Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Where's Jeremy (2013) - Part 2: Cray - "Can I stick my nose in your business?"

This is post #12 in Where's Jeremy (2013)

If you'll recall from March, Cray did a re-org, after which I was left trying to cram a 25% job into a 100% work week (yes, you read that correctly). This was stressful. However, if you also read my comment in that post, you'll know that one of the OS Testers approached me and asked if he could stick his nose in my business. I'll pick up the story from there.

Actually, first I'll tell an un-related story from one day later. On Thursday, I wandered over by my coworker Jason's cube, and met a man in black, with a strangely familiar Canadian accent. The Man in Black turned out to be Michael, a coworker I've only known through phone and email, because he works from home on the west coast of Canadia. Finally I had a face to put to the voice! I even got to help Michael and Jason troubleshoot an issue at a customer site later that evening (and... I actually had some useful ideas!), then afterward we went out for drinks and talked for hours. Really good day.

Back to my blog post & comment from March. Bob asked if I was happy being a contractor, and if I'd ever consider applying for a job in another group. Turns out, there were several openings in the OS Test group, where he works. I said I'd at least be interested in learning more. Bob talked with his manager (Linda) either that day or the next, then came back and handed me a post-it note with three job posting IDs. We talked for a long while about his work in OS Test, and I looked at the openings. Of the three, one looked like it would be interesting, and that I might fit the skill requirements. I talked with Linda, explained that Bob and I had been chatting, and expressed my interest in the particular job opening. My hopes were dashed when she said they were literally making an offer on that position to another candidate that afternoon, but - and this is what makes Linda Linda - she said I should send her a resumé right away, and she would call HR and put a hold on the other offer, so they could interview me.


Now, leading up to this, I'd also been having conversations with my coworker John. Since John's worked for Cray longer than I've been alive, he's had one or two managers. But he told me, in no uncertain terms: Linda is the best manager he has ever worked for, not the least reason of which is that she sticks up and fights for her people. Hearing John's glowing review of Linda, and hearing the same from Bob, made my decision pretty straightforward. I applied the same theory I held in college, which is that a great teacher can make even the most boring subject come alive (Professor Steve Hahn, history class), whereas a terrible teacher can kill even the best subject (specific examples redacted in deference to the Thumper Principle). Just to clarify: this is not to say I expected working in the test group to be boring, my hypothesis was simply that, even if it's not the world's best-ever job, I'd have one of the world's best-ever managers, and that can make all the difference.

I sent Linda my resumé ("draft 1" we'll call it), and she suggested some revisions before she sent it to the interview team. If this all strikes you as "above and beyond" behavior for a hiring manager, you might be correct. Linda and I had a few private conversations during my application process, and I found out she and Dennis (another prominent and well-respected team-lead) actually had been trying to hire me into their group for the last 6 months! Linda couldn't approach me herself, because it might be viewed as head-hunting, so instead they kept sending people to drop subtle hints at me. Of course I don't do well with subtle so I missed all the hints! Until Bob came along and [figuratively] smacked me over the head. I love 2x4s. I also found out that Linda had been in talks with my then-current manager, asking if/when he was going to hire me, and fighting for me, saying "we don't want to lose him". This had all gone on, without me knowing, and I was amazed / floored / humbled / speechless / awed / felt so special, when I found out.

When I told this all to John, I think his reaction was "wow," and it was further reinforcement of what he'd told me.

In bullet-points, the whole shebang went down like this:
  • Wednesday, March 6, Bob approached me and asked if I might be interested in becoming a tester
  • Friday, March 8, Linda and I met for an hour (I think I'd already given her my resumé at this point; this conversation was more about what a job in her group would look like)
  • Monday or Tuesday, I break the news to my current manager that I will be interviewing in the OS Test group
  • Wednesday, March 13, I had 4 separate interviews, with Glen, Naomi, Steve, and Dennis - names that would soon (foreshadowing!) become very familiar to me. My "interview" with Dennis was very informal; he opened our conversation with "my mind's already made up, I've been telling Linda to hire you for 6 months!" I love Dennis.
  • Monday, March 18, I had my formal interview with Linda
  • Tuesday, March 19, I had my 6th and final interview, with Ed
  • WednesdayThursdayFriday I freak out anxious to hear what's going to happen!
  • Monday, March 25, first thing in the morning, I meet with HR to discuss my salary "requirements" (I don't know! Whatever you want to pay me?) ; We agree to some numbers, I sign a piece of paper, and... that's it! I'm hired!!!

Discretely, I made the rounds to my former manager and group to tell them the news. While mostly they were happy for me, I think a few of them didn't really "get" why I would switch groups. Oh well. Then there was Wendy, my team lead before the re-org, who was [jokingly] angry at me because she'd wanted me to get hired into her new group :)

Tuesday, even though I hadn't yet officially started, I sat in on the OS Test team meeting and Linda introduced me to everyone. That room full of strangers are no longer strange to me; some I'd even call friends.

Stay tuned for more.

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