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The Boot Camp Grad Who Got $250,000 Starting Salary

How A Boot Camp Grad Got $250,000 Starting Salary

Haseeb Qureshi is not your average boot camp graduate. With just three months of Ruby on Rails experience he was hired by Airbnb for a $250,000 starting salary (according to his blog). This article explores what is one of the most interesting hiring stories, sounding like an episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley.

Haseeb claims he was the most sought after engineer in the entire Silicon Valley. I talk about what Haseeb says from his blog first, and then my analysis of why I think Haseeb was likely a fraud who made up the whole story to promote App Academy.

His blog tells the full story of arriving to San Francisco in 2015 and enrolling in a App Academy boot camp. He had no prior programming experience, but the Academy taught him Ruby web programming in a 3 month course.

After his graduation from App Academy, he briefly worked for App Academy as a director of product. However, he was not happy with this position and decided to apply to other companies in the Bay Area. He began studying Cracking The Coding Interview as he “prepped for the interview circuit.”

Silicon Valley's Big Head: the highest paid most under qualified engineer

Silicon Valley’s Big Head: the highest paid most under qualified engineer

App Academy advised him to send his resume to as many companies as possible, as the general advice was to play a numbers game. Of the over 20 applications he sent out, all of the companies rejected him without even conducting an interview. Eventually, a contact helped Haseeb get an interview at 23AndMe. The phone screen went amazing and Haseeb scheduled on an onsite interview,

I killed the onsite. And when I say killed, I mean murdered with such ruthless brutality that my children’s children will carry the sin with them. To this day, it’s the onsite that I felt most confident in.

Despite the great interview, he was rejected once again. Haseeb felt frustrated but kept on persisting. He signed up for TripleByte which is a site claiming to build a new kind of interview where tech skills are primary, and credentials do not count.

By passing the TripleByte test, he finally was able to get some interviews where they made an offer. First Yelp made an offer, next Gusto made an offer, and then even TripleByte themselves made a job offer to Haseeb. He had finally cracked the coding interview.

Yelp started the bidding with $105,000 base and $17,000 in equity. Gusto offered $115,000 and TripleByte was in the same range. With these offers in hand, Haseeb would go on to be the most sought after engineer in the valley. As he says himself,

With that, suddenly recruiters started tripping over themselves to get me on site. I was no longer the ugly boy at the party.

Yelp, Gusto, and TripleByte all upped their offers hoping to outbid the other. Next, a Google recruiter from the Youtube team began pursing Haseeb. They scheduled an onsite interview,

Unequivocally, Google was the toughest and most nerve-wracking interview I’ve ever done. The problems were complex and challenging, all abstract and extremely algorithms-heavy. They didn’t ask me a single thing about architecture, systems design, web development—all they cared was that I could solve hard abstract computer science problems. All the interviewers—clearly brilliant (and all older white men)—were stony and tight-lipped about my performance.

Google Proposes A Much Higher Salary

A week later Haseeb got a phone call with an offer from Google. They had raised the stakes even more by offering $162,000. With a Google offer, the other recruiters went crazy.

The Internship - A movie which parodies the Google hiring process

The Internship – A movie which parodies the Google hiring process

With that, the floodgates opened. Just the whiff of the Google name got recruiters into a frenzy. Companies that wouldn’t even look at me now bent over backwards to expedite me through their funnels. Stripe onsite. Uber phone screen. Twitch phone screen. Uber onsite. Stripe offer. Twitch onsite. Uber offer. Twitch offer. The offers came in, stronger and stronger. All the irons I’d put in the fire were now going off like Roman candles.

Haseeb got multiple offers that were higher than Google’s. The companies figured that if Google had vetted him, his skills must be superb.

Meanwhile, the Youtube team wanted Haseeb to work as a back-end C++ engineer. Google told Haseeb not to worry because they could match the offer of any other company. Just to be safe, Google upped their offer to $185,000 a year.

Haseeb got more calls now. Airbnb wanted to interview him. He nailed the interview and Airbnb made a stunning offer of $220,000.

Google responded with a $211,000 offer in all cash. Haseeb called his Airbnb contact back and told him he would go with Airbnb, only if they raised the offer to $250,000. Airbnb happily agreed and Haseeb Qureshi started his first programming job for a salary of one quarter million dollars.

Haseeb Blogs About His Conquest

Most people would have stopped here, knowing how far they overshot, but Haseeb decided to blog about his amazing conquest of the software hiring process. There was even a Business Insider story detailing the brilliance of Haseeb’s negotiating skills.

Analysis Of How Haseeb Slipped Through The Cracks

This story left me with so many questions about the sorry state of the software industry’s hiring practices. It reminds me of an episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley where the character Big Head is pursued by the top companies in Silicon Valley, despite being an incompetent engineer.

Silicon Valley's Big Head: the highest paid most under qualified engineer

Silicon Valley’s Big Head: the highest paid most under qualified engineer

I wondered why Google thought it would be a good idea to place an inexperienced Ruby on Rails programmer on a C++ project. Ruby and C++ are completely different languages that serve different purposes. Did the Google hiring team miss that Haseeb had virtually no experience programming, or were they more interested in outbidding the other companies?

It seems Airbnb assumed Haseeb was amazingly qualified because he had an offer from Google. The companies appear to have done very little research about his actual experience.

As for Haseeb, I do not understand why he choose to write about his salary publicly. Most software companies prefer their employees silent on matters of salary. Surely there are other Airbnb employees who have more experience but get paid less.

Interestingly enough, Haseeb has been involved in a scandal in the poker world which is eerily similar to his software career. Haseeb’s own blog even details the Girah scandal. Haseeb met a Portuguese guy named Girah who publicly claimed he was a poker prodigy. Girah barely knew how to play poker, but they had one of the world’s best poker players play under Girah’s online account. This team of three cheated other players out of millions of dollars.

I wonder if the entire story told by Haseeb was completely made up. It is possible the story was just an advertisement for App Academy.

As for the companies who so eagerly pursued Haseeb at any cost, it reflects even worse on them.

What is your opinion of this story? Leave me a comment below!

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