By: Anatoliy (Toli) Zaslavskiy
Toli's Dropbox Journey
How I Landed My Dream Job
"If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life."
Why I Made a Career Change
I started my career in big corporations (NY Fed, Amex, WSJ). I was really lucky to learn development strategies for creating stable, well planned, and well tested software. However, non-tech-first corporations tend to move very slowly and have tons of politics and silos, preventing engineers from really doing their best work.So for the better part of a decade, I started focusing on smaller startups. There I got to experience working with every part of the stack - front end, backend, data viz, analytics, BI, solutions engineering, customer support, computer vision, machine learning, 3D graphics, testing, infrastructure, and more.I found my passion there -- writing frontend infrastructure libraries. In essense, supporting the engineering org, removing the need for repetitive boilerplate, and enabling engineers to experience flow.However, especially the last few jobs, I experiences the opposite problem of corporations -- they moved too fast. Delivery speed was prioritized over stability and code quality.This time around, I decided to finally give big tech a go! I called up dozens of my friends asking for advice and preparing. And, after a grueling 2 month process, I got a few offers!It was a difficult choice, and I analyzed each company I applied to based on my priorities and values.And finally, I made my decision!
Why I Chose Dropbox
I spoke to dozens of friends and friends of friends, current and former Dropbox employees, and compiled an honest and comprehensive guide to the pros and cons of working at Dropbox.LEGAL DISCLAIMER: I am NOT legally/officially representing Dropbox or claiming any information to be valid. It's simply an aggregation of what I've seen in public forums and asking around. All information obtained here was non-proprietary gathered BEFORE employment at Dropbox, and did not come from an official company source.
Dropbox is known for its amazing WLB. Most teams have a very relaxed culture, which enables working on longer-term, more amitious projects, without the typical pressure of startup.There are few hard deadlines and a very relaxed pace compared to most startups and even other big tech.There is ample vacation time. Every last Friday, in addition to ~1 month of paid holidays, and "unwind" time after a big project. There's also 3 paid volunteer days, where you can volunteer for a non-profit of your choice.Cross-Team
If you so choose, you are empowered to implement new concepts, frameworks, refactors, even though they are not directly the responsibility of your team. As long as other engineers agree with your approach, management won't block you from making such changes. Additionally, if you want to switch teams, it's pretty trivialLittle Competition/Politics
At least as an IC, there is very little politics and competition for positions.Great Comp
You can expect $300-$500k as a senior engineer at Dropbox and up to $1M as Staff and above. For reference, I stagnated at $180k in startup world, and now make over double that. See Levels for more details. Comp is fairly accurate from my personal experience. Comp is very much on par with FAANGs.Great engineering culture
They highly value code quality, collaboration, and keeping up to date with community standardsModern Tech Stack
React, Redux, Typescript on the FE (and I believe Python, Go, and Rust on the BE). Especially in frontend, Dropbox keeps up with the latest community standardsFriendly
Compared to other companies I interviewed with, Dropbox has very friendly folks. Everyone I spoke to (biased and unbiased) noted the collaborative culture. Colleagues will hang with you outside of workGreat for Parents
Dropbox gives great parental leave (moma and dads), $25k in adoption assistance (per kid!), $5k in babysitter credits, fertility assitance. And of course the great WLB.Socially Concious
In addition to the 3 paid volunteer days, Dropbox has $2000 on matched donations to non-profits per year. Additionally, you can gift a free "Business" membership to a non-profit of your choice, and free Dropbox space for your friends and family. Check out my Las Chicas for the non-profit I'm supporting with the help of Dropbox!
I Got the Job!
I was so excited when I got the offer for my dream job!I was on my way to Nicaragua for a vacation, and my partner, Asya, asked the captain to make a surprise announcement, congratulating me on my job!Video Credit: Asya Tabdili
The Interview Process
I had a call with my wonderful recruiters, Sabrina and Kara. They explained to me the process of applying to DropboxCoding Exercise
I was given a coding exercise to complete on my own. I'm a Frontend Engineer. Unlike many other companies, the coding exercise I was given was actually quite relevant to what I would be doing in my job. It was not at all LeetCode-ey. The exercise was automatically scored based on pre-built unit tests.Debugging Interview
My first onsite was a debugging excercise. It was a basic MVC app, with a handful of bugs. I used the Chrome Inspector, console.logs, debugger statements, network inspector, to trace what's going on. This excercise was quite relevant to what I would be doing at my job, debugging data flows, event handlers, and persisting/managing stateLive Coding Interview
Here the interviewer gave me a mockup. My job was to develop the component in a CodePen in the language/framework of your choice (or vanilla JS). Just in case study up on the basics of vanilla JS node manipulation (setting innerHTML, css, etc).System Design Interviews
This interview is crucial to more senior level positions. It tests a whole bunch of hard and soft skills.
