Notes from "Landing Your Dream Job 2.0"

Landing Your Dream Job 2.0

Landing Your Dream Job 2.0 took place late yesterday afternoon at the Mercury Lounge in Ottawa's ByWard Market. This was one of a series of smarTALKS held by OCRI, the Ottawa Centre for Regional Innovation, an organization whose goal is to promote the area's knowledge-based businesses and industries. smarTALKS are sessions meant to "engage entrepreneurs, thought leaders and innovators in forward-thinking conversations about 'what’s next.' "

Here's the abstract for Landing Your Dream Job 2.0:

From custom landing pages to personal branding, the traditional strategy for landing your dream job may no longer be effective. Particularly in the startup and technology space, successful candidates are thinking outside the box and creating customized application packages that market to target employers using unique methodologies and tactics. This renaissance of creativity among motivated candidates has raised the bar for entry into many high growth companies. The panel will focus on sharing some of these contemporary tools as well as best practices for landing a job at the tech firm or startup of you choice. In addition, the panel will discuss trends in current hiring practices and will provide an analysis of how things have changed over the past few years.

Harley Finkelstein, Shopify's Chief Platform Officer and Shopify's representative at OCRI, played the role of host and panel moderator. The panelists were:

This panel discussion played to a packed room, with attendees filling the the main level of the lounge, the balcony and even the staircase leading up to the balcony. I'd say that there are a number of people in Ottawa either looking for work or workers!

Notes from the Talk

I took notes during the whole session and have posted them below.

Harley Finkelstein: How have things changed in the way people apply for jobs?

Doug Teztner:

  • These days, there's so much more information available about places to work and what they're like
  • Responding to job postings has become like responding to RFPs -- you're not just simply applying, you're doing research
  • People are getting background information on companies through sources like LinkedIn
  • You can network with people who work at the place you're applying to
  • Candidates these days have to be more selective -- they should be asking themselves these questions:
    • "Where can I add value?"
    • "Which jobs line up with my resume and skillset?"

Harley Finkelstein: When Mike Freeman applied for a job at Shopify, he did something clever: he created a Shopify store selling himself. Mike, how'd you come up with the idea, especially since you essentially a web page with a single purpose: to be landing page for Shopify?

Mike Freeman:

  • I didn't want to take the shotgun approach -- I really wanted to work at Shopify
  • So I did some very heavy research
  • I'll admit it: I was putting all my eggs in one basket
  • Looked for connections between him and Shopifolks (found a past connection between him and Harley -- they worked at the same org)
  • It was all about standing out and getting past all the other applicants

Harley Finkelstein: Speaking of standing out, Luc, what different tacks do you think job applicants should take?

Luc Levesque:

  • It's a balancing act between standing out and annoying the people you're trying to reach
  • If you're applying for a job at my company, do something I can look at and sink my teeth into
  • The question that people who are hiring are asking themselves when evaluating candidates is: "Can they perform?"
  • A great way to stand out is to work on your online profile

Harley Finkelstein: If you're not applying to TravelPod in some standout way, are you in trouble?

Luc Levesque: 

  • The more you can do to "de-risk" the hire, the better
  • The trusted reference -- someone who I trust who is recommending you -- is the trump card

Harley Finkelstein: This new trend in finding interesting ways to get hired seems to be a product of the tech and the startup scene. But there's at least one story outside tech where a guy who wanted a job on Madison Avenue set up pages so that when CEOs of adevrtising firms did vanity searches, his resume would appear near the top of the search results. A very creative solution. Brittany, do companies need to encourage this?

Brittany Forsyth:

  • In today's market, we expect this sort of thing more and more
  • It's a good answer to the problem of what to do if you're young and don't yet have the connections you need
  • When I get a job application for Shopify, I look at the cover letter: it's the first indicator of their fit with the company
  • One of the best ways to land an interview is to provide some proof that you can do the job
  • If you write code, we can check Github. If you design, we can check your online portfolio
  • Don't be afraid to go outside the box

Harley Finkelstein: What do you do when you have a position you need to fill?

