Human metadata creates valuable companies

Zayn Patel
2 min readJan 25, 2023

As the summer nears, I’ve been applying to internships and I realized: the metadata about an experience is more interesting than the experience itself.

For example, my title is Head of Engineering at X company. Underneath this title I’ve written 3 bullet points detailing what I’ve done.

  • Implemented a file submission portal using NodeJS, MongoDB, and AWS S3
  • Led database schema and API refactoring project to improve code base and align with industry standards
  • Built a database denormalization system on commonly used tables to improve overall load times by 12%

While each of these points gives the recruiter data on what I did, it’s missing the fifteen hours of struggling I had to do to learn how to use AWS. Or the five mentorship calls with Dan, the CTO, before I could get the API system working. That’s the metadata.

The metadata is actually what recruiters are looking for when they talk about “soft skills.” They want to know what happens when you hit the first obstacle. Perhaps Balaji would say that the solution to getting some of this metadata is to cryptographically log EEG data to the blockchain so the emotional states of a person are visible throughout the lifecycle of solving a problem. But, I think we’ve already seen the solution to this absence of metadata: in-network hiring.

This paradigm is most prevalent with startup co-founders. I think the reason founders looking for a co-founder think about their friends first is because they’ve shared experiences where the metadata was obvious. They might have completed a college project together and while the collective output looks like a bullet on a resume, Karl’s 10 extra hours confirming every perfect detail is unseen. Karl’s the person you want on speed dial if you’re building a rocket. But you wouldn’t have known this if you were searching for candidates through Indeed.

A popular counterargument could be that this information will be shared in the interview, assuming there is one. But people like Karl don’t recognize their own attention to detail. They see it as normal while others see it as admirable. The fact that they’d write “attention to detail” as a skill on a resume is weird to them.

The lore of Silicon Valley’s “work with the smartest people you can” makes sense now. Not only are the smartest people more aware of the metadata than others, but they’re also more reserved at hiring people who they haven’t worked with because they understand the value of metadata.

And, not coincidentally, the most valuable companies have been built with metadata-first, resume-rarely approaches.

Originally published at https://www.zaynp.com.

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Zayn Patel

Working on space technology and policy, improving government with data science, and launching a cubesat mission.