Jared Ning

The Wei of the Ningja

Underwhelmed in New York


I've been interviewing a lot for New York jobs. The market here is growing even through tough economic times. There are startups popping up like daisies. Everyone and their dog has an idea and wants to be the new facebook. This is good and bad for me. Good because there's a lot of jobs for people in my field. Bad because of the nature of their products, which I am not used to.

Most of these startups are here to do one thing: make money. To make money, you have to get people to use your product. The shinier your product, the more customers will be lured in. This is new territory for me. Most of my work was done in non-profit medical research. Our customers were sitting in cubicles next door. There's no need to lure them in with big enticing buttons screaming "Try it now, FREE!" We don't have a marketing team or a design team dedicated to creating a beautiful color scheme and layout that is pleasing to the consumer eye. We need functionality.

This is hurting my case a lot here in New York. I am really weak in the public-facing department. I have no design training. I learned web page construction on my own and not even in a remotely formal way. At OMRF, all we needed was something that was good enough to convey the message to people a few feet away. All my projects outside of work are pretty bare as well and follow the same "function over aesthetics" principle. And not only that, the things I built were for a tiny group of people, and for highly specific functionalities:

  1. HMS: a large application that collects data for a small group of non-profit medical research scientists and administrators.
  2. Ordinary Zelig: March Madness, movie ratings, blogs.
  3. Catan Counter: keeps score for a board game that only a small cult knows about.
  4. Oscars Madness: a silly little app for picking oscar winners.

So let's go through the list again, but this time through the eyes of someone interviewing me:

  1. HMS: oh that's nice. I can't see any of it and I don't fully comprehend its usefulness. How does it make money?
  2. Ordinary Zelig: We don't care about sports, and all I see is a list of your friends with some points. There's some movies. Everybody has a blog. 1995 called and he wants his web page design back.
  3. Catan Counter: What's Catan, and why are you counting it? What is Cities and Knights? What are these colored boxes for?
  4. Oscars Madness: Oh look, last year's winners, and your friends again with some points next to their name.

One app for work that nobody sees, and a bunch of stuff I did for fun that no prospective employer cares about. My body of work has very little marketability. Is it coincidence that the 2 jobs I was offered almost 2 years ago were at a time when the site was down while I was moving it to another host? With NY startup companies, it's probably hurting my case. What you see on screen shows my weakness and overshadows my strengths. After reading my résumé, seeing my work leaves one, as my most recent prospect put it, "underwhelmed". That's not good. It's like dating a hot girl with a bad laugh.

Obviously I have a lot of learning to do.

On the bright side, the man who was "underwhelmed" by my site is currently considering me for a job partially because he sees me as a "fellow idealist/altruist". I don't know what an altruist is, but I don't think they have big salaries. In all seriousness, I really like his startup idea. It could help a lot of people. And it even has potential for a lot of money down the road.