Doug Teztner:

  • Another big change in hiring is that the word about jobs gets out in nichier ways now; it's more targeted
  • We've been doing more job adveritsing via LinkedIn than with the Globe and Mail
  • Looking for a job is a job: it's a sales job, in fact. You're selling yourself!

Harley Finkelstein: This new style of job-seeking, with extreme customization and a focus on standing out -- is it a Gen-Y specific thing?

Brittany Forsyth:

  • No, I think it's just that the bar has been raised
  • I don't think it's specific to any generation

Harley Finkelstein: Is this new-style job-seeking increasing the level of engagement with applicants? Do they know more about the businesses they're applying for?


  • I don't know
  • It's too hard to tell if it's a fundamental change in the way people look for work, or simply that we're hiring more
  • It could also be that the tools and resources are better these days.

Harley Finkelstein: When you were applying for work at Shopify, did social media play a role in the Shopify job application?

Mike Freeman:

  • Yes!
  • I used LinkedIn to see who worked where and who'd been hired
  • Facebook can also be a good source of information and connections
  • If you're applying for work, check out the company's site. You can get a feel for the company's "voice" and see if you're a good fit
  • You'll feel more comfy going into an interview if you know more about them

Harley Finkelstein: Is the quality of candidates changing?

Doug Teztner: People are better prepared now

Harley Finkelstein: Why applying or interviewing for a job, how important is know the audience?

Brittany Forsyth:

  • Research goes hand in hand with knowing your audience
  • Customize your job application to match

Harley Finkelstein: What is a dream job? Is it a new concept?

Luc Levesque:

  • I don't think I'm old enough to answer that. Doug? (laughs)
  • There was one applicant -- he's now a rock star in my company - I initially didn't hire him
  • He found out what events I went to, and whom who I knew, attended those events, befriended those people

Doug Tetzner:

  • Make a list of people who like you

Luc Levesque:

  • Relationships: they're the trump card
  • I've seen who've had horrible interviews, but because of a recommendation from a trusted source, I hired them
  • The slam dunk: a recommendation from someone whom I trust, whom you reported to and who depended on you

Brittany Forsyth:

  • We had one application who took our Shopify site marked what was wrong
  • It can be a double-edged sword, but in his case, it worked
  • It proved that he knew us and it showed that he did his homework

Doug Tetzner:

  • Please don't start your cover or intro letter with "To whom it may concern". Who uses "whom" anymore?
  • Just find out my name! It's not that hard
  • Have a couple of good questions that you would ask during the interview
  • "I did 70 hours of prep for the short list!"
  • At the job interview, don't go for broadcast, but conversation
  • You should be asking yourself: "Is this a good fit? Am I adding value?" Figure out if it's right for you, they'll figure out if you're right for them

Mike Freeman:

  • Coming out of school, you were probably given a lot of examples and templates for cover letters and resumes
  • Break free! Do something different that represents you
  • In my interview, I ended up talking with [Shopify CEO and co-founder] Tobi [Lutke] and Harley about random things
  • If you can't find your dream job, find your dream company and work towards that dream job

Harley Finkelstein: Mike's store was a good sign that he was the sort of person we were looking for and that he'd be a good fit

Luc Levesque:

  • Hiring is really more more about getting the right people on the boat
  • If you're talking to a founder or CEO and you blow them away, they'll invent a position just for you
  • In the back of their mind, they're asking themselves "Am I going to have fun working with this person?"
  • You are building a relationship with the hiring manager
  • Turned down a rock star on the interview because they couldn't build that relationship

Brittany Forsyth:

  • Make sure your social media profile represents you well
  • If your social media software allows it, do a good customization - don't just go with the boilerplate!
  • And working towards the dream job? I did that: I took an office manager job at start with goal of becoming an HR manager

Doug Tetzner:

  • Include your interests in your resume! I want to know what kind of person you are
  • Will someone please do a video resume?
  • Don't say "If there's anything else keep me in mind" -- it says you'll take anything
  • Instead, do a quick follow up
  • You want to build some chemistry with the person you'll be working for
  • If there's no chemistry at the start, it will typically not get better

Luc Levesque:

  • Don't talk money at the first interview
  • It's a first date! Don't rush into the sex!

