Jocelyn Goldfein is a Managing Director at Zetta Venture Partners, where she leads investments in AI-first startups with B2B business models. She was previously a technology executive with Facebook and VMware, and is an adjunct lecturer at Stanford University, her alma mater.

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Screenshot of the Aptology Manager Dashboard from http://aptology.com

Aptology is announcing the launch of their new platform today and it’s a game-changer for execs of high growth companies. Very simply put, Aptology helps their customers make more money. …


Every Fall quarter, Stanford kindly permits Mauria Finley and I to teach “CS 183E: Effective Leadership in High Tech.” (AKA: “Soft Skills for CS Majors.”) We try to pay forward the lessons we learned over many years working as technical leaders and entrepreneurs in engineering and product management. Our goal is to equip new grads with the lessons we wished we’d known when we started our own careers… so you can go forth and make new and different mistakes than we did!

Our class offers the tools to find your first job in the tech industry, transition from college, to career, to leadership in technical roles, and thrive professionally over time. …


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Photo by MaxPixel / CC0

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At Zetta Venture Partners, we back zettabyte pioneers: founders building companies enabled by AI and Big Data, the fourth generation of computing. As these modern companies start to scale, we hear similar questions across many startup founders and CEOs. We’re starting a new blog series, Zetta Bytes AMA, to broadly share thoughts on these crucial company building topics.

Question for ZB-AMA: I’m the founder and CEO of an early stage AI startup. My technical team is growing, and I’ve decided I need to hire a CTO. …


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Carrot (and) Sticks. Photo credit: Emily Barney, Creative Commons

Some lessons creep up on you gradually; others hit you over the head like an anvil.

At the outset of 2008, VMware was flying high. We were a Silicon Valley rocket ship; we’d doubled revenue and headcount for four years in a row. We were an upstart disrupting the datacenter, we were thriving despite every effort of powerful incumbents determined to stop us. We had lots of growing pains, but they were all “good problems to have.”

Our CEO collected a few dozen of her senior-most staff and rising young leaders, and took us to Half Moon Bay for an offsite to discuss the future of the company. …


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Zetta Venture Partners: me, Ash Fontana, Mark Gorenberg, Kanu Gulati

Leaving Facebook felt like jumping out of a plane.

At Facebook, I had the good fortune to work on software that touches the lives of inconceivable numbers of people, working side-by-side with colleagues who became dear friends. While there, I got to spearhead our mobile app revolution, help News Feed adopt machine learning, redesign products from Search to Photos, build internal tools, and even tinker with beloved traditions like recruiting and on-boarding. I unironically loved my time there. But as comfortable as I felt, I left Facebook in search of more.

Since then, I have guest lectured at Stanford, started blogging, and made over 20 angel investments. There was a common theme to the activities that gave me the greatest sense of purpose: leverage. Using my knowledge about building products and organizations, and sharing that across many products, many founders, many students, many companies, many industries. Not just teaching, but learning every day about new technologies, new problems and new solutions that I can turn around and re-apply in an endless virtuous cycle. …


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photo: thedailyenglishshow.com

or, Hiring Engineers part 4: Interview Assessment

The tech industry is a bit in flux right now on how to deliver “a good comprehensive interview for a software engineer.”

We jettisoned brainteasers in the 2000’s, and as I write this in 2016, we are jettisoning whiteboard coding interviews for about the same reasons: they don’t seem to actually predict performance on the job. Google says so, and they have more data than anyone. My own experience backs it up: it’s hard to convince yourself you’re measuring ability when candidate performance declines as engineers get more experienced.

Early stage startups have already moved on, but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus pick on a replacement yet. I see seed and series A startups using a mix of take home puzzles, pair programming, laptop exercises, etc. It’s going to take some time for this to work through the system and a new industry consensus to form. In the meantime, my advice to you is to forget the whiteboard and experiment with different types of coding assessments. …


Or, Hiring Engineers Part 3: Screening Interviews

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If you’re screwing up any part of your engineer interview and hiring process, it’s probably the screen.

A screening interview is the first meeting with a prospective employee — the initial hurdle before proceeding to a full on-site hiring assessment. Small startups can run with a more informal process, but a good screen is essential if you’re attempting to hire at scale.

Screening interviews are no fun. Candidate quality is all over the map, so expectations are low.

You have far less data than you would in a full on-site assessment. You have maybe an hour; you touch on a fraction of the topics; the phone impedes communication and technical skill assessment; a single interviewer’s blind spots are a single point of failure; and at this stage the candidate may not be trying very hard because they may not care about you yet. …


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Pitstop underway for Fernando Alonso at 2008 Chinese Grand Prix Photographed by: Bert van Dijk CCA

Engineers love nothing more than hacking on our own productivity. At its worst, it becomes its own form of procrastination (hence the term “yak shaving”) but at its finest, it allows us to tackle ever-larger and more complicated problems and streamlines our entrance to the exalted state of flow.

I learned the lesson early. As Netscape’s first summer intern in 1995, I’d broken the build once, survived the wrath of jwz, and never made that mistake again. I returned for a second internship in the summer of 1996 to find a company transformed by growth. With new hires and interns pouring in every week, the build was broken almost every day. In 1995 there had been a grand total of thirty engineers working on the browser, across Windows, Unix, and Mac. …


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Bartek / Public Domain

or, Hiring Engineers Step 2: Resume Filtering

Whether you’re embarking on the first engineering hires for your startup, or trying to double the size of your team at a post-series C rocket ship, it pays to learn to spot diamonds in the rough.

When you’re hiring generalists and not a particular specialty, a pedigree is the first thing most people look for. A CS degree from a top school, jobs with name-brand employers… it’s a no-brainer to interview those candidates (if you think you stand a chance of closing them.)

There’s nothing wrong with interviewing people with a great pedigree, but great managers and great recruiters don’t stop there. …

About

Jocelyn Goldfein

Currently: Zetta Venture Partners. Formerly: Angel Investor, Engineer @ Facebook, VMware, Startups, Trilogy.

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