The Post-FAANG Job Hunt with Jenny Lee
The ongoing professional journey that many of us in the world of tech and developing find ourselves on can be exciting and daunting. Here to talk us through her experience on the hunt for a new job at a company that is more suited to her particular needs, is Jenny Lee. Jenny is currently employed as a Senior Software Engineer at Google and is also looking to improve her situation by finding a workplace in which she can engage with a more connected team, and utilize opportunities for monitorship. In our chat with Jenny, we get to hear all about the lessons she has learned along the way, why relationships and mentorship are such priorities for her, and how her approach to and ideas about her dream job have changed over time. We also discuss gauging company culture, different conceptions of management, and how to develop your strategy for job interviews. Jenny has some insightful reflections on the process, and as someone who is highly intentional about where she will next work. We think she is a great touchpoint for anyone with similar aspirations! Tune in to hear it all!
Key Points From This Episode:
- Jenny's current position at Google and the job hunt she is embarking on.
- How Jenny's ideal job has evolved since entering the professional world.
- Thoughts on friends in the workplace and finding a team that you can relate to.
- The questions that can be asked to gauge the culture of a team when applying.
- Jenny's thoughts on the importance of mentorship and her personal experience with it.
- Identifying red flags for company culture and things our panel finds worrying in interviews.
- The best ways to get an idea about a company's approach to diversity and inclusion.
- How managerial roles differ from company to company; variance in expectations and approach.
- The narrative around switching jobs and how much to share with a recruiter.
- Debate and disagreement; weighing the usefulness of these strategies for problem-solving.
- Making space for worthwhile input and aiming for more useful meetings.
- Reflections from Jenny about the important lessons and changes in her application philosophy.
- Tips for negotiating around responsibilities, benefits, and salary.
- This week's picks! Tools, films, and job hunt and mentorship sites.
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
[00:00:10] T: Hi, everybody. Welcome to Enjoy the Vue. I'm Tessa. Today on our panel, we have Ari Clark.
[00:00:16] AC: Hello.
[00:00:17] T: Guest panelist, David Ashe.
[00:00:19] DA: Hello.
[00:00:20] T: And our special guest for this episode is Jenny Lee. Jenny, would you like to introduce yourself?
[00:00:25] JL: Hey, everyone. I'm Jenny. Yeah. Nice to meet y'all. I'm currently working as an engineer at Google, and I'm on a job hunt.
[00:00:33] T: Nice. How's that been going?
[00:00:35] JL: It's been pretty interesting. I mean, I recently did, I guess, a retrospective on my previous job hunts. This is going to be my third job in tech. It's been pretty different, I guess. Well, one thing is that we're living in corona times. There's some things out of that. It's also been interesting, just as someone who's more mid-level, rather than a junior dev now, looking.
[00:00:57] DA: Has it been maddening in any way?
[00:01:00] JL: Maddening. Well, I think it's been going pretty well. Though, one thing I have been focusing a lot more on during the search is culture fit, or team fit. I really want to know who exactly I'll be working with. That really determines your experience on a job. Your managers, or direct teammates, that you don't get to meet these people until the very end. This is my biggest frustration is you have to wait until the onsite, or even after the on site to talk to those people.
[00:01:33] AC: Or “on site.”
[00:01:35] JL: Yeah. They still call them on sites, but virtual on sites.
[00:01:40] T: I mean, Zoom is a site, right? It's a website. Is looking for a team fit, something that was important to you from your first job search on, or can you talk a bit about how what you look for in a job has evolved over time?
[00:01:55] JL: Yeah, sure. Definitely, when I first got out, so I went to a coding boot camp called Fullstack. When I first got out, my main priority was finding a stable company that seemed like would be a great place for junior engineers to be mentored at. I didn't think that much of that team fit, beyond having senior engineers who could really lead the team and also, give me advice, help me grow. I think, the perspective’s a little different now. I really want to find someplace where I can be friends with my co-workers. Maybe grab lunch with them, have interesting conversations, feel free to talk about things that are not code related as well. That's definitely been more of a priority now.
[00:02:38] AC: I can relate to that. Except, my criteria for my first job, because I also went to a coding boot camp was a place that would hire me that was really all I was looking for.
[00:02:55] DA: That was a key element.
[00:02:57] AC: Yeah. No. I was not going to be able to pay rent pretty soon. I was running out of relatives to ask for money, so I took the first offer I got. I was a little pickier this time around. Yeah.
[00:03:11] DA: First offer I got, they offered me a number and I was like, “How about that number times 1.2?” They were like, “No.” I said, “I'll take it, because it's all I had.”
[00:03:22] AC: Yeah, I can relate. I did manage to negotiate slightly higher on my first job, but it was still less than I was worth. I made a lot of mistakes with that first job.
[00:03:40] JL: I'm curious, what number job you all are at now. You're not at those jobs currently anymore, it sounds like?
[00:03:46] DA: I’m at five.
[00:03:47] AC: No. I just started a new job. I'm week two at job number two.
[00:03:52] JL: Oh, wow.
[00:03:54] T: Has it been going well?
[00:03:56] AC: Yes. I, like Jenny, was much more concerned with culture fit this time around. So far, I feel that I did well on that front. I really liked my teammates so far. It’s a much smaller team, which honestly, I prefer that, a little more intimate setting. You can be a little more friendly, because you get to know the people a little better. Yeah. So far, I think I chose well.
[00:04:26] T: Yeah. I've worked at three different places after my internship, but I feel like, at the first two places, I had manager changes and a team change, so it kind of feels like I've been on five or so teams, even though it's only been three places.
I'm curious to hear more about this, making friends at work, or a place where people can be friends with their co-workers, because I'm ambivalent about it. I'd like to hear what everybody's thoughts are.
[00:04:51] JL: Well, one thing I definitely found is so, in my last few positions, I've been focusing more on ML or AI tool sets. The bootcamp training is really around full stack web development. I haven't worked on web development, really. I've worked more on back-end, or service type places.
