Jam's Blog

Thoughts, Musings, and Creative Stuffs of a JamFish

So, a lot has happened since I last posted. I was supposed to do my sabbatical up, travel, and land solidly into my next great gig.

Only one of these things happened (at least at first).

The world already knows everything that happened, especially with respects to Minneapolis and how it caused a reverberative revolution around the world, bolstering the resulting election of Joe Biden as our next President, and Kamala Harris as our first Black, South Asian, and female Vice President.

But, to step away from that. Let's talk about job searching this time around instead.

To give background, I've been in the Tech game for over 15 years at this point. I have a B.S. and about 10 years of professional experience. So, I'm solidly in a turning point range of doing a lot with my career.

So in the beginning (around late March/April), I was hoping to jump into a advisory or consulting role. I'm not going to lie, those were offered and I applied to a couple places. But, upon looking or interviewing, I still felt like I didn't fit. In some firms, the red team dominance really turned me off. So I pivoted. I hope someday that changes, as I really want to flex and train so that I am a proper purple.

Around Late April to Early May, I decided to hit the ground running on applying to jobs and reach out to networks. I posted on twitter, reached out to friends, and pressed the “recruiters holla at me” on LinkedIn. The result was over 30+ applications, and over a dozen interviews.

While I'll get to the good interview points in a bit, and why I went with what I did, let's talk about what not to do in an interview process:

Bad Interview Vibes

State in your job posting, as well as with employees referring, whether you will take remote full-time.

This does not mean, full time with relocation. It literally bummed me out so much to waste a recruiter's time when they're very insistent on this. So even if you're accepting remote right now in a pandemic, let folks know if that will change once vaccines are out. Or, maybe see if your culture is ready for folks being flexible. We don't know how the pandemic will end up, especially in the U.S.

If a candidate has an emergency, be flexible. Don't brush them off.

I was in the middle of interviewing one company the week George Floyd was killed. I'm very, very, close to where he died, so of course that week. was. HARD. By Wednesday night there were fires in different parts of the city. I emailed my recruiter hoping that they would be up for working with me on a reschedule. Instead, they assumed that I was no longer interested and “wished the best for my community”.

Y'all. I'm going to say this once: DO NOT DO THIS, ESPECIALLY TO BLACK PEOPLE.

I was fortunate enough to have someone help talk to this company while I was overwhelmed and looking at burnt out buildings of former places I used to shop or go into. However, no candidate should have to explain when they have an emergency in the middle of the process. Recruiters should understand that, and try to work with the candidate as best as possible. This is especially important to do for Black candidates when faced with the trauma recovery of near daily brutality and oppression.

Stop giving pop quizzes. Let folks know what to expect in interviews.

I got this a few times, and it really bothered me. When candidates don't know what to expect, especially in a pandemic, there's heightened anxiety. There's already enough nervousness when going into interviews. But when you're talking with a potential manager who decides to drop a deep technical quiz halfway through your chat, it doesn't leave a good taste of what your job may be like...or, maybe it does because it's a helluva good red flag.

Good Interview Vibes

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about what I loved about the interviews I had with the last two companies, and that ultimately lead to my two job offers:

Let folks know what to expect in interviews, and make sure it aligns:

In both my of the last two companies I interviewed with, the hiring managers and companies ensured that I was setup for success. I wasn't blindsided with what I had to do, or talk about. It allowed me to show my best self, even if I was frustrated.

Interviewers were diverse and inclusive

I loved that these two companies again allowed me to interview with the overrepresented minorities. For one company, it felt like I barely talked with any white dudes. And that relieves a lot of pressure for me, and makes me feel more psychologically safe (we'll get to that more next). And when there weren't any exactly like myself at one company.....

Give reassurance that leadership and employees take psychological safety seriously.

For one of these companies, upon coming in I would be the only Black person. Despite me being in tech for so long, this has never happened in my career (maybe as a teenager). So for folks to treat that concern with care was really helpful. It also helped that despite them not having a Black person, they were diverse in other ways which gave me confidence they could make inclusion happen for me.

Allow asking of honest questions, and get honest answers from leadership

The fact that I could talk with C-levels/VPs/Directors as a part of my interview process and get honest, transparent answers provided me with a lot of trust, and to ask the reflective questions that really ensured I had the proper fit.

