Devshop Stories #4 - The Story of Don't Be A Karl


Devshop Stories #4 - The Story of Don't Be A Karl

H.R. Jacob joins Josh and Tanner in this episode to talk about what it means to not be a Karl. We talk about Karl and the difficulties we faced when dealing with people who didn't suit our cultural environment.

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Josh: Welcome to another episode of Dev Shop Stories. My name is Josh, and today we have a special guest with us, Jacob. We just call him HR Jacob. And we have Tanner here as well. So today we're gonna be sharing a story about Don't Be a Karl. This is a hiring story and something to look for when your trying to do kind of cultural matches when you're hiring people.

And so kind of the story begins is we actually didn't have very good foundational. Interview questions for cultural research. And so we were just kind of young in our dev shop at Red Sky Engineering and we just were trying to hire anybody that looked semi-competent in, in software and technology. And we had fellow come in and, and we'll just call him Karl for now, and.

Basically, we interviewed him, everything went fine. I actually remember Jacob, you were there, you remember kind of a question that, that was kind of strange where we asked him about, or we kind of mentioned, you know, how our PTO was. Do you remember that experience?

Jacob: Yeah. It was really interesting and, and I really taught us an extremely valuable lesson.

We had talked to him about what we thought was a tremendous perk organizationally that we had unlimited PTO and, and we set it with some sense of pride that we were offering unlimited PTO. And this Karl responded in a way that was really took me back. He said that that this was wage theft, and we all kind of looked at each other.

Josh: yeah. He was immediately like, I don't like that.

Jacob: Yeah. I don't like that. This is wage theft. And we're like, oh, okay. Which should have been a giant red flag for us. Right. But I, I think the principle is, is that we were so anxious to get any help in that we were willing to almost compromise a, one of the core foundational must-haves organizationally, which is a good culture fit.

And we were willing to compromise that just to get a body in and it taught us an extremely valuable lesson.

Tanner: And with that, are Karl was technically savvy. I mean, he, he had a very good skill set technically. So looking at that, it's like we, we definitely did compromise on our cultural requirements.

I mean, they weren't fully fleshed out at the time, but we did compromise on those for his technical ability. And uh, as you'll come to find out in the story, it was, it was an interesting outcome.

Josh: Yeah. So we, we hired on Karl and you know, things were fine. I remember there's a couple other strange situations. He kinda came up to me one time and said, yeah, if I get 30 hours in a week, you know, I feel like I've done pretty good.

You know, and it's like, oh, okay. Well, I mean, the expectation here is 40 hours a week. You know, and we do something a little bit different at our dev shop is we actually, you know, pay for overtime kind of a straight time, which, which a lot of dev shops don't do, or a lot of kind of technology positions.

You are expected to work 45, 50 hours a week. Here's your salary. It looks like a great salary, but when. You know, take out that compensation. It's, it actually brings it back down. But anyways, so it, it was just kind of interesting there. we had another situation where I remember I was actually downstairs and there was kind of a heated debate going on upstairs with Karl.

There was a kind of a immigration and migrant kind of, you know, discussion about, you know, who has rights or whatever. And, and I remember that, that there was quite got got kind of. Heated in that. You remember that Tanner? Yeah, I do.

Tanner: I was, I was one of the participants in that discussion. It was, it was very interesting, for somebody who, who wanted to avoid political discussions or anything like that.

our Karl tended, was tending to instigate a lot of those. Out of the blue would just kind of propose a random question. Whatever is going on in the political climate. And, it was pretty, there's a lot of tension at the same time. we all knew that, culturally there was, a, an opposing views mm-hmm.

you know, but we're all professionals. It really shouldn't matter. But the debate, got into, talking about, some immigration stuff and,

there was a lot of just. It was just bad. Mm-hmm. , right? There's a lot of yelling. it escalated from zero to a hundred very quickly. Like I said, I was the active other participant in that conversation with our Karl.

Yeah. And, lots of yelling, lots of, back and forth. One of our, our other employees ran downstairs and actually grabbed HR Jacob here to come upstairs and, try to break up that thing before it, it got any crazier? It was, pretty bad.

Jacob: Yeah, I think, I think the important thing for us that, that we took away from that was, is that we're not discouraging the diversity of thought.

You know, because we recognize that conflict is extremely healthy. If it's good conflict, it wasn't and healthy conflict. But, but we, we found out that, that we have a specific culture, that we are a hundred percent committed to being true to that, that culture and, and the value of being able to say what we.