One thing I definitely found is, a lot of people on the team already relate to each other on the team. They have very similar backgrounds. Maybe they all went to CS programs. Or, it's always been the case that I'm the only woman on the team. I think, that's something I'm growing a little bit tired of at this point, after three years. A different thing is, I have a lot of other passions, or interests outside of coding. I feel like, it's really dampening my energy when I’m spending a lot of work time with folks. Maybe in their free time what they're doing is coding, which I struggle to relate to, on a personal level.
[00:05:50] T: Yeah, I hate coding in my spare time. Any waking moment I have that's not at work, I'm spending it on algorithms, because that's where my true passion lies.
[00:06:00] AC: Says the girl who is constantly preparing for some talk. Just saying, Tessa.
[00:06:07] T: #NotLikeOtherGirls.
[00:06:12] AC: I can definitely relate to the being the only woman on your team. Because yeah, for over three years, I was the only woman. It was the same team. They had gone on a hiring spree. Somehow, I was still the only woman on the team. I am now actually on a team that with the addition of me, is majority female, and it is incredible. Wow. Dreams do come true.
[00:06:42] JL: That's really crazy. I feel like, I can only dream.
[00:06:46] AC: Yeah. No. I was like, “Oh, it would be cool if there was just one other woman.” Okay, to be fair, in this case, there's two others, because like I said, it's a small team. There's only two men. I make three women, thus, majority. It’s balanced.
[00:07:02] T: I feel like when the team is smaller, it’s even easier to make rationalizations about why there aren't more diverse people on the team, so that it's small. As majority, women has pretty big accomplishment, I feel like.
[00:07:17] JL: Yeah. Definitely. Yeah, I feel like, for me, it's such a crazy change. Maybe people who've they graduate from a CS program, or go straight into work, they might not realize this, but when I worked in my past life, I worked in psychology research, and I worked in immigrant organizing. Those places were always majority, women. Actually, in immigrant organizing it was – we never had majority men in our leadership. It’s just the way that things turned out, are the people who are very passionate, or interested. It was such a complete temperature switch. I don't know. It was very shocking.
[00:07:54] DA: I hope this doesn't change the subject too soon. I'm interested, Jenny, how much success you've had on your job search, trying to get to know people. Have you tried asking for certain things that you don't just meet people, like in the final round, and then it's quick, and they're making you an offer? Have you found any way to get a pulse on what the culture was like there?
[00:08:15] JL: I think, it's pretty difficult. I think, it divides into two types of questions. One questions are very – one type is very straight up questions for HR, or the hiring manager about what are the initiatives you've taken? Are there any further metrics that you're tracking? That sort of line of questioning. The other thing has really been around trying to get additional meetings, or it's a more casual multiple teammates on a call maybe, to see how they interact with each other. It's really hard to get that info upfront, and still looking for good ways.
[00:08:51] DA: Yeah. Sometimes, I feel like that's almost frowned upon in the job search. It’s like, “Can I just talk to people who work there?” That's super valuable information. I can see why maybe some companies wouldn't want that out there, because, well, not with that guy. I mean. Yeah. I think, that's generally a pretty good idea, though. I wonder if there's HR reason some larger companies would be afraid of that. It sounds like a pretty good idea to me.
[00:09:17] JL: The larger the company gets, especially our engineering, it seems like, there's a general bar they want you to pass. The onsite interview will be explicitly with people who you'll not work with. They're from all across the company, which is –
[00:09:32] DA: Great.
[00:09:33] JL: Yeah. I always found a bit counterintuitive.
[00:09:39] T: I think, Amazon in particular, they have this role that they call the bar raiser. I guess, the idea there is that you always have to – I don't know how this works, but somehow you have to be better than everybody they hired before you. The bar raiser is in charge of somehow, figuring out whether when you come in, you're raising, I guess, all the boats and the tide that is Amazon employees.
[00:10:01] DA: Ah, yes. Infinite growth. It is so possible.
[00:10:06] AC: I'm not going to lie. I've never wanted to interview with a FAANG company. I just have zero interest in it, whatsoever. That's personal preference. It's a good thing that there's a wide variety of companies, because some people that's all they want to do is work for a large corporation. I'm not one of those people. Thank goodness for startups. Though those come with their own interesting problems.
[00:10:30] T: Yeah. Chris, one of our other panelists would sometimes talk about the legitimacy that programs, like the Google developer experts, or similar ones at other tech companies, lends to people and more marginalized groups in tech. I do feel that is another positive for people who – I do know people who don't necessarily want to work in FAANG, but they do, just so they can be treated like they belong. That's also a real consideration.
[00:10:56] JL: Yeah, definitely. It's like a pretty gold star, I guess, that you add to your resume. I'm really glad you all have these perspectives, because a lot of the conversations I've had recently are people have a lot of questions. Why are you leaving Google? Are you going to Facebook next? I mean, this is the framework that a lot of people have, when thinking about engineering jobs and –
[00:11:19] DA: The mono-culture.
[00:11:23] AC: Well, actually, that's a great question. Why are you leaving? You don't have to answer that.
[00:11:29] JL: For me, I think it really boils down to the culture fit. I mean, I made a decision to leave my previous company, because I want it to be at a community of engineers. Have the opportunity to mentor and be mentored. I foolishly thought that if you go to a larger company with many engineers, there's more of an opportunity, but actually, found that it was really difficult to even volunteer to become a mentor in my work time. That was something I really wanted to grow in. That was a struggle. Even of the people I spoke to, when I found people I really related to, or saw myself in, it seems like the exception to find people who are thriving in their role and really felt they're getting their fullest, or getting the job satisfaction that they wanted. That was, I guess, my motivation for leaving.
