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Due Dilligence On Your Next Employer

Applying for new jobs is not only a process of convincing a new employer to hire you, but also a chance to make sure it’s a happy and healthy place to spend your time. In this talk, we’ll discuss what to ask to determine the kind of employer you’re talking to, what to look out for, and how to close the gap between expectation and reality.

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Thank you for that great introduction. That was awesome. All right. I guess I'll get started.

First, I have to say that I'm here representing myself. And not representing my employer. And so, all thoughts and opinions are mine. Just a disclaimer there to make sure we're because we're gonna talk about some stuff the next few minutes. You can see the very tiny print in the bottom that I'm presenting this myself, and years of trauma. And so, a lot of scrapes, a lot of like scraped knees and hurt feelings. And aggravation. And so, I'm using this to kind of, like, hopefully you don't have to go through what I've gone through or at least if you have gone through some of the things I have gone through, maybe some of the stuff will sound familiar and maybe make some -- give you some clarity. One thing, if you don't remember anything from this presentation, I want you to take from this that whatever position that you have, whatever position that you've had, sometimes it's a great fit. Sometimes it's a bad fit. And if it's a bad fit, it doesn't necessarily mean it's you. Sometimes the employer.

So, if you are in this economic kind of headwind, whatever you want to call it, where people are getting laid off, people are getting downsized or contracts aren't being renewed, know that it's not necessarily you. It is just something that is out of your control. And not something that you should be blamed for. And when I say "Blamed," I don't mean only externally, don't blame yourself.

A little bit about who I am. For those who don't know me, there's two of my friends on the stream, but for the 98% of people. My name is Wesley Faulkner. Right now I'm based right outside of the Austin, Texas. This bio sounds familiar because it is what was just read. So, this is the fancy presentation of how I present myself when I talk to different employers or possible employers. So, the best foot forward.

But this is also me. All right. So, I have 25 years of experience working in tech. I have been doing it for a very long time for a lot of different companies with different titles and positions and roles. And I've -- of those -- in that 25 years, I've worked for 16 companies. So, all of them, tech or tech-related, I would say. Or at least my job was tech-related, if not the company. And I've had six positions -- or six roles where I changed positions. Promotion or I just had two hats. Or I moved departments. And so, even in some of these companies, I've had a lot of experience with shifting between different responsibilities and different parts of my resume.

And of those six, eight of them I've quit. So, that doesn't mean that the role itself was bad. But, you know, sometimes I was going through a transition. Sometimes I got a role that was more -- a better fit of what I wanted to do. Or maybe even like I wanted to get more money. So, I mean, this is capitalism. So, we all do this for money. And so sometimes a better fit means like I can live in a better place, you know what I mean? But also, three of the roles I was pipped, then fired. So, this is kind of like where the trauma comes as the co-presenter. And one role, I was even just fired. It wasn't even -- like no warning, just let go. And another role, this is back when I was in college. I did a co-op for a microprocessor company. They didn't renew my co-op and my contract wasn't renewed, I was not a full-time employee. That was a layoff. Totally out of my control. I was laid off once. And those don't feel good.

And it's something that we all go through. Once again, it's not necessarily a reflection of you. Sometimes it's a reflection of the economy. Sometimes it is a reflection of you. I mean, we're not all perfect. We all grow. We all are gonna change. Past performance does not predict future -- future value. So, make sure that you're learning, you're growing, and you're developing. The reason why I put this here is because -- and I think this is the same with all of the -- the sessions. Is that you should understand the context in which I'm presenting this. You should understand where I'm coming from, my lived experience. For instance, I'm a person of color in the United States. So, it's very steeped in that. And from that perspective.

I also am a person of color in tech which is, you know, not super-easy. Just in general. So, some of these tips that I'm gonna go into are gonna be just kind of like based on my experience. Based on my perspective. Which also is not listed here is that I'm neurodiverse. I have dyslexia and I also have ADHD and so, I see the world slightly differently possibly than you. So, with that as the core, realize take everything I say with a grain of salt. And if something I present doesn't resonate with you, just go ahead and let it go. But if something resonates, please attach to it, ruminate on it, and do your own research to dive deeper in that section.

