What it takes to get a job at Twitter

Twitter London Office — ©Twitter

Have you ever wonder how top engineers at some of the biggest companies are like?

What is it that they do differently to stay sharp and be able to contribute to project that will have impact on million of people across the globe?

I know I have asked myself those questions.

And what I came to realise is that proficiency with a programming language or technology may be required for a job but there is another aspect that plays a more important role in getting through jobs interviews:

Who you are as a person.

That’s why last Thursday I was thrilled to interview Leonardo Andrés Garcia Crespo, after he gave the Workshop “Vine por el render y me quede por las props”.

Better known as Lenny, he is a passionate Front-end engineer working with Javascript, React.js in particular, and gave talks like AST A LA VISTA, BABY at NodeConf2017.

He applied for a Job at Twitter and a few months later found himself posting the following tweet:

Tweet

He will move to London in the following weeks to join the rest of Twitter’s team!

Meet Lenny

@leogcrespo

The interview

Ale: Lenny, tell me in one tweet, who are you?

Lenny: I’m Lenny, I proudly programmed in .NET. I mean I defend what Microsoft did on that platform.

After that I moved to Ruby and then Javascript. I’ve discovered a passion for the front-end and after that I kept on developing on Javascript ever since.

On the client side I discovered React.js and I fell in love with it and I’m a fanatic of it.

Outside the tech world, I’m a father, a husband and I also enjoy music quite a lot. I play Bass Guitar and I have a Brit Rock band with our own songs.

I also like to tell bad jokes.

[Laughs]

Ale: Awesome, you were working at Match.com until very recently.

Lenny: Yes, until two weeks ago.

Ale: You contributed to open source projects like apollographql. I saw that you have been quite active in Meetup.js, and to be honest we’ll all miss you here and I’ve been wanting to ask you: Where this all “magic” came from? How was the procress of getting the job? Did you get an offer or did you look for it?

Lenny: I’ve been looking and trying my luck at these awesome companies to see if I could get in somewhere along these organizations.

I found that directly applying on their websites without knowing anyone, in my case, it didn’t work. I got rejected from all of them.

The key is to physically know somebody to recommend you. With Twitter I didn’t know anyone inside but I happened to be using Twitter and saw that a person wrote a tweet saying “We are looking for people to work at Twitter Londres” and shamelessly replied to it.

They asked me to send them a private message and I did with my CV attached.

Later on a recruiter contacted me and that’s how the hiring selection process began. They were painful and long steps in the sense that sometimes there wasn’t any response and I would think “Well, that’s all”.

Then after a few weeks I’d get an email and I’d think that it’s still game on.

Ale: What a Genious!

Lenny: I’d say it’s shamelessness.

Ale: Shamelessness but of course you have to be updated and be sharp at a world-level.

At a technical level, let’s say it’s Sunday at 3 am and everything breaks! What is your action plan?

Lenny: Sunday at 3am, I wouldn’t know. I did homework for my university but I think I never worked at that time, luckily.

My way of working and learning is being always reading, to be honest I believe I have a strong passion for the technology that I like. Maybe I expend too much time scrolling through Twitter, following inspiring people that is setting the course for the Javascript community.

I’m also following the technologies as Javascript; React, Angular and Vue without resting importance to anything because I know that they are moving the technology that I like forward so I want to see what they are talking about and I’m constantly reading what’s going on, what’s new.

Of course you can’t be updated on every single topic so some of them end up being discarted. And also, the fact that you don’t hear to the first one that said something doesn’t mean you are not going to get to know about it. People will start to talk about it and you’ll eventually find out what you initally missed out.

You also need certain intuition, plus what you already like, to see where the community is going and start to read more about these topics.

In my opinion the key is to have passion in what you do. Once you have that you give the extra step to read more, to play more around with technologies …

… to even implement all these new things that you learn into your job project, and if you can’t, find a way to apply a related concept to it. Be creative in that sense and trying to always be learning something new.

Ale: Like having this passion and likes of yours transformed to code. So for someone that is starting to program; what would you say your personal qualities that define you as sharp person in this niche?

Lenny: At least in the Javascript world, that is quite challenging, I’d say:

Have a passion for what you do

So you enjoy reading about what’s happening all the time.

Be curious

Know how things work, not to a microscope-low level but if someone asks you how does this work and you answer by saying “Magic” you’re doing it wrong. You should be willing to learn how things works and this will bring you to:

Dig into the libraries you are using

To see how they work, realise that most libraries are not that complex (with exceptions). You can learn a lot by reading code written by highly skillful people.

Yes libraries do many things but they are all understandable, there’s nothing crazy in them. You could have written them had you encountered the problem they aim to solve.

Be shameless about asking about everyting

Whether you are working with a team, or getting to know people, don’t be afraid of asking saying “Agh, If I ask this they’ll think I don’t know anything”.

What worked for me is that I’m always the one who ask the most. In open source projects saying “How come is this in this way?” and other questions.

In general people replying to you will be cool and there’ll be few cases where people will get upset, but that’s no reason for you to feel down.

If you have a question, you either search for and answer on your own but if you don’t realise what the answer is, you can ask and someone will reply to you.

Ale: Last question I was meaning to ask you, it might sound a bit like a generic question but where do you see yourself in a few years? Are you in London? Back in Argentina?

Lenny: It’s hard [to imagine]. Our plan to go there is to stay in London to live the experience and unless we are having the time of our lives there, we’d come back but of course it depends on a lot of factors.

Twitter, Facebook and all the big companies are idealised that they are the best in the world.

Maybe I find that it is more similar than what I expected to other companies with all their pros, cons and all at big scale. I’ll see if I like it, living in another country, another city. Maybe we stay, come back.

So, in this moment I wouldn’t be able to answer it because it is super nebulous.

Ale: Thank you so much!

Lenny: You’re welcome!

If you liked this post, I strongly suggest you follow Lenny on Twitter


This is the first post of a series of interviews to people that I admire. If you want to read more stories of people working in the industry and read posts about web technologies make sure to follow me for updates on @alekrumkamp.