[00:12:21] AC: I think, it's interesting. A lot of people talk about how in tech, you jump jobs, for the larger salary. I don't feel people talk enough about switching jobs for personal growth. I felt like I had maxed out what I could learn in a healthy manner at my last job. I made sure it was going to really refine my stress tolerance, and not going off on people, to put it nicely. Sure, it was going to test that, but I would rather – it's not really a skill set that I'm interested in developing further. I feel like, where it is now is a good place for anyone to have it. I feel like, people don't really talk that much about other reasons for switching jobs. Because the tech culture is very greedy.
I wanted something different. I unfortunately, didn't get all of my checklist checked off in this job. Because one thing I've always wanted was to work with a more senior front-end engineer, which I have yet to do in my career, which is a weird feeling.
[00:13:30] T: Some people are just too senior.
[00:13:33] AC: Whatever. Yeah. I got promoted to senior after 15 months in my career. I never felt like I deserved it. I'm actually very glad I no longer have senior in front of my title. It's a lot less pressure. Just like being a regular engineer.
[00:13:55] T: Jenny, I was wondering if you could talk a bit more about why mentorship is so important to you. What do you get out of it? What do you think that potential mentees, or mentors get out of it?
[00:14:05] JL: Yeah. When you're in engineering, or I guess, any career, I guess, you have to keep up with industry trends and how very company specific things you have to learn, or libraries that are going to be phased out, all this stuff. A lot of the people relationship, or those soft skills or things that you're going to apply for the rest of your life, and really affect all sorts of interactions. They're not just for your current work setting. I've always been super interested in developing mentoring skills, which I think fall into that category, where it's going to be a benefit to your career and to the company, but also to yourself.
I think, one of my weak points has always been explaining technical system design choices, or things like this to others to helping them learn. It's a teaching aspect. Yeah. It's also something that I really want to work on. I hope that answers the question.
[00:15:00] T: Yeah, definitely. I'm curious if others on the panel feel their past roles have strengthened their ability to navigate the corporate atmosphere, having worked in such an environment prior to being an engineer, if that makes sense?
[00:15:17] AC: In my past life, in my past, past life, let's go with that, I was a mechanical engineering intern at a Fortune 500 company. Learned some valuable lessons about what you shouldn't say in a companywide meeting. Yeah. I was actually blackballed from the automotive industry after that.
[00:15:41] T: That must have been one spicy take.
[00:15:43] AC: It was. I suggested that they improve their intern program to attract better and better talent, but they took it as an attack, I guess. Or at least HR did. The engineers, I had so many engineers coming up to me after that saying, “That was awesome.” Yeah, HR had very different thoughts and ended up getting let go for “chronic tardiness.” Yeah. Those two are there. It definitely helped me learn how to work in cross-disciplinary areas, which as a software engineer, you're often having to gather information from sales and other stakeholders. That helps. Then after that, in my next life, I worked retail, which is just a really great exercise in patience and listening.
[00:16:31] T: Speaking half-jokingly for a moment, I almost feel in this one specific context, retail might actually be simpler, because you only have to deal with the customer once and then they're gone.
[00:16:41] AC: Okay. If you work at a, say, an independent clothes shop, you get a lot of repeat customers. Yeah.
[00:16:48] DA: What are independent clothes shop customers like?
[00:16:51] AC: Old. But generally, very sweet. Though occasionally, you get a Karen. It was a creative space. A lot of people would come in, ask for help, picking fabrics and things like that. That also helped me learn how to problem solve from other people's perspective, which, as a front-end engineer, I feel like that's a big part of what you're doing on a daily basis is figuring out creative solutions to how other people want to see the world.
[00:17:20] T: Oh, my gosh. Yes. I had so many customers who asked me what should I buy for a Shiva, and I didn't know what to buy for a Shiva, and they didn't know what to buy for Shiva, which is, I believe, some Jewish funeral. I learned a bit about Shivas, but also before I had time to go and look it up. I couldn't just leave. There was some creative problem solving there, and “UX research.”
[00:17:46] DA: I've worked retail before and I wouldn't wish that on anyone, man. Although, it's probably a good life experience, just like being a waiter.
[00:17:53] T: I honestly miss it, but they don't get enough pay and they don't get enough health, or other kinds of considerations.
[00:17:59] AC: Yeah. $11 an hour does not go very far.
[00:18:04] JL: Yeah. No. I also worked at a Carvel Ice Cream for five years.
[00:18:09] DA: Oh, my God. How was that?
[00:18:10] JL: It was great. I mean –
[00:18:11] DA: Did you get free ice cream?
[00:18:13] JL: Exactly. I ate ice cream every day.
[00:18:17] T: Did you have really strong arms? Because I don't think I could scoop ice – Oh, a saucer.
[00:18:22] JL: Well, it's all in the back. When you're scooping ice cream, you pull with your whole body, so you can spare your arms. Yeah, that was super satisfying. You have a to-do list. I mean, it can get very pretty easily. You don't have to think about step one, step two, step three. Everything was pretty straightforward.
[00:18:43] T: Ice cream debt that builds up over time, that you had to pay off. Yeah, that's what I learned from physical therapy as well. I was like, it hurts when I sit and they code, and they were like, “It's all in your back. You got to work out your back.” I was like, “Dang.”
[00:18:57] DA: There's this fringe, but maybe not nonsense theory about back pain that a huge percentage of back pain is actually psychosomatic. There's this shunned expert, who basically –
[00:19:09] T: A shunned expert.
[00:19:11] DA: I hope to be one of those someday. I forget the guy's name. I only looked at this briefly on Wikipedia. He basically says like, going to therapy is how you solve your back pain for a lot of people. It actually has a much higher success rate than placebo, even though a lot of orthopedists swear he's a quack. There's actual research that shows that might not be nonsense. Just came to mind. I’m full of really fun stories.
[00:19:35] JL: I have heard that. I also don't remember the name of that guy.
[00:19:40] T: David, you used to work in finance, right?
