Haseeb Qureshi

Farewell, App Academy. Hello, Airbnb. (Part II)

(Note: this is the second part of this story. You can read the first part here.)

Despite the rejection from 23AndMe, I kept pushing.

I applied to the all the big hiring websites. Hired rejected me from their platform. I got no bites anywhere on AngelList or LinkedIn—not even cold e-mails from recruiters. Nothing from WhiteTruffle or SmartHires.

Not a breath of interest anywhere.

 

I kept on. I asked friends, students, anyone I knew for referrals. I started reaching out to non-engineers. I asked anyone at all who worked at all at a tech company I found compelling.

I was nervous. Was I a fraud? At App Academy I might have seemed like a paragon, but to the rest of the world… was I simply not good enough?

A Swing of the Pendulum

In the middle of this flurry, I created an account on TripleByte. TripleByte is a young YC startup that’s trying to change tech hiring. From their manifesto:

“Credentials should not be used as a proxy for talent. Education and work history are meaningful but relying solely on them results in missing good programmers. Good programmers come from all types of background. It’s what you can do that matters, not where you went to school.”

Their interview process is completely blind to credentials. They decide to work with you purely on the basis of a technical assessment, then they learn about your credentials and then introduce you to startups they determine are a good match. Though they mostly work with experienced software engineers, I decided to give them a try.

To my surprise, I was able to pass their anonymous programming quiz and I was automatically invited to an onsite assessment. I showed up sheepishly to their office on King Street, and over an intense three hours I was grilled by my interviewer on coding, data structures, algorithms, and system design. At the end of the interview, he asked me what my computer science background was. None, I told him. I’d learned this stuff on my own and from teaching at App Academy. He was taken aback, and told me I was incredibly strong for only having studied this material less than a year.

The next day, TripleByte called me. They wanted to work with me! They’d introduce me directly to startups in the YC network. This was exciting—there were a ton of companies in YC network I wanted to talk to: Stripe, Twitch, Airbnb, to name a few.

Well, as it turned out, those companies weren’t really looking for someone like me. Since TripleByte is a two-sided process, they matched me up with companies for which there was a good mutual fit—Stripe, Twitch, or Airbnb were nowhere on that list. However, one of the companies they matched me with was Gusto, formerly Zenpayroll (and now a timely Zenefits competitor). I’d previously had my eye on them, so I was excited to see them matched up with me. They also lined up an onsite at a small YC startup called Flexport.

TripleByte had gotten things moving. But even more importantly, they had given me back some confidence. TripleByte wanting to work with me was a small affirmation, to be sure—it wasn’t even a job offer yet. But it felt like I’d finally pierced the membrane. If these guys thought I was good… I must have it. I just gotta prove that to everyone else now.

Onsites and Offers

I set off to the onsites. The first of the two, Flexport, was a freight company. In many ways, it seemed more like a logistics company than it was about technology company. But I felt like I performed well in the onsite.

A couple days later: no offer.

I was supposed to be upset, but by now this was an old game. I brushed it off. Each interview I could feel was making me better at interviewing. It was getting easier and easier to relax, to ask for what I needed, to make jokes, to grill my interviewers. I was getting into my rhythm now.

Rejected? It is what it is. Just keep putting in the practice, I told myself.

Next was Gusto. They were a groovy company (no shoes in the office!), and the interview was a delight. They told me they’d get back to me within a week.

Shortly afterward, an onsite from Yelp pulled through (my referral was through a non-engineer!). I went onsite and completely rocked it. Every interviewer was clearly impressed, and they immediately asked me for my references afterward. Perhaps things were looking up! It seemed like one of Gusto or Yelp might actually convert into an offer.

All the while, I kept putting more irons in the grill (gotta keep that kitchen running), and kept studying up on algorithms and system design. Around then, I got an e-mail in my inbox from TripleByte:

Saw you’re starting to get some interviews booked with companies!

I actually wanted to throw another company option into the mix, us :) We’re hiring to build out our engineering team, we really enjoyed meeting you and would love to talk more about that if its of interest. Just let me know and I can give you a call tomorrow!

Shit. Really?

I hadn’t considered joining a super small company. I’d already spent the last year at a 25 person startup; TripleByte was only 5 people. But I knew entrepreneurship was somewhere in my future, and eventually I’d be joining a super early stage startup (if not founding it myself). TripleByte was a fantastic company, already with huge traction in the tech hiring space. Their founder, Harj Taggar, was a former YC partner, and one of the most charismatic and capable people I’ve met.

They wanted me. A company actually wanted me! A good one! I laugh now, but it was a revelation to me. They invited me in for another onsite so the rest of the team could vet me.

Before I could savor it too long, I received a phone call soon after. Yelp recruiter. Yelp wanted to make an offer.

And with that, the first domino fell.


Then came the Gusto recruiter. Gusto wanted to make an offer.

A TripleByte offer came soon in tow. First I had nothing, now I had three offers in front of me.

And yet, it was a little bittersweet. Yelp’s offer was 105K salary with ~17K/yr in equity. Gusto hit around 115K with comparable equity in options, and TripleByte was in the same ballpark.

Now, if you’re outside tech (or the Bay Area), those might sound like knock-down amazing offers. But all of these offers were lower than I was currently making, and they were all for explicitly junior roles.

Still, 105K might sound like a lot of money to be miffed about. But in San Francisco, with the second highest cost of living in the US (behind only Manhattan), the purchasing power of $105K in SF is the same as making about $57K in Austin, Texas. I also still owed App Academy tuition (18% of my first year’s salary), which was deferred because of my employment by App Academy. That 18% would come due on whatever offer I accepted. And of course on top of that, I’d also be donating a third of my income.

But really, what stuck out most to me is that I’d be leaving App Academy to a downgrade. I would be no better off than if I’d just joined those companies a year before. My goal, somewhere in my head, was to make at least more than I was making now. An arbitrary benchmark in a lot of ways, but it was hard to give up.

Was what I’d learned over the last year working at App Academy not worth anything on the market?

Maybe not. Perhaps I just had to accept it.


Now that I had offers in hand, it was time to turn the crank. I reached out to every company I was talking to and told them I’d just received several offers, but was very much interested in moving forward. With that, suddenly recruiters started tripping over themselves to get me on site. I was no longer the ugly boy at the party.

I started mowing down onsites. My performance and experience were no different, yet I was treated completely differently. Phone screen from Google. Gusto raised their offer. Phone screen from Stripe. Yelp raised their offer. TripleByte raised their offer. Then the phone screen at Google converted to onsite.

Bam. Suddenly Google was in sight. I felt like Captain Ahab: for me, Google was the Big One.

My Google recruiter worked for the Youtube team (headquartered in San Bruno). That meant if I were to receive an offer, the Youtube team would have first dibs on me. The interview process is standardized Google-wide though, and Google would ultimately be my employer. I spent the weekend before practicing and took the day off from work so I could head down to San Bruno for the interview.

I arrived that morning at the San Bruno BART stop, hardly having gotten any sleep the night before, and walked 30 minutes to the Youtube campus in downtown San Bruno. It was still early, so I sat in the lobby and read over my notes from Cracking the Coding Interview for some thirty minutes, trying to keep my cool. Finally, the recruiter came out and met me and brought me to the interview room.

Unequivocally, Google was the toughest and most nerve-wracking interview I’ve ever done. The problems were complex and challenging, all abstract and extremely algorithms-heavy. They didn’t ask me a single thing about architecture, systems design, web development—all they cared was that I could solve hard abstract computer science problems. All the interviewers—clearly brilliant (and all older white men)—were stony and tight-lipped about my performance.

I walked back to the BART station that evening, exhausted and completely drained, without any idea whether I’d done well or bombed.

A week later, I got a phone call from the Google recruiter.

I was in. Google wanted me.


Their offer was reasonably strong—120K salary with a 15% guaranteed end-of-year bonus and 24K/yr in RSUs. The total package came out to 162K/yr annualized—much stronger than my other offers, but around the ballpark of what fresh graduates of App Academy who landed at Google would earn. In other words, it seemed they didn’t place me very high on their spectrum. But whatever, right? It was Google! I got Google!

With that, the floodgates opened. Just the whiff of the Google name got recruiters into a frenzy. Companies that wouldn’t even look at me now bent over backwards to expedite me through their funnels.

Stripe onsite. Uber phone screen. Twitch phone screen. Uber onsite. Stripe offer. Twitch onsite. Uber offer. Twitch offer. The offers came in, stronger and stronger. All the irons I’d put in the fire were now going off like Roman candles.

Which left me with the question of: well, shit, what do I do with them?

Deciding Factors

As the offers came in, I weighed them seriously. Every single company I talked to was compelling and had aspects that made me want to work there.

But in the end, it was hard to argue against Google being the best choice.

The first and most visceral reason was I’d never have to deal with this BS again. Google would be a golden mark on my resume—like the Harvard of software engineering. Never again would I have to worry about credentials, or people tossing my resume without reading it. Google is the one name I’d be able to brandish anywhere as undeniable proof of my legitimacy as an engineer.

Part of it had to do with my ego, no doubt. But this job search had shown me that part of it was very real and material.

Of course, then there was the compensation. Google would be hard to beat. Like Yelp, Google was a mature public company, so its equity compensation was as solid as cash. That liquidity is an important factor when it comes to earning-to-give—it means I can give sooner, which has compounding positive impact and flow-through effects.

