Spence Taylor is an Engineering Manager at New Relic who runs the Central Hiring Program.
Born in Compton, California, he had a very unorthodox journey to tech. Trying to find the right fit for his career, Spence has worked in the military, event management, hospitality, and finally found his place in tech. Working as an engineer, he experienced many issues with current hiring practices and has always been passionate about improving the hiring process.
Now with the Central Hiring Program at New Relic, he hopes to find ways to improve the hiring process for both interviewers and interviewees and implement effective diverse hiring practices.
This season, we’re helping you level up your interviewing skills! Each week Lauren Lee, Danny Ramos, and industry experts will offer advice on navigating career progression within tech.
Do you have ideas about how we can make our show better? Or would you like to be a guest on an upcoming episode? Reach out to our #devrel team at email@example.com. We would LOVE to hear from you with any questions, curiosities, and/or feedback you have in hopes of making this the best show possible!
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Inside Scoop – What Companies Are Doing to Make The Interviewing Process Better with Spence Taylor
Topics Covered On This Episode:
- Common Hiring Practices and Interview Pipelines
- Interviewing The Interviewer
- Overcoming Unconcious Bias
- Technical Take-Home Challenges
- Asking For Interview Feedback
- Cultivating Good Interviewing Skills
- Combatting Interviewee Anxiety
- Best Networking Practices
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Danny Ramos: What's up, everybody? Welcome to another episode of Launchies. At this point, you know you're...what are we? Four episodes in, my God, and you're still here. You're sticking around. We love you. We appreciate you.
Lauren Lee: We do. Hi. Hi, everyone. [laughs]
Danny: Oh yeah. Lauren is here too. [laughter]
Lauren: It's like, he is just going. He's driving right in. Why chit-chat when we can interview with an industry mentor and understand what companies are doing to make the space better? I get it.
Danny: Exactly, exactly. There's no time for chit-chat here.
Lauren: I would like a little bit of chit-chat in that I haven't seen you in a really long time. [laughter] Hi, how are you?
Danny: Yeah, we could chit-chat. [laughter] It's just like, these people want jobs. They're trying to learn.
Lauren: I know. We got to prioritize that.
Danny: I did just get back from Mexico, so we can talk about that. [laughs]
Lauren: Your trip looked great. We missed you. I hope you feel rested. [laughs]
Danny: No, and that's the problem. You know when you go on vacation, and you come back, and you're like I --
Lauren: Don't say it. You need a vacay from your vacay. [laughter]
Danny: Yes, people say that, and I always thought it was dumb. But now I'm that guy.
Lauren: Wow. Well, that's fun, ever-evolving.
Danny: I'm just loving my picture this. [laughs]
Lauren: Okay, sure. Take us there.
Danny: Listener, I am Mexican. I'm inside most of the day. But in Mexico, I got so tan that I walked into the coffee shop yesterday and the girl that I see every morning was like, "Oh my God, Danny, you are brown." And I was like...and I just did a little twirl. I was like, "Yes."
Lauren: Oh, you did?
Danny: [laughs] Yeah. I was like, well, I just was in Mexico. And she was like, "Is Danny short for Daniel?" And I was like, "Yeah, but I only hear Daniel when my mom's mad at me." And she's like, "Oh, haha." She was like, "I thought you were Mexican, but now I definitely can see you're Mexican." I was like, "I don't know what that means, but I'll take an iced coffee to go." [laughter]
Lauren: That coffee shop you have such...wow. Okay. I have nothing to say to that. I really missed you. [laughter] I, too, commented on your level of tanness, actually. When we were midway through our call, I think I looked over in the Zoom boxes, and I was like, "Whoa. Hey. Look at you, sunkissed."
Danny: Weren't you...you were somewhere.
Lauren: I live in South Florida. So I went on a babymoon, which is like a millennial's invention of a vacation holiday away.
Danny: Oh, babymoon. I was like, what the --
Lauren: [laughs] Yeah, it's a time before the baby comes. But we just went to the beach and stayed in a hotel.
Danny: Aww, that's cute.
Lauren: I live about a mile away from the beach. But it was nice to be away from responsibilities and have some time off from work and those sorts of things. So yeah, kind of just like time to be present in my relationship knowing that it's about to change a lot, I guess was the concept.
Danny: Oh wow. Actually, that's good that you did that. That's really good.
Lauren: It was, dare I say, feel ready for what's coming? But I'm sure I will laugh at myself later on when like a baby [inaudible 3:52] lives in my house, and I am responsible for it. [laughs]
Danny: What have I done?
Lauren: Yes, exactly. But yeah, so we were both away. So we thank you, listeners, for allowing us to do a brief check-in with one another because, yeah, we haven't seen each other's faces for a while. But we did record this conversation a while ago, and we're really excited for you all to hear it. It's a really cool conversation with Spence, who is a colleague at New Relic. And I feel like I'm so proud about the conversation because what he talks about our company doing changing wise for the industry is really incredible.
Danny: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I was really surprised because I was just talking to him because we're both in Relics of Color. And we were just chatting, and he's like, "Oh yeah, I'm like a boomerang employee," which I'd never heard the term because he was here then left and then came back. I was like, "Oh, did you get the same role?" And he's like, "Oh no, I'm doing this, this, and this helping with the interview process." And I was like, [laughs] oh, do I have a podcast for you. [laughter]
Lauren: Oh my gosh, I find myself if anyone brings up that they're interviewing or that they're searching for a job, I am just like shameless plugging left and right. "Sounds like you'd be a great guest." [laughter]
Danny: But you have to listen and download and subscribe to all the episodes first, and then we'll consider you. [laughter]
Lauren: Oh my gosh. Okay, well, I suppose shall we just dive right in and get to our conversation with Spence?