[00:19:43] DA: Mm-hmm. I look like it, right.
[00:19:46] T: Do you feel like, that has lent itself to your career in development?
[00:19:50] DA: I’m so glad you asked that question. I think, a core skill with technology is to be able to know what bullshit is. I learned a lot of bullshit in finance that I believed at first and then realize, “Oh, that's the bullshit part.” Finance isn't all bad, but it certainly has a pretty hefty dark side. I mean, I was in personal finance and retirement planning, not trading. I did go through 2008. That was interesting. Having to call people and tell them, well, I was lucky enough that I never had anyone in crazy stuff, but never had to make a call like, “Yeah, you know that 50,000 in bonds you bought? They're worth zero now.” I never had to make that call, thank goodness.
I did have to talk people from selling when they'd already seen their portfolios plummet and taking the loss, which turned out to be the right advice, because there's a big comeback. Yeah, I think the big thing about technology is to not believe all the hype. I'm thinking again, of these people. I actually code a lot outside of work journey, but I wouldn't expect anyone else to care about that. If you can't talk about things other than algorithms, yeah, you need to have things you can talk, like I bake bread sometimes. I have a cat. I can try to have things going on my life other than what I'm coding.
I forgot where the hell I was going with this. Yeah, I think a big part of tech is to just realize that hot take, I think the term software engineer is nonsense. I wouldn't take that term very seriously. I don't think we're engineers. There's all sorts of actual credentials, and safety standards and ethical standards real engineers have to – Don't get me wrong, there’s problem with real engineers, too. I just think the whole software engineer, senior software engineer is basically, something about controlling labor, I think. Maybe that's a conspiracy theory. I think, we should all just be software developers and stop playing title comparison. I think it's nonsense. See what happens when you call me?
[00:21:43] T: Yeah. I think, and somebody brought this up during your talk, too. A big thing that I was researching when I first started my career in tech was like, what is the difference between developers and engineers in the US, at least? Because in other places, for example, Canada, engineer is protected term. There was some bridge that collapsed, and a bunch of people died in that catastrophe. And so, every engineer gets a ring that's made out of the melted steel from that bridge, so that they can look at it as a visual reminder of –
[00:22:12] DA: Real talk. When there's a cyberattack, shouldn't we have a ring for when people's data gets leaked? I mean, I don't know what would be. A fake social security number in a tattoo — this is the leak’s SSN right her. It's on the dark web.
[00:22:32] AC: I think, it should be copper wire with a tiny piece of PCB soldered to it.
[00:22:40] DA: Or a VR headset, that's no longer of any use, because the industry collapsed. Oh, sorry. Keep down. Keep down.
[00:22:46] T: Yeah. In the US, at least, the primary difference seems to be just salary. I don't think it's necessarily causal, but maybe just correlational.
[00:22:55] DA: I mean, an argument that there is some difference. You can call it, like what you do is engineering than development. I think, it's mostly semantic. Certainly, when you see the salary gap between people just based on title that goes to show you that something else going on there, right?
[00:23:10] AC: Yeah. I call myself an engineer, just because I feel much cooler and I feel like less of a failure for dropping out of engineering in college. That way, I eventually made it without the degree.
[00:23:25] DA: Okay, Jenny, crazy question. Maybe one way you find out who you don't want to work with is by going in and pretending to be a tech bro. Just people like, “Guys, do you want to build an algorithm-off after this?” If they say yes, don't work there.
[00:23:39] T: I was trying to remember what point I wanted to jump off in your previous answer. Now I remember. I thought it was hilarious that your diversified hobbies are having a cat and baking bread, because I feel like the acceptable hobbies for developers are having a cat, baking bread and climbing.
[00:23:55] DA: You got me. Mono culture.
[00:23:57] JL: Oh, my goodness. Oh, man.
[00:23:59] DA: I don’t climb. I don’t climb.
[00:24:00] JL: I’m actually a rock climber, and it’s unbelievable. Sometimes you see folks who are on call between clients come down and they're on their MacBooks —
[00:24:10] DA: Bringing up a Linux box.
[00:24:15] T: Being on call sounds so stressful to me.
[00:24:18] DA: What I'm hearing is that between Jenny and I, there is one tech bro.
[00:24:22] JL: But their powers combined. Yes.
[00:24:24] AC: Wait. You forgot lifting.
[00:24:29] DA: There's a pull-up bar behind Jenny.
[00:24:31] AC: There we go.
[00:24:32] DA: Lifting.
[00:24:34] T: Yeah. I feel like lifting has largely been replaced by doing algorithms and then planking at stand up.
[00:24:43] JL: Is it something you could stand?
[00:24:44] AC: Planking at stand up. I can’t even.
[00:24:47] DA: All right, we're talking about tech bro stereotypes. Doing Brazilian jujitsu, is that becoming a thing? Or doing martial arts?
[00:24:53] T: I mean, there's code wars, right? On code wars, I'm for kata or whatever it is.
[00:25:00] DA: In the valley, I think there's a group of guys who do martial arts, too. It's with the guys they develop with. I don't know. Maybe I'm just stretching here.
[00:25:10] T: But I am curious to hear more about the things that when you're applying to a job, you're like, “Okay, I've seen this thing before. I know this is not a good sign.” The red flags that people accumulate for themselves over time and experience. What are people's absolute nos, or more data required, because this is extremely sus to me, kind of points?
[00:25:32] DA: We want you to work on a metrics dashboard.
[00:25:38] T: Wait. Isn't that all web dev jobs?
[00:25:39] AC: Okay. I’m offended by that, because my current job is in healthcare analytics. Yes, there's a metrics dashboard.
[00:25:48] DA: Actually, I secretly like metrics dashboards. I've seen some metrics dashboards that don't need to exist. I'll just leave it at that.
[00:25:58] AC: That's fair. I think, a big warning flag is we're a family here.