On top of that, Google was the only company to do a donation matching program, up to $6,000. That’s an extra $6,000 a year that goes to charity that otherwise wouldn’t. When it came to earning-to-give and building my career, when I looked at the numbers, it seemed clear I couldn’t justify choosing any company other than Google.

At that point, it seemed like a done deal. Companies like Uber, Twitch, Stripe, TripleByte, were all awesome companies. But it had to be Google.

Google! I was on cloud nine. I was ready for everything to wrap up as I figured out which bus I would be taking to San Bruno, planned out my morning workout regimen, and all the rest.

But the irons in the fire were still shooting off sparks. Offers improved, sometimes without any prompting on my part. They became increasingly stronger and stronger. Soon, they started overtaking Google’s.

I hadn’t negotiated with Google at all, so I knew the Google offer would move upward. I expected Google to settle somewhere around 180K all-in, which would be a healthy jump upward. But I started to really think: what would it take for me to turn down Google?

It was a tough question. Because I was in a competitive situation, Google had allowed me to start chatting with Youtube hiring managers and essentially pick my team.

I was offered a spot on the Youtube Red team, doing back-end work in C++. A small and fast-moving team in one of Youtube’s shiniest new projects. It would be tough, certainly, to learn the technology and start becoming productive. But I’d be doing world-class engineering, and have a world-class company on my resume.

And yet, I couldn’t deny: there was something energetically captivating about each and every startup I talked to. There was something deeper about them that attracted me, something was missing from Google. Not just the growth and the responsibility, or the greater self-determination. Each of these companies were innovators, creating new value in an uncertain future, and—they needed my help.

They actually needed my help. That was captivating. And it was hard to ignore that I didn’t really feel that in my interactions with Google.

But Google continually assured me that they’d be able to beat any other startup’s offers. It seemed like a decision they were happy to make for me. As other companies kept bidding up, the Google offer moved up to 185K. And as I was moving into final negotiations, they assured me there was still more room for the offer to grow.

More room to grow? How bad did Google actually want me?

Enter Airbnb

It’s funny. I had initially been rejected by an Airbnb recruiter for a different position more than a month before. Airbnb wasn’t even on my radar. So when Ned, the CTO of App Academy told me he’d put me in touch with his friend David at Airbnb, I mostly brushed it off.

Upon Ned’s glowing recommendation, David met with me and agreed to refer me into Airbnb. With his referral, I was promptly un-rejected. David was a senior engineer there, and his recommendation seemed to carry a lot of clout (the Google offer helped of course), so I was quickly shuffled through to the phone screen.

I wasn’t expecting to do too well—I’d read in many places that Airbnb had an extremely challenging interview, and that they were more credentials-focused than other companies. So much so that I’d never heard of a bootcamp student getting placed at Airbnb. Apparently they used to post on their job listings: “no bootcampers, please.”

On the phone interview, I received a pretty challenging problem—I remember thinking when I got it that I was going to mess it up. But somehow I solved it with ease, and all of my outputs were correct. I’m not sure whether to attribute it to the accruing notches on my belt or to blind luck, but I aced the phone screen and they eagerly brought me on-site.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for Airbnb as a company—I was an early Airbnb user myself—but even as I was walking into their large and beautiful campus, my mind was already made up. I was joining Google.

The Airbnb interview was long and challenging. But, unlike the Google interview, it was invigorating. I met with payments engineers, infrastructure engineers, even a political analyst who worked on European Airbnb regulation. I was challenged on my understanding of algorithms, of caching layers and database indices, I was questioned on my beliefs about the human right of free movement across borders and on the future of travel.

I loved it. I loved everyone I met. Even more, I loved the spirit of Airbnb. Everything about it—the beautiful cosmopolitan office built as an homage to Airbnbs around the world, the people, the technology, the raw energy and drive toward connecting the world more tightly together.

Airbnb’s mission is simply, “Belong Anywhere.” I’ve been both an Airbnb guest and a host for years, and before that I was an avid Couchsurfer and Couchsurfing host. I believe strongly in the culture of sharing and interconnection.

But even so. Yeah, Airbnb was pretty cool. (And walking distance to my house!) But still, Google is Google—the tech equivalent of getting an invitation to the Justice League. How could I turn that down?

After the interview, Airbnb was slow to get back to me. Being a challenging interview, I was unsure whether an offer would come through—much less, if it could change anything. I’d already finished my last day working at App Academy, and was now officially between jobs. I decided to head home for a bit to wrap up my negotiations and rest up before starting my next gig. I had a short deadline until I wanted to start, and let each of the companies know. It was now time to go into final negotiations.

Turning Point

I get the phone call. Airbnb wants to make an offer. I have less than a week, but they’re scrambling to piece everything together to meet my deadline. They’ll get back to me.

They get back. Initial offer, 220K.

220K?

Jesus Christ.

What??

What on earth are they doing offering me 220K? This company must be out of its goddamn mind. No wonder tech is so overvalued. I lost my shit.

I had to take this really seriously now. Airbnb’s offer was highly illiquid, but they were offering me a very strong base salary: 130K, 25K signing bonus, and 65K worth of RSUs a year. Not as liquid as Google, no doubt. But Airbnb as a company was barreling toward an IPO, already worth more than 23B, and was of the most robust tech companies from a business and revenue perspective. Besides, if I’m risk-neutral—which I think I am—then it’s a clearly better deal.

I began really weighing things. Google… was Google. I already knew its advantages.

But at Airbnb, I’d clearly be able to take on more responsibility more quickly. The engineering organization was slated to double within a year. I was already very familiar with Airbnb’s tech stack, mostly Ruby on Rails, since it was what I’d been teaching at App Academy and developing on for the last year. It was also younger company. Unlike Google and its “lifers,” this was a place where I’d be more likely to meet people in an earlier stage in their lives—and meet potential co-founders.

Of course, it was also walking distance (the ol’ commute-less commute).

But, seemingly more affecting than all of those things—they needed me. At Google, I’d be a smart person sitting in a smart person chair. I’d be doing serious engineering work no doubt, but by the time I’d be done, I’d be walking away having changed little more than my own resume.

At Airbnb, they really needed my help. They believed I could make a difference. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why, but they made it clear. They thought I was valuable, and they wanted someone with my experience.

God, I’m a sap.

I had less than a week to decide. I didn’t know how to make the decision. So I started trying to evaluate everything objectively. I tried estimating the value of different outcomes. I tried to ascribe weights and calculate the value of things like network, branding, growth, faster promotion, potential for meeting co-founders, likelihood of IPOing. But nothing was convincing. It felt like an impossible choice. Before long it was Thursday night and I had to make a decision before the end of day Friday. There was a lot of cursing.

Google was assuring me that they’d raise their number by Friday morning. That night I couldn’t sleep. I repeatedly got out of bed, pacing back and forth rehearsing conversations, frantically checking my e-mail and re-tweaking Excel models. What the fuck? Just a few weeks ago I could barely get anyone to look at my resume. My first offer barely cleared 120K. 220K? What on earth is Airbnb thinking??

That night and the following morning, I called up trusted friends and asked them what I should do. I was on the phone off and on for several hours through that morning. The consensus was overwhelming.

Everyone thought I should go with Airbnb.

Final Hours

That morning, worn thin with sleep deprivation, I got a call from Google. They were raising the offer to 211K. That’s 211K. Liquid. I’d receive all of that before a year’s end. I remember scratching my chin and just laughing. God fucking dammit. I thanked my recruiter, and let her know I’d get back to her before the end of the day.

I knew Google would have a strong final offer, maybe upwards of 200K, but 211K was stronger than I’d expected. Still, it shouldn’t sway my decision, right? Was this really a decision within a margin of 10K in EV? No one else seemed to think so. If Airbnb was the winner, it should still be the winner now.

Right?

I told myself: if I’m choosing Airbnb, just remember. 220K was their initial offer. That means there’s money on the table. If there’s one thing this job search had taught me, is that there’s always, always more money on the table.

As an instructor at App Academy I ceaselessly pushed my students to negotiate hard, without fear of being rejected, looking stupid, or being perceived as greedy. Employers negotiate even harder and with more power behind them, and so it’s up to candidates to tip the scales back in the direction of employees. As absurd as it seemed now, given an offer of 220K, I had to take my own advice and ask for more. I rehearsed it again and again in my head.

But if I’m going to ask for more, I shouldn’t just ask for 10K more. I should expect to be met somewhere in the middle, right? I’ve got to be aggressive. But I don’t have any stronger offers and they know that, so maybe it’s stupid.

Fuck.

I called my recruiter from Airbnb and, half expecting to get laughed at, announced: “If Airbnb can move up the RSUs by 30K to hit a total of 250K in all-in compensation, then I’ll sign.”

“250K? Do I have your word?” she said.

“My word.”

“Okay. Let me see what I can do. I’ll get back to you before evening.”

The rest of the afternoon was a blur of habitually checking my phone, email, anything for some word of what would happen. I was driving my car into Austin, bumper-to-bumper in traffic when I got the phone call. It was the Airbnb recruiter.

“Haseeb? This is Janice.”

“Janice! What’s the word??” I held my breath.

“I made the magic happen. 250K. 130K salary, 25K signing, 95K a year in RSUs. So you’re in?”

