Total Pageviews

random musings of a crazy cat lady

Monday, February 15, 2010

Email from Wankercon, a startup

A few months ago, I applied at a local startup company ("Wankercon").  Today I got the following email.  I have changed the names and omitted the links but other than that I have the email as is

Dear Random Hopefully Brilliant and Awesome First-Tier Candidate, (yes, this is what they wrote)

For a broad preview of what Wankercon does, watch this video of our scientific advisory board member Wanker #1 speaking at bleah bleah bleah VC conference last year.  Note that we are no longer just five guys in a garage :) (link omitted)

Another hint about the excitement of our effort is found here in a techcrunch blog post about an email that our Founding President Wanker #2 (who also co-founded big important company X) sent to his talent network some months ago:

Wankercon is a mission to turn biology into an information science, and ultimately to cure all diseases.  Do you have the talent to drive that mission, and the vision to see beyond the mediocrity that says it's impossible? If so, sign our NDA digitally and return to us by email so we can tell you more.

Along with the signed NDA, we ask candidates to answer the following seven questions by email.  Answer with the first thing that comes to mind; this is just to get the discussion started:

1. What are you best at?
2. What are you worst at?
3. How would you spend ten billion dollars?
4. What are your goals?
5. What is your favorite movie, and why?
6. What is your favorite book, and why?
7. If you had to name one thing, what is the biggest misperception people have of you, and why?

Also, please attach a CV or resume if you haven't already sent us one.

Cheers, The Wankercon Team

uh, OK?!?!?  I don't mind the 7 questions part, but the trying to be hip and funny part is totally cancelled out by the mass mailing nature of the email.  (Actually, I take that back.  I've never encountered those sort of pop-psychology interview questions such as 5 and 6.)  Ever hear of cut and paste, dudes?   It's also unheard of to have someone sign a NDA (non-disclosure agreement) until they actually show up on site.  
I've got enough experience with startups to know it usually works another way.  A more typical email would read like this.
Hi Old Biddy,
Thanks for sending in your resume. We would like to invite you in for a short interview.  How about Friday?  Please be prepared to give a seminar.  We will also ask you to sign a NDA before we show you around the company.
Normal Startup Company Team

Adding to the incongruity of the whole thing, the position that I applied for is actually a part time, post-doc sort of deal, where they want a highly specialized chemist but don't want to bring in anyone non-local.  I'd blow off the whole thing, but one of my former professors is sort of involved with them.  So I wrote back.  Here's what I wrote.

Dear WankerconTeam,
Thanks for getting back to me regarding the chemist position that was advertised on VentureLoop and was also brought to my attention by Professor X.  I have enclosed a digitally 'signed' NDA.
Here are my answers to the seven questions.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions.  I look forward to hearing from you.
Best regards,
-Old Biddy

1. What are you best at?
I am a very skillful and creative inorganic/organometallic chemist, and really enjoy making molecules and seeing if they do what I want them to do.  In my spare time I'm a really good baker.

2. What are you worst at?
I get very focused on things and have trouble shutting off my brain when I'm trying to sleep.
3. How would you spend ten billion dollars?  I'd use some of it for research on improving pyrolysis techniques and catalysts, so things like waste plastics and biomass can be converted into liquid or gaseous fuels.  I'd use the rest for improving water desalination techniques so they are more economically viable.
4. What are your goals?  I'd like to work on projects that are intellectually challenging and make the world a better place.

What is your favorite movie, and why?  Animal House.  It's stupid, but it still makes me laugh my ass off every time I see it.  I'm a sucker for juvenile and slapstick humor.

What is your favorite book, and why?  Possession, by A. S. Byatt.  It's a literary novel with two interwoven stories, one involving two present-day academics and the other involving two Victorian poets.  A lot of mythology and poetry are thrown in for good measure.  It's probably the most detailed novel I've ever read, but the author has such a skill for descriptive writing and character development that it moves along quickly and seamlessly. Unfortunately, the movie did not turn out nearly as well.

If you had to name one thing, what is the biggest misperception people have of you, and why? I am rather quiet and reserved, especially at first, so people usually assume that I'm very uptight. 

1 comment: