I enjoyed the article - is this too strong a look in the mirror for most folks? My ideal job now is one where I can live in the bush, have boring but steady work, and otherwise not care about programming after 5pm and feel OK with myself for it.
I've been around since Bubble 1.0; I started working in San Francisco in 1997. The thing I find horrifying about this article is the way Vision Critical apparently takes the worst aspects of startups and amplifies them, while taking the best aspects and perverting them.
As example, I was an early Agile person; I went to the main US Agile conferences 2001 to 2008 or so. The whole point of things like sprints and standups was to control schedule pressure and keep our work lives sane. The point of agility was not to increase risk and fear, but to make it safe to take risks so that we could be both bold and serene. If you had focused on "maximizing productivity", you would have received stern talkings-to about "outcome, not output." The point was not to put on a show of working hard; it was to radically increase effectiveness.
The sales-bro culture of competition and aggression is also nightmarish to me. It's inevitably short-sighted. I'm sure it works to generate rapid growth, but at what cost to the people and the long-term prospects of the company? It's a sign to me that they definitely aren't changing the world, but instead are likely pushing a mediocre-or-worse product on the world. As if that's new.
For what it's worth, I have the impression that this sort of awfulness is is more common in tech startups that aren't in SF/SV. I take it as classic cargo culting: instead of adopting the important parts, they adopt the visible parts. So maybe some of the saltiness here is just where people are working.
This is the most succinct description of cargo cutting I have come across. Thanks, will use it :)
... which has exactly zero concrete advantages if there's only one implementation of the class.
Edit: of course it is up to individual judgement on a case by case basis, and there are instances were it is obvious that no other concrete implementation of an interface will be required. But otherwise, writing an interface is good practice because it helps safeguard against time consuming future refactoring.
Also, people pretend like refactoring is hard. My experience is that refactoring is only hard on the ends of the spectrum, where someone has added all the wrong abstractions, or no abstractions at all. Of the two, I'd prefer the latter, but obviously anything in the middle is usually better.
The comment above said the opposite, that the future was irrelevant.
These days there are tools that can help in a lot of languages; it's not a time consuming operation to press the Resharper "extract into abstract interface" button.
And in environments like that, YAGNI makes even more sense. Overbuilding now in hopes it will pay off later is never a great idea. But it can only ever pay off if you correctly predict your business and technological future accurately. When you guess wrong, it's just waste.
Because their bosses tell them to and because it looks better on their resume, not because the code they have suddenly stops working.
Chances are you're not gonna need it. Chances are you don't even need most what you do have.
Of course not, because they aren't really hiring 10x programmers (whatever that is), they are just hiring low self-esteem people, slap the 10xer label on them, strap them on the hamster wheel and work them to death.
It's a bit like the series "The Good Place" -- "heeeyyyy we only hire 10xers, you're a 10xer, aren't you proud? Right, now go prove you're a 10xer by working your butt off".
On the other hand these startups are voluntary organizations. You choose to work there or not. I don't see anything wrong with a company deciding on a culture/work enviornment which attracts people who are very dedicated to the company (and hope to be rewarded in the long term as such) and are willing to sacrifice personal time more than typically expected at a usual company.
Some people love working and solving hard problems (and having tens/hundreds of thousands of people use their software) more than going to restaurants or night clubs or having family - at that point in their lives.
It's one thing to work obsessively and to the detriment of your health. But that doesn't mean a small team of "10xers" is necessarily a toxic/abusive arrangement that people are forced to engage with.
There will always be plenty of 9-5, no nighttime/weekend type jobs for software developers. You just won't find them as often at high-growth/high-risk+high-reward type startups.
That said, not all high risk/reward agencies require an obsessive/super hard worker type either. But that type of commitment isn't necessarily a bad thing either (unless they do it to the point of hurting their own health, which hurts the intellectual/physical ability and ultimately their contribution to the company).
I know for a fact it's possible to put above average commitment into a company, while still being entirely health. But it's certainly not for everyone, nor should it be. That also doesn't mean you should feel bad for getting fired or pushed out of such a company because it's not for you.
I think this sounds good in theory and is very shaky in practice.
For example, look at indentured servitude , where people can sell themselves into time-limited slavery. Once common, it has been banned. You will find people suggesting we bring it back while waving the banner of "freedom".
It's especially erroneous here. This whole article is about how he thought he was getting into one thing based on the hype, but that the reality was deeply different. He talks about it as cult-like, cults being organizations that take advantage of flaws in human cognition to manipulate people.
If free choice is to mean anything, it must be a choice that was honestly informed and unmanipulated. To use it as an excuse in a situation like this is just victim-blaming.
Here in particular he makes clear it's a veneer: "Six months in, I started to see through the acronyms and the carefully maintained optimism of my teammates. For all the talk of agility and disruption and 10X, there was a deep fear of fucking up."
