It’s been over 2 months since I moved from Hartford. Last time I went through a job search I documented it, mainly because it was a large employment gap and to somewhat show the under belly of the iceberg of success. This time around there wasn’t a large gap (to my own surprise) but I believe it’s still important to share.
Let’s cut to the chase. Even before my contract at ESPN was over I had already been looking for a better opportunities. Partly to get a raise, to have leverage to turn my contract into a ‘full time’ position and some were very interesting to me. In November of last year I met with SeatGeek and went through the interview process with Fender. Prior to that I applied for an Accessibility QA Engineer position at Apple, which I interviewed in person in mid February. I didn’t get those jobs but they were opportunities I wanted to interview for, plus these were companies that would pay for me to relocate.
Here is the list of companies I interviewed with between the last week of April and late July:
Hulu: Applied on their website
Screener call. I was too junior for the position they had opened but they would like to revisit in Q3 about a position in Seattle. They actually followed up 3 weeks ago.
Chime: Via their website.
Screener call. Position filled while interviewing.
Reached out again last week.
Konica Minolta: Via Linkedin
In-person interview, agreed that I was not a good fit
Subspalsh: Via Linkedin
Rescinded my application after looking over the products they worked on. I didn’t feel comfortable working a firm that made apps for places of worship.
iZotope: Applied on their website
During screener call it was clear I would be a good fit on other teams; plugin or hardware. Was asked to circle back every couple of weeks. That position that was never created/opened.
BAMTech: Internal Disney Job board
3 calls. Position was in North Carolina. Manager really liked me. Did not offer relocation.
Declined moving forward.
Wayfair: Via LinkedIn, applied on their site.
2 calls, Low pay and position was too junior for me.
Declined moving forward.
Disney Parks Mobile (WDAT): Internal Disney Job board
2 calls. Recruiter ghosted, sent 3 follow up emails.
Havenly: They found me on Hired
In Denver, Position was a bit too Senior for me. Would have been the first and only QA. Would be building framework and instituting QA practices/process.
3 calls plus tech challenge.
Laserfiche: Via LinkedIn, recommended as I knew someone working there.
In LA county, enterprise. Sounded boring to me. Screener call.
Decline going forward. (Person I know from college works in their HR department)
Apple (iTunes): Recruiter reached out. I had previous interaction with them. Never got a response after an in person interview in October of 2014.
2 calls, (Content Partner) they were not sure what position was going to be. When they figured it out they wanted someone with python experience which I don’t have
Riv.al: Found on Twitter, the old CEO of Ticketmaster, old CBO of twitter new company. Music adjacent and tech focus.
Screener call. Too early: Small team, not enough experience
Roblox: I was going through old emails from previous companies I had applied to the last time I was looking for work. They were a pleasant memory and had been in the tech blog recently with rumors of raising a big round.
In-person interview — offer
Ledgent Tech: Cold email. I followed up.
1 call. Recruiter agency, boring declined going forward
Spotfront: They found me on Hired
1 call E-commerce, boring declined going forward
Sofi: Via Glassdoor
Recruiter was rude, did not provide relocation, declined going forward
Ask if I wanted the employer to pay for all my bills, when asked for relocation. They questioned why should they be talking to me when the position could be filled locally.
Metromile: Via Glassdoor.
Screener, not a good fit
Chewy: Via their website
2 calls. Good fit, position filled while interviewing.
Civic: Via AngelList
Screener. Not a good fit
Amazon (Alexa): Via LinkedIn
Good fit, turned it down because of ethical concerns
This was around the time that conversation was sent to an employee of someone and when reports of their facial recognition was being sold to police departments.
Smile Direct Club: Through an ad on instagram. Looked up the company and though why not.
In-person interview — offer
PlutoTV: Via Linkedin, streaming video and UX is something I had already been doing at ESPN thought why not.
2 calls, did not offer relocation, got a bad vibe from the recruiter, turned down moving forward.
Synack: Via Glassdoor, high paying and in the Bay Area.
Screener call. Too Senior for my skill set.
GoodRx: Via Glassdoor, knew what they were and in SoCal.
Screener call. Not a good fit.
