Reverse Interview

This page, inspired by the Reverse interview project, provides some answers to the most common questions candidates make during interviews.

Tech

What are the usual stacks used at the company?

Each squad uses different technology stacks. For example, the Polaris squad uses Puppet for configuration management and Ansible for change management like updates, while Sirius specializes in Ansible and Kubernetes in the OpenShift and Rancher distributions. Capella sets up CI/CD pipelines, using most common systems: GitLab CI, Travis CI, and others. Many team members wrote and maintain tools written in several programming languages: Python, Go, Bash shell script, and TypeScript are some examples.

How do you use source control?

Very extensively: we use our own GitLab for our internal projects, where we even store the source Asciidoc files of this handbook. We also have a GitHub account where we share code and tools with the world. We encourage our engineers to open source projects!

How do you test code?

We use unit testing as thoroughly as possible, wherever and whenever we can. But we can always do better.

How do you track bugs?

We use Atlassian Jira, and we use it to track everything, including recruiting, accounting, and of course customer support. There is a special page about Jira in this handbook with more information.

How do you integrate and deploy changes? Is it CI/CD?

Yes. We build, test, and integrate continuously everything we do, exactly the same way we help our customers to do it! We’ve CI/CD pipelines for this handbook, and even for our presentation slides.

Is your infrastructure setup under version control / available as code?

Yes.

What’s the workflow from the planning to the finished task?

We use Scrum and Kanban internally. Each squad plans their work separately and following their own processes, but always in an agile and collaborative way. We use Jira extensively to document and keep a trace of everything we do, so that we can work as asynchronously as possible.

Is there a standardised development environment? Is it enforced?

No. Every VSHNeer is free to use the tools that work best for them, although some tools become natural "standards" because everyone uses them.

How quickly can you setup a new local test environment? (minutes / hours / days)

Each of our tools and projects should come with a README and an appropriate setup configuration (for example, Makefile, build.sbt, setup.py, docker-compose.yml) to help you set them up. Usually, there is also additional documentation in the wiki. So, something like git clone && make typically gets you started within minutes.

How quickly can you respond to security issues in the code or dependencies?

We’ve a 24/7 OnCall team, ready to respond day and night within 30 minutes, and we’re very proactive.

The Team

What does VSHNary means?

If you get in touch with VSHN you will hear the Word «VSHNary» sooner or later. But what does this mashup of our company name and visionary mean? VSHNary is our term to describe a person that fits in our team. It doesn’t mean that you have to be identical to who we’re. It means: To share the same cultural qualities and values, the same fascination for what we’re doing, the same thinking about what’s a team is what makes you VSHNary. To be VSHNary isn’t described in a job description, so you have to come over to feel what it means.

How much independent action vs working off a provided list is expected?

If you want things to change, you are expected to independently act! Which doesn’t mean that you can "just do stuff" without talking to your peers. We’re looking for people which are team players, so a little bit of both attitudes are necessary. We’re looking for people which are open minded and ready to improve things. But also to have the team spirit to work on routine things which just need to be done.

What are the expected core work hours?

We use a 42.5 hours work week, including maintenance shifts. We’re also looking for engineers for our OnCall rotation, which counts as additional time and is payed in addition to the salary.

What does the onboarding look like?

We’ve documented this in Your first day at VSHN.

How’s the work organised?

We’re organised in "Squads" and "Chapters." There is a page in this handbook for each of them: Squads and Chapters.

How does the intra/inter-team communication typically work?

We use chat extensively, whereas e-mail is mostly a tool to talk to the "outer world." We also use Zoom to communicate with remote team members, and to record our internal training sessions. You can read more about those tools in the following pages of this handbook: Calendar, Documentation, Jira, and Mail.

How are differences of opinions resolved?

It’s okay to have different opinions, and it’s also okay to have differences about them. At the the end there are three ways of solving them:

  • It’s important to use common sense, and it’s okay to just let differences of opinions be.

  • Include a bigger amount of team members into the discussion, maybe a third, fourth or even eleventh opinion will show up, but in the end the crowd will decide.

  • Money is a hard fact. There are things we’re just not able to pay, so sometimes we’ve to find another solution or a different compromise.

Who sets the priorities / schedule?

The squads in consultation with the Project Manager and the Sales teams.

What kind of meetings happen every week?

We talk about that in the "Your First Day", "Weekly Team Meeting", and "Squads" pages of this handbook.

What happens after production incidents? Is there a culture of blameless analysis?

We win as a team and we f*ck up as a team. To handle incidents is a very important topic at our company, and we work hard on avoiding them. If there is an incident we work as a team in fixing it, and don’t let anyone by themselves. After fixing we will discuss in the team what happened, and how to avoid such situations in the future by writing a blame-less postmortem.

What are some ongoing challenges the team is experiencing that you are yet to resolve?

We’re humans, and hence we sometimes struggle in our communication. But we’ve strong communication principes we stick to, and we’re constantly trying and evaluating new ways to collaborate and communicate with one another. Some work better than others, but we’re always trying to get better at this.

The Company

What’s the status of / view on diverse hiring?

We’ve a lot of work to do to reach gender parity, and we’re doing it. We give equal opportunities to all candidates, wherever they come from, whatever their background is, and however they see themselves. As long as you adhere to the VSHNeer communication principles, you will be welcome!

Is there a budget for education?

Of course! There is an annual budget of 4000 CHF per employee, which can be used for personal education in nearly any way. Certification, language school, conferences, it’s up to you to decide. You can find more information in the "Salary System" and the "Personal Education Process" pages of this handbook.

Can I contribute to FOSS projects? Are there any approvals needed?

Yes you should contribute to FOSS projects, No you don’t need special approval for that.

What do you think are the gaps in the company culture?

We’re all human and that means we all make mistakes. The best we can do is to learn from these gaps, and most importantly, to never blame somebody else for our own mistakes.

Do you collaborate with social or community projects?

At the moment we’re cooperating with Women++ and the ETHZ, but we’re always looking for new opportunities to improve the state of our community and our industry.

The Business

Are you profitable?

Yes.

What’s the maturity stage?

Growing.

Where does the funding come from, and who influences the high level plan/direction?

We don’t have investors; we’re solely owner-based. We grow organically.

How do you don’t make money?

We don’t provide bodyleasing and no «traditional» consulting.

What have you identified as your competitive advantage?

Our team.

Remote Work

What’s the ratio of remote to office workers?

At the moment there are two part time remote workers that work a few weeks at the time from remote. Homeoffice or remote work isn’t a problem, if you show up here at the VSHN office regurarly, for example 33% of your working hours.

Does the company provide hardware and what’s the refresh schedule?

This is explained in detail in the "Your First Day" page in this handbook.

Office Work

What’s the office layout?

We currently have one large room (12 people) and 5 smaller rooms (with 3–5 people each). Come visit us for a cup of coffee and to have a look.

Compensation

If you have a bonus scheme, how are bonuses determined?

We believe that you should be payed equally for equal work. We also believe that every VSHNeer works the best they can, so there are no bonus schemes. Salary increases apply to the whole team, and not to a single person. The Salary System page contains more information about this.

Time Off

How much Paid Time Off (PTO) is offered?

We talk about that in detail in the Salary System page of this handbook.

What’s the parental leave policy?

Women get the 14-week maternity leave specified by law, while men get 4-weeks of paternity leave. There are more benefits explained in the Salary System page.