I almost swerved into the car next to me from punching the air so hard.

“I’m in.”

So that’s the story. I start on Monday.

Overview

On the whole, I’m really excited to be joining the Airbnb family. It’s definitely a different path than Google. Most significantly, there’ll be less that I can donate to charity in a year’s time. But not only is the total value of the assets greater, I’m also convinced that in the longer term, Airbnb will be the better move for my career.

Stock in a private company is of course still a valuable asset—I just won’t be able to donate a third of their value until a liquidation event (hopefully an IPO). But my pledge to donate 1/3rd of all of my income, including my salary, doesn’t change. Ultimately, this will be a better move in terms of EV, provided some discounting for the fact that I’ll have to donate later in the future.

That said, the brand of the company was obviously an explicit consideration for me. From that perspective, my choice to join Airbnb might seem a little strange to some. In many parts of the world, Google and Airbnb wouldn’t even be said in the same sentence. But within the SF ecosystem, Airbnb and Google are largely considered to be in the same tier of engineering organizations. I’d even argue that among certain crowds, Airbnb would be a stronger signal on one’s resume than Google would be.

So I think, on the whole, I really got lucky with a company that’s a perfect fit for what I’m looking for.

One other thing I want to add. I know some might think it’s weird to be sharing your compensation in a public venue like this. I take my inspiration from Jeff Kaufman (who ironically works for Google, albeit in Boston), who donates 50% of his income to EA charities and catalogues it publicly every year.

The norm of keeping compensation secret is a very American one. And I think on the whole, it stifles transparency and open dialogue about things like class and economic inequality. But more poignantly, it makes it harder to be transparent and galvanizing about earning-to-give, which is very much one of my goals.

I explicitly entered into tech a year ago because I believed it was a place where I’d be uniquely well-suited to create a lot of value. It’s an industry where smart, driven young people can quickly earn an outsized income. Seeing that opportunity, I decided to pivot into tech and make building a career here an active aim of my life. And I hope to, as long as I can, continue to speak openly about my compensation and give even more of it away.

So that’s enough of soapboxing. Here are some stats.

A Few Statistics

By the end of my process, I had received a total of 8 job offers (not including re-negotiation with App Academy). I had completed 12 onsites total, so my I had a total onsite-to-offer rate of 66%.

Considering only the onsites after receiving my first offer however, my onsite-to-offer rate was 87%.

Of my offers, 2 of them were through TripleByte (one from TripleByte itself, the other, Gusto, through their introduction). The remainder were through referrals. Two of the 6 referrals were non-engineering referrals.

There were 12 companies where I was referred but did not receive an offer. 25% of the companies I was referred to didn’t even talk to me. But that was a lot better than the base rate: overall, 53% of companies I applied to through any means rejected me without even talking to me.

In the end, I didn’t get a single offer through a raw application. Every single offer came through a referral of some kind. (This I did not expect, and strongly influences the advice I’d give to a job-seeker.)

The differential between my lowest (initial) offer and my highest (final) offer was, in total value, an increase of 104%. That is, my compensation literally more than doubled by not accepting my first job offer. (I expect this to be highly anomalous, since companies had a lot of discrepancies in where they leveled me on their engineering ladders.)

The largest percentage increase was also with my lowest initial offer, Yelp. They started at a total annualized value of 122.5K (105K salary + 17.5K stock), and their final offer was at a total value of 180K, an increase of $57.5K, or 47%. Again, I expect this to be anomalous, because I literally jumped in engineering levels (they initially offered me a junior role, then re-evaluated). The second largest increase was from Google, moving up $48.6K for an increase of 30%. This one is perhaps less anomalous. I’m not sure.

On all but two of my offers, I negotiated. The average delta for company offers at which I negotiated was +$30,671 for the final offer. So, negotiation pays, boys and girls. More on that later.

In total, I received offers from Airbnb, Youtube (Google subsidiary), Uber, Twitch (Amazon subsidiary), Yelp, Stripe, Gusto, and TripleByte. The average value of the final offers was approximately $193,600. The salaries were all approximately the same at $130K. (Only one company offered me a base salary of $125K.) I should also note that I negotiated more aggressively on RSUs and signing bonus. I’ll also talk more about that later.

There’s obviously a lot in this department, but this blog post is already long enough. I’m going to write one more post before I start at Airbnb this coming Monday: my key takeaways from this job search, and advice to current job seekers. I’ll also talk more about my thoughts on negotiation in that upcoming post.

Look forward to it!

Update (4/25/2016)

This post has gotten a lot of unexpected attention, so I want to clarify a couple things.

First (and this should go without saying), everything mentioned in my story are my own thoughts and words, and though I am employed by Airbnb, I in no way speak on their behalf. (It’s legally important to say that, I guess.)

That said, I realize that pay transparency is a controversial subject, and I seem to have stirred up a hornet’s nest. So I want to make clear a few things.

Many people seem to think that publicly disclosing your compensation is a fireable offense, and that Airbnb will fire me now that they see I’ve posted this. Neither of those statements are true.

It’s explicitly illegal under the National Labor Relations Act to fire workers for discussing their compensations, and it has been illegal in American law since 1935. This kind of policy is known as “Pay Secrecy,” and such policies have been repeatedly struck down by courts.

See: Pay Secrecy Policies at Work are Often Illegal and Misunderstood.

And yet, pay secrecy is considered the norm in American culture.

There was a time in American history when income tax records were in the public domain. Even now, there are many cultures in which talking about your compensation is not at all considered wrong or disrespectful. Rather, it’s seen as an important part of creating a transparent society.

Pay secrecy is an easy fallback, because talking about social inequality and pay differentials is uncomfortable. It’s especially uncomfortable in American culture, where your salary often serves as a signal of your social status.

But pay secrecy carries with it a lot of costs. It can hide gender and racial discrimination, systemic exploitation, and nepotism. It’s easy to sweep these problems under the rug and not want to look at them. And for what it’s worth, I have a lot of respect to Airbnb for openly working toward solving these problems in the culture they’re building.

These are complicated problems. I don’t have all the answers. But because I am committed to effective altruism and publicly earning-to-give, I will continue to be open every year about how much I donate (and by association, how much I earn), insofar as it’s possible.

(For further reading, check out Your Coworkers Should Know Your Salary, published in the Harvard Business Review. Also, my response to a commenter on how disclosing my salary might be unwise or affect colleagues at Airbnb.)

The second thing I want to say is that for some reason, many people are drawing the conclusion that I primarily got a job at Airbnb by being really good at negotiating, or gaming the system, or something like that.

If you have ever done a software engineering interview, you would know that this is completely absurd. There is no way to negotiate or charm someone into passing a software engineering interview. Much less 8 of them.

If you don’t know the ins and outs of object-oriented programming, database design, asymptotic analysis, binary search trees, or how to improve the cache efficiency of an algorithm, then you’re not going to pass a computer science-heavy interview at a top company. You don’t even have a shot at it.

The moral of my story is not “get really good at negotiating and you’ll get a great job.” Negotiating is important, and I certainly encourage everyone to negotiate!

But first, get good at the thing you’re doing. Then worry about negotiating.

I moved to San Francisco from Austin, Texas about a year ago because I decided I was going to earn-to-give. Since then I’ve been relentlessly trying to build a new career for myself, so I could earn more and donate more to charity.

Entering into App Academy, barely knowing the basics of Ruby, I came into the office and grinded every day, spending 80+ hour weeks just coding and studying. I’d come in at 9AM in the morning and leave around midnight, 7 days a week, sleeping in a bunk bed in SOMA in a 200 square feet shared room.

It’s certainly true that I probably have a mind that’s well-suited for coding. But it’s also true that I outworked almost everyone who was in my cohort. And when I was hired by App Academy to help teach the course, I continued working as hard as I could to get good at this.

I still stayed late in the evenings, I still came into the office on weekends alongside the students just to continue coding and learning more. I started an algorithms study group in the evenings where I taught students new algorithms that I had read about, and wrote specs and instructions to guide them through the implementation. I took over our entire algorithms curriculum and taught well over 100 students the basics of data structures and algorithms.

And of course, I was scared that none of this would matter. That having been an English major, having a non-traditional background, being 26 and too old to transition into tech, competing against 20 year olds who’d been coding since they were 10, I thought I must have no chance.

Thankfully, I was wrong. And I’m very, very lucky that I was wrong, because I was almost right.

So if there’s one takeaway I want people to have, it’s not “here’s why it pays to be a master negotiator.” I’m going to talk a lot more about negotiation advice in my next blog post, but that’s almost a detail compared to the larger point.

The real takeaway should be: get so good that they can’t ignore you. Because once you are, they won’t.

-Haseeb
  • Chuan

    Congrats on the successful search, Haseeb! =D Thanks for writing this up and the level of detail provided – super educational.

    • Thanks Chuan! Best of luck in your job search as well. :)

  • Park

    Wow, absolutely amazing. Haseeb, you’re the reason why I am reevaluating my life choices and also being dead-set on attending App Academy.

    I was looking forward to finally meeting and learning from you, but it looks as though that won’t be the case.

    Congratulations on the next step in your journey, I wish you all the best!

    • Haha, that’s great. If you make it into App Academy, shoot me a line sometime and I’d be more than happy to grab lunch together. :)

  • Calvin

    Hi Haseeb, your part 1 freaked me out.