I was given mockup/design and asked to describe how I would architect the app. I would gather requirements and discuss high level design of the app. Then the interviewer asked me to drill down on individual components, and discuss the data flow, event handling, API interaction, etc. And finally I proposed a plan, on how I would interact with developers, PMs, etc, account for scaling and refactoring.Behavioral Interview
This interview will try to gauge what you're like to work with. Engineering is not a lone 🐺 sport. You can be the smartest person in the company, but if you don't work well with others, you're worthless. The interviewer asked questions relating to how I work with others, handle conflict, and handle unexpected challenges.Project Deep Dive
This was my favorite. There were two interviews, a more technical, and a more "soft skill" one (led by an EM). Here I described one of my greatest accomplishments, PickleJS, telling a vivid story of how it came to be :) You can read the story.Hiring Manager Interview
Finally I spoke to my team's hiring manager, to ensure I was a good fit!
I always sucked at negotating. I saw it as awkward and stressful. I saw it as seeming "ungreatful" and "gambling on a good thing". Usually I just take the first offer.But my good friend, and old boss, Roger, explained to me why I should negotiate, and guided me through the process.The main thing I learned, was that negotitation is not a zero-sum game. It's not like in the movies, where you play hardball, with mind games, bending the truth, and undercutting the "competition". The company is not your competiton. You're entering into a partnership. They want you to be happy.Think about it this way. Between recruiters, onsite interviewers, and coordination, a company has spent $30k-60k from start to finish, to get you to the offer stage. At this point, they have fully vetted you. They want you!!It might seem like it's in the company's best interest to pay you less, but this is not true. Salaries are pretty public (Levels, Blind). And employees talk. If you are underpaid, you will perform less and switch jobs as soon as you get a better offer. Engineers aren't easily replacable, as they also carry a significant cost of training and institutional knowledge. The cost of employee turnover is enormous.The company wants you to be happy, well compensated, and stick along for the long term.One of the engineers who interviewed me, reached out to me! He encouraged me to apply for an IC4 position. While I didn't get the IC4 role, I maxed out the IC3 band (getting ~$100k over the initial discussed TC!).I received various tips from friends at Dropbox (btw hit up your friends and ask them for intros!).
- Counter Offers - Pretty basic advice, but always have other companies in the pipeline. A counteroffer means that another reputable company has vetted you. That's 16 hours of onsite "signals" instead of just 8. I was interviewing with Square as well for an IC6 role. When I got my offer, the recruiter asked my for my expected range. Instead of giving a number, I mentioned that Square was targetting me for the IC6 range ($400k-ish). She mentioned this was over the typical $310k-$340k range of IC3, but she'll go to Hiring Board and see what she could do.
- Why You're Worth It - The key of course, was explaining to my recruiters, who went back to the Hiring Board, why I was worth so much money. My technical skills, cultural focus, work ethic, and excitement for my job were all part of the package. Showing that I was very excited for the job, and willing to put in the work to excel at it (ex: sharing my FEInfra Guide was probably the selling point for more comp. I emphasized the type of work I did at HOVER, helping scale their FE team from 2 to 30 engineers. I mentioned that the work I'm best at (Infrastructual FE Architecture) only comes around at IC4 level. I ulitmately didn't get IC4, but I made a great case for maxing out the IC3 band. The company wants to hire someone who is excited to be there and will grow, not just "rest and vest".
- Signing Bonus - I specifically asked for and negotiated a $30k sigining bonus. Contrary to what online forums say, it's possible, especially when bridging the gap to a counter offer. A signing bonus doesn't commit the company to a large YoY compensation, and thus doesn't expose to additional risk on the books. However, this doesn't mean you'll be stuck at your initial salary forever.
- TC in Other Cities -- I received ~$30k more by moving to NYC vs Miami (which I was considering anyways).
