Time for a change?

Andy PolhillOctober 02, 2021

The average tenure in technology is widely estimated to be less than 3 years, compared to historical trends that isn't very long. We often have less of a physical attachment to the workplace than we used to, this can help reduce the friction when changing jobs. In this new world a courier may pick up your old laptop one day and deliver a new one the next, job done you are ready to go. Despite all of this, changing jobs is still a significant event, the relationships and habits that we have formed will be re-written overnight.

Everyone embarks upon a different journey when they look for a new job. I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about my most recent experiences. If you are considering embarking on a journey of your own or maybe you are even on it already, then I hope you might find this useful.

Someone about to embark on a journey, maybe it's you?

Photo by Mukuko Studio on Unsplash

The casual onlooker might assume I landed the first job I applied for, my pride would probably prefer that to be the case. It wouldn't be true however, and it also wouldn't be much to write about.

Before we go too deep, a bit more about me. I have worked in multiple different sectors and disciplines over the years. The one common feature of my previous employers up until now is that they have all been geographically close to where I live. There weren't many FAANG companies on my doorstep, and so my choices were always heavily based around work/life balance.

The Covid pandemic forced lots of us to work remotely for the first time. Like many people out there I had some scepticism about whether I wanted to do that permanently. After a few months my perceptions were well and truly changed. This change opened up new horizons for me, all of a sudden organisations that were previously out of reach were within my grasp. I was resolved to go and work for one of them.

My first application wasn't well thought out. I would call it a 'rage application' made after a particularly frustrating day, the kind we all have from time to time. I didn't get a positive response on that one, but it was the first step and it gave me the resolve to follow through. It was time to take things more seriously and get my house in order. 'The Tech Resume Inside Out' by Gergely Orosz provided some great guidance on that front and helped me to nail down my approach.

A key factor of this planned move was that time was on my side. I was in no desperate rush to leave my current role, but I was adamant it was the route I wanted to take. I put a lot of focus into the companies that I would like to work for, companies with a mission or a product I could get behind. I created a shortlist and started to research the roles at those companies. I avoided any preconceptions that I may have had about whether I was good enough for a particular company. I was fully open for a bit of rejection, although painful at first it can only help in the long run.

I didn't have any contacts in those companies because most of my network was based around the same geographical constraints. This ruled out any referral opportunity. In a way this was quite refreshing as it forced me to take a clean look at my abilities and operate on merit alone. Although great for onboarding talent at a low risk, referrals can stymie the much needed diversity growth that we need.

The majority of the larger companies I was looking into had very well documented recruitment hubs. I did also stumble upon otta.com who have a well curated set of tech roles including a few promising smaller companies who I previously wouldn't have heard of.

I was looking at a mix of fully remote and hybrid roles, with remote being the definite preference of the two. Most of the hybrid roles had a day or two a week in London. I was ok with this for a good role, but nobody would relish the 3 hours on a train. I also didn't want my workplace to tie me into my living location. I don't have any plans to move right away, but having that option safely in your pocket is nice.

Applying for jobs can get stressful pretty quickly, I still had a day job that I wanted to do well and didn't want this quest to jeopardise that. Initially I applied for just a small amount of roles to see what kind of response would come back. It was a mixed bag mostly, I had some rejections, some without response but most importantly I had a few who wanted to speak to me.

The recruiter calls are normally the first stage in the screening process. On the whole I found them to be amiable discussions which didn't require much preparation. They helped to check for mutual interest, while also probing around for any show stoppers. I did get rejected in one recruiter call, where they asked a specific question that I couldn't quite understand. In this case it seemed one question was enough to drop you out of the process.

Lets talk about rejection briefly. Like I said it does hurt a bit at first, if you are like me, you picture yourself working in that role long before you've even had your first interview. After all, you need to try it out in your mind to see how it fits. So when a rejection comes through the change curve kicks in and you get that feeling of denial. "They're wrong, they've made a mistake", but you do get through it...

...who am I kidding they made a mistake. I was perfectly good enough for that job, but they needed to shorten the list somehow and that's how they did it, let's move on.

After the screening process it was time for the next stages, this is where things started to vary slightly between companies. I was applying for Engineering Management roles, however this is still a predominantly technical role. I like to keep hands on and it was a positive for me to be vetted on my technical ability, albeit against a slightly lower bar.

One organisation asserted that Engineering Managers won't touch code. I could write a whole blog post on this alone, but I've found that staying relevant does help. I practised a few coding challenges just to make sure my brain could still operate in that space. Knowing full well that it would work against me in a more pressurised situation.

Towards the end of this journey my initial shortlist was much shorter. One key difference between recruitment pipelines was that some companies were recruiting for a specific role, whilst others would direct you to a role based on your skills. I applied for one where there was a good values fit but my technical background just didn't match the technology, this was certainly a more mutual rejection.

Throughout the process my only real horror story was a company who attempted to replicate an in person day at the office over video calls. The process consisted of 4 hours of back to back video calls, seamless transitions from one call to another with no opportunity for a break. By the end of it I have no idea what I confessed too. Needless to say they didn't ring back and I didn't enquire.

My journey ended in a happy place, I received an offer at Shopify which I accepted for a great many reasons. Your journey will be different. Maybe you'll get the first job you apply for. Maybe it will take longer, you might have to take some breaks to fill those skills gaps once you know where they are. Just remember there isn't a right or wrong, just persist, be resilient, accept that there may be tough times, but you will get there. If you aren't right for your dream job yet, keep improving, just a little every day, and soon you will be.


© Copyright , Andy Polhill