Wanna get a job in Silicon Valley?

Working at a tech startup in Silicon Valley can be a rewarding experience for you. “Can be” because it all depends on you and where you work. Working in Silicon Valley is nothing like the Bravo TV show Start-Ups: Silicon Valley where all they did was party in a multi million $$ house in SF powered by Bravo network and in between pressed few keys and walla, millionaires. Far from it. Hacking & Hustling is what working in Silicon Valley is about. It’s about doing whatever it takes to get shit done faster. No compromises. And if you get involved with the right startup, rewards in terms of accelerated education and potential financial returns await for you in the distance.

Things to get into order

If you just arrived to the valley or are planning to get here, I highly recommend you start with the basics. It by no means guarantees you a job but definitely increases your chances.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the business professionals network you should be on. LinkedIn is the worlds largest professional network with 225+ million members. If you haven’t heard of it you soon will. They are the Facebook for Business.

LinkedIn Global Stats

To-do list:

  1. Setup your profile and fill it out listing your achievements. Anyone can just do a job under the wip. Few extend themselves. This shows through achievements.
  2. Location matters – add “San Francisco” as your location. Even if you are not in the valley yet. This way you end up in LinkedIn searches.
  3. Recommendations in your profile – this shows your work history is credible. People tend to fluff up their resumes and having credible people who aren’t your friends give you recommendation validates your story.
  4. Keep it up to date. Use your LinkedIn feed (like Facebook) to post regularly on business related content.

Here is my LinkedIn portfolio if you want to connect / check it out: http://www.linkedin.com/in/semerda

Portfolio website

This is something which showcases you. Your identity. If you can get your name as the domain name e.g. ernestsemerda.com is mine, than even better and you will reap additional SEO benefits.

On this profile page throw up links to your social networks, links to prior work like portfolio sites you built/designed and how someone can reach you. You may also integrate your blogs latest post and/or twitter feed widget. If you code you should have a link to your GitHub/Bitbucket account. Shows that you can code and understand the basics of distributed version control systems.

Blogs

Blogs are not dead. Nothing beats the education you will receive from this experience. Your communication skills will improve, dealing with people via the comments (good or bad) will improve and it will allow a potential employer to get inside your head to understand you better. Remember, this is your brand. Don’t blog about cats chasing ponies.

Quality Blogging requires attention, detail and skills. Anyone can throw up a rehashed article or something in 140 characters. However blogging in a world of attention deficit and over stimulated individuals is tough. Productivity requires focus. Focus leads to Flow. Flow leads to getting shit done. Blogs are not dead. Only focus is diminishing. So blog! If you can blog I am certain you are an articulate, focuses, productive peep.

Don’t forget to comment on industry related blogs so you can reap additional benefits of inbound links and show others you are an expert in your industry.

Twitter

Tweeting

I never believed in Twitter until i started using it. Twitter is a good way to connect with people fast. Use “Lists” to group industry people and companies. Lists are great and help you maintain focus in a world of tweets. Then engage daily via replies, favorites and retweets. Read up on twitter etiquette for standard protocols so you get the gist of this ecosystem.

Relationship building takes time. Never forget this. So engage early and frequently with true intention. If you do not have true intentions then you will become disinterested and fall off the wagon. Why do you want to come to Silicon Valley?

Here is my Twitter page if you want to follow me: https://twitter.com/ernestsemerda

Klout

Klout calls itself as a standard of influence. Hook up all your online & social presence and use it as a guide to fine tune your social status of influence. This is more of a ruler than anything else. You always need a base to gauge your efforts.

Klout

You can see in the above picture my Klout score (58 as of writing this) and how it has steadily increased over time since I started using it early July. Remember this is a ruler to measure your social efforts.

A competitive landscape

In a competitive landscape like Silicon Valley, all this should eventually become habitual. Something you do daily to stay relevant & ahead in your industry. If this isn’t habitual, then build a habit of it. If this all feels too much for you than you are in the wrong industry. Or maybe you are not the right fit. Business in Silicon Valley is about people. You aren’t just selling your skills you are in the business of selling you. People want to know about you. So show and tell.

This is a city where you are measured by your works. If you have something to show then show it off. Otherwise go back to your room, close the door and hack something cool you can show the world that you are a doer and not another dreamer that cannot execute.

Good luck with your journey!

We are hiring @ Medlert!

We are hiring! Come and work at Medlert. We are in the business of SAVING LIVES. We are a Startup in the Health industry. We’re looking for world-class engineers and exceptional individuals, who are mission-driven, that want to help change the world. Visit our career page and apply today: https://www.medlert.com/about-us/careers

Actual photo taken from Medlert HQ in SF
Actual photo taken from Medlert HQ in SF

Cubed: learning helplessness

Feel like your role at work is minimizing? Or maybe the responsibilities you once had have shrunk? Or maybe you are feeling like you could do a lot more but no one seems to give you the opportunity? Or you are not being respected, acknowledged or rewarded for your hard work? Something is not right – and your not alone. You are cubed. You are being pushed to a habit of learning helplessness. One which is dumbing you down and making you a cog in a machine at your expense.

