Of course this is all anecdotal based on what I've heard from friends and a Palantir engineer I met at bar.
Anyone with more insight know if this is accurate?
Also remember clients also have their own bosses, board of directors, investors and supervisors to answer to.
It seems with Palantir it worked well with CIA. If you ever sold anything to Uncle Sam, you know he loves to pay lots of money and then pretty often it ends up not being used or forgotten. Guess they tried that with a few big companies but found out that Coca-Cola is not as careless with its budget as Uncle Sam, and \had a hard time convincing them to just throw away tens of millions on some analytics thing.
And, if it fails, political cover.
People bring in consultants for one of two possible outcomes:
1) Rubber stamp a preconceived conclusion or idea;
2) Test out an idea and take the hit if it fails.
Basically, they are there to ensure a win-win scenario for the commissioning member(s) of management.
How do you both take credit when you succeed and avoid blame when you fail?
You take an action that's easy to justify by external validity factors. If you succeed, you made the call, you take the credit. If you fail, you justify it using external validity factors ("they're one of SV's most valued companies! they only hire Stanford graduates!") to indicate there's no way anyone else could have done better.
 NMP: Not My Problem
 CYA: Cover Your Ass
 OPM: Other Peoples' Money
Do we actually have any data on Palantir's hiring practices? Because my personal anecdata is that I have a friend working there and he's from a tier 2 school (University of Toronto, maybe even tier 3?).
I'm old enough now to know where you went to school doesn't correlate to who you are as a person and your level of intelligence (however you may wish to define the different types of intelligence). That and I've met way too many people from "Top Schools" who are just this side of morons, and too many people who have zero or little education who are quite intelligent/innovative/great "engineers"/etc. Still, it's all about that brand.
But yes, there is irony, maybe not as much as at first glance.
From what I understand, Thiel is not super-involved in the day-to-day running of Palantir.
Just out of curiosity, what is it that you do that you need to know this?
Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, etc... are all great places to work, but are definitely on the backup-list of the best college grads.
If we're talking about where college seniors want to work, it'd look more like a list of unicorn startups (Airbnb, Uber, and yes, Palantir) - reasoning is you actually get to build something instead of end up a cog in Google. But necessarily these places hire fewer college grads.
I think your assessment is correct, though most people I worked with really enjoyed doing that kind of work for many hours a week.
It's not for everyone though, and it wasn't exactly what I was expecting when I accepted the offer. For example, I was expecting that FDEs would be doing more analysis on the data.
A business cultivation engineer is basically a sales engineer responsible for interfacing with and being a technical resource for the client's technical buying team (e.g. IT department).
Not really necessary. The distinction between FDEs and product engineers is that the FDE work is focused on a single deployment, whereas a product engineer works on a single product and is once-removed from actual clients.
Where the FDE spends time and what products he works on depends on the client requirements.
This approach really doesn't scale very well but given that the customer base really, really does not like to just take off the shelf software and wants to pay boatloads of money to customize software to their specifications, the software product is just a means to reduce friction and to lower the cost of integration compared to, say, building your own huge data pipeline with open source products from the ground up like oh... DCGS-A and its rebranding as ICITE http://nypost.com/2014/10/27/army-spent-5b-on-failed-technol... https://fcw.com/articles/2015/03/03/icite-faces-resistances....
Am I hopelessly out of date?
1 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cajoFN6yjB0
Most BI tools are based around tabular data and charting (i.e. Tableau). But Gotham is the best tool I've seen for exploring graphical (i.e. nodes + edges) data.
The only other thing in the space worth using is IBM's Analyst's Notebook. That's why Palantir (including Shyam Sankar, quoted in the OP) used some dirty tricks  to undercut i2, the company (later acquired by IBM) that developed Analyst's Notebook.
 - http://documents.jdsupra.com/3d375dfd-be30-471c-b346-bf434f8...
I wonder how much Palantir paid to settle the lawsuit.
Maybe it's the code names?
