Welcome To The Land Of Tomorrow

Join Ben, Starr, and Josh on this week's FounderQuest for a look at our dystopian future. Ben shares the most interesting questions he received while interviewing and the discussion results in the creation of an onboarding manual for time traveling job candidates. Also, Discover which host, like, bought a totally rad pager, like, this month. Beep Beep!

Join Ben, Starr, and Josh on this week's FounderQuest for a look at our dystopian future. Ben shares the most interesting questions he received while interviewing and the discussion results in the creation of an onboarding manual for time traveling job candidates. Also, Discover which host, like, bought a totally rad pager, like, this month. Beep Beep!

Show Notes
Links:
Pagersdirect.net

Full Transcription:
Josh:
So I think I mentioned a little while ago that I've been kind of experimenting with ways to disconnect from the internet and from my digital life. And being able to turn my phone off is a big part of that. But with the business and, especially if I'm on call or even when I'm not on call, I'm still a little, I want to be available for alerts, or major things that if you all need to get a hold of me for an emergency. So my thought was, if I want to just be able to shut my phone off and not ever worry about it, just know that there's always a way to get through to me, I could have a landline at home.

Josh:
But then I had a different idea and I want to see if I can show it to you. We have to, this is going to be very dramatic because we have to wait for it.

Starr:
I'm waiting.
(pager beeping)

Starr:
Did you get a pager?

Josh:
Maybe.

Ben:
A raspberry pie with a breadboard. Just a little light that flashes.

Starr:
So awesome. Oh my gosh. You really got a pager.

Josh:
That's a pager.

Starr:
They still sell those?

Josh:
They still sell them.

Starr:
Where did you get that?

Josh:
I got this at pagersdirect.net.

Starr:
Oh my gosh. Okay. We're not even advertising pagersdirect.net. Your source for all paging supplies!

Josh:
Well I'm pretty sure I remember no, I'm serious. I'm pretty sure I remembered the brand name from radio commercials, in the early 2000s. Their website looks like it hasn't been updated since the 90s so I'm almost positive that I remember their commercials. But yeah, they're one of the options where you can still buy a pager. The networks are still all active and as far as I could tell, because I did, I went down a rabbit hole on pagers over the weekend and apparently doctors still use them, some other on-call people still use them, emergency on-call people use them, because the networks are still, they penetrate better than cellular networks apparently in some cases. So yeah, apparently it's still a thing.

Starr:
So that's a new pager. Does it have 5G?

Josh:
No, it's not a 5G pager. It is... They still run their own, the old school networks. I don't know what it is. I think it's like a much lower frequency though.

Starr:
Oh yeah? That's interesting. I actually, I think I remember a long time ago being like, I should get a pager, but then I just, I couldn't figure it out in 10 minutes and so I just forgot about it I guess.

Josh:
Yeah. So it's just, it's an experiment I'm messing with and I don't know if it's going to work forever, but I thought if it does, if it works, it's reliable and I mean it's at worst it's a backup, you know? It's just a backup alert and at best it's like, I can just leave it around the house and not worry about my phone or my computer or whatever. So.

Ben:
That's cool. I still have my pager from the 90s.

Starr:
Does it work?

Ben:
I don't know. I haven't used it in forever.

Josh:
You could reconnect it, Ben. If you have your own pager, they have it on the form, you can just put whatever the ID number is in.

Ben:
I should totally do that.

Josh:
Yeah. Yeah. You should.

Ben:
That's fun. That's great. Having a real pager for PagerDuty.

Josh:
By the way, PagerDuty supports pagers.

Starr:
Of course it does.

Josh:
It has an option for pagers.

Starr:
Yeah. Embarrassing if they didn't really.

Ben:
Because I can never turn off my phone. Right. Because I'm always the last line of defense for ops.

Josh:
Actually, they actually make modern, they make newer pagers. I actually went with this one, this is a refurb from 2003 but I went with this one because the modern one requires a USB charger, this requires a AA battery that you only have to change once a month. And I was like, this is actually selling me more on the old version than the new version.

