Job Interview

I set the alarm early for 7:30 am. I get up, eat my standard breakfast with homemade granola, exercise, and hop on the bike through the smoke to the Caltrain station. On the train, my lips move to practice one last time my upcoming talk. A Lyft driver whisks me from Redwood City Station to a forgotten office park alongside the highway. It is time for me to shine for my first job interview in quite some time.

I notice right away that the company office is a disappointing dump with few windows, bad fluorescent lighting, exposed ceiling, and a toilet that won’t flush. Fortunately, there are plants, lots of them, and colleagues eager to see me.

I whizz through a thirty-minute job talk that covers my academic chemistry research as well as my recent computational skills. I’m far less nervous than I expected, perhaps because the audience comprises six people. Jaws drop when I explain the turn-around time calculator. “We want this,” the Chief Technology Office screams. I think, “I bet you do.”

I scarf a hasty lunch then steel myself for the two-hour coding challenge. Further insulting, two proctors sit in the room to watch me type out the challenge. I look over the question. That week of cramming SQLAlchemy: wasted! And fortuitously not required. I cruise through the dataset, put up some plots, and finish thirty minutes early with quite a smile. Challenges are meant to be easy than I anticipated.

The rest of the interview is surprisingly jovial, although I sneer at the crammed, ugly conference rooms and the haphazard labs. Where’s the ergonomics? What about aesthetics?

At the end of the day, the recruiting team wants to call my references. I video conference this afternoon with the President of the company, both encouraging signs towards a formal offer of employment.

But I’m already torn between taking the job and waiting for a better offer. It’s an hour commute to Redwood City (fortunately they have shuttle that picks up in the Mission), the office resides in a blasted wasteland, I don’t much like the work environment, and this company counts out precious vacation days (possibly 15). I may suffering at work in a way I was miserable at late-stage PacBio.

On the plus side, the company has real need for my expertise. The Head of Software Engineering was a former Data Scientist himself, so there’s a pipeline of respect from on top down to my possible position. For example, someone needs to rewrite the analysis pipeline for their mass spec data. As my Dad ran a mass spec for forty years, how cool would be this project!?

I get the sense I could level up at this position, take ownership of some great projects, make a real difference in the company’s success, and be forced to learn the arcane software-engineering details that other, more competent people, implemented for me back at my previous job. To overcome the poor work environment, I can work at least a day per week at home. Furthermore, at a small company, I can be the improvement I want to see: change the lighting, move closer to a window, bring in a Fish sculpture or two, make things better.

I’ll take a spin today through LinkedIn to peruse other possible companies. Otherwise, I hope for a job offer, possibly next week, but not too soon, as I need to clock out unemployment and go on a few last adventures. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for my progress and hard work.