Recently Penny Arcade, Inc. posted a help wanted ad for a system administrator. I’ve been working in IT for eight years, and I’ve seen some job postings with outlandish experience and certification requirements with unreasonable job responsibilities for a staggeringly low amount of pay, but this posting takes the cake.

For those of you that want to look at the original job posting (or apply), you can view it here.

Let’s start with the job description:

**** PLEASE NOTE: YOU HAVE UNTIL DECEMBER 20, 2013 AT 9:00 PM PST TO SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION. PLEASE FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER AT @RKHOO FOR UPDATES IN CASE EMAIL GETS SENT TO SPAM FOLDERS, ETC. ****

First off, YOU’RE NOT MY SUPERVISOR. Yet, anyway. I don’t care how competitive you think a position will be, you don’t put a ticking clock on it, especially in a job market that’s constantly in flux, and even more especially between Thanksgiving and Christmas (the worst job hunting time of the year).

Given our audience and the job at hand, this could potentially be the most competitive position we ever hire for. We’re looking for a web developer / software developer / sys admin to join our small family. We’re a team of 15-20 people that essentially run Penny Arcade proper, the online store, our fulfillment center, the PAX shows, Child’s Play, PATV, and a bunch of other smaller things that no one ever hears about. We rely heavily on outside partners and vendors, but as far as managing and helping run/deploy the technical infrastructure to most of the things we do, we rely on one person. That person is you.

Penny Arcade is not special. Every business, especially startups, likes to think that they’re special, but they’re not. By and large, the problems you would face working in a Fortune 50 company are similar to the ones you would face in a startup; the only difference is scale, and who you have to keep from looking at porn at work.

While we’re at it, this is an ad for THREE jobs. Yes, you can hire the IT equivalent of a Pu Pu Platter, but you’re going to have better results hiring three people to do each of these jobs. The skills and temperament needed to do these three jobs is wildly different, with some but not much overlap. Moreover, this person will spend a third of their time doing each of these jobs, which means they will not be doing any of them well.

So yes, we run lean. Most of us would say maybe a little TOO lean, but being pushed to your limit is part of the job. I’m not saying that to try and scare you away OR impress you, but it’s in both of our best interests to understand and set expectations properly. If you have boundless energy and desire to work on both creative AND sometimes tedious work but in an environment that just might change your life, perhaps this is the opportunity for you.

If there is near-universal agreement among employees that you’re running too lean, you have a problem. That means everyone is overworked and overstressed, and consequently more likely to completely burn out. However, good for them for letting potential applicants know that they’ll be worked to death alongside everyone else. I’m sure it will be a great comfort to their families and friends, who will never see them and wonder if they’re still alive.

Unless Penny Arcade is offering the potential for travel around the world or a staggering salary, this job will not change anyone’s life. It’s a job. With precious few exceptions, jobs are not life-changing experiences.

We are quite literally looking for a person that can do four jobs: Web Development, Software Development, Sys Admin, and the (dreaded) GENERAL IT for us here that need help configuring a firewall for a dev kit, etc. Sorry, I know that’s the WORST, but it’s absolutely part of the gig.

Correction: this is an ad for FOUR jobs. Now, a trained monkey can do one of them, but you’re still better off hiring three people and training a monkey. While we’re at it, GENERAL IT DOES NOT EXIST. If you are a generalist in IT, it’s because you haven’t found an area to specialize in, which means you know very little about any of them. IT jobs are onions; they will make you cry, and they have many layers. No one does everything, and anyone that says they do doesn’t do any of them well.

So yeah, we know that’s a lot to ask of a person, but all of us here work tremendously hard to do a lot of things, and if you’d like to be at the technical epicenter of it all and don’t mind having a really bad sense of work-life balance, this is the job for you.

Again, kudos to Penny Arcade for announcing that whomever takes this job, should he or she be worthy, shall have no life whatsoever. That doesn’t make it a good thing, but at least they’re honest.
Let’s head down to their desired skills and experience, and see the real nuts and bolts of the candidate they’re looking for. I mean, everyone gets a little overboard on the hyperbole in the description.

General Requirements

- You need to have a crazy-person level of attention to detail.

- Strong project management skills, organizational skills and time-management skills.

- A motivated self-starter who can overcome or workaround issues independently.

- Flexibility to travel up to 30% of the time.

- You should have no problems working in a creative and potentially offensive environment.

- Flexibility adapting to deadlines, changing schedules, priorities and unpredictable events in a fast paced environment.

