Dear Julie

Thank you for writing to usvia Twitter. I was pleased to wake up to your blog post about looking for a new job, as the skills you mention are exactly what I’m trying to hire for one of my teams at Datastax. I hope you don’t mind that I’m responding to you via the same medium as you approached us?1 I was thinking this way your friends looking for work may read this too.

While we have many open positions related to our work developing Cassandra and Datastax Enterprise, relevant to your background specifically, let me tell you about our (Test) Results Analysis team. This is a newly formed spinoff team that will be bringing enhancements to our Jenkins based CI experience. It is at the very heart of our engineering process and I believe we can significantly raise the bar from current state. In this team we will develop better UX for the engineers that interact with Jenkins when they submit PRs and those who configure the nightly builds. But more importantly we have created and will continue to enhance some dashboards for processing the test results. Especially for performance testing this will require good data visualization skills. Finally, the output of Jenkins is of course an input to Jira. Like I said, this project is the heart of our entire engineering process.

The team already has one data scientist, one Cassandra expert, one agile genius and one performance engineer. What we are looking to hire is 2 engineers to contribute the UX, Java, Jenkins pieces.

So as you can see, your background at New Relic and interest in UX and leveling up the people around you, makes you pretty much a dream candidate for the open position. It would be a pleasure and honor if you would at least consider interviewing with Datastax to see how you feel about it. I will email you after I post this blog post.

Technically what I’m looking for is perhaps more of a fullstack position, but the User Experience and “Process Experience” is so fundamental to it that I think someone like you is exactly what we want. I did note you list Java, SQL and several other backend technologies in your experience. Btw, the JavaScript framework in this project is Vue.js. I’m sure you’ll be great with it. (In fact, you are free to change it too, you would be in charge of such things.)

We have a pretty lean management culture, so much so that one of my teams operates completely without a team lead. Time will tell whether this team will be like that too, but if all team members end up being fairly senior, it could. Should we choose to have a team lead, you would be welcome to throw your hat in the ring. (Elsewhere at Datastax there are open leadership opportunities too.)

I hope the above somewhat matches your “About me” section. Now let me answer your specific questions and wishes in the following sections…

What you’re looking for

Datastax has been a distributed company from the start. So you will be working from home, just like the rest of the team. Team members range from Eastern Europe to US West Coast. Personally I’ve always enjoyed working in such international teams! As far as I can tell, people here don’t work on weekends; at least I don’t get any emails. (Except from Josh, but you wouldn’t be working with him.) As I’m now in a manager role, I sometimes cheat: If I’m entering a busy week, I sometimes write emails on a Sunday, but I don’t send them out until Monday, so that I respect the weekends of my colleagues.

You would meet several people in the interview process. For the specific team I’m suggesting to you, it’s an interesting note that it’s a very experienced team and you would be too. I have high expectations of this team!

We will be solving similar problems as I did in my previous job at MongoDB. With my colleagues there we published an article about how we automated change detection for performance tests. This is just one of the algorithms we plan to be using and as I mentioned, we have in house expertise in the area of data science algorithms, so I expect this team to come up with some new ones too. If you have ideas in the area of data visualization or UI, bring it!

Location

Datastax is headquartered in Santa Clara and also this team has one member in California, so you would be in the prime timezone. Those of us here in Eastern Europe have to stretch our days a bit to have sufficient overlap with your timezone.

Size

DataStax is in that great phase where it is still a bit like a startup but also a fairly big company. Engineering department is way past 100. Many engineers have worked here 5-8 years.

Culture

I only started at Datastax a month ago myself. You may be interested in the blog post I wrote then for my reasons to become interested in Datastax.

Since I only started a month ago, I don’t know if I’m in a position to make bold statements about emotional intelligence. I’m pretty sure we can rule out yelling and belittling though. I know one of the execs from before and he is known to be a very compassionate, sensitive leader (part of why I joined). It’s an international engineering team with 33% Europeans and a few Asians, so I hope you will also be prepared to interact with people from different cultures. Speaking only about my pre-Datastax career, stereotypically Americans may sometimes think that Europeans are rude while Europeans perceive Americans as hypocrites. Part of my mission as an EMEA based manager is to translate between these gaps and try my best to communicate with everyone in their style. To be clear, it’s an American company so your culture is the majority one.

My own approach has been to spend a lot of time listening to each individual and try to organize the teams so that everyone is challenged appropriately relative to their skills. (Which for some means they need big challenges!) I feel constant guilt for not being able to spend even more time with my teams, for example because I have to balance recruiting new engineers vs existing engineers.