So, here are the four quick points that I'm gonna go through. There is gonna be plenty of time for Q&A. But these are kind of the highlights. So, if you want to kind of like read this and then decide not to -- like continue on, that's fine. But I'm gonna go a little bit deeper. I'm gonna have some fine points. Remember, all of these sessions are recorded so pause if you get to a point where you think I'm going too fast. Like before.

So, know yourself is important. Because if you are doing due diligence on a employer, the reason why you're doing that is because you don't want to be in a bad situation, right? You don't want to find yourself in a place where you're not having fun. You're hating your manager. Your coworkers make fun of you. And you don't get paid a living wage. But in order to kind of make those assessments, you have to understand where you're coming from.

A person who is making 50K a year might think that is a lot of money if -- if their role is kind of like mowing lawns every weekend. That's a really good pay for that gig. But if you are a Fortune 500 executive, 50K a year may not be a good rate that you think is worth it. So, know yourself, know where you're coming from. Because everything that you are thinking and plotting is from your perspective and from your vantage point. So, depending on where you are in your career, this might hit a little bit differently.

And also, there is a difference between a career and a job. A job is just for money. A career is kind of something you want to identify yourself with. Something that you have a high attachment with that you feel compelled to make part of your personality. So, with that, when you know yourself, you'll be able to fill out these boxes. And use them for the next sections. To actually view each of these roles or takeaways from something you actually know. If you haven't given these a thought, I think you should. One is work culture. Work culture is kind of do they allow speaking of like political events. Do they allow public speaking? Do they allow for psychological safety? Do they stand for the environment? Do they stand for a pure, clean code works-focused kind of culture? Know what kind of culture and work environment that works best for you. There is plenty of websites to do research and figure out which one matches. But know that first. So, that way when you're out there, you can see at least if they fit from that dimension.

Next, is team size. And the reason why I say team size and not company size is because there are big, large -- even think famed companies, even in those companies, there are still small teams. And also, for very small startups are. Like think series A, series B, those could be engineer-heavy and that could be like 80, 90% engineers which could be considered part of a large team, even if it's a small company. So, team size is a better thing I think to think about rather than company size. Figure out if you like working with a lot of people, if you like coordinating with a lot of people. If you like having lots of different roles. And if you're in a small company or small team size, you could probably do multiple things. But if you're in a large team size, everyone probably has their lane that they have to stay in. So, think about that as well. Project type. Do you like to work on something that's established? Like if you're a COBOL developer or a C programmer. Set in stone, probably won't see a lot of changes in the language itself and you want to stay in and just be, you know, more on the edges of development. So, the tools changes or the repository changes, but the language itself stays the same. Or work on a project that's cutting edge, Go, Rust. Those are new languages that are kind of emerging. Keep that in mind of what kind of projects you want to work on? What toolsets? Do you want to do something public-facing, backend work. What drives you and fills your soul? Next is role seniority. So, you get to your next role, you may not want to be an individual contributor. Or IC.

Maybe you want to be in management. Maybe you want to be someone who has no label. Someone who kind of slides between different roles and you fill in the gaps. Figure out where you feel most comfortable, taking direction or giving direction. Delegate organize taking control of something. Figure out in the whole grand scheme of things, where you are kind of like your superpower. Where is the thing -- where is your core? And so, once you know these four things, when you decide to look at a next employer, at least you'll have these boxes that you can at least first eliminate some roles that don't meet this criteria.

And the reason for that is because if you are doing due diligence, once again, it's your perspective and your needs and wants are valid. And they're valid for you. So, don't let anyone tell you that it's not a big deal for some of these, or even those that are not on your list. Make sure you just know them, write them down. And keep track of this.

Next is the network. So, once you get to the point where you're like, okay. I think I know what company I want to join or what team I want to join. What you want to do is reach out to your peer communities. Those are where people from your kind of industry hang out. Then you could shop or trial balloon the type of employer, the type of culture. You can hear some of what people are saying just in general. Some of these things are just well-known even for people who don't work at the company. For instance, I know -- well, let's not name names.

