My dating history. . .

Otherwise known as my career history. I can’t help but draw analogies between the two. Having recently made yet another job switch, this area of my life is top of mind.

Anyone looking at my resume would say I’ve gotten around a bit – 8 months here; 10 months there; and a few long-term relationships thrown in. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. I’m just trying to find the right fit.

My first “real” job out of college was the one that taught me the most about the working world. Just like anyone’s first “real” relationship is the one where they’ve likely learned the most about dating. A lot of ups and downs – maybe a few more downs than ups because in both scenarios you’re young, naïve and have no idea what to expect.

I stuck with my first job for five years. That was too long, but I just didn’t have the confidence to know that I deserved better. I was underpaid, overworked and miserable. Right in line with this experience was my first relationship. There are too many parallels to even elaborate on, but I stayed in it for too long and put way more in than I got out.

Towards the end of the five-year stint, I finished grad school as well. That was very much a turning point for me. My confidence had grown both personally and professionally and knew it was time to make a change. I wanted to make a clean break for a new life and a new city.

To play it safe, I ended up staying with the same company, but they moved me to a new city with a completely new team and department. It was a fresh start as far as I was concerned, and I started to come out of my shell.

Two years in, I realized I was making too many excuses for why I was so unhappy there. It was the same company, just in different clothing.

After seven years, I decided I wanted to take a few months to figure out my next step. As expected, my next move was to a risky, start-up company that could not be more different. It was an extreme move and I realized very quickly that I went too far to the opposite side of the spectrum from the bureaucratic, corporate doldrums I had previously been stuck in.

I can’t say it was a wasted eight months. It was actually a huge confidence builder because I had nothing to lose. I’d say most men and women have had those short-lived relationships where you know it’s not a long-term thing, but it’s fun, you learn a bit about yourself and when the time comes, you move on.

From there, it was back to a bit more of a stable work environment. The honeymoon period lasted for about eighteen months. The company had been acquired by one of the largest corporations in the world and dealing with the day-to-day just became too hard. Neither your job nor your relationship should be that hard. I’m not saying in the “challenging” sense, I mean going through the motions of something you feel no passion about.

The next job I knew was a mistake the day I signed the offer. I consider it a rebound relationship. I just knew I wanted out of my last place and was looking to commit to anything to get the passion back.

When it came time to grow up, I had two job offers in front of me. One was the risky, sexy start-up – the guy with the motorcycle who will likely break your heart, but just maybe I can change him. The other job was the safe bet – an established company with a team I had worked with before.

Like most women who make terrible choices on occasion, I decided on the risky bet. Surprise, surprise. . .I got burned (aka down-sized). With my tail between my legs, I went back to the safe bet and they hired me immediately.

I thought we both wanted the same thing. I was looking for a long-term career move with high aspirations for growth and career succession. They were looking for someone to bring in and grow as the company grew.

Six months in, the first of many promises were broken. At twelve months in, more began to fall. At eighteen months, I gave an ultimatum. Actions speak louder than words and when it came time to make a true commitment, they flailed and I walked. With work as in relationships, it is not healthy to be strung along and drag things out.

I wasn’t necessarily cheating, but I needed to know what was out there when the last job started to deteriorate. I had my feelers out and was introduced to a company that seemed very promising. There was the usual back-and-forth when I first gave notice – they didn’t want me to go. . .things would change. Admittedly, I was torn, but ultimately made the move.

I am now a few months in at this latest job. The company is at a stage where it’s looking to establish itself and I finally feel like I’m hitting my stride. While I realize I may still be in the honeymoon phase, I think this could be the one.

*Any likeness to companies or men/women you might know is completely intentional.

Hired! In San Francisco

When people find out that I’m a native San Fransican – it’s typically met with – “Really?!” San Francisco is full of newcomers, transients, and passers-by. It’s part of what makes the city so wonderful and unique. I’m often asked by people who have recently moved here, or are about to move here, how to go about tapping into the thriving job market.

There are a few basics that are necessary:

A killer profile

There are plenty of online resources with and on how to highlight your best qualities. Stick with concrete accomplishments, a few strong recommendations, and as many connections as possible.

 

Personal website

Most people who have worked in San Francisco, particularly in tech, have an online presence of one sort or another. Making a simple website using , , or (for the more sophisticated users) is a great way to tell recruiters that you exist and are serious about being in technology. Doesn’t need to be complicated, just include your resume, a few hobbies, and any portfolio of projects. It’s a great way to express yourself and differentiate yourself from the crowd. If you’re applying for a technical role, be sure to include you github account; for designers, a portfolio is a must.

Network

The best way to get a job is through an introduction from someone you know. Period. Bar none. Network, network, network. LinkedIn is a great tool for this. Find a job or company you’re interested in, and then search to see how you might be connected to someone who works there, or who formerly worked there. The valley is a small place – you’ll quickly be connected to many companies. Ask to be introduced, go get coffee, or a drink with folks you know.