Ultimately, I ended up at Honeycomb because I wanted the opportunity to lead more. I let the other, wonderful interviewer of a company know why (because just as you get honest, transparent answers, you should give them back) so that they could use that feedback for future.

This leads me to now, where I'm holding down a job and slowly getting back into the tech world while balancing self-care and doing other things to stay sane(like pen turning...which is surprisingly therapeutic, though expensive).

For public stuff, I am hosting LastWeekinAWS this week (Hi if that brought you here). I'm hoping to also start updating this blog more regularly (once or twice a month, just so I don't burn myself out). That being said, I want to say that I'm glad you're here, and keeping up.

Stay safe out there, and I'll catch you next post.

So, I’m leaving Splice effective today. And, after 15 years in the industry, I’m taking a break thanks to luck, privilege, and timing.

Why I am taking a Break?

To be frank, I need one. I’ve been grinding for so long in this industry. While a lot of has been successful, I’m also getting jaded and disenchanted. I don’t want to be jaded about my career, or this industry (even though some of my jaded-ness is valid). Bringing that into a future job, even if I throw my full weight and optimism behind the company, with it working out well, would likely see me leaving this industry entirely. So, I need to step back for the good of everybody.

Additionally, I have the luck and privilege of having enough money to take a few months off. I have the savings now where I can take that break. I also live in a city and state that doesn’t have a high cost of living and has an insurance marketplace with reasonable coverage. I recognize that this privilege isn’t something a lot of folks, especially those who look like me have. I’m not taking that lightly.

This is all the more reason why this break is needed. My one staying point of being in this industry is to show others like me that they can survive and thrive here.

What’s next?

Just because I’m on break doesn’t mean I’m going to be stagnant. I’m going to be focusing on non-tech stuff, and on me, for the next month. I’m using this time to focus on hobbies, and checking in on my health to keep it up to snuff to weather future stresses. I also plan to travel. You can keep an eye on my social media and this blog for updates on the hobby/travel part.

After that, I’m slowly going to look at what are my next potential moves, including talking with a coach and colleagues in the industry. If you want to be one of those folks, hit me up. I also want to put it out there that I would love to talk with Venture Capital funds to see if they have any companies that need a security consultant or a seasoned helping hand for their businesses. I’m a tried and true leader in the Tech and Security spaces, and passionate about giving companies (including non-tech companies going digital) the boost they need.

Written December 31st, 10:49 MT

I'm looking back over the decade (and change!) since I graduated from college. And while I am a completely different person than I was at 22, I feel like I'm coming circle of where I wanted to be back then, and also how I felt back then too.

Back then, I was really trying to figure out what my path in Tech was going to be. I was lucky enough to get a head start by having had an internship at Google, which at the time was one of the coolest places (and a reason I was able to find jobs in a recession year that made graduates synonymous with unemployed). I had a Security degree, which at the time wasn't a massive degree given out by major schools. Social media was still finding its foothold beyond my generation, so, I also didn't have the connections that I did. There was this level of excitement, and also fear, because, growing up poor, I knew I had to make it or I'd fall to the wayside.

10 years later, you could say that I did, as a combination of luck and hard work. I'm currently a security operations engineer who has run the gamut of jobs and has done the rounds in Silicon Valley. I've seen the worst downtimes and the highest highs from software releases and new things done by companies I had a part in. I've presented what Security should be on an infrastructure level and how if you collaborate, Security can get done. I've become more aware also of the struggles of being a queer (including non-binary) black engineer trying to thrive in an industry that honestly either doesn't want us to, or frankly doesn't care to learn how. And I've fought back against that by advocating when needed (and having the space to), and mentoring those so that they don't get stuck.

And, 10 years later, despite doing all this and more, I'm back to where I began. Just as I was back in December of 2009, gainfully employed and working my butt off, I'm wondering what is next.

To that end, I'm making this blog to document that, as well as other things I've been meaning to express on the interwebs. Note, that it may not all be tech based because if anything, I want folks to learn that tech is not just a one-dimensional or homogenous place. Hopefully, that will help it change as much it'll help me make the right next steps.