Wayport – 2008

A good friend of mine from college heard I was looking and asked for my resume. That day, I got a call from a recruiter at Wayport, the guys who had been doing WiFi for McDonald’s among others.

I eventually talked to a VP at Wayport. We talked about general QA and management philosophy. Honestly, I don’t remember much, and my notes had nothing interesting in them.

I did, however, continue to ping the recruiter, and my friend, about the position. I finally got this reply:

Thanks for your email. I will pass along your regards to [the VP] and wish
you luck in your job search. At this time [the VP] is still interested in
pursuing other candidates.

Hey, at least they told me.

 

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StoredIQ – 2008

Three days after I got laid off at Lombardi, the recruiter I had worked with at Lombardi sent me this:

I just left a message on your cell phone.  I have an interview for you and it’s a good one.  _____ _______ is the CTO of StoredIQ and he was wondering if you were free to meet him near 360/Westlate Blvd. around 4 or 5pm today.  Does that work for you?  He would be speaking with you about a Sr. level QA role at StoredIQ…

I was to meet with the CTO later that afternoon, but he was delayed getting out of town coming back to Austin for Houston. And I was going to Las Vegas for PMP training paid for by Lombardi.

Once I got back to town, I went over the CTO’s house. Turns out he lived in my subdivision. Generic get-to-know interview. He asked some non-probing questions about QA philosophy, and I asked him some generic questions about StoredIQ.

We scheduled an onsite interview.

Alas, I was late. I tried to punch up Westgate on my car’s DVD-based nav system, and I could not find anything. Maps on the phone weren’t a thing yet., so, I tried to rely on the written instructions from the recruiter. Turns out the street is called “West Gate” (two words), and the street is on an exit sign on one direction of one freeway near the intersection of two, but not on the other side of that freeway. You’ll also note that in the email above the recruiter called it “Westlate”. I was about 25 minutes late.

And the interview did not go well. The biggest mistake was not doing more research on the company and what the state of the art of what they were doing was. They were archiving electronic data to meet government compliance standards, and they need to provide searching capability. This interview was the first time I heard the terms “elastic search” and “lucene”, and I should have at least understood what these terms generally meant before I walked in the door.

Nobody on their side opened up to me at all. I was not at all surprised when they said they were no longer pursuing me for this position.

StoredIQ was acquired by IBM in 2012, and they fit the IBM profile to a tee. (Of course, Lombardi was also acquired by IBM in 2011). My goal in life is to never work again at a company that was interesting to IBM.

As for that recruiter, he never helped me again. I think the combination of being friends with Lombardi management and feedback he got from this review gave him a sufficiently negative impression of me that he wrote me off.

And, at this point, I did not blame him one bit.

screen shot 2019-01-20 at 19.51.06
So West Gate Blvd is an exit of 71 West, and goes into the Westgate neighborhood. Got it.

Failure – 2008

“Failure is always an option.” – Adam Savage

Tick

It’s 2006. I had just driven into Austin, leaving pregant wife and child in the Bay Area to start my job at Lombardi. It was the Friday before Memorial Day, and I was starting on Tuesday. I go by the office to say “Hi”.

Boss looks up, and says, “Oh, hi. How was your trip?”

“It was good! Glad to be here and looking forward to getting to work.”

“Yeah, we look forward to having you.” He gets up, and walks out of his office. He says, as he is walking away, “Don’t have time to chat now. Be here at 8:00 Tuesday for training”, and disappeared around the corner.

That was dismissive. And 8:00?

Tick

I am at training a few days later. The training assumes that you already know Javascript and how to develop web pages. I know neither. I get our software installed on our laptop, but am otherwise, hopelessly lost.

Tick

It’s 3 weeks later on a Tuesday morning at 8:25, and I have just woken up. I look at my Blackberry, and there is an email from Boss’ boss.

“MANDATORY MEETING IN MY OFFICE AT 8:30!!”

