20 October 2013

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2013 hasn’t been a great year for new content on this blog. Let me try to change that.

First, what’ve I been up to since January?


It took a while to get my first gig - the first 7 or 8 companies I spoke with all ended up passing, for various reasons, which put a fair bit of dent in my plans. I came up with lots of ways to get more inbound flow, but didn’t have the energy to execute any of it because I was so tired of rejection. Basically, if you’re burnt out and trying to recover, putting yourself in a position to get rejected a lot is not a great idea.

Eventually, I refined and simplified my pitch, going from “co-founder for rent”/”on-demand hiring manager” to a much simpler one - “I can code, and I don’t need to be micro-managed on product.” That worked.

I spent the first ~10 weeks at Baydin, the makers of Boomerang for Gmail, pitching and then adding a feature to Boomerang Calendar. I’ve been fascinated by scheduling tools ever since I saw Tungle.me, so it was tremendously rewarding to work on this problem, and the Boomerang team both provided awesome leverage and feedback, as well as giving me a lot more autonomy than should be reasonable. An awesome and very small (<10) person team in Mountain View - a fantastic place to work. My updates to Boomerang Calendar deserve their own blog post. Hopefully.

Next, I worked at Tencent, a giant Chinese tech company (think AOL or IAC, but more successful) with an office in a church in Palo Alto. The people were great and I appreciated the opportunity to work with them, but the biggest thing I learned was that larger, more traditional companies are not places I thrive.

Finally, I spent two and a half months at Dropbox, working on Dropbox for Business. From Soleio to Guido to Aditya and Ruchi, to (more anecdotally) a few friends I have a ton of respect for, Dropbox has been making some killer hires over the past year and I couldn’t help but want to see why. Now I know (hint: it’s the cafeteria). Dropbox is an absolutely fantastic company with a rather talented group of people, and (I imagine) a lot like what Facebook felt like in 2008 or 2009. Drew is a fantastic public speaker and generally an affable guy.

Each of the three gigs above was a 4-day-a-week kind of job, and I learned a lot from each. The thing that most stuck with me - and I was a little surprised by this - was how much fun I had working on Boomerang Calendar. I worked in a mostly-solo capacity, but with design and library engineering support when needed and great product people to brainstorm and prioritize with. I want to do more of that.

The InternProject

I’ve written a whole bunch about recruiting and internships in the Bay before, and started the 2012 Bay Area interns Facebook group. Still, the problem of “how do you make sure people doing internships in the Bay Area get the value out of it that they can” - admittedly a first-world problem, but my first-world problem, didn’t feel completely-solved.

I had met Alex Poon the prior year, when he organized a number of intern dinners. We brainstormed about what the ideal solution would look like - a single website with everything you need to know, a big kick-off event for interns from small companies to meet others to hang out with during the summer, and a way to generally keep in the loop on what the good events were. Out of this came the InternProject, which (it seems, so far) met our goals for the summer and then exceeded them.

We’re still figuring out how to transition the project to being student run - Alex and Tess dropped out of school and I graduated. We’ll see. The important thing is that the ~2,500 students on our list-serv found it to be valuable, according to click and open rates.

What’s next

I’ve begun to consider folks like Marco Arment and Loren Bricter as role models rather than just fascinating people. In the long run, I’d love to get into a place where I can make apps that I consider interesting, ideally focused on productivity or developer tools, and have the occassional engineering/design/product support necessary to keep me focused, all the while avoiding management as much as possible. Baydin was a ton of fun. I’d love to replicate that experience, if I can.

In the meanwhile, I’m playing with an entirely different idea that probably deserves its own blog post.

I want to explore whether the reasons that recruiters have a poor reputation in the industry (spam, sketchiness, competence) are an unavoidable side-effect of the industry model.

To do that, I’m spending the next few months figuring what its like to be a full-time technical recruiter, but eliminating all the parts I don’t like.

We’re focusing on seeing if we can be Talent Advocates, helping rising seniors in CS figure out what to do with their lives and monetizing by putting students in touch with companies that help them get there. I want to know if (1) there’s a business here, (2) if I can add enough value to have a clean conscience, and (3) if I can do the work. Follow along at threesat.com.

Tags: #freelancing #reflections