[00:26:04] T: Ooh, yes. That’s what I was reminded of with the friends convo. Because it's like, if you just naturally become friends with your co-workers, I'm okay with that. When the company feels they're constantly pushing, let's all get along, then I'm a little bit like –
[00:26:19] DA: No one leaves the family.
[00:26:21] JL: This is pretty useful to hear, because I've actually never worked at a small company, even in my first job. The tech team was 30 engineers. 20 to 30 engineers, that it was actually a company that was under the umbrella of the largest marketing firm in the US or something like this. I think, there's a lot of startup-isms that I don't really know how to interpret. You should clue me in. Is there anything else beyond more a family?
[00:26:54] AC: I think we all know the word rockstar is a big red flag.
[00:26:58] T: You would hope we all know the word rockstar is a different flag. Though recently, I have learned.
[00:27:05] DA: Well, inevitably, they're going to come up with clever euphemisms, or synonyms for rockstar, like –
[00:27:10] AC: Ninja? That's another good one.
[00:27:12] DA: 10xer.
[00:27:14] AC: No. No.
[00:27:15] DA: 9-to-9er?
[00:27:19] AC: Yeah, I would say some startup things to look out for and good questions to ask around that is, there's two of them. I've heard. What is a typical weekend look like for your developers? Yeah. Also, how responsive are people on Slack, or whatever communication tool they use after 6 pm?
[00:27:41] JL: Oh, yeah. That's definitely on my list.
[00:27:45] DA: When they're like, “Oh, we usually don't have to work after 6 pm.” That means they do.
[00:27:50] AC: All the time. If they're honest about the fact that yes, there are times, like week-long pushes, where they are working later, I generally take them at face value on that. Because otherwise, you just say, “No, everyone here has a very balanced life.”
[00:28:09] DA: Right. As long as you don't have any kids.
[00:28:12] T: I think, also, a point of nuance there is does it seem like, they're like, yes, there are times where things don't go well, but we try to make it better the next time or not is another key point. Because if it's like, “Yeah, we run into this problem every once in a while.” Since it's only every once in a while, it's okay.
[00:28:28] JL: You know what’s been really interesting in some of my interviews is when I talk to the hiring manager, and then I talked to people who are on that manager’s team, and they get two completely different views on what's happening in the team. Ask the manager, is their shared ownership if someone's behind on their tickets? Did someone pick them up? He's like, “Absolutely. We pair program.” When I talked to devs, I ask them the same question. They’re like, “No, everyone does their own thing.”
[00:28:53] DA: I’m going to go ahead and say that's a red flag. That’s probably not a good sign.
[00:29:00] JL: It’s amazing. The managers has this very rosy vision, and it's a completely different, so off.
[00:29:06] AC: Yeah. No. I once heard, I think it's actually on Soft Skills Engineering Podcast, that I think, it was Dave Smith said, he always asks the same question of everyone he meets with on the engineering team. It's, how do what you're supposed to be working on every day? Depending on the consistency of answers across the team, it can tell you a lot about how organized they are, whether somebody is lying about how organized they are. Also, it will help you gauge whether or not you have the tolerance for whatever level of organization they have. Because some people do better with extremely structured environments, other people do better with less structure. That's a great way to figure out if that's going to be a problem.
[00:29:54] T: Yeah, that's a really good question. Another one that I stumbled on by accident is, if you ask about diversity during the interview process, then you may find out what the company stance is on whether they consider that bringing gender, or race into issues. I'm like, I don't really know how I'm – they're always there. Yeah. That was an interesting one for me.
[00:30:17] AC: Yeah. Actually, I always ask about diversity and inclusion. What I love most is when I don't have to ask about it. In their pitch, it just comes up and I'm like, “Okay. Winner.”
[00:30:29] DA: How about revenue model? Because if you're a startup that's on a runway, and were burning cash, like employees burning out, that's better than going out of business, right? Or if you're a giant corporation, the revenue model is this giant thing that can change quickly, right? Not to make everything about money, but people were very influenced by money incentives.
If you have positive money incentives, or it's really just the customer's funding things, I would tend to think you get better cultures. Just throwing it out there, but maybe a study would show me it's more nuanced than that. Yeah, I mean, like you think – you look at a bootstrapped company that actually generates cash flow and doesn't owe VC anything, they’re, I would think in a much better position to really take care of their people.
Whereas, when you have a runway, no matter what you say, you're always going to say your people come first. When the company literally is on life or death, you're going to burn whatever bridge you have to to survive, right?
[00:31:28] T: I think, related to money, I don't really have any good questions or points to recommend, but something that I've been reflecting on recently is I feel like, I've – I guess, maybe one good thing to delve into during interview processes is how does the manager help their direct reports grow? Or what does that look like for them? Because I feel there are – I don't know if it's more in startups in other places, but there are a lot of managers who, I think, believe that their responsibility is to make sure that the company is making a profit. If they focus on company profit and developer output, that's what's going to make the company successful, rather than focusing on the developers themselves. That will naturally lead to a more successful company.
My personal view on that is just the company is already doing all that work. We don't need more people to shoulder that burden. Yeah, I don't know if anybody has any thoughts on that, but that's just something I've been thinking about lately is that's probably something that I would look for, if I were job hunting today.
[00:32:29] DA: Is that related to the idea of cost center? If Facebook developers directly make them revenue, right, in a very direct way? Whereas, at a major corporation that now is acting like a tech company, IT is still this big cost. They don't see a direct revenue from the efforts of other developers? Is that the model you're pointing at is what is the capitalistic revenue benefit of a developer? Do we make money by letting them do what they do best? Or we make money by they do what we tell them to do, something like that?
[00:33:01] T: That's a good question. I think, it's very vague, or very broad, I guess. Initially, I was thinking more about how a manager might see their direct reports value as shipping tickets. Then, even within that, that's so broad, that could mean, do you only care about new features and not about maintenance, or bugs, or tech debt? Or does that imply that there's something with the processes that don't naturally allow — or I guess, encourage — more tech debt to arise?
