Earn the Love of a Dying Company, and Other Career Tips

Noah Gibbs

Pitch (300 chars)

When I went to work for OnLive, people were shocked they were still around.
Two years later, they weren't. Everybody was told they had two months before
the company went away. This is the talk I gave my coworkers on how to get the best job somewhere else - plus a few years of perspective.

Description (seen by attendees maybe, organizers defn)

When I came to OnLive, they were trying to take the company out of a deep slump. They'd built technology that is still unmatched, but nobody wanted to buy it. Spoiler: nobody ever did and the company died.

A lot of people will tell you to go work for a company that will become successful. That's exactly as useful advice as "buy a stock that's about to go up." The company knew it was in trouble. It didn't hand out money if it didn't have to. I got about a $30,000 a year raise coming in, and I'll tell you exactly how. And I got another raise leaving, and I'll tell you how I did that, too. But more importantly, I'll talk about why a company gives promotions and raises.

Let me tell you how to earn love, make money and be respected at a dying company without being a vulture. It works for thriving companies too, of course. But everybody can tell you how to do well at a happy, successful company. Let me tell you how to do even better by helping an unhappy company.

Audience: Intermediate

Notes (seen by organizers): tech requirements, why I'm the right person to give this

First, and simplest, this is a real thing that happened - I did give that talk in those circumstances. All of this is true.

The talk is a little different - I won't be telling the KRW audience about what companies were hiring in 2015, for instance. But it'll be a very similar talk, content-wise, with a bit more emphasis on how to benefit from joining a dying company. My then-coworkers had already done that bit, so I talked more to them about how to benefit from leaving one.

A lot of the basic concepts come from Patrick McKenzie's amazing career articles ("https://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-negotiation/", "https://www.kalzumeus.com/2011/10/28/dont-call-yourself-a-programmer/") and other folks who give good programmer career advice (John Sonmez, Ramit Sethi, even a little Michael Church.) Plus, of course, my own career.

And ten years into my programming career I then doubled my salary in under five years. So the techniques are pretty good.

Here's an observation I don't see often that matters here: if you're going to convince a company you'll solve their problems, they must first believe they have a problem -- and one they should pay to fix. In an ideal world you could tell a company "here's how I can earn/save you $200k/year" and they should happily pay you a percentage of it. If you've tried that at most companies, you know that sales pitch doesn't usually work. A dying company knows it has a problem, which means you can sell a solution. It's hard to negiate well with a confident, happy company that doesn't think it needs you.

That doesn't mean victimize the company and that's 100% NOT the gist of the talk. I didn't hurt my company or lie to them -- I just made them pay a bit more so that the software engineering part did well by them, not badly. That's was a win for everybody, and they were thrilled that they did it.

Tags

Career

Bio

Noah works as AppFolio's Ruby Fellow, writing about Ruby performance and related tooling at engineering.appfolio.com. As a trained massage therapist and hypnotherapist, he uses his powers of evil for good. He wrote the book "Rebuilding Rails" about understanding Rails as "really just Ruby."

How is this "Keeping it Weird"

I think a career talk about why to join a dying company is probably weird enough to count. And I mean it when I say "earn love," which is way more related to money than it should be. Companies are weird.

Here's me talking at RubyKaigi about Ruby memory: https://rubykaigi.org/2018/presentations/codefolio.html#jun01

These days I mostly write on AppFolio's eng blog: engineering.appfolio.com

Though I had a pretty good post recently on my personal blog about a troll coming after Sarah Mei: http://codefol.io/posts/a-ruby-troll-story/

Edit proposal

Submissions

Keep Ruby Weird 2018 - Rejected [Edit]

Add submission