Do you remember Erin Michael Vondrak? She really, really wanted to work at Valve. So much, in fact, that she wrote a song with an accompanying YouTube video, titled “Dear Valve: Hire Me” — her unique way of supplementing her application to work for the maker of Portal and Half-Life.

Erin Michael Vondrak

It has been nearly two years since Vondrak’s video made headlines and reached 190,000 views, so we decided to find out what happened. It turns out that Vondrak, now 28, didn’t get the gig at Valve. But she tells us the experience taught her a lot about the company, social media and herself — and it did help to get her foot in the door at Valve, at least.

Vondrak, who worked in Apple retail at the time, now works in customer support at Seattle-based Big Fish. She ended up hearing back from Valve on two separate occasions: one specifically for the video and one for her job application.

After Valve reps watched the Flash-animated video, they invited Vondrak for a tour of the company’s Bellevue offices. There, the University of Redlands graduate spent a few hours chatting with “some truly engaging and inspiring people.”

She returned again to the Valve campus for a more serious reason: the third stage of Valve’s interview process. Though she didn’t end up getting the job, Vondrak said that her time at Valve was inspiring and gave her some developmental objectives for working in that sort of environment.

“The entire experience was very positive and stimulating,” she said. “They provided me with useful feedback.”

But she may have learned the most from the video and some of the response from the often-irrational people who left their thoughts.

A scene from Vondrak’s video.

Here are some of the comments:

  • you know doig this they still wont hire. singing is not the way to get a job at valve”
  • “Attention whoring at its finest. Why girls shouldn’t play games”
  • Rather than showing any previous work related to the industry or even some work you have done in the SDK or anything like that, you decide to compose a song and make an incredibly basic slideshow/flash animation. Nice.”
  • “This video shows that you value having your name associated with Valve more than wanting to create a video game. Rather than trying to create something other people would enjoy, you think that begging across the Internet is a better use of your time. I hope they deny you a job until you have no desire to work for them.”
  • “Erin, you’re setting women like me back 80+ years with this video. I hate your guts.”

They go on, and on, and on. Some gave positive feedback, but many others left some pretty hateful stuff.

valveVondrak said she didn’t take the attacks against her skill or merit personally. The purpose of the video was to make something silly that her friends and co-workers would laugh about while waiting on the application, and she certainly learned a valuable lesson in how the public can interpret something.

“The negative reactions definitely made me consider the approach I used in the presentation and the explanation behind the video,” she said. “A solitary caption saying that I want to work for Valve really didn’t illustrate my sense of humor in the slightest and consequently, my video was taken quite literally.”

Vondrak said she’s been doing a lot of “soul-searching” over the past couple years and sees herself working with a small startup just as much as a big company like Valve, a company that still remains admirable in her eyes and one that she said she’d apply to again if the opportunity presented itself.

But here’s the real question: Will she make another video like that again?

“It’s hard to know,” she said. “Had I been making something specifically to showcase my pertinent talents to Valve, it definitely wouldn’t have been a silly singsong animation in Flash posted to YouTube.  For the position I was applying to specifically, that’s what my resume and cover letter were for.  The video just demonstrated that I had a sense of humor, liked having fun, and could apparently withstand the onslaught of trolling YouTube visitors without becoming a self-detesting hermit.”

Previously on GeekWire: Valve co-founder Gabe Newell: Linux is a “get-out-of-jail free pass for our industry”

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  • marc_h

    I think it’s hysterical and anybody who doesn’t can blow it out their ass. Go Erin!

    • Erin Michael


  • DarlingRed

    Something like that takes a good sense of humor and a lot of guts. Rock on Erin!

  • Mark Lambert

    Smart girl IMO… You need to differentiate and thats just what she did. She obviously has skill or would never have made it to round three. Valve wouldn’t have wasted their time to that extent. The web in general, and the tech community in particular, can unfortunately be a magnet for bitter, envious, angry and sometimes misogynistic young men all too often. Hopefully she ignores it, keeps true to her instincts and does well at Big Fish.

    • Erin Michael

      Thank you very much for your perceptive commentary; I really appreciate it.

  • jame

    she doesn’t need them, she should find something more creative to do.

  • Katie

    Anyone that can take critisizm like that and brush it off will be very successful. The experience itself was brave-IMO

  • Dre Dawg

    f valve, 7 year old customer here, they frauded me 1000$ and when i sent in a ticket to give proof that i was the victim of a scam, i even had the support of the parties involved to get me unbanned they permabanned me and said anymore tickets would result in spam block of my account – they stole 750$ worth of games and 1000$ worth of inventory from me and then they banned me, valve is a piece of crap company that doesn’t give a crap about it’s users or it’s crappy customer support – if i had the money i would sue those jerks, support tech trevor you are a scammer, a fraud, and a horrible human being for stealing 1700$ from me in total.

    • C W

      Looks like someone needs to stop with the wallhax.

  • Erin Michael

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. Thanks to Taylor’s article, the CEO of a startup in the neighborhood I actually live in reached out to me with some positive support regarding the video. We grabbed coffee, chatted a bit, and now I’ve now been working for Haiku Deck for the last few weeks and I’m loving the culture and adventure of being part of this team.

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