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They want to hire me. What should I do? (mweser.de)
33 points by mweser on Nov 10, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 36 comments

Find out why the other programmer left. He left knowing full well that it'd leave the company in the lurch, and that's a pretty bad sign because it means that they've upset him enough that he doesn't care about hurting them.

Giving some basic armchair analysis, I'd assume that the mathematician gets a lot of kudos for his 'genius' inventions, and the programmer is treated like a second-rate code monkey who's just there the aid the oh-so-godly mathematician. If this is the case, then it's obviously not worth joining, but make sure to find out why the other programmer left.

The other possibility is that the other programmer discovered some kind of technical hurdle that was high enough to sink the whole project, and he figured there was no point in hanging around any longer. If he communicated it to the math guy and the CEO, they could have very likely brushed off his concerns in their overconfidence. Anyway, the programmer abruptly leaving is a sign of potential trouble.

There is a lot of speculation here. There could be plenty of plausible reasons as to why he would leave the company e.g. a better offer from elsewhere, family reasons.

My feeling is that there was nothing bad going on with his decision. He lives quite far and had to travel every day two times about 2h, which i suppose is the main reason. However, your questions and concernes are reasonable and i will try to ask him.

Yep. You absolutely need to talk to this guy.

Also ask the company "why did he leave?" Then see how it matches his perspective.

This is actually a very good idea in general. If the programmer left because of some sort of perceived problem, and the company doesn't see the perceived problem as actually being an issue, then they're unlikely to change their mind when you join. If the programmer left over something that's also going to upset you, and the company doesn't agree that they need change, then it's a bad idea to join.

Alternatively, if the company also perceived the problem as an issue that needed solving, but were -- for whatever reason -- incapable of doing so, then they might be worth a shot. Just don't join and then expect them to change the way they do business in order to suit your needs.

You need to decide if you want to be a PIG or a CHICKEN.

First decide that. Then decide what you need to be what you prefer. Then ask for it.

Nice thing about being a PIG here is that you can be reincarnated.

Since you were apparently needlessly downvoted I'll add some context.


The above post makes sense with this context, but I wouldn't say it was needlessly downvoted. A post doesn't stand on its own when it throws around uncommon metaphors without explanation.

Personally, I'd prefer of posts/articles all explained their metaphors and acronyms before using them. This is Hacker News, not Enterprise IT News. For example, the article tosses out USP and CI which I don't believe are very common terms either. They should be spelled out.

Continuous Integration is pretty common, but I have no idea what USP means.

USP is Unique Selling Point.

There's lots of technologists on HN and lots of business types, and only a subset of each understand the other's lingo. People should try and explain their lingo when they use it, for the benefit of the other camp :)

For people with government / federal contracting experience that aren't familiar with the 'USP' jargon (as I wasn't, once), the appropriate federal term is "key differentiator".

To be fair, the metaphor is pretty common in our industry, especially if you've ever done (or been lectured about) project management.

My take is that I've never seen a chicken or a pig program a computer, so if you need code produced, you'd better not get either. But then, talking about project management really brings out my inner asshole.

Maybe the comment is being downvoted because "Chicken and Pig" is a dehumanizing way to speak of someone. Personally, I'm not thrilled to know what the analogy means and even less thrilled when I hear it bandied about.

You have two problems, it seems. First, you need to figure out what you want to do. E.g. do you want to join them or stay with your current arrangement. Nobody on this forum can help you decide that. But make your due diligence on the company before you make up your mind (For one thing - figure out why that other guy left).

Assuming you do prefer to join them, you need to figure out what your price is. You seem to be afraid to make unreasonable demands, as you are in a position of power here. I would suggest that you take the approach of calculating what you believe your value is in terms of money per time unit (monthly, hourly, whatever). The difference between that number and what they can pay you should then be considered investment into the company and you should get compensated for that somehow. Most likely through equity.

Calculating your value is a much more objective task and therefore less fraught with tactics, feelings and whatnot. Just remember to calculate your value for the company in the current situation. In this case, your value is clearly very high, so it would only be fair to factor it in.

> attractive salary

I guess you really mean "hourly rate", because salary means being employed.

> i have my own two-man company > They offered shares and assured immediate budget for another developer

This sounds like an aquihire. So calculate what your own company is worth, add how much you earn within one year by staying your own boss, and round up to a lumped sum. Ask for this money in cash, and not in stocks, ask for same in stocks in addition, and add a good salary.

Their alternative is to continue paying you a hourly rate. But its your decission if you give up your freedom to become a wage slave again.

sure "hourly rate" is correct.

I think such an "aquihire" ist not currently possible. They would certainly need to either sell a couple of systems or get VC. But hey, didn't i just write that i should stop thinking for them, too? I may take this into account talk it through.

I guess your 2nd man in your own company is (nearly) a close friend. So you betray him, if you leave without him. You might talk with him, what he thinks about it.

of course i already talked to him. That's one of the reasons that i cannot guarantee more than 3 days/week. With two days i could keep my own thing up and running - but obviously progress or growth is more or less impossible then.

