6 min read

Fantastic Mr Fox

Fantastic Mr Fox
All credit to Wes Anderson and 20th Century Fox. George Clooney as well I suppose.

Anyone who has had the misfortune to receive career advice from me is almost certainly tired of hearing the following piece.

Even if you're happy in your job, you should be looking around on a semi-regular basis.

At first glance, as a leader, this might seem like self-defeating advice to give. I mean, what if they find something better?

The truth is, I'd much rather work with people who want to be there rather than people who only stay because they don't know any better.

And if I expect other people to listen, I should really take my own advice.

What are you doing here?

The best way to make an informed choice is to be informed. Regularly keeping an eye on the market, on opportunities that might be a good fit for you is a great way to do that.

Armed with that sort of information you can make better decisions with regards to your career.

That's not to say that you should be entirely mercenary in your approach, immediately jumping ship if someone happens to offer you a few dollars more. That sort of approach is short-sighted and generally considered to be something of a dick move.

So, looking around helps you to make good decisions, but that's only the start of the benefits.

Interviewing is a skill, just like any other.

If you only do it rarely it will atrophy quickly and if you find yourself in a situation where you need to find a job with short notice, then it can be a bit of a bumpy ride.

Not only do you want to be good at presenting yourself honestly to potential employers, but you also need to be able to critically evaluate a position and whether or not it will actually be a good fit for you.

The last thing you want to do is take a job because you're not sure if there is anything else out there.

The final benefit of looking around is the context you can generate just from talking to people in different organisations. That sort of knowledge can open your eyes in a variety of different ways. Maybe they have an approach that you never considered, which you can then apply to your current situation. Perhaps the world that they describe is so horrifying that you realise just how good you have it.

Knowledge is power after all.

Pensez-vous que l'hiver sera rude?

Anyway, back to the root of things: I try to take my own advice. To be open to exploring other opportunities even when I'm happy where I am.

I don't always succeed, but I did recently when I was lucky enough to be approached by Gitlab in regard to an open Engineering Manager position.

Gitlab creates products that supports the delivery of other software, covering off things like source control, deployment, testing, and validation and even work breakdown and planning. I'm sure they do a hundred other things as well, but my understanding of their product suite is limited.

They feel a little bit like Atlassian in a way. Gitlab are focused on being a one-stop DevOps platform, whereas Atlassian are all about creating products that support teams in doing whatever they need to do. Similar sorts of goals, to build products that help other people accomplish great things.

A noble goal.

The first thing that impressed me about Gitlab was that the initial contact over LinkedIn was targeted to me. I get a lot of random LinkedIn messages, and most of them are way off the mark, seemingly coming completely out of the blue because my profile happened to have a few specific keywords in it.

But Gitlab was different, their talent acquisition person actually knew things about me! Like that I was an Engineering Manager, and I was working at Atlassian.

I know, not exactly rocket science, but it meant something all the same.

The second thing that impressed me was the ridiculously amazing thing that is the Gitlab Handbook.

To someone like me, who wants to understand all the things, the Handbook was a goldmine. Normally I'd have to dig much harder to understand the internal workings of a company that I'm interested in, but for Gitlab, it's all right there on the internet. Combined with their people directory, I had a wealth of information at my fingertips.

And all of that information told me it was worth pursuing.

What A Beautiful Creature

I'm not unhappy or dissatisfied at Atlassian. I feel incredibly supported and cared for, I have a great boss, a fantastic team and plenty of challenges to solve.

So that was the first thing that I told the recruiter during the screening interview. Open Todd, No Bullshit is one of my own values after all. They were very understanding, but like me, open to talking about things in more detail.

Speaking of the screening interview, organising it was completely painless. Gitlab use a system that allows you to pick an available slot on someone's calendar in order to get a meeting going. Other than the best time for me being 5:00am on a Saturday morning, it was a smooth and painless experience.

The recruiter was personable, intelligent, well-informed, and asked good questions. More importantly, at the end of the screening process, when it was obvious that I wasn't a raging psychopath to be avoided at all costs, the recruiter invited me into the Gitlab Compensation Calculator and talked openly about the salary bands that I would fit into if I was successful, along with any equity that I would be eligible for.

Such an awesome tool for the interview process! Also, super competitive rates

Exposing the exact salary bands that Gitlab uses internally right off the bat is a perfect example of the company living their Transparency value. I don't think we have anything like this at Atlassian, which makes me sad.

The next step in the Gitlab interview process was a fairly standard battery of Zoom interviews, featuring the hiring manager (which for this role was the VP of Infrastructure), two peers (aka Engineering Managers) and an SRE (because the role was in the Reliability team within Gitlab).

The organisation of these interviews was, quite frankly, seamless. I put my availability into a web portal and within 24 hours I had all four interviews lined up and in my calendar.

But I also had something else, an online portal of my very own that allowed me to track my progress through the interview process, clearly showing me who I was meeting and when.

This was fantastic and vastly superior to trying to remember things or relying on email.

Another kudos to Gitlab here, as thinking back to my Atlassian interview process it wasn't nearly as well organised. It was good, and contact was frequent, but it wasn't quite as slick.

I pushed on, had a few interviews, and then gracefully removed myself from the process because I'm staying at Atlassian.

Wish Him Luck Boys

Honestly, a lot of the things I saw in my brief exposure to Gitlab really impressed me.

The efficiency of their interview process, the incredible resource that is the Handbook, the quality of the people that I talked to and the commitment to Transparency with the Compensation Calculator were clear examples of excellence.

At the end of the day though, the role wasn't fundamentally different to anything that I'm doing at Atlassian right now. I'd be dealing with similar sorts of challenges, except I'd also have to start from scratch again, and I don't want that right now.

There are still a tonne of challenges for me to solve at Atlassian and I'm only just getting warmed up.

So I'm not going anywhere.

But it wasn't a waste of time. At least not for me.

I'm wiser now, I know more about the market, have more context about challenges that other organisations are facing, and I got to meet some really amazing people.

And I haven't let my interviewing skills atrophy at all.

The Fantastic Mr Fox reference made a lot more sense before I learned that the Gitlab logo is a Tanuki, not a Fox. The sentiment still holds though.