Quotes from the Q&A

Mike Freeman: If you're trying to make a name for yourself and you're just starting out, start a blog on a topic in your field

Luc Levesque: A blog is a great way to do that -- it builds credibility

Doug Teztner: A lot of companies have a little list of people they'd like to fire

(In response to a question about an older applicant competing with younger ones) Luc Levesque: In the case where it's you versus a 22 year-old and you're using same tools, you experience could be the edge you need

(On being invited to lunch by people trying to hire you even though you're not looking for  job) Luc Levesque: 

  • You're going to eat anyways, take every lunch!
  • The connection you make could be valuable later
  • Oh, and by the way, whoever invites, pays

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Scenes from Shopify Pub Night #1

Last night, we held the first Shopify Pub Night in Byward Market, the first of a number of social get-togethers that we're planning to have this summer here in Ottawa. Due to some last-minute changes in room reservations, we were moved from the main room of the Heart and Crown to the front room of Peter Devine's, one of the other pubs in the mega-pub-plex collectively known as the Irish Village. Luckily, between my regular missions scouting the pubs for lost souls as well as people figuring what was up and finding us, everyone managed to find a party and what a party it was!

All told, we had about 30 people attend throughout the night, with a good 25 people at peak. We were an interesting bunch: a good number of Shopifolks plus a couple who were Shopifolks' significant others and family members, plus local developers from the indie/startup, government and Microsoft MVP worlds. I spent a fair bit of time making sure that I was "working the room" properly, bouncing from table to table, talking to as many people as I could. I was pleased to see some familiar faces from my life as a Microsoftie, hang out with my coworkers and make new friends with some local developers and designers. I was also more than happy to introduce these people from these different spheres to each other.

We even had some out-of-town guests join us. My friends Cory Fowler and Colin Bowern, whom I met during my stint as a Developer Evangelist for Microsoft, came here from Toronto to do consulting work for the next couple of weeks. They win the "Phileas Fogg" award for greatest distance travelled to attend Shopify Pub Night.

We talked about all sorts of things, some of which were:

  • Bacon and its near-magical properties
  • Shoe shopping opportunities in Vegas
  • Life in the corporate world versus life in the startup world
  • ByWard Market, the-town-formerly-known-as-Hull and how both have changed over the years
  • Conferences we're thinking of attending
  • The accordion and what it's like to bring it through airport security and onto a plane
  • Sausages and how they can revolutionize your career
  • Visual Basic, C#, F#, Ruby, Python, PHP, JavaScript and CoffeeScript

I'm pretty pleased with the way the evening turned out. We ended up pretty much owning the front room of the pub, people mixed, mingled and seemed to be having a good time, and hopefully some of you go to know us a little better and we got to know you a little better. I'd like to extend my most sincere thanks to everyone who joined us -- these events are nothing without you.

I believe that software should be a social thing; after all, while software runs on machines, it runs for people. You can't create stuff for people in isolation. That's why we held Shopify Pub Night and why we're going to be holding more of these events throughout the summer and beyond: because great things happen when you bring people together. Watch this space for announcements of upcoming Shopify events -- we'd love to have you there!

Photo courtesy of Thibaud Clement.

[ This article also appears in Global Nerdy. ]

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Shopify Pub Night Tonight! (Tuesday, June 14th)

If you’re going to be in Ottawa’s ByWard Market tonight, come on down to the Heart and Crown for the first Shopify Pub Night of the summer! We’re holding this get-together to enjoy what’s passing for summer this year, to get to know you and get you to know us, and to do a little community building. Whether you’re a techie, creative, business, social media or government type, it doesn’t matter – we’d like to see you there!

We’ll be there from 6:00 p.m. until 10-ish – keep an eye on @AccordionGuy or @Shopify on Twitter as the night goes on. We’ll be easy to spot – look for the crowd with the guy with the accordion!

