How to get a job at a Coinbase (really)
Coinbase is hiring and it is hiring big. The crypto exchange, where institutional clients alone traded $1.14 trillion of cryptocurrencies in 2021 (up from $120bn in 2020) has a stated plan to hire 6,000 people in 2022, of whom 2,000 will be in product, engineering and design. This is a lot by any measure, but it's even more given that Coinbase ended last year with 3,730 full time employees (which was itself triple the number of people it had in 2020).
How will Coinbase make all these new hires? Speaking on last month's analyst call, CFO Alesia Haas, acknowledged that it may not be easy. It's "a really tight labor market," said Haas, before adding that the fact that Coinbase allows all its new hires to work remotely helps it hire. "We can compete across the United States, as well as across Ireland, across the UK, Singapore, Japan, and then multiple areas where we have offices and talent."
It helps, too, that Coinbase is very generous when it comes to pay. Levels fyi puts entry-level compensation for Coinbase's software engineers (salaries plus stock bonuses) at around $190k. Following a change to stock vesting schedules at Coinbase in 2021, the company's stock bonuses now vest annually. Coinbase expects to put $1.5bn aside for stock payments this year. This averages $154k per head when the new 6,000 employees are factored in, and is likely to work out higher on average, given that all those new hires won't join in Q1.
Getting a job at Coinbase isn't easy. In a post on the company's own blog, Grant D’Arcy, VP of Talent and Learning, says they receive hundreds of applications for each job. Darcy says you'll have to submit an online application, which will be assessed within 48 hours. If they like you, you'll be given a light screening by recruiters. If you pass that phone screening, you'll be given a skills evaluation. And if you pass the evaluation, you'll make it to the remote onsite where you'll have a further four or five interviews. Hardly anyone makes it to this final stage. If you get a job offer, it will probably happen within six weeks of applying.
Before you get anywhere near a Coinbase interview, you need to know what it's like to work there. Haas says the company is "really religious" about culture and uses it to screen applicants. Anyone unfamiliar with the Coinbase culture might want to read up on various employees' complaints about overwork and chief people officer LJ Brock's subsequent acknowledgement that while Coinbase is "intense" with long hours, it's also very rewarding. Employees are encouraged to act like owners, wrote Brock in January. "We don’t promise 9 a.m. — 5 p.m. hours or 40-hour work weeks — many days and weeks are long, because that’s what it takes to get the job done," he added. To prevent burnout, Brock said Coinbase will have four "recharge weeks" in 2022, where employees are obliged to stop work. Nonetheless, it's probably not advisable to go into a Coinbase interview and to say that you a) don't want to work too hard, or b) don't like to work autonomously.
If it seems like you'll fit with Coinbase's culture, the skills evaluation interview for developers includes pair programming and systems design. One of the most common questions appears to entail designing a currency exchange trading system. On its own blog, Coinbase says the emphasis is on well-written code that considers error handling and input validation. Sloppy and poorly designed code will get you rejected. "Our problems don’t really have any tricks in them, and the naive solution is typically good enough," it says.
Instead of spending hours practising on Leetcode, applicants for developer jobs at Coinbase are advised to: "Practice writing well formatted and well structured code with relevant method and variable names, good state management and error handling."
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