Danny: Let's go.
Lauren: Okay, cool.
Spence is an Engineering Manager at New Relic who runs the Central Hiring Program. Born in Compton, California, he had a very unorthodox journey to tech. Trying to find the right fit for his career, Spence has worked in the military, event management, hospitality, and finally found his place in tech. Working as an engineer, he experienced many issues with current hiring practices and has always been passionate about improving the hiring process. Now with the Central Hiring Program at New Relic, he hopes to find ways to improve the hiring process for both interviewers and interviewees and implement effective diverse hiring practices. Everyone, please welcome Spence Taylor to Launchies.
Spence Taylor: So happy to be here with you both.
Lauren: [laughs] We're so happy to be chatting with you. This is right up our alley. You're hitting all the buzzwords we're excited about. [laughter]
Spence: Yeah, once Danny told me about what you guys were doing this season on Launchies, I was like, that sounds amazing. I'd love to be on the show.
Lauren: It's so cool that your job is thinking about these things all day, every day. [laughs] I'm obsessed.
Spence: It's weird because my job title is engineering manager, but I don't have a set team. I literally just focus on discovering and hiring talent and then sending them off to go find their perfect fit within the company.
Lauren: That's so cool. Yeah, that's so interesting. I have so many questions. How do you even find yourself in this space? But I won't jump ahead. [laughter]
Danny: We'll get there. There's a story arc to this all.
Lauren: Okay. I understand. I see you cringing when I'm like, give me it. [laughter]
Spence: She's like, I want it, and I want it now. [laughter]
Lauren: My bad.
Danny: So anyway, Spence, can you give us a little bit more about your background? What even got you interested in software development in the first place? How did you even get to know the interview process as just a young, new person?
Spence: Like I said in the bio, my route to tech was very unorthodox. When I got out of high school, I didn't have any plans whatsoever. And it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to join the Navy. So I did that for...it was literally like me and my best friend were going to a party, and he was like, "Hey, I'm joining the Navy." And I was like, "Well, I'm not staying here, so I'm going too."
Lauren: "I guess I am also." Oh my God. [laughter]
Danny: I was expecting that you walk into the party, and the Navy is just there and like, okay, cool. [laughter]
Spence: But that's what's really funny is like, after that weekend, I'm walking to school on Monday, and this Navy recruiter just stops me. He's like, "Hey, you want to join the Navy?" And I was like, "Oh, okay. I guess this is the spot."
Lauren: Perfect timing. [laughter]
Danny: Oh my God.
Lauren: Oh my gosh.
Spence: Yeah, it was wild. So I did that for four years. And when I was in the Navy, I was what's called a cryptologic technician. And it's just a really fancy way to say that I listened to signals on the UHF VHF band for hours on end with headphones on.
Spence: But our system was in Unix, and we had to write these reports. So I basically wrote like a script in Bash in order to write my reports out.
Danny: Oh, what?
Spence: Yeah, so I did a little bit of programming, just a little tiny bit to make my job easier. So throughout my life, tech has always been a part of me at every step. But when I got out, I decided that I wanted to be a chef, so I did that for six years. I really loved that life. It's chaotic, and I thrive in chaos. I like when there are new challenges every day. So that really informs the type of jobs that I get excited about.
The only issue with working in the kitchen is there is a terrible work-life balance, and you don't get paid a lot. So like I told Danny before, most cooks or not most because I won't speak for everybody but at least me, I would go home and there'd be no food in my fridge. Because after paying all my bills, I really couldn't afford to have a bunch of stuff.
Lauren: Oh, the irony of being in a kitchen also, too.
Danny: That's exactly what I was going to say. [laughs]
Spence: Yeah, so you eat a lot at work, but honestly, at home, there's barely anything, so you try to make ends meet. And I lived in Los Angeles, which is like one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. I mean, it's no San Francisco, but it's pretty close. I was looking for work-life balance, and my roommate at the time was a game developer. He was like, "You should try writing code." He's like, "You're pretty smart. You can do it."
So I started taking online courses, and I was really interested. I was having the time of my life. But I just realized there was so much that I didn't really know what I should be studying in order to get a job.
Lauren: For sure. It's such a big...the advice of like, you should learn to code. And just where do you even get started with that? is a whole other conversation, right?
Spence: Right. You spend four or five hours like, which language should I start with?
Lauren: Literally. Yeah, exactly. And everyone has a different opinion. That's a nightmare.
Spence: So I decided I needed direction. So I found a bootcamp in San Francisco.
Spence: I moved there, did my program, and landed my first job seven months after starting.
Danny: Keep in mind that during his program, he was living in a hostel in the Mission; shared one room with three other people.
Spence: Yeah. It was at Tenderloin. And I shared a hotel room-sized room and not a normal hotel room, like, a San Francisco size hotel room with two other people.
Lauren: Noo. Oh my gosh.
Spence: So like three twin beds, and a tiny refrigerator, and a closet, and a bathroom, and that's it for nine months
Lauren: The dedication to code. [laughter] Wow, good for you. So landing that first gig must have felt like, yep, this is pivotal.