Start looking specifically

Job boards

Venture Capital Firms

Read the news

If you are new to the area, and new to the industry – welcome! There is a plethora of information to read about the technology world. , , and all report on the goings on, mergers, investments, and new companies. You won’t want to look uninformed in an interview when someone asks you what you think about that latest and greatest happenings.

Show up in person

It’s possible to start applying to jobs before you arrive, but most companies will want to meet you in person – more than once.

Here is a common interview process one might go through:

  1. Skype / Phone interview with recruiter
  2. Phone interview with hiring manager
  3. In person interview with hiring manager and a few other folks
  4. Meet the whole team

Common practices for technical roles

  1. Technical interview (architecture / thought / whiteboard exercise)
  2. Coding test (actually writing code, solving problems)

Common practices for design roles

  1. Design workshop (lead creative workshop on sample project)
  2. Design project (take – home creative project)

Culture fit

It’s easy to think that applying for a job is about the best skill set – wrong! Culture is a very serious part of the technology community here – each company has it’s own vibe, practices, and unique culture. Pay attention to the subjective things you learn about the company through the interview process to learn if you’re going to fit in well. The company will certainly be evaluating you on culture fit as well. Basics such as being friendly to recruiters, office management, administrators, are key – as well as more traditional etiquette such as thank you emails, punctuality, and preparedness.

Attire

Whatever you do – don’t show up in a suit! My first day at my first job I didn’t know what to wear. My manager had told me casual, my parents encouraged me to “step it up.” I ended up wearing a pencil skirt and a balzer. At the end of the day – bless her heart – my manager (a wonderful Executive who was the Chief of Staff at Verisign internationally for many years) took me aside and kindly mentioned that tomorrow, I should feel free to wear jeans.

Not dressing the part demonstrates that you don’t understand the world very well. Dark jeans and a button down with well groomed accessories is good measure for most start-ups. Just be prepared that whomever the interview is with probably will be dressed more casual.

Notable exception:

– Enterprise sales executives: dress the part!

 

Get the basics right and you’ll have a job in no time. Much easier than finding an apartment!

 Find me on LinkedIn.

Searching for meaning and a job in Silicon Valley (in no particular order)

By Arwa Kaddoura

 Everyone remembers his or her answer to the age old question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Few of us can actually tie our current careers back to that hopeful answer. And let’s face it, that’s probably a good thing. None of us imagined careers beyond Doctor, Lawyer or Firefighter. The words venture capitalist didn’t yet enter our vocabulary, and neither did entrepreneurship, analytics or marketing. Our view of the world was limited to people who wore nice looking uniforms.

As I find myself navigating the world of recruiting again I remember two things. First, I hate sharing facts about myself multiple times in a short sitting of back-to-back interviews. Secondly, I really despise interviews. I love conversations, connecting and brainstorming but absolutely hate twenty questions. I certainly can’t be alone in this.

My current career search has sent me down a fun path of many interesting conversations. I categorize them as follows:

Desperate Headhunter trying to make quota:  These are the conversations with the recruiter at an agency who is desperately trying to tell you what a fantastic fit you are for the position they probably don’t yet have. You will get excited, tell them your salary range and potentially even land a screening. But many of your expectation will fizzle as you find out you were the wrong fit with the wrong salary expectation.

Busy Bee Hiring Manager: These are the Hiring managers who are in desperate need of help but somehow are too disorganized to keep the details about your interview straight. You wait for the interview phone call, ten minutes pass so you assume it’s cancelled, but when you least expect it, your phone rings. They start the conversation by asking, “Is this still a good time”. Now you are standing at a Starbucks ordering your latte and have to think of some clever to say that also accomplishes ordering your beverage.

Talent & Culture Royalty:  These are the internal HR coordinators who want to sniff out any chance that you might not be hip enough for their joint. They naturally call this ‘cultural fit’ and can expertly detect it by asking you questions such as “What’s your favorite food” and “What do you do with your free time”, both questions that I still haven’t found perfect answers to.

Surprised Colleagues: These are the colleagues who were barely briefed on the position or what they should be asking you. They may be used as fillers to kill the six hours they asked you to come in for. Most will not know what the role or job description entails, so to make the time pass they ask open ended questions like “Tell me about yourself”. This is your chance to dominate the conversation and get the scoop on what this company is really like.

To get through these conversations I find it helpful to inject myself with a healthy dose of humor and a slight bit of optimism. I have to admit though; I have been very fortunate to have had some great conversations and connections during my search.  The business leaders I have most enjoyed meeting understand the value of hiring good talent and building great teams (not just individual contributors). They disrupt internally what has become comfortable/safe/familiar and externally what has become conventional wisdom in their industry. These leaders share a strong dose of optimism and are far more likely to achieve disruptive results as compared with leaders who call themselves “realists”. Further, this optimism is executed with discipline that leaves enough room for creative teams to execute with flexibility. It is that leader I feel fortunate enough to be working with next. Wish me luck in my new endeavor! Maybe I’ll share some stereotypical first day experiences with you next. Who loves orientations?