What the Hell Happened?!

No, I didn’t fall off the face of the Earth. Not yet. I do occupy a new UTM zone - for whatever that’s worth. You see, I moved to Detroit and, ohhhh, I got a JOB! Yeah! And, well, it’s funny how when you get a job the blog you started mostly for getting a job suddenly drops a few (dozen) notches down your priority list. I’ve been meaning to write this post since before I started nine months ago. Of course, everything happened so quickly and I became so wrapped up in preparing to move, moving, settling in, and then getting right to work and busting my butt trying to make a good impression and prove to myself that I can hang in the private sector that, well, you know… Thanks to the occasional blog reader getting in touch, wondering “What the hell happened to you?” or “Did you ever a get a job?” I never completely forgot that I owe the world (or maybe just my future self, stricken with amnesia?) an explanation.

The story goes something like this: I was getting ready for the trip to Silicon Valley for the Nanodegree graduation ceremony and I seemed to be finally making some inroads on my job hunt. Someone from my cohort’s Facebook group messaged me asking if I’d be interested in working at Harman International. I had a quick call with him the following Monday, and then I had a telephone interview with Zenuity the following Thursday (which happened to be Thanksgiving, I remember distinctly, a holiday I suppose they don’t celebrate in Sweden, do they?). If I’m being honest, that interview… could’ve gone better, but ten days later, right after getting home from the Bay Area, I was boarding a plane bound for Detroit.

I arrived early and killed some time skimming over some of my old blog posts at a nearby Starbucks, then made my way to the office to meet my HR rep who’d been my main point of contact since the initial call. After going over some ground rules and the interview format (and of course some pleasant chit-chat) it was time to meet my hiring manager - the one who’d contacted me directly on Facebook to begin with. He turned out to be a VP for Connected Car System Test and Validation. Talk about making a good impression with the right person! See? You never know who might be paying attention.

He told me he didn’t need to ask me any technical questions - he knew enough about me through the blog. (You’ve GOT to be kidding me!) He just wanted to tell me about the job I would be doing - helming the automated driving capabilities in the System Test department. He stressed that other autonomous driving jobs wouldn’t be as exciting because I’d just be solving a small piece of an extremely complex problem. Here, I’d be involved with every aspect of a relatively simple problem: getting the test cars to drive themselves around the parking lot, mostly at night, and at extremely low speeds, while moving the automated infotainment system testing out of the lab and into the cars themselves (where the majority of the system bugs are found).

He gave me a tour of the automated testing lab and it quickly became apparent that my background in automated test may have played a role in him bringing me in. I made a point to touch on it in the other interviews that comprised the rest of my day, but when it was all said and done I got the distinct feeling that it was less a chance for them to assess my capabilities, and more a chance for them to meet the new guy. I drove back to the airport and flew home the same day.

I got a call and an offer before the end of the week. It was better than I’d imagined - Principal Engineer for Machine Learning and Automated Driving. Everything about it was a dream come true - the pay, the role, the relocation package, especially the work… and I’d just recently lowered my expectations after a handful of automatic replies talking about “more qualified candidates.” I put in my notice at the old job, made a quick recon trip to find a place to live and a school for the kid, and celebrated a teary-eyed Christmas with our families. Of course I had to buy a new (used) all-wheel drive car for those Michigan winters, and in what felt like no time at all we were off. We left Oklahoma at an abnormally cold -4 degrees Fahrenheit and arrived in Michigan at a not abnormally cold -5 degrees Fahrenheit.

This was happening. I couldn’t believe it.

(Next time: the first three months…)