Looking for a better job

  • Since 1999 I’ve worked for 12 companies as an independent consultant or full time employee. Every time I changed job, I was leaving a bad boss not a bad company. That taught me an important lesson: you don’t choose a company, you choose a boss. So my first criteria is that I’m gonna be working with a manager that understands technology, has empathy and actually cares about me. Someone who is not scared of programming and even better has a hand in the project without micromanaging the team. It should be someone I can have a beer with and joke about anything under the sky without fearing of getting fired. It should be someone who spends some time with the team, even if it’s a couple of hours per week. I’m getting into nitty gritty details here, but it would be great if s/he has children and understands how it is to do sacrifices for the growth of someone else. Besides if I have to stay a day at home to take care of a sick kid, it would be understood.
  • I spend the better part of my day with my team so it is important to click with the team. That’s why I’m extra careful about the recruitment process to see what kind of person could pass this filter. If it’s only focused on technical skills, I get the impression I’ll be sitting with a bunch of ninjas and cowboys with no social skills. If it’s too much talk and reference checking, I get the impression it’s the kind of company that people just hang out with and no work is done (or the decisions are made by whoever shouts louder). A good combination would be best. I have passed IQ tests and multiple choice language-edge-case tests but that didn’t get me into teams that were super productive because most significant products are made by teams not super-intelligent individuals so for me, the team is extremely important. Ideally I want to meet a few members of the team and if possible have a round of introduction at their desk or a launch before signing the contract. If something fishy is going on at the company, they usually just send me their best “representative” which is usually a developer who has survived their culture the longest. Red flag. I always request to meet the team when things get serious and the response matters a lot. Oh yeah, all communication (email, chat, meetings, posters, etc.) are in English. We don’t want anyone to feel left out. Sure the company pays for Swedish and Norwegian classes for those who need it but I don’t think the students can get enough practice at work and that’s a good thing! Productivity first!
  • The company should have a great reputation. Google or Apple are great, but even better if it’s a company that challenges those giants it would be great! I mean I don’t mind sitting with 6 ex-googlers in the same floor! But if I can’t get a job in that kind of place, I’ll settle for Google. I also like it when the company is “self-aware” as an organization and is always on the look for something to improve rather than being comfortable with their leading position. Look what happened to Microsoft and Yahoo! I don’t like it. Ideally it should be a company that has survived over a century and hasn’t collapsed in the digital age — a company with history, can make history. I truly believe that.
  • Chad Fowler says “Always be the worst guy in every band you’re in. — so you can learn. The people around you affect your performance. Choose your crowd wisely.” Not that I am actually the worst guy in the band! But you get the point: I hate to be the best the company got! so I want to work at a company where I’m allowed (even motivated) to grow my knowledge. More importantly, I want to work with a team with little ego, who are OK with having different levels of experience and can help me improve. This sense of improvement and the social aspects of it brings me to work every day. I don’t mind attending brown bags while feasting on company-provided lunch. It’s all about culture. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” so breakfast feeds the culture, doesn’t it? ;-) Speaking of that, I want to have free breakfast at work (at least once a week) please!
  • I want to work at an international and diverse workplace where everyone is a minority in some way and brings something new to the table. Yesterday I had a security chat with a Swiss, while a Pakistani set up my AWS deployment pipeline and an American doing R&D for the future of our DevOps. Our Filipino PM works closely with our American manager to make sure we keep our developers in Poland in coordination with the latest vision of our british head of Product which is communicated by our Norwegian associates. Did I say we have Swedes too? Sitting next to me are people from Turkey, Italy, Spain and one from Russia. It doesn’t matter where you come from, you can go up the career ladder in a meritocracy. We have Ethiopian and Mexican (female) managers while Germans and French are within a shout’s reach. I want to work at a company that embraces multiculturalism and can leverage potentials from all different backgrounds. My kid goes to school with children from India, Ukraine, Turkey, Iraq, Armenia, US and Canada. Why shouldn’t I embrace the fact that in the age of Internet the borders are fading away? I don’t like it when companies recruit based on nationality, language, age and gender (even though they don’t say it in the job ad but when you meet the team it’s clear they’re homogeneous and naturally resistant to new ideas).