Real cults regularly use reasonable-sounding religious jargon and performative optimism to paper over deep flaws. So I think he correctly describes this as cultish. And that's before we even get into the other cult-ish signs. You can do your own scoring here: http://www.neopagan.net/ABCDEF.html
If it were shaky, a court of law somewhere would find a comparable employment arrangement fraudulent and ultimately non-voluntary.
Social activists appealing to the court of public opinion, where under-informed people can be swayed with appeals to emotion, to change how interactions are governed, instead of a court of law, where a jury of one's peers have the opportunity to deliberate on the evidence presented, reveals them as disingenuous.
If a position has never been corroborated by court rulings, despite incentives existing to argue that position, then it's almost certainly not factually sound.
If you're going to make outrageous claims of the courts using an alternate definition of "voluntary", that is inconsistent with the correct or generally accepted definition, you need to provide evidence of that, and no, your own sweeping generalizations about a vast array of complex interactions is not evidence of anything except your own opinion.
Healthy or not, if the employee does not get above average renumeration for their above average efforts they are being ripped off. That's what the financial pathology here is - if everyone is working with an above average output, but thei pay is average, from the point of view of the company the cost of labour for above average output is less than the market rate, and it's harder to get fair compensation.
I don't think there is anything wrong in working ones ass off, but if the worker is just an employee they should make sure their compensation is fair, versus the market rate.
People often imagine that they will get a fair compensation for their work, while generally actually they get only the compensation which they ask for.
That's why this 'work hard party hard' culture can be detrimental IMO - it easily blinds people to the financial realities of their situation.
That's not to say that professional 10x operations would not exist where labour is rewarded faiy, but that the employee must be aware of what the unspoken gameplan actually is. Is it cultish razzle dazzle to get cheap labour or actual 'entrepreneurial spec ops' type activity.
Another time I interviewed at a company that I found cool and I was interested in their product. I asked, "How is work life balance here" and they answered "we have many projects in the pipeline". I told them their salary was too low. I left and my recruiter called me upset that I changed my salary expectations during the interview.
Some companies are shitty.
In the absence of a basic income guarantee, the decision to take a job is a long way from truly voluntary. As long as people are obliged to take jobs, these exploitative jobs have to be illegal (in the same way that e.g. conventionally unsafe working conditions are illegal, even if the employee might "voluntarily" agree to them).
That’s OK in theory but in practice it’s almost always a bait-and-switch relying on the marks not knowing the difference between preferred and common stock, or what dilution is.
Easy test: do they say “10,000” shares but don’t tell you how many shares there are?
I enjoyed the article but I do think it's very wrong as a general claim. I like my job (is that so wrong?) and don't want to see it smeared by association with two badly-behaved companies that happen to be in the same broad category.
Plenty of startups won't expect you to work after 5pm - I never did, across several companies. Plenty of staid non-tech companies expect unreasonable hours.
How come when he interviewed at a dozen more start ups at the end of the story, he didn't find himself in an interview where he could discuss the 10x-start-up culture downfalls?
Or maybe that middle road is extremely rare.
Maybe they didn’t want to? They tried a few tech startups and didn’t like the experience; it seems natural to then say “I think I’ll do something else instead”.
It's classic, "I know more than you" mentality, where the author believes the people who buy into the culture are being duped, and he's the only one who can see clearly.
I'm so sick of being told to be less optimistic and positive about the company I work for, because my optimism is just me subscribing to the "cult". It reeks of that classic teenage "it's cool to hate/dislike/criticize stuff" attitude that I'd expect my colleagues to have grown out of by now.
Would love to find such a job, but sadly they don't seem to exist. It's either startups like described in the article, or major companies cheating the system and building startups within so they can hire contractors instead of employees and pay start-up rates. Every company in Toronto does it, even the large ones (hello banks, telcos)
We're still in the EU and I've no idea why you think we are anything like the US in terms of overworking. I've never had a job that required me to work overtime really, sometimes I've stayed behind in my latest job as I got lost in the moment and lost track of time, but usually someone will ask me "Why are you still here?". My manager even told me not to work overtime, as it often hid problems more than anything else.
In fact I don't know anyone in Web Development in the UK that does work overtime. Maybe it's different in London though...
If companies instead genuinely tried to care for their employees, I think the sentiment would be very different.
Expectations quickly rose to time on weekends, responsiveness to emails and requests at all hours of the day, and job duties ranging from DevOps and app development, to customer and client support for all issues after they let go of their customer support team.
I'm about ready for a bush somewhere.
In my experience, companies have three ways to motivate employees.
One is to compensate them at a level commensurate with what is expected of them (too few companies do this, even in tech).
