Dropout Chronicles - Episode 2: I Can Has Job Plz? #Thank

Hallie Lomax
8 min readDec 30, 2016

You know what’s not easy? Most things. But, specifically, trying to find a job. Where are they? Who knows. Read more to find out.

When I first dropped out of school, I did so without actually having any real idea about where I wanted to go from there. I had gone into the semester already midway through the interview process with a couple of random companies, mostly because I’d met up with recruiters in-person while I was in SF for an internship the summer before, and did a couple of would-be phone interviews in-person to get the ball rolling. The only problem was that I’d started talking to all of them as if I still had a year left in school, under the assumption that I’d probably have a degree hanging on my wall by the time I started — which I no longer did and no longer would.

In a fit of somewhat irrational desperation, I started reaching out to a bunch of friends, acquaintances, and random recruiting companies asking for referrals (I also sent out a handful of actual job applications, but never heard back from any of those places). Between all of them (according to a spreadsheet I kept during that time) I ended up having my resume sent to some forty-five companies. Of those forty-five, forty reached back out to me asking for interviews. And, like any true masochist, I said yes to all of them.

I spent the next month and a half on the floor of my unfurnished apartment — laptop propped up on an empty cardboard box, a copy of Cracking the Coding Interview in my lap, hedgehog onesie on at all times for good luck or something — having back-to-back Skype calls and Google Hangouts with a bunch of bored and overly-judgmental engineers, desperately trying to explain to them why they should think that I’m cool.

And when I say, “overly-judgmental,” I’m not just being cheeky. Like I said before, I got these interviews through referrals, so I literally had friends who were these peoples’ coworkers, and the feedback I got from some of them was beyond aggravating.

“She says ‘like’ and ‘um’ too much.”

“I have a hard time taking her seriously.”

Some butthole with a monotone had the nerve to write that I “didn’t sound very interested” in working there. Bruh.

Then there was the occasional BS about my GitHub not having enough code samples on it. Like, I’m sorry that all my internship work is under NDA, and that I was too busy working three jobs during the school year to have an actual side project to share (hackathons don’t count because that code is messy and embarrassing)? And this was just after phone screens! After being referred by one of their coworkers! These people didn’t even find me worth giving a real interview!? Ugh.

Given that it’s been a year since then, it’s easy to look back on all of this and roll my eyes at how obnoxious the entire experience was. At the time, though, it was heartbreaking. I was stressed-out, exhausted, and losing hope. I was scared that I’d made a mistake. I was so self-conscious about everything that I would dodge questions about school by saying I was “done,” rather than admitting that I hadn’t graduated.

I actually can’t remember the exact moment that I let it slip that I was a dropout, but it made me realize that I had only been hurting myself by being dishonest about it.

It was almost like I’d become a whole new person in the eyes of my interviewers.

Interviews suddenly transformed from bad-cop interrogations to showers of praise. People thought I was cool.

2 Kool 5 Skool.

The onsite scheduling started coming through. By the time I got back to San Francisco, I had final round interviews all setup for the next couple of weeks. Things were looking up. Until I got my first offer.

It was super weird. I’d started off all of my interviews with a warning that I wasn’t planning on making any final decisions until the end of the month, when all of my on-sites were done and I had time to think about where I wanted to go. So, needless to say, when I got this first offer (literally the morning after my on-site, as I was on my way to another one at another company), I was p taken aback when they told me that they wanted me to start the following week.

What made it even more bizarre was the fact that the recruiter wouldn’t even tell me what the offer was — no salary numbers, no equity details, no benefits — nothing!

“We don’t want you using our offer to negotiate somewhere else.”

BOI, I WILL DO WHAT I WANT WHEN I WANT TO.

And, to top it all off, they told me they’d take it back if I didn’t promise on the phone right then that I’d cancel all the rest of my interviews and go ahead and accept them.

So I told him no and hung up.

He spent the next couple of days trying to call and email me like some fucboi on Tinder who gets upset when you swipe right on him but change your mind about wanting to talk.