Green Bits: Via AngelList. Thought I could some good in the cannabis industry.
Video calls — Offer.
High Fidelity: Via AngelList
3 calls. On the fence, Emily knew someone that worked there. Not sure VR is going be a stable business. Decline going forward but left the door open.
Shypt: Read something about them on Techcrunch.
Position in SF, but did not provide relocation. Relocation only provided to move to Atlanta, declined moving forward
Menlo Tech (recruiting firm for Apple Siri team): Via Glassdoor, read the job description.
Screener call. Said to loop back in 2 week, during WWDC. Too busy to loop back.
Bridgewater Associates: Via Vettery
Screener call. Felt pretty icky working for a Hedge fund.
It would have been the most Connecticut job.
HONK: Via Glassdoor, in SoCal
Recruiter didn’t get back to me for weeks. Turned out he was a early paternity leave, but still was set up a call with the Head of Engineering.
Call with Head of Engineering. He seems pretty against QA. Would be the first QA hire. Both agreed to loop back in a few months.
Jackpocket: Via AngelList, thought it was interesting that Dennis Crowley had invested (Foursquare co-founder)
In person interview. Was pretty meh about the whole product, but would have let me stay in New England. Though some of the product had interesting challenges basically gambling and having a connection with a person bank account.
Yello: Via Linkedin, looking at their website they wanted to fix recruiting.
Was very eh about the whole company and position but it was good interview practice. Final video call, no offer. A lot of white people, no real diversity with those I interviewed with.
Expedia / Egencia: Via Linkedin. Seattle is nice. In person interview… Was positioned as a QA position, but during the in person interview, it was more of SDET. Got stuck doing a simple loop test in Swift at 8 am. so yeah… No offer. Diverse and distributed team .
Backbase: Via Stackoverflow jobs, provided visa and relocation.
In Amsterdam. Really wanted this to work… but e-commerce is just very boring to me. Compensation in Europe is also much lower than compared to US.
Magic Leap: Via LinkedIn.
Thought it would be interesting to just apply.
Several video calls — offer.
Open Market: Via LinkedIn.
They changed recruiting backend after first contact, so there was like a three week gap. But then proceeded well.
3 calls. Interesting company, Not strong enough in backend testing
Amazon (Photos): Via Hired.
Was a great fit for the role. Manager wanted to move forward, but due to Amazon’s policies I would not have passed the tech challenge even though 80%+ of the job was manual testing. Still weary of the company’s ethics.
Blockchain: Via Linkedin. In New York
Screen call, They did not want to move forward.
HQ Trivia: Via LinkedIn, in New York, knew the product.
Screen call. They ghosted.
Joor: Via Glassdoor. In New York.
2 calls, Did not have a QA process. Sounded like it was going to be an uphill battle and then some plus boring. Decline to move forward
iHerb: Via LinkedIn, in soCal
Screener. It sounded like pyramid scheme / scam. Declined to move forward
Belkin: Via Linkedin, in SoCal, knew about the company.
Screener, Not enough hardware testing experience.
Toast: Had previously interviewed with them, knew they had just raise a huge round, in Boston.
Screener, I wanted a role in which I could do more automation than the position was created for. It was too junior for me.
Netflix: Company website, Know the product. An outlier as the position was in LA.
Screener, The role was more of a Project manager for Music Licensing. Had some of the skills and would be interesting but it was around the time I had 2 offers on the table and what I was asking was above the pay cap for the position even before talking relocation
Procore: Via Vettery in Carpinteria, CA
Screener, it was an interesting company but they took to long to schedule follow up calls, had to make a decision on pending offers
SquareSpace: Via their website.
In person interview. No offer.
Those are the only the ones that responded. I applied to at least 84 other companies that either got a straight rejection or never heard back from. I mainly applied to mid to senior level QA positions and that were a fairly strong match to my skillset. Though also applied to a few junior and non junior Product positions as I have had been the Product Owner for Accessibility features. None of the product positions panned out. One thing to also note there was part of me that wanted to stay in the New England area and then there was another part which wanted to come back to the West Coast. Which colored which companies I applied to and which I wanted to go forward with.