Also, in terms of just career growth, like how do you think your developers get stronger? Is it just by working on tickets for the company, for example? Do they just get stronger naturally, by doing something that directly benefits the company in terms of this model of shipping tickets is the only way forward?
[00:33:44] JL: Yeah, totally Tessa. I think, the engineering manager role, it's so different depending on what company I have talked to. I talked to maybe 10 to 15 companies in the last couple months. Sometimes, they take on completely just people management role. Then some people have more of like, they're also the tech lead, or they also architect stuff and make a lot of design choices. Then even among the people who are just people managing, sometimes they're managing us as resources, as engineering resources that they can put in different positions. Then other times, it's more like, I'm cultivating a person. I want to help them grow. Perspectives can be so different, depending on where you're looking.
[00:34:27] DA: I want to work where I manage an asset.
[00:34:30] JL: Right. I literally feel I'm a CPU and I'm being put to use on some efficient problem.
[00:34:38] DA: Good job worker node.
[00:34:40] T: I thought it was worker Deno, nowadays.
[00:34:43] DA: Oh. TypeScript!
[00:34:44] T: Sometimes Tessa, I just can't even with your puns.
[00:34:51] T: Jenny, do you want to talk a little bit more about going back to the point you brought up earlier, where when you're talking to people about your next job hunt, they're like, “Why would you ever leave Google?” Has it been hard either when trying to discuss your job hunt with others, just to get some feedback on that? Or, even when you're applying to jobs and you’re like, “Yeah, I'm looking to leave Google.” How has that been?
[00:35:12] JL: I mean, recruiters always ask like, “Why are you leaving?” I give them a generic response. They're very happy with it, as long as it's some narrative. I'm looking to grow. I'm looking to take on more leadership.
[00:35:24] DA: That's like, if they don't complain it’s cool. Is that basically the screen? If they say, “I don't like my job, and it's too much trouble,” is that what they're looking for, do you think?
[00:35:32] JL: I'm not sure. I wouldn't tell them –
[00:35:37] DA: Well, that’s the point of that question.
[00:35:40] JL: Maybe, just to check that you're a sane person. You don't say something like, “I want to make 50,000 more dollars. That's why I'm changing jobs.” That's not what's something you would say to a recruiter.
[00:35:51] DA: If you're a realtor, they're not like, “Well, why do you want to buy a house?”
[00:35:55] T: What’s wrong with your last one?
[00:35:56] DA: What did you do to your last house?
[00:36:02] T: That's a good point. I never thought about it from that perspective before.
[00:36:05] AC: I know. I just answered the question without even really thinking about what the motivation is. I think I always answer it entirely, too, honestly.
[00:36:16] JL: I think that's been a struggle for me. I’m looking for different narratives to put out there for the recruiter, instead of giving them my life story.
[00:36:24] T: Well, what's your ideal narrative? Or how did you decide now is the right time to leave?
[00:36:30] JL: Oh, for me? I've been looking to leave for a while. One of the things I've been looking into is internal transfers. One of the great things about a massive corporation is they can stick you in a different team, and it'll be an entirely different experience. One of the things I looked into was, they have a google.org fellowship, where this is really cool. You get to work with a non-profit, and they get the services pro bono, but you make the same salary for half a year. You just devote engineering resources to someplace that doesn't have that kind of engineering department.
They didn't find a good team fit there. Then from then, I thought, well, from then, I reflected a bit more on why I’d originally come to Google, which was the mentorship aspect and the growing technically, in technical depth. At that point, I decided it'd be better to cut losses now, instead of hanging on.
[00:37:23] DA: When you leave a cult, isn't the first thing they say, “Why would you want to leave?” I'm not trying to bully in any one particular tech culture. I do feel corporate culture, I don't know. The bigger the company that gets the more – you almost have people saying, like you're saying, Tessa, “Well, I know the company wants us to think this.” Everyone does, because it's your culture. When you're a fish in a fishbowl, you don't know what water is anymore?
[00:37:48] T: Yeah. I guess, I can't really speak to that, because if I think of all the places I’ve worked, they've all been pretty small. Although, I think the first place wasn't really very much like, we all have to think the same thing. Actually, even when I reflect back on it now, I don't know how they created this hodgepodge of people with random, really deep hobbies and different interests, who were all very opinionated, and not shy to share them, but not like, we're all going to shout over each other, and yells the loudest way.
I do miss that. Yeah, I guess, to answer my own question to Jenny, which was not pose – I didn't pose it to myself. The fishbowl is a pretty good metaphor, because I feel – when I feel I'm too big a fish, it's time to find a new bowl.
[00:38:32] JL: I wanted to comment on something you said before, Tessa, which was interrupting, or yelling, or shouting. That's one of the things that I found myself doing a bit more is interrupting people to get a word in, or maybe expressing annoyance during meetings. Then I looked back at and I was like, “I can't believe I'm acting like this.” It's maybe acceptable, or maybe it's on the border of being okay, because other people also do this. That was definitely like, wow, I can't believe I’ve gotten –
[00:39:02] DA: That's really thought-provoking. When you find yourself getting aggressive to be heard, is that a good thing, or a bad thing? I mean, I would think some animation shows engagement. Then if your meetings are a battle to see who can be heard, that doesn't sound good.
[00:39:21] T: I feel like, Google also had a starring role in that book, Radical Candor, which my impression, oh, I'm still speaking in the chat and now I'm flashing back to someone was watching the debates last night while I was doing some homework, and I was just listening to them anyway.
[00:39:36] AC: That was the reference.
[00:39:38] T: Oh, my God. So stressful. Yeah, the Radical Candor, my impression of the book was basically, just be tough enough to say whatever you want, which I don't think is necessarily the fairest shake of the book, but that's what I was getting from it. I've been thinking about this recently, because I feel a lot of people I follow on Twitter are proposing that debate doesn't have to be the default way to have discourse.
