Beware the SuiteScript Job Posting

The ongoing global pandemic has thrown a massive amount of chaos into the global workforce – to say nothing of the terrible personal suffering it has caused – and the SuiteScript space is no exception. Many companies are downsizing while many others are hiring; our little niche is in a state of constant transition.

Whether I’m working with coaching students who are looking for work or advising team leaders who are hiring developers, I’m often asked to review SuiteScript job postings and descriptions. Through that experience, I’ve noticed some common patterns and red flags, and I want to share some of those with you throughout this week. Each day, I’ll pick some common phrasing I see in job postings and share my interpretation of how it might translate into the day-to-day in that job. For those of you seeking a job, my hope is that you lean on my perspective to ask more pointed questions of a potential employer to suss out a good fit for yourself. For those of you hiring developers, my hope is that you are able to take a step back and critically assess your own job postings and descriptions with a fresh, outside perspective.

Throughout this series, please keep in mind that these are my own observations and anecdotal interpretations. Just because I say something in a job posting might be a red flag does not mean that is automatically a bad job or a bad company, or that the person posting it had any ill intent. Furthermore, just because a posting does not include any of my red flags does not automatically make it a good job or a good company for you. Job searches and employment dynamics are extremely personal and complex; everyone is in their own unique situation with varying goals and differing comfort zones. Don’t take my perspective as gospel; instead use it as fuel for your own critical thinking and research.

OK, with my preamble disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk about the first common phrase in a job posting that puts my teeth on edge.

“We need someone who loves to wear multiple hats …”

I can barely recall a single job posting in the past few years that doesn’t include some variation of this phrase; it’s especially common in startups and other small organizations or teams, but certainly not unique to them. Depending on how it is worded, it may be a little cryptic – especially if English is not your first language – but it is at least an up-front announcement that you will be doing a lot more work than just SuiteScript development. If an organization tells me I need to “wear multiple hats”, here’s how I generally interpret and think about that:

It’s likely the company has a flat organizational structure with loosely defined – or even undefined – teams and roles. There are likely few – if any – boundaries between the roles because everyone is “wearing multiple hats”. Some of those hats will certainly be the same hat or at least overlap a bit, so get ready to step on some toes and have your own toes stepped on. Your day-to-day will vary, perhaps wildly. Each day or week might bring a completely different task for a completely different stakeholder with a completely different goal. For some, this is a wonderful advantage in a job; for others, it’s a horrible nightmare.

The lack of well-defined boundaries and structure is likely to lead to redundancy, inefficiency, and confusion in day-to-day work unless someone is tightly controlling the distribution of the hats. Who decides who wears which hat on what day? The answer is almost universally “no one“, and if that’s the case, you’re probably in for a wild ride of long hours and a lone-wolf experience with little teamwork. That may or may not be what you’re looking for in a job.

Because you’re wearing so many hats, it’s unlikely any of them will become comfortable. You’re not going to develop any single skill very deeply as you’ll never be able to focus long enough if you’re getting pulled from hat to hat, project to project. Instead, you’ll develop a wider range of general skills to a shallow degree. If your goal is to specialize in something, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. If you’re looking to dip your toe into several different roles, then this might be a good fit.

For me personally, I know that “wearing multiple hats” is not something I enjoy. I want to dive deep and specialize (hence my whole business being built completely around SuiteScript). I build teams which are well-defined with team members who are experts and specialists in their respective roles, who work together effectively and efficiently, and are left alone to focus on their project or client.

But I am not you! So what do you think about this phrase and these types of roles?

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