Let’s go back and explore where this came from and provide some enlightenment. Long time ago I had an awakening. “We are all capable of greatness.” You may or may not have heard these before. Either way here they are:

“That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

“Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it.” ~ Danny Kaye

“For all our failings, despite our limitations and fallibilities, we humans are capable of greatness.” ~ Carl Sagan

And you may have read or seen this man (Anthony Robbins) speak of greatness and how it’s attainable. All the formulas to it are inside his book. Get the book if you have not read it.

The Giant Within
Get the book if you have not read it.

Ok so you now get it. Greatness is within you. I can even start quoting some religious literature if you like that we are part of God and if God is great we must also be great etc… but I wont go too deep. You get it.

Are you getting “cubed”?

What happens if this greatness starts getting stripped away from you.

Over the last few years working in both startup and corporate environments, I saw something which disturbed me and also started to affect me negatively. This deceptive art of the machine dumbing one down. It starts with getting “cubed”.

You are a go getter. You come from another environment (startup or not) where you were the man of the hour (all-rounder or a specialist) to a new environment (yes job) where things move slower and the room is filled with this political fog. Straight away you get confined to a cube (your new desk). Blocking the world around you. You are told it’s there to make you focus on your job. Then your new job turns out to be practically pulling a lever (minimized role). They call this specialization. You become a cog in the machine. Stripped of all those responsibilities which once made you grow into being better than before.

What’s going on here? 2 damaging factors are at play:

  1. The environment and
  2. The chap you report to.

Let’s face it. It sucks.

Point 2 you may be inclined to give them the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us so he/she can go and bloody learn for them self how employees should be managed. Yes that is a start. But both points have deep roots. Let’s explore deeper.

We are constantly changing – like it or not

If you were a go getter type of character capable of turning mountains and getting stuff done this sort of “cubing” will slowly erode you. Obviously it wont if you are not getting cubed.

We (humans) are constantly adapting and changing whether we like it or not. The field of Neuroplasticity has proven that our brains change neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behavior, environment and neural processes for our entire life. Changing jobs is changing environments. Our minds change the most when we change environments. It is why people grow faster when they move to the right job or even country, and why joining the army changes everyone, for better or worst. Your environment is an important part of you and your identity.

Learning Helplessness

To further understand the psychology of this let’s step into 1960s when Martin Seligman (before becoming the founding father of positive psychology) studied the opposite of happiness. He was experimenting with dogs, pairing noises, like a bell, with small shocks to see how the dogs would eventually react to the bell alone.

Martin Seligman's shuttle-box experiment with dogs
Martin Seligman’s shuttle-box experiment with dogs

The experiment involved a shuttle-box with 2 compartments which a dog could jump over a small wall to each chamber – as shown above. Each time a bell would ring. In 1 chamber the dog would get shocked. In the other he wouldn’t. Before the experiment the dog would jump the low barriers easily at free will. After the experiments involving zapping the dogs they just stayed in the chamber where they would get zapped. The dogs learnt that once the bell rang a shock was to follow no matter what. Thus they learnt helplessness.

Seligman found the same behavior in humans. When we fail (life delivers a shock) we respond with simply giving up. Cubicles are the new shuttle-boxes and workers the new dogs.

Thanks to Shawn Anchor, positive psychologist from Harvard University for telling me about this story. It basically correlated to what I personally saw happening around me. Shawn has many great stories like this in his awesome book The Happiness Advantage.

Change now, Not later

If you are cubed you must change now. No matter how hard or scary it is, it is NOT good for you now nor later. Getting emotionally shocked is not fun. The longer you are cubed the harder it will be to change as you become a numb cog in the machine. Just like the dogs taking the shocks. Until a day will come when you will be dislodged from that machine (by higher powers & against your wishes) and then you will be a lost soul.

Whatever your mind can conceive and can believe, it can achieve. ~ Napoleon Hill

A nurse in Australia recorded the most common regrets of the dying. At the top of the list was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Next on the list: “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard” and “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”. Get it? Dont be that numb cog on your death-bed.

Whether you think you can or can’t either way you are right. ~Henry Ford

Dont forget, you come from greatness therefore you must have greatness within you. Dont get cubed. Go and make a difference in your life. We create our own reality. The power is within you. How you decube yourself is different for everyone. But the power within you knowns what you need. Ask and you shall receive. Then gain the courage to execute.

If you have friends or family which are cubed pass this information on. Spread this knowledge to those that need it and empower them to take control of their life.

~ Ernest

Get your @$$ to Silicon Valley

Is moving to work in Silicon Valley on your goals list? Are you a software engineer or work with technology and always craved for more? Then get your @$$ to Silicon Valley and start making a difference disrupting an industry and learning a ton load of new things in the process. Oh and Happy New Year!

Sydney 2011 NYE Fireworks - nothing comes close
Sydney 2011 NYE fireworks - nothing comes close

Here’s why you need to be in Silicon Valley

It has already started!

Aussies are leaving Australia to start tech companies in the valley. Check out this SMH article & video on this movement.