It's intriguing to me both, because they don't suggest what they would do instead, which I would be very curious to hear more about but also, I'm realizing how much of tech culture does seem to be – it necessitates, or there's this inbuilt belief system almost, I feel like, where everything has to be a fight and the best ideas win. Sometimes, maybe it's not noticeable. I think, the more noticeable it is, it's like, sorry, I'm not being very coherent. It's not necessarily just an individual problem, right?
Because an individual debating could be good, depending on the context. A lot of times, the context, maybe it's a situation where everybody doesn't feel comfortable debating, or there are people who just in general, their go-to approach wouldn't be to debate, but they don't feel that they can voice it. For some people, it's okay if they debate. Where other people, if they debate, it will reflect on them poorly as a performance problem, or an attitude problem.
[00:40:54] DA: Or ideally, in a product-focused organization, you wouldn't be about who debates the best, because their opinion, or the effects, how you serve the customer or achieve the goal should be as important, or more important than whether you made a good point in a meeting, right?
[00:41:09] T: Yeah. Oh, my gosh. When decisions are made by votes, I get so stressed out. I’m like, why are we just picking the most popular idea? How did we decide that that was the most popular idea? Yeah, I don't really have an answer. I think, it's interesting that you're noticing that, because I was thinking about it a lot, too.
[00:41:24] JL: Oh, yeah. Definitely. I guess, maybe the reasoning behind it is if you're so confident about, or passionate about it, you would interrupt, or make sure it's being heard. Yeah, I do think it's a cultural thing, where you should make space for people and make sure they get a chance to get their bit in. Maybe if, for whatever reason they haven't spoken up yet.
[00:41:44] DA: I mean, there's so many people who have nothing to say in meetings. I mean, I don't know what your meeting experience is. Most meetings I've been to, most people don't talk, unless they're really prodded to talk. Because most meetings are a waste of time.
[00:42:00] JL: I think that's a different problem. Yeah.
[00:42:04] DA: Every company I've ever worked at, meetings are – that's corporate meeting culture. That's an entirely different topic. Yeah. I mean, having to press people to talk seems more the default from my experience. That's interesting.
[00:42:16] T: Yeah, Jenny, before we close, I was wondering if you could share, because I feel like, you are very deliberate and thoughtful about your career growth and job searches from the first one to this third one, what lessons you've learned either through experience, or through other people, and maybe also to contrast with that some advice you got, or things that you started out thinking were helpful, or effective, but now you have changed your mind?
[00:42:44] JL: I think, one thing someone told me is keep interviewing. Interview once a quarter to keep your skills sharp. I haven't done that. I don't think it's helpful. I don't think it's meaningful to do such a thing. I think, as you grow, you grow your network, you get to know more people. That's the main way you get insight into really good positions. You don't necessarily have to interview a lot at the time. That's one thing I would say.
Then, the other thing is that I really learned is like, it's so helpful to talk to your teammates about their compensation and salary and how their performance is being rated. I feel like a lot of people feel afraid maybe, or feel it's inappropriate to bring up this conversation. I've definitely learned a lot just from opening those doors, especially if you phrase it in a way that's – you're just trying to learn more about them and share something about yourself. You're not trying to crunch some numbers and compare who's better, if you're getting paid enough. If you're just more, have a... I don't know. You're asking because you legitimately want to know more about them and share about yourself, too. That's been super helpful for me.
[00:43:50] T: Nice. Yeah. I'm also curious, what skills that would be kept fresh by interviewing. Is it algorithm skills? Is it talking to people skills?
[00:43:59] JL: Yeah, I don’t know. I found, interviewing is a really big time and energy suck, I feel like. If your goal is to learn about other companies, there's so many other ways you could do so. Like on their blog, or speaking to other devs in real life, or, I guess, over Zoom nowadays.
[00:44:14] DA: Yeah. I mean, interviews are like torture, depending on the process in the company, right? I can see the case for why it's like a scaling issue to keep the skill sharp. There's got to be a psychological cost to interviewing that should be taken seriously. At the very least, it should be seen like exercise and you need recovery time.
[00:44:33] T: Does anybody else want to share any last tips?
[00:44:35] DA: Don't do take home exams. They're a joke. Unfortunately, junior developers aren't in a position to say no to that. Anyone who is, I think we'd all do ourselves a position by saying no. If you really want to review my code, I'll try to make a PR into an open-source project or something. I'm not going to do four hours of work for every single company. I think, it's absurd that that's even normalized.
[00:44:55] T: Yeah. I prefer in-person, so that the company is also investing the same amount of time.
[00:45:01] DA: Yeah. If they're not paying someone to sit with me, maybe they don't care.
[00:45:04] T: Also, I can see how they communicate. I know for some people, it's less nerve-racking to have a take home and be able to do it on their own time.
[00:45:13] DA: Wouldn't be nice if there was a standardized test everyone could do? It's like, I'm just going to do the standard take home test, so you have a code sample, and they don't have to do it – I mean, I get the case that some people are more comfortable that way, and I wouldn't want to take that away from them. Making it a standard for people to blow four hours of their lifetime is 10 companies, it irks me. Dave, stops talking now.
[00:45:32] T: Somebody also suggested certifications, but acknowledge that those are also rife with issues.
[00:45:37] AC: Yeah. I'm going to give a very specific example from my last job search. I shouldn't say this, because if they don't sponsor us. I actually found my job through hired.com. I actually got my job through hired.com. Yeah, I know. I was actually surprised it worked. I know. On Hired, you have the option to do some tests to get badges, like general software engineering practices. Then, I did a specific front-end one. Dude, the algorithm one. You get three chances. I finally got another third chance. For that one, I got the first time. Yeah. Even though that with the badges, I still had to do a three-hour coding test. Fortunately, in that particular case, they were very explicit that it needed to be a time period where someone would be available to me the entire time in case I had questions.
