

I’m leaving behind a few people of which I’ve grown quite fond; although I’m in the middle of four people who have left or are leaving our small company. I hate leaving people that I like and who understand me. We work very well together here. It’s hard to leave them.

I’m trading in my Prius for the metro and a much longer commute into the trenches of DC.

So I guess this makes Fourteen years of my life in four places.

I haven’t cried here yet about leaving.

When I first got this job I didn’t like it very much but I did grow to love it. It was a very quiet place but I soon made friends and livened things up. I regret leaving after only a year and 9 months or so. I also hate the fact that I’m leaving two months before a new project is deployed, a project that I’ve worked very hard on and that I loved doing.

I also think I’m happy because I’m leaving my company a better company. I hope they thrive and succeed in what they’re doing and I wish them all the best.

Here’s to a week and a half off before I start my new job! Another new journey awaits.

Bad Omens Or Something

Not sure what it is about this week but something’s either pushing me out the door of my current job or else I’m having really REALLY bad luck.

Let’s start with the “bad things happen in threes” that happened to the Prius:

  1. Starting last week (around April 18th, when I gave my two week notice) I noticed that my tire pressure was low since the indicator light was on. No biggie, just put air in the tires. A day later it came on again. Come to find out there’s a hole in the tire. Okay. Luckily we went over Uncle George’s on Sunday where he was able to repair it.
  2. Monday morning, on my way to work, I get hit by a rock. I know because I heard it. It sounded like a big rock. Since it was raining I wasn’t able to see any cracks in the windshield. However Tuesday I noticed it. Called Geico Tuesday to fix it. They came yesterday (Wednesday) and repaired it.
  3. When I leave work yesterday (Wednesday), my car doesn’t start. WTF? The battery was dead. Called a tow truck since I didn’t think it was the battery. Bri arrived before the tow truck and we were able to jump it. I didn’t make it to yoga last night due to the dead Prius battery.

I forget to mention the fact that my scooter also decided to die. It too needed a new battery as it kept needing to be recharged.

The Camaro needs to be fixed again. Nothing out of the usual there.

Last night I accidentally poured hot wax all over my left hand. Worst pain ever.

My websites got hacked or something. When I go to any of them on any mobile device or in IE, I get redirected to… I emailed Dreamhost but haven’t heard anything… I noticed this issue last night.

Then this morning my hair brush breaks! What are the odds?

Tell me, is this just bad luck?

New Adventure 2010

As some of you know, I found another job. Today is my last day with a company who I’ve been with since August 2006. My first real experience job. My first job out of college. A company who actually gave me a chance.

It’s been great for the most part, I do have to say. I’ve learned a lot. I am who I am today because of them. Working with a small business has given me the opportunity to work in a lot of areas, which I like. I think I’m a well rounded person.

I’m leaving behind a few friends, which I don’t like to do. However, I’ve seen quite a few friends leave. Hopefully we will all keep in touch. This company has changed so much since I started here.

I’m trading in my scooter for my Prius and a longer commute and a smaller company. I know I will do well there just as I have here.

I figured out that I’ve been spending four years at a time at places:

  • Four years at high school (Broadneck)
  • Four years at college (Frostburg)
  • Four years at this job

Twelve years of my life in only three places.

I can’t help but feel so happy and so sad at the same time. It’s kinda surprising, I’m not as emotional as I thought. I haven’t cried here yet. I cried at home but not here. I guess, when I’m here, it doesn’t feel like it’s hit yet. I cleaned out my stuff. I took it home yesterday. I’m riding my scooter for the last time here, at least as a full time employee.

A new journey awaits, a new chapter in my life.

Quickie On A Chat At Lunch

Thought I’d share a joke we had at lunch the other day…

Dimitri was off on vacation last week, Patrick had said he emailed him some things. Dimitri asked what Patrick emailed him.

I said, “He emailed you ‘Did you get my email?’… Then Dimitri would say, ‘What email?’ ‘The email I wrote that said ‘did you get my email?””

Eh, typing it, it doesn’t sound as funny as when I said it during lunch. Fail.

Another Victim Of The Health Insurance Industry, Me Part II

The other post I blogged about Another Victim Of The Health Insurance Industry, Me Part I still hasn’t been settled, but I’m just dealing with it. I guess my body got used to the forced medication from my health insurance company.

Another incident happened. This time with my ChoiceCare Card. Don’t let the name fool you, there is NO CHOICE.

I had signed a HIPAA Substantiation form which gives CareFirst the access to my medical records so they can pay the doctors without me having to fax them 3,973 things proving I went to the doctor… typical things insurance companies are supposed to automatically do.

I went to one doctor this year, one. My OBGYN… way back in August. In late October they emailed me and sent me a nasty gram saying they denied my claim. My copay of $30 to my ChoiceCare card. I was told by HR I can use my card to pay my copays. ChoiceCare card threw a fit.

After receiving the nasty gram, I talked to the HR about it. They told me what to do. Call my doctor, ask if they filed the claim, if so did it go through, and could they fax it to me. That was the easy part. I got the detailed patient log. The problem was getting in touch with them to fax it. I tried calling them before like 10 times, all the time being put on hold for periods of 15 minutes. I eventually gave up since I have other things to do (my fault since I have to make a living).

A few weeks later I received another nasty gram saying my card had been FROZEN. I tried to resolve the matter quickly, you know, in case something happens to me that I would actually need my health insurance. I called directly at 8:00AM. That seemed to get me to a representative pretty fast. They told me to fax it to them, so I did. I also emailed them later in the day to make sure it went through. No response.

I called earlier today to make sure they got everything they needed so I can have health insurance again. I was only on hold for 16 minutes! What a surprise! Anyway, they were able to unfreeze my card so I have health care again.

