The first day of a new job involves a rush of adrenaline and nervous excitement, and ours were no different. We woke up earlier than usual, put on our new company t-shirts, and sat down in front of our workstations neatly organized in the corners of our living rooms. Then at the click of a button, we were virtually in the Praetorian office, connected to all our colleagues. Arriving at this point during a pandemic was a unique experience, as were the first several weeks of our new jobs.
Welcome to Praetorian: Rao talks about the hiring process
I first met with Praetorian at a career fair in college. In addition to the bold colors and the cool swag, what caught my attention was their passion for security and a straightforward approach towards the interview process: “Solve a problem, get an interview.” More often than not, interactions at career fairs do not progress beyond introductions, and applicants return without any feedback or information regarding the next steps. So, it was novel to have an actionable task to work on, a challenge to solve. Furthermore, the hiring process continuously reinforced my interest in working with Praetorian.
After a series of discussions that culminated in a challenging CTF-style interview, I was genuinely thrilled about working with a small group of passionate engineers trying to make the world a more secure place. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic quickly subdued my excitement of graduating from college and joining Praetorian, and the next few months were filled with anxiety. The world was battling a deadly virus, and organizations were letting people go and freezing new hires. However, Praetorian quickly put my apprehensions to rest. Hearing directly from Nathan and the executive team that the company would honor the offer of employment was particularly comforting. In times of uncertainty, Praetorian demonstrated effective planning and a strong commitment to its new cohort of employees.
In the weeks leading to my first day at Praetorian, I realized my induction into the company would happen over chat and video calls. As I settled down in my new apartment in Austin, I was excited to receive my work laptop and more company swag, and I was ready to get started. In complete honesty, though, it was disheartening not to be in the office because I knew I would be missing out on personal interactions with teammates. I wondered how I would pick up the sort of information I ordinarily would gain from simply observing colleagues and their actions. While I knew the whole process could be emulated in a remote-work setup, I anticipated it would happen with much lower bandwidth and higher latency. However, Praetorian had methods in place to make the onboarding a smooth experience. With access to a concise documentation space rich in information, I quickly spun up all the necessary tools and services. Furthermore, senior engineers held daily office hours, and encouraged frequent “sync” calls to make all new hires feel at home.
As I recollect my onboarding process and my first few weeks at Praetorian, I realize that I am privileged to be working in an industry that was not severely impacted by the pandemic. The transition to a remote-work setup was undoubtedly inconvenient, but my colleagues at Praetorian made it as smooth as they could.
Onward and upward: Casey talks about the first few weeks
I was looking forward to my start date at Praetorian with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation. I was excited to begin, but the prospect of onboarding remotely worried me. I did not want to be left out or left behind. However, Praetorian has taken steps to ensure that their remote onboarding process is useful and effective, and that it mirrors the in-office experience as closely as possible. The success of the remote onboarding program is due to Praetorian’s commitments to on-the-job learning, a culture of helpful colleagues, and radical transparency.
Much of Praetorian’s work focuses on engagements: sprints dedicated to assessing a customer’s security issue, be it a web application, pentest, or external assessment. For my first few weeks, I shadowed on engagements. These offered a perfect opportunity to acclimate to the tools and processes, as did the active work I was assigned simultaneously. The work was neither over my head nor was it busy work; rather, it brought me up to speed with Praetorian’s processes quickly. I smoothly transitioned from knowing very little at the beginning, to shadowing, to actually working because Praetorian’s strategies for quickly acquiring knowledge work so well.
Praetorian also recognized that the greatest benefit of in-office onboarding is casual access to your colleagues. New hires learn quickly by osmosis, listening to office chatter by their expert peers, and can easily ask questions. To replicate this online, Praetorian encourages conversation amongst all their employees. During the daily Staff Engineer Google Meet, anyone can ask for help solving a problem or answering a question. Outside this hour, active slack channels offer access to Praetorian’s senior staff, who are ready and willing to answer questions. By far the meet I still anticipate the most is the Vulnerability Show and Tell, where engineers get together and discuss exploits encountered during the week, whether they be novel wins or intriguing problems. It is both educational and entertaining: what’s not to love? I look forward to sharing a win of my own soon.
The culture of access and transparency permeates everything, and originates with the CEO, Nathan. Praetorian opens and closes the week with Commitment and Celebration presentations. These presentations inform employees of the state of the company and the status of its goals. The entire company celebrates successes together, learns how to move forward from mistakes, and explores potential areas of concern. Nathan invites candid questions and discussion from the engineers. In addition to demonstrating radical transparency, these presentations help bring the new engineers into the company and its culture.
Above all, the company culture demonstrates to me that Praetorian recognizes that employees drive its success, and that it cares about the experience they have from the initial introduction onwards. Praetorian offers support as needed, welcomes feedback, and encourages growth. I already have learned much from my colleagues, and as a welcome bonus, the work is genuinely interesting.
About our Authors
Ranganatha Rao Sridhar
Casey is a Security Engineer interested in corporate security. She joined Praetorian in June, 2020. Follow on: LinkedIn