I can tell you that at least at the time the impression given during the interviews was that of a deep, intellectually enriching place. Mostly everyone I talked to went to Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton, or a similarly ranked school. Many of those not straight out of school had come from Google or Facebook. The interview questions were among the hardest and most technically demanding I was asked. You're told of working on problems of massive scale involving true "big data".
On top of this, the budget for seeking out top engineering talent seemed to be without bound. I was flown out and put in a really overly nice hotel room. I was treated to a very expensive steak meal for lunch. I was just one of a very large group of candidates being luxuriously herded through their HQ that day and seemingly every day without end.
It was a holiday for the McKinsey guys running that thing as well, they appreciated being paid to go waterskiing and BBQing on the beach. For me it was luxury unlike anything I experienced until then - the rooms were so big we had to almost shout to be heard across them, and there was a sofa on the balcony! I took home loads of Hermes toiletries and cologne (I didn't have enough money on my bank account for the room deposit, and one of the consultants had to deposit with his card). In fact we even missed our Paris connection to Dubai, so McKinsey sent a consultant over to baby sit us, which meant taking a Mercedes to the Brasserie La Coupole for an epic feast followed by a night in a neighbouring 5* (I think in the Tour Montparnasse).
Unfortunately, I did not graduate with high enough grades (2.2 on the BA, cutoff was 2.1) for McKinsey, which is why they rejected me the first time. So by the third time they tried to headhunt me, I just told them upfront that their system/HR would reject me because of my grades and it was not worth our time continuing the discussion. They insisted, and it happened as predicted, making me wonder why they still care about that for more senior hires.
There was also a period of time in my life where I accepted conference speaking slots if the hotel was nice enough and close enough to my home. Can't resist a proper 5* hotel lunch buffet, especially if they have giant prawns and olive-roast beef and a decent beer on tap. I made my talks increasingly ridiculous, I think by the end I was explaining Starcraft cheese to middle-aged CTOs and quoting Delta Force founder Col. Charlie Beckwith before following up with droid-driven tractors (all relevant to ML in e-commerce, I promise). They loved it, got voted "best talk of the conference" a couple of times, not hard when 90% of the other talks were "so here's the 3Vs of Big Data" verbatim copied from Wikipedia.
One wonders how a company as rich as McKinsey could have such piss-poor data management. Why not, I dunno, check that the person you're headhunting is already in your database?
Big, cash-loaded companies tend to enact policies more about protecting their wealth and reputation than to actually grow a company or even to keep it efficient. "Good enough" growth and revenue projections are enough to keep people happy and the bonuses coming in. Nobody goes into Big Four style consulting trying to actually change the world unlike at least a fair share of entrepreneurs globally.
These kinds of things play with your ego especially if you're not mature enough to have ever experienced something like it before.
Their pitches of "We only hire the best and brightest" and "Our work truly changes the world" sold me on them.
Also best/brightest worship needs to stop. It correlates to nothing. This coming from MIT/harvard grad.
It's so tone deaf it blows my mind.
Palantir can at least pretend that your work will be "changing the world" since they do have some government and NGO projects with real impacts. Of course, only a very small select few will work on those projects—not that they mention that in recruiting.
* Making hedge funds richer didn't actually feel like changing the world.
* I never really clicked on the codebase, didn't understand what was going on in the code, and didn't contribute much. (I don't think the code was easy to understand, and my mentor wasn't much help)
* I wasn't interested in making Palantir my full life, and there was a lot of pressure to have work be life. One of the leaders in my group basically said "yeah, I don't spend time with my pre-Palantir friends anymore."
* I also didn't click with my coworkers. I was about 27, and felt like an old guy. There were a bunch of other things socially that didn't work out. Strong culture that I didn't jive with.
* I got the signal that my 9-7 schedule wasn't enough.
The Government group may have been a better fit for me, I'm not sure.