Spence: Yeah, it was awesome. It was really awesome. I felt like I made it. My life has been a lot different. I did that startup for six months, and then it wasn't really working out. But I got a recommendation to come join New Relic, and it's been amazing. I love New Relic. It changed my outlook on my tech career because I didn't really have the best working environment in my first job.
And I wasn't looking forward to interviewing again because my interviewing experiences were always terrible. It was like, oh, do these algorithms. But those algorithms that they would have me do weren't something that I was going to be doing for my job. So I was always like, is this the work that I'm expected to do, balancing this red-black tree? And if I never have to go back and read Cracking the Coding Interview again...anyone who has to read that book, it's torturous. There's nothing enjoyable about it.
Lauren: I use it as a doorstop in my house [laughter] because it's like, you are toxic. I do not need you in my life other than as a piece of furniture.
Danny: Why I mentioned Spence living in that room or working within that room and living in that space every single day and knowing that you're like, I just want a job. I just want to get this tech job and be able to change my life. And at that point, you probably didn't even care about any part of the interview process. You were like, I just want to get through it. I just want to get through it. So, was there a certain point where you were just like, wait a minute, other people experience different things, or you were like, this is not the same everywhere?
Spence: Actually, when I was in bootcamp, me and the group of people that I worked with every day the school wanted us to wait until the program was over before we started interviewing. San Francisco is a very expensive city, and we're not working. And this is a longer program than most. So me and my friends were like, "No, we're interviewing now. After three months, after we do the first portion, we need to figure out how to interview now."
Because everyone was telling us like, "Interviewing is a skill. It's very different from the work that you do," which is a weird thing to tell someone who's spending all this time and money trying to train to become an engineer. I'm learning these skills, and I can't even use them on the interview? Like, that's crazy.
Lauren: It's so backward.
Spence: But once I started interviewing, I realized they were right. It's different. I remember my first phone interview. I had to do a LeetCode exercise over the phone, and I'm sweating. The guy cannot even see me, but I'm super anxious and nervous because it's my first interview. And I just wasn't used to the format or what I was supposed to do. I would get flustered because I knew what to do just in the heat of the moment; it's like a shotgun interview. I get 15 minutes to do this exercise, and that’s really stressful. So yeah, this was the beginning of me realizing interviewing sucks. It really sucks.
Lauren: So that brings us to then what you're doing today at New Relic. What are the things that are really practices that we're trying to change? And what are the ones that you're hoping to take to the wayside? Or is that the analogy? I can't think of the phrase I'm trying to say here.
Danny: I think you're doing that thing where you're trying to think of another word.
Lauren: Move to the wayside?
Danny: Move to the wayside? I think lift up and put over -- [laughter]
Lauren: Like, get rid of, take to the trash.
Spence: To the left to the left. [laughter]
Lauren: Thank you. Thank you. That's it. That's exactly it. [laughs]
Spence: One, some interview processes are very long. I saw a tweet the other day this woman was applying at a FAANG company. And she went through 15 rounds of interviews only to be told that both of the teams that she was interviewing for went with someone else. So the first thing is being respectful of people's time.
Yeah, you're a company, and you're about to pay this person a lot of money, but that doesn't mean you get to waste people's time. So I think having a more, I don't want to call it short, but just a better content pace interviewing pipeline where you can easily discover if this person has the skills that you're looking for instead of making them jump through all these hoops.
So, for instance, in Central Hiring, our process is the recruiter screen, the hiring manager screen where I, as the hiring manager, interview you about your resume and then go through a small conversational exercise to get a feel for where your skill level is. So right now, I'm hiring a senior engineer, so I need to know if they can architect the system. So we do a small system design exercise for 30 minutes. And it's purely conversational, just like at a high level to see if you understand what you need to build a system. So it's just like a quick screen.
And then, after that, we do a take-home challenge. And that should take about two hours, again, being really respectful of time. We don't want you to be working on something for five to six hours. It should only take you about two hours. You send that back; I evaluate it. If that's done well, then I invite you in for your final interview, which is the panel and our panel interview for our process is three hours.
Lauren: And you're not spreading it out over many weeks of time either, hopefully.
Spence: So usually, a candidate, on average, is going through my pipeline in two to three weeks.
Lauren: Oh, wow.
Spence: And that depends on scheduling, so just making sure you can put that time aside. And being respectful that you have a job that you're currently working at, and I can't just tell you that you need to be here today.
Lauren: Right. But being flexible on when does this work for you? And trying to make sure that you prioritize that. I love that. Wow.
Danny: That brings up a good point because two to three weeks, I'm imagining you're trying to narrow it down as small as you can. But there are probably things happening on the interviewer's side that complicate things that maybe the interviewee doesn't really know. Is there anything that you could talk to us about, like what are some aspects in the interview process that is difficult for the interviewer?
Spence: A lot of interviewers walk into some interviews...or in general, as humans, we have this unconscious bias. It's really hard for interviewers to stay objective. It depends on the disposition that day. Is that person having a great day or a bad day? All of that informs their process. So we make it a huge point when all of my interviewers are volunteers from other teams, so they go through training, and we make it a huge point to talk about unconscious bias, making sure that you're being objective when you're evaluating.
I have an Excel spreadsheet that I use for all of the feedback during our interviews, and they're sent to the interviewer separately so that way, they're not affected by our earlier interview and reading those comments. So making sure that they interview in a vacuum, just being aware, we very specifically set out what they should be looking for.
