The Unspoken Melancholy of the Prodigy

However loaded with superabundant talent, Hamilton was a mass of insecurities that he usually kept well hidden. He always had to fight the residual sadness of the driven man, the unspoken melancholy of the prodigy, the wounds left by his accursed boyhood. Only to John Laurens and Eliza Schuyler did he confide his fears.

— Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton

How to Hire That Rockstar Developer That Will Ride Your Unicorn to a Series E

It’s no secret that the secret to a multi-billion dollar valuation is that one lone-wolf rockstar diva of an engineer. A real straight shooter with a penchant for craft beer and a knack for explaining the “technically possible.” If you get that one hire wrong, then the only one joining the billionares of the world will be someone else, and what good is that? This guide will help you make sure that that first engineer is a truly brilliant insufferable bastard.

1. Be Corrected In The Interview

The more obscure the subject is, the better. Someone who truly understands how to build a product that will carry you through all those funding rounds won’t hesitate to quibble over tiny details. If you find yourself in an introductory interview being corrected by a Rails developer on the differences between a L2 and an L3 cache in an Itanium 2, you know for sure that you’ve got yourself a proper first-rate asshole. Hire immediately.

2. Watch Out for Concessions

Phrases like “that’s a good point” or “I hadn’t thought of that” are big red flags. “What do you think?” is the worst of them all. Your first engineer needs to have all of the answers to every problem immediately, with no question left unanswered. Any alternative should be shot down with prejudice immediately. This absolute unwavering certainty will give you confidence when your investors ask why you’re going back for another round.

3. Lights Out!

Your first engineer shouldn’t tolerate having the lights on in their workspace, unless it’s the soothing glow of properly syntax-highlighted JavaScript. The low light will help you obscure your degrading revenue forecasts next time your investors ask for a tour of the office, and the lower power bill might just help you extend your runway for that last crucial hour.

4. Hiring and Firing

Try not to worry about your employee turnover rates. Instead you should be monitoring how much your new employees are learning from the ones who are about to quit. Categorize everyone into the following three buckets:

  1. 25%: Senior engineers who are at the end of their rope. These people make up the bulk of your pager rotation, so make sure their salary is as small as you can get away with, to maximize hours worked per dollar spent.
  2. 75%: Junior engineers who started last week. They should be onboarded by the first group, so you’re not distracting the last group:
  3. The badass product-shipping code ninja who doesn’t take shit from anyone. Don’t distract this person, there are deadlines at stake.

These categories will be very important once the first group quits, and the second group gets laid off.

Good luck with your unicorn! It’s a growing market, for sure.

Love Your Background in Java/Cloud Tech—Are You OK?


I’ve attempted to reach you, but I have had no success. Either you’ve been bitten by a zombie or you’re hiding in a bunker. If you have been bitten by a zombie, my deepest sympathy goes out to your family members.

I hate to keep bugging you, but I do want to express my desire to chat with you more about whether or not our Senior Software Engineer role may be a fit. If you’re still alive, one of the following is more likely to have happened:

_____ Yes, I’ve been bitten by zombies. Please send the antidote.

_____ No, I haven’t been bitten by zombies, but you may wish I had been because I’m not interested. Sorry, it’s everyone for themselves. (I appreciate the candor. I can handle it.)

_____ Yes, I’ve been infected by the Cordyceps Virus and I’d love to pick your brain…

_____ Yes, I have some interest in learning more about the Senior Software Engineer role. Sure let’s chat.



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