Lessons Learned

Hello, Again

I haven’t written in a long long time. Isn’t that always the story, though. Unless you have a habit, an identity, or a following, it’s really hard to make a site like this, a blog really, worth it. And I haven’t got any of those things. I don’t know who I’m writing for, and I don’t know why I’m writing. But I’m paying for this site anyway, so I guess I might as well write something.

It’s been a year – or two. Back in August 2021, I changed jobs. I was really happy where I was at. I had been working at HireVue. I’d been a data engineer there, and a staff software engineer. I had (I think) respect, and I was doing a killer job with work that I loved to do.

Then, in – oh, I don’t remember – I think March, maybe April, of that year, Facebook knocked on my door. I’d just had a coworker leave to go to Facebook, and it felt like everyone around me was leaving, and I thought, “well, why not give it a shot?”

So, over the course of two or so months, I interviewed, prepped, fretted, all the things you do for a FAANG job, and lo and behold, I landed a job! I was on vacation when I found out. The pay was, well, amazing. I mean, it wasn’t as good as I’d been told during interviews, but it was still really really good. And the offer included relocation, which was a boon for me and my family at the time, because we’d already been looking to move.

Together with my family, we packed up, moved quick, and by August, we were living in Snohomish, Washington, and I was working – largely remotely – for Facebook, soon to be Meta.

I was a data engineer. I worked in the Infrastructure organization. And the job was nothing like I expected. All (well, most of) my interviews had been really technical. But I spent a ton of time in meetings, talking, managing projects, and just trying to figure out what the heck needed be done. I didn’t love it.

As a technologist, I love to get my hands dirty. I love to be wrapped in code. Give me a really tough problem, let me go to work, leave me alone, and I’ll come back in a day or two, or maybe a week if the problem is truly challenging, with some awesome code, a really great solution, and I’ll feel energized, I’ll love it. But stick me in a room, just listening to people talk; make me fight and work and manage and toil to do everything to get people to listen and to move a project forward. Do that, and I’m going to be exhausted and demoralized.

It’s not that I can’t do it. In fact, I do it really well, and that’s one of the things that creates problems for me. It’s hard to find people who are great technically, but who can also convey complex ideas to business folk, and who have experience managing projects and programs. I’m one of ’em. And so, inevitably, I get pulled into that kind of work because employers need people who can do it. But I hate it. I just wanna code. I love being in the tech.

Meta just wasn’t that for me. I tried. I really did. But after a year, nothing was changing, and I was unhappy. And so, I put my ear to the ground, and listened for opportunities outside of Meta. An old friend from my HireVue days came calling with an opportunity at his current company, eVisit. I knew a few folks that jumped ship from HireVue to eVisit, and I thought I’d interview.

Interviews went well, and they really wanted me, but I balked at first. I was still trying to make a go of it at Meta. And I had another potential offer at a non-profit that I was really interested in. So, I turned down the initial offer and moved on.

But after a few more months of fighting to make Meta work (fruitlessly), I decided I needed to leave for my own, as well as my family’s, health and sanity. Coincidentally, eVisit reached back out to see if I’d reconsider. I was still trepidatious. It’s hard going from a multi-billion, big-name, well-established tech company to a small start-up, but I thought, why not? Besides, I’d be able to get my hands dirty with tech again. So, I said yes.

I’ve been at eVisit for two months now. I’m the sole data engineer. There’s a ton of work to do, and a lot of opportunity to transform the data environment. As much as my time at Meta drained me, I still learned and experienced a lot, and I saw what possibilities are out there with respect to data. Even though Meta’s data environment is extremely proprietary, there were lessons to learn, and I hope I can apply at least some of what I learned from Meta to my work at eVisit.

We’ll see. The company is small. They’ve had some success, and I hope they’ll have more in the future. Creating a truly data-driven culture and implementing the tech behind it doesn’t happen overnight. I hope I have the chance to make it a reality.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll keep this site posted with my progress.