Even though they're doing a technical interview, we're not judging you on your ability to finish the technical; we're judging you on your decision-making and how you go about solving the problem. So you are doing a technical interview, but we're more focused on how you work as opposed to did you get this thing done? Where's your knowledge at? How do you work? Those things are important.
Danny: That's such a good thing to hear from someone who is deeply involved in the interview process for a company because you can hear that from an instructor. Like, "They're not going to hire you if you finish it. So they want to see how you work and what decisions you can make." But you'd be like, okay, well, I don't know, it always ends up where you don't finish the technical challenge, and then you feel like crap afterwards because you're like --
Lauren: It's the first thing you hear, everyone..."How'd it go?" They say, "I finished it," or "I didn't finish it." That is the thing that they're evaluating in their head. But it's cool. I don't know; it's tough. We want to perform our best. We want to get the perfect answer. But I think if we just say it enough times that no, modeling what it's like to work with you and have you on the team is really what we're trying to see. What will it be like to have you added on in the group to process how we're solving these problems or approaching the problems?
Spence: Yeah, 100%, and to also help with that for the panel. So I also help out with Ignite, which is our early in career program for people who are coming out of bootcamps or college to become associate software engineers.
Spence: For the process in both programs, we use the take-home challenge in the final interview. So the Ignite Program is usually adding features to the code you've already written. It's actually the same in both programs. So when you're walking into the technical, you're not walking in blind because you know it's what you've already worked on. So you're just expanding upon that.
So it kind of gives you a little bit more confidence because this is your code, and you're not starting from fresh. And all you have to do is add another feature. And there are levels. Like in Ignite, there are easier features to implement, and then there are advanced features to implement. So there's a wide range. And you don't have to get pigeonholed in something that you don't know how to do.
Lauren: You're being so thoughtful about challenging what is the traditional whiteboard interview, like, stand in front of us and tackle this algorithm problem. So first off, I really appreciate that you're doing that work. But for the listeners that do have to whiteboard interview and do that algorithm, is your advice just to not work there? [laughter] What do we say to them? I don't know.
Danny: I was going to ask, does that still happen?
Spence: It does still happen.
Danny: Oh my God.
Lauren: And places pride themselves on still doing that, especially in the FAANG space.
Spence: Yeah, Cracking the Coding Interview still has a purpose.
Lauren: LeetCode, like all of that 100%.
Spence: I think in those instances, it all depends on is this company that you're interviewing for. Is this a company that you really want to work for? I think you got to gauge that interest. Although you are being interviewed by a company, you are also interviewing that company. So if there is something in the interviewing process that doesn't sit right with you, then that's a sign. So I've gotten to a point where if I go to an interview and it's like an algorithmic whiteboarding interview in a cold environment, I don't want to work here.
Because my first interview at New Relic, when I went to the onsite, I didn't even feel like I was being interviewed. I really felt like I was a part of the team, and that's what really made me want to work at New Relic. The interview process was probably the most enjoyable, and it was the first time that I had gone through one where I didn't have any complaints. And it was an enjoyable experience. And another thing that I think should be spoken about is even if someone doesn't pass your interview process, if they find your interviewing process enjoyable, they're going to talk about it. They're going to say, "Yeah, I didn't get this job."
And we make it a point to tell you why you didn't get the job. I think a lot of companies ghost people after they don't pass their interviews. And in my program, I've made it a point to provide feedback for the candidate if they don't pass. So that's why I have the Excel spreadsheet where my interviewers take notes. So then, if a person doesn't pass my interview process, then we give them that spreadsheet so they can know why. There's no; I don't know what happened.
Danny: So they know what to work on.
Danny: Like you said, getting ghosted, which is funny because we have described this process as dating. [laughs]
Lauren: So many different times.
Danny: Yeah, so many times.
Lauren: And we should say that we have an episode coming up on the art of interviewing back the company and what to look for in those moments. So we will drill into that for sure.
Danny: It's just funny to me that yeah, you'll put in all this work like a couple of weeks, and then you get the email like, oh, I'm sorry, but we decided to move on with someone else. And you're like, but why? [laughs]
Lauren: Or they say, "We found someone who's more experienced than you." And it's like, wait, but you recruited me. You came after me. You knew my experience level. I don't know. There's been a lot of frustrating moments where coming from the education industry; I wasn't familiar with recruiting emails. I felt so glamorous when recruiters started reaching out to me. [laughs] But that doesn't guarantee that you're going to get the role either. I did not put those two together until I experienced it.
Danny: Would you always suggest, Spence, that for anyone who's going through the interview process, whether you get the role or not to always ask for feedback afterwards? Even if you do get it, you're like, "Can I actually get feedback on my technical interview? What are some great points that I did, or what were some things I need to work on?" I think that's always nerve-wracking to be like, okay, well, you don't like me, so our relationship here is over.
Spence: I think it's important to ask for feedback. You're not going to always get it from every company. But I think it's important to ask because, for me, I want to grow. If I don't succeed, I still want to know why so I can improve on that process. You should be always striving to improve yourself, and that's just a personal mantra.
If I've gotten the job, I think my manager is going to tell me the things that...or I would hope that my manager would work with me on the things that I need to improve on. And I think that's where one on ones with your manager come into play. So you could have an open discussion about where you want to go as an engineer and also what you should work on.
Lauren: I'm curious about the advice you have for folks that are listening that might be gearing up to go through their first round of interviews or people that are in the industry and are looking to pivot and find a new role or maybe brushing up on their skills. It sounds like you see a lot of interviewees on the day to day basis. [laughs] Are there major missteps that you see people taking or advice that you could share for them?
