Three Minutes with Jon DeJong

jonDeJongJon DeJong is originally from Omaha, Nebraska and graduated high school in Urbandale, Iowa. He started his Scott Scholarship in 1998 and graduated from PKI in 2002 in Computer Science. He currently lives in Minneapolis and works for Object Partners. Contact him via Facebook.

There’s a lot more work in the Twin Cities. I like it up here. I like living in a bigger city. There’s a lot to do. It’s cold. The summers are great. I do a lot of biking and running. There are lots of parks for that type of thing. Rooftop decks have been a big thing around here, which you wouldn’t think of since it’s only good for three months. I think it’s important for the reputation of the school for graduates to expand away from Omaha. There are a lot more opportunity in bigger cities for technical-type of people, or that want to work in that field.

I can trace my career directly back to an internship that I had through PKI in Houston. It was called Orillion, a small telecom software company. In the telecom bust, two of their biggest clients went belly-up in the same week. The lady that I ended up working for actually knew Ted Plugge, then the Coordinator of the Career Resource Center. Her recommendation got me in the door at Union Pacific, and then I went with co-workers to a defense contractor at Offutt. Eventually one of those guys went to a company that is now a client of my current firm.

We don’t have much management. We have an owner, two sales guys, and a recruiter, and and an operations director. Pretty much everyone else is billable one way or another. Everybody cares about the growth of the company so everybody is involved. Object Partners is about about 45-50 employees doing java-based consulting, mostly for Fortune 500 companies, with custom application development. We have about 40 consultants up here and three in Omaha. We have a few business analyst consultants, maybe two. The rest are all technical.

Almost all of our programmers are at the Senior Architect type of level. We don’t really send in junior developers. I’m working directly with the business leaders on the client sites on a daily basis.

Our philosophy is to hire good people you want and not necessarily a skillset the client immediately needs. You don’t want to grow for the sake of growth. You want to manage that growth with great people, and sometimes it’s tough. You can read a book and memorize it and ace an interview. But that’s really worthless in our field. It’s more if you understand the basics and the fundamentals of software development and object-oriented programming. That’s tough to get out in a one-hour interview.

Managing growth is an interesting concept. You don’t want to turn down work but you don’t want to hire people just for a job and not have it turn out. Other firms in the area got hit a lot harder in the recession because they didn’t have as good of reputation as we had, so they were the first people to go. We’ve taken a small hit but not a huge hit. It’s difficult to figure out where you draw that line.

We do mostly JVM-based Java, along with Groovy and Groovy on Grails. Recently we’ve begun to get into the mobile space as well, mostly in iOS but also a little into Android. We’ve seen a lot of clients exploring the potential of the iPad.

The professional community is great up here. I do mostly just the Java User Groups. I was fairly active in the Omaha one before I moved.

I don’t know where I’m headed. I really like my company. I would like to go on and get some sort of grad schooling, but I’m not sure in what yet. I honestly don’t know if it would help me out from the technical career point. For the time being, I want to stay technical.

I get to see how a lot of different companies operate without switching jobs. I like it. I essentially switch jobs every month to eighteen months, without switching jobs.

The most important thing, from a consulting standpoint, is you have to be self-motivated. You’re expected to walk into any situation and be the expert in that technical field. You really need to spend a lot of time on your own researching and becoming familiar with new and odd technologies, so when you get thrown into new or tough situations you’re still effective. As a new employee, you go in and train. As a consultant, you go in and lead right away. You really need to be self-motivated and self-educated at learning new things and not be afraid of the challenge of walking into the situation and figuring it out quickly.

This and interviews of other alumni can be found at ScottScholarAlumni.org. If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming interview, have a request to hear about someone else, or just have any other comments or suggestions, please contact Kyle Hoback.

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