We're asking you to read this post because we want to make sure you know what you're signing up for. Just like we interview you, you should interview us to ensure you want to work here.

Because not everyone does.

We're obsessed with getting to mutually beneficial outcomes efficiently, and quickly. Customer engagements, investor negotiations, recruiting talent, you name it.

For hiring, we're trying something a little different. But first, a story.

Same Output, Less Waste

A friend was put in charge of initial training for a US military special operations group. Each military service boasted how theirs was toughest. The measuring stick: attrition. One service advertised "91% of candidates don't make it through." The greater the attrition, the more selective the process, the more elite the group was perceived to be.

From another perspective, high attrition signals waste. Could standards be maintained while consuming less? Could outputs actually improve while being more efficient?

One could argue high attrition means unqualified candidates were knowingly (or unknowingly) allowed to float through initial administrative screening. Unqualified individuals showed up to train and washed out, artificially keeping attrition high to maintain perceived "eliteness." Qualification happened during initial training and not before.

What happens when it's shifted earlier in the process?

Doing this would save time, money, and resources. A higher percentage of qualified candidates enter the program. Attrition drops. Less resources consumed to get the same, high-quality output.

In some cases, the output would be better. High-value resources (e.g., slices of the defense budget, additional critical skills operators needed for larger numbers of candidates) otherwise consumed separating wheat from chaff could be redeployed elsewhere.

So my friend did just that. Front-end qualification was hardened: tougher fitness requirements, comprehensive psychological assessments, and something we'll dive into below. The results speak for themselves:

  • Training attrition dropped below 50%.
  • Training costs dropped ~60% with those funds re-allocated for improved warfighting capabilities.
  • Signup-to-graduate cycle time reduced by ~25%.

It's no secret that better (i.e., quicker and cheaper) qualification is valuable. So the question remains:

If you don't have a war chest for robust qualification, what's the best process to ensure the most qualified candidates are the ones consuming resources?

Transparency is Key

The fitness and psychological screeners were effective. Another tool was equally as effective: brutal honesty.

Candidates received a phone call after passing initial screening. It wasn't a "congratulations, you've passed initial screening and are eligible to begin training" call. It was a "are you sure you want to do this? There are tradeoffs" conversation with an active-duty operator.

The operator would speak of the sacrifices. The cold, hunger, exhaustion, enduring discomfort. The long stretches without seeing loved ones or friends. The absence of a life outside the military. The highs of missions accomplished and lows of losing teammates.

A 30-minute, transparent conversation had an enormous qualifying effect. Candidates opted to save face rather than take the chance of washing out publicly. Some realized their mental models didn't necessarily jive with reality.

Honesty is the best policy and works out for both parties. Efficiently.

In the war for talent, companies oversell opportunities. It's morphed into a contest for which HR wiz can create the most compelling job descriptions, perk packages, pitches, etc.

It's become a marketing challenge more than one of truly aligning incentives to the benefit of all parties.

I'm not a marketer. I've been told a few times my directness is often construed as rudeness. So here's me leaning in to tell you what it's really like working here, because we're all better off with a hefty dose of transparency.

An Honest Take on Working Here

Ondema is hiring. We're looking for skilled contributors who are as excited to be here as we are.

We want people who can hack through the jungle to create a map for others to follow; pathfinders who thrive in expeditionary environments.

If you're skilled at following detailed engineering plans and managing abundant resources to build superhighways, that's awesome, but not what's needed at our stage.

jungle_or_highway

Both skillsets are valuable. We're looking for machete-wielding pathfinders who love hacking through the jungle.

We're transparent. Sometimes to our own detriment. But we've found it's critical to ensure everyone is on the same page and, more importantly, stoked on being here.

Below is a rough summary what you'll get by joining our team. More importantly it summarizes what you won't get, because some of those things might be important to you. We don't want to waste your valuable time, and certainly don't want to surprise you in a negative way. There are lots of companies out there that offer what we don't.

What You Will and Won't Get at Ondema

What You'll Get
What You Won't Get
A unique role where every day you'll perform meaningful, visible, and challenging work. Step-by-step instructions and micromanagement.
Direct and outsized influence over organizational success. Recognition from working at a prestigious, well-known brand.
An equity stake that could become life-changing or worth nothing. Above-market salary or grandiose title.
A fast, flexible, and ambitious team whose primary concerns are customer value delivered and team performance. Catered lunches, panoramic views, on-site fitness, and working spaces with great "flow."
Shared consciousness and empowered execution. Decisions de-centralized and actively pushed to the edges. Meetings, multi-leveled approvals, and "running things up the chain" for the majority of decisions, both important and menial.
Imperfect information to climb a series of steep, constantly-changing learning curves. A playbook for How To Do X with plenty of time and resources to do X.
The opportunity to translate customer feedback to working code, minimizing the distance between. The ability to hand things off to someone else or another department.
Complete ownership of your role with autonomy to execute as you see fit. We jointly set goals and get out of the way. Many stakeholders who believe their opinions carry weight. Chunks of bandwidth eaten up catering to roles & egos instead of doing real work.
Freedom to set your schedule to get the work that needs to be done, done. Don't miss out on things that are important to you. Arbitrary deadlines, lots of meetings, inflexible working hours. But don't worry, you can always hit the break room for ping-pong and snacks.
A blue-collar work ethic and mindset. Nobody is above anything. Everyone empties their own trash cans. Executive perks. Enforced hierarchy. An ability to delegate work you may think you're overqualified for.
An obsession with results. An obsession with face time.
Flying coach. Expense accounts. Fancy work dinners. Corporate box seats.

"We're a team."

"We're a family."

We like being Spartan.

It improves our ability to deliver more customer value, faster. We don't pass the costs of unnecessary creature comforts on to our customers.

It improves the chances everyone's contribution and ownership becomes life-changing.

Most importantly: it isn't for everyone.

The Bottom Line

You won't get paid the most, nobody will know what company you work for (yet), and you'll bust your ass tackling tough challenge after tough challenge. 

Much like the unofficial motto from the US Navy SEALs:

The only easy day was yesterday.

On the flipside: you'll be a foundational part of an elite team, making things happen, empowering each other to do great things, learning incredible skills, delivering results, and marching towards something big. Something with purpose that could very well be a defining and rewarding part of your career.

We want people who acknowledge the risk/reward tradeoff. We want people who are committed. We want people who will see things through come hell or high water.

If you fit the bill, we look forward to meeting you.

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