- TC isn't Everything - At the end of the day, Total Comp isn't everything. It is important, as it allows a better quality of life, starting a family, investing in your future. But aside from that, it will dictate the type of work you're doing (ex: IC4 @ Dropbox will be more architectural vs feature work). However, if you don't like the company you're working at, your life will be miserable. For example, based on what I've heard, I wouldn't work for Amazon (no offence to any Amazonians out there), even if my TC was $600k.With that said, best of luck in your negotiations!!!
Frontend Infra Book
Throughout my interview process, I noticed that there are very few resources, specifically for Frontend engineers, on System Design.Another frontend engineer on an engineering forum called Blind, offered me a free mock interview. And I came up with a ~20 page document of notes detailing everything I gathered about Frontend System Design.I decided to create an open source (Creative Commons) Gitbook to lay out everything I gathered. Eventually this resource expanded to offering interview tips, and more! I linked to a lot of the in depth resources throughout this site.Feel free to explore it in depth and let me know if you'd like to contribute
UNWINDING Nicaragua Trip
It's important to recharge before a new job. So I decided to take a month long trip to Nicaragua with my partner, Asya.The first two weeks we spent in a tiny surf town named El Transito of only 1,000 people. The Internet, Power, and Water were iffy. But it made up for it with a beautiful house, great waves, and super friendly people. The last two weeks, we spent in Granda. I saw my first active volcano (to the right), took a free diving course, and......Asya found me a stamp making workshop!
Las Chicas Art Collective
The stamp making workshop was super cool! The organization was a non-profit, helping at risk girls get into art.They fund the organization by leading workshops for tourists. We took a stamp making workshop. And guess which stamp I made 🙃I made a little "Experience" site to detail the journey
A Gift for My Team
I love company swag. I collect it from the many conferences I attend. Usually when I join a company I get a nice swag pack...BUT...what if I flip the script, and give my team a swag pack?We went to the local market, and bought 20 t-shirts. And then together with the team, we created a bespoke Dropbox Growth t-shirt!
MY 30th BIRTHDAY
I turned 30 on Jun 22nd! I guess I'm officially an "adult".After 12 long years doing startups, it seems fitting to transition to big tech, finally!I am so honored to enter my 3rd decade with Dropbox!
I'm not an Engineering Manager and have no intention of going that route.What I do bring to the table are: Staff level IC skills with 12y experience
A career focus on engineering cultureIt is my passion, specialty, and mission to write instrastructural frontend code that enables frontend teams to scale quickly
and seamlessly. I create tooling, libraries, and architecture, removing all the "boring" boilerplate, massively reducing bugs and technical debt, and most importantly,
enabling engineers to work on what they truly enjoy.But I go a step further. For me, culture is more than just a buzz word. Each engineer is unique, with their own strengths, weaknesses, passions, needs, and
motivations. Engineers work best when they are in flow.I lead implementing strategies and policies (ask me about infrastructure sprint!) that help boost engineer interaction, participation, and satisfaction. Even more importantly, I enjoy fostering a team culture where egos can truly be dropped, creating states of flow where feedback is seen as just that - feedback, a mechanism to help each other, the
product, and company grow.
I couldn't have done it without the support of my partner, Asya :) She's been here through my whole interview journey, keeping my mood and energy up, and giving me great advice. I really appreciate her surprise plane accountment about me getting a job! And of course helping document my journey here (she is a pro photographer and storyteller).Roger
My good friend and old boss, Roger. Roger is the type of person who is not afraid to give and receive tough feedback. He helped and encouraged me throughout the interview journey. Unlike myself, he's a shrewd negotiator, and talked me through getting > $100K my initial offer!Dropbox Friends
I had incredible support and guidance from all my Dropbox friends, as well as friends of friends, who referred me all around. They gave me all sorts of tips and tricks on what to expect, negotiating, and honest feedback on the pros/cons of Dropbox. Additionally, one of the engineers who interviewed went out of his way to reach out to me after the interview, and offered all sorts of guidance, ultimately encouraging me to negotiate an incredible offer :)My Recruiters
My wonderful recruiters, Sabrina and Kara, who helped me throughout the long interview and offer process, and represented me to the Hiring Bar, to receive an amazing offer!Blind
Blind is an anonymous forum for big tech folks. They have been incredibly helpful, in giving anonymous advice and feedback on anything from pros/cons of each company I was considering, negotation advice, a resume roast, answering all sorts of questions. One of the members even did a free mock interview with me. This journey was very emotionally taxing and I was on the Blind forums non-stop. When I accepted my offer, I posted my experience, and my post went viral, with over 1,300 likes, 500 comments, and 300 DMs congratulating me