F* Yes or No: The DevOps Version

5 min read

Warning: This article contains language some may find offensive. It is not my intention to be purely offensive, but the premise relies on another body of work that contains the same language.

Some years ago I was introduced to Mark Manson’s quintessential relationship piece “Fuck Yes or No,” which starts out with the very real, very in your face challenge “Think about this for a moment: Why would you ever choose to be with someone who is not excited to be with you?”

It is a good piece and interestingly it was brought to my attention by a girlfriend who did not work out by essentially embodying the epitome of the “no” part. Read it; if you at all question your place in your personal relationship with a significant other or potential significant other, you may gain insight into where you actually stand versus where you should stand in that relationship.

I am referring back to this now because last week an acquaintance who is out of work through no fault of his own (downsizing! Or… reduction in force, if you will) reached out for some job hunting tips, knowing I had been through the grinder a few times when I had also been laid off and was desperately hunting.

I called; we chatted. He got a decent package upon his departure and unlike many had a decent savings cushion, so he was not hurting just yet, but was not thrilled with the situation. In fact, he was down right depressed. This is a guy who, while not extremely outgoing, functions better in a social environment where he can interact face-to-face with people on a regular basis. He is single and has no pets, so this not-seeing people thing bothers him.

I gave him the basics:

  1. Establish a routine; treat weekdays like workdays
  2. Make finding a job your job — do not just do the minimum for unemployment
  3. Keep working on your skills: there is now time to be set aside for learning Erlang or OpenShift or the latest quirks of React (still hooks, by the way)
  4. Do not take rejections to heart — nobody is a fit for every company or job they apply for, but do not let that stop you

It turns out that last one was hitting him hard, but it was not the ‘thanks for applying, we’re going in a different direction’ form-letter malarkey that could mean anything, it was the issue with starting the process and then recruiters and hiring managers ghosting him that was getting him truly out of sorts.

I asked him about his last hiring experience. The company he’d gotten laid off from was a ‘dream job’ — great pay, great coworkers, great location, great work/life balance — and when they hired him, it was a whirlwind of a few weeks from initial contact to offer. The company made the experience easy and he was very excited about it.

So the question I posed to him is why should not the place you want to work have the same experience this time around? If someone is tepid about your hiring, it will show in their interactions with you just like it will show in a personal relationship process like dating. If they are excited, reaching out to you, and pushing for the next steps — there is a good chance you will be a finalist. You may not get the offer, but at least the company is showing that they are highly interested. Contrariwise, if you are pulling teeth to maintain contact, it is likely you are not high on the candidate list for whatever position they’re trying to fill.

I relayed a story about the three separate times I interviewed for Red Hat for various positions at different stages in my career: The first time I was very excited. I had a lot of Linux experience and Red Hat was the up-and-comer in the enterprise Linux space; its only real competitor being SUSE at the time. Around then I was contacted by an internal recruiter at Red Hat for a pre-sales engineering role. I had a great first round interview, a really solid tech screen — not amazing, because aside from my passing experience with RH7 and RHAS2 I was not really in the ‘Red Hat’ world. The recruiter got back with me, said the next steps were setting up time with the hiring manager for an interview and then… nothing. I tried following up several times, but I never heard back from the recruiter or the hiring manager. I finally gave up and moved on to a different path.

The second time was probably a seven or eight years ago, when I was spending free time interacting with the early OpenShift community, writing code to deploy to gears (early RH containerization effort, for lack of better terminology) and generally playing with it from a Platform as a Service aspect and liking the documentation and control better than Heroku or EngineYard. The pattern was the same: recruiter, good tech screen, follow through was non-existent, though the recruiter at least tried to placate me for a week or two that time.

The third time was about four years ago, where they reached out looking for a Cloud Solutions Architect for OpenShift and OpenStack — again, exact same pattern. At this point I have sworn off trying to go through whatever the Red Hat process is (and especially with the IBM acquisition) but as I relayed this story to my friend, I could hear his crestfallen responses.

And then I said “Fuck Yes or No?”

He was startled, possibly as much by the sudden injection of vulgarity as anything, possibly because he was starting to drift from the monotony of my story.

“What?” he asked.

After that, I poured in to the diatribe about my ex-girlfriend and about how really the only positives to come out of the relationship were that I learned a lot about myself and I discovered Mark Manson through that blog post.

I circled back around then and asked why every process where he ended up hired should not be like his previous one? “If they want you,” I told him, “they’ll try hard. If they don’t want you, make a cursory effort to follow through for form’s sake, but don’t overbalance the effort. If it was something you don’t really want to do, just drop the recruiter a note, again for form’s sake, to say you’ve moved on and to take you off the list. They probably already have, but it gets you off their mind.”

Funnily enough I got an email just after the memorial weekend from my compatriot saying that he’s going for third-round interviews with a company this week, and they seem quite a bit like his former company. He’s very excited.

Breaking it down, I think it is important for both sides of a potential hiring situation, future employer and employee, to be excited and energetic about the process. If only one side is invested, it is probably not a great sign for employment prospects. That does not mean it is non-existent; I fully believe that many hires are done through process with no excitement at all, but by the same token it is like starting a relationship with someone who is nice, but is really only part of a relationship because neither one of you wants to be alone — probably nowhere near as fulfilling.

So if a recruiter or potential employer drops off the face of the planet by way of the classic Irish goodbye, do not fret too badly. Remember: “Fuck yes or no,” and move on to the next one.

Edited 2019/05/29 10:48UTC+5: Added link to Mark Manson's LinkedIn profile, fixed grammar issues

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Stephen Sadowski

Leader focusing on quality, delivery, technical debt management, and leadership education about DevOps and SRE practices