All the companies were vetted through AngelList, Glassdoor, LinkedIn and SEC Form D. Followed up with reading through Glassdoor reviews, Crunchbase, Techcrunch and other tech blog publications. I weeded out a lot of companies that took money from specific Angels or VC funds, mainly Jason Calacanis and Peter Thiel. I tweeted out a tongue cheek quip that I was doing the job of a junior staffer at a VC firm… but I really was. I made sure that most companies I was interviewing with weren’t problematic. That also meant not only looking at their company culture but those investing in them. I compared salaries with tools from LinkedIn, Payscale, Salaries.com and Paysa. Taking into consideration location experience and responsibilities.
I was not recommended or referred. I had no prior connection to the majority of the companies with exception to the Disney org, Apple iTunes or Roblox which I had a screener all with back in late 2015.
Started in earnest job hunting in late April.
Received my first offer on June 11th.
Last in person interview July 26th.
6 in person interview
37 video calls
4 Offer Letters: Smile Direct Club, Green Bits, Magic Leap and Roblox.
3 Relocation packages
2 Stock option packages
1 401K packages
1 Signing bonus
A lot of video calls.
It would have been a lot harder if I had an actual day job. Coordinating across timezones could sometimes cause issues, but tried very hard to explain that I was on the East Coast. To be honest, I don’t think I would have been able to get through all the email, coordinating and research if I had a full time job.
There was a lull / gap of 3 weeks with Green Bits because the QA Director, which was the hiring person, went on a vacation or something. It was fine with me because it gave me more time to keep interviewing.
Roblox took a while to get back to me about a position. After being here realized that 2 different teams had an internal ‘fight’ for the headcount and which org I would be reporting to.
I’ve done a few on site interviews in the past and 3 things that stuck with me were:
- Both Smile Direct Club and Expedia did not have a ‘lunch with the team.’ SDC scheduled the start of the interview later in the day, after lunch. While Expedia, just ordered lunch for me and I ate it alone in a conference room in between an interview and a video call. Kind of soured on them as a it reflects a bit if their company culture.
- SDC was the only company that flew me out and interviewed me on the same day. Expedia and Roblox put me up for the night the day before to be rested for the interview. Not a big deal, but I had a early and connecting flight. Not to mention that I flew out the same day. Might be a factor interviewing.
- Expedia did a nice thing of giving me a Loungebuddy pass to one of the airport lounge things. It’s a small token, but it goes a big way as you can get a free meal before flying.
Expedia interview was odd because it was mainly whiteboard. The previous video call/ interview asked a lot for what would be in my wheelhouse as a QA person. During the interview it seemed like they wanted a SDET, which I am not. The first group of people I meet with gave me a tech challenge on how to test a bowling application and creating test cases in Swift. I froze and blew the entire interview. I couldn’t shake the feeling about freezing that it affected all the other interviews. Lunch for me was ordered, I was asked what I wanted a few days before hand, but I ate alone in a conference room. This is odd as you usually have lunch with your team or people in the org to get a feel of how everyone might get along. Due to tele conferencing issues, (position was in Bellevue but part of the team was in Chicago) my time with the director was cut from an hour to 30 minutes. I knew I didn’t get it very early on. To kinda rub salt on the wound, was told I did not get the job the following Tuesday, which happened to be my birthday.
Green Bits teams was not as diverse as I would have liked. Portland is not the most diverse city itself. Their Support person was only person of Color that I interviewed with. Was not flown out for an in-person interview, which was understandable for a Series A startup. The second to last and ‘in-person’ person interview were video calls. While interviewing with an engineer, they seemed like they were not happy there. Someone else had made the decision to change the software stack and they were upset about that. It gave me pause about the company. Especially seeing that so many people are color are in prison because of possession charges while white people are making a huge gains the cannabis industry.
Smile Direct Club had a sort of round table interview for the first session. It was a bit overwhelming, seeing as there was no rapport with anyone in the conference room. There were 10 people in the room. It took a bit of time as every would talk about their title and what they do, wasn’t sure how I would be interacting with them. The interview was scheduled at 2pm after lunch, so did not do the normal, lunch with the team part of the interview process. Met with the CTO and talked high level long term views. One concern they kept bring up is moving from to Nashville, as a culture shock, which really was a concern for me as. Moving from Los Angeles, to Denver and then to Hartford were not hard but the quality of life-style is different.