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Going to Toronto for Ruby Job Fair and Portland for BarCamp


Some of the Shopifolks are travelling this weekend to some interesting events.

rspec::table, a.k.a. The Ruby Job Fair (Friday, May 20th)

If you're in the Toronto area and looking for a job, you might want to drop by rspec::table employment, otherwise known as the Ruby Job Fair. Our friends at Unspace are holding this event, where Rubyists seeking employment can meet with potential employers.

It's the third such event put together by Unspace, and it's specifically aimed at those programmers who've eschewed more mainstream programming languages and frameworks for the Ruby, Rails and other Ruby-related goodies because, let's face it, they're fun. And hey, we believe that if you're going to spend your working life -- half your waking existence -- doing something, it had better be fun, don't you think?

Have you considered developing for Shopify? Think of it: we're growing start-up that's actually profitable, and that was before we secured that Series A funding. We're in the business of helping people sell stuff online, a field whose growth is strong and steady. We've got some killer coders in the shop; I feel like the dumbest guy in the room when I'm around them (I'm okay with that -- it has its advantages). The perks of working here are great, from the people to the gear and welcome swag to the location -- not some soul-draining industrial park, but in Ottawa's ByWard Market: central, and the liveliest part of town.

If you'd like to get a job with us and in on some of this action, come on down to the Ruby Job Fair this Friday, May 20th at Unspace's office (342 Queen Street West, Toronto, east of Spadina, above LuluLemon) from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and say hello to the Shopifolk who'll be there: Brittany, Edward and Julie!

To find out more about the Ruby Job Fair and the after-party, visit the Ruby Job Fair site.

BarCamp Oregon (Friday, May 20th - Saturday, May 21st)

Shopify is one of five startups that makes up the BarCamp Tour, a group helping sponsor BarCamps all over North America. Thus far, we've been to BarCamp Boston and MinneBar (a Minneapolis-based BarCamp serving all of the state of Minnesota). This weekend, we'll be at the third BarCamp on the tour: Portland, Oregon, affectionately known to some as Portlandia:

BarCamp Portland is an unconference: a conference whose topics, sessions and schedules are determined by the attendees. On the start of the unconference day, people will propose session topics and set up a schedule, after which the unconferencing will begin. We’re expecting geeks of every sort to show up: not just the hackers, but artists, engineers, hobbyists, writers and poets, jokers and journalists, entrepreneurs, cooks and bakers, people who till the land or help neighbourhoods take shape, and anyone else who likes create.

Shopify, along with our partners on the BarCamp Tour -- BatchBlueGrasshopperMailchimp and Wufoo -- isn't your typical event sponsor. Yes, we’re each throwing in money to help BarCamp organizers hold their events, but we’re also there at the conference, actively participating, joining in the discussions, providing food and drinks, and even helping carry stuff or clean up. We’re also there to promote our companies, but not in a hard-sell way — we’re there to meet people who want to use our software and services, have questions and get to know the creative, inventive, ambitious people who attend BarCamps!

I'll be there, helping out, facilitating sessions, answering questions about Shopify and playing accordion (of course). If you see me, please say hi!

To find out more about BarCamp Portland, visit the BarCamp Portland site.

If you're interested in finding out more about BarCamps, watch this video, taken at one of the first BarCamps in San Francisco:

[This article also appears in Global Nerdy.]

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Shopify Does SXSW

Drawing from the widespread belief that everything’s bigger in Texas, SXSWi 2011 proved to be no exception. A small delegation from Shopify joined over 36,000 industry representatives in Austin to enjoy South By Southwest’s mesmerizing ballet of warm Texan hospitality and a frenzy of brilliant minds wielding cutting edge technology… oh, and a whole lot of BBQ.

South By (as people in the know call it) has always been known as a breeding grounds for emerging tech and this year was no exception. Beluga took a commanding lead as the most popular group messaging app, Hashable may soon put traditional business cards into extinction, and Hurricane Party will undoubtedly be the go-to SXSWi party finder for years to come.