    Actually not just me, couple other people were also worried after reading your part 1. We thought people out there would discriminate against AppAcademy or bootcamp graduates in general.

    However, this part 2 is extremely reassuring and I am very happy for your outcome. It was a great honor and pleasure to have you as an instructor for the first 4 or 5 weeks? of the cohort. Your lecture on hash, cache and user authentication were some of the most entertaining and mind-blowing moment at a/A.

    • Haha, sorry to have worried you. I’m glad you enjoyed my lectures! Thanks for the kind words. :)

  • TS

    Haseeb – Congratulations! A fantastic next step, and one to be admired. Great that you got to this point without going the typical route (CS school, junior coding jobs, etc. All that crap)
    But most especially, thank you for being so f-ing TRANSPARENT about the process and the results. Too many people are stabbing in the dark when they’re out looking for a job.

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  • HalibetLector

    How did the other companies know you were getting interviews and offers? Did you tell them, or did they find out another way?

    • I told them directly. I’ll be mentioning more about how to do that in my upcoming blog post where I give generalized advice about job searching.

      • HalibetLector

        Thanks! I look forward to reading it.

      • As someone in that spot now, I very much look forward to getting some solid advice!

      • Evy

        I love your story Haseeb, not only for your amazing income but mainly because you were focus on your goals and your personal growth! I’m looking forward to read your job search process guidelines and other articles

  • Daniel

    Congratulations on your new job! I appreciate the level of detail you provided for the whole process. The transparency is refreshing and is why I am recommending your post to others in the software industry. Thank you!

  • James

    Hi Haseeb,
    How important do you think your programming language selection was during your interviews? You mentioned your experience with Ruby. Is that what you used?
    I’m coming from an aerosoace background in and have experience with Python and Go (and lots and lots of MATLAB, which wouldn’t be appropriate). Should I spend time learning C++ before interviewing, or jump in with Python?

    • In my opinion, you should absolutely jump in with Python. I’d say the value of learning C++ would be next to zero when it comes to the job search process, unless you’re looking at subfields that specifically require C++ programming (such as game development). Your marginal hour would be much better spent rehearsing in Python than learning something brand new.

      • James

        Thanks Haseeb. And Thanks for the article. Very informative and an enjoyable read.

  • “and strongly influences the advice I’d give to a job-seeker”

    Can you elaborate a bit, please? I might search for a job in the field later on, depending on how freelancing goes. However I just moved out of Spain (now a digital nomad) so my connections with YC/Sillicon Valley are basically nil.

    • I’ll be writing more about this in my subsequent blog post. But if you have no connections at all in SV, then I might say that if you’re set on SV as a place to work (sounds like you’re on the fence?) I’d recommend mass applying, and also moving here to start interacting with folks and getting to know people. Building a network is so, so valuable for getting a foot in the door.

  • klasacz

    Jeesus fucking christ. They offer more to a freshman than I get having 8 years of experience as a js/python/node dev looking for a remote job. Fuck you SF.

    • Haha. Sorry, Klasacz. It kinda blows me away too. I know there are people much more capable and qualified than I who deserve to be making more than me.

      • klasacz

        You really are a lucky man. Good luck @ AirBnb !

        • John Chen

          Lucky? Hardly.

        • Jamal

          It had nothing to do with luck or programming skills. The job search in itself may very well be reliant on luck but not the hiring.
          They were looking for the next leader and leadership and they found it based on their determination .In today’s market and startups, $250k is small potato consedring what he or she will bring to the table.

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  • Thanks for sharing Haseeb.

    Are you afraid now that you’ve told everybody how much you make, your other colleagues at AirBnB who make less will resent you, the bosses you don’t know will take issue to you telling everyone, and expectations for your performance will go up?

    I’m of the position that one should NEVER tell how much one makes, and to practice STEALTH WEALTH due to human nature.

    What are some of the benefits you’ve found to telling people how much you make?

    Reagards,

    Sam

  • BTW Haseeb, I read your post more thoroughly after my initial comment, and this really is a great post that provides a lot of insights into negotiations for folks looking to join startups. So thanks again for that.

    I just fear you might be the target man when you say stuff like, “This company must be out of its goddamn mind. No wonder tech is so overvalued. I lost my shit.”

    I love your words as a reader. I just worry now that everybody at AirBnB will read this, what will they think? And what happens if you decide to move on?

    Sam

    • Hey Sam,

      You raise totally valid points, and those were certainly things I thought about when writing this blog post.

      Based on the feedback I’ve received, I think this post has been clearly valuable to people—transparently describing the job search and the negotiation process have given many people more insight into the SV engineer hiring market. It’s evidently been motivating to people who want to break into tech. All of that is great.

      I also hope that my story also gets awareness for earning-to-give and gets people interested in effective altruism.

      And yet you raise a good point: Americans keep their compensations secret for a reason.

      (Though there’s nothing intrinsically secret about any of the compensation numbers I mentioned; you’d be able to unearth similar numbers yourself just perusing GlassDoor.)

      But it’s inevitable some people will react negatively. As you say, it’s human nature. Some people might think I don’t deserve what I’m making. Colleagues at Airbnb might be miffed that I’m making more than them, or a future manager might believe that I’m being overpaid.

      That’s all fine. It’s all true, so it’s fine. By accepting this job I also accept the burden of proof it comes with. And it’s up to me to prove that I’m good enough to do the job I was hired for. And if that means I have to work my ass off to deliver that value, or it turns out that I can’t, then fair game.

      Living in one of the richest countries in the world—and on top of that, living in a country where the majority of young people are burdened with debt and struggle to find consistent employment—why shouldn’t I be questioned about why I’m making what I’m making? Why shouldn’t I be honest about it, and be challenged to prove my worth?

      I understand the impulse to evade scrutiny. I’ve certainly felt some of that impulse after this blog post went viral. But ultimately, I think it’s a good thing for the society that stories like this are not secret. That people know how much I’m making, or what people like me make. That they ask questions about it. That it not be silently assumed this is just the way things work.

      By keeping it secret, I become complicit in this economic structure.

      That’s what I believe anyway. And by earning-to-give, at least in my mind, I’m doing my own small part to erode that economic structure.

      • Howdy Haseeb,

        Thanks for the response. Good points about raising awareness about earning to give. AirBnb is one of the few large private companies where there’s tremendous upside, even at a $24B valuation. Get those RSUs!

        I wish you good luck!

        Best,

        Sam

      • Sean

        Amen

      • Derek Konofalski

        The world needs more people like you. Instead of shying away and saying that you obviously deserve it and that people who may make less than you should’ve tried harder, you put the onus on yourself to prove that you’re worth what you say (and they say) you’re worth. I’ll say it again. The world needs more people like you.

        Good luck on your adventure and congratulations!

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  • Random Name

    Great story Haseeb and grats on your new job! How’d you prepare for the Google interview and do you recommend any particular sites or books that you think are worth reading?

    Thanks

    • I’ll be writing about this in detail in my next blog post, there’s a lot of stuff there. Promise I’ll publish it really soon!

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  • Corbin Clemons

    Haseeb,
    You are a complete badass. I loved your blog, and I kind of expected this was how it should be done. If I could just pick your brain for a bit..I had two interviews scheduled last week. I knew going in that the first job was advertised at $20/hour. The manager skipped the phone screen and requested that I go onsite. He then proceeded to blindside me with an offer on the spot! I did not know what to say, so I said yes. The thing is, my other interview was presented as a $35/hour role! What should I do if I get an offer from this job?
    KR,
    Corbin C.

    • Thanks Corbin!

      Without knowing anything about the companies, I’d say if you’ve already accepted the first offer, there are no further steps. You go with your word and take the first job and do the hell out of it. :)

      Doesn’t matter if the other interview pulls through, because the worst thing you can do in this situation is to break your word!

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  • RK

    Awesome stuff! You are truly inspirational.

  • Lams

    Hi Haseeb

    congrats on your successful search. I’m a CS major but I am not working as a software engineer. I work as a Data Manager and as a result forgot a lot about algorithm design, data structures ..etc If in the future I would like to be a software engineer what are the areas I have to brush up on and how long does it take to do that (as an estimate?). You have a very diverse background and although it has given you a hard time in your job search it’s actually a strength whether the companies realize it or not.

    • Hey Lams,

      Thanks for the kind words. As far as how long it takes to brush up on data structures and algorithms, it definitely depends from person to person and on your timeframe. I’ll be talking more about this in a subsequent post, but I’d say 3 months is a decent time-frame if you’re starting from literally 0. Obviously how much time you can dedicate to it is also an important factor; very different if you’re not working full-time or have a lot of other obligations aside from studying.

      • Lams

        Thanks for the reply. I’ll keep an eye out for your next post!

  • Leslie Granger

    While I’m not in your field, I totally appreciate your sharing this experience.

    Of course the money was important to you, but I was particularly impressed that you were focused on where you felt you were WANTED and as a result felt about to refuse the mighty Google. Says a lot.

    I’m just struggling to find ANY job.

    Really enjoyed your story. Thank you for being so frank. You had me laughing out loud many times. Your story was eye-opening and hilarious.

    Les

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  • Tarun

    I always thought negotiations put you in bad light and companies feel that I am greedy.but your blog has completely changed my view. Thanks for sharing this information and all the best for airbnb.

