I’m starting a new company. It’s in stealth but we’ve already sourced our seed round and are now starting our search for a tech lead. I came across your profile and thought we should chat. Your experience as a software engineer and manager sounds very valuable for what we’re building.
For some quick context, I most recently was the Founder and CEO of <some company I’d never heard of>. We raised $50m, built <something or other>
My next venture is a platform that “turns your house into a home.” If this mission/vision sounds at all interesting to you, lets find a time to chat so we can discuss further and see if this is the right fit.
Let me know and we can set a time.
I responded that I would be happy to chat with him, but I was very happy where I was. Getting in on the ground up was appealing, but it would have to be a great opportunity. So we set up a call.
He called me, and described what he had in mind. They were going to build a site that homeowners would get access to when they bought a house with targeted ads, promotions, and coupons from places like Comcast and Home Depot.
I gave me thoughts on what kind of products they would need, and what kind of scale the backend would need, as well as some guesses on how much money it would take to get off of the ground.
He told me he was very impressed, and asked if I were interested in getting it off the ground.
And I told him honestly, this space did not interest me in the least.
I wished him luck, and have not heard anything else from him. And looking back on his LinkedIn profile, it looks like it did not get started anyway.
When you are happy with your work, which I was at Indeed, you don’t have to talk to people anymore. And when you have the title of “Software Engineer” again, you get more interesting companies talking to you. I am just going to list the various companies that contacted me in 2016 and 2017. This does NOT include the dozens of recruiters that hit me up for contract positions doing IOS development, QA, BPM, or random things I am not qualified for, like C++ or .NET.
A few weeks after I started at Indeed, I got this:
Google is working on lots of CONFIDENTIAL projects in exciting spaces like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Space to name a few.
I would introduce myself. Are you interested in scheduling a conversation to discuss available opportunities at Google?
Even if it is an exploratory conversation for informational purposes, it would be great to understand how you envision your career. Hopefully the opportunities here will allow you to pursue your goals and aspirations. I understand that you may be happily employed at this time, but my objective is to network with individuals like yourself for current or future openings here.
If this is not a good time, I would like to stay connected with you in the event that you are open to future discussions. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to your response and hope to hear from you soon.
I was flabbergasted. They keep asking me to try, and I keep failing. Why am I playing this game? Indeed was absolutely amazing a few weeks in, and I did not need this. So, I unloaded on this person:
First of all, thanks for reaching out to me. Although I am happy where I am, we should stay in touch.
I am, however, surprised that you contacted me, given my history of being recruited at Google:
I interviewed in July of 2000. At the time, I was an Engineering Manager, and was looking for similar opportunities. Y’all interviewed me for a Project Manager position instead. I was not interested. At the time, pre-IPO, Google had 67 engineers, and no managers. I was told that when you decided to start interviewing managers, you would give me a call, but you didn’t.
I interviewed onsite in February 2014. I did not embarrass myself, but did not nail it. I was not surprised that I did not get an offer.
Just a few weeks after being turned down, on 4/23/14, I got an email asking if I would be interested in exploring roles at Google again. I had just started my new job the day before, so I said not this time.
On May 20, 2015, Google contacted me again, and I went through the interview process again in July. I felt like I nailed it. I don’t think I could do much better. But I got turned down again. This time, they identified me as a good QA candidate, so…
In August, I did a technical phone screen for a QA role. Unfortunately, I misread the question, spent 20 minutes solving the wrong problem, and when the interviewer pointed it out, I ran out of time. You decided not to have me come to an onsite interview. I thought at this point, I would not hear from you again.
On November 12, 2015, another Google recruiter contacted me about a Technical Program Manager role on the Chrome team. We talked, and he said he would see what he could do. And then he disappeared. I sent email to him on 1/23/2016, and he responded that he had forgotten to close the loop, and that there was no interest in proceeding.
Which brings us to today.
It is clear to me that I don’t have the right stuff to survive the interview process at Google. At this point I have solved at least a dozen programming problems for you. I have done four technical phone screens, and been onsite three times (although 2000 probably doesn’t really count). I got the message. Google at this point appears to be to be terribly schizophrenic.