At least that was my experience in 2011. Had I taken the offer I would have had no problem affording a Bay Area house today, given Palantir's current valuation. That also assumes a liquidity event.
Yes, the "liquidity event" mentioned in the article is extremely vague. I'll reach out to my colleagues that are still at Palantir to find out what that actually meant.
This is significant because private companies typically have clauses in their option agreements that you can only sell shares pre-IPO if the board approves. So, a company like Palantir structures things so that, before an IPO, you can only make money off your options if you're still working at the company. Oh yeah, and if you leave and want to exercise your options so they don't expire (so that you can have a nest egg that vests when they IPO), be prepared to pay AMT on the difference between the strike price and the current value.
They call it "golden handcuffs" for a reason.
Or are you making a general statement about companies similar to Palantir?
Here's one of the founders a couple years ago https://www.quora.com/When-will-Palantir-go-public?share=1
They've been signalling that an IPO is imminent for a long time.
So on one hand I made my wife happy but who's to say buying a house in cash might have made her happy too.
My colleagues that went there for the most part enjoyed the work. One of them got burned out but I'm confident that was self-imposed and not due to excessive pressure from team leaders.
I've basically taken every good job offer I've had in my life, and I haven't regretted one jump.
North America and the Caribbean excluding the United States
- Canada: Simon Frasier, Waterloo, UBC, Toronto, McGill
- Mexico et al: nada
- mas nada
- South Africa: I one time had a CS professor from the University of Natal, but that's all I really know about it.
Australia and Oceania
- New Zealand: Weka came out of University of Waikato or something. That's popular, so I guess it must have something going on.
- Japan: University of Tokyo
- Taiwan: National Taiwanese University? That's shown up a few times I believe. Taiwan also has a Tsinghua, but that's not the good one, so don't count it. I on;y mentioned it because...
- China: Tsinghua University is very good. It's "the MIT of China." Peiking University is also a good school, but they're not as engineering focused. There's something called Beiha or something in Shanghai or so, that one's good. There's another school with a long name that's in Guangzhou or something that's on the coast but not near Shenzhen that whose colors are white and green that's good. Maybe it's Fujian?
- India: I know about IIT, but in all honesty I don't remember seeing any papers or anything like that come out of it in my field, so I'm biased against it, even if it's "the MIT of India."
- Israel: Haifa, and Tel Aviv
- UK: Cambridge and Oxford are famous, but I've never heard anything about their engineer schools, so I'm going to put them in the impressing-looking-degree-but-actually-only-average-or-less pile with Harvard and Yale CS grads. (Sorry Harvard boys and Yalies. Should have gone to Cornell.), Aberdeen shows up from time to time, so that's a plus. There's Open University, which might be okay, but I don't really know. I know people that went to Southampton in HCI, so I'll say yes for HCI. Swansea exists, but I don't know.
- France: University 6 or something. Although, I think it recently changed it's name, so if you're using the new name, you're out luck, because I don't know any other schools in country.
- Switzerland: There's the school in Lausanne. The one with the french name, and the four letter acronym ECPI or something. The first word is Ecole or something. That's got a good CS and math program.
- Austria: Zurich
- Germany: There's the Max Planck Institute, but I don't think that's a school. There's a university in Cologne, but I can't tell you anything else about it. Other than that, I can't name anything, which is a real shame, because Germany is famous for engineering. I heard the all the schools took a nosedive after the Nazis killed the Jews, but I don't know if it's true or not.
- Finland: University of Helsinki was good enough for Linus, it's good enough for me.
- Russia: Moscow Technical University or something. That's the good math school in Moscow. but there's more than one university in Moscow, and so it's hard to remember which one is which. It's even harder, because I can't actually name the other schools. I think St Petersburg also has STEM school, but maybe I'm just making that up.
And that's pretty much the international STEM post-secondary educational system. So 25 schools that I'd call good. (Mentioned, but not good: Oxford, Cambridge, Cologne, Taiwan's Tsinghua, IIT (sorry India)) And even though Max Planck isn't a school, although if you have it on your resume, I'll be impressed.