Lessons Learned, management

Finding the Right Job for the Candidate

Somewhere in Hollywood is a building with pale green carpets and plain white walls. I sat in that room with a dozen other boys like me, child actors, committing my lines to memory and building my emotions into a rage. When my time came, I stood in front of the casting director, the director, and a camera, and I read my lines with such fury and anger that they had to ask me to scale it back. It was a great interview.

A few days later, the call came. They’d loved me. The interview had been great. They wanted me for the part. But I was too tall.

That was interviewing. There was always something. Especially during those awkward teenage years when I was growing so fast that my photos couldn’t keep pace with reality. I was too big for the kid parts and too young for the high school parts. I was too this, not enough that. I got the part, they changed the concept, I lost the part. I can’t tell you how many times I was this close to working with this famous director and that famous actor for a movie at that major studio.

What I learned about interviews was that they were about judging and being judged. They were about a hundred kids and their mothers packed in a small room working their way through a process that would whittle the herd down to one lucky kid who might get the role that would make them a star. And when I got to be an adult who interviewed for “real-world” jobs, those interviews felt much the same.

Over the course of my career, I’ve been on the other side of the table many times. I’ve been the interviewer instead of the interviewee. I can’t recall ever having been trained to that role. It always seemed like the occasional job responsibility. Program this, help the customer with that, and, oh yeah, judge this person so we can decide whether they get to work or not.

I guess, what I’m saying is that it has always felt kind of cold and heartless. I know it shouldn’t be, but nobody really trains you how to do it better. What training does exist almost seems like it’s tailored to drive home the point that your job is to be a passionless interrogator intent on getting at the truth that will help you know, without a doubt, that you’ve hired the right candidate for the job.

This week, I sat in an interview again. But it was different this time. Maybe it’s years, now, of practice. Maybe it’s my different perspective, my aim to help others and to mentor. I don’t know. But as I sat there, I felt less as though it was my job to judge the fit of the candidate to the job at hand, and more my responsibility to fit the job to the candidate.

It’s a subtle difference in perspective, but I think it’s important. Candidates are good people who want to work. They’ve gone to school, they’ve compiled a resume of past experiences, they’ve dressed up and practiced, all to impress me because they hope I will give them a chance. They want a chance to work, to grow, to make some money to put food on their table. The problem of an interviewer is seldom that the candidate is unwilling or unable to do the job.

The real problem is finding a candidate who will become an employee who stays and who continues to grow. That requires a candidate who is motivated by what I, and my company, bring to the table. Part of that is the basic stuff – the salary, the benefits, the workplace. Most of it, though, is the job itself. Is it work that is intrinsically interesting to the person on the other side of the table?

As I prepared for and participated in the interview this week, this was what on my mind. I asked questions aimed at understanding this person’s aspirations and interests. What did this person want to be known for, what did they want their coworkers to say about them? “Go see ___. They are great at x!” What is x? Conversely, what aspect of themself does the candidate want to work on that they feel they need to improve?

And then, I looked at the role at hand and asked myself whether it was a role that would help them achieve these aspirations. Was it a role where this person could really get good at x? Would this role be one that aligned well with their desire to improve in this other area?

As an interviewer, I have a chance to make someone’s life better. Obviously, it’s better when they are working, and I would love to give a job to everyone who wants one. Barring my ability to do that, though, I can help improve lives by helping candidates find a job that really speaks to them. I’m hiring a candidate not just for this job, but for the next one, too, the one that this job will prepare them for.

I hope that the candidate will stay, of course. I hope they’ll thrive in this job. I hope that they will grow in the job and feel invested in it. All of that, though, is far more likely to happen if this is the right job for them. If this is the right job for them, they will want to stay, they will want to grow, they will work at it because it interests them, and they will find joy in the job.

Interviewing is a chance to help others. It’s a chance to help people find the job that will help them become what they want to be. And that’s something I care about.