Given that I am in Texas, and I am happy at my job, and I see no way to afford working in Mountain View, at this time I am not interested in pursuing this further. That doesn’t mean I won’t be interested later. However, if that happens, I will be wary of Google. I have been through a lot, and would only consider doing this again if the recruiting team really thought I had a shot at succeeding. Right now, I feel like search engine fodder.
Good luck with you recruiting.
To my surprise, they responded:
First, I want to say I am sorry for your previous experiences with Google. There are so many product areas with tons of recruiters allocated to other places.. The google process [sic] multiple interviews prior to get an offer is common. You did well in your interviews, hence the reason why you continue to still be contacted. Please let me know if now of in the future you would like to have a conversation to discuss the positions I recruit for and why I think you’d be a good fit. It not, I respect your decision.
“You did well in your interviews.”
I don’t anticipate writing about Google again unless the world changes in ways I can’t predict. Here in August, 2020, that is a dangerous statement to make, but still…
Note: I edited my long response back to this person to remove names.
After the last interview at Google, I did something very unprofessional. I blasted them on Facebook:
Concerning Google interviews: I have been contacted five times, had four phone screens, and three onsite interviews. One was in 2000, before they developed the “Google Interview Process”, and I disagreed with how they were doing things and the hiring manager and I got in an argument. I failed one of the phone screens because I misread the programming problem. The next-to-last onsite, I did not answer well on two of the interview sessions, so I was not surprised I got no offer. But the last one… I felt like I nailed 5 out of 6 questions, and needed one little nudge in the 6th. I could not have possibly have done better, and still got no offer. That’s the one that sticks in my craw. The fact that I have a lot of relevant experience was not important to them.
I guess that wasn’t too horrible. Still, normally, I have a cooler head, and don’t just unload on people or companies. However, this time, a recruiter I know socially commented:
Talk to me about indeed
That evening, both of our boys had a Cub Scout meeting, and she approached me, and asked, “Have you thought about Indeed?”. I replied, “Should I?”. She handed me her business card. “Send me your resume.”
At the same time, at Mozilla, I was having a difficult time. I did not really enjoy automation of Firefox, and was not good at it. I also did not get along with my manager. I am extremely extroverted, and tend to speak whatever I am thinking, and it obviously got on his nerves, even if most our interactions were in chat.
Mozilla had put together a team to do an iOS version of Firefox, and I was extremely interested in working on that team. Right about that time, however, a new mandate from HR stated that all internal candidates for positions had to go through the same hiring process as external candidates. The justification (which I understand) was that Silicon Valley had too many Good Ol’ Boy hires, and Mozilla wanted to keep our candidate stream as diverse as possible.
The problem with that, of course, is that external candidates have been working on the technology full-time. I had a day job that had little to do with iOS. And there were family concerns taking up all of my spare time, so I could not really do open-source contribution on the Firefox iOS app.
So, Indeed seemed like a good way out if I could get the job. I was still applying for the Firefox iOS team at the same time.
The next day, the recruiter called me, and said that they would like to interview for Software Engineering Manager. It had been a while since I had done that, but I had thoroughly enjoyed it when I did. “The first step is setting up a technical phone screen. Could we have a time where an engineer calls you?” We agreed.
A few days later, a very nice woman from Indeed called me. We talked about software engineering process for a few minutes, and then she gave me a programming problem. It seemed really easy, and we wrapped up with about 5 minutes to spare. That felt good!
The next day, the recruiter called: “So, we have decided not to pursue you for Software Engineering Manager.”
“Oh, OK, I understand. Please tell the woman phone screening me thanks for her time. And thanks for taking the time yourself,” expecting that to be it.
“… we would like to bring you end for a round of interviews for Software Engineer”.
Unfortunately, my mother had died the previous weekend, and I had to take care of memorial services for her. So we schedule the interview for a couple of weeks later.
Turns out the Indeed office I was interviewing at was the closest tech company to my house in Austin. That was cool.
I showed up at the designated time. The office was very cool and modern. Screens everywhere. Brand new building.
The day was:
On-site programming exercise
Resume Deep Dive
I am going to take things out of order. Indeed has free food for lunch, and it was outstanding. I talked to a junior engineer about release engineering.
I felt like I nailed the whiteboards. I put up good solutions, and they asked extension questions, and I answered those as well.