And, and lean the way that we want to lean organizationally, and we encourage everybody to do the same. But we had to to find people who could do that, even if their views were opposing without creating negative conflict or bad conflict in the workplace. And Karl was not that. And we knew that from the beginning.

I mean, we saw those red flags from the beginning, but again, we were willing to compromise that because the first interview. The technical energy interview was a, a very positive interview. And and so it taught us an extremely valuable lesson that, that a person's value to the organization isn't just in their competency in the work that they bring, but in the competency that they get to bring to all aspects of, of the workplace.

Tanner: One of those red flags I remember it was the very first time that we did our cultural presentation, Jake, that you had put together. We are all, I mean, you had spent a tremendous amount of time on it, and it's really the culture that we want and what we're striving for and, you know, just our company's view,

Jacob: right, I mean, it was, it was the full creation of our values, our mission statement, our, this is who we are as a, as a company, and this is what we expect. You're right.

Tanner: Yeah. It was that very first presentation of that. Karl was present, as were all of the employees, obviously who were there. and he immediately wanted to go out to lunch with Josh and McKay.

Josh do you wanna kind of talk about that a little bit.

Josh: Yeah. So we went out, he said, Hey, I wanna take you guys out to lunch. We're like, okay, sure. You know, and, we go across the street and sit down at a booth and the first thing he says, I've heard a lot of those things before and they're just all bull crap.

You know, I don't, I don't think that they're worth anything. And we've all heard it before and we've all heard the rah, you know, kind of thing. And I just don't believe in it at all. And we're like, okay. You know, I mean, you can have your opinion and stuff, but you know, a lot of other people actually really do enjoy those conversations and know what the, the values are and what we're gonna try to stick to and, and what we're gonna try to hire from.

And. Technically fire about, you know, and then he kind of goes into a story about, a Mexican lady that he. Knows personally, and she works, 50 hours a week and gets paid $10 an hour and just works her butt off everywhere. And, you know, she's never gonna get ahead in life, he wants to not have that same situation, so he wants 10% ownership of the company that he just started out a week ago, And we're like, okay, well, he's like, well, I, I don't expect it right now, but that's what I wanna work towards is, is to have 10% of the company. And we're just like, oh man, okay. You know, we just kind of smiled and we're just like, you know, really taken back from it. So much so that we actually went back and we started talking to some of the other employees cuz we're, again, this has only been about two weeks now, one to two weeks that he's actually been working for us.

And We actually talked to some of the employees and they had mentioned how he has invited them out to go to lunches with them, and while at lunch he would be, the first thing he'd do is sit down and be like, okay, everybody. What do you make ? It's like, what do you mean what do I make? Well, we gotta, we gotta discuss what everybody makes here so that we can go back to the man and try to push down so we can all make the same amount of money.

You know, that's the only way we're gonna get ahead in this society. And we're . Everybody just felt extremely uncomfortable and it was just actually started to have negative impacts on other people.

Tanner: yeah. Yeah, it was right from the get-go, and again, this. A week, two weeks in, and the, the whole intention was like just sewing dissent, against the owners.

I mean, it was, it was right out the gate, those discussions of, how much, how much money do I think all the developers should make the exact same amount of money, regardless of skill and merit. you know, except for him, cuz he wanted 10% ownership of the company. But anyway, it was, it was right out the get go.

so coupling that with a lot of the, the dialogue that was happening at work about, in this case, confrontational topics. and it wasn't from the, the perspective of coming to common ground. It was very adversarial conversation. And we just, it escalated so quickly. I don't think any of us were really prepared.

for that whole experience. I mean, it was wild.

Jacob: Yeah. No, it taught us. Some extremely valuable lessons early on in this. Number one, for me, the biggest takeaway is hire slow and fire fast, right? And, and obviously we hire from a certain set of criteria for a reason, right? Because we have discovered that that criteria will be the best possible fit for our organization.

And it's not that Karl was a bad guy and he was a great tech, but the reality was is that he just was not a good fit within our system. And so we should have discovered that beforehand. I think we did discover that beforehand, but again, we were so eager and so anxious to get somebody to fill that spot so that we could get 'em coding and get 'em billing, that we were willing to compromise those standards.

And, and so that, uh, that obviously became for us, the don't be a Karl. Right, right. And, and so that's kind of where this title comes from, is that we realize that, Karl taught us something exceptionally valuable.

Josh: I mean, again, the higher slow fire fast, we decided, hey, this was not a cultural fit.

