At Least Interview (or: How I Ended Up at IMVU)

Recent conversations have pointed out my career philosophy isn’t as obvious as I thought. Thus, I’d like to share the story of how I joined IMVU and what it means to me and to those I interview.

Why Won’t You Interview?

You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve tried and failed to get somebody to take a weekend and fly out to IMVU for an interview. I don’t understand: we’ll happily pay you and your significant other to spend a vacation in San Francisco for the small price of a day’s interview.

There are three possible outcomes:

  1. We make you an offer and you accept.
  2. We make you an offer and you decline.
  3. We don’t make you an offer.

What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe you’ll be forced to actually decide whether IMVU is the right home for you. Maybe IMVU won’t be a fit and you’ll feel a little worse for it.

Either way you’ll have a better sense of yourself and maybe you’ll have stumbled upon a more fulfilling life. Plus you’ll have a free vacation!

I Could Have Joined IMVU 9 Months Earlier

I was halfway through my graduate degree at Iowa State, implementing a functional GPU language. I figured I was headed towards a job working on concurrent languages at Microsoft Research or something. Indeed, that would have been fine! I’m still glad concurrent programming languages aren’t a solved a problem – I can still fantasize about someday contributing to the field.

On July 2nd, 2004 (my birthday!), a guy named Eric Ries e-mails me out of the blue “Are you the same Chad Austin from the boost and cal3d mailing lists? Interested in some contract work?” He was working on some wack AOL Instant Messenger add-on that used BitTorrent as its installer and had a hideous website, so I wasn’t terribly interested. He persisted, and by GDC 2005, he convinced me to come interview.

Once I met the founding team, I came to a few conclusions:

  1. IMVU’s founders were smart. I’d be silly not to work with them.
  2. Coming from graduate school, I didn’t expect much of a salary, so I could take a bunch of stock in exchange.
  3. If IMVU succeeded, win!
  4. If IMVU failed, at least I’d learn a lot.

I wasn’t super excited about the product at first, but IMVU’s founders convinced me to give them a shot, and it was definitely the right decision.

How I “Sell” to Candidates

When I interview candidates, I truly believe that IMVU is a great opportunity. If the candidate is hesitant about committing to such a huge life change, I understand. Moving across the country and taking a new job is a gigantic personal decision, and I can’t make that decision for them.

I never aggressively push IMVU, but I do my best to provide the data necessary to make the right decision. “I’ve been here a while. What information do you need to know whether IMVU is right for you?” I like to believe honesty is as effective as aggressive salesmanship. :)

What This Means

I heartily endorse the philosophy espoused by NetFlix: periodically reconsider your place in the world. I’d be a hypocrite if I said otherwise.

That said, I think our culture overvalues salary. Money is but one (uncorrelated?) component of our motivation. Since humans are notoriously bad at predicting what makes us happy, it’s critical that we weigh facets such as personal freedom, your colleagues, social context, future opportunities, and how your work fits into your personal narrative.

We once tried to hire a frighteningly smart man away from Google. He interviewed but declined our generous offer, saying that his entire social life was tied into Google. In hindsight, the sacrifice we asked of him is clear, and I respect his decision.

In short, stay open-minded, but consciously consider what makes you happy.

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