Oracle – 1997

I honestly don’t know how recruiters operated before Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. It must have been really hard work to get by on just building up your own personal database of contacts, of people who knew people, matched by skill set, where they worked, etc.

For whatever reason, one called me. Introduced himself. I grilled him on what he did and how he actually made money.

“I charge a fee of 20% of your first year’s salary if the company hires you.”

Oh. Now I understand. That’s also fairly lucrative when recruiting software engineers.

He wanted to put me in touch with this hiring manager at Oracle. I told him that I had not heard good things about working at Oracle. He assured me that this was different than the normal Oracle job.

A few days later, a fellow with some kind of accent (my guess was New Zealand) called me. He was going to start a company that was going to be spun out of Oracle. Oracle was going to set aside a bucket of cash, and looks for other investment partners to also put in cash. In any case, they were starting a software company, and wanted to talk to me about working there. He had me set aside an hour for a phone call.

To talk to him. We talked about software methodology. We talked about nit-picky areas of the C standard. We talked about QA and its importance (where I got to talk about my recent expertise in test-driven development). At the end of the hour, he said:

“Right then. I am going to make you an offer. But first I need to see some code samples.”

“I can send you the main files for my menu work on Tk for both Mac and Windows.”

“That will be fine.”

I asked a question that had been bothering me. “What kind of software is this?”

He replied, “That’s confidential. Once there is an offer on the table, there should be an NDA, and we can talk about that to help you make your decision on whether or not to accept it.”

“Well, I am looking forward to seeing this offer.”

“What do you expect in terms of salary?”

I took what I was making and multiplied it by 1.1. A 10% pay raise sounded nice.

“That shouldn’t be a problem. There will also be equity, and Oracle is providing the benefits.”

“Sounds good”.

Two weeks later, I got an email:

“My apologies – normally the process is a lot quicker than this. Unfortunately, Larry Ellison and Jerry Baker are reviewing the hiring budget and are sitting on the approval which I am waiting for – I’m told that this will be complete by Wednesday – and then it will take me a few more days (perhaps a week) to get a formal letter into your hands.”

He then laid out the terms, which were reasonable.

“I hope that you will forgive the delay and am sure you will find the offer a good one with good upside potential – significantly better than the potential elsewhere. If you have any questions, please let me know.”

One week later:

“I’m really sorry that I haven’t contacted you before now. My hiring is still being held up because Larry Ellison is undertaking a budget review. However I do hope to hear something positive tomorrow. I really regret the delay – profuse apologies and several beers owing – I really hope to have something in your hands by the end of this week in the form of a written offer but currently my hands are tied.”

Four more weeks later, I got a phone call.

“I’m afraid I have bad news. The entire project’s funding has been cancelled. Oracle decided that even if it was spun out, the work that this company would be doing was not something that Oracle wanted to be involved in. I am going to try to get venture funding on my own. If something happens then, may I call you?”

“Sure. That’s disappointing.”

“I assure you; nobody is more disappointed than me. Thanks so much for allowing me to waste your time.”

I never heard from him again. Still waiting to have beer with him. Would have been nice to meet him face-to-face.

And that would not be the last time the hiring manager has said that he was just “waiting for the approval” for an offer to be forthcoming. It’s amazing that companies post jobs, but when it comes time to pull the trigger, they have a change of heart, and eliminate the position or reorganize or lie to a candidate that they were going to receive an offer.

And this also did nothing for my image of Oracle as a company.

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