Interviewing at Isilon, part 3: Who we’re looking for

Right now we’re hiring lots of people, particularly in engineering. This includes developers, testers, project managers, and writers among others. I’m on the Test Core team and end up on interview loops and phone screens. In fact, every week I do at least 2 of them.

So what are we looking for? Well, let me tell you what we’re looking for in test. Although I can’t speak for the development org (heck, I’m probably not suppose to be speaking for test at large) I would assume their list is similar.

  • Test experience. This is a big one in the test organization, obviously. In Test Core, everyone ends up testing everything at some point, but each person owns a functional area they’re responsible for. When new features are in development, a tester is assigned to that feature and works hand-in-hand with development to ensure it is adequately tested. That person will write up a test plan (with help and feedback from the test team and review by development) and may execute it themselves or hand it off to someone else. Individuals with existing test experience, even if it has nothing to do with the storage industry, are awesome. New just-out-of-college hires won’t have this experience, and that’s ok. Heaven knows Texas A&M certainly didn’t do a good job of teaching me anything about test. Which leads us to…
  • Critical eyes. Testers are advocates for the customer. The best part of our job is that we get to break things. Horribly break things. And get paid to do it. Individuals with a critical eye, even if they don’t have prior test experience, are great. If you’re tenacious, have attention to detail, I’ll even go so far as to say a bit OCD about getting things Just Right, we want you.
  • Unix experience. OneFS runs on top of FreeBSD so folks who have unix experience of some sort (Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, AIX, doesn’t matter — even HPUX) are a plus. Granted, here in Seattle many folks have been tainted (I almost said poisoned) by Microsoft and have nothing but Windows experience. We recognize that there are great candidates out there who may not have unix experience, so this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. But ideally: we want folks who aren’t afraid at a command line and who can dance a jig with standard unix commands. Bonus points if you grok NFS.
  • Storage experience. We’re a storage company, if you have storage experience that’s a plus. Again, we don’t expect many people to have it so this is a bonus, not a requirement. Even having a high understanding of file systems (ext2/3/4, NTFS, etc — we don’t really care) is great. Experience with NAS, SAN, and/or RAID super bonus.
  • Scripting experience. We don’t hire people to do manual testing and while we’re not requiring testers to have been former developers, we need folks with some level of scripting / automation experience. We’re a python shop (don’t get me started, I’m personally a perl guy) but if you know any type of structured programming language that’s likely good enough. For a data point, I didn’t have any practical python experience and they still hired me.
  • Passion. We want people who are passionate. Excitement about the job with a willingness and ability to learn can counteract shortcomings just about anywhere else. I’d much rather hire someone who is excited about Isilon and what we’re doing but doesn’t have any test experience than someone who has years of test experience and is just looking for a job.
  • Culture fit. This one is ooey-gooey subjective but important. We’re going to have to work with you ~8+ hours every weekday and not want to kill you at the end of a month. Isilon is a fun and challenging company. We value diversity, both in skills, cultures, sexual orientation, genders, and personalities. If that’s something that you’re not comfortable with — don’t even walk in the door. Isilon managers don’t have the time or desire to micromanage their employees, and that’s a good thing. That means we need folks who can be given a task or direction and will go run with it. And when you get stuck, because we all do at some point, can speak up and ask questions. Importantly, we’re not looking for sheep. If you disagree with how something is being done and think you have a better way, we want you to speak up and advocate for your idea. That said, if after a discussion the group decides to not go with your idea, don’t pout and go home.
  • Performance experience. This is not a requirement, but is double-plus bonus. We’re looking for another performance person. Someone who has experience with measuring the performance of a software product, generating benchmarks, and diving into diagnostic data to find the bottleneck. This person must not be afraid of poking and writing code, kernel, userspace, even test automation. I don’t have a good job description for this, mostly because it’s a jack-of-all-trades position since performance is a holistic investigation not single point problem. You’ll be working closely with me — I’ll let you decide if that’s an incentive or disincentive!

I’m but one voice in the test organization, not a hiring manager, and we hire and interview as a team. So while the above list reflects what I’m looking for in a candidate I interview, that isn’t to say it’s the gold standard everyone use. However, if you can’t see a faint reflection of yourself in the list above – Isilon may not be the place for you.

If, on the flip side, you resonate with the rambling bulleted list above, send me your resume — we’d love to talk with you. Isilon email addresses are in the form (and anyone worth their salt should be able to ascertain what my first and last name is :).

See also: Interviewing at Isilon, part 1: Why you should and Interviewing at Isilon, part 2: What we do.

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I'm a gay geek living in Seattle, WA.

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