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Unemployment Diary: Companies want complex projects

This week, The Post's Theresa Vargas presents a series of stories about what unemployed people do now that they've lost the structure that a job lends daily life. Theresa asked about a dozen people who had recently lost their jobs to keep diaries detailing how they fill the suddenly empty hours in their days.

We'd like to continue building this portrait of how unemployment changes life by asking those of you who have lost work to give us a sense of the changing flow and tempo of your days and evenings. What do you do now that you haven't done in the past? What can you no longer do? How have your contacts with friends, family, colleagues changed? What's better, what's worse?

You can give us the details on the comment boards below, or make an Unemployment Diary video of your own and post it to us via YouTube.

Meanwhile, we're posting here all week the full diaries of those people who helped us out with the reporting of Theresa's stories.


Diary of Ken Roe, an iPhone applications designer who has been out of work for about nine months.

I moved out here with my wife from California over the summer. She finished her PhD at Berkeley and now has a job at Abt. I've spent my time looking for work, taking a class at the University of Maryland and developing iPhone apps. I'm generally finding the job market quite frustrating. I've been out of work for about 9 months. I've sent lots of resumes. Nothing has come in. As yet, my iPhone apps are not making money. I am hopeful that this will change soon. My Smart Recorder app (which is free right now) has maintained its ranking within the top 50 free business apps in the iTunes app store. I'm planning an update which will include a "lite" and paid version and will fix some key customer issues. I also think another app, Transylvania, could make money after a couple of issues with it are fixed.

Wednesday morning:

We live in Rockville. I dropped my son off at school and wife at her job in Bethesda. I then continued on to the University of Maryland, where I am taking a class. Given the current job environment, I've decided that my best career bet is to return to graduate school and do a PhD in Computer Science. I've been following the formal verification field for many years and believe that it will play an important role in computer security over the next few years. Since the class does not meet until the afternoon, I spend the morning writing emails and finishing a quick "test" project for a company that might want to hire me.

Today was the last day of class. There were four project presentations. Since time is tight, I used this time to do a write a quick demo program that I promised for a company interested in hiring me. It seems that companies are now asking for quite a bit before making hiring decisions. After class, I dropped by a Target and bought a toy that I promised for an evening meeting. I got home at 3:30 p.m. I then took my son to the library. We got back at about 4:20 and left about 15 minutes later for the evening meeting. This is a networking meeting with the iPhone/Android/Smart phone meetup group. They have a meeting every month. This month, there was a presenter from FlipSide5, an iPhone game company. This meeting was encouraging. Two other people mentioned openings for iPhone developers. Also, the presenters from FlipSide5 mentioned that they were interested in partnering with other game developers. This might mean that Transylvania could generate a decent income stream in the near future.


Today, I stayed home to get some work done. My son went out to the bus stop for school around 8:20 a.m. and my wife left shortly after that for work. She took the car. So I didn't have a car for the day. In the morning, I worked on a "demo" iPhone application that one potential employer wanted. It seems now that many companies are asking for complex projects to be done as part of their interview process. I finished that project at around 1:00 p.m. Next, I started working on Transylvania. This is an iPhone app that I am currently selling. The initial release was made on Halloween day. However, sales have been slow and we want to stimulate them by putting out a free "lite" version. This is a common practice among iPhone developers. The afternoon was interrupted by a job interview with Bloomberg at 2:30. That interview didn't go well as I did not study for their C++ test. I'm actually not all that excited about the job as it would require me to relocate to New York.

My son reappeared from school at 3:30. He takes the bus back home.

Later in the afternoon, I needed to talk to my lawyer about a child support hearing for my daughter, who is living in California with her mother.

Finally, my wife got back around 7:00 p.m. and we went out for dinner. When we got back from dinner, I continued work on Transylvania.


Today is another work day. I saw my son and wife off in the morning around 8:20. My wife took the car to work. I spent the morning catching up on emails. One of them was from a recruiter from Oxford International. He had a client in Boston who he thought might be interested in hiring me. While I'm talking to him, I'm actually not all that interested in moving up to Boston--even for a contract. I went out around 12:00 for lunch. Since there was nothing in the house, I went to a nearby restaurant and had some pizza. I took my laptop.

While waiting for pizza, I worked on a project due for my class at Maryland. After lunch, I took the laptop over to the rental office for the apartment where I live. They have a business office that tenants use. I worked there for an hour on the class project and then went home. Around 5:00 p.m., I walked my son over to his friend's house. I cooked dinner around 6:00 (spaghetti and meatballs). When my wife got back around 7, I gave her a choice of either finishing the cooking or heading out to get our son. She chose to get our son back. After dinner, I continued work on the class project.

By Theresa Vargas  | December 23, 2009; 10:09 AM ET
Categories:  Diaries, More on the story  
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