    • Definitely not Tarun. Companies negotiate all the time, and in many ways I think they will respect you more for negotiating as well. :)

  • Dragan Ostojic

    Hi Haseeb, I found your 2 part series very informative and inspirational. I’m myself software engineer with years of experience yet I find fascinating that somebody so younger is able to figure out how to turn tables around. I think your previous experience playing poker and strategizing played a significant role. Well done, all the best in your new role at Airbnb.

    • Hey Dragan,

      Thanks for the kind words. It’s funny to hear people say that—I didn’t really set about this path to inspire people, I did it so I could build my own career. I’m glad you found it motivating! And yes, I definitely think my experience playing poker helped me in the negotiation and strategizing process. :)

      Haseeb

  • Jeffrey C

    Amazing story, Haseeb. I was practically in tears, both happy for you and completely and utterly jealous.

    What I realized immediately and what clearly, the recruiters never seemed to realize, certainly at the beginning… is that you TAUGHT computer science.

    It’s my experience, that even the worst professors in college, are masters of their subject that they teach. If you teach algorithms and data structures, you will always know them better than people who didn’t.

    (makes me want to teach because I know it would make me an infinitely better developer)

    My last exam for my bs in cs is two days from now. I had a job and recently quit, so I’m far behind on applying for jobs. My dream job, which I feel I’m qualified for, just got reposted 4 days ago, fate? I’ll apply, but I’m afraid I won’t be prepared for an interview in time.

    Anyway, I intend to read some more of your blog posts.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful journey of yours. Definitely one of the best reads I’ve ever found posted on linkedin.

    • Thank you, Jeffrey! I completely agree; I think a large part of what many people overlook my story is my teaching experience. I think you learn a tremendous amount from teaching a topic; both in deepening your own understanding and having to field challenging questions, but also learning how to explain it in simple terms. It really forces you to drill down your understanding of a concept to its most elementary constituents.

      Wish you all the best in your job search Jeff!

  • CV

    This is so inspiring! I remembered seeing you in poker tournaments on TV, and look now you’re making it big in the tech/software scene. Congrats, and well deserving.

    I recently completed an iOS development program but have very limited exposure with algorithms. It is my understanding that to be successful in software engineering interviews one needs to have a solid understanding of algorithm and data structures. This beg the question: What approach would you recommend for an aspiring software engineer (without a traditional computer science background) on learning algorithm? Any good books/videos/online sources?

    Looking forward to more blog posts from you!

    • I’m glad you found it motivating! I’ll be writing in some detail about my approach to interview prep in an upcoming post, as well as the resources I used.

  • Trini FOX

    Can you do a post on the process of selecting your charities?

    • Haha, I’m glad this is something you’re interested in! It probably won’t be a while until I can write this blog post, but I’d be more than happy to. For now though, I’d recommend checking out http://whatiseffectivealtruism.com for some insight into the way I approach charities. :)

  • Rohit

    Haseeb, this couldn’t have been put better! From the first post to second, it’s like every detail of the journey :) What I would like to ask you is how did you prepare so meticulously for the coding interviews, and what resources do you suggest for one to prepare to this depth?

    • Hi Rohit, thank you! I’ll be writing in more detail about my approach to interview prep in an upcoming post, as well as the resources I used. I’m going to work on it today and hopefully push it out soon.

      • Rohit

        Thanks Haseeb! Waiting for your next post :)

  • tadtab

    Hi Haseeb,
    I just got this news on yahoo which became a coincidence and proof for one of my friend to push him into the IT field. He really have the interest but his major is in pharmacy and I found your story very supportive to help him understand what he need to do next.

    I majored in electrical engineering and was able to join the IT field after my friend did a lot of effort. Right now I have 5 months experience in java and javascript. I have the opportunity to make more than what I am getting right now.

    I just wrote this to express my appreciation on your achievement. Glade you made it after tones of declines which happened to me too.

    • Thanks Tadtab! I’m glad your friend found my post supportive. And thank you for the kind words. :)

  • Paul Porter

    Haseeb,

    Thank you for this amazing write up! Not only will it serve to aid negotiations of many, if not all, of your readers, but it’s an inspiration to people like me that have the same varied background as you and finds that passion has driven me to exceed the skill level of computer science grads I knew in college.
    You’ve laid out a clear ‘how to’ for tech job searching which has been a HUGE challenge area for me.

    Thank you!

    • Ha! I certainly hope this isn’t taken as a “how-to.” There are a lot of details that I glossed over in this narrative. My next blog post though will be in much more detail about how to prepare, advice for interviews, and strategies for negotiation.

  • Suresh

    Hi Haseeb,

    I am really surprised by they way you have moved forward in your life and a big big congratulation to you.

    I have few Question of you can help me,

    1> People do minor and major still there concepts in data structure and Algorithms are not so good, you used to play poker and no technical background how you understood programming so well

    2> Is it the coding that should be learnt or it is something else in coding which most university doesnt teach

    3> what should be the skills in students to be a good programming who wants to develop some tools for real life problems

    4> How can one be a good/ Great programmer ?

    Regards,
    Suresh

    • Hey Suresh,

      You raise good questions. I’ll be writing in some detail about my approach to interview prep in an upcoming post, as well as the resources I used; hopefully that should (roughly) answer some of your questions here. If not, feel free to leave a comment on the subsequent post and I’ll try to address it in more detail. :)

    • Here a link to some of the resources I’ve been using to learn about programming and computer science:

      http://randycannon.com/blog/randy-cannon-can-find-computer-science-information/

      Amazon also has a great selection of books if you like the Teach yourself approach and like to carry a hardcopy book with you. I remember back in the late 90s, simple HTML was all one really needed to make a half decent website and I picked up a book called HTML for dummies and dissected it until I became an HTML Ninja. I wish I knew about object oriented programming languages back then, there’s no telling what I’d be doing now, but I guess it’s never too late to learn as long as you’re still breathing.

  • anon

    I read your essay on beauty in poker a few years ago when it was linked on facebook by a mutual friend. I remember thinking it was one of the best things I ever read, and it had a huge impact on me as I made the shift from competitive gaming to software engineering.

    If you demonstrate mastery in a discipline by making moves that subvert your previous understanding, then the perfect software would be one that seems to do one thing, but actually does another. Just kidding.

    Anyway if you write like this about everything you learn as an engineer, you will probably benefit more people than if you donated a trillion dollars. Most of the subtleties and nuances of engineering are locked away in people’s heads, and are only transferred through direct experience, which is really annoying.

    • Haha! I don’t know if I’d agree with that, but thank you for the (tall) praise.

  • Sarah

    Hi Haseeb, What did Uber offer in RSU?

    • Uber’s RSU package was worth roughly 48K/yr in RSUs (at current valuation).

      • Sarah

        Thanks, curious what # that was and valuation they suggested. I’m also under offer from Uber so wanted to compare notes.

        • I don’t remember the exact numbers, unfortunately. I only wrote down the dollar value of the RSUs. But that was at their most recent valuation at their last round of funding, which I understand was a while back.

      • Fascinating Uber’s RSU offer was under $50K, while having a much higher valuation (maybe less upside).

        Your Airbnb offer was definitely better!

        Sam

  • Jonathan

    Hi Hasseb,

    Any advice for a Canadian with an Associate’s Degree looking to break the ice at App Academy?

    Maybe you had some students in a similar position. If so, what is the job search

  • Jonathan

    Hi Hasseb,

    Any advice for a Canadian with an Associate’s Degree looking to break the ice at App Academy?

    Maybe you had some students in a similar position. If so, what is the job search like?

  • Paolo R

    Hi Haseeb,

    I just finished reading your long story and it was breathtaking. I am a new grad in mechanical engineering but coding was also a big part of my last year. I have been only recently approaching these “recruiting issues” entering the job market. I am glad you shared your experience, I really appreciate it. I agree on the fact that companies, almost always, have an incredible unfair advantage on applicants as they can rely on an incomparable amount of information that are not available on the other side of the desk.

    Thanks a lot for your tips. I’ll be eagerly reading your following updates. Best luck with your new professional adventure.

  • Thanks Haseeb for detail write-up, it was great inspiration to me, I am from India and I am also in job search. This really helps me to concentrate more on referrals than Raw applications.

  • Hello Haseeb!

    Congratulations! I just read an article about you on Yahoo! It was very inspirational as I’m sure you know from the responses you’re getting. I too have aspirations of being a software engineer and I hope someday to be on your level with what you’ve accomplished.

    I’ve always had a passion for Computer Science but was intimidated by the math requirements. Now that earning the knowledge needed for programming is much more accessible, I’ve taken to the task by first teaching myself the basics with books like the Head First series from O’Reilly and have dived into using Linux to learn more about Server Administration.

    I’d love to feature your RSS on my website if you don’t mind. I’ve created a blog of my own through WordPress to showcase some of my skills as a portfolio to prospective employers and possible clients. My latest project involves augmenting a pdf form with submission features to send data to a PHP script that routes the data to a MySQL database, sends me an SMS message, e-mail message, and sends a confirmation e-mail and FDF popup to the applicant.

    Here’s a link to the PDF: http://randycannon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Randy-Cannon-Digital-Discount.pdf

    Congratulations on your accomplishment once again and continue to provide inspiration to the rest of us.

