Sunday, January 23, 2011

job hunt

Last Friday, the 14th, I spent the day interviewing at Company A. This past Friday I went back to meet the founders, which I'd run out of time for previously. I was a little confused about why this was important, but it turns out the company has a written "No Assholes" policy, and the founders are still the final gatekeepers. I don't think there are particular formal criteria: they meet every candidate, and if they think you're a dick or even a bad cultural fit, you don't get hired. It's a little nerve-wracking, since they don't go out of their way to help you feel comfortable, but they were nice guys and I liked talking to them. Completely up in the air if the company hires me, but given the short commute to Palo Alto by train, seemingly meritocratic and functional company culture, and variety of projects the team works on, I'd almost certainly take the offer.

I'm also talking to other companies in San Francisco, Mountain View, and Santa Clara. I had a lot of fun talking to the SF company, first because I know the team lead from around my communities, and second because they had a homework problem that was a lot of fun to work on: parsing a data format the company uses. I actually saw the team lead at the cocktail party last night, and he said one of the warnings my code printed out--I wrote it like I would write production code, which means it was really good--reminded them that they have to update the problem description, because strictly according to the description, all of the sample data was invalid in one aspect. (I decided to make those be non-fatal errors, because otherwise the exercise was useless.)

The Mountain View company is moving very. Very. Very. Slowly. It'd be nice to give them a chance, but I need to get to work.

I've been struck pretty hard in the face not only how rusty I am at coding, but how a normal interview process doesn't really capture what's useful about me. I'm an unusual package as a software engineer, and I've struggled for years to describe it. I'm a good programmer, but not the absolute best. I'm very good at complex systems, understanding and affecting what happens in networks of many moving parts. I'm good at translating and facilitating communication between human beings who can't seem to communicate. I'm pretty dogged about tracking down bugs. And then a lot of the time, information and questions come past me, and I have something useful to contribute.

I need a more compelling pitch than "I'm generally really handy to have around."

UPDATE: My friend at the Palo Alto company says that when they asked why I was useful, he said, "He fixes shit." Which is true! But begs for elaboration. I'll have to work on it.

UPDATE 2: Anna reminds me that J said I'm "like a Google, but one you can Skype." Good brainstorming so far.

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