Please note that this post, first published over a year ago, may now be out of date.
Hi, my name is George, a new hire at The Scale Factory. Let me regale you with the tale of how exactly that came to be and why I think you should think about applying yourself.
My journey starts a few years back while doing that thing which many developers do: daydreaming while browsing the Stack Overflow job boards. I stuck in the fun (to me) keywords of
terraform and had a look at what was around. One posting stuck out to me, a cloud consultant job near London Bridge which I could probably cycle to. I even thought about applying, but soon remembered my CV was out of date and I didn’t really know what “consultancy” was. That’s a lot of effort, ho-hum, back to the day job.
Fast-forward to June of this year and I have decided to take a serious look at the job market. Since my last sojourn around the job boards of the web a significant event had occurred (I wonder what that might have been…) which meant I am now primarily working from home and I want to keep it that way. I’ve polished the CV, created my Stack Overflow developer story and updated LinkedIn. As is probably common in my profession I tend to systematise everything, so I build out a new Excel spreadsheet to track all of my job applications before opening Stack Overflow Jobs. Once again I stick in
terraform and I also tick the little remote working box before hitting that search button.
Hey look it’s that consultancy place by London Bridge again!
I took the fact that it had stuck in my brain as a good sign and used the quick apply function in Stack Overflow. Aware that getting a new job can sometimes be a bit of a numbers game I didn’t spend too much time researching the company at this point. By the end of the evening I had around 20 rows in my Excel tracker. Now we wait…
The next day I was bombarded by recruiter calls. Over the next week I booked a few calls with different companies to discuss positions. A surprising number I had to decline because, although they advertised as “remote”, they really meant “remote right now because we were legally obligated to but who knows that could change in the future we can’t promise anything”. It is frustrating finding that out 20 minutes into a call. I wasn’t really enjoying the process.
In the interim I had time to go over the company websites of all the places I had applied for. That little consultancy company kept looking better and better.
On 21st June I got an email from Jack at The Scale Factory who wanted to book a call with me to do introductions. I was immediately hopeful because Jack didn’t have a recruiter title in his email signature. The Scale Factory was one of only 2 companies that I was in contact with that were not using a recruiter as a middleman. Booking that first call with Jack was simple, I just used Calendly to pick a time that worked for me, and he sent me a Zoom invite.
My suspicions were confirmed during the call. Jack isn’t a recruiter, he’s actually a consultant, the very job I was applying for. He is also very nice. Jack seems to take all of his meetings in front of a big wall of board game boxes. For me that was great because I too like board games, but it also gave the call a less formal feel. He asked me about the usual things: my previous employment, start dates etc. I asked about what it was like to work there and felt I got an honest answer due to Jack’s position. It was just a low stress chat, not an interview.
Apparently Jack liked me enough to invite me to complete the tech test portion of the process. Once again I easily booked a session with Jack through Calendly for the 5th of July. Jack was very up front about the general format of the tech test ahead of time which I appreciated. I won’t go into too many details about the actual content, but I will say that it wasn’t a quiz, I wasn’t expected to flip a binary tree, and nobody smirked and said “WRONG” at any point. Overall I think it allowed me to provide an honest overview of my AWS skills without feeling like a certification exam. I don’t think I aced it, but I also don’t think that was the point, I’ll have to ask Jack now that I am on the inside.
The Final Stage
Again I got invited to continue in the process. The final stage was led by Jemma, our COO, along with Marko, a team lead, and Mike, Chief Consulting Officer. Scheduled for July 7th, it was split into two parts: first a whiteboarding exercise, then some questions focused on cultural fit.
Honestly I feel like I flubbed the whiteboarding exercise a bit. I was told to pick my own tool for that section, so I chose diagrams.net. Diagrams.net is very good for making pretty architectural diagrams but it’s not great at doing so on the fly on a 13-inch laptop screen. Everyone on the call was very accommodating though, and after committing to just talking through the problem they seemed satisfied with my performance. I guess my only advice here is don’t use diagrams.net but also don’t worry about the tools and focus on the content.
The cultural fit section was probably the part of the whole process that felt the most like a traditional interview, but even then the questions didn’t have right answers, I just had to answer honestly about how I felt. In this session I had the opportunity to get opinions on the company from multiple perspectives.
I got an email offering me a position on July 9th. Yay! The whole process took 25 days, but that included me taking a week-long holiday to Edinburgh halfway through. We decided I would start September 1st.
Day 1. Now I have to face a reckoning. I still don’t really know what consultants do. Surely I will be found out and immediately dismissed. Also, I chose a MacBook which I’ve never used before so what if I’m on a call and have to copy and paste something and can’t remember how? So much can go wrong. The stakes literally could not be higher.
I, of course, was being melodramatic. My first day was like the first day at any other company, making sure I can log in to various systems, meeting my manager (but over Zoom) and reading various bits and bobs of documentation. The most intimidating part of the whole day was being added to dozens of Slack channels dedicated to talking about different topics. Small potatoes really.
They also knew that I wasn’t a consultant (yet!) and didn’t plan to just throw me at a client until I was ready. My first project would turn out to be the internal implementation of our AWS Foundations product, which was treated kind of like a consultancy simulation with internal “customers”. It allowed me to get my feet wet without worrying about potential sharks in the water.
My previous experience with “company values” was something thought up by an executive to put on the company website as a marketing exercise. My first face to face interaction with our CEO, Jon Topper, as part of an intro call showed me that this isn’t the case at The Scale Factory. He highlighted them as you would expect, but it was the rest of our chat that showed me the values really are reflected in him personally as well as company policy. I soon noticed this enthusiasm wasn’t limited to Jon when I saw people unironically referring to the company values in Slack and on pull requests. The people here walk the walk.
For example, one of our values is “we’re always learning”. Already I have found that this mantra permeates the company. Each week there is a study group session rotating between tech subjects and softer consultancy skills. Between client projects you are “on the bench” where you have time to write blog posts, study for certifications or do other non-billable work. As a new starter I found that I had a lot of bench time on my hands and was actually able to study for and take my Solutions Architect Professional AWS certification exam in the first 6 weeks. This is probably the aspect I have most appreciated about my time at The Scale Factory so far, I don’t think I will ever feel “stuck” in my career here. It would take a whole other blog post to cover the positive effects of the 7 other values.
One thing I was apprehensive about before joining was the remote working aspect. Although I had transitioned to working from home full time during the pandemic, for the majority of that I was still working with people who I already knew from the office. How would I get to know the people I will be working with when they live hundreds of miles away?
The answer was: easily. There are multiple ways to interact socially with colleagues facilitated by the company. There are weekly company social Zooms, one on Wednesday morning and one on Friday afternoon. On Slack you will find a Donut bot that pairs people up for one on one social chats every couple of weeks. And finally, there are “coworking” days every two weeks where you can meet your colleagues in person at the office in London, or at a space in Manchester (currently with good COVID precautions). The best part is all of the above are optional, so you can choose to interact on your own terms. There is nothing less fun than mandatory fun.
I’ve now been here just shy of 2 months, and although I still have a lot to learn, I already feel part of the team. Even with my short tenure here I can tell it is a great place to work.
This blog is written exclusively by The Scale Factory team. We do not accept external contributions.