Accepted new position: Search Engineer at Manta.com
Yesterday I unofficially accepted a position as Search Engineer at Manta.com. What’s Manta? What’s a search engineer? Why the change?
What is Manta.com?
In a sentence, Manta is FaceBook for small businesses. The most basic service that Manta offers is a place for small business to have a profile detailing their business, which allows customers and suppliers to find them. Manta offers a variety of other social networking services, some of which cost money, all geared to helping small businesses. Currently Manta has information on over 25 million small businesses, and Manta is one of the top 200 sites in the U.S. by pageviews.
If you are involved in a small business, make sure you are on Manta, create or add details to your profile, and link to your website. It will significantly improve how you fare in Google searches, as Manta is a large and reputable site that is heavily indexed by Google.
Manta has been around since 2003, is profitable, and is growing quickly.
What is a Search Engineer?
My role will be to make their search feature work better. When you have data on 25 million businesses, it’s not a trivial thing to be able to type some words into the search bar and get the results you want. I’ll need to understand the search algorithms, understand what the search functionality is currently doing, and quantify the ways that it currently succeeds and fails. I’ll need to establish and implement a process that allows us to understand the impacts of changes made to the search algorithms, and to design and implement and improved search algorithm.
To be clear, I’m not talking about Search-Engine Optimization (SEO) which is the practice of designing a website to rank highly in Google (or Bing or Yahoo) searches. My job will be focused on the search functionality of the Manta.com website, not on how Manta ranks in external searches.
Why were you looking for a job again?
I have wanted out of Nationwide for a variety of reasons. My position wasn’t as interesting as my previous jobs, as there was not much new development to be done. And the bureaucracy of large places is staggering. And in terms of my future, this job didn’t provide much in the way of opportunities to gain skills that are in line with my goals.
Why are you excited about this job at Manta?
From the time that I started learning about programming (early 2009) I’ve been trying to understand how to leverage my mathematics background. I learned early on that the first order of business was to establish credibility as a software developer, and I’ve accomplished that, at least in the Java world, with my two years of professional experience.
But I have been regularly re-visiting this question, and discussing it with colleagues and recruiters, but never coming to a clear answer. There simply aren’t many jobs that are looking for programmers that are good at math generally, but don’t have expertise in specific useful disciplines (such as statistics).
This role is precisely what I’ve been looking for, in that they want someone that has a record of understanding difficult mathematics to solve some algorithmic problems. And they are looking for someone that will understand how to implement the solution using Java tools.
So in the short term, I’m excited about the opportunity to solve an interesting mathematical problem. In the long term, I’m excited about how the experience that I gain here will give me credibility as a mathematical programmer, rather than a former mathematician that has learned programming.
Other reasons I’m excited about Manta:
- I’ll be working with some really bright people there.
- Manta is a very data-driven company, so the technical problems are really at the heart of the business, rather than a necessary expense.
- I won’t have to touch a Windows machine, or even a Mac. Developers at Manta can choose their OS, which will be Ubuntu Linux for me.
- It’s a relatively small company (100 or so, growing fast) which makes for a much more humane existence.
When do you start?
I’ll show up for work on January 3. But in another sense, I’ve started already. Between now and then, I’ll be learning about and playing with Lucene and Solr (new tools I’ll be using) and reading about search algorithms.
God is good
Thanks much to the giver of every good gift, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. His provision for me and my family over the last three years, as I’ve gone from zero employable skills to search engineer at Manta.com has been a joy for me to watch.