And I remember the day that we decided to, to let him go, Jacob was there, cuz obviously he is handling a lot of the HR concerns and he'd already had a lot of. discussions internally about, Hey, this was probably not the right decision, and I think this was, you were just kind of hired at right around that same time, so you didn't probably have a lot of sway or Yeah.

You know, input into the hiring process, which we've obviously changed over time, and again, another case, I hate to keep going back, but, but these are little tiny signs that we should have kind of picked up on. Was he, I remember you were kind of meeting with each person individually and we had a girl that was kinda the executive admin, her name was Nicky, and, and you guys were in a room kind of talking about it and she's like, well, I'm one of the only female workers here.

And he's like, a woman, you're a woman. She's like, she's like, that's right. She's like, what? She's like, female is not, you know, generic enough. You're, you're a, you know, a human woman, you know? Yeah, that's right. And she actually got scared of him. Like when we actually went to, to let him go, she said, I can't be in the, the meeting with us, you know, in the same building.

She actually had to leave cuz she was afraid he was gonna flip out and just go wild and start shooting people or something, you know? Yeah. It was, it was like to

Tanner: the point of. Scary for a lot of people. I mean, there's a bunch of us who without a shadow of a doubt that he was gonna come back with, a vengeance , you know, he, he was, it was kind of off the handle.

Josh: So Jacob and I had to finally sit him down and basically be like, yeah, sorry, this is just not working out. We don't think there's a good cultural match. We're gonna need your laptop back and.

Jacob: Yeah. And it was three weeks, right? It was three weeks from hire date to to fire date, which that was the right thing for us.

Mm-hmm. . Right. And again, it's not that Karl wasn't a good fit, somewhere.

Karl would've been a good fit somewhere. It just was not with us. And it was extremely apparent from very early on, probably even before we hired Yeah. That this was not a good fit. and so for us, right, be true to that and know that, the standards and the process that's in place trust that process.

And we've learned that now. So that was, that was a good learning. It is.

Tanner: It is and that's why part of, our onboarding process, our interview process. Interview one of the entire sessions or meetings is a cultural meeting where they sit down with myself, Josh, Jake, and we go through our cultural values and really hold true to that.

we don't feel like they're a good cultural fit. I mean, it's, we've learned our lesson the hard way.

Josh: Yep. And I've, I've talked to other, folks who run the, onboarding and hiring and application processes at other companies. An example that they had was they actually sat down somebody that was.

You know, non-patriotic. And this company's very patriotic. So their, their motto is, you know, life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. And they're going through all of the, basically the cultural presentation. And the guy just in the middle of the interview, he says, Hey, I'm just gonna stop you right there. I don't think this is a match for me.

And, maybe we should just kind of go our separate ways. And they were kind of taken back. But that's exactly what it was meant for Right to kind. Weed out those who might actually be detrimental to the culture that they're trying to cultivate in that company.

Jacob: Well, and I think the transparency of that is the key, right?

To sit down and say, this is who we are and this is what you're gonna experience. and in our, in our culture, we talk about people carry firearms. we pray, we're an extremely conservative group, you know, and, and these are the values that we have. And so we need to know, are you okay with these things?

You don't necessarily have to agree with them, but you do have to know that this is going to be your experience. and we're open to diversity of thought and diversity of opinion, and even expressing those opinion as long as it can be done in a healthy conflict way, we encourage that. But obviously Karl was just a bad fit.

He didn't have the ability to respect that or to communicate that in a way that wasn't created in negative conflict. And we probably weren't prepared to receive that. and I think, honest with ourselves to say, Hey, we're not prepared to receive somebody like this and to make it a good cultural fit.

Tanner: So, absolutely. Yeah. We didn't have any processes to handle that, appropriately at the, at the time, took it as a huge, huge incentive to learn. Yeah. and why it's so important to hold true to, to that cultural value and understand the culture that you truly do. within your organization. for us, it just helped reaffirm that.

Josh: So one of the big key takeaways that I find, Running a dev shop is that you, you develop these stories that you have over time and these kind of things that you can actually refer back to. And so obviously the Don't Be a Karl is something that we actually say internally. Sometimes when we go to like hire and whatnot, we have other slogans or other sayings, you know, taking a Terry day and, and we'll, we'll cover, we'll cover what that means in in future episodes and stuff.

But this is just part of growing your culture and your story. And so we, tend to share these stories with you and we hope you en enjoy that. Thank you for listening to another story. We'll be back next week with more stories, personal experiences, and advice on running a dev shop.

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