How to Get a Job in Silicon Valley, Part 2: The Journey to Coursera

December 1, 2014

Walking through my recent job search and the tactics which landed me at Coursera.


If you read my last post on “How to get a Job in Silicon Valley” you might have wondered whether the strategies I discussed paid off in practice. Well, this week I’m following up on that post, walking through my real-life implementation of those tactics and briefly mentioning a few new ones. If you haven’t read the precursor to this post and just want to “get on with it” there are two ideas I discussed you should be aware of:

  • I believe if your looking for a job within the next year you should foster every recruiter contact into a connection.
  • There are three types of recruiters: cold caller, industry and company.

July 2014 — My Job Search

Recruiter Research

Since 2012, when I joined Apple, I have been receiving regular recruiter contacts every month and fostering those into connections. All that effort connecting to recruiters proved worthwhile after finding one recruiter who really understood what I was looking for. He commonly sent opportunities which were near ideal fits while I was passively looking and introduced me to a lot of great up-and-coming companies. This paid off later in my job search when two of those connections reached final stages by week five below.

Week 0

I finally decided I was going to bring my job search active after dormant exploration over the previous three months. I spent two weeks scouring job boards for opportunities and reaching out to my recruiter contacts.

Weeks 1–2

At the end of my second week I applied to 20 iOS Software Engineer positions. This is the break down of how I found those opportunities:

  • 4 from my one awesome industry recruiter
  • 2 from other industry recruiters
  • 2 from company recruiters
  • 3 from reaching out via Angel List
  • 4 from reaching out to companies I admired
  • 4 from LinkedIn postings
  • 1 from

Weeks 3–4

Every weeknight and morning I spent on the phone with either technical screens or introductions (18 total). Every weekend I spent studying technical problems and taking notes on the companies I was speaking with. Eight companies don’t contact me, I don’t pass two phone screens and I schedule ten on-sites. I used a staging strategy to schedule companies I was less interested in further out, front-loading my top opportunities. I also decided to limit the number of on-sites scheduled each week to two.

Note — I only spent 2–3 weeks this time around reviewing technical problems because I’m pretty familiar with the layout and types of problems asked. This was my third time through the technical interview wringer meaning I’ve spent months in the past doing technical study over the last three years.

Week 5

I completed five on-sites between weeks 4–5; breaking my two on-sites-a-week strategy in week 5 because of short company timelines. Most companies communicate whether they will extend an offer within 48 hours of an on-site and expect an accept/decline to an offer within a week.

Week 5.5

I receive four offers and turn down one company. Financially I compared offers by calculating salary over four years + estimated stock worth for a projected valuation after four years. Quantitatively, I compared companies using a design matrix ranking companies across various areas such as: Culture, Risk, Team Talent, Offer, Personal Growth, etc. Totaled values confirmed most of my gut feelings and narrowed the decision down to two companies.

Week 6

I negotiated with the remaining two companies by discussing strengths and weaknesses of each opportunity. In the end I decide to accept the offer from Coursera, decline the other three offers and withdraw from remaining phone screens and scheduled on-sites.


Throughout this whole process I was still working at Apple full time and operating at 100%. After scheduling my first on-site interview I let my manager know how far I was in the interview process and we were able to have a great discussion about pros-cons of staying vs. leaving. When scheduling those on-site interviews I took paid time off and told my team vaguely that I had some things to take care of. Not abusing sick time for interviewing and being transparent with my manager were great gestures of goodwill. These acts helped preserve the relationship with my manager and create a pleasant transition out of the company later on.

Turning Down a Job Offer

looking funny

Someone who didn’t prepare for their call to turn down an offer. (Photo by David Grant with CC)

One last bit of advice is you should prepare for the conversation where you turn down an offer just like you would for interviewing and negotiation. Don’t look or sound like the guy pictured above. These conversations are typically short when withdrawing from an interview process, but if an offer is extended every person I spoke with wants to know where they went wrong. Instead of bumbling off a list of reasons why you didn’t choose Company A over Company B like I did. You should come up with two things that if existed or had happened, would have swayed you to re-consider Company A’s offer. Ideally these should be actionable talking points regarding changing position responsibilities, compensation or interview process. Your tactfulness will be appreciated.

Please reach out on Twitter or comment on this piece if you have other questions or comments regarding job searching in Silicon Valley. If you want to read more about interviewing in Silicon Valley read the precursor to this post or Robert Heaton’s thoughtful and extensive post.