Since Chinese New Year, 5 people have resigned. The CEO frames everything as a firing even when it's a resignation. It took him all of 2 hours from the announcement on the team meeting before he was yelling at me one-on-one about performance and accusing the outgoing CTO of being incompetent. Newsflash: I joined the company because of that "incompetent" Stanford grad and Silicon Valley softie. I believed in the engineering team the CTO wanted to build. I do not believe in whatever company it is the CEO wants to build. There were things i could overlook before - bait-and-switch contracts, low salary, unpaid overtime, no budget for tools, endlessly changing priorities, abuse over not hitting arbitrary deadlines pulled from a non-engineer's ass... Now i can't overlook them. I resigned very bluntly, echoing the CEO's favorite line right back to him: "it's not personal, it's just business".
Unfortunately i still have to sit out 30 days as per my contract. Fortunately, my mother passed away, which landed me 3 extra days of bereavement leave that i otherwise would not have had.
This week i have been grieving in the small gaps between interviews.
I have four irons in the fire right now. There isn't much point trying to be coy, since three of these are very large, internationally-renowned companies.
I am in the pipeline with Chinese e-commerce behemoth "A". I went through one technical interview ~6 months ago and did the second one last Saturday. I think it went well, and the things they are working on are potentially interesting, but their recruiting process is some kind of automated mystery box so now i am just waiting for someone to get back in touch me. Who? I don't know who. Someone.
I had over 5 hours of in-person interviews with American online travel agency "E". This is following a 2.5 hour technical test where i had to write code to solve several algorithmic problems (not really my area of expertise) and several shorter calls and emails with the Hong Kong-based HR. I suspect i may receive an offer soon.
I have been through 3 video interviews with a Scottish company who are a subsidiary of China's biggest online travel agency "C". They are extremely serious about culture fit. There are at least 2 more interviews ahead if i pass this round.
I have been on one in-person interview and had one video interview with an American-based ed-tech company that is a subsidiary of a larger Chinese ed-tech and gaming company "N". If i move ahead with them, a 2-day coding project is the next stage.
Oh, i also did the phone screen with Google, whose recruiter said in no uncertain terms that i should spend a few months studying algorithms before i call back to schedule a first-round technical interview. The only reason i was contacted was because several of my former colleagues work at Google in senior positions and personally recommended me. Recommendations just get you a screening call.
Here is the issue. There are very few companies in Shenzhen that are hiring foreigners. The famous Chinese companies headquartered here - Tencent, Huawei, ZTE etc - only hire foreigners into high level research positions. The "smaller" (still thousands of people) Chinese companies do not hire foreigners. Then there are a lot of options to work for banks, because Shenzhen gets the overflow of the Hong Kong economy which is basically 99% money laundering and 1% pork buns. Moody's, Morningstar, whatever, fuck all of them. I will never work for finance.
So what's left are outsourcing companies - who pretend to have clean hands but primarily serve financial institutions - and a handful of other companies, which are the ones i already applied for. Actually, i also applied for a job in Zhuhai with a subsidiary of a Macau bank because i am a hypocrite. But i thought it sounded kind of interesting.
Anyway, there is not much here. And, of that, very little seems to follow the more collaborative, grassroots culture that i would hope to find in a modern tech company. Which is why i am mostly interested in the position at the Scottish "C" subsidiary. They follow the Spotify organizational model and seem influenced by other "cool" European tech companies like Soundcloud. I know from experience that these companies still have plenty of problems. At the end of the day it doesn't really matter if you call a team a squad or a pod or a rødgrød med fløde... But i do appreciate places that at least attempt to make the workplace into something more than the drudgery we all know it is. Fake it till you make it, bla bla.
Of course the place i work at right now said the right things on the interview but the reality was very different because the CEO trumped the CTO. So that's something i need to be mindful of.
The thing about "E" is that they were disorganized (showing up to interview late, not having a clearly defined structure), but at least they were honest about being a big company with big company bullshit. They know they're disorganized. They know they're not agile. I think i am closest to getting an offer there, but i also thought that back in 2017 and waited almost a month for an offer before accepting a different job. I don't know how quickly they will move this time, but if they move quickly i will have to think a lot about whether i want to get into that kind of self-consciously inefficient corporate blob. The work will be steady, i know. It will be interesting, within the realm of cloud-based distributed systems bla bla whatever. I will be a small cog.
"A" would be interesting - especially because it's a full-blown Chinese company and one of the major domestic success stories. But i am not holding out a lot of hope for follow-up interviews. There is no recruiter, there is just "the pipeline" which apparently triggers interviews... at intervals... somehow. I suspect their whole HR department is an AI.
The "N" subsidiary is also interesting, in that they have hired an open source guy to head up their technical stuff. He is a typical scruffy open source chap who works from his home in the mountains somewhere. I have worked with guys like that before. They are smart and opinionated and not really into "hip" management paradigms, they just want to write good code. But i can't shake the feeling it might end up like my current job - stuck in Shenzhen in a tiny stub of a team with all the senior staff in precisely the worst possible timezone for collaboration. I didn't get a sense from either of the interviews that there is a clear strategy to build a world-class engineering team in Shenzhen.
I mean - aside from Google - the "C" guys were the only ones who really did professional interviews. Starting on-schedule, keeping on-schedule, 100% behavioral questions, very on-topic, very friendly, very respectful. Honest answers to my questions on how the Shenzhen team operates. I know that how a company interviews doesn't always match how it operates internally, but it is nice to get a sense there are clear standards and guidelines in at least one part of the company. I am just worried that they won't want to follow up with me. Maybe i came across as too blasé, or maybe i rambled too much. Maybe they will follow up and make me do a math-heavy technical challenge where i flame out? Maybe maybe, i don't know.
After a week of constantly interviewing and scouring the local job boards to see if there are any companies i missed, i am exhausted. Plus, my mom died. On Monday i need to go back and work for this boss who i think is an asshat, and put in two weeks skilling up a new hire who deserves a far better opportunity than the one she will be getting.
I am kind of at the point where if i don't find work in the next month or so, i will just give up. Theoretically i am able to stay in China on my resident permit even after my work permit is canceled, but that is contingent on my current company not also canceling my resident permit, which is something i can't be sure about. Maybe i could look into doing a semester or year of university? Change my visa, or get a new visa for Taiwan, or just head out of Greater China altogether? I dunno. I don't really want to work, i would love to bum around for a while again. But also i feel like after 18 months of mediocre jobs i need just one good job, if only to rehabilitate this flop section of my résumé.
God it sucks defining your whole life by your job. I really need to spend more time on my hobbies.
On Tuesday i climbed to the top of Yangtai mountain.