    Sincerely,

    Randy Cannon

  • Claria

    This was such an interesting article. Congrats on the new job.
    I was surprised that so many companies where you had a referral did not even talk to you. I also thought it was hilarious that one of the companies you applied to rejected you, but when came in thru inside referral channel they were interested. Makes you wonder what type of approach the recruiters at those companies are using when choosing which candidates to pursue!!

  • Jerry

    Hi Haseeb,

    I’m curious to know which programming language(s) you used during your interviews.

    I currently work with Swift on a daily basis (iOS developer). It’s the only language that I can currently solve interview questions, and I feel like I should learn Ruby or Python for the sole purpose of interviewing, or maybe even Java in case I ever want to start over as a junior Android developer.

    Would really appreciate any feedback. Thanks!

  • Arunkumaar Saravanen

    Hello Haseeb,

    Great Post. Congratulations for your new job.
    Your whole post gave me more confidence on the job search.Thank you.

  • Sean

    Great reading about your adventure and success Haseeb. You were a factor to my success in the early days of poker due in large part to your videos on DC(brute force checkraiser, equity checkraiser, etc lol), and were a deciding factor for me to jump full force into an online open source bootcamp centered on RoR about a year ago as well. Congrats!

  • Jimmy Chau

    Haseeb,

    Well played! You should be proud of yourself!
    Is your new role working on products or are you doing more of an app integration type role? Just curious.

    When do you start selling the DVD’s to helps others do the same journey?
    Oh, don’t leave out a free set of steak knives (that always sells more tix! hehe)!!

  • Zach Milne

    Haseeb,
    Super insightful and inspiring. I also successfully made a career switch to software development. I would love to learn more about your study methodology. Not only what material you studied, but how you chose what to study, and how you learned it so well. Because these employers obviously saw something they liked and it wasn’t because you learned how to build a to-do app.

    I know you’re going to write more posts. I look forward to it. oh, and congrats!

    -Zach

  • Hi Haseeb,

    I’m a professional poker player and I really loved The Philosophy of Poker/How to Be a Poker Player. It was a tremendous addition to poker literature and trust me, I’ve read them all. I’ve never read any other poker book that takes such a beautifully abstract look at poker strategy.

    In addition to poker, I’ve co-founded a tech startup in NYC in the last year, and after reading your latest posts, I was wondering if you have any advice on the best resources to find both freelance as well as full-time engineers? I’m about a month away from the beta launch, and I anticipate an increase in programming need. Any help would be appreciated.

    Good luck on your journey.

    Thanks,
    George

  • Anirudh Goel

    Great story and good write up, but I have never heard a Google interview process finish end to end inside a week. Not sure if your story is factually correct or a marketing gimmick to sell TripleByte and app academy.

  • Mike

    Very good learning experience for most of us. Couple questions:

    1. Is our RSU offer states only dollar amount or number of shares. And you have total of RSU per year for 4 years as the offer.
    2. Just curious how you will compares/(recomend) with offers (let’s says like simular to yours)
    130k Base + 95k RSU + 25K sign-on
    vs
    170K base 10K RSU + 25K sign-on
    Or how much ration increase base and descrease RSU should be look at to be kind of “fair”?

    Thanks,
    Mike

    • Mike, cash is king in this environment. But you’ve got to make up your own mind on how much upside you think there is with your company.

      With Airbnb, I would take the $95K RSUs over $95K more cash.

      Sam

  • Vikram VI

    Hi Haseeb,

    thanks for sharing your experiences , really enjoyed and learnt new things while reading it.

    Best Regards,
    Vikram

  • Cindy

    Many thanks for sharing your story! I have a couple questions. 1) How much time did each company give you to consider their offer and what did you say to make them extend the deadline while you go through with other interviews? Google, for instance, seems to like to call on a Friday on with a verbal offer and push you to accept asap. 2)Have you received most of them in verbal or writing? Does it make you feel insecure to negotiate on a verbal offer or do you demand them to put down their each offer before agreeing to reply?

  • Yadgyu

    Only in America can someone with minimal education and training become rich through shady deals and hardcore negotiations!

    For Christ’s sake, this guy has an English degree and took a vocational course and is making a quarter million dollars. How fair is that to all of the other guys who have a BS, MS, or PhD in Computer Science with years of experience and many certifications.

    I just don’t understand how someone could have the audacity to brag about having minimal qualifications and making a ton of money while others out here are busting their butts for peanuts.

    This just stinks, man. Hope you enjoyed selling your soul and becoming a slave to the big corporation. It must feel good to count all of that money while others are more qualified but are overworked and underpaid. Hope you are proud of your greed.

    Giving a few crumbs to charity will help you to sleep at night, but won’t satisfy your soul in the end. Everything about this whole negotiating and playing games with companies just sends the wrong message to young people. Some role model you are, pal!

    • Instead of being angry at Haseeb, why not just apply for a job in tech and ask for $250,000 yourself?

      Bring yourself up instead of trying to pull him down!

      Sam

      • Yadgyu

        That sounds real convenient that you would stand up for something like this. It’s easy to sit back and say “step your game up”. But people have been working hard and have the right skills and experience and still earn less than $250K a year. This isn’t some dream world where everyone can just wish themselves into a high paying job.

        If I worked at AirBnB and made less than $250K for doing the same job, I would be furious. They are going to have to raise pay for everyone or expect people to leave. Haseeb pretty much made himself a target. If I were at his level or higher and I knew I made less money, I wouldn’t be so quick to make friends with this guy. I’d be pissed at how I was getting cheated and this guy comes out of nowhere and cleans up. If he gets all of that money, he should be doing a lot more work than the people making less. I wouldn’t work any more than my 40 hours if I were getting short-changed like that.

        • That’s the thing. It’s likely that MANY people at Airbnb Haseeb’s age and experience make $250,000 in total compensation. Otherwise, Haseeb wouldn’t have gotten that package.

          By highlighting Airbnb pays $250,000 in total comp for young engineers, they are inviting more people Haseeb’s age to apply for similar positions for similar total compensation. It’s only rational to conclude that if you are in your 30s, 40s, and 50s+, you will probably make in the $300,000s, $400,000s, and $500,000+. All existing employees at richly valued tech companies should immediately ask their managers for a raise if they have similar or more experience than Haseeb, and are making less than $250,000 a year.

          The simple solution is to just APPLY and JOIN Airbnb or other similar private tech companies like Uber, Lyft, Pinterest etc. Haseeb helps shine a spotlight that A LOT of people at these companies have these packages or MUCH GREATER since Haseeb is only in his mid-20s.

          Check out: http://www.financialsamurai.com/why-the-rich-should-pay-higher-rents-an-airbnb-employee-explains/

          Sam

    • Marcus

      I’m interested as to why you think he is under qualified? You are essentially saying that you MUST have a degree in Computer Science to work with computers. Would it be possible that Haseeb understands the core concepts of Computer Science through independent study and can write industry standard code? I think it may even be possible that he codes better than some young people with CS degrees. So, how exactly is he under qualified?

  • Qflux

    Whats “guaranteed” with RSUs?

    You mean an initial allotment of X divided over a 4 year vesting period.

    You may never see another one.

    Which means you’d *have* to jet in 4 years or fall off a compensation cliff.

    You should mention this.

    Why? Well… Get back to me when you’re 40.

    It’s how tech works.

    The base salary NEVER goes too high even with experience. And the POST signing RSUs, by year 5, are generally mediocre.

    Its a big shiny object up front, but the entire model is based on burning through green employees and only enriching founders and the MOST elite rockstars.

    The only “out” is pre IPO lotto, so you made the right move there.

    Good luck!

  • Haseeb,

    You inspired me to write a long post about your post! The basic conclusion is: the rich should pay more for everything. I’d love for you to read the post and share your thoughts in my comment section when you get a chance!

    http://www.financialsamurai.com/why-the-rich-should-pay-higher-rents-an-airbnb-employee-explains/

    Best,

    Sam

  • So, how was your first week?

  • Josh

    Big congratulations on your offer and best of luck! I enjoyed the read immensely. I was a techie for 15+ years in engineering and then decided to retire early(got lucky with some investments which allowed this). My only advise to you would be to learn as much as possible and then transition out of engineering into a leadership role unless your truly love the technical role and your skills are that much better than your peers. Engineering is great for someone in their 20s, but has a fairly quick ceiling.

    • Marcus

      Would you clarify what you mean by ‘fairly quick ceiling’? I would think that you could continue programming indefinitely as long as you continue to learn new methodologies/frameworks etc…

      By ‘ceiling’ are you referring to the amount of technical work one can endure before wanting to switch roles?

  • Stuart Wagner

    Interesting read and congrats if it’s true (this is the internet after all).

    I think the approach you suggest to candidates could be a bit problematic in extreme cases like this. The goal shouldn’t be to find the most money from a company. It should be to find the right “fit.” Fit can be described not only through traditional measures – work, company, location, etc but also through salary fit.

    The best financial offer isn’t always the best. As a new developer, perhaps you will live up to 250 and perhaps not. But this is a huge downside risk that I think new hires don’t consider. Salary fit refers to finding an optimal pay for your current expected level of production, and if it gets too far out of whack, you either get fired or you quit for another company.

    I had five offers to tech companies like these. I negotiated one. The truth of the matter is that I don’t want to be the highest paid new developer. I want to be the most valuable developer. I think the money follows value production.