Brain drain: why young entrepreneurs leave homesource: SMH, May 18, 2012

How to get to Silicon Valley

  • Make sure you are up to date with the latest tech. Australian corporate world (common work environment) is behind with technology so moving to Silicon Valley you may need to ramp up on the tech side. There is also plenty of free education online you can take advantage of.
  • Organize an E3 (faster & easier for Aussies) or H1B (the common) Visa. You can come to Silicon Valley on your Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for 90 days (3 months), find a job and then get the Visa sponsored by the company.
  • Find a place to live in the Bay Area (also known as Silicon Valley) / San Francisco areas. If you come on a Visa Waiver Program just rent out a bedroom via AirBnB anywhere you like. Super easy and convenient until you lock down a more long-term accommodation.
  • Find a job / startup to work at. Or just contact me and I can help you out – we are hiring! A friend came here on a Visa Waiver Program and scored plenty of interviews and locked in a great job in 2 weeks.
  • Understand employment & contracts in the bay area. There are plenty of perks for great software engineers including long-term financial gains via stock options. Unlike Australia where getting stock options is next to unheard of for software engineers. Check out glassdoor.com to get a feel for the salary range in Silicon Valley.
  • Before you leave Australia make sure you have attended to the going away checklist; changed to non-resident for tax purposes, notified your banks, given power of attorney to someone you trust etc…

Need help or still not sure?

Look. If you’re a good engineer with the right attitude and want more out of life you need to be in Silicon Valley. If you fear the change it’s ok. It means your human. Contact me and I will help you with your journey from Australia to Silicon Valley and connect you with startups in the bay area.

Don’t waste another day, start today and make a difference in your career and life.

~ Ernest

Employment & Contracts at Silicon Valley Startups

Recently I was helping a friend from Australia with employment contracts & options from few Silicon Valley startups. Then it struck me that I need to share this knowledge with other folks in the same shoes. I cannot believe that I had not blogged about this earlier.

So you already know that Silicon Valley is the world’s hub for startups. Companies that are starting up with big visions to turn into a multi-million dollar company that is going to revolutionize the industry they are focused on. The fact is that only few ever succeed to become a feature article, a story making headlines, leading to an IPO or an acquisition and making its employees wealthy in the process.

So you came to Silicon Valley and are ready to start cracking working for a startup to help it reach success. Here is a few things you need to know about employment and contracts when joining a startup or running your own startup in the valley.

Salary

Check out glassdoor.com to see company salaries, reviews, and interviews – all posted anonymously by employees in Silicon Valley. Don’t forget that the salary is only a part of the whole package so make sure you understand the next topic on stock options which can make that average salary skewed.

The low down is that if you have been head hunted and the company really wants you then you control the price on your head. Not a website showing you what the average Joe out there earns.

Stock options

If you are joining a startup or about to start one you will be hearing a lot about stock option grants, also known as ISO (Incentive Stock Option). The purpose of stock options is to attract and retain the best available personnel and promote the success of the company’s business. Basically to make the employee feel like they own a part of the company and will feast in the rewards of the company’s success.

“Employee Stock Options are call options which grants its holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy the company’s shares at a fixed price known as the “Grant” or “strike price” before the expiration date is reached.” ~ optiontradingpedia

The long-term goal is that those stock options will be worth something in few years… more than they are at the time of issue. Like x10 more. And the employee will profit favorably during a private acquisition or an IPO (Initial Public Offering on the public stock market) of the company. At that point the stock “option contracts” are said to be “exercised” and converted to real stock and sold to new holder/owner. Assuming that they don’t expire before then.

Typically in an early startup, employee’s wage is sacrificed for more stock options. This is high risk but more of a rewarding strategy assuming the stock options percentage (%) is favorable. I wrote (%) percentage since this is typically worth more than being given a volume that is hard to justify & work out. The reverse holds true that once the company has grown well into few dozen employees and doing well financially, stock options are reduced and wage levels out with industry standards.

Here’s a previous blog post I did on equity split, common terms & compensation 101.

Let’s do the numbers

Issue value = volume x issue stock value
Your profits = (issue value * growth (assume x10)) – issue value

So your $100K of stock options could be worth $1 million and you profit $900K before taxes.

If you worked at this company for 10 years and earned a wage of $50K then its like earning $150K per year in wages. Now is this worth it? What are the opportunity costs?Work them out. Since taxes will be different in both scenarios and you may have been able to early a larger wage with bonus per year which would have compounded exponentially – especially if you had invested that money! So is it worth it? Theoretically you could be better off earning a higher wage then taking a pay cut to get more stock options. Work this out and don’t fall prey to what may happen in the future because failure in a startup in pretty high in the early days.

At-Will Employment

California is an At-Will Employment state. This means that you or the company has the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause, and with or without notice.

At first this sounds a bit harsh but it has its merits. Back in Australia you have to give the employer notice and this is always a 2-4 week period. You have to. In California if you are leaving on good terms then it’s customary to give a 2-week notice as a nice gesture. However not required by law. Now, if you are leaving on bad terms like say to due unfair treatment, you can just walk out the door immediately. Why waste another breath in a place you are not happy at.

The other angle is that the employer can terminate you instantly. Now if this termination is unfair you can seek legal action. For this reason, many employers have what is called Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) which gives the employee a fair chance to succeed. If this doesnt work out then a termination by law is customary. It also protects the employer from legal action. Which happens very frequently.

