We Have a Problem

Looking for work after downsizing at your former employer? Feeling depression take over and losing yourself to the negative feelings and emotions of what seems to be a hopeless job market? You are not alone!!! We have a problem, and it needs to be addressed.

I often times think about how interviews have gone, and am reminded of one of my favorite clips from 'The Newsroom', in which Jeff Daniel's character is faced with the question 'Why is America the greatest country in the world?' He's faced with the difficulty of having to admit, 'We aren't. We used to be, but not anymore.' He then proceeds to break down how, and why we are no longer the best.

What on earth could that clip possibly have to do with interviewing? Well, the main point of that clip is that in order to fix a problem, you first have to acknowledge that it exists. Until you make that decision, you cannot move past what is holding you back. That is where we are in the Tech Industry right now.

I believe that at least half of the problem is directly attributable to the success of the FAANG companies, the tech titans. Their interview methodologies have taken over all aspects of hiring in the industry at large. We have put these companies on pedestals, and at the same time, we have elevated anything that happens to be associated with them to the status of 'Unicorn'.

"Oh, you worked for Google? You must be amazing. We need you! You can make us the next Google!" It's the same for most of the other titans. That in itself is where the problem begins. Even if you were to hire all of the engineers you could from these companies, you will never be the 'next' Google. Why not? Well, first, you're not trying to be the next Google, are you? I'm pretty sure you're not introducing a brand new search engine that is going to transform search. I also doubt that you're going to launch the next streaming platform that will be first of it's kind to deliver content to everywhere in the world, transforming viewing of movies and television. Those things have been done.

The next part of understanding the problem is that the engineers that these companies hired are not individually responsible for the success of those companies in the first place. Do you know what specific contributions the engineer you are hiring made that transformed the company they were at and made that company successful? Here's a hint. They didn't do it alone. Everyone seems to forget that these companies are not and were not small companies by the time they found their massive successes. They actually grew and expanded massively over time, and had to hire a LOT of engineers to keep up with it. You're trying to hire just a couple of engineers, and get the exact same results.

Each of the titans over the years have had very peculiar interview strategies. We have all seen and remember the stories of the 'gimmicks' that Google used to find very specific types of engineers that could solve advanced CS algorithm questions. That's great. They still had experts building out other pieces of their platform at the same time. Who do you think was responsible for building and configuring the datacenter switches? Who do you think was responsible for building the actual infrastructure? That's not to say that they didn't need those with the CS backgrounds for development of the applications, but there is more to a system than just the applications. A lot more, in fact. Not all of it was done 100% by just CS experts. There were experts in other areas working along side those experts to build out their entire platform.

Unfortunately, none of that is ever remembered, or even reflected by the folks who keep trying to replicate the titans. One engineer is not what it takes to be successful, and simply doing what some other company has done does not mean you will be successful doing something different altogether.

If you want to really find success? You will need to focus on a different type of diversity than the one that we normally talk about. You need to install 'Engineering Diversity'. You need to find and hire experts in multiple areas, from multiple backgrounds. Without that diversity, you won't have engineers challenging each other's perspectives, and pushing the boundaries of what you can do. So, I challenge you -- Stop searching only for 'Google', and start searching for <YourCoHere>. If you focus on your goals, and stop focusing on what some other company has already done, you may very well find yourself succeeding in areas where you were previously struggling.

I have used Google repeatedly as the primary example above. This is simply because it is easy to use them as an illustrative example. Google is not alone. Many of the strategies we have seen apply across all of the FAANG companies equally. You can insert any of your favorite titan names above and it remains the same. They all still needed experts from multiple areas of technology to succeed. You do too.

Series Entries

[Part 2 - Mishandling Interviews]


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