I'm a senior engineer in a small, but regionally established, IT company. I perceive it as rather hard to make progress due to a lack of transparency, coordination, and organizational structure; in fact, we are a group of individuals with decent technical skills, but with largely uncoordinated efforts.
I think that similar problems can be found in many (IT) companies; small company founded by a technical person who neglects his managerial tasks as far as possible. It is not a terrible workplace, but I am actually looking around for jobs that might provide a better environment. I recently had an interview with a company (startup, ~30 people) that has sounded rather interesting for my line of work, salary would be above average, stock options, and the first interview was positive.
In the first session of the interview, I got to talk with the engineering team I would work with (two people, aiming for 6-8 till the end of this year). They seemed skilled, smart and kind. They warned me that the team had shrunk from 8 to 2 mostly due to frustration about mismanagement. However, they were positive about recent changes: CTO and founder is replaced by project managers, a CEO was hired to get the management work done.
In the second session, I spoke to that CTO and founder. I noticed afterwards, however, that I had learned nothing about the company culture. When I was cautiously asking about the engineers that had left the team, he briefly mentioned that one or two of them had actually just changed team (rather than leaving the company), and changed topic.
When I asked about how communication works across teams and across locations (two), the relevance of my question seemed to be unclear to him and the answer went along the lines "they use Skype etc".
My conclusion was that he was friendly, and probably a good engineer too, but certainly not a good manager; as indicated by the engineers.
I told recruiter that the structural part of interview felt too vague to me to make sure this would be an improvement over my current job. I am afraid to end up in a mess, requiring long hours and other unnecessary stress factors that can be caused by bad planning.
They have now offered me another interview with the CTO/founder so that I can ask more specific questions about my concerns. Now I am wondering about what I should ask specifically to get a good picture. Roughly, I would like to get clarity over issues such as:
- HR: goal setting, feedback culture, hiring process
- transparency: do I get the information I need in time in order to do a good job
- expectations: what does a typical day look like?
- management: how do they work now, how specific are the announced changes, how open are they for changes coming from the engineering teams?
Is there something like a Joel test for management/organizational issues?
I feel like there have been many signals that indicate that it might be as messy or even worse than my current job. On the other hand, I don't want to wash away a potentially good job opportunity because they are not easy to find: good engineering team, good product, funding, growing potential for the company and myself.
Any tips on how to get the best information out of that talk?