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Bizarro Hell Week

When I returned to school after Hell Week last year, I was surprised to find out that some of my classmates actually have summer jobs secured. I guess I didn’t expect that. I thought we were all on the same page, you know, just checking things out. After comparing notes, I realized that scouting a job in San Francisco is almost the opposite of Hell Week at HBS. I’ll admit I wasn’t on a high-powered hunt since it is a little soon for the high-tech crowd to be thinking about the summer. I had some interesting meetings, plus lunches and drinks with various old colleagues, contacts and friends. I never donned a suit and was never asked to crack a case. I went to parties at live/work warehouse spaces and danced with pierced, dyed and leather clad people. It was a ball.

Sorry, I don’t mean to rub it in, I mean, the weather was terrible and I never make as much money as many of my classmates in this summer or out of school, but I won’t have to wear pantyhose. Considering the high-pressured prep courses being offered to aid those who are seeking jobs with big consulting companies and investment banks, I thought it might be helpful to provide a few pointers for those who might pursue the west coast Internet scene. My advice, for whatever it is worth, should not be followed when you are interviewing with any of the older, established companies like Microsoft or Excite, my knowledge stems from experience at small, you barely-have-a-desk, companies. Dresscode Be casual. Don’t be a slob, but I’ve never felt that a suit was necessary. A suit is a sign of stifled individualism and lack of innovation. If you are thinking about the typical MBA career, business development, there is a uniform: biz dev blue shirt (that fine cotton twill shirt in varying shades of blue that almost every guy on earth has) and khakis. This is what they all wear.

Otherwise, be yourself. NDA, Non-Disclosure Agreement I had four meetings in SF in which my contacts dropped the NDA. Be prepared to sign one or at least give a verbal. Soon enough you’ll be able to beam it from Palm Pilot to Palm Pilot, but for now don’t be insulted if someone slaps one down in front of you. It has become so commonplace that I hardly had a conversation when it didn’t come up. In fact, if someone asks you what you did at your last job, you might even be able to get away with, “I’m sorry, I’m under an NDA.” Know Your Favorite Color One time I was asked by a potential employer how I would figure out the number of gas stations in the United States. This is not a question you will be asked in an Internet interview. More qualitative and curious questions may arise however. An interviewer asked my friend about her favorite color as well as her exercise habits. Of course, not all interviews will be that demanding, but it helps to be prepared. Industry Knowledge I’ve never been asked to prove my knowledge of the Internet industry, but enter with some idea of what strategy the company is pursuing and some suggestions.

Ask a lot of questions about customer retention, competition and brand positioning. I suppose you might want to consider how a company is funded as well. Organizational Behavior Foosball tables are great, but bar sports are not enough to make a company click together. Think about turnover. The bottom line is that it’s a drag to join a company that employees are fleeing. Consider how the employees are treated, incentivized and included in process. I also think diversity is important. The last thing you want is just a bunch of MBAs sitting around talking about adding value…. Oops, that’s us. Deal Breakers When considering a career at a start-up or otherwise Internet related firm, there are certain things to keep in mind. First of all, your email address. Will you get the ultra-cool, first mover advantaged yourfirstname@….com? If you want people to know that you got in on the ground floor, make sure you don’t get stuck being the second “John.”

Parking and transportation are very important. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but Redwood City and Palo Alto are far. It may not seem like it when you drive down there at 10 am on a Tuesday for an interview, but try any day of the week between 6:30-9 am and it’s a whole different story. If you are going to be in the city think about whether or not there is a bus line to get you to work and if you have a car, if parking is included. Trust me, it matters. After-Work Activities Most cool Internet companies have the standard ping pong table at the office, but check out what people do after work. Are there fun parties, field trips, and off-sites? Don’t expect boondoggles to golf camp or Hawaii; think more along the lines of bowling, salsa dancing or trips to the Exploratorium. San Francisco General If you are going to move to SF, have an open mind and be prepared to have fun. Housing will be a problem and the weather isn’t Los Angeles sunny, but the atmosphere is very positive. People work hard, but they also play hard and it is important to keep balance and maintain that spirit. The SF inhabitants tend to be liberal and friendly. Don’t be put off by strangers talking to you or saying hi. They’re not crazy, just happy.

February 3, 2003
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