Ben:
Yeah. Totally.

Starr:
2003. I'm trying to think what computer I ran in 2003. I think I may have actually had a pager in 2003 so that might've actually been my pager.

Josh:
That might've been your pager. Yeah. Yeah. So I'll let you know how it goes.

Ben:
Okay. Good. Because I'm unreasonably jealous about this now.

Josh:
Well we could all get one.

Ben:
Yeah, that's got to be standard issue now for Honeybadger. Anybody on ops gets a pager, right?

Josh:
I did have that thought. It's pretty cool.

Starr:
I mean that would be pretty cool. We could put that in our job listing. That'd probably get a couple sort of people who wanted to apply just to see what that was all about.

Josh:
It's also, I mean, this is an alphanumeric pager, I should also clarify, so it can send the actual alerts from PagerDuty, like what the issue is, and I can also hook it up. It has an email address, like the pager's number at whatever USA mobility, which is the network. And so I can hook that up to whatever Honeybadger alerts or anything I want to.

Starr:
Oh, neat. Neat. Does it have a mobile web browser so you can browse the web one line at a time?

Josh:
No. No browser. That's one of the features I would say.

Ben:
We're going to have to set up nag iOS so you can actually get alerts from monitoring straight to the pager.

Josh:
Yeah. We'll just, yeah. I don't think we want to take our monitoring into the 2000s, just our alerting.

Starr:
So speaking of employee perks like pagers, which I think are now going to be standard issue, this week, we are going to be talking about, we've been interviewing for this, our open role, our open developer role, and Josh and I have been interviewing fairly often in the past week, but Ben has been interviewing just a crazy amount. He's waking up from, from bed, from sleep for 10 minutes at a time to screen some guy in different time zone. He's just going right back to sleep. Every time I talk to Ben, he's just like, "Oh yeah, I just screened two more people." So...

Josh:
He's like, "I'm screening one right now." He's been quiet. That's where he was.

Starr:
Yeah. If Ben doesn't talk for five minutes at a time, he's probably screening somebody right now.

Starr:
And so anyway, out of these interviews have come some, it's really been interesting talking to people because you see a wide variety of personalities and you have a wide variety of questions that people ask you, things they want to know about the company and things they're interested in as an employee. And so we thought, it wasn't my idea. I think it was Josh's idea, that it would be interesting to talk about some of the questions that people asked us. And honestly just because we're a tiny company, we haven't had to deal with a lot of these questions before. We're kind of making up some things as we go along because let's be honest, it doesn't make sense to figure out everything ahead when you are a five person company. But yeah. So I think we're going to talk about some of those because they're interesting and might bring up some interesting discussions. What is an interesting question that we should start with? What's on your mind?

Josh:
What do you think, Ben, was the most, what was the top one? I think the 30 hour work week was probably one of the top. Because people, I think we got from more than one person, we got the phrase, so what's up with that?

Starr:
Nobody believes us.

Ben:
Yeah. I think there was some of that. Is that legit? I think that was the main thrust of the question.

Josh:
Yeah. Is that real?

Ben:
And yeah. I think people, maybe it's PTSD from their existing jobs of just having too much pressure and being expected to work all the time. But yes, the 30 hour work week is legit. But the first, I think my first response to that question was always, it's really an arbitrary number. We don't really care about the amount of time that your butt is in the seat, right. Whether it's 30 hours or 40 hours or whatever. The point is, we don't believe in sitting in a chair for eight hours a day, five days a week, and that's a definition of being at work. That doesn't work.

Josh:
It's really, the 30 hours thing is kind of just a target.

Starr:
Yeah. And I think we get asked this so much because so often, this is weird kind of doublespeak that happens in tech, where unlimited vacation means no vacation. So I mean it makes sense that people will be like, "Oh, 30 hours a week. That means 80 hours a week." It's like, we don't care about the exact number of hours. That means you have to be here for 60 hours a week because you shouldn't care that you're having to work 60 hours a week. We're going to get results.