I'm sure I missed a ton, but that's kind of my point.
Either way, you end up not looking at what foreign school they went to, but rather what graduate program they got into in the US.
Several friends turned down offers from Facebook/Google/etc. for (much) more money to join Palantir because they "didn't want to sell ads" and somehow thought that Palantir's work would be more fulfilling. The government and NGO work certainly sounds compelling (you're going to be finding terrorists and improving public health) until you realize it's a soul-crushing job mostly pushing low-level data around.
On a side note, the code name mentioned in the talk I saw for the project at GSK was definitely not Ribo (as stated in the article). I don't know if this is a case of GSK having a different internal code name than Palantir's internal code name, but GSK's code name was also based on Tolkien.
This was my guess. The government is disentangling itself from the company, because IAD guys are starting to realize that Palantir is just another consulting firm.
Moreover, they're a consulting firm that failed to deliver on their promises. I'm not sure if they'll be audited and put to sleep, or if they have enough government patrons.
FinTech has realized Palantir's tech is pretty pictures and the rest is just a datalake setup. To negotiate and buy it is hard, even when it was the new hot company. Then to actually run the software be prepared to pay high rates for their "forward deployed engineers", which the rest of us just call "software consultants."
Their branding is excellent, in that they managed to offer a more "West Coast mentality," as I've heard sneered by government clients.
Having worked and lived with devs from the Bay Area, I can say that the the government could use a lot of help from Silicon Valley. But Palantir is not the help they need.
It was ridiculous, I probably have the picture somewhere.
What language are they using for cleaning up the data for import?
Is there a market for a middleman (i.e., something as a service) that cleans up enterprise data, using customized solutions if necessary, for import into different databases?
If this type of company already exists who are some examples?
This is very unsexy work which I happen to enjoy. Its the phase that routinely comprises 80% or more of any so-called "Big Data" project.
Stanford emails out a jobs summary for each graduating class. For 2013 graduates the #1 most common job title was Forward Deployed Engineer lol
Calling Palantir a "sweatshop" when the starting salaries are six figures is ridiculous.
There are 8 billion people in the world, and a lot of them actually do work long hours for a few USD a day with next to no rights.
Say you took a job at Palantir because you bought into the hype about fixing government. Now you work with some smart people and the pay and perks are pretty strong, but you find yourself doing consulting type work and feel unfulfilled. Maybe youre helping some large fund manager migrate off of Oracle DB or something.
The solution is to find more important work. Something you really care about. Something that directly helps at least a few of the 7.9b people out there who are less lucky than you.
Having said that, I think the intention was to describe Palantir in relative terms compared to other companies in SV. With that in mind, then yes, Palantir is one of the worst places to work at among companies of the same type: well-funded startups with a rather convenient revenue stream.
There are people who legitimately enjoy super high intensity environments. There are people who legitimately loathe low intensity environments. If you're not one of those people, you're not going to have a good time at Palantir — this is not a secret. This is stated over and over by everyone. Shyam (head of BD) has a public blog post shaming the very notion of work-life balance. No one is tricking anyone, except candidates fooling themselves into believing everyone is lying and it's actually a chill place.
Ultimately, the sweatshop analogy is pathetic on this basis alone: you have a choice to work there or not. Working conditions aren't really the problem with abusive employment. There are people who take on far more life-threatening and limb-damaging jobs than a sweatshop.
The key distinction from those people and those who are abused is that they are free to leave and thus free to demand proper compensation.
No Silicon Valley company is a sweatshop. What a delusionally entitled way to see the world.
This actually gives some credence to the sweatshop narrative. A Stanford education is so much about getting placed in a titled job that a manifest goes out every year about where graduates were allocated?
100k/yr as a rented contractor to a multi-billion dollar hedge fund does have a sweatshop feel. In-house programmers or independent contractors would be making much, much more.
Why does the salary matter?
