Just prior to the Aladdin Classic I received a phone call from some random head-hunter. I found nothing unusual about the call as I receive about 4 or 5 calls from recruiters looking to place me at an “exciting opportunity” and another 5 or 6 a month from recruiters looking to show me some “exciting candidates” they have lined up just ready to come do my bidding. But this phone call contained a small sliver of information that made it stand out from the pack. As he launched into the same pitch I’ve heard literally thousands of times over my ten years working in technology I glazed over until he said the phrase “the company is located in Westwood and develops online poker software.”
What? Westwood? Online poker software?
Well there’s only one company that fits that profile so I waited for him to finish and then asked “Is this for Full Tilt?” You could hear the energy drain out of him as he responded “Uh, yeah, why? Have you interviewed with them already?” I replied “No, but I have friends who work there.” Suddenly his perk returned and he asked who and it turns out he placed one of my fellow poker blogging brethren there.
I told him that I would send him a current copy of my resume but that I wasn’t necessarily looking to leave my current gig. Full Tilt is one of the few companies I would even entertain a conversation with but I was far from packing my bags for greener pastures. He said that that was fine and he would get back to me.
Hdouble and Fhwrdh double teamed me in Vegas after I told them about my phone call and shortly after my return the recruiter had lined up a phone interview with the CTO. Although I thought the interview went horribly due to the fact that I had sandwiched in the call while driving to a dental appointment and I have an inability to think, drive, and talk at the same time, I must have said enough good things that I soon received an invitation to come down and speak in person.
We met at the Full Tilt offices and the CTO and I had a good conversation about where the company was today, where it wanted to go and what kind of role I could play there. Unlike the phone interview disaster I felt much more zoned into this conversation. I have worked mostly in dotcom startups my entire technology career so I felt I knew exactly what kinds of management challenges were facing a company of their size and what growing pains they were likely to encounter as the company continued to grow. I liked the CTO very much. He seemed very bright and laid back. He was someone I thought I could feel good about working with/for.
Over the next month or so the CTO and I had several back and forth conversations about what it would take for me to leave my current job and join the Full Tilt crew. I have to admit that even though I was excited as all hell, I was going to be leaving a sure thing. The current job isn’t the most exciting gig in the world but it’s certainly interesting and provides a steady nine to five environment with benefits that make many people’s jaws drop. I would be leaving that to jump back into the chaotic startup world where your entire life is consumed by your work. The funny thing is that’s not necessarily a negative but it is a consideration that I had to weigh.
If I was having any doubts the CTO wanted to put them to rest so he pulled out the big guns and had me come back to “meet some people.” When I arrived he introduced me to Chris “Jesus” Ferguson and the three of us headed off to a private office where Chris and I just chatted about poker and Full Tilt. I asked him about the long term goals of the company, his feelings about the explosion in poker’s popularity, the competitive environment, what he enjoyed most about Full Tilt, and so on and so on. I literally ran out of questions and was left sitting with nothing left to say. Chris is certainly an interesting to speak to and I was left much more impressed by the company than I already was when I entered the building.
Next we met the CFO who threw out a horror scenario that I might be asked to deal with to see if I was really aware of what I was getting myself into and I relayed back to him some experiences that I had had in my past that made his shocker seem like a routine day compared to some of the places I’ve been. After that we dragged the CEO off a conference call and we had a brief but insightful chat.
I was pretty much sold at that point but there were still some minor details that needed hammered out. The CTO and I followed up with a phone call the next week and we pretty much came to agreement on all the points that I had. So now, everything was right. The position was right, the offer was right, the job was right, and yet I still had the feelings that Hank describes when leaving his steady gig to go work at Full Tilt.
I kept running it over and over in my head looking for any reason for saying no and . . . I couldn’t come up with one. But that didn’t stop the stressful feelings of having to make a major decision. You almost feel guilty looking people in the face at work knowing that you likely won’t be there in a few weeks. I didn’t dislike my job but I also wasn’t passionate about it either; at least not in the way that I’m passionate about poker and what I felt could be accomplished at Full Tilt.
What made it even more stressful was the fact that I had become seen as the one guy in the IT department other business units felt comfortable dealing with. I’ve been told flat out by several business units that I’m the only guy they feel they can trust. They’ve even taken to pulling me in to mediate disputes between some of the business units and other IT managers.
At the end of the day though, I couldn’t find a big enough reason to stay that was for me. All the reasons I had for staying were for other people. So after receiving the offer letter I called the CTO back that evening and accepted.
Even though my starting date is tentatively set for Aug 29th, I’ll be giving notice to my current employer today. I’m not sure how that’s going to go over, especially since I’m scheduled to fly to Cambridge University on the 7th to go smooth some ruffled feathers with our members by displaying our commitment to service their needs (uh, by me leaving) but I’m sure the reactions will be interesting.
As a closing thought I did want to thank some of the folks who helped me wrestle with this issue. Obviously Hdouble and Fhwrdh deserve major thanks for not only serving up the Full Tilt Koolaid every chance they got but also talking me up to the CTO and others at Full Tilt. PokerGeek was also of assistance as well as getting to meet other Full Tilter’s at Hank’s home games (again, thanks going to Hank for hosting them) where I got to rap with people in a non-interview setting and ping them about their real thoughts. I also wanted to give Iggy a huge thank you for the IM and phone conversations. Now we just need to convince him to bring his butt out to LA and join us at Full Tilt. Fellow blogger Mike also laid out some points to consider which went into my decision making. A former co-worker also helped me work out my thoughts on the topic and one of my all time favorite recruiters (see, I don’t dislike all recruiters) and one of my best friends had drinks with me the night after my last meeting at Full Tilt and gently pointed out why I was having difficulty making a decision. She was dead on and made the final decision much easier. AsiaK’s posts and emails were also helpful in helping me get a larger view of the industry so as to justify the business side of the decision.
So, to all who helped me make this decision thank you. And to HDouble, Fhwrdh, and PokerGeek, I’ll see you at work on Aug 29th.