With Roblox I was flown out the day prior. My recruiter called the day before and morning of and after my interview. It was the only company that I talked to that had a women of color and person of color that were managers interview me. Their interview style was also very clear. I was given a very stripped down test plan with 2 devices and I had to test a feature. I was then asked to go through it and say how I could improve it. It was time boxed for 2 hours. Basically what I did most days. I did a quick smoke test and because I did not have all the information or institutionalized knowledge of the platform, started to write down questions. I had lunch with a diverse group of people that I currently interact with on a daily basis. the conversation was lively, it was fun. While it was a ‘long’ 10am- 3pm, it didn’t seem like it. The 2 managers that interviewed were a woman and a person of color.
Yello did not fly me out to Chicago for an in person interview. It was done over video call. It was odd as they still were not sure what my position would be so I interviewed with people from both on the web and mobile team. People at the same level as me had been at the company for a while, by most managers or VPs had recently joined the company. There was a lot of things up in the air and changes which some could not articulate well.
With Magic leap all were video calls. I really didn’t take it too serious, but more like practice and did worked out. It was hard get a read on what they thought of me as a candidate, they had a good poker face Their reputation of being a secret company rings true. The interviewer rarely touch on exactly I would working on or what they are working or time lines. I was always surprised that they kept on scheduling more interviews and that I received an offer, to be honest.
Something I believe that helped a lot in the interview process was that I had a decent rainy day fund. After the last time I was without a job, I made sure I can survive and keep my lifestyle, or as similar as possible, for a bit so I could find a job that I like instead of just taking any job offer because I need one.
Smile Direct Club asked for a references. And actually contacted them with a huge list of questions.
Not a red flag per se but its the first time in a long time in which a company has actually gone out of their way to ask for references and hound them for a response. 2 of my references where on vacation at the time so it helped me stall and buy time time while finishing up other interviews and receiving other offers, but was asked several times if there were other ways to contact them, such as personal emails, which made me uncomfortable sharing such personal information.
They performed a background check and asked for last years W-2 before a formal offer.
I couldn’t get over this. I have never seen this practice before, and in the State of Tennessee is perfectly legal to ask for your prior compensation before giving you an offer. I declined sharing my W-2 and dragged my feet in accepting a background check, stalling for other offers.
They made a big deal about me asking for relocation assistance. I got quotes and while I did give them the higher one, they made a big stink about it, stating they’ve never done this before so we might not be able to to it. While Green Bits also hadn’t offered relocation before, then went ahead and just made it happen. I asked and within a few hours came back with we can do this 7500 refund.
A lot of these companies don’t have diverse teams. One of the first things I asked was the team makeup. How long they had been with the company. etc. A lot of these companies had an ok number of women in teams, but very few people of color.
The Good Stuff
I’m going to share salaries.
Wage gaps are common and I want no part of that.
My experience in tech:
I started as a Product Tester at Line 6. Did embedded and iOS testing
Then at Gobbler as a QA Engineer, where I tested Mac, Windows and iOS. As well as, designed workflow within music creation software, such as Pro Tools, Logic Pro X and SONAR X3. Basically cut my teeth at a SaaS company with product and user interaction experience. Due to this I am very vocal of user flows and accessibility features.
POSSIBLE Mobile: Worked on PAC-12, MLS, JetBlue and Hasbro’s Catchphrase.
ESPN: QA Analyst II for iOS
Product Owner of Accessibility efforts
Lead QA: Localization (Brazilian Portuguese)
Personalized NewFeed (Business Rules)
All in all about 8 year of experience with SasS, mobile, web, and all major platforms, a gamut of testing test knowledge, selenium, IDE etc. understanding of object oriented languages (ruby, objective-c, java) understating of Appium, XCTest, XCUItest, Lua, and basic understanding of Swift.
Simile Direct Club – Nashville, TN
Position: Senior QA Analyst
Salary: $80,000 No stock, no 401k. OK health care
Perks: 10 day sick day 2 week vacation
Had to fight for $5000 relocation.
