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I have been a software developer for years now. I have been working in big companies using their own standard and tools. I have always been able to use some of my favourite tools, like Intellij as my main java IDE, but it can not be always the case.

I have also been forced to use some crappy tools (bloatwares source versionning, broken quality insurance application, ...) and frameworks I would happily have replaced by another.

What can I do to find a 'perfect' mission, where using my tools will be the norm, or at least not forbidden?

Or even better, how can I find a job using a non mainstream framework?

I don't want to sacrifice the payroll for my tools of choice, so joining a cheap start-up won't be a solution.

I'm not looking for a job offer, but more on tips used by the lucky developers that have found a perfect matching job.

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5  
Since the users and the application come first, and tools are -- at best -- a peripheral concern, your quest is doomed from the start. –  S.Lott May 4 '11 at 9:52
    
@S.Lott - you can always limit your users & apps to the ones that fit your tools. You don't install a car wash and worry about the Bentleys. –  JeffO May 4 '11 at 12:49
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@Jeff O: If you limit your search based on your tools ("Only a car that requires the 13mm wrench I like") then you may never find a suitable place to work. It can be a very narrow filter. A really poor choice of tools could lead to no employer with that exact mix of stuff. –  S.Lott May 4 '11 at 13:04

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Keep job hopping. Don't be afraid to leave a job using crappy tools, because it's going to hold you down in the long run. Learn to ask better questions about the environment, and don't be afraid to decline an offer from a shop using tools that you don't think will give you a good return on investment for working there.

The way our field evolves, tools do matter when getting a new job; if you spend your career working with bad tools or not using any of the major tools that better developers use (I'm not familiar with Java so can't name any, but for instance in the .NET world it would be like NHibernate or Entity Framework, NUnit/MbUnit/XUnit, MVC, etc.), it's going to bite you in the ass later down the road if you ever try to get a job in a shop that uses those tools.

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Yeah, that are valuables advices... Maybe there is too much randomness in it: while job environment is crappy pick another job. –  Guillaume May 4 '11 at 13:19
    
This is what I'm doing. –  sevenseacat May 4 '11 at 23:16
    
+1: Great answer. Correct answer. –  Jim G. Jul 6 at 0:30

Network . This is the only way. Any other information you dig up might not be relevant or recent.

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I would combine this answer to the one from Waine M for a perfect good answer... Yeah, networking is a good way to improve my luck of finding a perfect matching mission :) –  Guillaume May 9 '11 at 8:54

Start your own startup ! or participate in open source projects.
Or you can drive the technical change in your office smartly not harshly.
Convince your team the benefits of your preferred technologies and accept if they don't agree with you.

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Convincing the team is one thing, convincing the top management is another: Listen big boss, your HAL software collection is too crappy, now we will use this very cool and cheap product instead. –  Guillaume May 4 '11 at 9:15
    
Maybe the top management have their own reasons to keep their too crappy software collection? –  Chiron May 4 '11 at 9:23
    
Maybe they play golf with the top management from the other company ? Or maybe they have shares of the other company ? –  Guillaume May 4 '11 at 9:35

I don't understand what your perfect job is:

Is it:

  1. somewhere that uses tools you like using or
  2. somewhere that does interesting work.

There's always going to be a trade off. I think you're not so much looking for tools or technology - from what I can see - but possibly ambience.

A key issue with tool by diktat is it's not really about the tools in the end, it's about the working atmosphere and how open to creativity and flexibility your local management might be. This is not necessarily something you can glean in advance but you can have a good try at it during an interview. It is definitely not something you'll get from a job description so I think there's probably no easy way other than looking for role descriptions that interest you and through the recruitment process vet flexibility.

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I don't seek the perfect job, I just wish I can have more freedom on tools selection. I know I'm in the average area here: I have been able to select some minors OS frameworks and my own IDE on all my jobs. I know people that are forced to use every bloated tools provided by the company. I also know software shops where dev choices are respected ( like choosing its own OS/IDE (easy for a Java dev) or the source versionning system used by the team... The difficult part is that freedom is quite often not exposed in job offers... –  Guillaume May 4 '11 at 13:33

Work to become the lead developer in a company with a customer/product base that can fit your tools. Then you get to choose.

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Easier said than done. In almost all cases there will be someone with more tenure than you who is either the lead or being groomed to be the lead, and if they don't see the need for using the good tools, you won't make any headway. –  Wayne M May 4 '11 at 13:41

The only way to get your "perfect job" using the tools you love in the manner you want doing what you want is to start your own company.

You can try to find what you are looking for in a company owned and run by someone else, but it will be hard. Job hopping, working hard to rise to a position of authority are all nice, but they are fraught with frustration and potential difficulties.

Of course, starting your own business is, too, but it's the only way to be sure to get what you want.

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Good advice, but it's a little bit extreme... I know that the kind of job that give you a little extra freedom are still around, but I just feel difficult to find them... –  Guillaume May 4 '11 at 13:29

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