Spence: Cultivating good interviewing skills. And that can look like doing mock interviews. I think there are a number of websites where people are willing to volunteer their time to do mock interviews with you. Because the moment you walk into your first interview, no matter how prepared you think you are, you are not prepared, [laughs] and your anxiety will rise. It is inevitable.
And it doesn't matter as hard...I've tried many ways of lowering my interviewees' anxiety before we start the interview, and nothing that I do works. I've tried in Ignite. For the coffee screen, we let them Google. They can use whatever tools they want, whatever language they want. They don't have to share their screen with us if they don't want. We try to get them to create the environment that they work best in to lower their anxiety levels as much as possible. And even then, sometimes, you can't beat your initial anxiety, and that's just from lack of experience interviewing.
Lauren: The only way to overcome that is repetition in theory.
Lauren: I've received the advice before. Let's say you're about to do a bunch of interview rounds, or you're declaring to the internet on Twitter that you're looking for a new role. And so you're about to just start taking a ton of screens or recruiter calls. So to set them up so that the first interview is the one you want the least or think you want the least and to save the one that is your Northstar dream job for a little bit later in the process if you have the privilege of being able to orchestrate something like that.
Spence: That's the method that I would recommend as a person who's starting out interviewing, and that's the advice that I received when I first joined. So when I first started looking at jobs, I just applied to everything on earth because it's a numbers game, especially for that first one, that first job, it is a complete numbers game. And you have to just apply for everything.
Especially coming out of a bootcamp, I try to tell people coming out of bootcamps your only goal right now is to get that first job, not to get your dream job on the first go. It's just to get the first job. Get your foot in the door, and then everything else after that becomes a lot easier.
A lot of finding new jobs later on in your career is through the relationships that you make with the people you work with, the events you go to. And I think after my first startup interview, all my jobs came through referrals. I would say, "I'm thinking about finding a new job." And all of my friends were like, "Hey, my company's hiring. You should come try this out." And referrals get looked at before people who apply cold to interviews as well.
Danny: You had talked about how you would go to meetups. I was wondering if you could talk about how that is like an interview process in itself in the way that you would go and introduce yourself to these companies. But what was your process?
Spence: [laughs] I'm not sure how it works in this new world that we live in. But in the before times, in San Francisco, there were literally 5 to 10 meetups every day. And they're at different companies, companies-sponsored meetups. And so, when I was in San Francisco, my original goal for going to meetups was I was hungry, and the food was free.
Lauren: I did the exact same thing when I was in Seattle. [laughter] And it was always pizza usually, but I was like, fine, I will take it.
Spence: Pizza and beer, so free food and drinks. That was my original motivation for going to meetups.
Spence: Once I started going for the free food and drinks, random people would just start talking at the meetups. And they're like, "Oh, what do you do?" and I had like this spiel prepared, "Oh, I go to this bootcamp, and I'm almost done. And I am thinking about looking for jobs. So I'm just going to meetups to meet people and expand my network, so when I'm ready to look for jobs, I have people that I can reach out to."
And then, nine times out of 10, half of the people that were talking to me at these events were the recruiters for the company that sponsored the event. So it didn't matter if it was an AI meetup or a Python meetup, or an IoT meetup. I was just going to all of them. And there are companies who are at the meetup that are recruiting. But the reason why companies sponsor meetups is because they're looking for talent. If you go to meet up at, I don't know, Twitter, there will likely be a Twitter recruiter in the crowd. So I would usually just mingle around until I found that person and got their card.
Lauren: That's brilliant. It's a great way then to build that network of folks, even if not that round of interviews too. They will just forever then be connected on LinkedIn or just a great way just to have that first initial conversation and have your foot in the door somewhere.
Spence: Yeah, definitely.
Danny: I wonder do you know what that process looks like now? Do you have any connection to that and what New Relic...specifically I guess with New Relic because it's --
Lauren: We work for...[laughter] It's important to clarify that. I'm like, should we be transparent here? [laughs] It's like us giving stock advice or something.
Danny: I think it's obvious that we work --
Spence: Just insider information.
Lauren: I know. What are we doing? [laughter]
Danny: Are there recruiters in Zoom breakout rooms? [laughs]
Spence: That I don't know. I haven't really attended a meetup in this new world. So I'm unsure because my strategy made sense for being at an in-person event.
Lauren: We should get a recruiter on the show. We always try to find a call to action for the audience. That is mine and Danny's call to action homework, to find a recruiter to come talk about COVID times. What is the advice to like...I don't know. I felt like I was being pretty sneaky about it when I would go to the meetups and be like, well, I'm a bootcamper, but I'm really excited. I was probably barely transparent about what I was doing, but it worked. [laughs]
Spence: No, actually, I think it is a secret because even when I would tell people at my bootcamp what I was doing, they still wouldn't do it.
Lauren: There's a fear. There's a fear of going blind to a meetup. I'm pretty extroverted.
Lauren: So it played into I wasn't super fearful of that. But yeah, sometimes I would show up, and it was lame. And I'd be like, oh, this is not the space, or this is not the company I want to work for. And so it gave me a good gut check too on places, or just they weren't my people I guess is a way to see it, I don't know.
Spence: That makes sense.
Lauren: Like, I was the only woman in the group. And so I would be like, okay, I don't think I'm going to come here.
