November 24, 2015

What I Learned from Blowing An Interview

Some time ago, I was a development manager with 23 reports spread over four teams.

When I joined the company, they had already made the transition from “smart people in a room,” to having a repeatable process. And they had been able to grow from a pair of Waterloo graduates to about forty engineers, half of whom were in my group. After a series of embarrassing schedule SNAFUs, the company had doubled down on process, instituting rigid Big Design Up Front and scheduling weekly reviews of the ubiquitous waterfall GANTT charts. This had helped, but the schedule kept slipping.

I had joined to lead a small team, and I brought a different tool, Agile, to the table. After my small team had hit several targets in a row, I was promoted to manage four teams, and with the new approach, the group hit its ship date for the very first time.

I was well-regarded within the company, and happy. However, a friend worked for a startup with excellent prospects, and he convinced me that I ought to fly down to Cupertino and interview for the VP of Engineering role. They were growing like crazy, and needed to go beyond “a bunch of smart people in a room.” I’d be the most senior non-founder, and it would mean a chance to build the engineering organization.


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