News just in: Cam’s passed day one at his new job. Excited, conflicted, and all N00b’d up, he decided to drop by and tell us a little about his first impressions…
I was glad I didn’t wear a tie. That morning, the morning of my first day, I put one on and looked in the mirror. I tried a casual look (knitted tie, slightly loose beneath an open collar); and formal (silk tie with the knot over the top button). I knew immediately that I was going to wear my favourite dinosaur jumper but I wasn’t sure about a tie. I settled on a skinny red one and I went out to the kitchen and said to Clare, “Do you think I should wear a tie?”
Almost six months earlier I had been in for interviews and the instructions had stated, “Leave the suit at home. We want you to bring your authentic self to work.” Which is a quandary because my authentic self likes wearing ties.
In the kitchen Clare said, “I don’t think you should wear it,” so I pulled it off and went open-collar. And I was glad I did because I still felt overdressed. Almost everyone I saw – from my fellow n00bs to the executives who gave the orientation presentations – wore jeans and t-shirts. Maybe a hoodie or a puffer vest thrown in for variation.
The first day of orientation started early so Clare and the girls drove me to work in our behemoth rental car, a Ford Expedition. I kissed them all goodbye, and Clare twice. I felt guilty because I knew I was leaving Clare to a difficult fate. We were living in a cramped two-bedroom with polished concrete floors. The rugrats frequently went insane and they were always hurting themselves and each other. I told her she was an awesome mummy and a great wifey, both of which are true. I’m not just saying that because it’s her blog 🙂
Naturally, when I arrived, the first thing to notice was the aesthetic. There were white walls and polished concrete floors. On the ceiling there were exposed pipes (“PUMPED WASTE”), wiring and scaffolding. But there were also comfy armchairs in the meeting rooms, and a bocce court outside the front door. It was sort-of playful industrial. There was geek culture everywhere. The meeting rooms had names like “Canadian Music Festival”, “Ernst Stavro Blofeld” and “Outlook not syncing.” One wall had been decorated with a collage of the pages from Edward Tufte’s book, Visual Explanation. My temporary pass had a progress spinner on it.
I felt self-conscious because it was my first day with a new company in an unfamiliar industry. I had worked at one bank in Australia for most of my career. There was much that was intimidating. During my first week, in workshops and presentations, confident people talked unprompted to elegant PowerPoint slides about incredible things: epic data whizzing around the globe in round-trips measured in micro-seconds; audacious ambitions measured in billions of lives, billions of conversations, billions of hours online; a codebase in the hundreds-of-millions of lines and an army of engineers committing changes to it every minute. AI. VR.
In one workshop, an emo-looking man with dyed-black fringe and stretched ear-lobes live-coded variations to a webpage in front of the class. He wore a black hoodie and coded in a language developed in-house and then open-sourced. He was a ninja and it was a blur of auto-completes. It was awesome. Afterwards, I stood at the snack cabinet in the micro-kitchen, vacillating over what to eat and which flavour of vitamin water to try.
So there were things that were intimidating but there were also small things that made me smile. There are two that I distinctly remember. First: there are posters with cultural statements plastered everywhere. “Be bold”. “Move fast and break things”. “Ship love”. I sat down in one lecture theatre and looked up and before me was a poster that said “BE THE NERD”. And I thought, yes. Yes, finally, this is a corporate culture that I can embrace.
The second moment was when I first used the Men’s Room. In the stall, on the wall was an A4 sheet with programming tips on how to use a shell to interact with an Elasticsearch cluster. It was titled “The Weekly Push, issue #215“. And I thought, yes. Yes, I really do want to work for a company that posts weekly coding tips in the bathrooms.
Oh, and there is an arcade where they have Street Fighter II. Sho-ryu-ken!
Back to my first day: we were formed into small squads of fellow n00bs for icebreaking and reflection activities. My squad went to lunch. I was the oldest and the only one with kids. The conversation soon turned to where people had chosen to live, since most of us had moved from elsewhere. One colleague said, “I’m currently living in the hellish nothingscape of Redwood City, but I’m moving to San Francisco.” Translation: Silicon Valley is too suburban and there’s nothing to do down here. I knew exactly how he felt about the suburbs, but I had to be honest. “A hellish nothingscape”, I said, “is exactly where you want to live when you have kids. That’s where they put the playgrounds”.
We ate in a 50s-diner themed cafe. All the cafes (and food trucks!) served food cooked onsite, prepared with locally-grown, sustainably-sourced, antibiotic-free ingredients. This is California, after all. The menus change every day and there is an app where you can filter by your dietary requirements. Every dish has an ingredients card, and is colour-coded either green (very healthy) to yellow (somewhat healthy) to red (still pretty healthy, if you ask me). There is always at least one vegetarian option.
As I walked through the crowd to the table, I actually overheard someone say, “We’re living somewhere between the Matrix and the Truman show.” I felt I was living in a Douglas Coupland novel.
For the most part, the n00bs in my squad were just as excited about their first day as I was, but they didn’t seem to have any shortage of confidence. They had come from tech hubs in Seattle and NY, had been working for Twitter or Apple, or had turned down jobs at Amazon.
When I got home that night the girls were all happy to see me. Cece is still at an age where the excitement of mum or dad coming home is so much that she starts to cry, so I picked her up and carried her around for a bit. We put Trolls on Netflix (for the 100th time) in an attempt to pacify Clara and Coco while Clare & I ordered some prawn (“shrimp”) tacos and had a glass or two of red. I was glad to see them all again.