The labor in those firms are treated like fungible slaves, worked for illegal hours and disposed off uncerimoniously after a few years, to be replaced by fresh bodies.
"Sweatshop" is a mild term.
The grandparent is advising the writer to improve the verification aspects that PGP provides.
Have you tried re-establishing trust with a Signal user who wiped their device? It falls back to the same PGP problem of comparing a string of numbers over a different secure channel.
Moxie addresses some problems with the OpenPGP RFC and with the GnuPG implementation, but after re-reading that post I don't see how it relates to the verifiability issue the grandparent is bringing up.
And the news is about the difficulties of scaling a services-heavy, on-prem software company that basically rents out forward-deployed engineers at 10s of millions of dollars per year. Especially when the software is an open-source stack, and the engineers are increasingly junior as the companies grows. That said, it's still great at sales. Big numbers there...
1) Get expensive contract
2) Drop in junior (riding the fame that you only hire top engineers)
3) Train them on the job and bill the customer
4) Move trained consultant to work on internal project/high value stuff, replace with fresh blood
Is there specific information about stack used by Palantir? I just saw a few videos presenting their products.
And actually, it's usually an enterprise distro such as Cloudera's CDH rather than Apache Hadoop itself, which is kind of a nightmare.
SAR. Suspicious Activity Report. If you don't know what "fusion center" is - https://www.palantir.com/wp-assets/media/capabilities-perspe...
But why pay $250,000 for software and also hire a good consulting firm when you can pay $18 million a year for the same thing. (I have just realized that I have been grossly underpaid.)
And I'm sure all those engineers they hire make excellent geographic analysts.
here's a quick demo of one of their products
edit: this is 2012, likely way out of date
> Palantir, Product Designer; Starting June 2016, New York City, NY
I realize you're not technically a Palantir employee quite yet, but there's definitely the opportunity for bias here.
I don't have anything else to point you to unfortunately.
For the most part, Palantir is helping you analyze data you already have, not providing you with new data.
Many of those requests came back empty, here's one that produced responsive documents: the NYC Department of Finance -- $150,000 for a 6-month pilot of their "Perpetual Server Core" technology to do fraud detection:
edit: specified that the requesters appear to be Gawker reporters doing their own investigation
Many companies have waves of departures in the spring. Bonuses are paid (as at Palantir), holidays are over, kids are about to finish
school. A 5.8% departure rate in the beginning of the year cannot be "annualized" any more than fruitcake sales from December. And if it does end up that 20% of Palantir quits in 2016, that'd be totally normal attrition for a large company. Where I used to work it was 30% among software engineers, and even this was not a problem.
I imagine that a number of ex-employees go on to work in the industry whose data they analyzed at Palantir. This may help to explain why employees are willing to work for less than elsewhere. It's because three years later they will work for much more elsewhere. Especially the hedge fund analysts.
Not surprised in the slightest to hear they are struggling.
Three letter agencies are paying and will continue to pay for Palantir consulting and products.
However Palantir has been unable to fully productize their solution (it is still pretty much consulting). Thus they have hard time convincing Fortune 500 companies to pay due to the costs and depending too much on human interaction.
In my experience with this type of problem, it happens due to a failure of vision and leadership. The software company focuses a vast majority of resources on POCs and "consulting" revenue (really, rent-a-coder revenues) and these "consultants" end up failing as product innovators (i.e. they contribute practically nothing to the productization or even harnessing of institutional knowledge) and they also fail as true consultants (i.e. they do not have deep industry experience or management consulting prowess to be able to deliver unique value and engage with clients). Ultimately, this happens because leadership neglects product and becomes too caught up chasing deals and burdening the organization with custom development work to close the gap between the existing product versus market needs.
This is OK if your software company's consulting services are affordable. Enterprise clients tends to be quite accepting of the need for customization after product purchases. However they do not expect to pay McKinsey levels of fees (let alone $18M per year?!).