- The ability to communicate and work well in a team environment as well as on an individual basis.

- Must have the ability to prioritize tasks and balance the immediate and long term needs.

- You should have no problem appearing on camera.

- It’s rarely we call on it, but if something breaks in the middle of the night, you are expected to be on call to address that issue 24/7.

Most of these could come from every IT job posting ever. I would have worded “crazy-person level of attention to detail” differently, in that if you’re looking for crazy-person levels of attention to detail, you’re probably going to get actual crazy people. Also, if you’re looking for a quick buck and qualified, then this might be your gig as they say outright that this is a “potentially offensive environment,” which to me reads as “hostile work environment,” which reads to me further as “potentially massive harassment lawsuit.”

Some things you should know about this job.

We’re terrible at work-life balance. Although work is pretty much your life, we do our absolute best to make sure that work is as awesome as possible so you at least enjoy each and every day here.

So they’re going with the gilded cage approach. Prepare to spend 18 hours a day at the office. Dump your significant other, give away your pets, sell all your possessions, because you’re either never going to see or have time to spend time with them. But hey, the break room has free Mountain Dew and foosball!

And here are some other things we’re using to weed people out. It’s not fair. I know. Life’s not fair.

- A BA/BS or greater degree in Computer Science or a related field

- A minimum of 3 years in development and project management, preferably in a professional workplace

- Strong experience in PHP, MySQL, Javascript (jQuery and AJAX), CSS, Apache

- Strong experience in one of Java, Python, Ruby, or other object-oriented language

- A history of running and configuring multiple-server environments, including load balancers, web accelerators/caching systems, and databases

- A history of running and configuring multiple server environments, load balancers, and varnish.

- You should probably be a fan of Penny Arcade. Probably. Yeah.

There’s no one alive with only three years of experience that could do what they’re asking for. This person does not exist, and anyone that pretends like they can do everything Penny Arcade is looking for is either lying or deluding themselves. This is three jobs they’re trying to roll into one, and they’re not even providing you with a trained monkey to do the fourth.

For a position like this, they must be offering a mint, right? I mean, if there is even a person alive that can do all of this, they’re likely very lucratively employed somewhere else, so surely Penny Arcade is ready to drop Fort Knox on them and make them one of the highest paid IT professionals in the Western Hemisphere.

Let’s look at compensation and benefits, and see what they’re offering.

COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS:

- Annual Salary: Negotiable, but you should know up front we’re not a terribly money-motivated group. We’re more likely to spend less money on salary and invest that on making your day-to-day life at work better.

The gym at work does not pay my phone bill. The free soda in the fridge doesn’t pay my electric bill. The ping pong table in the break room doesn’t pay for my car. The free lunches don’t pay my rent. The super nice desks and ergonomic chairs don’t pay for me to go to Tahiti (it’s a magical place) when I’m so burnt out my options are either get on a plane somewhere warm with a beach and WiFi or burn the goddamn office down.

This is the real world. If you want well qualified professionals to take you seriously as an employer, treat them like valued assets. Don’t lowball them or pretend like you don’t know the value of a dollar by saying you’re “not a terribly money-motivated group”. That’s not a job, that’s a cult, and your secret Kool-Aid recipe doesn’t pay my bills.

To sum up: FUCK YOU. PAY ME.

- Full Medical, Vision and Dental

- 401k (SEP) retirement contributions (2% of annual income per year)

- Holiday pay

- Periodic bonuses

- Flexible vacation time

- We’re willing to relocate you if need be

This could be lifted from pretty much every job I’ve ever applied to. This is standard, nothing special, unless the healthcare is one of those Triple Platinum Plans that includes everything under the sun and the company pays for everything. Also, that’s presumably 2% matching contributions, which is bullshit. 5% or GTFO.

The truth is that the only difference between the job Penny Arcade posted and the thousands of other similar jobs out there is that Penny Arcade is honest. They expect to hire one person to do the job of three people and a educated simian, and pay them dick to do it. They expect that person to work an absurd number of hours and to be at the beck and call of the company 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In exchange for signing away their life, this person will receive unspecified benefits, work in a potentially hostile environment, and be expected to perform the impossible (or at least highly improbable) at least three times a week.

I’d say that Penny Arcade should be ashamed, but the truth is that if Penny Arcade should be ashamed, so should the rest of the corporate world. These kinds of postings aren’t uncommon; the only difference is that Penny Arcade is being honest.