Spence: Yeah, it was not a vibe.
Lauren: Yes, exactly. So that's what I was trying to say.
Danny: I will take my pizza to go. [laughs]
Lauren: But I am sure there are tips and tricks to be able to navigate it now also.
Spence: Yeah, I'd be really curious to hear how you have to adjust your strategy in a Zoom meetup environment.
Lauren: And it maybe could be more welcoming and inclusive to folks who don't identify as extroverted and are fearful of the networking concept. And I felt really privileged in that way that I was like, yeah, I'm going to go to this meetup tonight after class. And, I don't know, I want to acknowledge that that was comfortable for me and not a super safe feeling for everyone.
Spence: That's very true.
Lauren: So hopefully, there are some cool new ways to build those relationships.
Spence: A lot of this new work world is very strange, but it's also presented itself in a number of positive ways. We're discovering talent that we would not have been able to interview before because New Relic is now Flex First, so we're fully remote if that's your flavor. So some people that I've been discovering, like in the Midwest, that I would have never been able to interview before. There's amazing talent all over the country. But now I have free rein to go and find those talents in those under...basically looking under rocks that we haven't looked under before.
Lauren: That's awesome. And it allows people to stay where they are comfortable or can afford or whatever it is and not have to move or relocate for a new role, which could then set them up for just maybe not positive work-life balance experience or whatever it is. But yeah, I love that it's allowing us to spread our net wider and get a better pool of candidates too.
Danny: You had talked about how nerves are always going to be coming into play within the interview process. And I wanted to see if we could expand on that a little bit. What are some dos and don'ts that you notice in the interview process? Is there anything that you are just like, don't do this anymore, people?
Lauren: I want to know what you think is a don't Danny. [laughs]
Danny: I would say I think in the technical interview, don't not talk, for instance.
Spence: To expand on that, Danny, and this is something that I've been discovering for the interviews I've been doing lately because I do a number of different kinds. So there's like, we do a 15-minute interview, which is just for early in career like a knowledge check. And it's just to see if they can solve the problem, which is something really simple like transforming an array into an object and manipulating the data. And that's very different from a one-hour technical interview.
So basically, what I'm saying is in this 15-minute interview, if it is more comfortable for you not to talk to me and just whatever you need to do to get it done. So like in a 15-minute interview, the goal is just to get the challenge completed as opposed to like an hour-long interview where it's like, okay, now I want to hear how you think.
So you got to look at how much time you have because a lot of people in the 15-minute interview want to talk to you every step. So then halfway through, I'm like, "You could just focus on finishing the challenge." You don't want to tell them that it's a pass or fail type thing. But that's what it is.
Lauren: So do you tell them that? Like, if you notice that they're tiptoeing towards the end of it, you're like, "I just want to see this." [laughs]
Spence: It's different when it's part of their process. And then you can tell after a while if it's a process of how they work or if they're just trying to explain everything that they're doing. So in the first few minutes, I'm not saying anything, but after a while, it becomes apparent that they're just trying to showcase how they think in 15 minutes. And it's hindering them because they're not getting work done. So then I'll say, "Hey, you don't have to explain every step. I can get an idea of where you're going. Just work on the challenge."
Danny: See, that level of communication is good because there'd always be times in an interview where they would tell me like, "Okay, now we've done the behavioral. So next week, can we schedule a technical?" I'm like, "Oh yeah, what will I be doing?" And they're like, "Oh, it's just going to be like a little fun little algorithm thing." And I'm like, "What does that mean?" [laughs]
Spence: Yeah, that's the other thing that I don't like about interviewing, walking in blind. Because when you're at work, you're never walking into work blind.
Spence: If you're just walking into work and you don't have to look anything up, you are an engineering god, and you're unstoppable. [laughter] But for us mere mortals, we all have to look up the documentation to figure out how to do the thing that we're supposed to do. So for my technical interviews, I give you an idea of what you're going to be working on. Like, you will be working on a continuation of your take-home challenge. I don't do algorithm things. But I did interview at Facebook once, and they gave me a packet of things that I could have been interviewed on, which was very helpful.
Lauren: To be prepared for.
Spence: Yeah, to be prepared for. Like, these are the sort of questions that we might ask you, at least some examples. Because walking into a final interview blind and then asking someone to do something highly algorithmic is insane. [laughter]
Lauren: And yet, it's still like...every time we talk about this, I get so triggered back to those moments where you're like [gasps]
Spence: Well, I actually didn't study that last night. [laughs]
Danny: The one thing I didn't look up.
Lauren: Yeah, exactly, or the thing you were about to work on. [laughs]
Spence: As an interviewer, like, what are you evaluating me on? What does this prove to you that I'm capable of doing? And I think that's why we have to look at it from both sides because sometimes it's just some guy who got voluntold to do this interview. They don't really care either way. So it's not like they're looking for you to crash and burn, but also, are they looking for you to succeed? Are they setting you up for success?
I want people to feel like they can do their best work when they come in for an interview. And a large part of that is creating an environment where they know that they're supported, or they at least feel they have the tools necessary to be successful instead of just walking in blind one day and being like, Oh God, I don't know what's going to happen next, but I hope it's something that I actually know how to do.
Lauren: Well, I mean, I just have to say this. I'm so impressed with the thoughtfulness and conscientious preparedness that you're hoping to help interviewees be equipped with when they come in to interview with New Relic. So thank you. It's a deep level of empathy that you're showing people too. I think maybe because you experienced it trying to find a role also that it allows you to be a good advocate for them, I guess.