Health Insurance

You need insurance in the USA. Without it you can end up a sitting duck should you get sick and not have enough money to cover the bills. Medicine in the USA is very expensive. A standard visit to the GP could cost you around $200.

Just about every startup that has funding will be providing it’s employee a form of medical cover. Typical choice of 2 or more insurers (options) will be available. These 2 options will be in the form of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO) or Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO).

In a nutshell PPO is choice with higher co-pay and HMO is less choice with lower co-pay.

Co-pay

A co-pay is what you are expected to cover after every medical expense. Say you visit a GP and your co-pay is $10. So you pay $10 to the medical foundation your GP belongs to and your insurance company covers the rest. Same with medicine, it’s all $10 out of your pocket per prescription. PPO co-pay is typically double of HMO so you end up paying around $20.

In or Out of Network

If you select HMO you will need to find a medical group to join. This is called In-Network and is the medical network (a group specialists affiliate themselves with) you will use to find & see the same GP. Yes you must find a GP which is taking patients and then work through them. I personally like the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. A group of large hospitals & medical facilities in the bay area. Once inside this network you GP will only ever assign you to see a specialist that “belongs” to that network.

On the other hand if you have PPO you can opt to see a GP or specialists In-Network (co-pay will be lower) or go outside to another network also known as Out-Of-Network where your co-pay will be higher but you will have the choice and medical coverage to see a specialist of choice. One you selected. It’s what you pay for, the choice.

If you’re healthy and have selected a good network then HMO is a good choice. If you’re paranoid and have health issues get PPO. The price difference isn’t that much.
But be warned, plan choice only ever happens once per year. Typically in December. The only other time you can alter the plan is when a “major event” has occurred like adding your spouse to the plan or loss of employment.

Dental

This usually comes bundled with your employee health plan and is typically the Delta Dental. It will cover around $1,500 worth of dental procedures on a tiered coverage plan with gap where standard checkups are 100% covered, fillings 80% and major work like root canals 50%. Some dentists can cover this gap so ask before you choose a dentist. Typically you need not make any decisions here, it’s a 1 plan for everyone. Use this great opportunity to get your teeth fixed like removing mercury fillings and replacing them with ceramic versions and get that crown you always needed but couldn’t afford in Australia due to bloated dental fees and crappy coverage back home.

I did a story comparing the Australian private insurance to the American here. The American is definitely better by a long stretch. The problem becomes if you don’t have insurance in American then your a dead man walking should you get sick.

Paid Time Off (PDO)

In America this is typically 2 weeks. Half of the comfy 4 weeks we get in Australia. However if you are head hunted you can negotiate this to 4 weeks or more. Some companies are now starting to give 4 weeks since a work and life balance is becoming a very popular topic in productivity and employee morale & motivation.

Having 4 weeks per year of holiday leave will give you ample opportunity to travel to beautiful places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, Los Angeles, New York, Hawaii etc… so you get to enjoy your USA adventure while helping a company succeed.

Other perks

Other ways employers have been luring employees is via additional perks.

  • Travel allowance. If your travel is covered you can not only go green but also have free travel. Bonus!
  • A fixed amount to buy your own computer equipment like a nice shiny Apple hardware. Everyone loves a Mac.
  • Free lunch. Such a common trend today. It has 2 benefits. The employee doesnt have to buy or spend time making their lunch and the employer gets more productivity from their employees since the employee doesnt have to travel to a shop to buy lunch thus spending less time having lunch. Also the employee gets to socialize with fellow colleagues during lunch hour building a tighter solid organization.

Some notable companies like AirBnB, Facebook, Google, Dropbox et al. provide plenty of perks and sell their way to your hear.

Check out these links:

Also check out: 7 Companies With The Best Food Perks [Infographic]

If you have any specific questions regarding the points raised above or new ones you want me to add here please contact me.

Enjoy!

~ Ernest

Hiring, Tips on finding rockstar software engineers

Another great day at Hacker Dojo and another great discussion on startups and finding talent in the bay area. So I was asked by a founder of a mobile startup company in the bay area on my experience hiring engineers. Here’s the jist of this discussion. Rockstar engineers wanted

The big 3 – finding rockstar engineers

1. Utilize your network to find rockstar engineers.

There is nothing like finding the right person through your professional or personal network. Those are usually qualified leads; especially if the person you found them through you know well and is also a great engineer. Great engineers like to hang out with other great engineers.

So hit up your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to let your network know you have an amazing opportunity open for the right person.

If you are on a budget, stay away from external recruiters. They are expensive and hungry to get a sale through the door. They work on commission so will flood you with resumes. My experience has showed me from that flood only 3-5% of the talent is what I would class as rockstar engineers. If you must use one, detail & finecomb your requirements to them so the flood of resumes is more like a filtered clean stream of decent talent.

2. Rockstar engineers are not looking for a job.

It is your role to convince them to come and work on your idea with you because it is better for them. Better for them because of growth (financial & personal) opportunities (*Mastery) and that they will be “changing the world” (*Purpose). Read my previous post on Compensation 101 so you nail this right. Most of all, if you can also offer flexibility (*Autonomy) you will be on a winning hiring streak.