Josh:
We could advertise unlimited hours.

Starr:
We could have our own cell phone company.

Josh:
Yeah. Everyone gets a pager and works unlimited hours.

Ben:
Sounds like a winning recipe right there.

Starr:
Wait a second, Josh. If you work unlimited hours, why do you need a pager? You should be at your computer.

Josh:
Well, you might pass out from exhaustion. And this pager, I got to tell you, the alert on it, it's not your nice phone ringtone or whatever. It's loud. So it'll cut through. It'll cut through the fog.

Starr:
I don't know. I think falling asleep on the job is grounds for immediate termination.

Josh:
Yeah. That's very true.

Ben:
So I think one of the things we also talked about was people were like, "Well, what does that look like in reality?" I think that was part of the motivation behind the question. Because they're like, "Okay, 30 hours. That sounds good, but what does that really mean? How do you get to 30 hours?" And I think over time, after answering that question a few times that we came up with, it's like, "Well, it looks different for different people." Right? So for Kevin, it's he takes Friday off every week, he works four day weeks. For Ben that's taking a big chunk of time off, but not necessarily every Friday. I think for the three of us it looks like, "Well, we don't stick around past one o'clock or two o'clock", whatever it is. It's not really set in stone, but we just work five days a week. But it's not necessarily eight hours a day. Right? So I think the flexibility is the key there.

Starr:
And lately you're talking about flexibility. I've enjoyed flip-flopping that a little bit. Where I might work until five but start at, I don't know, 10 or 11 or something.

Josh:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ben:
Yeah, it's cool.

Josh:
Yeah, it's nice to be able to adapt that to your schedule.

Ben:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. And talking to people from different time zones. We opened up the application process this time more than we did last time and so we were willing to go up to UTC plus one, which is about nine hours from our current time zone. And because since all of us right now just happen to be on the West Coast and in talking with people in various European countries, that was something that came up too. It's like, "Well, when do I need to be working?" It's like, "Well, we don't care so much about overlap because we're so async." Right? So if you like mornings, if you like evenings, if you like splitting it up, taking a break in the middle of day, it's like whatever. Do whatever works for you.

Josh:
I think in some cases like we as the founders do need to... I think if it's the way it's worked out I think is if someone is going to overwork, it's probably one of us. To not only on a regular basis, but also if there was something, if it's an emergency or if there's something that just really is pressing, time pressing or we just want it to happen faster, it's likely it's going to be one of us to pick up that slack versus pushing it onto our employees because I think we're very concerned with keeping that way of working for employees. And as the business owners, we obviously have more invested in this and it's really, ultimately the ultimate responsibility does fall on us. So if for some reason we do need a week that has more than someone working 30 hours, it's probably going to be one of us like picking up that slack, so that we can keep everyone else on an even keel.

Ben:
One thing that I thought of while we were having this conversation with some of the candidates was, I was remembering back to the time when I was a manager at a company where we were all there. It was not a remote company and we were building stuff and we had client demands. We were client of services kind of company, a lot of consulting. And so we had a lot of time pressure and there was always this pressure to work longer than they really should, to work more than 40 hours a week. And then it was easy to me as a boss to go... I could see that someone had been sitting there for too long. They were staying too late and I would say, "Hey, go home. You've worked enough today or you worked enough this week, just leave."

Ben:
Right? And some people need that permission, right? They feel like they don't want to let the team down. They want to be there for everybody. And so they sometimes push themselves too hard. And so having someone, having their boss come to them and say, "Hey, just go home. It's fine", gave them that relief, you know? And the one downside to being remote is that I won't be able to see that. Right? So we haven't had that problem yet or someone just working too much. Like you said it's probably going to be one of us.

Josh:
If it does happen, it's usually among us I think. And we have, at various times, been to each other like, "Hey, you should take some time off because you've been working a lot." Yeah.

