Hello from a hotel room in Santa Clara. I got up at 4 a.m. on Monday morning to fly down from Seattle and meet my new co-workers in person. In the past two days I’ve had dinner with the founder, the CEO made me a cappucino (using the machine in the break room), and everyone has been super nice. And I’m now technically an “executive.” I am…
Director of Developer Advocacy at Webscale Networks
What does that mean? Honestly, I’m figuring it out and I’ll be tapping friends in the Dev Rel space to advise me. It’s a small company and I’m still learning about its business, its products, its tech, and its audience. At Alexa I filled an open slot in an existing Dev Rel team. Here, I’m going to create Dev Rel initiatives and eventually build a team.
I’m working for/with a friend, Sophie Maler, with whom I completed some great projects at Login with Amazon when she was the Senior Marketing Manager and I was the Technical Evangelist.
And she got her opportunity to recruit me because Amazon Recruiting dropped the ball. I waited a while so I can write this without anger or disappointment and try to present the story as factually and as unbiased as possible.
Why I’m not back at Amazon
First let me talk a little “inside baseball” about Amazon’s hiring process. As I’d been gone 10 months when I interviewed, I was technically an external candidate again. With external candidates, the team that interviewed them will meet, read each other’s interview write-ups, and discuss the candidate. In the case of multiple candidates, they may have two candidates they felt would be great hires, but one wins.
The one who doesn’t get hired gets “recycled.” Recruiting is told not to sleep on this person, they’ve been graded as a good addition to Amazon’s ranks. Recruiting tries to find a good alternative role, set up a call with an interested HM, and if that goes well enough, they can be hired without having to go through another round of interviews.
That’s what happened to me. I interviewed with a UK-based team for an evangelist role they’d opened in the US. That meant working with folks out of England and Poland on all the scheduling and particulars. There were a couple of hiccups, but we recovered, and the Monday after my final interview, the UK recruiting person emailed me to tell me an offer would be made later that week, but it had to be handed off to the U.S.
Fumble #1: not telling me I was being recycled. This caused me to think I got the job I interviewed for. It was very disappointing when I finally found out I didn’t.
Fumble #2: not doing a transparent hand-off. I should have been handed off to an HR/Recruiting person with an introduction. “This is so-and-so and they’ll be taking things from here.”
Over the next few days, the Ukraine invasion happened and I tried to be patient, but no one was following up with me and I had no idea who would or when. When I mailed the UK recruiting person to ask what was going on, all he could tell me was that it was out of his hands and a U.S. person would get in touch.
I waited. During that time Webscale got me interviewed and put a verbal offer on the table with a written one incoming within 24 hours. I’d been told the Amazon offer was coming a week and a half earlier, and then nothing.
Though the UK recruiting person said it was out of his hands, I had no one in the U.S. to contact. I emailed the UK person and the HM from the role I thought I was selected for and told them I needed this offer on the table by the end of Friday or I was going to take another.
It took until nearly the end of Thursday for an Amazon U.S. recruiter to call, finally explain the situation, and promise to find me some other options. If any of the hiring managers she identified bit, she’d schedule a call, and I could potentially have an offer by the end of Friday. She said she’d get back to me that evening or early Friday to set up calls.
Fumble #3: not following up when you say you will.
I emailed her about one p.m. on Friday to ask what was up since I hadn’t heard from her since that call.
Fumble #4: I got an “out of office” (OOO) reply that said she’d be back Wednesday.
In retrospect, this looks bad on other levels because it implied that her manager was making her take on this project when she was supposed to be off. In the moment, it was just a huge WTAF.
There was a “for urgent issues” line on the OOO reply, so I mailed the person indicated, explained my situation, and let them know I was withdrawing my candidacy. About 90 minutes later, the recruiter who was supposedly off until Wednesday replied to let me know she hadn’t been able to find a match.
Now, why would I even consider a Senior Evangelist role at Amazon vs. a Director-level role at a much smaller company? Two reasons…
1: The money would have been equivalent at Amazon, possibly a smidge more.
2: Each role had different selling points.
Once I got the news from Amazon that I was being recycled, I was 99% sure I’d take the Webscale role, but I was just curious to see what Amazon had up its sleeve. Apparently they were limited to the division with which I’d interviewed (Devices), so cool AWS roles were not even on the table (well one was, but that’s a whole different story). And eventually there was nothing up their sleeve.
All’s Well That Ends Well
After two days with Webscale, I understand that this was fate’s plan all along. I am where I’m supposed to be. This is going to be a great experience and I believe I can reward their investment in hiring me with solid dividends.
I bear no ill will toward Amazon. I might be less reticent to criticize Alexa’s NLU or the Kindle Fire Tablet’s poor user experience since they won’t be paying my mortgage, but I’m still a stockholder, still a Prime customer, and I spent 11.5 years there over two tours and 4 roles. You don’t stay that long at a company that sucks.
The cherry on top of the story
Ever since I decided that Developer Evangelism and Advocacy was the career path for me, I saw being a Microsoft Evangelist as the ultimate achievement. I was already at Microsoft as a tech writer, but I didn’t feel I’d have a chance at their Evangelism team without real experience. I went off to Avalara, then Amazon again, then LivePerson.
I did once have a Microsoft recruiter call me and try to set me up on a call with their incoming head of Evangelism. They scheduled, rescheduled, then cancelled the re-schedule because he wanted to hold off on hiring until he settled in, or so I was told. They never followed up.
I don’t know why I didn’t work my network at Microsoft during this hunt, but I simply submitted an application via their jobs site near the beginning. I think it was because prior disappointments led to not wanting to invest too much energy.
The following Monday morning, as I worked with Webscale to get all the things signed, get the background and reference checks completed, etc., I got an email from an HM at Microsoft who wanted to set up a call to discuss the Advocacy role I’d applied for 6 weeks earlier.
I politely declined.
Thanks to Webscale for welcoming me with such open arms, for putting up with my last-minute drama as I waited to see if Amazon would show up to the party, and for giving me such an opportunity to grow.
And as one adventure ends, another begins. I’m not sure if I’ll write a job diary, but I’ll be brushing up on my cloud tech, my PHP, and my sysadmin skills, so I’m figuring I’ll still have lots to write about.
Thanks for reading.