It’s a comfort to know in the event of an emergency, my health insurance company can freeze my card over a matter of $30… that of which they already had permission to view my claims.

Another Victim Of The Health Insurance Industry, Me Part I

I’ve been taking Ortho Tri-Cyclen Low birth control since as long as I can remember. I started taking it probably in 1998 to help regulate things. In college, I didn’t have the privilege of having health insurance so I relied on Planned Parenthood to supply me and to give me my yearly check up.

Since I got a job, I’ve had CareFirst Blue Cross, which, up until a month ago has been pretty good. I was able to get the prescription with ease and it was cheap.

A few months ago I had to switch my plan since the POS plan got way too expensive. I switched to the cheaper plan. It required me to fill out a bunch of forms to do simple stuff that the POS used to do automatically (like paying the doctors). I now have this card I use.

The problem I’m having with them is that they changed my birth control on me. I order from Walgreen’s Online Pharmacy, so my prescription is shipped to me. My doctor prescribes me the name brand (Ortho Tri-Cyclen Low) since it’s what I’m used to and what I’ve been taking for years.

Being name brand is more expensive for my insurance company so they took it upon themselves to switch me to the generic version WITHOUT TELLING ME. It’s their policy that if there is a generic form of the prescription, they have to dispense it rather than the name brand.

Much to my surprise when I got my prescription in the mail, it was stuff I haven’t even heard of. I asked my doctor, I asked anyone I could think of who would know if this changed anything. They basically all said no.

However, I found out last month when I started taking it that it wasn’t the same. I got sick. It also didn’t have the same effect that the name brand had. I don’t want to be gross in a blog post, but let’s just say a lot of weird things happened.

Now I’m faced with… well… weird things still happening. I called my doctor. He’s going to try to talk to CareFirst to tell them to put me back on Ortho Tri-Cyclen Low… not that it should be their decision but that’s the kind of health care system we have in this country.

Zend Certified Engineer

Zend Certified Engineer

Sorry it took me so long to post but after over two years of wanting to do it, I finally took and PASSED the Zend PHP 5 Certification Exam!

Although this has nothing to do with what I’m currently doing now, I feel it will help me in the future, plus it’s pretty cool since I can use the logo! Anyway, I started preparing for the exam around the beginning of March. I had previously bought the two books by PHP Architect  (Zend PHP 5 Certification Study Guide 2nd Edition and Zend PHP Certification Practice Test Book).

I first read through the Study Guide. Though full of mistakes, it really wasn’t too painful to get through. I took notes on stuff I thought I should know. All the while I was reading what others were saying about the test itself. I read any blog that I could in relation to the test. That’s where I got another recommended book (Zend PHP Certification Study Guide by Zend Technologies). I bought and read this book only to discover a few pages into it that it dealt with PHP4, not 5. I decided to skip the things that had totally been redone since 5, like OOP. I did steal a lot of the questions though.

Thinking I was pretty well prepared, I decided to take the tests in the Practice book. I burned pretty badly on a few topics (Dates, Security, Streams, and Regex). I also found a few free practice tests online. After wearing out all the test questions online, I pretty much decided to hit the Manual… hard. That was painful and grusom, if you have any idea how BIG the manual is. I spent most my days at work reading the PHP Manual and taking notes and preparing practice tests for myself.

After reading the manual, taking practice tests, and preparing my big ass function practice test, I decided to buy the practice exams offered by PHP Architect. On average I took two a week, starting March 29. I passed all of them, with the last three I took being EXCELLENT. It doesn’t give you the answers at the end, but it gives you the areas you need to improve. I was always bad at Design and PHP4/5 Differences. Google and Wiki helped me in these areas. All the questions I wasn’t sure about, I copied to a text file during the test. I really highly recommend these tests since it’s set up like the exam itself. 70 questions in 90 minutes.

I took the Friday before the exam off to study and took the test Saturday. It only took me about an hour and 15 minutes. They make it really nice for you since you can go back and review. My name was in the PHP Yellow Pages by Tuesday.

See my entry in 43 Things!

My Name In PHP Yellow Pages!

Paper They Gave Me At The End -- PASSED!

Quickie On SharePoint

I could go on and on about SharePoint, for hours and hours. I will just share a little conspiracy theory I thought of today…

Suffering with this problem for months now (literally), we finally got some advice. Supposedly EVERYONE faces this problem with SharePoint about the User not being found when going to create an SSP. Anyway, got two pieces of advice, one being to install the SharePoint patches (they have like 12 of them in the past year!) Howard and I are currently doing that.

Anyway, my conspiracy theory is that Microsoft deliberately ignores problems and creates buggy programs and releases them so people will waste their money and call tech support therefore making Microsoft money. Their errors, ambiguous, therefore costing you money in tech support.

Ugh. I hate Microsoft!

For more rant and a special comment, visit my other Syntax Notes blog.

Why Is This?

I really hate writing depressing blogs, so I’ll try to remain as less depressing as possible.

I just want to know, does God have a vengeance on me or something? Why do things constantly go wrong in my life now?

My father died, I had to give up my social life in order to get his affairs straight. I sacrifice ALL my vacation time now in order to settle things. I miss out on so much because I have to be down in Annapolis every weekend. It’s constantly on my mind, handing me, always, a great deal of stress.

My job continuously goes down hill. Especially more so since Ernie left. It’s crap what happened today. Everyday is crap now. I want to quit even more so. I don’t think I’ve ever been this mad at my job before.

So I ask God, what’s next? My Aunt Ruth dying? My dog? Dimitri leaving? Marc leaving? What’s next? How come all this bad stuff keeps happening to me? Why? Is it because I question my faith? It seems ever since I started to question my faith, everything goes bad. Why is this?

I was so happy. I had everything. My life was so perfect. I was, for the first time I think ever, genuinely happy.