Dating the Devil You Know

I once interviewed with a company that I had fond memories of. Now, I’ve never worked there myself, but they are a prominent vendor for services supporting Sports Media.

Sports Programming and Engineering is a very unique animal. Leaning to stereotype, most programmers do not like Sports. Many programmers I’ve encountered associate Sports to the memory of some Jock that bullied and teased them in school and college.

When I was taking my Bioinformatics Classes in college, sports gave me a unique way to socialize with my classmates when I tended to not get along with most others in the major. In that way, Sports Programming will always have a soft spot for me.

That said, it’s also something I’ve already done.

That means while I enjoy and can appreciate sports puns, light chats about Fantasy, and indoor basketball courts, it also doesn’t distract me at all.

When I started my New Year’s push to find a new job, a vendor for Sports Products was my first choice.

It was fun! It was what I knew. And I could get a smug bit of satisfaction when I told the guys back at my old job.

The process looked straight-forward, if not very quick. Four rounds including a quiz, one pre-screen, a technical screen, and a round of on-site interviews.

That shouldn’t take long, should it?

Remember what I said before: if you have to chase them down, they’re not for you.

Each step resulted in radio silence for a week with answers only coming after I nudged. A week might not seem long, but generally, feedback should happen the same week, rarely more than a few days. A week and a half after that we finally arranged the off-site.

Then I got an offer elsewhere.

It happens. I alerted my recruiter. Recruiters are prepared as any hire worth having is going to be actively sought after by other firms, maybe even competitors.

That bumped it up and in the meantime, I looked up their Glassdoor Reviews, something you should do before any on-site if not earlier. Things were not looking good.

Now many companies have stretches of bad luck or friction. Even if there are a lot of mediocre to poor reviews, they might be going through a cultural shift. They might be trying. What you want to look for is changes in the types of complaints. Are all the complaints the same over the past three years? Then that means they are aware of the problem, they just don’t believe they’re important enough to deal with just yet. When you do your on-site, keep an eye out for signals of these problems. Does the management address them at all? Is the staff even the same?

When I arrived, I was given a very nice tour. This place was clean, new, and cutting edge. It’s the type of place you would expect some Silicon Valley Unicorn to be working in.

Except it was a bit off. Whenever I’ve gone on an on-site, people wave to each other. Converse. General office chit-chat. Everyone there was nose down in a way that was more about evasion than concentration. It also had a Very Specific Demographic with a few drip drops of diversity. It might be the area, but I doubt it.

Also, they asked some very rudimentary technical questions if any at all. During the course of this, I was literally asked ‘what’s the difference between an object and a class’ three separate times. I have been at this for ten years. Can we please move on? Then they would ask highly specialized questions about Big Data or T-SQL when I had in no way inferred that I have worked on either. There was no in between.

A bulk of the questions, with the exception of one who asked only technical questions, were culture questions. I might have asked them more questions than they asked me.

And I asked a lot of questions. From day to day operations, to Development Cycle, to annual scheduling, personal development, and so on.

Without putting it all out on blast, so to speak, I feel I have determined the current state of their Culture.

It’s civil war. I confirmed the issues Glassdoor put out there existed at least until the end of this year. They cleaned house in the C-Suite, they’re going in a new direction, they’re flattening, and it’s putting everyone on edge. I’ve been there. I know what that tiger’s pit looks like.

Whenever I asked a ‘difficult’ question or rather one that they weren’t quite ready to answer, I got the same line from every person: We should be doing better, and it’s a work in progress. Which is a perfectly valid answer UNLESS EVERYONE SAYS THE SAME THING. Whenever multiple interviewers use the same phrase to give non-answers, that is a huge problem. That’s a ‘no comment’ answer. That’s a pain point.

It could be for the better. Large companies need to pivot and it hurts more with the more Old Guard you have. But it does not happen overnight and they had just started. These sorts of changes minimally take a quarter and more often closer to nine months to a year.

I don’t have time for that. I respect their recognizing they have a problem and taking action to fix it. But this will not happen overnight and it may not work out. It will become a ‘last man standing’ situation and I do not need to ensnare myself in it.

Even as I told them I had a deadline, I did not receive word. Not even a verbal thanks but no thanks, or we’re moving some things around and will get back to you at such-and-such time.

Which sadly fits the pattern.

So while I would love to go back someday, that day isn’t going to be today or any day soon.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s