Shining on Your Own Terms

Take a look at the excerpt below. I took it from Simple’s current back-end engineer job posting. This is the snippet that got me to apply.

Excerpt from Simple's back-end engineer job posting
Excerpt from Simple’s back-end engineer job posting

I read the first paragraph and thought, well, REST is something I know of but have no hands-on experience with. All right. Then, I read the second paragraph, and suddenly I found myself thinking, Hey, I know some of those words! PostgreSQL especially, which I found myself using and thinking about daily at my previous job. Finally, I read the third paragraph (especially that last sentence!) and thought for the first time, Wow! I might actually stand a chance if I apply! In that moment, and not before, did I resolve at least to try.

Given the fact that—spoilers here—they did, in fact, hire me, it’s easier to appreciate now how much that extra bit at the end actually pushed me over the edge into thinking I might be a worthy candidate. I simply saw a bunch of impressive words at first and tuned out.

Here’s an interesting thing you might’ve missed if you skimmed the copy for the first time: Nowhere does it specify that you need to know any of those things. See what I mean? They’re just giving you a heads up what technologies they use. They’re letting you evaluate them. It’s easy to miss that subtle point at first—or, at least, it was for me.

So I applied! Truthfully, the feeling that I might not be an ideal candidate took some pressure off at first, so my cover letter was probably more direct and relaxed than I’d normally write. I thought back to my experience applying at my first tech job, and I tried to think about what I emphasized in the interviews there, as well as what eventually became my strengths. I realized I could tell a story about adaptability. It’s taken me years of soul-searching to realize I have that strength: in being able to ramp up from awful to (oh, can I even say this?) amazing quicker than most.

Even the jobs I had had before, in food service, followed the same pattern. I would start out so awful that I’d actively have my job threatened, and then I’d quickly ramp up and become valuable. I’d normally never describe, in an application setting, being actively bad at something at first, but again, I knew I had to play on my adaptability, and describing where I came from did the trick. Even if where I came from, in this case, was nowhere.

I went through several interviews from there, and Simple did another neat thing at this point, which differed a bit from past job interviews. They wanted to know two things, above all. First, they wanted to talk about the experiences and technologies listed on my résumé and see how well I knew them, regardless of whether or not they proved to be of any use to Simple. And if something’s on my résumé, I definitely am excited to talk about it. Second, they wanted to know about problem solving ability, which they explored through dialogue rather than making me solve random problems in front of them and dissecting the result.

Another nice aspect to Simple’s interview process was that I got interviewed by any team I might work with, not just the team I’d be on, even to the inclusion of non-engineering type folks. This sounds like maybe a startup-type deal, where everybody will know everybody, and maybe not practical at larger places. Again, though, it helped in my case!

All these little things helped me shine a little brighter than I probably otherwise would have. After it was all done, I noticed a common theme, both in the job posting and the later interviews. Instead of looking for whether I was good at what they did, Simple instead wanted to see if I was good at what I did and then figure out how I fit, from their point of view.

I really appreciated this approach. It makes a lot more sense for me to find a way to apply on my own terms rather than break out in a cold sweat wondering if I’m right for them.

Glitchy Australis

I switched back to Firefox and upgraded to beta, which comes with a new theme called Australis. I can sum up my beef with the new theme in a single image.

Clips of the upper left corner of four popular browsers in full screen.

See the browser image on the far right? That’s Australis, taking up an unnecessary amount of vertical space, with fewer options (as near as I can tell) to limit or reduce it. I made this comparison using screenshots of the four browsers I had at hand, in full screen (where the comparison seemed easiest and most apt).

I didn’t capture it above, but the curve of the tabs also looks awkward and unprofessional. The curves introduce extra, unnecessary gapped space around the sides of the tab, as well, though I can see a case for that vis-à-vis Fitts’s law. While I’m pretty unhappy with it on the whole, the design is a step in the right direction, and I’m glad Mozilla is trying something out. It’s just not my sort of thing.

Luckily, I was able to tweak things (especially the pernicious top gap introduced above the tabs) with an extension called the Classic Theme Restorer, which comes with enough options to suit me okay. It let me remove the top gap, square the tabs, re-enable small icons, and gave me back a few more features I was missing.