I did not have a lot of architecture experience. I had a real good time during the interview, but this was not my strong muscle, and we both knew it.
I felt at the time like I really nailed the code review. After all, I found two bugs in the code! But looking back, I wish I had known Java better, and I made some pretty bold fairly incorrect statements about the code (I had never seen the final keyword, since my Java knowledge was from a class in 1996).
The programming exercise involved reading files off of disc, parsing them, and doing interesting things with the data. Most of my programming career, file I/O was done through Mac or Windows APIs, and those APIs were not appropriate 20 years later. I had also done a lot of file i/o work with Tcl/Tk, but Tcl/Tk was not on the laptop provided, and was not a modern technology anyway.
I told the proctor of the test that I either had to learn File I/O in Python, or string processing in Java (well, for that matter, File I/O in Java, to be honest). It was a 90 minute test, and I spent the first 20 minutes writing the code to read the file and break it down into pieces I could work with. I outlined about 20 steps necessary to finish, and I got through 16 of them before I ran out of time.
A manager talked to me about my career in the Resume Deep Dive, and we talked about the last project I was writing automation for at Mozilla. Don’t remember much else.
And the close, they basically asked for my feedback about the interview process.
One side note: They had moved into the building no more than 3 weeks earlier. The conference room I was in had a giant raw wooden door. I was wondering if maybe they were recycling building materials (Red Hat San Francisco office did that). But no, when they moved in to the new building, several conference room doors shattered, so the wood was a stopgap while they were redesigning and redeploying the glass doors.
Two days after the interview, the recruiter called me, and gave me an offer! As a Software Engineer!
I was on cloud nine.
There was a deadline on the offer. I was still trying to get onto the iOS Firefox team. They had given me a homework problem, a toy app to write. My plan was to write it in the evenings and over the next weekend, and submit it. It was better, I thought, to stay at Mozilla if I could.
However, the deadline for signing the Indeed office came up quickly. I decided to accept the offer, and if things worked out with Mozilla Firefox iOS, I would consider rescinding my acceptance.
The day after I accepted the offer, I had a 1:1 conference video with my Mozilla boss. When I connected, somebody I did not recognize was in the call. I apologized, and said I must have the wrong room, but he said that I was in the right place.
This was a very bad sign. I was wondering if I was being laid off.
My boss showed up a couple of minutes later, and said, “This is <REDACTED> from HR. He has some things to say.”
<REDACTED> started in, “We are putting you on a Performance Improvement Plan for the next six weeks…” and started describing all that meant. Two things it did mean:
I could not change teams while on the PIP. So, goodbye Firefox IOS.
Mozilla paid generous bonuses. 50% of the quarterly bonus was based on company performance, 50% was based on my performance. My half was forfeit for any quarter where I spent time on the PIP, and the six weeks overlapped the quarter boundary, so I was guaranteed not to have a personal bonus stake for another six months.
Well, that made the decision easier. However, I did not want to miss out on the company bonus for the almost completed quarter, so I set my start date for the third Monday in April. If I had given notice before March 31, I would have lost my bonus. So I gave two weeks notice after April 1st.
Turns out Indeed is amazing, and I am still very happy there.
I came across your resume and understand that you interviewed for a SWE role earlier this year. However, your experience in a Leadership capacity caught my attention as I support our Technical Program Management job family. This group combines hands on Engineering and project based leadership across a number of different areas of Google. One that may be of interest is within our Chrome group. Would you be interested in hearing more?
They also included a job description.
This was in mid-November. I indicated my interest:
Thanks for reaching out to me. It’s not often I can check off every single bullet point on the job description! I have certainly had a few positions like this one in the past. I am interested.
We talked on the phone. They asked me good questions about my project management experience, particularly as part of the job I did at Apple. They indicated that they would talk to managers on the Chrome team.
And I waited.
And then there were the winter holidays.
At the end of January, I sent a note to them:
At this point, two months later, it is obvious that I am no longer being considered for the positions you had open. Thanks for talking with me, and good luck in your searches.
And they wrote back:
My apologies for not closing the loop in regards to the Chrome OS team. After sharing your information unfortunately there was not any interest in moving forward. I sincerely apologize about not following up with this information sooner.