(*) = if you haven’t yet read Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.. then I highly recommend you do. The key 3 points marked with * above are paramount to getting these rockstar engineers on board your train.

3. Attitude over skills.

Engineers with great attitude can be relied on. Their great attitude allows them to be in constant growth phase. Open to change. Positive attitude. And be able to move with the changing times. This is actually Talent. Talent is the ability to learn new things. Skills get outdated fast in this fast changing landscape while talent is something which stays with one forever.

Bonus – how to kick off an interview

So you got a rockstar engineer to come in and have a chat with you.. what next?

  • Interviewing is a 2 way street. You are interviewing the candidate and the candidate is interviewing you. This especially applies for rockstar engineers. Don’t forget this and try to make their experience as pleasurable (and memorable) as possible.
  • Start the process by asking the candidate “What is your most proudest moment in your professional career”. This gets the candidate talking and you can listen, gauge and ask specific questions to drill down into topics that might not have made to their resume.
  • Draw a mindmap as the candidate talks about their proudest moment. This is there to help you understand, navigate and ask better questions. Also shows to the candidate you are paying attention. Remember, your interviewing a rockstar engineering.

More on hiring

If you found this post useful and are now thirsty for more hiring hacks, check out my extensive list of posts (notes) from events I attended where the likes of Auren Hoffman (Rapleaf), Russell Fradin (Dynamic Signal), Dan Arkind (JobScore) etc… shared their experiences.

Have questions? use the comments section below or contact me.

Are you a rockstar engineer?

Then I want to speak to you. We are hiring for many exciting positions at coupons.com.

Coupons.com is located in Silicon Valley (California) and is the leading provider of consumer-printed coupon marketing and technology solutions leading the shift from print based couponing to Internet delivery, a $6.6 billion per year industry. Coupons.com recently got valued at $1 billion company. Contact me to find out more.

~ Ernest

Hiring Hacks for Founders

The last 2 weeks I attended courses on Attracting, Hiring and Retaining the Best People and Top 5 HR Mistakes & Compensation 101. It was organized by StartupDigest University, the insider’s guide to the startup world. This week was session 3, the last of the series and it was a ripper! (Aussie slang for excellent). The topic was Hiring Hacks for Founders.

“Right now there is a war on talent. The entire technology sector is hiring, virtually every startup (alive) is hiring, and VC’s are even creating newsletters to help their startups hire. Hiring is the most important function of a startup founder/CEO. With the talent war raging, it is clear that finding and hiring the best people is one of the most challenging aspects of an entrepreneur’s job. Developers are elusive and expensive, and it’s hard to find a business or marketing person among the noise.” ~ StartupDigest

This evening had 3 great speakers which filled the event with tactical knowledge and inspiration rather than just inspirational rhetoric. There was no bullshit. The folks in the room were A-players, smart and were thirsty for education which would serve as the arsenal of hiring tips and tricks.

Here’s what happened.

How Interns can be a game changer by Nathan Parcells, Founder at InternMatch

Nathan Parcells, Founder at InternMatch
Nathan Parcells, Founder at InternMatch

Nathan covered how Interns can add value and be a game changer for your startup. He also spoke about how to recruit top interns and tips and tricks for intern management.

Full blog post is located here: http://www.theroadtosiliconvalley.com/jobs/interns-startup-nathan-parcells-internmatch/

Hiring Hacks by Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore

Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore
Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore

Dan covered everything you need to know from hiring to retaining top talent and how to build culture around having and being the best in the industry. He gave plenty of examples and techniques on how this is achieved including kick ass Hiring Hacks. He sent a clear message to Hire for TALENT (ability to learn new things) vs Skills (stuff you already know) since skills get outdated fast while talent.

Full blog post is located here: http://www.theroadtosiliconvalley.com/jobs/hire-hacks-dan-arkind-jobscore/

Closing like a Champion by Russell Fradin, Investor & CEO of Adify

Russell Fradin, Investor & CEO of Adify
Russell Fradin, Investor & CEO of Adify

Russell covered how to close like a Champion once you have found great talent including the process to follow and the post-offer. He sent a clear message to never forget that people work for people. They do not work for companies.

Full blog post is located here: http://www.theroadtosiliconvalley.com/jobs/closing-champions-russell-fradin-adify/

Isn’t this educational and inspirational! Great content from great founders that know what it takes to hire the best people. So this was part 2 of 3 and I will be posting links to full videos of the event later in the week – so come back to check this blog for more updates.

Happy hiring!

~ Ernest

Linked mentioned in this post

Hiring & Closing like a Champion

This is the full post from StartupDigest: Hiring Hacks for Founders. Organized by StartupDigest University, the insider’s guide to the startup world.