So, you'll hear some chatter organically. But remember, you can start asking people then. And hopefully they can point you in a direction of people who used to work there. So, the reason why this part is important is because every company can be like multiple companies under the same umbrella. One department might work totally different than another department, sales might work different than marketing. DevRel might work different than education. So, find past workers. Hopefully in the location or the department that you are interested in. And even in the geo. So, there might be a different work environment in the United States as opposed to Canada or Mexico or in Europe.

So, find people you can to -- that do kind of the role that you're looking -- that you're interested in. That used to do it. Talk to them. Usually people who are no longer employed at a company are okay with sharing a little tea about what things are actually like there. Those are gonna be pretty good. The next is that they may be far removed from what's happening now. So, if you are able to get some references from these past employers -- employees to current employees, use them. Talk to people current at the companies, check some of the things that you've heard from either your external public network peer communities or your past coworkers that you talked to. And just see if they're still the case or if there's more color or more details on those specific incidents that they may have. Make sure to talk about specifics and not just generalities. And as you get closer to the company, hopefully you will have more that have. And if you're not able to really find people, either past or current coworkers -- current workers there. Find them on LinkedIn, find them on Twitter or any other social network they might be. And see where they are talking about their job. Horrible day at work. Another day in the grinder. I love my job. I love what we're doing. Look for those types of posts too. And those can give you another signal if that is a good place.

Research. Now, when you're researching the company and the role, there's several different roles -- ways to do that. Like, of course, we've heard of Glassdoor, I'm sure you've heard of Blind App, kind of an anonymous place where people can post reviews of companies. So, check those out. But also look at levels FYI. Which we can see what they pay for different levels. And you could also look for layoffs. See if the company has done any layoffs. And what -- how would was that received by either the press or employees. So, do your research on the company itself and what people are saying in general. This is different from the previous slide where it's more specific. But this is the overall tone. And you're gonna be adding the context of your previous conversations with the people when you read these reviews to see they're either reinforcing the things you've heard or totally opposite. If there's any differences, then you maybe want to scrutinize a little bit more.

You also might to want look at their LinkedIn and Twitter profiles for the exact company to see generally what they're putting out there. Are there pictures of hope employees? Are there pictures of projects that they have done? Are there investments in nonprofits that you yourself align with? Those parts are very amazing to kind of see if -- if they're at least presenting what -- it reflects of what your own core values are.

And next is the job description. There's a couple things specifically for the job description. You want to see if, one, the job description is a bucket list of different things. Like they say like four jobs in a trench coat. You want to figure out if they are just not knowing exactly who they want. Because they list everything that it possibly could be. Or it's specific and kind of a bespoke job. So, they list specific things they want the person to do. Goals they want them to hit. The more specific the job role, the more probably precise the language that they use to make sure they tried to embody what the day-to-day look like. But if it's general and just a laundry list, maybe they just have a head count and kind of know they need a marketer or DevRel advocate or something and they're just gonna slap you in there. That's kind of a red flag, a yellow flag to make sure you are able to decide which one of these that the job description says.

Next is open positions. Are they hiring for a new CMO? A new CFO? If they're hiring for higher level C-Suite or higher level executives, that might be a red flag. The company might not be stable or they might not have a direction. Or they have a direction and looking for a new direction. Bringing people in at the top, culture could change. Same with any direct line management that you are reporting to. Make sure you keep an eye on that part.

And then next, listen. Go through your resources and costs that you'll need to do for your role. So, if you need a budget. You need to hire contractors. You need -- let's say you want some graphic designs done. If when you're in the interview process and you ask if these are provided for the role, things that you consider table stakes, if they don't have a clear answer, that is a red flag. Because if you need a budget to do your job and they're not gonna give you the things you need to do your job well, that's a way of vetting them during the interview process. Specific costs. So, do they -- are you allowed to travel? Do they do reimbursement? Is there a corporate card? What are the resources you personally need to be successful? Is something you want to listen for. Do they provide that?

