How I Got My Brilliant New Job

Romans Karpelcevs
8 min readApr 17, 2017

This time I’m writing about the hiring process at Pipedrive and how I got in. This was supposed to be a part of the “first two weeks” post, but grew too large. As it turns out, I like writing long posts.

First Contact

I received a LinkedIn message from Pipedrive representative on January 1, and it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. It wasn’t really personal or strange or anything that would catch my eye. I really have no idea why I responded a few days later, but I’m very glad I did. I thought about working in Tallinn before, but it wasn’t a serious plan and it was only in case I couldn’t find a nice job in Riga.

At that time I was finishing up my work at Ask.fm and I had already signed an offer from another company. I was going to join it in February and was really looking forward to it. I asked for a talk with the company head hunter to understand what Estonia can offer me in theory, without thinking about joining. Just to have a nice chat.

Liquorice always disturbs me during video calls

And I had. Even the first, HR-only talk was already very interesting and promising. Kristiine was able to tell and discuss a lot of things that are normally — or at least in Latvia — discussed with some kind of dev or project managers. Most importantly, I felt a resonance when we talked about company culture. At that moment it all could have been just talk or presenting goals and wishes instead of reality, but I was impressed. A company is apparently also the best employer in the private sector, the mobile app is Estonia’s best, but the awards impressed me less than the talk itself.

Engineering Intro

Right away we scheduled next interview with my future team lead, and it was sort of a decision point for me. Normally, I don’t like interviews and I bet very few people do. For me it was always stressful and fearful I won’t be able to sell myself for who I am and what I can do for the company. My friend Eduard always used to say that you need to go to the interviews to acquire the skill, and the easiest way is to persuade yourself that you don’t need that job. I figured, this time I don’t even have to persuade myself, I actually didn’t need a job, and especially a relocation with a 6mo daughter with me. Why not try to do the interview and have fun.

And again, I had. My interview with Sven was a very nice, broad and pleasant talk. Like over the beer, but without the politics topics. Just software development, some management, some architecture. A hour flew by very fast. I was doing it at home, as I was between jobs then, and Kate could hear me talk and see my shining face. Somewhere in the middle of the interview she took a piece of paper and wrote “Едем!” (“We’re going!”) because it all seemed too good. This time we decided not to schedule the next talk for some time, since I was joining another company in couple of weeks and we agreed to sync in a month’s time to see if it worked out for me.

But the head hunter is called that way for a reason and instead she persuaded me to follow up right away, because the next step would be a homework, and because in a month’s time the position could already be taken. I wasn’t really afraid of that (I already had a new job!), but when to do homework than while you’re not working yet? I got the task and spent quite a lot of time on it. Definitely more than I was going to initially. The task again only proved that I seem to be very much aligned with the team even before meeting them: it didn’t have 15 screens of UI or animation requirements, but instead focused on doing more in the core like persisting downloaded data, having enough separate components, and having tests. Part of the homework was also to write up app or component design for certain problems, which also was quite interesting. I imagine it helps to understand if you can phrase your thoughts and argument your thinking.

After a week I got positive feedback about the homework without any details and was offered to continue the process. At this time I was already working at my new place, and it wasn’t entirely what I was expecting. While not critically bad, it made the choice to continue on with Pipedrive easier. I was telling myself that I will only leave if either the new offer will be too good, or the current company very bad, and I still had a lot of interview steps ahead of me.

Trip to Tallinn

My next steps were going to be interviews with the team and leadership. I was offered to fly in to Tallinn and gladly accepted. Since our product manager wasn’t supposed to be in the office on my arrival date, I had one more talk over Skype, which also went pretty well. Again, it was more mutual talking with no hints of interrogation. And again, I was a little pleasantly surprised to see PM knowing more details about dev process (and expecting I understand them too).

Flying in on Thursday meant I had to wake up at 5am to get to the airport and then wake up at 5am again to get back and go to work on Friday, since I only took one day off. I was already embarrassed to even take that one day, but at the same time, my feeling about the current company was only getting worse. I got into the project I hoped I wouldn’t get into, and not working with people I was hoping to work with. It was still a great company with great people, but I totally wasn’t excited anymore. Partially it was because I was hired through people I personally know without the full and open hiring process, during which some of my illusions should’ve been broken. And I didn’t bother to ask all the questions about the company myself, which was stupid. This time I was determined to understand much more about the company.

Renard’s good but too pricey

At this point in time, I was ready to quit if I had a nice offer from Pipedrive.

So, back to interviews. I flew in too early in the morning and had time to have a cozy breakfast in F-Hoone and some brewed coffee in Renard. It was a great morning and I was glad I didn’t rush into the interview room right off the plane. I was going to prepare for the talks better during my coffee, but instead I read something about brewing techniques in a magazine. I guess it only made me feel better.

Since I got into the office, everything only went from good to excellent. Absolutely marvellous office space. We don’t have that kind in Latvia. Wooden or haystack meeting rooms. Dogs running around. Shower, bed, fruits, drinks, awesome tables, decorations, random creative things people built around their space—I was walking around beaming. We had lunch, and then the interviews started.

Dogs and hay, it wasn’t an exaggeration

First it was the iOS team. This was probably the only interview when I was answering more than asking, simply because an hour was not enough time for me to start asking question back at the guys. The interview had a few direct iOS/Swift knowledge questions, several code questions and some discussion points. I also got to tell about my previous experience and some tech preferences, so you can imagine how one hour flew by.

Then I talked to the Android and mobile backend team. I was impressed that the team is cross-functional with in-house backend (and PM and UI design), which is what we never got to do at Ask.fm, despite mobile team’s wishes. This talk had much fewer questions, and in some sense it was State of the Union of the mobile team. I got a sense of what the work pain points seem to be and how the problems can or are expected to be solved. While already exhausted, everything seemed to align with me very well and there wasn’t a single time I had to wince or shudder. Everyone was reasonable, nice, adequate. I didn’t feel everything was super-perfect, but the picture and the direction the team is going were exactly what I wanted.

Then I had a talk with VP of Engineering, which was a general IT chat, and then with Sven again. This time my team lead talked about plans, how I fit there and what the goals are. It was a contrast to my previous places of employment, where the plans were usually about products or projects, not engineering structure or goals. In most cases they were pretty ad-hoc or a random part of the performance review, like, ‘Hey, what are your goals for this year?’. Finally, I had another chat with HR, telling her I’m ready to start packing.

Be sure to grab a cocktail at Sigmund Freud if you’re in town

The evening finished with a dinner and late bar with almost everyone I had interview with, which was a very strong finish. I only held one bar ‘culture fit’ interview before, but I strongly believe in this as a part of the vetting. If you can’t align food for the dinner, you can end up not being able to align work expectations either.

Finale

And now, after receiving yet another positive feedback, I had one last call, this time with a company co-founder. Isn’t it great that in a 200-odd people company co-founders still interview people? And not just some random people, or seniors, or based on some other criteria, but everyone. We talked values, and approaches to work, and some business strategy. And hobbies, at which I normally suck. So I told I like reading instead of ‘real’ hobbies, because I always liked it and now I’m reading a lot again. And well, what do you know—my interlocutor is curator of #books club and Slack channel at Pipedrive! Everything just fit too well, especially since normally it is another co-founder who does the interviews.

So, the planets aligned and the same evening I received an offer. That same evening we opened a bottle of Champagne. And also started panicking about the move.

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