Russell Fradin, Investor & CEO of Dynamic Signal

Russell Fradin, Investor & CEO of Adify
Russell Fradin, Investor & CEO of Dynamic Signal

About Russell:

  • Russ Fradin co-founded Adify with Larry Braitman and Rick Thompson.
  • Most recently, Fradin was the SVP of business development for Wine.com, the internet’s largest seller of wine, where he was responsible for creating new revenue channels for the business.
  • Before joining Wine.com, Fradin was the EVP of corporate development for comScore Networks. He began at comScore in 2000 before comScore signed its first customer and was responsible for starting many of the company’s businesses as well as structuring strategic alliances.
  • Fradin began his career at Flycast Communications and had a number of roles during his four-year tenure, finally serving as Flycast/Engage’s VP of business development.
  • He holds a BS from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

The presentation notes:

  • Inability to recruit & retain talent is one of the main reasons startups fail.
  • Company changes due to better people, not you.
  • Working at a start-up:
    • It’s a lifestyle decision.
    • Don’t hire assholes – it gets harder to close good talent.
    • Exits are great but nothing beats March 9.
    • Be more intellectually fulfilled.

Best way to close talented people

  • Be organised, diligent and respectful on every touch point. Make sure that when you close that person they will want to work with you.
  • Design a hiring process that encourages a “yes”.
  • Transparency on timing, compensation and equity.
  • Look for the right person (recall March 9) rather than filling head count.

Process

  • Don’t over-promise (promotion, raise, valuation, responsibility etc)
  • Your selling a growth plan – use your examples of growth.
  • Make your jobs sound cool.
  • Remember hiring someone great BEGINS the process.
  • The more information you give people the better since both parties need to find the right fit. Therefore find out what “they” need and want in life. Find a match between your and their career growth.
  • Sell vision, team and culture.
  • Great employees are worth your company. That’s what these company acquisition are, talent acquisitions.

Post-offer

  • Remember, people work for people. They do not work for companies.
  • Networking helps by attending social events.
  • Hire 1st a couple of great people and look after them well. They will help you drive forward and get more like-minded people on board.
  • The hardest thing to do is get someone great with their own great idea to work on your great idea. Give them time and try again.

Happy hiring!

Other StartupDigest Seminars covered by Ernest Semerda:

~ Ernest

Linked mentioned in this post

Hire Hacks

This is the full post from StartupDigest: Hiring Hacks for Founders. Organized by StartupDigest University, the insider’s guide to the startup world.

Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore

Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore
Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore

About Dan:

  • Dan brings recruiting experience and vision to JobScore. Dan spent seven years with OTEC, the recruiting firm that spun off Hotjobs.com.
  • Dan co-founded OTEC’s Silicon Valley search practice, training a team of recruiters and placing personnel at early stage enterprise software, internet services, media and content companies.
  • Dan holds a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University.
  • Dan runs a very informative and professional blog called “The Art and Science of Recruiting” located here: http://blog.jobscore.com/

The presentation notes:

  • Only hiring friends = FAIL.
  • A great startup hiring process is where the candidate doesn’t know you.
    • “We Start With the Customer and We Work Backward.” ~ Jeff Bezos on Amazon’s success.
  • Work backwards using 3 month milestones.
  • Change is the only constant in startups.
  • You will constantly iterate and rework plans.
  • Create a Plan to get from A to B. This means Goal setting – Today, 3 months to 6 months. As shown below in the picture.

    Hiring Plan
    Hiring Plan

Getting it right

  1. Set clear goals and time-lines.
  2. Sequence and Prioritize.
  3. Assess existing talent skills & expertise inc. throughput.
  4. Build vs. Buy.
  5. Vet with experts.

Job Description – 90% effort spend is required on the first 2 and 10% effort on the last. However most spend on the last 2 (points 3 & 4). Make sure you cover:

  1. What we do (commonly forgotten)
  2. What you’ll do (commonly forgotten)
  3. Need to have (most time spent)
  4. Nice to have (most time spent)

Interviews

Interviewing
Interviewing
  • Interviewing takes time.  Therefore write down all learnings and how-to’s so you can iterate and improve.
  • Establish “core values” and a plan how you will interview people to match those.
  • Drive, Personality & Talent TRUMPS over Skills.
  • To reduce stress on the candidate, explain to them the full interview process e.g. what’s going to happen, who will interview them, how to get to the firm etc. Remember that normally people are not stressed during their day job and so will always perform differently under stress.
  • Document feedback and meet immediately after with the interview team to evaluate the candidate against multiple criteria. Make this a habit early in the company so that everyone follows it.
  • Sample feedback form:

    Sample feedback form
    Sample feedback form
  • Engineer your questions, then iterate on failure to spend more time on qualified candidates.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions upfront if you can close a candidate eg. wage, last time bonus, figure out what they want.
  • People should not flip out if rejected. If they do, hang up on them. Life is too short.
  • Only send written offer letter once the candidate has verbally accepted the offer. If they don’t verbally accept, talk to them until they do or stay in-touch until they accept and only then send the job offer.
  • Referrals are exceptions – Just Sell, do not assess.
  • Hiring requires focus – 10 at once, not 10 in 3 months. Choice is good!
  • Turn interviewees into advocates. Turn your company into a magnet so everyone talks about it. Pitch these.  Candidates should come to you.
  • How to pitch a job – mission (where you are going), status, team, pain (customer problem you are solving) and opportunity (goals – see above).
    • The people: prompt, prepared, fun, engaging and smart.
    • The office: cool, light filled, modern, comfortable and big monitors!
  • Sell you – what you can teach, your personality, your resume and your vision.