Next is the onboarding process. Ask if there is one. If they say, yes. Ask what it's like. How long it takes. How much runway are they gonna give you to onboard? To learn the system? And then to produce work? This is like a really big red flag and a way of vetting your employer to see if they care about how people get started or they shove you in the role because you have the title. You should be able to do it kind of a thing.

And then milestones. If you are in a role, understand what your -- I mentioned runway to get started. But once you get started, what are the things that the company is trying to hit and what is your -- what is your contribution to those overall goals, strategies, or ways that you're trying to execute on different types of objectives that they might have? So, if you don't understand what the company's milestones are and you don't understand how you would ladder up or what they expect you to perform at those specific inflection points on their calendar, make sure you ask those questions. Once again, if they don't have a clear answer, if they can't articulate that, that's a red flag and it may not be a good fit for you.

Next, you want to look at the hiring timeline. So, when you're going through the interview process, see if you should hear something in a week, you should hear something in a month. You should hear something after they go through, I don't know, four or five candidates. Know if you're at the beginning of the interview process with them or when they're seeking to fill a position or if you're towards the end. And they'll make a decision soon. Understanding their higher timeline can give you a way to understand if they are clear on what they need or they're trying to fill a warm seat. If they're -- if they're just looking for someone to just replace someone who just came through, it might be a red flag that they are -- they churn through people often. If they're saying something closer to we're gonna keep interviewing until the person that we feel is a good fit for the role, you know that they're more discerning. And that's also a good way to see where you fit in their whole process.

Next is quality standards. This is an interesting way to figure out if they are an iterative location in their journey as a company. Or if they are more solidified and polished. If they're like, get it out there, we don't care. We'll change it as we get feedback or we know more, but trying to move fast. This is what you see in startups. Going back to knowing yourself, this is something people don't ask in an interview about what kind of quality they expect as opposed to velocity. But some people are perfectionists and this can be -- raise their anxiety. It's not perfect, I'm not happy with it, I don't want it to go out. And that can cause internal chaos. Friction. And cause some problems. So, know where they are in their quality standards as opposed to velocity. Next, of course, is we were all talking about money when we're talking about a role. Figure out if they are trying to lowball you. Or if they are trying to pay you what you're worth.

So, whenever you go through the negotiation process, you'll kind of hear this or be able to tease this a little bit more. Understand their promotion cycle. Understand their development and their individual employees. Do they help them to get training? Do they keep them in a place where they're able to be exposed to a lot of different departments or employees so they can really learn different parts of the business. Money talk is a way of saying it, but compensation is a holistic thing that's very important.

And ask questions. When you're at the end of an interview and they say, do you have any questions? Use that time. Be really good about that. You can ask probing questions like, if I talk to past employees, what would they say is the reason why they left? That's a really good question. Or people's tenure here are 4 plus years. Why do people stay? These are all questions that you can use to probe their feelings and also see if it like reinforce what is you've heard from the previous conversations in your online research or if it's totally different. If it's totally different, that's a really red flag. That means that possibly that their value system, their pillars, what they stand for is what they repeat. But they don't actually live. So, really use this time to ask the questions so that the employer once you get to this stage.

And so, that part is one of the really important parts of the role. Is that this is the freeform and it's gonna give you kind of like your last chance to, like, make sure all your concerns are held. All right. That's the end of the presentation. I've gone through everything. Here are my links. So, of course, they're in order of my priority. So, Mastodon is first. You can reach me there. I no longer use Twitter. If you see my Twitter handle, know that I won't see it. Next is Polywork, LinkedIn. And if you have to, email. I do a -- Wesley's office hours, you can join me there. But those are just kind of like a way that you can freeze this and pause this if you're interested in joining me there where I can help people. Thank you so much for your time. Also, thank you to the sponsors for making this a place where I can share my thoughts. And also what I wanted to say is that when you get through this process, when you go through these questions, maybe you won't get all the answers. Maybe you won't find the place that checks all the boxes. But even if you don't know exactly what kind of employer is the right match for you, at least you'll know exactly what kind of employer they are by following these steps. Thank you so much.

And now for Q&A.