IT Director’s Network Surfaces Hidden Job

Joe Peffer was discouraged when the job he applied to suddenly disappeared from the job boards, but his network came to life and resurrected his application.

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Joe Peffer has perfected the art of networking. From his home base in Harrisburg, Pa., the 47-year-old has parlayed his numerous connections into technology positions that span the continental U.S. and the globe. He has worked at Netscape and AOL, he ran data centers in China, and he helped launch a startup company in India.

“I know a lot of people,” Peffer said, “and that is exactly what success in this job market comes down to ─ you have to connect with and communicate with friends, acquaintances and former colleagues.”

The TechnologyLadder member landed his last position in early 2008, as director of IT at GeoSolutions, a small construction and environmental software firm, through the recommendations of close friends.

Although he had a simultaneous job offer from software giant Sun Microsystems, Peffer jumped at the chance to be part of a smaller startup firm.

Peffer was put in charge of running GeoSolutions data centers in India and China and was happy with his position, at first. But over the next year, it became clear to Peffer that, at least culturally, he and GeoSolutions were not a good fit.

“I liked the work; I liked the company; but honestly, it came down to the fact that myself and the other executives were all strong personalities that constantly butted heads,” he said. He left the company in April 2009.

Once again, he was out of work and relying on his network to find him a job.

Peffer was interested in a number of VP jobs in technology that he found on job boards and corporate employment sites; in particular he was intrigued by a position for a vice president of eBusiness at United Concordia, the dental insurer subsidiary of Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Pennsylvania. The job fit his interests and was just five minutes from his home. So, he began networking again.

Referrals investigate hiring freeze

“I grew up in the area, and I knew quite a few folks who worked at Highmark, the parent company, so I started rattling cages, getting in touch with them and networking again,” Peffer said. But as suddenly as the job appeared, it disappeared from the Highmark Web site as well as TechnologyLadder, where he originally found the job. Peffer was discouraged and decided to look elsewhere.

Then, in early June, Peffer’s network sprang to life and resurrected the job at Highmark. One of his contacts at Highmark told him that while the company was under a hiring freeze publicly, candidates for the United Concordia position he’d coveted were still being interviewed.

“Through my contacts, I discovered that because of the hiring freeze they had to take all the open positions down from their site and from sites like Ladders.com,” he said, “but that this job was still active, and they were in the process of looking for candidates.”

The contact paid off, and Peffer landed a phone interview and nine in-person interviews at Concordia over a two-month period.

Peffer is now the vice president of eBusiness at United Concordia, where he is responsible for managing and maintaining the company’s Web sites and general Internet presence, including areas of the site used by patients and dentists to access benefits and claims information, insurance quotes and queries.