Spence: My entire goal is I'm trying to find talent. I'm not hiring for experience. Most of the time, I'm hiring for potential, especially because a large part of what I'm trying to do here is develop more diverse hiring practices so that we can improve diversity in tech because it's skewed one way. And in order to unearth that potential, you can't keep using these outdated hiring practices because people who go to bootcamps didn't sit in computer science classes to learn all of the advanced, I don't know, principles of software development. But what they can do is put together applications there.
Lauren: Hell yeah.
Spence: They can put together applications. They know how to implement APIs. They know how to do the physical work, but it's not they're being architects from the jump. You're hiring engineers to build applications, build features.
Lauren: Right. Demonstrate grit. Can you learn something really quickly and not have a ton of guidance on how to get that done? I love it.
Spence: Looking for these intangible skills. So I don't need a potential employee to have every skill set that I need for this particular role. But do they have the potential to learn that? Have they been tenacious? We can't keep doing the same things and expecting different results. If you want a different tech landscape, then we have to change the way that we've been hiring.
Lauren: I couldn't agree more. I could not agree more.
Danny: So, Spence, every episode, we have a call to action. Previous ones have been like, oh, what would your hook for your cover letter be? or things like that. And I think it would be actually really cool and interesting if...do you have any old 15-minute challenges that you would give to people that are being interviewed?
Lauren: Oh, you don't want him to give away the secret, the one that he asks now. [laughs]
Danny: Yeah, I don't want you to give away the one that you do now, but we could say it's old. [laughter]
Lauren: And then, by the time this episode comes out, he has a new one because we shared it with everyone. [laughter]
Spence: So you want me to explain like an old challenge?
Danny: Oh, no, no. You can maybe send the challenge to me. We can put it in the blog post or in the show notes. And then we just ask the listeners, "Solve this and give us your answer on Twitter or maybe the community Slack."
Spence: Okay. I can give you an old one.
Lauren: That sounds fun.
Danny: There we go. There we go.
Lauren: We should try to do it too.
Spence: Yeah, it won't be too hard.
Danny: I run the show, Lauren, and I don't want to be doing challenges. [laughter]
Lauren: Well, we can all compare our answers. It will be fun. [laughs]
Spence: Yeah, it will be fun.
Lauren: I'm that annoying student that's like, "Um, teacher, you didn't give us homework yet." [laughter]
Spence: Wait, that was you? [laughter]
Danny: That's when everyone will be like, "Oh, my God." Everyone turns around like, Lauren.
Spence: How dare you.
Lauren: I can't help it. It's a fatal flaw. [laughs]
Spence: I was not a fan of homework growing up. I thought homework was like...I was like, but I understand the subject. Why do I have to do homework? I was like, this is practice, right? So if I understand how to do it, do I need that --
Lauren: I'm good.
Spence: Isn't that what tests are for? Tests are for --
Lauren: Evaluate me while I'm in the classroom, yeah. [laughs]
Danny: That's what I'm going to say in the next interview. I'm going to be like, "Is this a test, or is this practice?" Because I'm not going to be doing a practice. [laughter]
Lauren: Well, it'll be fun. So those of you listening that want to do the homework with us, join us. It's going to be fun.
Spence: Yeah, it'll be good.
Lauren: Cool. Well, thank you so much for chatting with us today, Spence, and sharing your journey, too, to this role. It's so incredible the work you're doing, and I'm so happy to hear...Well, first off, to be an employee of a company that's putting in this thoughtful work but also to hear that companies, in general, are doing this. I love it.
Spence: Yeah, it's exciting. I'm glad that the landscape is changing, and people are adapting to this new world of differences. But thank you so much for having me. It was so great to hang out with you, Danny and Lauren.
Danny: Where can people find you if they wanted to reach out?
Spence: They can find me on Twitter @thespencetaylor. You can also find me on LinkedIn, but I probably...I don't know; I don't really respond well on LinkedIn. Twitter is probably the best place.
Lauren: Okay. [laughs] We'll be sure to include it in the show notes, but yeah, thank you again.
Danny: But you can also find him in the Ain't Nuthin' but a "G" Thang music video as a little baby. [laughs]
Spence: That's very true. You can find me there. [laughs]
Danny: He's wearing a little green polo. That's another call to action: go watch that music video. [laughs]
Spence: Go watch Ain't Nuthin' but a "G" Thang video. Look for the baby in the green shirt. He appears twice, and that's me.
Danny: [laughs] And that's how you end an episode.
Lauren: And that's a wrap, folks. [laughter] Oh my gosh, we'll get everyone putting the little screenshot in the response to the algorithm assignment. [laughter] It's like a two-part did you stay till the end of the episode? Oh my gosh. That's hilarious. [laughter] Well, this has been such a pleasure, and I hope you have a great rest of your day. Oh, well, that was a lovely conversation.
Danny: Absolutely lovely. Spence is such a cool guy.
Lauren: Yeah, I feel like I learned a lot, and I'm just so, so happy to hear that there are folks in the industry making this happen and doing the work.
Danny: That and I just had to throw in that he was in the Ain't Nuthin' but a "G" Thang music video as a baby.
Lauren: Yeah, I am really glad to know that.