Oops. I send him email promising to be there at 9:15.

He rants and raves about the poor state of our web services testing. Wants a report on how to address it by 5:00 today.

I write the report as best I can after meeting with my people. Will require effort and people. I send it. I never hear about it again.

Tick

I discover that Lombardi pays once/month, and if you start after the 21st of the month, you don’t get paid until the last day of the next month.

It has now been 9 weeks without a paycheck for me, and we are out of money. I convince HR to accelerate my signing bonus, but there is a provision that says if I quit in the first year, I have to pay the pro-rated balance back.

Once/month? Seriously?

Tick

One month in. I come to the sickening realization that the only way to significantly change the quality of Lombardi software is to change Engineering. Unit tests. Designing for testability. Code reviews. Design reviews.

At least we are using version control.

I figure that if I go in and challenge my boss and his boss, the VP of Engineering, to change Engineering, I will be shown the door, and will somehow have to pay back 90% of my signing bonus (which has already been spent; moving is expensive). And I will have to find another job. Or go back to Apple in California and ask for my job back.

I have already failed as a QA manager at this point.

Tick

I normally come in between 9:30 and 10:00, and stay until 6:00 or 6:30. Nobody is there when I leave. And when I come in, I start getting more and more hostile looks from people.

The employee handbook says that the workday is 8:30 until 5:30. I notice that almost everybody adheres to that religiously.

Really? Software engineers?

Tick

A few months in. I am having a discussion with my boss, his staff, and the product managers. I mention bug priority. I was told this:

  • Lombardi has P1, and everything else.
  • A bug is only a P1 if it impacts revenue.
  • We defer all non-P1 bugs once a feature ships.

Yet, they can’t figure out how Apple ships such awesome stuff. They revere Apple like some kind of cult figures.

(Hint: Apple cares about non-revenue bugs, too)

Tick

A year in. We are working towards a new release of our software. Boss goes on family leave. We are supposed to be feature complete while he is gone.

There is no way we are feature complete. Nothing is finished. Too many issues are open. QA is ready to test, but there is nothing yet to test.

I can’t get the rest of the management staff to believe me or pay attention. I can’t get boss’ boss to pay attention.

Boss comes back, and realizes, looking at the same data that I was, that we are off the rails, and we are not feature complete. It’s as if I don’t exist.

Tick

2 months later. Boss’ boss calls me into his office. He wants me to develop a system using our software that polls our engineers on what they are working on every day.

So now I really have to learn this Javascript thing.

I discover a major feature that we had added in the last release and that we charge extra for flat-out does not work. I have to figure out how my QA staff missed this point. This is a QA failure (but also an engineering failure, as it never worked, and the engineers that wrote it never tested it)

It takes me three weeks to put it into production. I get the distinct impression that management thought it should take 3 days.

Tick

I am now about 18 months in. I have been trying to hire another QA lead for over a year; finding QA candidates who can do any code whatsoever is proving to be very difficult.

I bring in one candidate who can do trivial programming over the phone. He bombs the interview.

One of my fellow managers says snidely that he should have never had to talk to somebody so unqualified.

Tick

I finally find a great candidate for QA Lead. Senior, smart, technical. We agree on a start date.

One of my other leads then changes departments, knowing that the new guy is showing up.

The Friday before he was to show up on Monday, he calls and says he’s not coming. Now I am down a QA lead.

Tick

My manager schedules at 8:30 meeting with me on a Thursday. It overlaps with the management staff meeting. I point that out to him; the management staff meeting goes away.

I have a bad feeling about this. I tell my wife the night before that I think that I am about to be fired.

Boom

8:30 meeting. Manager in a suit. Hands me a document. Says to read it and sign it.

I have been relieved of my responsibilities, as my position has been eliminated. My final day is the last day of the 3rd full month after this date (which is my severance). I can still use my desk, computer, and the Lombardi network as much as I want, especially if I am looking for another job.