Hiring Hacks

  • Express a problem, not skills, to get to candidates. e.g. instead of asking for python developer ask for someone who developed high scalable open source cloud solutions.
  • Be specific when wanting to hire someone so that you can generate stronger referrals.
  • Ask for referrals (and you get advice), Ask for advice (and you get referrals).
  • Your company is your people. Get the right ones. Even if it means moving heaven and earth to hire proven commodities.
  • Hire like an investor. Equity is your currency. Get it. Spend it.
  • Be hyper aggressive in the 1st year.
  • Hire for TALENT vs Skills.
    • Talent is the ability to learn new things.
    • Skills is the stuff you already know how to do.
    • Skills get outdated fast in this fast changing landscape while talent is something which stays with you forever.
  • If you don’t believe your special. Quit. Since you need to believe you will change the world in order to compete with the likes of Facebook et al.
  • Job market doesn’t matter since it’s never of a recessive nature. There is always a market for smart people.
  • Make bets – cliffs and vesting are you friends.
  • “Fire Fast” – create a culture where that’s possible.

Happy hiring!

Other StartupDigest Seminars covered by Ernest Semerda:

~ Ernest

Linked mentioned in this post

How Interns can be a game changer

This is the full post from StartupDigest: Hiring Hacks for Founders. Organized by StartupDigest University, the insider’s guide to the startup world.

Nathan Parcells, Founder at InternMatch

Nathan Parcells, Founder at InternMatch
Nathan Parcells, Founder at InternMatch

About Nathan:

  • Nathan graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania where he double-majored in Economics and International Relations.
  • Nathan gained experience in marketing while working at Arnold Worldwide and in the environmental community after completing internships at both the National Audubon Society and the National Parks Conservation Association.
  • Seeking adventure and the outdoors, Nathan spent his summer before graduation sailing the Labrador coast of NE Canada in a crew of six and with no prior sailing experience. This trip furthered Nathan’s interest in the environment, confronting challenges, and learning in new situations.
  • Currently Nathan enjoys working on InternMatch and meeting new people as the platform grows.

The presentation notes:

1. How interns add value

Interns can be experienced – especially in the current economy there is a lot of highly skilled individuals both young and senior. Some benefits of hiring an intern include:

  • It’s a back door of hiring top talent.
  • Get part-time help at a discount.
  • Fill in gaps on the founding team.
  • Gain early evangelists.
  • Hear an outside perspective.

2. How to Recruit top interns

Places to look:

  • Internship sites like InternMatch.com.
  • Direct from colleagues.
  • Craigslist – however you wont find the upper echelon there.

Pitching:

  • Pitch what you do well – sell the vision of the company.
  • Promote your investors, press coverage and the team talent to illustrate a great environment.
  • Let the intern know what they will learn especially the stuff that they cannot from a school.

3. Tips and tricks for intern management

  • Assign a dedicated manager to the intern.
  • Grab coffee with them once a week.
  • Explain the intern’s work in the context of the bigger company picture.
  • Give really clear deadlines on projects like at school eg. iterations with feedback.
  • Use Non-Monetary Rewards to motivate them. 99% of them are not there for the money. They are there for the culture, experience, networking and knowledge to set them apart in the marketplace.
Other StartupDigest Seminars covered by Ernest Semerda:

~ Ernest

Linked mentioned in this post

Top 5 HR Mistakes & Compensation 101

Last week I attended a course on Attracting, Hiring and Retaining the Best People. It was session 1 of 3 organized by StartupDigest University, the insider’s guide to the startup world. Yesterday was session 2 and the topic was Top 5 HR Mistakes & Compensation 101.

“Right now there is a war on talent. The entire technology sector is hiring, virtually every startup (alive) is hiring, and VC’s are even creating newsletters to help their startups hire. Hiring is the most important function of a startup founder/CEO. With the talent war raging, it is clear that finding and hiring the best people is one of the most challenging aspects of an entrepreneur’s job. Developers are elusive and expensive, and it’s hard to find a business or marketing person among the noise.” ~ StartupDigest

This evening had 2 great speakers which filled the event with tactical knowledge and inspiration rather than just inspirational rhetoric. There was no bullshit. The folks in the room were A-players, smart and were thirsty for education which would serve as the arsenal of hiring tips and tricks.

Here’s what happened.

Brian Helmick, Founder & Managing Partner at Algentis

Brian Helmick, Founder & Managing Partner at Algentis
Brian Helmick, Founder & Managing Partner at Algentis

About Brian:

  • Brian Helmick is the founder of Algentis, an HR Software & Services firm that simplifies operations for small and medium-sized businesses by assuming the burden of HR administration.
  • Algentis provides a technology-enabled service offering which seamlessly integrates HR compliance, payroll, benefits, and insurance.
  • Algentis helps startup clients with all the headaches associated with HR, so entrepreneurs can focus on the core aspects of their business.
  • Website: http://algentis.com/

The presentation notes covered 5 HR mistakes:

1. Misclassification of Workers

  • There are strict IRS guidelines and the choice isnt yours. Learn those guidelines or speak to a specialist.
  • Most startups break this law.
  • If an employee is made to work strict 9-5 hours on a computer provided by the employer then they are labelled as an “employee”. Else, a contractor. Some employers get around this label by adding computer expense into employee’s salary vs providing them the tool/s.

