Two Sigma Investments – 2020

I got a LinkedIn message from a recruiter:

I’m working with one of the largest global hedge funds actively looking to build out their Software and Infrastructure teams. They are urgently looking to bring skilled engineers to build out their team as they move into a pure CI/CD environment.

You would play a key role in the long term vision and strategy for one of several teams across research, trading and critical infrastructure. My client offers great career growth and can offer VERY lucrative compensation packages ($300k -$500k total doe).

Please let me know of a convenient time for us to have a brief chat to discuss this opportunity.

Hmm. That money looked great, but I went through the ringer the last time I interviewed with a hedge fund company (see Bridgewater Associates – 2012). Still, I could not ignore that money, even if it meant moving to New York.

We traded messages back and forth, and setup a phone conversation.

Eventually, she responded:

Thank you for chatting with me earlier today. Just wanted to follow-up with a reminder to pass me along your resume at your earliest convenience so I can proceed with those introductions.

I got an update from Two Sig and it looks like they would like to schedule you for a preliminary phone interview. This would be an HR call in nature, mainly to see what your overall interests are and to tell you more about their teams.

And I talked to them. The fellow I talked to was very interested in infrastructure, and architecture of systems. Very skeptical of latency and security of cloud-based systems. I don’t felt like we really connected.

They did not get back to me for a long time, so I poked the recruiter, and she finally responded:

Hi Syd, it seems they are looking to pass at this time – no feedback was provided. However, I can pass along any opportunities that fit your background in your area as they come across my desk.

I told her that I was happy where I was, and thank you.

And that day, the world shut down. NCAA cancelled March Madness, MLB cancelled the rest of spring training, and the NBA suspended the season. 10 days earlier, Indeed had sent everybody home to work.

The Pandemic was upon us.

HEB – 2020

Voted #1 Tech Office in 2019

I got a note on LinkedIn from a recruiter working with HEB:

I hope your week is off to a great start. I am reaching out to you because I wanted to see if you might have some interest in Software Engineering opportunities I have over at HEB. I would specifically be looking for someone with Microservices experience to work on our E commerce Platform for Central Market. HEB has a lot of fantastic things to offer its employees and has been voted a top company to work for on glass door 6 years running now by its employees. 

I know you are currently in a position and may not consider yourself actively on the market, but it never hurts to see what is out there. Hoping to hear back from you soon.

Here in Texas, HEB is legendary. They are a Texas-only grocery store chain, and their stores are generally excellent. My mother used to complain that their produce went bad quickly, but I figured out that it was because they did not put stuff out until it was actually ripe, so you could just take it home and eat it.

When Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, HEB revealed to the public that they had used their data science department to allocate supplies and groceries that were most needed in the hardest hit areas. (link, link, link, link). In 2019, they opened a Digital Tech Center in East Austin, along with Favor Delivery.

So, from a cool company perspective, HEB was an interesting prospect. So I agreed to talk to them.

The position was doing more of the same of what I was doing already at Indeed. And the commute would be much worse that what I already had. When they mentioned the salary range, I was not impressed. So, I turned them down.

Thank you for talking to me this morning.

H-E-B sounds like a great place to work. The job presented also sounds fun.

But I think that my job here at Indeed is awesome, and the commute is very good. I think that I am going to take my name out of consideration for this position so as not waste everybody’s time. Good luck to you, and to H-E-B. We always shop there, and it is a great company.

If something changes in my world, I will let you know.

2019 – Misc

As I have mentioned before, lists like these make me kick myself for ever going into management, QA, project management, release engineering, automation, etc. Now that the most recent position on my LinkedIn profile is “Software Engineer”, I get many many more recruiting messages that I ever have before. What might have happened if instead of going into management in 1998, I had joined a burgeoning dot com startup? I know it would have probably failed, but still… Or if I had managed to write an app during the early days of the App Store….

Still, things are going really well now, so I am just documenting the state of the world.

This is probably-not-complete list of companies who had recruiters contacted me in 2019. It does not include recruiters who did not give me a company name, and does not include a lot of staffing/temp agencies. Those recruiters were generally looking for contract IOS guys, but I also got a lot of low-paying QA leads, and some C/C++ and Embedded Linux leads (why???).