Green Bits – Portland, OR
Position: Senior QA Engineer
Salary: $95,000, 5,000 stock unit at $0.XX strike price [about $2,500] (4 years vesting, 1 year cliff)
Perks: Decent healthcare, no 401k, Unlimited PTO
$7500 relocation (reimbursement)
Magic Leap – Sunnyvale, CA
Position: Test Engineer, Applications (Contractor)
Salary: $120,000 no stock, no healthcare
Perks: No paid vacations, hourly. 7 holidays. 7 sick days
Roblox – San Mateo, CA
Position interview for: QA Engineer, Applications
Position accepted: QA Engineer, Dev Tools
$120,000. 11,750 stock unit after the recent Series F raise is worth close to ~$130,000[after the most recent round of funding] (4 years vesting, 1 year cliff)
Good Healthcare, 401K w/ matching, Unlimited PTO
$7500 Relocation (up front)
$3500 Signing bonus
Smile Direct Club:
I did very little negotiating with Smile Direct Club.
When I got a the call about the offer I asked if that was the best they could do. They said yes, and claimed the cost of living and comps of the city. Nashville tech is still fairly new so there isn’t much information on what the range should be, but from the little there is it was around the ballpark. I don’t think I was ever very interested in this position but I wanted to use this offer as leverage for better salary at other companies. The complete shut down of negotiation also soured me on them even further.
Green Bits gave me an offer of $90k. I asked if they could make a better offer. They came back with $95k. Once I had a firm offer and the offer letter was sent to me. I asked for 10 days to think it over. They obliged. I also asked a lot of questions about their perks. As a Series A startup I asked about funding efforts, runway, etc.
Once I got a firm offer from Green Bits I contacted Roblox. I really wanted to work at Roblox, but hadn’t heard back since I interviewed. My recruited ringed and mention that they were very interested but at around $95,000 I mentioned that I had a verbal offer. Recruiter asked for more time. Once I got an offer letter, I contacted them again and told them they were offering $110k (conversion of PNW to Bay Area salaries) if they can match or do better I would go with them. Recruiter call several times over the week to keep me informed of the process from the inside. I got a call on Friday afternoon that leaned that there was an offer ready for me, just need to be signed off by Finance before letting me know what it was. Another call was set for Saturday. My new manager and recruiter got on a call on Saturday and walked me through the job offer, which bested the other serious offer I had. I accepted.
Recruiter call and congratulated me on passing the interview and wanted to extend a job offer. Told them I wanted 120,000. Recruiter pushed back a bit, but I stood firm. A few days later I got a call stating that they were ready to extend an offer at 120,000. I asked again if this was just for contracting and what their converting to full time process was/timeframe. I was given an answer that did not satisfied me so I turned them down.
Things that help me in this entire process was knowing what the jobs are worth in their respected location. The Bay Area is much more expensive than PNW and Nashville cost of living is about a 1/3. I still believe that I could have tried for a higher salary at my current job but ran the risk of offending. Knowing where the company is and what are the long term goals I took the risk that stock options was more than generous and better long term (hope I’m right about this.) Understanding what type of startup also affects a lot. Green Bits is a Series A startup which could be more profitable in the long run, but bigger risk, while Roblox just raised a $150 million Series F valuing the company at 2.5 billion, yet is also already profitable and ‘fairly’ stable.
Knowning what I want. Talking to the recruiters and sometimes straight asking the what I wanted to take the job worked out well for me. It also help that I had at least one more offer on the table.
What sealed a lot the deal was openness and communication. Basically the recruiter at Roblox was a good point of contact and kept in the loop as the deadline for my other offer loomed closer. I told them if they could match or better the offer, I would go with them. That usually seals the deal. If the team wants you they will move hell and high water for it. I know this from my previous position, at ESPN, I asked for what was above the pay cap for the position they were offering, recruiter and my soon to be manager worked hard and got me what I had asked for a better tittle that reflected my skill level more accurately.
Not sure if this might be valuable to anyone, but I hope it is. If you have anymore questions or something I can help with don’t hesitate to reach out at @k3nnr on twitter or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.