Hired for a Donut!
The year was 2016, and I had recently joined Electronic Arts as the Director of Engineering to build the Virtual Economy Platform from scratch. Not only did we have to build the platform we also had the challenge of building the team from scratch. When I first started the three folks on the team were, Ahsan Nanji (Director of Product Management), Muhammad Bilal Sheikh (Senior Software Engineer) and myself (Director of Engineering) and our first priority was to hire enough people to have a critical mass of engineers to build the platform.
The engineers we needed were ones who were skilled at building services that could be performant, reliable, secure and scale to support millions of simultaneous users. What made our search hard was that the engineers with these skillsets were also widely sought out by the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google etc. What made the problem extra hard was that the brand awareness of EA was low among engineers unless they were gamers themselves, the ones who knew of EA did often did now know we had a presence in Seattle, the ones that did know of our presence assumed that we only did client side game development and did not build high scale cloud services. Hiring in Seattle was not easy to say the least. We worked our networks and the networks of the folks we were able to hire, but it was clear we needed to get creative to get the engineers at the caliber we wanted.
On my walks into work from the bus stop, I frequently noticed software engineers coming out of the apartment complex right in front of our office and heading towards the bus stop. One day, a light bulb went off and I wondered if we could hire some of the talent living across the street from our office. So we got to work and our recruiter worked with the management team of the apartment complex and we set up a breakfast event. It was an opportunity for the residents to learn about EA, who we are, what we did, and we also let them know we were hiring. What we could offer them was solving some really interesting distributed systems problems, working in game industry with creative game teams, a passionate customer base and a perfect commute which involved just crossing the road. Come to think of it, depending on where you lived in the complex they could have just received the WiFi from the office at your home so you technically did not even have to VPN in to work from home.
We had tempered our expectations while going in. Our main goal was to drive brand awareness and plant a seed and if we ended up hiring someone that would be a nice bonus. We had a few interesting conversations, and I remember one distinctly with this person who was having a donut and chatting about their work at Microsoft and learning more about EA. A few weeks later, we noticed we had received an application from this person. His name was Victor Hurdugaci and he did really well in the interview and ended up joining us, and that is how we hired Victor for a donut.
Victor is not only really smart and strong technically, but also very customer obsessed. He grew into the role of a Senior Software Engineer and then Senior Engineering Manager. Some of his contributions have had a lasting legacy in the virtual economy platform, including the Marketplace Expression Language (MXL) which is a domain specific language and empowered game studios to implement pretty involved economy mechanics with ease. His tenure with EA was almost three years, and he has since moved on to become the Senior Director of Engineering at PlayerWON.
I am still in touch with Victor to this day, and that donut not only got EA a great employee for three years it also got me a lifelong connection.
The main lesson here is you have to be creative in hiring, experiment and try various methods to end up hiring the folks you want hired.
If you are having troubles finding the right employee for your company and could use some help feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com . We will try to be as creative as we were with hiring Victor (if not more) to find for your business the employee your seek.
Disclaimer: Repeat success with donuts is not guaranteed!