Alright, lets go through these materials together. Looking them over, there’s actually a lot of content to build here. For those of you following along at home, you can find a copy of the materials here.
My rules here for myself are simple. I’m going to go through this document one paragraph at a time. I will not be skipping ahead. I realize that this is probably a bad way to complete this document, but should I really dwell on this decision, or should I just have fun doing it?
That’s what I thought! Lets start at the top, the opening.
Thank you for your interest in Oxide! At Oxide, we are taking a big swing: rethinking the definition of the server-side computer, combining the wisdom of hyperscaler systems with the energy of the open data center -- and delivering it as a product. We are looking for engineers who share our mission.
Easy opening. These lovely folks have given us a beautiful short and easy summary of what they are doing. For those who don’t really know computers that well, they are basically building computers in a new way.
The closest kinds of computers that their new servers will resemble are the hyperscaler’s systems. One full rack that is completely integrated, from hardware up to the software. And that’s really cool.
Their goal is to make the same kind of technology available to Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, etc. available to all. That is laudible and wonderful.
Our most deeply held engineering belief is in the integration of hardware and software: we believe that the best and most reliable infrastructure comes when hardware and software are designed to work with one another. We are looking for technologists who share this worldview: hardware engineers with a sympathy for software and software engineers with an understanding of hardware. If it needs to be said, this isn’t easy! We are looking for engineers who like to solve hard problems.
Software as a reflection of hardware. Hardware as a reflection of software.
This is so hard to explain. Most people don’t have experience running software thats built specifically for the hardware they are using. I don’t even have this experience. But they aren’t just referring here to using software built for your specific hardware. What they are referring to is something deeper. Something far harder to come by.
At the core of this, the entire hardware stack is integrated. The networking gear, the storage gear, the compute gear, the whole stack, from bottom to top. Everything that the hardware is. Integration. But there’s slightly more here, too.
Hardware doesn’t run in a vacuum. Some people believe that software is a rigid category – only specific things are software. Things like programs written to run on an operating system. But you can broaden your idea of what software is. From a certain point of view, software can be as simple as the written word.
But if software is written word, ideas put to paper, what happens when you put your logic and ideas down in silicon, or on the PCB in the form of components? Clearly it doesn’t represent software as we’ve come to colloqualize it, but it is. Yes, this is deeply philisophical. But what I’m trying to get at is that the hardware and the software are really the same thing.
From what I’ve gathered, listening to Bryan Cantrill and Adam Leventhal (among many others) in their Twitter Spaces is that they believe software and hardware represent the same class of the machinery of thought. Honestly, I probably have this wrong. And maybe I’m ascribing my own beliefs to things that closely resemble, but aren’t quite the same. Maybe I aught to ask them one day how close I am.
At Oxide, our values are deeply important to us — so much so that we make them explicit and refer to them frequently: Candor Diversity Optimism Rigor Transparency Courage Empathy Resilience Teamwork Urgency Curiosity Humor Responsibility Thriftiness Versatility We are looking for engineers who share our values.
It is at this point that I realize this is going to be a very long post. I could do an entire essay on values. Actually, now that I think of it, I have written entire essays on the importance of values, admittedly only at the highschool level. Perhaps a good look at Bryan’s 2017 talk Platform as a Reflection of Values is a good place to start.
I’m not going to go in to depth with all of these values, that would take quite
a bit more blog space than I’m willing to give. But I’m going to pick two that
I really resonate with:
In all things, there is nothing more important than transparency. Being as open and honest as you can is how the seedlings of all relationships are built. Without transparency, trust cannot exist. And there is nothing without trust. This is important from the most basic relationships between to people, all the way up to the relationships between people and governments. Without transparency, any relationship can be clouded in doubt and trust can be eroded away.
None of this is in contradiction to privacy, mind you, everyone has their boundaries and its important to be transparent about where those lines are.
Teamwork is additionally important to me. While working alone is fine, I much better enjoy my work if I can share it with others. From the time when I was slinging coffee to now, while working IT, there is a certain joy in collaboration that is irreplaceable. Solving a problem with a team that has a diverse background is like the joy of learning put into a new, completely amazing, context.
Working with people always brings to light new ideas and solutions, or caveats to ideas. Working alone never brings about these insights. In my solo projects, I’ve never had the same insights as when I was working with people.
I believe in the power of human connection.
Our hiring process is a little different than most: we believe that the best basis for assessment of an engineer is not through their performance on an arbitrary oral exam, but rather through their own expression. That is, we choose to use interviews not to assess you as a stranger, but rather to more deeply understand the complete engineer who your work indicates you to be. You should find that these candidate materials will take no more than a couple of hours to gather; please make a copy of this document and for each section, please use the space provided, expanding into additional pages as necessary. When completed, please export this document as a PDF and submit it with your application.
This is simply an explanation of what this document really is, which wraps up the preamble. But before I’m done here, I do want to mention a few things on this. Within a lot of communities, there’s a certain distaste for the cover letter. And while this is technically a cover letter, its also a lot more than that. These materials are an attempt to get to understand an engineer on a deeper level than what the typical application does. To be honest I like that.