This list is in chronological order.

  • Amazon Austin Mobile
  • Salesforce
  • Google
  • WP Engine
  • Abbot
  • Home Depot
  • Amazon (Seattle)
  • Core Logic Innovation Labs
  • Apple
  • Apex Systems
  • Q2
  • Cvent
  • Snapchat
  • Arista Networks
  • Ping Identity
  • Esper
  • Struct Club
  • Oracle
  • Smarter Sorting
  • Fivestars
  • Comcast
  • Khoros
  • Automotive Solutions Company
  • Amazon
  • Facebook
  • Amazon Alexa
  • Bloomberg
  • Duo Security
  • AWS Lambda
  • The Select Group
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Procore
  • Apple Easypay
  • Disco
  • AWS
  • Amazon
  • Whole Foods
  • Natera
  • Apple
  • Google
  • EXTEN Technologies
  • Kraken
  • Uber
  • Michael and Susan Dell Foundation
  • AWS, S3
  • Adobe
  • Meraki
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Uber (Dallas)
  • Acutaine
  • Planview
  • OfferUup
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • IBM
  • Amazon Business Team
  • Wal-Mart
  • Corva
  • Vaco
  • JP Morgan Chase
  • SimpleLegal
  • Apple
  • AWS
  • Cloudera
  • Kapsch Trafficcom
  • Opcity
  • Myriad Genetic Laboratories
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Apple
  • UnitedHeatlh Group
  • Amazon
  • Fair
  • Amazon Business Team
  • Doximity
  • Amazon
  • CDK Global
  • Google
  • Apple
  • ZeroCater
  • Everi
  • Signify Health
  • Citadel Research and Engineering
  • Uber
  • Boston Dynamics
  • Amazon Alexa AI
  • AirMap
  • Amazon Business Team
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Ethos-Austin
  • OJO Labs
  • Strings
  • Sailpoint
  • Amazon Seller Listing Tools
  • Planview
  • LeapYear
  • AWS
  • Home Away
  • Abyat Kuwait
  • Verizon Media
  • Atlassian
  • Judge Group
  • Microsoft
  • SimpleLegal
  • Wayfair
  • Amazon Robotics
  • CrowdStrike
  • onXmaps
  • Apple
  • RetailMeNot
  • AWS Lambda
  • Faithlife
  • ASML
  • Bird’s Engineering
  • Coupang

Houston Astros – 2019

I always wanted to work in baseball, as documented several times in this blog (see Project Scoresheet – 1989, New York Yankees – 2014, Kansas City Royals – 2014, and Los Angeles Dodgers – 2015). I had also applied with Tampa Bay Rays, but they sent me an assessment filled with physics and statistics, and math had not done in a long time. At least they gave me a polite “No”.

So, when a job entitled “Full-Stack Developer – Houston Astros” appeared on Teamwork Online, I applied, despite being happy with my current job. The job listing is not online anymore, but this is the email I got back:

Thank you for your application to our Developer, Full-Stack role. We look forward to considering you as a candidate. As your application moves through our process, you will be notified of your status. You do not need to take any additional steps at this time. 

We appreciate the time and effort you have put into this process thus far and wish you the best in your pursuits. 

Sincerely,

Human Resources

Pretty standard form letter; did not expect much.

A few weeks later, however:

Thank you for your interest in the Houston Astros’ Full-Stack Developer position. After reviewing your application and resume, we are pleased to move forward with the next step in the process. Attached is a short technical questionnaire designed to help us gauge your skillset and learn more about your coding experience and style. The goal of this is to evaluate how you would perform as an employee, not to provide a test. We understand that you have a limited amount of time and other priorities besides this questionnaire, and it is our hope that the time required by this assessment does not serve as a deterrent for your continuing with the application process. We ask that you return the completed questionnaire via email by . If you’re not able to spend as much time on it as you’d like, please feel free to note that and tell us what you would have done if you’d had more time. Please reply to this email with any questions about the assessment.

