It has been a wild ride but after months of late nights and a rigorous interview process, I am very excited to say that I have joined the infrastructure engineering team at Stripe! I will be leaving my home town of Huntington Beach, California and moving up North to Seattle, a city I absolutely fell in love with earlier this year and could not be happier to soon call home. I wanted to share what led me to leave my home town and three amazing years at Gigasavvy, why I chose Stripe, how I eventually landed the job, and what lies ahead for me in the next few months.
It all started with an early-January trip to Seattle
Seattle had always been on my bucket list of cities to explore. In December it was decided a short trip to a new city would be nice and dead in the middle of winter seemed like the perfect time to visit one of the rainiest cities in the US. In typical fashion, I booked the trip a week or two in advance and planned for nothing. When traveling, I prefer to experience the destination genuinely, avoiding tourist attractions and really looking for the local spots that residents frequent. Arriving with no plans and going where the wind blows me (literally, in the case of Seattle during winter) has been most effective in experiencing new cities how they really are. And so, off I went from Orange County to Seattle, excited to see what the city had to offer.
The first thing that hit me about Seattle is how clean the air feels and smells (at least in the winter, I have yet to see Seattle in the summer). Even downtown, the clear, brisk air was a refreshing change for this OC/LA native. Smog and sprawl were replaced with dense clouds and a bustling city, one large enough to offer plenty but small enough to feel like home.
I have yet to fully articulate what it is about this city that captivates me. Perhaps after some time living there it will be more clear, or maybe it's just where I am meant to be. Regardless, Seattle is a very special place surrounded by beauty and filled with incredible culture. It was not a few hours in the city before I said I wanted to move there. A couple of months later, I would revisit and lay out a plan to make that dream a reality. But first, I would need to find a new job at a company in Seattle that I not only respect, but would be delighted to work at. Luckily for me, I had already set my sights on a technology startup that just happened to open a new office in the heart of downtown Seattle.
Aiming for Stripe
The sane and well-planned professional engineer might apply to dozens of good companies knowing that she may only hear back from a few and, of those, hopefully receive a couple of offers. With multiple offers, she can negotiate her compensation and benefits and land the best deal. In contrast, the passionate and at times unrealistic engineer (myself) will probably find a company that would be a dream to work at and put all his eggs in one basket. That's just how I work.
Take my position before joining Stripe, for example. When I joined Gigasavvy three years ago, there was no other company that came close to them in terms of what I was looking for at the time. Great culture, amazing team, well-respected in the Southern California agency space, and a history of cool projects. I just knew that was where I was going to work. And in doing so, I gained valuable experience and made lifelong connections with some of the most respectable people I have had the pleasure of knowing. Unlike what seems like a growing percentage of people these days, I prefer to find a company I can imagine retiring at. How can you expect me to do that if my focus is strictly numbers? Sometimes intuition and a little faith go a long way. And so, I needed my next basket.
I have worked on several projects that have used Stripe for payments (particularly on ecommerce websites) and have always been impressed with the quality and ease of use of their service. Working as a full stack developer over the last few years, I have closely collaborated with design teams who often reference Stripe's front end design language as inspiration. With the release of new products such as Sigma, Atlas, and Radar, witnessing Stripe's commitment to quality from front to back positioned them as a company I respect and look to as a true leader in the industry.
As I began considering what my next position might look like, I quickly decided it was time to move out of the full stack world and specialize in strictly back end engineering. Around the same time, I happened to be reading an engineering article on Stripe's blog that caught my attention. As I read through it I remember thinking, I want to be working with this team. And at the end of the article, the strategically placed CTA seemed to wink at me as if it already knew: Like this post? Join the Stripe engineering team. With open positions in their Seattle office, I found the basket in which to put all my eggs in. I was going to work at Stripe.
Landing the job
Going for any position at an established and respected technology startup is intimidating to say the least. Going for an engineering position at an established and respected technology startup is no exception, especially when coming from outside of Silicon Valley or Seattle. Throw in a nice
healthy unhealthy dose of imposter syndrome and you've got yourself the perfect recipe for ultimate humility, a feeling that was admittedly overdue for me. I won't go into detail on the preparation I did prior to my application other than to say it involved the standard dusting off of Ye Olde Resumé, finally replacing the "Coming Soon" splash page of my website that had grossly defined "soon" as being sometime between 3 and 4 years, and learning some of the tech stack that Stripe is built on. It turned out that doing this while working a demanding full time development job was pretty exhausting, but the day did finally come when I clicked submit on the application. With a sigh of relief, I waited.
Stripe as an organization has done a ton of work in attempt to improve the typical software engineering interview process by testing applicants on more real-world scenarios they might actually face if they were to join the team. Their recruitment team is beyond friendly, extremely welcoming and professional, and a genuine joy to work with. In my opinion, they have done an incredible job in providing a challenging yet comfortable interview process. The process itself is still quite similar to most other tech companies, but the problems are much more practical and the ability to solve them on your own laptop in your language and IDE of choice takes a lot of unneeded pressure off of the applicant. Of course, the 5-6 hour onsite interview is exhausting, but to expect it to be a breeze is probably naive. This interview is designed to challenge you, to see how you solve problems and communicate under pressure and talk about things you don't quite understand.
At the end of the day, I walked out of Stripe's new beautiful headquarters in San Francisco feeling accomplished. After a four week process that involved a phone screen, technical video interview, and the onsite interview mentioned above, I received an offer letter from Stripe and signed it that day :)
I have four more weeks left in California, the last two of which will be spent having some much needed downtime with friends and family before relocating. From there I'm up to San Francisco where I'll spend two weeks at Stripe's headquarters before moving to my new home in Seattle.
Moving away from home is obviously bittersweet and leaving behind a talented team of professionals that you respect is always difficult. These last few years have been incredible, but a new chapter of challenges awaits me and I am beyond excited for what lies ahead both in life and in being a part in Stripe's long-term success.