As I mentioned, Datastax is a fully distributed company. We communicate over Slack a lot, designs are written and reviewed in Google Docs, email is used a bit less, and we didn’t react to Covid by adding a lot more Zoom meetings. Most teams only have zero or one weekly Zoom meeting, but of course do more when it is considered useful for planning meetings and such.

Continuous Delivery… What can I say, you’d be working on it! To be clear, our main product today is still one that we periodically release and customers download. We only recently launched a cloud DBaaS. I’m sure over time this will change the culture to resemble what you are referring to here. To get there we must raise the bar in CI, exactly what this position is about. (The cloud team of course already does CD for their part.)

Pros

Flexible work schedule: You got it.

20+ days of paid vacation. I just approved vacations for some people. Now that you mention it I have no idea what the package is in US. My recruiter will know. I should mention that this week we have an extra company holiday to make the 4th of July weekend longer. Even I get it although I’m not an American! Equality in action.

Unlimited sick leave. 401k. Again, I will have to learn these things too, as I’m not based in US myself.

Support for employees using company time for things like professional development, open source contributions, and community outreach: Not only is this encouraged, we hope to release all of the work you’d be doing as open source to benefit Cassandra, Jenkins and the general open source community. This includes indirectly: Your work on the CI process will improve the quality of Datastax Enterprise and Cassandra. The blogging and community activity you do is very important and things like blogging or speaking at a conference can be considered work time. (I mean, you’re not going to be reporting hours anyway…)

Btw I personally like blogging and open source conferences too. I have participated in Oscon in your home town! My next upcoming talk is at Froscon in August.

No on call outside work hours. This is an internal tool, we don’t do on call. When it breaks on a weekend, we scramble to fix it with reasonable SLA.

Budget for home office setup and recurring home office costs (e.g. internet). There is a budget. We’ll tell you about it in the interview process.

Your organization actively helps people or otherwise does good in the world. Again, my own experience is a bit limited. One thing the company did last month was to allow everyone to have family lunch and expense it, with encouragement to buy from local minority owned businesses. We of course also tweeted an anti-rascist statement with a black background, but I know you’re asking for more concrete things than that.

Cons

This seems to mostly be a mirror of the above, so we should be good here?

Dealbreakers

You’ll be working from home and we’re not traveling as long as the pandemic happens. The team is however anxiously waiting for the day when we can do team meetings again!

I’m not gonna lie to you, the gender balance in tech is not great, and it seems to be even worse in the database industry. That said, Datastax is a large company and you wouldn’t be the first nor second woman. My peer Denise Gosnell is not only a famous data scientist and graph database expert, but also the kind of warm and welcoming person who reaches out to you in your first week in the company. There are a few others I won’t name in public because I don’t know if they are ok with that, but you can meet some during the interview process. One female engineer in one of my projects works in an elite team reporting directly to the CTO. She is currently creating a test for backing up 10+ TB of data. In my previous database career I have never seen such a big test configuration. It’s awesome to follow this project as a stakeholder. (The whole team is great, not just her.)

On this particular team you would be the first female engineer. There are two open positions, so if you want to refer a friend, I’m happy to hire both. (Doesn’t need to be at all on your level of experience, but some basic Java (e.g. Spring Boot or similar, or even just Jenkins skills) experience would be a good start.)

We do also have people of color, starting from the top I guess. This is a bit of a foreign topic for me personally, as I know there are different concerns about different ethnic backgrounds. European culture on this topic is different: over here it would be illegal to collect statistics on employees ethnicity or religion! So I just have to admit this is not my area of expertise but I do know my US based colleagues are very much focused on this topic.

We do have great People specialists and I work with them on a weekly basis and depend on them.

I haven’t yet had time to dive into our customers a lot. It’s a tricky question as we can’t really share much details about our customers, including in most cases who they are, to an interview candidate. I promise I can look into it, and if it’s a deal breaker for you, then without exposing any confidential information I would just tell you “sorry but we decided to go with another candidate” should it come to that. (I really don’t know as I’m writing this, just saying I respect your values.)

Contact me

I actually have a question too: Normally I work with a recruiting team and they would make the first contact with you to see if you are the best fit for one of my open positions or would rather apply for something else elsewhere at Datastax. They are of course Datastax employees just like I am. Does it make a difference that I am contacting you directly as the hiring manager? I’m interested to hear what you and others think about this topic? (Comment below or on twitter.)

(Image credit: foundin_a_attic on Flickr)

  • 1. Seriously, if you do mind, please let me know asap… You can DM on Twitter.

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