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Joe here again, still in the job search game. Seems like a bi-annual thing here in the Valley. Let's see, got the resume ready, the reference list completed. Oh, interview clothes; I need to think about that.

A quick survey of my closet reveals a pile of clean Levi's, and a pile of dirty Levi's. In the corner is a stack of T-shirts with company logos on them. Other than fond memories or horrid nightmares, these T-shirts are my only reminder of the fluidity of employment in the Valley. A shirt from 3Com, given to me right before they took out half of the company on a restructuring after the Bridge buyout. Here is that Truevision baseball cap I got right before the bloody merger that kept me on the road for a couple of weeks. And the large stack of Apple clothes. Apple still has the record for the most and best stuff.

One nice benefit of working in Silicon Valley is that you never have to buy T-shirts, jackets or baseball caps. Any major project you work on isn't considered complete until the marketing guy passes out the commemorative hat or shirt. An offsite conference always results in a new jacket, sweatshirt or beach towel.

Let's see, I probably need a white dress shirt. I have a cool one, but the "HTTP:// WWW.SGI.COM" embroidered on the back makes it unsuitable for interviews at Sun. Make a note: visit Lands' End Web site for a couple of white shirts. After I get the job, I can use them when I paint the house.

Suit? Do I need a suit?

Here is the dilemma. I am interviewing for a senior engineering manager. If I show up in a suit, they will think I don't know anything. If I show up like my young Java-coding friends in sandals, I will look like a burned-out hippie FORTRAN programmer. Dockers slacks.... here they are. Dockers are the greatest invention since the Command Line. I can look upscale without being mistaken for a DRAM salesman. OK, got a clean pair of Dockers, will get some white shirts. Got the SIGGRAPH tie, for the interview with the VP of Engineering, and this Jerry Garcia - designed tie. I will use the Garcia tie when I interview with the VP of Marketing, as those guys are always closet Deadheads.

Do clothes make the man?

I was at a conference last month, one of the multi-thousand dollar things. VP of Engineering was scheduled to go, but he told the President to go to hell, so he was fired. My boss went to Tahiti for a month to escape the fall-out. I was volunteered to avoid an embarrassing no-show by our company.

This conference had an interesting mix of people. Before I met anyone, I made a note of what they were like strictly by the clothes they were wearing. Pretty narrow minded, I agree, but hey, this is as close to a degree in Sociology as I will ever get. Let's see, old guy in a nice suit...Ex-VP pushed aside, goes to these conferences because he has nothing else to do. Young guy in ratty jeans, loud and rude...Company founder thrown out by the VCs after the second round of financing. I can see why. Big guy, buzz haircut, nice suit, eyes darting around...Penny stock pusher looking for suckers. Middle-aged woman, nice clothes, VERY outgoing...From a PR agency, fishing for clients. Three Japanese guys in cheap suits...Boondoggle business trip, will spend the weekend playing golf. Hey, this is fun! Unfair, but fun.

OK Joe, look in the mirror, what do you see? Middle-aged guy in Dockers, SGI dress shirt, Apple tie. Engineering manager, bored with his job, taking a couple of days out of the office to shmooze and eat well. Has worked at a lot of companies in the Valley.

Clothes may make the man, but in Silicon Valley, they also tell you a lot about the road he has traveled.

 

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