Starr:
You know what this reminds me of when you're talking about making sure that that people are taking enough time for themselves? Is this reminds me of... I was actually thinking about this earlier. I don't know about y'all, but when I was in high school and I was in I don't know, AP history or something like that, some nerd class, and the teacher was fond of saying stuff like... When somebody would be like, "Oh this person was bullying me or whatever." And they were like, "Don't worry about that. When y'all are grown up, they'll be working for you." And first of all, I've been thinking about this because it's one of those things that when you're in high school, that sounds I guess good. It's like, "Okay cool." Yeah. But it's like as an adult it's kind of messed up on so many different levels. Right?

Josh:
Yeah. You're going to get payback but then...

Starr:
Yeah, I mean because it assumes being an honor's class and being an honor's student makes you higher up in the hierarchy of whatever corporation and any... Yeah. And that assumes...

Josh:
And they don't even have to explain why life would automatically be worse for the underling in the first place with you as the boss.

Starr:
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. You'll get to poke them with your tines? Your pitchfork.

Josh:
Right. By the way, I mean is your definition or vision of success having to work with the people who bullied you? Having to manage the people that bullied you in high school? I don't know.

Starr:
I know, I know. But the main reason I was thinking about this, that your conversation brought this up was that more than anything, I feel an obligation to take care of the people that we hire. You know?

Josh:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Starr:
It's kind of like they need to work for us and try and do a good job and to the best of their ability and all that stuff. But other than that, I feel this real kind of obligation to try and provide them with a nice work environment and not exploit them and stuff like that. So it's just, I don't know, it's sort of the complete opposite. So I was thinking about that and it's like, "Oh, so I'd end up taking care of these people who bullied me." And that I mean, I didn't really get bullied at a ton, but I think if...

Josh:
I've got to say Starr, Starr if we find out that you went to high school with any of our employees, it's going to raise serious questions.

Starr:
I know, I might have to recuse myself.

Ben:
I've got to say, that really disrupts our plans to pivot to a diamond mining company where we can send our employees down into the mines.

Josh:
Oh yeah.

Ben:
Yeah, if we have to take care of them, I guess we can't do that.

Josh:
Yeah, yeah that's probably not...

Starr:
Oh, sorry. I didn't know we were in an episode of Despicable Me or something. A sequel to Despicable Me.

Ben:
Yeah, I know what you mean so I feel the same way. I think that any good employer should be looking out for the best interest of their employees. I don't know, maybe that's a crazy thought, but I definitely feel that responsibility. And this question came up too a few times about, "Well, how's your financial status?" Right? Because from a candidates point of view, "I don't have any idea. You're a tiny company, you're privately held. It's obvious you don't have any investment. So do you actually have money to pay me?" And...

Josh:
And yeah. And you already seem like a little... I mean, you're very not in the mainstream, so are you for real or are you just out of your minds? I think...

Ben:
So I feel that as a responsibility.

Josh:
Are you hiring ahead of revenue?

Ben:
Right, exactly. Yeah. I feel like you got to have money in the bank to be able to hire someone and assure them, "Yes, you actually will have a payment and it shows up on a regular basis. You don't have to worry that we won't make payroll because we actually have money", you know?

Josh:
Yeah.

Starr:
Yeah, I mean we do that a lot different than a lot of tech people. Yeah, like you said Josh, we don't hire ahead of revenue. We kind of do the opposite. We tend to have something like a year of salary in the bank before we hire somebody, which is pretty conservative. But that's cool. I like that. Yeah.

Josh:
I think I like our business in general because it's employees aren't tied to revenue really. And that's kind of our goal. We've mentioned that before. We try to maximize profit per employee, which means actually keeping the company smaller. So in some businesses it's like if you don't hire, your revenue stops growing. And so there's this chicken and the egg problem where sometimes you have to hire to be able to support more revenue.

Starr:
Oh, I see. Like a sales organization? You have to have more sales people to sell more stuff.

Josh:
And, yeah like a sales, an agency that... Anything that's billing time. And we don't have that. And I really like that about the stats business, even though the downside is that it takes forever to get it off the ground and to be making money. So yeah. But once it's going, it's a really nice business I think.