This is literally me on Tinder. I have an entire Facebook photo album dedicated to these screenshots called “Why I’m Single.”

Interestingly enough though, in the same way guys like Mike make me question whether or not I actually want to use Tinder, having to deal with that recruiter made me realize I didn’t actually want to work at any of the companies I still had on-sites with. And, even though I turned him down for telling me to cancel the rest of my interviews, I cancelled them anyways.

I felt like I needed more time to think about where I really wanted to work, and what I was looking for in a full-time job; but I also recognized that I needed to start having some kind of income sometime soon. I ended up reaching back out to a recruiter from one of the companies that had rejected me earlier on and asked if I could be reconsidered for their winter Pinternship program. I got an immediate offer, and a four months extension on needing to make a real adult decision.

By the time that came to a close, I’d narrowed myself down to 3 companies that I thought were pretty neat, and wound up with offers from two of them.

Because nothing is ever simple for me, I spent a little over a week losing sleep and trying not to cry about how hard it was for me to make a choice. In retrospect, it was really mostly me just being a whiny baby child who knew that taking on a full-time job meant accepting that I was no longer a little kid. But it was a very difficult thing to do.

There’s a part of me that thinks both of the companies saw my hesitation as a power-move on my part, because they started getting weirdly competitive about convincing me to join them. First it was Company A inviting me over for bubble tea to help me get to know could-be coworkers. Then it was Company B promising me a dinner if I said yes. Then it was Company A inviting me to have lunch with someone who just-so-happened to have turned down Company B to join them. Then it was Company B asking me if talking to their CTO might help me understand my would-be job better. Then it was Company A finding out that I was talking to Company B’s CTO and telling me I had to talk to their CTO, too, or else it wouldn’t be fair (though I ended up asking if it could be their VP of Eng instead because I guess I cared more about culture at the time).

Stress.

I was sitting in a housemate’s room, writing up a pros/cons list about both places. It wasn’t helping. They were both great for different reasons, and all of those reasons were valid. When I told him about my upcoming phone calls, he told me that there were 3 things I needed to ask both of them:

  1. What’s the engineering retention rate? This is important because it implies overall satisfaction with the company — are they good at keeping people around?
  2. What’s the ratio of junior to senior-level engineers? This is important because it reflects both investment in inexperienced talent and upward mobility — do you hire a lot of junior developers, and do you promote existing employees?
  3. How do you define mentorship? This is important because the person in the highest position sets the standard for what to expect.

As great as these questions were, they actually still didn’t help me at all. Both of the companies were about the same (Company A had a 90+% retention, with a little over 300 engineers; while Company B had never lost an engineer, with around 30 of them there at the time). Both had a 1:1 ratio of junior to senior devs. And both of them had buddy systems for helping to onboard new engineers through one-on-one mentorship from an existing developer.

Like, what.

On a ridiculously random note, the thing that actually finally made me think, “No duh,” and make my decision was remembering a fight I’d gotten into with some VC dude a few months prior about the morality of investing in dumb ideas. See, he tried to make the argument VC money is basically infinite, and investing in stupid start-ups that do things that don’t matter doesn’t take money away from those that do; because, at that scale, it’s not a zero-sum game. To which I responded by saying that, though money might grow on trees out here, talent does not. And by thoughtlessly throwing money into the wind in hopes of that some of it might land in front of the next Petelon Zuckergates, they were creating an environment in which social good companies were forced to compete with a growing number of sexy hotspots with a lot more street cred.

Though Company A was pretty far from being a dumb/superficial idea, it wasn’t the only place out there trying to do what it was doing (though it was the lesser of two evils between it in and its direct competitor).

I ended up choosing to go join a company that actively works to actually make the world a better place through socially responsible micro-lending to people with subprime credit scores. We help a lot of people who struggle living paycheck-to-paycheck ease their way into financial security.

I’ve been there eight months now, and I feel like I’ve grown quite a bit since then.

A lot has happened since I started, but I’ll save that story for next time.

To be continued…here

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In case you missed it, don’t forget to checkout Episode 1!

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