Also, I had signed up for a PMP training course that was due to start a few weeks later. Lombardi would still pay for the course and reimburse expenses.

And I could transfer my phone number from the Blackberry to another phone if I wanted.

But there was no place for me anymore at Lombardi.

I go to my car and start it. I spend 15 minutes crying and sobbing, as scared as I have ever been. Wife and two kids are at home. What are we going to do?

I clear my head, and drive home to figure it out together.

 

 

VMWare – 2008

Email from recruiter:

Dear ______,

I am ___ _______ I work for VMWare.

I found you on the internet. I work in the CPD group Continuing Product Development team.
I wanted to see if you are open to new job opportunities or you know someone that is.
I am looking for Individuals that have very strong skills as a Software Engineering Manager with strong linux packaging.
If you are interested or know some one that you could refer, I would look forward in hearing from you.
So, each sentence on its own line. Punctuation and capitalization errors.
I had been contacted by VMWare a couple of times before (here and here), so I knew what they were about. I had no doubt that I could do well there. Ah, but the key point… I wrote back:
I am located in Austin, TX. I assume that this opportunity is in Silicon Valley? I am not actually interested in moving back anytime soon.
and never heard from that recruiter again…

Cisco – 2008

Recruiter fishing. How quaint:

Hi,
The Recruiting Research Team at Cisco noticed your background in the Release Engineering community and they thought you might help me if I asked nicely. 🙂

I’m hoping you can suggest individuals who’d be interested in a full-time Release Engineer role based in San Bruno (south of San Francisco) with our Ironport division, acquired by Cisco in April 2007.

This individual will work to improve, automate, and simplify the build and release process across the Ironport product line.  They will also support the tools and infrastructure necessary to support the engineering organization on tools like Perforce, Bugzilla, and Twiki.

The ideal candidate will be able to drive positive change across the engineering organization; has prior experience with the design of test, staging, and production environments for server-based apps; and has past participation in shipping releases on an aggressive schedule.
I’ve found most professionals prefer to use their network to find new opportunities.
Anyone come to mind you can forward this email to or refer back?

I can reply with the job description if that’d help.

Thanks in advance!

I guess LinkedIn wasn’t really going full-force yet, although it was gathering steam. A few things:
  • At this point in my career, I had not worked in Release Engineering, nor had I managed Release Engineers. I wonder what they based my “background in the Release Engineering community” on. Perhaps one of my friends?
  • Recommending somebody to fill a vacancy in a recently acquired company is a good way to lose friends. Especially if the acquirer is Cisco. I watched them acquire engineers and spit them out on a regular basis.
  • Release engineers don’t often drive “positive change across the engineering organization”; they have to have a manager or project manager or engineer as a champion.
  • I hadn’t heard of Ironport before I got this mail, and I never heard of them again!
  • Yes, most professionals prefer to use their network. Duh.

From what I can tell, I did not even bother to respond to this one.

 

 

Silicon Valley “profitable” company – 2008

Yet another recruiter trying to find people for an unnamed company:

I’m networking with various professionals in search of a Software Manager with a specific set of skill.  My client is a Silicon Valley “profitable” start-up company located in Fremont, CA. The is a full-time employment opportunity.

As experts in broadcast and real-time data transport, our client’s software optimizes the delivery of digital media over any network. Their technology eliminates the common limitations associated with digital media distribution solutions over both private and public networks, maximizing our customers’ existing infrastructure investments, and enabling expanded revenue opportunities.

Our client’s technologies are used today by leading mobile carriers, IPTV providers, and national defense agencies throughout the world and over the last year, they have doubled in revenues and doubled the size of their team.
Primary Responsibilities
Drives the delivery of embedded software products for IP-based streaming and file delivery applications. Ensures customer success through the delivery of well-designed, flexible, extensible, robust and richly supported software products.