Starr:
Yeah. One question I thought was really interesting was about, I don't know if the question was about this but I kind of read into it this a bit. And it was about sort of career advancement and it's kind of an interesting topic I think because there's really... I don't know, people think maybe, "Okay, a job, it's a job. I'm a developer, I'm going to be developing the same sort of code regardless of where I work." But it really is different working for a small company versus a big company and it may not always be in sort of the ways people think about. Right?

Starr:
Because one thing about working at a small company is that there's not this sort of set path for career advancement, right? Maybe somebody could work with us and eventually we need to hire more people and they'll be managing them or something if they want to. And that might happen, but it also might not. There's not this... It's not like you go to work for, I don't know, Microsoft or something. And it's like you can look at the org chart and be like, "Okay, this is the way I'm going to climb up this org chart."

Josh:
You don't get hired at Honeybadger and kind of start at... You start at Honeybadger one and then work your way up to Honeybadger five or six, right?

Starr:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Josh:
Five or six, right?

Starr:
Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, we might need to, if we hire more junior people, we might need to actually change that and have different levels of developer.

Josh:
Have some sort of progressions?

Starr:
Yeah.

Josh:
Yeah. If we do that, can we call the roles Honeybadger, so all Honeybadger, Honeybadger one through six?

Starr:
Sure, yeah.

Josh:
You know, how they do like developer one, developer two? Yeah.

Starr:
Yeah. I agree. I'm down with that. It is so decided. Yeah. And it's just a very different way of working in a small versus a large company, right? In a large company you have, I don't know, there's structure. You can go to ... I don't know. You've got your HR department, you've got, you know, if there's, I don't know, a problem between like you and somebody on your team, you can sort of transfer to another team maybe. But like with us, it's just us. Like as long as you're here, you're going to be working with us, you're going to be ... Maybe your role will evolve over time, but it's not like you're on some management track or whatever. So I don't know.

Starr:
I think it's just something that we try to communicate or I try to communicate in that instance pretty clearly because it's something that people might not think about. I don't know. But that said like the other side of it is that you kind of get to like mold your own career path a little bit. You can ... like if you're interested in learning certain things, like we can hopefully support you in doing that. And you know, so it's just a bit more free form. It's a bit more ad hoc and less structured.

Josh:
Yeah.

Ben:
Yeah, that brings up another question that came up several times that was around learning. Since we are learning focused organization, the question came up like, well how does that work in practice? How do you encourage learning or support learning? And one of the things is, well, I mean we have to figure out how to do our tasks, right? Like we have to learn PHP today because I need to support someone using the PHP library and I don't know PHP that well.

Ben:
So part of the expectations of the job is to spend time learning things you don't know yet just to get the job done. We don't expect people to be experts at everything on day one. And we don't give you demerits for not being able to turn around something and immediately because you're not an expert yet. And we believe in developing that expertise over time.

Ben:
And then of course we also have things like, "Well we'll pay for a Safari subscription, O'Reilly's subscription as a service. They're ... What are they? I don't even know what they call it. But it's basically you get access to all their books and all their conference videos and basically everything that O'Reilly puts out on a yearly fee.

Starr:
I think that's Safari.

Ben:
Yeah. O'Reilly Safari.

Starr:
Yeah. Because all their books have animals on it. So it's like you're on a little safari looking at all the different animals on the covers of the books.

Ben:
Oh yeah. And so we do that. We send people to conferences if they want to go to conferences. Although we haven't done a lot of conferences for learning things lately. So I guess that's something we could do better at, but happy to do that. And I think just in general, like if there's something you want to learn while you're working at Honeybadger, go for it.

Josh:
Yeah. Yeah, we talked about like learning is expected to be part of your day job. Like it's not something that you do on the side. Like if you take off and read a book for a day or something, if it's needed for your job and, or it's developing you personally, like no one's going to give you grief about that, I think. Unless of course you're not ... other things that are falling down. Like we all have to manage.

Ben:
Right.

Josh:
Manage our own jobs. That's the other part that goes with it.

Ben:
Oh yes.