An alternative business model that seems to work is management consulting, where you can charge huge consulting fees (if you have earned the requisite reputation), and you can even cross-sell relatively low cost in-house software products or services alongside the consulting work. However, high value consulting engagement like McKinsey tend to last weeks (not years), making the expense palatable to clients (e.g. around 500k fee, for 2-3 consultants for a month or so). The difference between management consulting and enterprise software is that when paying $200k for 2-3 "millennial" "management consultants" for a week of work, the client doesn't expect delivery of a complete working software solution - the client only gets a PowerPoint presentation suggesting what and how management should do in order to achieve some given goals.
There is an interesting potential disruption occurring at the intersection of management consulting and software, but not much has changed yet with traditional business model divide between old-school management consulting and enterprise software, and Palantir doesn't seem to have cracked that code.
Wow, that's a good summary. It's a trap that companies fall into and can never get out of:
1. Company has Product X and a bunch of smart engineers excitedly working on it.
2. The sales process ensues. No customers actually want Product X, but a few whales say "We don't want that, but you have smart people, we will pay you for this sorta-related ABC custom solution for us!"
3. Company tries to stuff ABC into Product X. They think they are improving their product AND getting the customer to pay for all the NRE! Woohoo! But in reality they've just turned into a contract engineering company and don't know it.
4. Steps 2 and 3 repeat until Product X is a franken-product that has so many features in it, nobody knows what it is supposed to do, customers still don't want it, and the engineers eventually realized that they are no longer working on the product they were so excited about.
You hit the nail on the head, though I would also highlight this from the article:
>But Kimberly-Clark was getting cold feet by early 2016. In January, a year after the initial pilot, Kimberly-Clark executive Anthony J. Palmer said he still wasn’t ready to sign a binding contract, meeting notes show. Palmer also “confirmed our suspicion” that a primary reason Kimberly-Clark had not moved forward was that “they wanted to see if they could do it cheaper themselves,” Kelt told colleagues in January.
My own experience (small, not a big-5 at all) with Management Consulting, and following the sales and execution process, was many times this issue. Providing enough information and value to get FURTHER engagements, with many clients seeing "20% increase in savings is better then $xM a year to $firm" (our little firm).
Additionally, our company was used as a cudgel against procurement contracts, such as telecom, wherein, if we are brought in, perhaps the 5 year $30M telecom deal would create a cost decrease of 45-55%, so, the incumbent immediately shaved 20% off of the renewal contract, and the company did not engage with our firm further.
telecom and IT procurement savings normally dealing with CFO's/CIO's at $1b-$5b companies. Engagements from 3-8 months standard, with a few at several years. Every contract was a big fight of the above push and pull.
> Lisa Gordon, said that “the majority of the company’s customer relationships are multiple years in length, and many are as long as 10 years.”
This is not good at all. Customer loyalty is important, but considering that they've been adding staff at a fast rate, most of their customers should be new-ish.
They've raised about $2.5b over an incredible number of rounds (multiple per year), and are currently bringing in about $420m.
Based on my understanding, they message as a software seller, but appear to make most of that revenue off of consulting and integration services tied around their software lock-in. They also message as a big-data company, but AFAIK don't provide anything that would be called "big data solutions" these days.
edit: I thought Sankar's name sounded familiar, turns out he was the guy at the very heart of Palantir's very embarrassing industrial espionage and racketeering efforts against a competitor. He was apparently punished by being promoted to company president.
If I ever get too rich to never ever give a f*ck, I will dress like that.
I think for a long time they got away with seeming really cloudy and potentially mis-managed because of the secrecy that is inherent to what they do. But clients are now asking tough questions about what value they can actually bring to the table for crazy dollars, and things may becoming home to roost.
People want to work at something that mirrors Google, not LexCorp.
I find it a bit weird how tech companies make up names for their employees now. Googler, Palantirian... does this make people work harder because they feel like they belong or something?
It's probably just a shortcut for "X-company employees"