Leveraging past product successes, provides domain expertise in the area of IP-based networking architectures and protocols. Provides technical guidance on multimedia session/transport protocol implementations, limitations, and applications including IP/UDP, RTP/RTCP, firewalls, and performance enhancing proxies.

Works closely with development team to ensure that core technology implementations are highly portable and scalable to a broad range of client and server environments.

Required Skills & Experience
An innovative and technical professional with a proven track record as a technical software manager in the area of IP-based networking protocols. Minimum of 10 years relevant experience, including at least 3 years experience in a management capacity.

Depth of knowledge in many of the following protocols and technologies: IP/UDP/TCP, NAT/ALG, firewall, VPN, RTP/RTCP, FTP, DHCP, FTP, DiffServ, including a comprehensive knowledge of the architecture, design, development, limitations and use as applied to streaming and file broadcast applications.

Proven technical manager; must have practical, hands-on experience in leading teams in the development of complex multimedia networking solutions. Demonstrated success in the early stages of product development through participation in product and roadmap definitions with product management. Strong project execution skills covering task definition, team mentoring, and recruiting. Demonstrated success in delivering best of breed solutions and ensuring customer success.

Bachelor’s Degree in CS or EE

If you know someone that would be a good fit, please forward this email to him or her. If you would like to apply, please forward reply with to this email with your resume.  For more information, send an email to <REDACTED>.

So, this was an ASCII mail, so the formatting is kind of off. That happens.

I am trying to figure out how this person could possibly think I was qualified for this position, other than the fact that sometimes software engineering managers don’t work on the code. The requirements themselves are reasonable; I just didn’t have ’em! Plus, the job was in Fremont, not Texas.

And why is “profitable” in quotes?

 

MessageOne – 2007

An old friend of mine sent me an email:

Subject: Ever hear of MessageOne?

I’m talking with them re: a QA job in Austin.

My boss at Lombardi had worked there, along with some others. So I told him that I had. He seemed dismayed that so many people had left MessageOne. I was impressed that they seemed to have a some openings.

A couple of months later, I got a LinkedIn message from a recruiter, recruiting for Engineering Manager:

I hope this email finds you well. In an office just across 183 from you guys is a dev team in search of a strong manager. Any interest in discussing? http://www.messageone.com

MessageOne made their money providing emergencies notifications for companies. One example: There was a bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis, and they notified thousands of employees for one of their customers information related to it.

From there, we set up some kind of phone screen, where I talked a good talk. I interviewed onsite with the VP of Engineering. He was a big, loud, man. We talked about managing people and managing software process. The subject of baseball came up, and he said, “If we hire you, I will take you to my box at Yankee Stadium for the All-Star game!” Sounded like an interesting signing bonus!


I could have been there!

I then went through another round of interviews. Honestly, I think I was already stressed for how much trouble I was having at Lombardi, and I think it bled through in these interviews. I felt insecure, and nervous.

After a few weeks, the original recruiter sent this to me:

After some long deliberation, we’ve decided to look at some other
candidates. The feeling was that you definitely could rework and drive
process, but there’s a slight culture mismatch.
Thanks again for meeting with us- I know our interview process isn’t the best.
Let me know if I can help you out in the future or if we need to chat further.
Thanks and enjoy your holidays.

I discussed this with my family, and my father had this cogent observation:

I suspect that it’s what you’re experiencing in your present situation.  It never feels like it, but if it doesn’t feel right to them, they did you a favor.

I think it’s a good point.

As for MessageOne, a few months later, Dell bought them. Most of their business was based on Blackberry servers, and of course, Blackberry fell on hard times. I imagine they had to rebuild everything based on push notifications for iOS and Android. Sometime in 2015, they renamed themselves to Aurea. They are still going, but I can’t figure out if they are still owned by Dell or not. I think that it would have been really hard to manage a software team through the tsunami of Blackberry crumbling and iOS and Android emerging, and despite the troubles I had at Lombardi, it was good I did not end up there.