Also of note was the amount of attention given to the little guy. Even though big name sponsors like Miller Lite and Chevrolet pumped infinite dollars into ethanol infused parties, it was the smaller companies that seemed to generate the most amount of buzz. For instance, Shopify’s Where’s Harley Contest was featured in a USA Today article, and people were tweeting more about Instagram and GroupMe than Pepsi and AOL.

Anyways, there’s no sense in tying to put a weeks worth of SXSWi fun into words, so check out the slide show below:

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HackDays: App Developers Unite at Shopify Headquarters

It was a busy weekend here at the Shopify office.

On Saturday, Feb. 26, we opened our doors to almost 100 developers who, working in teams or solo, engaged in a heated yet playful competition to create the coolest application using pre-selected APIs. This “Hackfest,” labeled HackDays is the brainchild of Leila Boujnane, the co-founder and CEO of Idée Inc, the company that created TinEye, (the world’s first large scale reverse image search engine), and Corey Reid, developer herder and sword handler at Freshbooks.

Developers at Shopify hacking open API at HackOTT

Software developers used open APIs from address directory giant Yellow Pages Group; image search optimizer Idée Inc; online movie store Zip; mobile gaming social marketing startup Pretzil; and of course Shopify :-)

Developers at Shopify hacking open API at HackOTT

The six-hour pizza and root beer fuelled coding marathon produced 15 awesome apps that were presented to a panel of judges at the end of the day. The winning application, created by Brad Miller (@bradmiller), and Jevin Maltais (@jevy) allows you to make quick online reservations with any restaurant in the world. Simply find a local restaurant on a map and complete the online form. Their app, named Reservely, will automatically phone the restaurant (via Twilio) and will send you a confirmation or denial of your reservation.

Developers at Shopify hacking open API at HackOTT

(Pictured above from left to right: Corey Reid/Freshbooks, Kyle McInnes/Pretzil, Jean-Luc David/Yellow Pages, Edward Ocampo-Gooding/Shopify, Tobias Lütke/Shopify, Leila Boujnane/Idée Inc)

We really love open APIs here at Shopify, so it was an absolute pleasure hosting HackDays! It’s always nice to open our office doors to the tech community, and as a result we met a lot of insanely talented individuals, enjoyed some laughs and we can’t wait to do it again.

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Shopify Holiday Party!

Shopify is having its holiday party this Wednesday, and we’d love for you to join us.

Where: 185 Rideau Street, Suite 200, Ottawa, Ontario
When: December 16th, 7pm

Come by for some great music and even better company!

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Developer Meetup Today at 2:00PM EST

Thinking of developing for the Shopify platform?

Got a great idea for a Shopify app and need to know more about the technical specifics?

Already working on something, but wondering “if only the Shopify API could…”?

Join us at the Shopify Developer Meetup today, December 11th, at 2:00PM EST.

These meetups are our way of sitting down with you the developer, hacking away on the Shopify platform and its API. We want to hear your questions, and see what sort of cool stuff you’ve got cooking.

Looking forward to seeing you there,

The Shopify API Team

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Next Developer Meetup: December 11

The next developer meetup will take place on December 11th, 2009. More details to be announced at the shopify app development page in the very near future.

These meetups are our way of sitting down with you the developer, hacking away on the Shopify platform and its API. We want to hear your questions, and see what sort of cool stuff you’ve got cooking.

If you came to the last meetup, thanks for all the questions and ideas! We’d like to send a particular shoutout to Marcus, CEO of Little Bird Electronics who showed off an idea for adding icons to Application Links – we loved it so much, it wasn’t long before it was integrated into Shopify. Take a look at it here.

We’re still working and thinking about your other ideas like searching through the API and creating discount codes through the API. We really want to make sure we get it right the first time it goes out, so if you have any ideas about how you’d like to see the API presented or work, now’s the time to let us know.

Looking forward to seeing you there,

The Shopify Team

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