2. Errors in Hiring

  • Improper interview questions – personal type like age, race, state etc. this can lead to being sued should the unsuccessful candidate believe it was due to these personal questions they were not hired.
  • Hiring for skills and not fit. Companies change so hire for fit to make sure to retain great employees.
  • Ask for candidate references and then ask the references for another degree of references. You need to really know how this person is and not what their friend (reference) scripted.

3. Improper Documentation

  • Don’t use your friends legal documents. They are not fit for your purpose.
  • Average cost to defend against an employee claim is $150K.
  • On average, most HR issues are not seen until the company hits the magic 20 employees.
  • Poor documentation of performance, attendance & misconduct. When you document make sure it is stored in a safe & secure place.
  • Wrongful termination award is $125K.
  • Do quarterly reviews – to speed up the process get the employee to do self reviews and no more than 3 questions with a scale.

4. Errors with Employee Terminations

  • Too slow to fire – always. Nobody ever complains about firing somebody too quickly.
  • An under-performer is incredibly costly financially, your time and morale.
  • A lot of this is due to the “termination discussion” which is not fin and mostly emotional.
    • Start with the conclusion and keep it short.
    • Make it clear that the decision has already been made.
    • Be sensitive of the other person’s feeling – do not let it get personal.
    • Severance is highly recommended to minimize getting sued especially if the employee is volatile. But do not make this a policy since it can be used against you.
    • If the employee threatens to sue you. End the conversation and contact your lawyer.
    • Finally, always give the final paycheck on the employee’s last day.

5. Unsuitable Benefits & Insurance

  • Workers compensation insurance of at least $100K is legally required.
  • Choosing benefits:
    • Basic = Medical only
    • Basic plus = Dental, Vision and FSA
    • Premium = Medical, Vision, FSA, Transportation, Unexpected life events and 401K.
  • Having a good plan helps with recruiting.

Compensation 101

Before you begin, always work out your strategy e.g. low cash and high equity reward or high cash and low equity. Don’t shy away on spending if you find the perfect person.

There are 3 components:

  1. Cash
    • Easiest for both to value.
    • Cash bonuses have mixed review – they are not properly valued by employees if at 10-15% of their base salary. Best to give this as merit instead.
    • Studies have shown that behavior changes at 25%+ of base salary. Which is why it works so well in Sales and Financial Services industry.
  2. Benefits & Rewards
    • Small personal incentives like a restaurant / theater voucher or a letter to spouse are most powerful.
    • They help build the company culture and show that the employer cares. Yet are cheaper to implement then a 10K bonus.
  3. Equity
    • Common terms:
      Vesting 3-5 years
      Cliff 1 year
      Expiration 90 days after employee leaves
      Buy back Company to buy back the options
    • Equity split for non-founders:
      COO 2-5%
      Cxx 1-3%
      VP of Eng. 2-4%
      Other VPs 1-3%
      Directors 2-5%
      COO 0.75-1.5%
      Key Eng. Roles 0.25-1.5%

Taso Du Val, Co-Founder and CEO of TopTal

Taso Du Val, Co-Founder and CEO of TopTal
Taso Du Val, Co-Founder and CEO of TopTal

About Taso:

  • As an early and lead engineer at Fotolog (Acquired by Hi-Media for $100m), Slide (Acquired by Google for $224m), and his own companies, Taso brings unprecedented top management and engineering experience to TopTal.
  • While running a small consulting firm, he recognized that while many of his co-workers overseas were just as good as his friends and colleagues at Google, Facebook, and other companies with notable top engineering talent, it was simply impossible to find them.
  • TopTal was created as a solution to the sky-rocketing demand for top engineers in Silicon Valley, US, and Europe despite the shrinking local graduate rates of such engineers.
  • Website: http://toptal.com/

The presentation notes:

  • There are 4 types of labor outsourcing:
  1. Traditional outsourcing – using consulting firms.
  2. Democratized outsourcing – providers of a virtual marketplace for freelancers and freelance agencies to negotiate work contracts with businesses that hire independent professionals and agencies.
  3. Crowdsourcing – Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call.
  4. Top sourcing – sourcing company full of expertise and knowledge to help businesses cut procurement costs.
    • Companies in this space include: toptal etc.

  • Managing remote labor:
    • Learn to manage your local staff well before managing remote staff.
    • Communication is VERY important.
    • Product is the most important thing. Period.
    • When your remote talent is better than your best developer, you know you’re doing it right.
    • Use Skype excessively (24/7).
    • If 2 days go by without communication, fire instantly.
    • Expose them to Silicon Valley (TechCrunch, Quora etc).
    • Use PivotalTracker or similar Project Management tools.
    • Daily Scrum (development) works very well.
  • A note on communication with foreign hires:
    • Proper English != Communication
    • Bad English != Bad Communication

Isnt this educational and inspirational! Great content from great founders that know what it takes to hire the best people. So this was part 2 of 3 and I will be posting links to full videos of the event later in the week – so come back to check this blog for more updates.

Happy hiring!

~ Ernest

Linked mentioned in this post