In the second part, the plot thickens. Don’t miss out on the larger story:
I told my story about the decision to leave the Docplanner Phone team in the previous chapter. In this piece, I aim to describe my experiences with the job hunt. Strap in.
How have I found jobs in the past
Excluding some shorter gigs, I always either used my network and recommendations, or some of the popular job boards to find a job. Curiously, I never had any luck with recruiters, neither reaching out to me from in-house teams nor from agencies. I have met some great headhunters along the way, we threw a few punches, but that never yielded any results for me (although we came close a couple of times).
The first time I got a job — I wasn’t even looking. An acquaintance knew someone who was hiring, so I went to meet them out of curiosity. I stayed for 5 years. I found the next one via one of the popular job boards back in the day: Goldenline. And the position was at Goldenline itself. Very early in the process, they decided that I would be a better fit for something new they were slowly brewing: ZnanyLekarz (aka Docplanner). And this is how I joined the team that brought this doctors’ marketplace to its commercial success.
My next jump was in 2015, and it seems bizarre from a time perspective: I applied through a job offer on Pracuj.pl. Goldenline was already starting its decline back then, and the new wave of IT job boards like No Fluff Jobs or JustJoin weren’t born yet. I remember Dominika summing up the „HR” part of our interview:
Ok, that went well, let’s hope you don’t tank the technical part
I supposedly nailed it (warning: cheesy) and joined the team to improve how we approached technology (in polish) among other things, and stayed until things turned for the worse over 4 years later (article also in polish).
The next place was when I boomerang’d back to Docplanner by the means of a recommendation, rendering all my other ongoing processes moot. This was also the time I realized that job hunting can be — paradoxically — challenging for people with experience. And this was confirmed by a number of friends in a similar spot. Despite performing various roles in the past, with a lot of success to show for it, a lot of potential employers still fail to read between the lines, and expect you to jump through hoops to prove your worth, sometimes evaluating skills that won’t be even used on the job.
I think I wrote about that topic on another occasion. Either way, this unpleasant experience was fresh in my memory when I reached out to find the successor of Docplanner Phone for me.
Job board market leader
From a bird’s eye view, the market for IT job boards looks like this (keep in mind that this is just my impression, not necessarily an honest representation):
- There is Angel.co, which is so startup-focused that it feels weird. I have never found anything even remotely interesting there — it’s just a different market
- A bunch of remote work focused boards pop up here and there, but there aren’t really a lot of offers there, and the quality tends to be… Well, I’d expect more.
- There is LinkedIn if you’d like to work at a large corporation. I just left one, and I wasn’t planning on jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
So I turn to the domestic market:
- Let’s leave Pracuj.pl without comment out of respect 😂
- There are those focused on passive candidates, like Inhire. I actually had a long chat with one of its founders when the project was still in its infancy (they were very open to feedback). We had some reservations to use them as the employer back in the day, but they did come a long way since then. The problem is, in my opinion, this model works best if you have specific requirements. Nothing interesting turned out in my inbox, so let’s move on.
- One of the market leaders today is certainly No Fluff Jobs. Unfortunately, I don’t feel comfortable with its philosophy. I don’t believe in joining companies based on keywords, and numbers, and bells, and whistles. While this original idea of a job board based on hard data and quantitative attributes faded a little over time, I still don’t feel the most comfortable there. Not to the point to turn down a good offer if I happened to stumble upon, but that’s not my first choice either.
And that leaves me with the other board: JustJoint.it. Trying to strike a balance between a long-form description, and characterizing the role with keywords and numbers, it always had a certain appeal to me, both as an employee, and as a hiring manager.
So I went there, browsed a little, got fed up with the state of the tech market, just to finally apply for a single role on a Sunday afternoon. And then I waited. At that point, I didn’t yet know when I would leave my current company. I expected a long process of looking for a new place. I’m old and fussy.
I actually got a bit worried, because the response hadn’t come in for a couple of days. You have to understand — I’m not usually getting ghosted, it’s rather the opposite: I once received an offer without actually applying, we just had a coffee together. So what happened this time? Maybe it’s true that people don’t read, and my CV was 3 pages long…
As it turns out, I didn’t actually fit the profile they were looking for, but they did read between the lines and realized that I could be of use in different areas. Just a lucky coincidence on my side, and an admirable approach on theirs — they could’ve easily rejected me with an automated email. We’re off to a good start, as they totally subverted my expectations: instead of me going through hoops, I have shown myself in an unfavorable light, and yet they want to figure something out regardless.
So long story short, I’m on the phone with the recruiter, talking about my past experiences and plans for the future, so that they can get know me better and we can figure out if I’m a fit for another role they were planning to open. It turns out there is a match, and the position is closer to the product than to engineering. At the same time I am starting to understand why so many engineers are turning their careers into product roles. Unexpectedly, I was going to make the same move myself.
Things picked up pace since then. As far as I recell I had a three-step process, one with HR, one with my technical hiring manager, and just one to cap it off with the CEO (yes, it’s a small company).
I trusted my gut. The agility they showed, the problems they were mentioning, the questions they asked: they all fed my curiosity and desire to join the team. The technical discussion was actually cut short to almost half the time. We quickly realized that we operate on similar registers, and there was no real need to dive deeper.
I think it wasn’t even two weeks between the first phone, and receiving the offer I later accepted.
This was actually the first real onboarding I had in my life. Back in 2015 it wasn’t yet a hot topic to focus on this process. Someone showed me around the office, pointed me to my desk, and I mostly had to figure everything out by myself, with some help from people sitting around me.
In Docplanner on the other hand, I voluntarily opted out, since I wasn’t that much interested in the rest of the company. I was set to create something new, that wouldn’t intertwine with existing products. I felt the time pressure, so I forego 15 out of the 18 onboarding meetings that were planned for me.
The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that the process was to take place at the office, despite the offer being fully remote. And at the company’s headquarters in another city too, except most of the engineering team, including my manager, weren’t even there.
It turns out it’s not really deliberate. The HQ has always been the hub for a lot of these kinds of events, and this was no different. Probably in time, a more sensible plan will be arranged based on each individual role. I used the time I had to meet as many people from different departments as I could, have some face time, and drink some coffee. But I cut my stay short to get back home, and to continue the onboarding process remotely.
As it turns out, that on-site part was more valuable than I previously thought. Since most of the team works remotely and rarely even visits the office near my home (near is an understatement, btw, it’s still almost an hour drive), this was one of the few real opportunities to actually meet someone and to start building some deeper relations. I truly enjoyed those three days I spent there, and it even left a little stain on my admiration for remote-first teams.
After the first day, organized by the HR dept to a tee, I was thrown into the deep water. I can’t say I didn’t like or expect that — the whole process up to this point was chaotic (and I mean it in a good way). At the same time, I hear that other people that joined along with me had their first weeks more well-organized.
But I was already off to the races: armed with a few tools and names, I set out to learn about the business domain of my next endeavor. What followed next was me switching the tech stack, and you can read all about it in chapter 3.