    • Stuart,

      That is a GREAT perspective: having the right fit. It’s hard to have a target on your back, but I commend Haseeb for his bravery and honesty in telling the world.

      This post will do A LOT to those looking to negotiate a better total compensation package, new employees and existing employees.

      Sam

  • Hi there
    i need help about hacking or cracking
    if anyone or admin this howknow about that
    then will be reply me here or http://www.fb.com/sobiaijazkhan

  • Ben West

    Congratulations Haseeb!

    In your various offers, how did people calculate the value of the stock units?

    For publicly traded companies like Google it’s pretty easy, but did the privately held companies calculate it based on their most recent valuation, expected exit value, etc.? Did they incorporate future dilution, whether other shares have higher preferences, etc.? Did they give you the value under different scenarios, or just one value?

    I’ve been wondering how to present stock to our employees, and I’m curious what you found and what you like/dislike.

  • Suckatash

    Haseeb,

    Welcome to the club. At 27, you are still one of the young ones. Please post an update after your first year anniversary at AirBnB. That should be a very interesting read.

    –suckatash

  • Katinka Ingabogovinanana

    Thank you for this. As a very early Airbnb employee, reading this felt like a punch in the stomach. You will make more money between now and the end of the year than I did in the first three years I worked at Airbnb- and those early years were tough. The personal and physical sacrifices my colleagues and I made to keep the company afloat so that employees in 2016 can enjoy an asinine salary and more stock than all of us combined is quite sobering.

    • Maybe you guys should go get some lunch and talk it out?

      Even if you got a mediocre $30,000 a year in RSUs in the early days… doesn’t that mean you went from around $30,000 at say a $1B valuation to $810,000 in RSU value at a $27B valuation? And if you worked there for three years and got more RSUs each year, wouldn’t your RSUs be worth WELL NORTH of $2M?

      At what valuation did you join Airbnb? Surely you must be doing very well no?

      S

  • Michael

    Haseeb:

    Great life story. Glad you pulled through too! This story is motivating for me who also started in Software Development recently. I’ve been trying to get into learning the in and outs of various algorithms, OOP, Dara structures and etc. Even though I found a small gig in doing RoR work for a ground zero startup company, much of what I learned helped me to be prepared and confident. No matrer what Ill continue to refine and learn. Thanks for sharing this with us again!

  • md

    A TripleByte offer came soon in tow

    That’s your sentence. Cant’ put tow (to0) much faith in this blog, seems alot of bs. Why does’nt airbnb check this info, don’t they care about much? Guess I would’nt want to work for them.
    md

    • John

      Do you not know your English idioms?

      Let me help you out:

      in tow – accompanying or following someone.

      Maybe you should double check your knowledge of the English language before criticizing an English major of his?

      • Todd Nestor

        Thanks for that, I was about to make a similar comment.

      • Some Dude

        Wait. I thought they towed the offer over to you using a tow truck. What? Now I’m confused. ;)

  • Tina.Qiu

    Read your story for two days, so wonderful.
    You are so excellent, and did a lot of preparation before finding your new job.
    As a major of English, i am doing foreign trade now. I have already worked at this company for five years, but sales is not good. I have plan to change my job this year, but still do not taking action. By your inspiration, i need do some change from now on. Thank you so much! Will follow your blog when i have time.

  • Joe

    I have a similar story to yours (I graduated from App Academy in October 2014). After three months of a job search process I hated, I escalated matters and I wrote a bot that logged into linkedin and applied to Rails jobs on my behalf. I had an amazing offer at the wonderful company I still work for within ten days. I love my job because of the amazing teammates I get to work with every day. No amount of money could get me to be around people I hate every day.

    Seek to be on teams you legitimately enjoy being around. AirBnB is probably full of great peers.

    Ultimately you have to seek higher meaning. I have experienced 40% salary increases three times in my life and every time my moment-to-moment happiness did not change and in fact likely decreased as money increased. Money will absolutely NOT NOT NOT change your happiness. It actually may make you more depressed. Seek harmony and balance as you embark on this new journey, and massive congratulations on your success!

    -Joe

  • Duncan

    Hey Haseeb, I have a question for you. You mention working with a recruiter, but you said that almost all of your offers came from referrals. Can you explain what that means? Did you use your recruiter for those referrals, or did you generate them yourself and then got your recruiter to handle the hiring process?
    I’ve never sought a job, I’ve run my own companies for 11 years now, and I’m beginning my first job search for a senior / VP level role. I was going to get involved with a recruiter, but felt I could do the legwork myself through networking, clever LinkedIn work, and referrals. But if you did that and also worked with a recruiter, I’d like to understand that a little more.
    Thanks for your time! Great article!

  • Alvin Lee

    You’re a great story teller. I was engaged the entire time.

    If you’re ever down to meet up, I’m in the area.

    Cheers,

    Alvin

  • Chris

    Great article, thank you for taking the time to write about your journey.

    I have a question regarding the RSUs. A few times when talking about RSUs you make it sound like it will be that amount a year – each year. No limit. ?

    Example: 95K a year in RSUs.

    Can you explain how the RSUs work out in your offers?

    i.e. We’re offering you $xx,xxx in RSUs. These RSUs vest over y years – meaning we are offering you $xx,xxx/y each year for the next y years.

    When discussing RSUs, what is typical in a offer – from the point of view of ‘per year’, or over a specific vest period?

    Thank you for your time.
    Chris

    • Chris – Get RSUs EVERY SINGLE YEAR. And hopefully more each year than the last. Haseeb has set a great bar for 26 yo engineers everyone. Ask for $250,000 if you have similar skills/qualities/experience and always negotiate UP.

      Sam

      • Chris

        Yes, I understand that is a goal, but typically the RSUs in an offer are much larger than the ones you may receive year two+.

        However, my question is regarding the initial offers he received and the details around the RSUs.

        3 or 4 year vest vs 95k each and every year?

        Chris

  • JD

    Congrats on the new gig! Would be interested to hear when/if you are married / have children how that impacts your ability to practice effective altruism.

  • Jessica GT

    What made you want to start a personal blog?

  • Andre

    You are a polymath and probably read a lot on other subjects other than programming, oker or games. Luck also play a huge role when u sign up with a system that puts ability above credentials – something a HR can never figure out in a million years. Anyway congrats on a job well done, you obviously work hard for it and being smart plays a lesser role.

  • Steven Cheong

    First of all, congratulations, Haseeb!

    Your 2 posts have blown my mind. I’m starting a/A next week and your other post had helped me a lot during the admission process. I had tons of fun on codewars.com and took your advice to interview with all the bootcamps that I could and learned a ton.

    I’m so sad that I won’t have the chance to attend your nightly algorithm study group. I hope someone will continue this tradition at a/A.

    But I’m glad that my loss is your gain. Best of luck in the next chapter of your life!

    Steven

  • Miguel

    Very educational! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • winston smith

    With all due to respect to the author, this is a very sad commentary on the broken state of hiring in tech.

    Code Bootcamp does not a developer make. it is the beginning of a learning process. However, bright this guy may be –and he obviously is very bright– the fact that Google wanted to put him on a C++ dev team where his coworkers would have had to teach him everything he didn’t learn at code bootcamp is simply ludicrous.

    Will there be a followup post on how he crashes and burns?

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  • Some Dude

    This is an amazing story! I really appreciate it. That said, I’m not sure everyone completely understands RSUs and bonuses when it comes to the tax structure and California. So I thought it was worth noting (for anyone who cares).

    First off. Bonuses in California are taxed differently and come with a very heavy taxation. More than your normal income tax. If there is any sort of language of “bonus” it’s bad. IF you are fortunate enough to get one through your normal W-2, then rejoice. Otherwise, what you might (depending on if you’ve been through this before) think are you getting is actually quite less. Actually this is not just California but also the IRS. It’s quite a shock for people.

    Second, RSUs are better than options from a non-IPO company, but both are toilet paper in my opinion. I’d soooo much rather have them put the equivalent into my 401k. The problem with RSUs is that yea it sounds like it’s a great thing to have years down the line…But it’s not a sound retirement investment strategy because you’re putting all your eggs into one basket. You aren’t diversifying.

    So why do I call it toilet paper? Well because companies like to do some funny things with stocks. Like issue more for example. When this happens you’re diluted and again what you might have thought you were getting isn’t necessarily what you will get. They literally print money. Literally.

    Also, if you morally care to know. Realize that the money you may eventually take from these comes not from your employer but from investors =) So when the crap hits the fan and you cash out because the ship is sinking, know that there’s some really sore investors out there that are paying your bonus.

    They are literally paying you pennies on the dollar. It is of basically no risk to give you RSUs. You already think it’s outrageous…But really they could have doubled your RSUs and not batted and eyelash. Not only do they need to vest, but the value is not guaranteed. THEN, then! On top of that you have some withheld for income taxes and THEN you pay capital gains tax when you do actually go to cash out.

    All said and done you can cut whatever number you see in half. Or maybe even less. Bottom line, you want your base salary to be as high as possible.

    As far as stocks are concerned, the best thing you can do is get a matching 401k from your employer or put into your own IRA. Under your control. Where your money is diversified. Companies don’t really do 401k as much as they used to. It’s now a lot more common to get stock incentive. Hmmm…Wonder why….