Danny: [laughs] We're like, okay, what a great episode of learning, but also, hey, Spence, can you tell us about this music video that you were in as a baby? [laughter]
Lauren: We'll, again, link that in the show notes so you all can go check it out also. Go show him some love. He's @thespencetaylor on socials, so go say, "Thanks for joining us today as an expert on the pod." But yeah, I suppose without further ado, should we share the challenge?
Danny: Yes. [laughs]
Lauren: Okay, this is our first call to action where we're...maybe share a gist, a GitHub gist maybe, or come up with however you want to give us the solution. But here's the challenge. We'll give it in written form also on Twitter. But in whatever language you prefer, write a function or a method that accepts an object. The function should return a new object with the same data but with the keys and values swapped. Since the returned object might have multiple values for the same key, it should put the values into an array. And that's the challenge.
So we can also provide some sample outputs for you. We'll put that in-text also on Twitter but give it a go. Imagine how you might solve that and share it with us. It'd be fun to see it, and we'll be sure to make sure we give you some cool Launchies swag.
Danny: Yeah, no one has taken me up on selfies of me. So I will be sure to --
Lauren: As the reward.
Danny: Yeah. [laughs]
Danny: I think that was episode one or two. Well, I'm still waiting. If you do this challenge, we're going to have some Launchies swag or maybe some New Relic swag.
Lauren: Well, if we say there's going to be Launchies swag, then we have to make it, right?
Danny: Oh, that is true. That is true.
Lauren: So I was trying to be subtle there, and then we go to our bosses and be like, "Oh my gosh, we need Launchies hoodies and hats." [laughter]
Danny: Baby onesies, I don't know why. [laughter]
Lauren: And then they'll be like, "Oh, well, we can't." We'll be like, "Oh, it's already on the podcast, and everyone submitted their answers to the challenge." We want to reward the top...let's not do the top three best answers. That feels a little...maybe the first three answers.
Danny: First three. Yeah, I'm imagining it now. It's your face, my face.
Lauren: Oh. [laughs]
Danny: Small, small print Launchies.
Lauren: Launchies [laughter] on the label on the inside part. [laughter] That's great. Or I guess another call to action could be tell us what swag item you would like to see. And then we'll bring that to our bosses and be like, "We already promised them that we would make that."
Danny: They want boomerangs.
Lauren: The thing, the throw thing?
Danny: Yeah. [laughs]
Lauren: This will be fun. Let's just watch Danny come up with swag ideas right now. [laughter]
Danny: I have a mirror next to me, and I looked at the mirror, and I saw my own face. I was like, ugh, just shut up.
Lauren: Just stop. Improv in the morning. [laughs]
Danny: Yeah, on a Friday. Work's already over.
Lauren: Oh my gosh, can you stop acting as though Fridays we don't work? [laughter]
Danny: Don't say that. Don't say that out loud. [laughs]
Lauren: Every time I schedule a recording with him, he's like, "Ah, Friday." [laughter]
Danny: It's my focus time.
Lauren: Oh, sure. [laughs] Oh gosh, that's funny.
Danny: You ratted me out. I hope no one listens to this. [laughter]
Lauren: I love that we keep talking to our bosses in it. [laughter] So they're going to start listening and be like, um.
Danny: Like, yo, what is this? What is this? Are you guys mad at us?
Lauren: Who are you helping? [laughter]
Danny: Are you mad at us?
Lauren: No, we love you. [laughter] Speaking of, go give us a follow on Twitter @newrelic. That's where you should share your answer to the challenge that would be the place or Launchies, both, I guess.
Lauren: Gosh, that's not descriptive. That is not good. I should give you one handle to respond to. I'm like, whatever.
Danny: We love the chaos. Listeners live for the chaos.
Lauren: Do they?
Danny: And if you don't, and you prefer not to be on Twitter, join our community Slack at bit.ly/nrslack.
Lauren: That was subtle. That was smooth.
Danny: It's episode four.
Lauren: You’re getting the hang of this.
Danny: It's episode four.
Lauren: No, totally. And yeah, our personal handles are @muydanny, @lolocoding, and again, @thespencetaylor, our guest today, so go give them a follow.
Danny: And and and FutureStack CFP is still open.
Danny: And it is May 17th through the 19th.
Lauren: In Vegas.
Lauren: Registration is open too.
Danny: And it's at The Cosmopolitan.
Danny: We love that.
Lauren: Are you going to be there?
Danny: I am.
Lauren: What? The chance to meet Danny Ramos in person.
Danny: Oh God, yeah. I can sign the swag that you get. [laughter]
Lauren: Will you sign it for me too?
Lauren: I'll give you a stamp of my signature.
Danny: Just like that. I'm only going to be there for, I think, a day or two because I have to fly out because my brother's graduation is the next day.
Lauren: Oh, that's so nice that you'll be there for both, I suppose but more for your brother. [laughs]
Danny: I even asked. I was like, "Do you care that I'm there?" And he's like, "Um, noo." And I was like, that means he does.
Lauren: Why did I ask?
Danny: [laughs] Yeah.
Lauren: What am I doing?
Danny: You're 17. You don't know what you're talking about.
Lauren: Oh, that's so sweet. That'll be fun. That's great. I will not be at FutureStack. But I've been very involved in the programming for it, and it's going to be incredible. I'm very bummed to be missing. But it is a hybrid event and so, folks, if you want to register, watch the talks online. Yeah, that is definitely an option also. It's going to be jam-packed with great talks and content for SRE and DevOps, and developers.
Danny: Yeah, absolutely. And there's a hackathon happening, FutureHack.
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