  • Speaking of growth, I want to work at a company that buys me books no questions asked. I want to go to courses and participate in conferences to improve my skills during work hours and the company should pay all expenses. Get me a free subscription to Safari, Treehouse, egghead or whatever I need to bring new knowledge into the company. Ideally the company have enough skilled people that it handles a tech blog of its own to share new stuff with the world. Regular tech talks and brown bags are a given. Also it helps if the company has an internal team dedicated to education and regularly sends messages about free courses that I’m free to pick from. I may quit and take my knowledge with me, but the company should be so awesome that I don’t quit!
  • The company should be big enough that I can switch jobs within the company if I want but should be small enough to react to the market trends in an agile manner. I hate bureaucracy. I hate politics even more. I want to work somewhere where at least once a month we get information about what’s going on in other teams. I want to feel as part of the whole without feeling that I’m making some fat rich person richer. Actually I love it if I don’t know the name of the CEO of the company because I don’t need to! Yet it shouldn’t be because of thick middle management layer and I should still have a direct channel to talk/chat to him if I want. I like it flat! I want everyone to be able to talk, if they have something to say.
  • Here in Sweden, unions have a different role than in the US. It’s not the “troublemakers” who join the unions but more or less everyone is a member of a union. The unions represent the rights of the worker and negotiate a fair contract on their behalf. It’s golden if the company has a collective agreement “kollektiveavtal” to guarantee fairness.
  • Speaking of that, the company should be totally cool if I ignore all the money they spend on the aforementioned table and work from home. In fact some days for family reasons I may not be able to travel to work. I want to work at a company that trusts me that I’m doing my best to work and I know when and where I’m at my peak performance.
  • I want to solve world class problems. I mean nice pay, perks and colleagues are great and all, but I want a reason to leave the bed every morning feeling I’m actually achieving something in life that makes the humanity better. I want to have a part solving global warming issues, refugee crisis, and in general connecting people to what they are looking for. I want a job that is more than a direct exchange between money and my limited time on this planet.
  • I want the office to be at the city center (ideally next to public transport) so that talent from all around the city, even suburbs can (and do) join the company. I don’t like it when the company is limited to local talent that’s available at their corner of the world. It would be great if the company is close to the airport (timewise) because of that international aspect I mentioned above. Needless to say, the company should pay for all my work trips and even hotel reservation shouldn’t be a hassle. When I need to visit someone from the other offices, I want to do it with minimum bureaucracy so that I can focus on doing the actual job rather than filling permission papers. But if I don’t feel like traveling I want a video conference system that just works! Don’t wanna pay the standard 10 minute tax for every video conference/presentation. I want to focus on my fucking job!
  • The company shouldn’t make it hard to try a new service that I think will solve the problem. AWS, Heroku,… whatever gets the job done. Buy me big monitors and put it on the wall so I can show graphs and feel proud of myself! Do a hackathon every couple of months and let me meet other crazy people you’ve hired (or rather if you’ve hired enough of them they can’t be called “crazy” anymore, they’re called “hackers”!) It would be nice if the company sponsors meetups and some open source projects so that I can brag about.
  • I like my freedom. I wanna get paid, but still have some freedom picking my tasks and how I do it, which tools I use. Yes, this is Sweden but I want more. I want to spend 20% of my work time on doing whatever cool stuff that can help my work. I like that. Google does it so no other company should have an excuse!

Oh, wait a minute…

any many many more… seriously!

If you’re a recruiter

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Sr. Staff Engineer, Knowledge Worker, MSc Systems Engineering, Tech Lead, Web Developer

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Alex Ewerlöf

Alex Ewerlöf

Sr. Staff Engineer, Knowledge Worker, MSc Systems Engineering, Tech Lead, Web Developer

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