It's somewhere in between, a take home. Yeah. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I'm not sure I— Okay, there have been very few times in my career where I felt so horrible about myself.
[00:46:49] DA: That's awful.
[00:46:50] AC: Yeah. It really was. Somehow, that ended up being a good thing, because I felt the need to do a mini-retrospective for myself. They actually told me that the fact that I did that was one of the reasons that they wanted to hire me, is because that they valued – Yeah, they valued the culture of introspection, and learning from your mistakes. I honestly thought it was game over after that challenge, because I felt like I bombed it completely. Apparently not. I don't know that there's a better way, except for yeah, a universal take home.
[00:47:32] T: That sounds really, really stressful, but. I like the idea of a retrospective for yourself. That ties in nicely with my tip, which is a lot of times when we talk about negotiation, I forgot the acronym, but there's an acronym for the lowest offer you're willing to take of the total package, but generally, when we're talking about that, we're talking about salary, benefits, vacation days. I can't really say, I've tried this from experience, because it's never something I've personally codified. It's just something I've been thinking about lately. I feel like, it could be a useful exercise to make one like that for non-tangibles as well.
[00:48:07] DA: I'm just going to say, when Ari was talking about getting badges, it made me think of Girl Scout badges. Is there a best s’more badge? Also, after you got the badges, they still made you do a take home. That pisses me off. Don’t get me started. Why have the badges, if you’re still going to put people through these hoops? God.
[00:48:25] AC: I mean, that's one of the things, where it's up to each individual company, what they do for the interview process. One nice thing was that I got to specify my salary upfront. Any company that was willing to pay that, Gods come to me. I did actually flat out, turned out one company because of the product. I was like, “No, that's just not for me.” It was a diet tracking app. It was a diet-tracking app. And I'm sure they're lovely people, but they're – I'm not outdoorsy, and these were clearly outdoorsy people.
[00:48:56] T: It's a metrics dashboard for your body.
[00:48:59] AC: Yeah, exactly.
[00:49:03] T: On that note, Jenny, where can people find you on the internet?
[00:49:06] JL: Oh, that's a hard question. Well, I don't know where people can find me on the internet. They can email me. I have a LinkedIn profile, and I don't have much of an online presence.
[00:49:19] T: Cool. Well, if you want to share them, we can put the links in the show notes, but absolutely no pressure to share them.
[00:49:25] JL: Yeah, I can add this.
[00:49:26] T: Okay. We'll put Jenny's contact links in the show notes. Let's move on to this week's picks. Ari, would you like to go first?
[00:49:33] AC: Sure. I have one pick this week. It actually comes as a result of having to set up a new dev environment. Resetting up an editor is always so much fun.
[00:49:43] T: Love it.
[00:49:45] AC: It ended up being good, because I found a VS code extension that I was unaware of, called Vuex Suggest. I don't know. Some people may have never experienced this. For me, if I'm using map actions, and I'm mapping them as an array of strings, it drives me nuts that when I go to use that action, it's not an autocomplete. This fixes that problem, because I'm so lazy, and I also make lots of typos. Autocomplete is life. Vuex suggest will make sure that you have auto completion for method names imported as strings.
[00:50:20] T: Nice. Yeah, I think that'll save a lot of people time. How about you, David? What are your picks for us this week?
[00:50:25] DA: I've got one pick for you this week. It's a Netflix documentary. My Octopus Teacher.
[00:50:32] T: Oh, that was not what I was expecting at all.
[00:50:34] JL: Octopus Teacher?
[00:50:35] T: What?
[00:50:37] DA: It's a very strange title. My Octopus Teacher. Okay. I rarely cry during movies. I got very sniffily during this one. Very sniffly. I bawled like a wild animal during ET, because I saw it when I was a kid. Then I saw it again, and it just unlocked some innocent part of my child's brain. Haven't really cried. Maybe get sniffily. Yeah, this was a great movie. It really makes me never want to eat octopus again. It's a really well-done documentary. I's awesome.
[00:51:07] T: Is the octopus the teacher, or is the teacher teaching about octopus? Or do we have to watch it to find out?
[00:51:11] DA: I’m going to repeat the title to you. My Octopus Teacher, okay.
[00:51:18] T: That can parsed in so many ways, David.
[00:51:22] DA: You'll just have to watch to find out.
[00:51:25] T: If anybody is listening, and you've watched it, please let us know @gloomylumi, which way to read the title. All right, Jenny. Do you have any picks for us this week?
[00:51:37] JL: I have some job hunt related pics, I guess, which are two sites I've been looking at a lot, using a lot, which are premf and Key Values, which are both pretty well-known popular sites.
[00:51:51] AC: Key Values is amazing. Yeah.
[00:51:51] DA: I love premf.
[00:51:53] T: Nice. Yeah, key values was also one of my picks. I guess, this is what it's like to be in Ben's shoes, without the famous success.
[00:52:04] AC: There's only a better time, Tessa.
[00:52:07] T: Also, one of the managers at my place recommended this site to me, called merit. I haven't tried it yet. It's a site where I think, you can get a mentor, or be a mentor in tech and you sign up for, or people sign up for 30 minutes slots to talk with you about some topic. They also have different categories. Are you looking for career coaching? Are you looking for coding help? That seems potentially interesting.
Also, @sailorhg on Twitter recently released this thing that I was reminded of by Aris’ pick, which is compute cuter. It's basically, a collection of coding themes and fonts and other ways that you can style your desktop environments to be cuter. One of my picks actually made it on there, which was nice, but dank mono was also on there, so there's that.
[00:52:57] AC: Shut up, I like it.
[00:53:00] T: On that note, that's all for this week's episode. Thanks for listening and until next time, enjoy the Vue.