It's not your job to come up with the compromise. Tell them exactly what you need and let them counter. If they want you to stay around in some capacity bad enough you may get everything you ask for or at least a really good counter offer for you to consider.

Yeah, a logical middle ground is to stay freelance until they start actually getting sales instead of handing out "betas" (freebies).

good point. I should try not to see it with their eyes and stop thinking for both sides. I tend to think i am too expensive for such a small company and stuff like that. But that kind of thinking makes it hard for me to decide what I want.

Consider what your next best alternative is and bid at an amount that makes it definitely worthwhile for you to give that up.

It doesn't matter if that's i get everything and you get nothing in your opinion, because you are giving the company a the choice to decide whether your offer is worthwhile or whether they have to go for their next best alternative.

Interesting, if confusing post. Things are simpler than they seem, the complication is pricing the unknown.

Basically if I told you "I am from the future, this company is going to change its industry in a fundamental way, all the early people from here are rich and influential in the industry. Many have gone on to found new companies of their own and become richer and more famous."

You might take your existing practice, wrap it up, and jump in with both feet knowing that the "future" is assured.

If I say, "Hi I'm from the future and this company doesn't exist in that time, it tried really hard, floundered around and kept missing opportunity after opportunity. Eventually it ran out of money and everyone was laid off with no severance."

Now you say, you know I'll just stay a consultant as long as the checks don't bounce.

I've got really sad news for you, you can't.

The outcome is controlled by things that may contributed to by your negotiation, but probably won't directly depend on that negotiation. The absolutely best you can hope for is to learn something from the experience and to have fun doing it. Everything else is up to things you cannot control.

So sit down and decide if you want to work on this project full time, to commit to it and making it a success. Figure out if you will learn enough and get enough experience to make it worth while. There are obvious things you do like verify they folks are not crooks, and that they are telling you the truth. Ask questions about the future the company, its funding etc.

Since you are starting from a position of keeping your existing clients serviced, it sounds like you'd rather be a consultant than a full time employee. Listen to that if it is where your passion lies.

If you really want to keep your consulting business, this is a great opportunity to bring on another person.

Hey dude! went through a similar situation. Had a great relationship with them (startup), never doubt their word, the product was landing clients and valuation was awesome. Things didn't go as expected. Still have my business though it has come out damaged.

What I've learned: Don't ignore the signs, I never got to know why the previous developer dropped out. Ensure that you have a voice in every decision. Work with them, get to know them through rough times. Go over their metrics, are the clients really happy, is there any structural issue? Startups bullshit all the time.

Don't take any decision under pressure. If you have too, make them sign a contract that would protect you and you're current assets, that's what you're bringing into this enterprise.

Freelancers (i am one myself) often have a fear of binding themselves to a single company for a longer period of time. This can be good or bad. When i got interviewed by a top european startup their HR thinking was like "Freelancers are more risky, because they might get bored quite fast and leave". Thats true to some extent, on the other hand i personally like the idea to really go deep on a project for 2-3 years instead of jumping from project to project.

In your specific case i wonder:

- Would this be a project that you would want to work on for next couple of years even if it doesn't take off immediately ?

- why did the other programmer leave if the company seems to be so well off ?

- how good is the salary really ? If they had money, wouldn't they find good people in Hamburg quite easily ?

To your first question: I had the exact situation with one of my former clients. The product didn't take of but still, i support them and if changes have to be made on their product i am still the one who does it. I guess, i would treat this new customer the same. This is basicly one of the reasons that i cannot assure more than 3 days - i sometimes want / need to work for my previous customers.

Second: my feeling is that there was nothing bad going on and the reason that he left is that he had to travel 2h twice every day. But i certainly will check that.

Third: I don't like to compare salaries but i think it is beyond avarage in this town. The problem is, that Hamburg is not quite the tech city, it is really hard to find good devs here.

hm sure? I believe Hamburg is probably one of the biggest places for startups in germany behind Berlin and i personally know quite a few awesome devs from HH. More web/mobile orientated though, you seem to be more into .NET based stuff.

I had to make a very similar decision about a year ago. I came to the same conclusion: they could count on me just as much as a freelancer than as an employee, and I'd rather keep my options open rather than get tied to a single company, because I have my own, unrelated plans in the works.

I suppose one could make the argument that I'm going to miss out on a huge pay-day if I'm not that sort of committed. I am balancing the likelihood of that occurring + the likelihood they'd expect unreasonable overtime from me versus the likelihood that I'd find that my own way and the likelihood I'd be fine working overtime for myself. Freelancing is the only way I know how to maintain my work-life balance.

>Freelancing is the only way I know how to maintain my work-life balance. my biggest "fear" is to be stuck there for years... so your way is currently my best option i guess.

Just remember, if you only give them three days like this, they will replace you ASAP. Sounded like they were over a barrel and you were fine without them, you should have offered to work full time for double the pay or some other super high price.

Tell them what you'd like to have happen and see what they suggest in response. Since they like you already, they are unlikely to respond to hearing what you'd like by telling you to get lost. :)

"When I’m not deep-in-the-zone ahead on a project writing awesome code, ..."

wow, that's some self confidence.

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