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How I Chose Among Job Offers, Fall 2018

April 27, 2019

Author: Bianca Yang
Email: ipacifics@gmail.com

This is a piece meant to document what I consider to be a pretty rational and successful decision-making process that occured during the Fall / Winter of 2018. At the time, I was debating among several offers from software shops in the Bay. I had, at this point, narrowed it down to three companies, which I will call A, B and C.

Company A is your standard large tech company. I was offered my choice of team within the company and was given a standard compensation package. Given my strong preference for working in startups, I was already inclined to reject this offer.

Company B is a startup with somewhere between 50 - 70 people. It’s tackling a fundamentally hard and interesting problem but will never achieve the scale or recognition or fanfare that FB did. It was a Thiel investment, which made me happy.

Company C is a startup with around 300 people. It has already raised a Series D fund and was founded by ex-Google, Microsoft, and Oracle engineers. Their approach to their perceived industry problem was the best approach I’d heard so far. I think they were actually solving the core issue, rather than doing what most other “competitiors” were doing and developing auxiliary tooling.

The final showdown was really between companies B and C. I left company A on the docket mostly because it was a safety choice. It was something that others would approve of but definitely not an option I would be proud of myself for taking.

What was the difference between companies B and C? Company C had a better culture. The people were more engaged, they were more interested in pulling me onto the team, they were more engaging, and they told me immediately after all the interviews that they wanted to extend me an offer. The main issue with company B was that the engineers on my future team were pushing the responsibility of convincing me to join the company onto the Head of Hiring and Culture. I felt like, with the exception of the Head of Hiring and Culture, the team was very lukewarm about my joining them. Maybe this is a fault of people being bad at expressing themselves. Maybe this is my just misreading some signals. But that was a major reason I chose company C over company B. Another reason I chose company C was because some people who had helped company B recruit for the previous year’s season felt that company B was slowing down. They weren’t looking as aggressively for new candidates, weren’t posed for growth, were pretty much not the place to be as a young, earnest software engineer looking for a rocket ship to strap herself to.

I can not downplay the anguish I went through to make this decision. I felt that company B was delivering a more revolutionary product. I felt so much resonance with the pain that company B was solving. I knew that’s why people at company B were there. They had first-hand experience with the pain and wanted to push forward the industry to the new century. I was also charmed by the fact that some of the members on the team had taken leaves of absences from university to join the team. It was a superficially Thiel-esque feeling.

I said above that I think company C’s approach is more correct and more exciting and more impactful than that of other startups in the space. I still think that is true. Another conclusion I made, with maybe 60% confidence, was that company C’s market was larger and that my payoff would thus be more worthwhile. I still think that is true.

Another note is that company B was offering less than company A or C, in stock or in base salary.
This fit with my assumption that company B had fundamentally less market to capitalize on. In fact, the interesting thing to me is that at some point, if company B does their job really well, they’ll work build themselves out of their jobs. That’s a funny but fantastic position to be in. I know some people were complaining that GSK or some other major pharma company had basically done the same thing. Their drugs were so effective that they cured their market. I think it’s great to be in that
position, where your work is that effecitve.

I think my decision to join company C aligned with my priorities, in order, of people, growth, and projects. I met great people at both company B and C but the people at C wanted me more. They were more excited about their projects, about mentoring me, about enabling their customers. Company B and C are both on track to achieve great growth, but C simply had more to gain. The projects at C were of greater interest to me.

Writing this post has brought up some feelings of regret and pain that I didn’t join company B. People who were close to the company B team that were superficially involved in helping me make the decision were sad that I didn’t choose B. I felt sad that I acted against my resonance with company B’s mission. I don’t think my decision was wrong, but it’s been an emotional rollercoaster to review my decision-making process. I guess it just shows that I still don’t have a super strong north star to follow. My internal compass is still wavering, waiting for a strong magnetic field to push it into alignment. We’ll see what happens with everything once I start work. I have time, I hope, to catch up with everybody that helped me throughout the process and to build a stronger model for what I should be doing with my life.