The job thing

TL/DR: exactly one year and six days after getting RIFd by Pure Storage, I started a new Senior SRE position at Proofpoint.

At the beginning of April, half of my team, half of the people in related teams, and a bunch of other folks in the business unit (~95 total) were informed that our positions had been eliminated, and that we had a month to find other jobs inside the company; if that didn’t pan out, we’d receive a severance package. There were maybe three US-based openings for us all to apply for; none of them were remote, and probably a third of us had been.

I’ve made vague mention about this over the past N months, but what I didn’t say was that it happened last April, and I’ve spent most of a year banging my head against automated applicant screening systems that kept me from speaking to an actual human being.

Here’s the 90% experience:

  1. found brand-new posting on LinkedIn that I’m easily qualified for.
  2. applied (which often involved creating accounts on their job sites).
  3. received automated rejection email.

If I applied on a Friday night, it wasn’t unusual to be rejected by Saturday morning.

Here’s 90% of the remaining 10%:

  1. found & applied.
  2. spoke to recruiter and seemed to hit it off.
  3. never heard from them again.

Of the ones that reached an actual technical interview, one involved a sufficiently obscure skillset that they were unlikely to have more than a handful of qualified applicants, but they ghosted me and still haven’t hired anyone five months later.

Another sounded very interested and promised a fast hiring process, but dumped me a week later in a bland form email.

Special honorable mention to ServiceNow, to which I was twice referred by senior directors, and twice ghosted.

Special dishonorable mention to the Indian contract recruiters who got my cellphone number and called me multiple times per day for on-site contract positions in Cincinnati (1-hour drive) and Akron (3-hour drive). One recruiter even had his manager call back and explain that it was definitely contract-to-perm, which is almost always bullshit.

The Proofpoint recruiter was friendly, engaged, and excellent at communication and scheduling, so by the time we got to the offer, I had a positive impression of their professionalism. It didn’t hurt that my first technical interview was with my evil twin. Or perhaps I was the evil twin; at least, I’m the one with the beard. 😁

Lessons learned:

  • LinkedIn is an utter shitshow of a social media network, but still better than other job sites. You think Twitter’s “For you” algorithm is bad? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
  • LinkedIn Premium promises far more than it delivers, but fortunately I got it at Microsoft-alumni pricing.
  • Seriously, it’s so fucking trendy that it offers AI assistance in pitching yourself to recruiters, which is an incredibly bad idea.
  • So now a lot of job listings explicitly specify “no AI in resumes or cover letters”.
  • All the massive tech layoffs have resulted in companies defensively deploying highly-automated screening, because many people will apply for everything.
  • Screening software cares about certifications; hiring managers don’t.
  • Get basic AWS/Kubernetes certifications, even if you have no interest in that kind of job; they’re like crack for screening software.
  • Positions advertised as “remote” are often still limited to specific cities/states/regions. This may be disclosed in the posting, but usually not.
  • The Dayton area has plenty of tech jobs, 90% of which are tied to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and require security clearances.
  • You need to already have those clearances to apply.

So, what was it like being out of work for a year? Boring, mostly, but at least I was able to spend time with family. And unpack some of my stuff in sensible ways.

Between the accidentally-generous severance package (paid out at my full California salary, not the 75% regional adjustment for Ohio), a decent stock price for my RSUs, the lower cost of living, and the large amount of equity I’d built up in the California house (that sold for nearly twice what I bought the new one for), I had no financial worries, and could have gone another two+ years without a problem. Which I did not want to do.

I’m glad to be back in the saddle, and I’m glad to be part of a team of cool and quirky technical people again. As I said to my interim manager when he was announcing the RIF (interim, because my actual manager, his manager, and his manager were also being RIFd that day), I’d love to work with that team again, but probably not under Pure’s management.

Specifically, the VP-I-won’t-name who sent out a group email meant to reassure the remaining staff in his division, before our accounts were disabled. He said, “I was able to preserve the majority of the positions by moving them to different locations”.

Not the people, the headcount, and the locations were Prague and Hyderabad. And we’d just spent most of a year participating in the interview panels for the Prague folks we were told would increase the size of our team. To really rub it in, I was often the deciding vote in the panels, so I didn’t just train my replacements, I picked them!

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