On April 26, 2009, five years ago this week, I arrived in Seattle, ready to start my new job as Online Marketing Manager at GameHouse (part of RealNetworks) on Monday, April 27. This is part two of the story of how I got there(read parts one, two, three and four).
With the economy in shambles, we decided that it might be best to put the entire country into play for this next job search. We were open to a job anywhere in the country, with a focus on the West Coast and the northern half of the country.
My method for the search was fairly simple. I went into my LinkedIn account and reviewed every connection of everyone one of my connections. My visual sorts were to isolate those living in a place I could consider a potential place to live and in an industry or position I’d consider. Once I keyed in on someone, I’d go to their company website to see what the company did and check for open positions.
If I found someone in a city or industry of interest, I’d reach out to them with an introductory email titled “Referred to you by …” My assumption was that with a LinkedIn connection named in the subject line, they’d be more apt to reply to my note. In the note, I simply asked if they had 10-15 minutes to discuss their career and place of work and share any advice in where to search in their city or industry.
[Incidentally, I was amazed at how many times I told one of my LinkedIn connections that I was reaching out to a person from their connections base that they didn’t know. This was partly where I developed my own philosophy on my LinkedIn account – that you don’t get in it unless we know each other well, and I’m confident in referring people to you.]
It was using this method that led me to several interviews with Amazon, a diamond dealer, Hasbro, Expedia and F5, among others. In one case, I met a guy via phone named Scot French who I’d end up working with two years later at Corbis.
The key connection that finally brought me to Seattle was via a friend from college, Kate Ross. She had worked at Amazon and was now at Hasbro. Not only was she helpful in describing the Seattle job landscape, but she also helped in a way she didn’t even realize. It was one of her connections, Aaron Alberg, that led to my moving to Seattle.
I had found Aaron by searching Kate’s contacts. Aaron had recently started at GameHouse, which had been recently purchased by RealNetworks. He was doing analytics for them, and they need a Marketing Manager for their website.
Aaron was very helpful and friendly, especially considering he didn’t know me. He was very helpful in describing the company and the position. And he ultimately introduced me to Chris Young, the hiring manager.
After an initial conversation, Chris and I had a more formal interview that resulted in him flying me out to Seattle to meet the team. (This, by the way, was the first and only time I’d ever been flown anywhere for an interview, and it’s nice to be able to say I’ve had that experience.)
Another key piece to the puzzle was my friend Eric. While in Seattle, I stayed with my friend Eric Medalle, who I had hired to be a designer a few years earlier while with Capital Newspapers. He was very welcoming and helpful and made a huge positive difference in my feelings about Seattle, by opening his home to me and taking me on several tours of the city.
The interview was in April of 2009, and it went great. I went through what I now know as “the loop,” when you have back to back interviews for up to eight hours. I met nearly everyone I’d be working with on a day-to-day basis, and liked the personnel. When the day was over, I met with Chris’ boss, an unscheduled interview, but one I took as a good sign. It went very well, and the trip to GameHouse ended with the HR rep telling me she’d call me later that day.
(Interesting side note, all but one of those who interviewed me would be laid off by November of that year.)
After the interview, for no reason I can remember, I spent some time driving around in the Shoreline area, which is about 145 blocks north of Seattle. I stopped to test the donuts (naturally) and just checked out the neighborhoods. Little did I know that 4 months later, I’d purchase a house very close to where I was driving.
To close out the day, I had dinner at Shanghai Gardens in the International District (ID). Eric had taken me there earier, and it was great. They specialize in hand-shaved noodles, which are fantastic. But the best part was the fortune in the fortune cookie which said I will be receiving a very important call, soon. This while I sat there with my phone on the dinner table awaiting a call.
It was only a few days after I flew back to Madison that I learned I had gotten the job and was moving to Seattle. It was exciting news, and we were all really excited to be taking on such a life-transforming activity as moving across the country to a place none of us had really ever been.
It got more exciting that we anticipated when we put our house up for sale two weeks later. If you recall, the housing bubble was a large part of the economic recession at this time, so we weren’t optimistic. However, we had put a lot of work in the house (new windows, new porch, etc.). Much to our surprise, the house sold the day we listed it – at list price, which was a significant amount more than we paid. It turned out to be a pretty positive sign of things to come.
Obviously, the immediate list price sale was amazing, but it also meant we had to pack and move within three weeks because the buyers wanted to get in right away, and we wanted to get out.
I had to take off for Seattle on April 24, so it was up to my wife to handle a lot of the packing and selling of our stuff (though we apparently didn’t sell nearly enough, as we’d come to learn we owned 10,000 pounds worth of stuff).
But she, fueled by recent exposure to Gogol Bordello and Eugene Hutz’s philosophy on getting the most out of every moment, handled it all in a way that can only be described as amazing. She juggled our child care, packing the house, relentlessly selling and donating our things and just keep a base of sanity amidst the chaos.
Meanwhile, I packed my Scion XB with as many essentials as I could fit in it (mostly my Spider-man comics collection), hopped in with a friend of mine and headed to Seattle – the greatest place I’ve ever lived.