Rejection & Serendipity

Marco Arment, The upside of rejection

Bijan Sabet’s story of his first real job rejection:

I wonder what would have happened if NYNEX gave me that offer.

Sometimes rejection can be your best friend.

In my job searches, this has proven true.

I have to say it’s worked out well for me too.

It’s a little-known fact that I started out as a web coder doing bits of Java and HTML with a whole bunch of Linux system administration thrown in. When I started looking for work in that area back in 1998 I wound up helping out a little at local internet and hosting provider Townscape, then got a part-time position at Informal Software (a small software startup operating out of the boss’s converted barnhouse in the countryside) converting their Netscape Composer-based website into purer (and faster) HTML, and maintaining it.

In early ‘99 I was looking for full-time work, and had an offer from Informal to stay on there as sysadmin. I was looking for something more involved than a software start-up though, and eventually interviewed for the Kingston Connected Community Company (KC3), which was at that time operating network access services for the town. That fell through and, having a business loan to pay off, I took the post at Informal (as Employee #2 no less).

A few weeks later the boss asked if I would be prepared to learn C/C++ to become the company’s second full-time coder. I took home a copy of CodeWarrior for PalmOS over the weekend, learned the ins & outs of the C language, and started coding in earnest over the next couple of weeks. I learned a TON while there, and became the ‘blue sky’ developer when we tried things with Linux and the Mac.

Informal ceased full-time operations in June 2001, when our VC funding dried up in the wake of the dot-com bubble busting, and I interviewed at a number of places around England over the next four months. I got rejected by all of these large team-based, be-cubicle’d companies. I really wanted something with the Mac, and there just wasn’t anything out there; I’d have to cash in on my Palm experience instead it seemed.

Then I got a phone call from a recruitment agency telling me about a little company of 7 people based in a converted barn in the Kent countryside, who were trying (and failing) to find someone with Mac programming experience. That was Hi Resolution Software, the company I worked for until May of last year, and which brought me to Canada. MacAdministrator, the company’s flagship product, required so much low-level OS fiddling that I learned more than most about the inner workings of Mac OS X.

I shudder to think what I’d be doing now if any of those other interviews had been successful. If not for Informal, I’d certainly never have fallen in love with the Mac (at least nowhere near as soon), and if not for the years working on Mac software for Hi Resolution, I’d never have the sort of experience that got me where I am now.

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