    (the answer: it’s more expensive for them and it doesn’t help them retain employees – you walk with your 401k, no taksies backsies)

    Anyway. Just a little word of warning. This is still an incredible offer and an incredible story though. I really enjoyed reading it.

    • Some Dude

      One more thing. All of those extras won’t count when you apply for a mortgage either. It will be your base salary. They are not helping their employees afford the redonkulously overpriced homes in the Bay Area. This keeps more people renting and more people burning money rather than building long term wealth. Honestly it bothers me quite a bit because these companies make a killing off of our hard work.

    • Thanks for weighing in, and glad you enjoyed the writeup. :)

      One point of clarification: it’s not correct that bonuses and salary are treated differently in terms of taxation. They *do* have different tax withholding rules, and quite often if you don’t intervene at all, companies will err on the side of withholding ~50% of a bonus. But that overpayment will eventually return to you in a tax refund. When it comes tax time, your bonus is just income, and it’s all taxed at the income tax rate.

      This phenomenon more attributable to simplified tax accounting practices than to companies trying to squeeze out or trick you.

      Source: https://www.thestreet.com/story/990258/2/when-the-tax-bullet-hits-the-bonus.html

      • Some Dude

        Great link! Thanks for sharing that. Still, if you get a 1099-MISC at the end of the year, that’s different and you are right – it may not be “that” bad…But it is still more than your W-2. You’re subject to self-employment taxes. Again, depends on how it all goes down.

  • Vatsal Shah

    Hi Haseeb,
    I would like to thank you for sharing your story. Your post is both inspirational and compelling,especially for an entry level programmer looking to make it big in the tech industry.
    While this post has been highly publicized as how well you “negotiated” into getting those offers, I believe it is your coding ability and hard work that you put in solving those algorithm problems that really did it for you.

    I’m really looking forward to your interview preparation methodology. It will really help budding programmers like me to crack tough interviews.

  • Manisha

    Great article!! Very inspiring. Thank you for honestly posting the details of the job search process

  • Siana

    Thank you for sharing your process. You clearly earned everything you achieved and thus I raise a glass for you. My only question…How much time were you given to accept/decline these offers? Most applicants with an offer on the table promise a decision in 48-72 hrs. I cannot imagine you accomplished all this renegotiating and fielding of new offers in that period of time, yet it also seems improbable that Google and Uber and other juggernauts just sat for weeks awaiting your decision. Thanks in advance.

    • Hey Siana,

      Some companies initially claimed a 72 hour window for acceptance. With a little bit of negotiating and confidence, every company that said that was willing to give me at least a couple weeks. Google and Uber and the other juggernauts usually give a standard of 10 business days, but it’s always extensible if you’re in a competitive position. A lot of it is really about power dynamics. Google ended up giving me 15+ business days; it’s all about asking for it. I’m going to talk about this at some length in my upcoming blog post about negotiating. :)

      Haseeb

      • Siana

        I see. Thanks for replying. Best wishes.

  • Sameer Usmani

    The 2nd thing in Update (4/25/2016) assured me a lot. I’m almost 28, Electronics Engineer, quite lost. I just saw that dreams do come true, and that there is no excuse.

    Keep it up man, earn-to-give is something I really envy you on right now, you the man!

    Keep rocking.

    • Haha, thanks Sameer! Best of luck to you in your journey. :)

  • Brandon

    Thank so much for this post. I just changed into software engineering at university and will start learning Java in the fall but have already completed the Java portion of code academy in just a few days. You laying all this out for transparency really is helpful and makes me even more excited to start learning.

    Best,
    Brandon

  • Lawbringer

    Jesus Christ Haseeb,

    You make more than Senior Marketing Directors at giant companies such as Oracle. Very well done. I’ll be sure to learn from your experience and apply it in my own life as well as I can. Cheers for helping the community!

  • Marcus

    Haseeb,

    First of all, congratulations and thank you for the entertaining read! I’m a bit surprised you had such a hard time lining up your initial interviews given your experience at App Academy and knowledge of web development. This is a bit worrisome to me as a self taught React developer. It makes me think “if HE had that much trouble, I am fucked.” I haven’t considered a bootcamp because I feel like I’m far enough along in my own projects to where it wouldn’t be the best investment. Your story has really blown my confidence. In your own experience, do most budding developers have that much trouble?

    • Marcus

      To preface my previous comment, we have a very similar hodge podge educational background and eclectic pool of experiences (comparative literature major here).

    • Hey Marcus,

      Thanks for the kind words! I think you should gauge your response rate once you actually get onto the job market and start interviewing. Given the quantity of companies out there, there’s no real incremental cost in getting started with interviewer. There are more fish in that ocean than you can ever hope to exhaust. Getting in front of people (and also figuring out your local hiring market) will give you the most insight into where you’re at.

      It may be worth attempting to get into a coding bootcamp. I’d say that right now, there aren’t any coding bootcamps in the Bay Area that are worth attending aside from App Academy and Hack Reactor. Especially as someone with some front-end experience as a React developer, sounds like you’re already reasonably far along the curve.

      What I might do if I were you is try to do some consulting work. Get on a site like codementor.io or other similar platforms, and try to bid for React or front-end related jobs. See how much you can actually do. The more you get under your belt, the easier it’ll be to learn where there are holes in your knowledge. :)

  • M Ali

    Thanks for sharing and writing about your experience. It’s inspiring your motivation, determination and focus level, its beyond most people, hence why you are so valuable and deserve what you getting. I would have given up, actually I did after few phone screening and onsite interviews…I was like f*c it! I had no idea about third door in job hunting but you bet I won’t be trying front door ever again! It’s funny how everyone just is interested how you negotiated so much, but not how to master/improve your skills so you are worth more.. How did you master so much in so little time? tell me the secret, I’m just another newbie in the tech…

  • Marco Arduini

    Congratulations from a fellow AppAcademy graduate, well played! You are an inspiration.

  • Jaspal

    Your belief in yourself & the unfathomable persistence – thats my takeaway from these 2 part posts.

    good luck.

  • ASHOK

    Really inspiring.

  • Kunal

    Hey Hasseb

    Awesome read.

    How much did your initial side-projects (Asteroids and 8 Queens) help in landing offers? Were they discussed and dissected in interviews?

    They obviously would’ve helped you to learn new things and sharpen your mind, but my question is if they specifically helped directly, did it help to show them off?

    • Hey Kunal,

      The 8 Queens project was quite valuable—significantly more so than the Asteroids game. Several of my interviewers did view them all, but I only had one interview where I was grilled about my Asteroids game. The majority of interviews they asked me to tell them about a project I worked on, and the 8-Queens Visualizer was always a hit.

      Most of my interviewers didn’t view the project at all AFAIK; it was more in giving me interesting engineering problems to talk about.

  • Haseeb – Checking in! How’s the new job going at AirBnb? What’s been the pros and cons and how have they met expectations?

    I do hope everybody in tech/bay area fights harder for a pay raise after reading your article. So much goes to the very top.

    Hope all is well!

    Sam

    • Hi Sam,

      The job has been great! Not much in the way of cons; mostly pros. Meshing with my team and learning a lot, getting a good hang of the engineering and the scale of our systems. The cons are really just the cons that go with working for any (relatively) big company—huge codebase, a lot to grok before you can get productive.

      But so far, seems like I’m keeping a good pace of contributions. And everyone’s been great. :)

      Haseeb

  • Mike

    Hey,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I just want to ask you something.
    You wrote “I came into the office and grinded every day, spending 80+ hour weeks just coding and studying. I’d come in at 9AM in the morning and leave around midnight, 7 days a week” – how did you cope? I mean how did you manage this with your family life (wife, kids perhaps)?

    • Hey Mike,

      By getting lots of sleep, going to the gym at least twice a week, and just keeping my eye on the prize. No wife, no kids, so that definitely helped. SO was less than thrilled, but I made it really clear when I joined this bootcamp that I was going into Zen monk mode.

      But definitely depends on your stage of life and your responsibilities whether you can do that. I basically shed my entire life, packed everything into a couple suitcases, and moved to SF for this. Certainly not everyone can do that. And even among those who can, most will refuse out of fear.

      Haseeb

  • RAJ KUMAR BIHANI

    I was just studying the new airbnb logo and somehow landed on your blog. read all about your struggles and triumps
    Your never say die attitude inface of adversity is commendable.
    Sp is your honest discussion on your paychecks openly ( may due to the fact that final figure is very handome) LOL.

    cheerio

    RAJ

  • Nick H

    I sincerely hope you write a book at some point.

  • Paul Collado

    Awesome article Haseeb! It is an inspiring story for people like me, who are trying to get that first gig as a software engineer.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Riwaj Rimal

    This is truly inspiring stories for common people like me who dream to work in top tech companies. I would really appreciate if you shared how you learned and master all those complex algorithm topics. I wish you all the best and hope you will share your experience at Airbnb. Cheers!

  • Hi Haseeb,

    There were tears in my eyes at the part where the recruiter gave you the 250k offer. Wonderfully written.

    Good Luck! For your future endeavours.

  • Hey Haseeb,

    Do you think your past as a poker star helped you in some way to achieve success in your job hunt?

    Thanks

    • David,

      I don’t much think so, except insofar as the role it had in shaping my character and disposition. There are many backgrounds that are worse though, as well as many that are better.