If you are no longer interested in being considered for the position, please let us know. We look forward to hearing back from you and will be in touch about potential next steps once we’ve had a chance to review all questionnaires.

This was a ballgame of a different color (to quote City of Angels). I was incredibly excited. Maybe this would work?

The assessment that they sent me had three parts:

  1. Write a 200 word essay, stating who the one hitter and one pitcher you would build a team around. 200 words was pretty tight, but I think I defended Ronald Acuña and Jose Berrios reasonably well.
  2. Write an inning simulator. They defined a set of events that could happen in an bat, and simple language, and I had to write a simulator of how the inning would proceed. This was all kinds of fun for me, and wrote a good test suite to go with it.
  3. They gave me a lot of StatCast data for two Astros games. They wanted be to write “a simple interface to allow a user to explore the data from at least on of t games files”. They wanted a paragraph that explained my thought process, and they stressed that they did not want me to spend more than 3 hours on it. I wrote a program to map the pitch data onto a frame representing the strike zone. Each ball would be as a circle. The faster t pitch, the bigger the circle. I used gray for a ball, red circles were called strikes, green were swinging strikes, and blue were balls hit into play:

I then mentioned, that with time, I would add filters for pitches thrown by left/right, specific pitchers, batters hitting left/right, specific batters, etc., along with numerous other filters.

I had such a blast doing this. They provided a nice javascript sample program to read the data, so all I had to do was figure out how to map things onto a canvas.

I closed with:

Thank you for this opportunity. I am sure that you have many qualified candidates to choose from, and am sure that you will do a thorough job interviewing everybody. Good luck in your search, and I hope to hear back from you soon.

And the I waited several weeks. I was about to give up, when got a phone call from an admin working for the Astros. She told me that they had been having problems with their email being flagged as spam, and that I should check my spam mail, because they had been trying to get in touch.

I found the email from a mid-level Astros executive:

My team reviewed your assessment and was quite impressed. Assuming you are interested in continuing the interview process, as a next step I would like to schedule a phone call with you, which should last about thirty minutes. Please let me know what time (in Central time zone) and day work best for you this week and I will schedule something.
Thanks, and I look forward to speaking with you.

I was on Cloud Nine.

When we talked, he opened with how he and his team had been impressed with my assessment. He then said, “Normally, I have six to seven questions I ask each candidate. But I think today, I need to skip to the end. We originally envisioned this position as a junior level position. What kind of salary would you expect?”

I told him what I was making at my current job.

He said, “I was afraid of that. That’s way out of our budget.”

I told him that my salary was competitive with salaries at major tech companies, like Google and Facebook (actually, it was probably lower, but still).

He sighed. “Well, if I were hiring you to manage the team, or to architect our system from the ground up, and I could get approval for that, we might be able to talk. But there is just no way I could bring you in given where we are on the budget for this team.”

I thanked him, and mentioned we should get a beer the next time I in Houston. He agreed.


Epilogue

If they had offered me anything close to a competitive salary and relocation to Houston, I probably would have taken it. I relished the thought of working the front office on one of the best baseball teams that just happened to be my boyhood team. I looked forward to living in Houston again. I knew that there was a significant chance of the Astros going to the World Series, or at least the playoffs, a couple of more times.

Turns out, according to the press and Twitter, the organization apparently was run as a sociopathic tech-bro startup, in the image of Tesla or Über. Misogyny and cheating were the order of the day. And then COVID hit, and baseball started going through a rough patch.

I really dodged a bullet with this one, and only because they were too cheap. I still root for them, but I am so glad not to be working in baseball right now.

My current employer’s SuperBowl ad

Indeed Building

This blog is about my trying to get a job. As I wrote about here, my current employer is about that also. Indeed is putting out an ad for the SuperBowl on Sunday, February 7, 2021. It’s pretty great.

While the pandemic continues to impact jobs and the economy, there are still companies hiring. Indeed is here to help all job seekers, no matter their background or experience. Read about the story (https://indeedhi.re/2MwMO7J) behind our first-ever Super Bowl commercial. #NowHiring

I hope that everybody that wants a job can find one.