Starr:
Yeah. Yeah. And that's, I think one of the big things about like working in a company like ours is just that it's, I don't know, it's a much more sort of choose your own adventure story than I think a lot of people are used to, and so it might take some time to sort of get used to that and find a plot or find a path that works for you.

Ben:
You know, it just occurred to me that it is absolutely genius that we are talking about all these things in this episode because the next time we do a round of hiring, we can just send this podcast episode to people and be like, "Here are some answers to questions that you probably will have about this process."

Ben:
That's a good idea. Yeah, I like that. So hello future employees.

Ben:
Future candidates.

Starr:
Hello bullies.

Josh:
Should we run through what your first day at Honeybadger will be like?

Ben:
Logging into a bunch of different things.

Josh:
Now that you've landed your job at Honeybadger, let me tell you a little bit about what working at Honeybadger's like.

Ben:
That's our next episode, the onboarding sequence, yes.

Starr:
I'm imagining like this sort of 1950s like announcer voice sort of like taking you through the land of tomorrow, only it's Honeybadger.

Josh:
Yeah.

Ben:
Totally.

Starr:
It's like very sort of fallout sort of aesthetic.

Ben:
All right. Well I can't think of any other questions that came up regularly. Those were the top ones that we had.

Starr:
I just have to say that like I'm really impressed by the sort of, I don't know, by the not only quality of candidates but also the sort of breadth of sort of people that are out there and I don't know, it's just really cool.

Starr:
Like I do have this habit, which I recognize in myself is like, so we interview these people and then we go and sort of write down our thoughts in Basecamp and everything. And it's like, I tend like after every interview I tend to be wanting to write, "This is my favorite candidate so far." It's like the last one I talked to is always my favorite because like everybody's so great.

Starr:
So I don't know.

Josh:
Yeah, same.

Starr:
I don't know, I'm just sad we can't save the world.

Ben:
So I guess pro tip there is be the last person to apply, so you're the last great candidate, right?

Starr:
Oh my gosh. Yeah. I mean it probably doesn't work that way everywhere, but just for me, that's how I'm rolling today.

Josh:
Yeah.

Ben:
Well thinking back, by the time ... Go ahead.

Josh:
We can always ... Oh, I was going to say we could always go down to the Bay area, meet some of our VC friends, raise a little or a lot of money, then we can hire everyone.

Starr:
Oh, there you go.

Josh:
Everyone will be happy.

Starr:
Is that one of those things where you destroy something to save it?

Josh:
I think so. But yeah.

Starr:
I was thinking, you said that and I was like, okay, yeah so step two is question mark and then step three is profit.

Josh:
There you go. I mean profit Starr ... I mean it's not destroying anything. There's profit somewhere. I mean it's in the future.

Starr:
Okay.

Josh:
The profit is in the future though. It's-

Starr:
I think the thing we need to take away from this is that the profit is really an opening of the questioning store. Because like the question mark is the valuable thing, you know?

Josh:
Question marks are money.

Starr:
It's like selling shovels to miners. It's like selling question marks.

Josh:
Yeah.

Ben:
There's so many of them. All right, well that's all we've got to say about the interview questions. I think we should wrap it up. Is that okay?

Ben:
That's great.

Josh:
Good with me.

Starr:
All right. So thank you all for listening. We will catch you next week. Same bat time. Same bat channel. If you liked the show, please review us on Apple Podcasts. I said it right, I didn't call iTunes that time. And yeah, if you want to write Ruby or Elixir tutorials for us, check us out at, well, honeybadger.io, go to our blog and there's a link there for write for us. Do we have anything else that we need to announce?

Ben:
Yeah, if you want to get in touch with Josh, you can page him.

Starr:
Oh yeah, just page Josh.

Josh:
Yeah.

Starr:
Just page Josh. Anybody selling girl scout cookies?

Ben:
Not this year.

Starr:
No, not this year?

Josh:
Buying this year is another story.

Starr:
Buying? Well, aren't we all. Until next week, it has been Founderquest. 


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