balls' blog

The digital thoughts of a guy who tells inside jokes to himself

How to Land a Job Working With Me

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Hiring. It’s the single most important thing I do for any organization. I was hired for this job, and now I will hire others to work with me. I’d like to talk (not so) briefly about how I evaluate candidates, start to finish. Some of this is really only applicable to those who work in software: PM’s, Devs, and Test, however other bits I feel are universal across all industries.

Caveat 1

Right now, it’s very difficult to find talented engineers in Seattle. There are a lot of funded companies doing interesting things, and so good developers have a pick of opportunities. If for some reason, you believe you are a good developer but aren’t finding success, then I ask you to consider what I’m going to tell you, because it’s probably going to make a difference in finding a job.

Caveat 2

If you’ve gone through this process, and were not extended an offer, all it really means was that you weren’t the right fit for our engineering position. I’ve been rejected for one opportunity, hired for others and have found success. It isn’t necessarily about winning here, it’s about taking shots.

Software vs !Softare

For readers who aren’t in the software world, interviewing in the world of software (including Tech-PM, Dev, Test and Dev Manager), is unique among other fields, especially other engineering fields, in that the process is highly technical. We’re less likely to be asked to describe a time when we did not get along with a manager, and instead, asked questions around subject matter expertise, fundamentals of software engineering, as well as to design and actually write code.

A typical full interview loop consists of 6 to 8, 1-hour sessions with different interviewers all asking some sort of question.

Good companies will usually provide lunch somewhere in the middle.

Part 1: My Experiences as a Candidate

I know that I am biased towards my hiring procedures based on my experiences interviewing for developer jobs, and with that in mind, here are some highlights from my formative years as an engineer.

In the Beginning

For the record, when I first started, I sucked as a software engineer candidate. Not because I sucked as a developer, but because I lacked the skills to perform adequately in interviews. It wasn’t all terribad, I did successfully interview for an internship position, that did require some minimal white-board coding.

Big Data Hipster

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Note: I know that gizmodo just ran an article about BigData, however that was purely coincidence. I’ll assume most of you read it, and won’t bother repeating most of what was covered on it.

These days suits (def: suit. [n] pejorative term for people who don’t add real value) are all clamoring about BigData. I tend to dislike techbuzz words, and I REALLY despise folks who’ve never actually delt in the space, giving advice or giving opinions:

“Oh, you really should learn Ruby on Rails. It’s very good stack.”

“Have you built anything via Ruby on Rails?”


As an aside, Ruby on Rails is a fine technology, but it’s not the only technology that does what it does. Choosing a stack based on the recommendation from someone who has no direct experience working with it, makes as much sense as calling a random payphone in New Guinea and asking for a dental referral.

I digress.

Since the suits are all talking about BigData, everyone is trying to jump on the BigData bandwagon, to earn some sort of points.

  • “Mobile?” [x]
  • “Social Media?” [x]
  • “Responsive Design?” [x]
  • “BigData?” [x]

Congratulations: 4 for 4. You have a 100m company!

The Case Against Password Auth

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Password auth is hard and you’re going to screw it up. Don’t put your users at risk, and instead let someone who has better resources at their disposal handle password security.


Passwords are ubiquitous. We have passwords for everything: email, phones, cars, mobile apps, ATMs, bank-accounts, ecommerce sites, alarm systems, picking up our kids, even for sex (say “pickles” if this hurts too much).

As we move to an ever more connected, seemless service world, we are inundated with more and more passwords. With all the passwords we have to deal with on daily basis, we’re defacto behaving in an insecure manner, just to ease the burden that password based security has placed on us.

If you need to protect a section of service, passwords are quickly becoming a bad alternative.

Developers should think twice before implementing a password base system, as it’s time consuming and very easy to screw up.

Welcome to the Jungle

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Back again for the 1nd time.

I’m trying yet another attempt at blogging. Maybe I’ll be succesful this time. Either way it’s an excuse to play with some new technologies out. For this, I’m using Octopress. The folks behind Octopress claim it’s a ‘blog for hackers’ but by hackers they really mean ‘blog for people who like to write code and or use scripts to get things done.’ I definitely fall into the latter camp (though I’ve been known to reverse engineer the authentication schemes of mobile apps from time to time).

Currently, I’m Cofounder, and VP of Engineering for a young startup here in Seattle. My work consumes almost all my time, and so I’m not betting that I’ll be too successful with yet another blogging endeavor.

Reality Distortion Field

Bravo has a new Reality Show coming out about startups in Silicon Valley. The sense I get from random internet noise is that this show isn’t going to be very popular. But as a new entrepreneur, I’m interested in seeing how it compares to my experiences.

Bravo has posted some preview clips, and I’ve seen a few. There is one about an Investor Pitch that struck a chord with me. With my role as a cofounder of a startup, I’ve been recieving a lot of hands long experience and learning about entrepreneurship, and the business side of a software company. One of the best parts of my job (there are a lot of them), is meeting with and pitching investors.

After watching the clip, my first reaction was “Meh.” It matches my experience–pitch meetings have a casual feel to them; you want a singular voice (though everyone should contribute to the conversation). However, Ben (the british guy) was wrong, you can’t expect an investor pitch to follow a specific plan. Some investor meetings, we’ve walked through the pitch deck, others we jumped right into the product, some investors wanted to talk go to market stragies, others about getting to the series-A round. So far what I’ve learned is that investors have a variety of things their interested in, and while there are some commonalities in these pitches, the experience seems is far more dictated by the people we’re pitching, then any formula you learned in school. It shows a lack of maturity on Ben’s part, but acting indignant, and saying how he feels that it was disrespectful for the investor to jump into the pitch deck himself.

When watching the clip, I ignored the pacing of the meeting–reality tv shows are notorious about edits and cuts to make something seem like it has more tension and thus more drama.

So overall, I think the show could be interesting. Some of the other clips about partying, and life outside of the office don’t match my experiences but I do plan on giving the show a try. Maybe I can use a weekly recap as a way to force myself into blogging more regularly?

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