Not an April Fool’s Post

So Sam has a new job!

Pretty much ever since we moved into the new house, we’ve been talking about ways to shorten his commute, which is currently awful—it takes about an hour and a half to get from our house to his office in Mountain View. But with the move, and the new baby, Sam also didn’t really want to add a new source of upheaval to our lives, so it’s only in the past few weeks that he’s really been sending out résumés. Oddly, as soon as he’d applied for one job, four different people got in touch with him about possible openings in other outfits: I guess a lot of companies that put off projects or growth during the recession are looking to make new hires now.

He’s had a few interviews at different places, but of all the possibilities we were really rooting for Zynga. Yes, the folks who make FarmVille. Neither of us play FarmVille (or any of their games, actually), but Sam really likes the platform they’re using to run their services, and he was impressed by the general intelligence level around the office. “Those Zynga people make me feel dumb,” he said after the first interview, which if you know Sam is really saying something. (Sam is quietly, devastatingly intelligent: I have a pretty darn high opinion of my own IQ, but over the years I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that Sam is actually smarter than me.) It’s also a really good sign that he was struck particularly by the elegance of their architecture and the competence of their technical team, as when Sam complains about his job he mostly complains about: 1) having to work within arbitrary limitations imposed by poor network architecture or badly-engineered products, and 2) inept coworkers. He doesn’t mind having to deal with difficult problems: he minds having to deal with stupid, unnecessary problems.

Anyway, apparently the affection between Sam and Zynga is mutual, as they offered him the job—he starts on April 18th! His job title will be Linux/Splunk Administrator. Splunk is a specific tool for analyzing network data that Sam has been specializing in over the past few years at VeriSign and Symantec—he likes it a lot. (I know this mostly because he has four Splunk t-shirts and he wears them all the time.) It turns out that Zynga is probably Splunk’s biggest customer, and while they’re currently using it in a fairly straightforward way to locate bugs and performance issues in their games, they have plans to build out some Splunk-based tools that would do things Sam describes as “sexy.” (Seriously. He said that.)

In the Zynga interview, the hiring manager asked Sam where he sees himself in five years. Now, Sam and I did some practice interviews where I helped him work out stock responses to some of the cliche interview questions (“What’s your greatest strength? What’s your greatest weakness?” etc.) But we hadn’t practiced that one, so Sam kind of blinked and then made what might have been the mistake of answering honestly. “I don’t know,” he said. “If you asked me that five years ago, I would’ve said that I wanted to be married, and I wanted a house. Now I have those things, and a couple of kids. So I guess in five years I just want to be watching my kids grow up.”

Of course he probably should have said something pertaining to a career arc, but when he told me that I just went “awwww.” And apparently the hiring manager has kids as well, and he kind of went “awww” a little, too.

But then! He explained that while at first Sam’s job would just be to keep all the existing technology running smoothly, because Zynga has all these plans for live, nude, sexy data analysis action, they also need someone who can help them design and build out that stuff—a tools architect, sort of. I don’t think there’s really a standard job title for it yet, but it’s something that’s becoming more common: companies need people who aren’t really traditional sysadmins (although they need the sysasmin knowledge base) and aren’t part of the programming team either (although they do need to be able to write code). But instead of working on the end product like the programmers do, or working in operations like the sysadmins do, these people build and maintain the technical infrastructure that both teams use to do their jobs. This is actually what Symantec has Sam doing now, except it’s frustrating because he has to spend too much of his time creating kludgy hacks to support legacy systems, and also doing other people’s jobs for them. So he’s really excited about the prospect of moving to a sleek, shiny startup where he’ll have more leeway to design things in an intelligent fashion.

And I’m excited about the prospect of amassing piles of cash and rolling around on them, Scrooge McDuck style. Well, not really, but Sam will be getting some Zynga stock as part of all this, and if and when Zynga has the IPO that all the analysts are a-twitter about, we could become Internet fraction-of-a-millionaires! Where the fraction is, uh, small. But hey! Still exciting.

Oh, and the commute! Zynga is based in San Francisco, so Sam will be able to take BART (or maybe even the ferry) into work. It’ll be a lot more pleasant than spending hours every day on the freeway. And hopefully he can also do things like get lunch with some of his friends who also work in the city.

So, new job! Wooo!

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