It’s T-SQL Tuesday again, and this month’s host is Kendra Little (blog|@), and the excellent topic selected by Kendra is Interviewing Patterns & Anti-Patterns. When I logged on to Twitter this morning, the first tweet I saw was for Brent Ozar’s (@BrentO) post The DBA Job I Turned Down. It was another great post from Brent, and I was inspired to write about a similar topic.
For my contribution to this T-SQL Tuesday is 3 Jobs I Didn’t Take, and 1 I did.
Many years ago, I interviewed with a company that did remote DBA services. In this role, I would provide DBA services for a number of customers who were all remote to me. The company was remote to me, and I was interviewing with a few people over the phone. I learned many years ago to have questions ready when they get to the part where they ask if you have any questions for them. Not only does asking meaningful questions put you in a good spotlight, it more importantly helps you determine if you would be happy working there.
I started off with one of my stock questions and asked what their training budget is. I got the feeling that nobody had ever bothered to ask them questions before because they sounded stymied by this simple question. You either have a training budget or your don’t. If you do, you should have an idea about how much it is or how it works. They ultimately said that they don’t have a training budget, and everyone pays for their own training if they decide to take any. Finally she admitted, nobody attends training because they don’t want to pay for it themselves.
I asked about potential for upper mobility. They asked what I had in mind. I explained that I had my MCM certification, and was considering doing the Certified Architect certification. They said that I would have to talk to the architect team about that. They’re a completely different team, and if I wanted training or support for that, it would have to come out of their budget. She then added that the architect team would never support me in that because it’s a small team and they don’t want someone honing in on their territory.
I followed up with a question about tech conferences. She quickly responded that they don’t pay for those either. I asked if they support their staff going to training conferences, like the PASS Summit. She said that she doesn’t know because nobody had ever asked to go to one.
Did not take that job.
When I was working as an consultant at Microsoft, I went though the FTE loop (full day of interviews for a full-time position at Microsoft) for a DBA position on the MSN team. The manager told me at the end of the day, that he had already determined before the interviews that he was going to give the FTE position to a contractor that was already working on his team. HR rules require them to interview a certain number of positions and then choose the best person for the job, but a majority of people already know who they are going to hire before the interviews. I appreciated his honesty.
He said he would like me to come work on his team as a contractor though and look to get me into an FTE role when another comes open. I told him I was happy where I was, but if the money was right, I would be willing to switch. He said I would have to switch to a different consulting company because MSN did not do business with the company I was currently working with. I said no problem and he had another company contact me. This is where things get weird.
A representative of the other company called me and asked me how much I wanted to go work for the MSN team. I told him a figure, and he actually started yelling at me on the phone demanding to know who had told me I could get that much money. I should have hung up then. To this day, I’m not sure why I didn’t. Maybe it was the promise of an FTE position in the future. I suggested we negotiate (which is why I started with a high number).
He said he doesn’t have time to negotiate, he’s very busy, and I should just give him a number I won’t back down from. So I gave him the minimum number I’d be willing to take (it was only $7/hour higher than what I was already making). He said he would talk to the manager and ask him, but he still thought it was too high.
Meanwhile, I let my current bosses know what was going on. The rep from the other consulting company came back and offered me less money. I immediately told them no. I asked them, “what kind of person would I be if I gave you ‘a number I wouldn’t back down from’ and then backed down from it?. I told them the answer would be no on principal alone if the offer was even 1 cent less.
The recruiter called me back several hours later. By that time, my current bosses had offered me an additional $10/hour to stay working with them. They couldn’t promise me an FTE position in the future, but they could offer me the money. The recruiter told me that he could get me the amount I asked for, but I’d have to work on a W2 basis meaning I would pay all my own taxes, get no benefits, etc. I told him no and accepted the offer from my current bosses.
The manager at MSN called me 5 minutes later wanting to know why I had turned the job down. He had agreed to pay [some large number] which would be more than enough to give me what I asked for plus the consulting company’s standard overhead. I told him what the recruiter said, and he was furious. The recruiter was trying to pad the company’s share by trying to get me to take less money. He said he would straighten out the recruiter, but I told him that I don’t want to work for a consulting company that tries to cheat me, and I had accepted a counter-offer instead. He offered me even more money that I had asked for, and I turned him down. I told him that I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but once I’ve made a commitment, I keep it.
A few years ago, I interviewed at a well-known tech company for the DBA Manager role. During the interview, they made the company look like a really good place to work. When it came time to ask questions, I started off again with my usual question about training budgets. The reply I got was that they prefer to pay more for people who are already highly skilled than to spend money on training. In general, he thought the people they hired should not need any training.
I asked about sending people to tech conferences. He said only sales and marketing people go to tech conferences. They are so busy pushing for IPO that for the next year or two, they aren’t even allowing people to take vacations because they can’t cover them.
Short version: if you want training, you weren’t qualified to work there in the first place, and nobody on my team would be allowed to attend tech conferences or go on vacations for at least a couple of years. I did not take this job.
After several hours of interviewing with several different people (Head of Development, a manager of a development team, the Director of Infrastructure which oversees the DBA team, and finally the DBA Team members) and having asked each of them questions of my own, I had the feeling that this would be a good place to work. I felt that I would enjoy it there. Interviews were technically over, and I was just sitting in the conference room with the other DBAs chatting about what it’s like living in the New York City area. The Head of Development and the Director of Infrastructure came into the conference room and asked the DBAs if they could talk to me alone.
The two existing DBAs got up to leave, and I said, “am I getting whacked?”. Everyone laughed, and either the Head of Dev or the Director of Infra (I forget which) said, “no, there would be a tarp on the floor.” That was the moment I was certain that this was the right place for me.
Reposted with permission from SQLSoldier.com