Why I Chose Gusto over Facebook and Airbnb

Why I Chose Gusto over Facebook and Airbnb

Over three years ago, I received job offers from multiple tech companies. I filtered the list down to Gusto, Facebook, and Airbnb. After a painful amount of researching and thinking, I chose Gusto. I will share my reasons in this post. Maybe it can be useful to others in similar positions. =]

Two Things

After much thinking, I was ultimately deciding between Facebook and Gusto. Two main factors pushed me towards Gusto.

1. “What’s after Facebook?”

Facebook was attractive for many reasons: its reputations, the strong engineering culture, a flat organizational hierarchy, engineering autonomy, challenging problems…

But I knew wouldn't stay at a large company for forever. I asked myself: if I joined Facebook, what’s after Facebook?

I preferred startups with the following criteria:

  • It should have a great chance of succeeding in the long run, at least I believe so.
  • Its product and mission should resonate with me
  • It should have a great culture and amazing people
  • I should have role models to learn from
  • It should have ample opportunities and room for me to take responsibilities, make mistakes, grow, and become a jack-of-all-trades
  • It should be small enough for me to feel my impact

Looking at my list, I realized Gusto checked all the points. I thought to myself: “after Facebook, I want to join a startup that’s more or less like Gusto.”

At that point, I had done extended research on many startups. I knew how rare it was to find a startup that matched these subjective criteria, especially the first three of them. Finding one and being able to join at the right time would be even harder.

Facebook would always be there. But Gusto might grow exponentially in the next few years. There’s no guarantee that I would be able to find my next “Gusto” later.

But I still decided against Gusto.

I went a long way from barely able to land my first internship, to receiving all these amazing offers. Having Facebook on my resume would make the rest of my career easier. I craved for this safety net.

I said “No” to Gusto on the day my offer expired. 🙁

2. “Engineering is a means to an end.”

The day after I declined Gusto’s offer, Gusto’s biggest competitor announced a product competing with Gusto’s payroll software. Many business owners shared their experience with different payroll services in the comment section of the news. Surprisingly, many of them were rooting for Gusto.

Here are some examples:

PSA: Go with Gusto (formerly Zenpayroll) instead for payroll. We signed up for both Zenefits and Zenpayroll several months ago. Zenefits was a nightmare. Zenpayroll has been an absolute delight.kalvin

Seconded. Zenefits has been great for on-boarding new hires, but they made mistakes in our health insurance coverage that ended up costing us ~$20k/year...

On the other hand ZenPayroll has been amazing. I take an unreasonable amount of pleasure deflecting inbound sales forays from the likes of Paychex and ADP._sentient

+1 went for months without insurance because Zenefits continually promised things they could not deliver. Could not imagine a worst experience for such a critical thing.

Gusto (Zenpayroll) has been peach perfect. Going to transfer our healthcare benefits to them as soon as we can.hinting

Those comments stroked me. It was shocking to see the pain small business owners suffered. I was also amazed by the peace of mind Gusto provided to them.

They reminded me of one thing: engineering is a means to an end. I wanted to build software to make people’s lives better. Knowing my work helped others gave me my ultimate fulfillment as an engineer.

Of course, Facebook’s products had huge impacts on the world. But it was clear that I could make bigger contributions to Gusto's products.

Seeing the pain small business owners had to face made me sad. I was thrilled to see Gusto bringing relief to them via technology. I wanted to join the force.

At this point, I had been deciding which offer to accept for weeks. Within an hour after reading those comments, I made up my mind and joined Gusto.1


How did Gusto end up on my top list?

People at Gusto impressed the heck out of me.

In the beginning, I knew nothing about Gusto. But my interview experience intrigued me. So I started to research about the company. The more I learned about the philosophy of the company, the more it resonated with me. I decided to visit its office to learn more.2

My office visit was a long day. I chatted with many engineers and a few others from varies functions. I walked out with two impressions:
1. People at Gusto were passionate. Everyone could tirelessly talk about anything related to Gusto for hours.
2. People at Gusto were genuine and kind. Everyone I met was nice and happy. Even after hours of talking, they were still eager to answer more questions.

Surrounded by the people at Gusto for a day, I walked out of the building feeling I somehow became a bit nicer and more patient.

I came to look for reasons to not join Gusto. I walked out wanting to join it even more.

After my visit, I shared my experience with a friend. My friend knew I was obsessed with distributed systems, and both Airbnb and Facebook had more opportunities in that area.

After hearing my thoughts, my friend said: “sounds like you want to join Gusto just because of the people there.”

She was right.

Why did I rule out Airbnb?

Airbnb was in the middle between Gusto and Facebook in terms of size and maturity. If I wanted to go to a big company and take the safe option, I would go with Facebook. If I wanted to go to a small one and take a bet, I would choose Gusto.

Although Airbnb was famous for its culture, Gusto’s people and culture surprised me more.

Were my original thoughts about Gusto correct?

Yes. Three years later, I can confirm all the reasons that made me chose Gusto were correct.

What makes me still stay at Gusto after three years?

Check out this article that explains what matters to me at work.

How do I think about my tech career?

Check out this article on the topic of career progression as a software engineer.

Any advice on choosing among job offers?

  • Do your research.
  • Talk to as many people from the company as possible.
  • Pay attention to how people within the company feel about their work.
  • Most importantly, know what matters to you.

[1] I didn’t accept any offer after declining Gusto’s. Luckily, the Gusto offer was still on the table when I changed my mind.

[2] I had my onsite interviews at the Grace Hopper Conference. As a result, I received my offer before having a chance to visit Gusto’s office.

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