One is to make them feel like they have a genuine stake in the performance of the company, either because they believe in the company's mission (usually impossible for a for-profit enterprise, except among the more gullible employees) or they actually have an ownership stake in the business (virtually impossible with the VC model, papier-mache stock options not withstanding)
The third is to build an artificial "competitive culture", so everyone is so busy pushing themselves to the limit in competition with their coworkers that they never stop to realize that the only prize is more money in the bank account of their investors (who may peel a bills off the top and toss it to them in the form of a 'performance bonus')
Companies don't do this because it's not a coherent concept. No two people see the same workload in the same way.
Payment is based on what it would cost to replace you, not on what you do.
I would perhaps rephraze this as 'payment is based on the market rate'. It has more into it than just cost of replacement. The replacement cost becomes a key metric when presenting a counter offer to an employee who got a better offer elsewhere.
Do not forget that replacement cost the first few months to about half year is quite high. You are far less profitable to a company if you are new as you take time of others and are less up-to-speed. But that never gets taken into account when dealing with pay increases for retained employees. E.g. you should get significantly more than a new hire if you are with the company for longer as it usually a benefit. Though there are counter examples to this statement, so it is various shades of gray between new hires and paying retained employees more.
No buyer wants to pay more than they have to, hence when the value an employee adds is commoditized, you see that they get paid exactly what it costs to replace them, hence the minuscule pay and terrible work conditions of retail, restaurants, and hotels.
The part where they act surprised at the use of normal business acronyms (they're 40 and weren't familiar with the term "ROI" ??) kind of hurts credibility too
And the part against "teammates" in favor of "co-workers." Some of this is really stretching.
There were some toxic stuff going on there for sure, but there is a lot of padding going on to get that article long.
I'm from a unicorn. Employee lower 30s. Still there. Free beer, trips to Mexico, all that. Stand ups, acronyms, etc. At no time have I perceived the environment as toxic.
I work at a very large multinational company. I worked at such companies for roughly two thirds of my career. The other one third I worked at a mid-size company which later on became a multinational conglomerate. Based on those experiences, I would absolutely say that it's utter bullshit. You bet I would.
About five years ago, during my last job search, I interviewed at a well funded (Series B) AI company that was looking for a VP of Marketing. After a few months of interviews, including many early on where they had asked me for my salary expectations, they offered me a starting salary of $70,000 CAD saying that they had to "save money for Engineers because AI is expensive and engineering is more important."
Another company I had worked at early in my career had two "co-CEOs" (who constantly bickered all the time in a power struggle). The claimed to have "flexible work hours" as long as you put in your regular hours and were there between the core hours of 10-3. Since it was a long drive away from me, I started doing a 7-3 shift to avoid the traffic. I noticed that the younger staff would arrive around 8:30 or 9am, but was told that they were staying until 7 or 8 at night and ordering pizza each night because nobody dared to leave before the CEOs, who were two young single guys just out of University. I felt guilted, and would end up putting in a few extra hours here and there, but, when it came time for my performance review, I was told I wasn't a "team player" because I wasn't staying to tough it out with the rest of them. The one other employee who had a family and didn't stay late said "You don't pay enough for this to be my full life" and the CEO said "well you make more than we do and look at all the time we put in" - he couldn't understand the difference in the fact that this was his company that he owned, and for others it was just a job.
I've got probably a dozen stories of Canadian startups who expect top 0.1% talent, pay below market rates, and want you constantly in the office. They try and make themselves seem great with office dogs, and catered lunches but they are classic underpaid corporate jobs, with even higher expectations.
After a few years, I could see why Canada faced such a brain drain of talent to the valley. Even the University of Waterloo, which is famous for its Engineers notes that Canada even companies in the city of Waterloo have trouble retaining their grads from going to the valley.
I started working remote and haven't looked back. But, it's a real shame because I think Canada has such potential to be a great startup market and yet the culture is way off course.
My last company didn't allow me to work in my off hours. Paid below market, needy owner wanted to be part of the developer team so he checks in untested code at 3am.. mornings were fixing those commits.
It's a culture issue maybe weaker real technical visions with ownership which creates 'medium' driven culture where everyone must be a sterotype.
You are better off working for a small business. Entity in most cases should be ignored.
E.g., really great people I know are constantly sweating effectiveness. They look at outcomes. They want to be sure they're having the desired impact on customers, on the company, on its people. Plenty of mediocre people focus on metrics, on following the rules, on seeking efficiency. Those aren't intrinsically bad, but can turn that way when the proximate measures don't align with outcomes. But the really scary ones I've met focus on appearance. They want butts in seats, the later the better. They create artificial deadlines and dramatic launches. They look at metrics and find ways to manipulate them with no regard for actual outcomes.
If those fools were only harming themselves, I'd be ok with it. But when they harm others, often hundreds of others over the course of their companies, it's truly enraging.
In the past I worked for a lot of "performance marketing" companies, but also a few more legitimate companies like Checkfront. Even Checkfront left me feeling deeply unsatisfied despite being an good group of people and decent work. I think there's just something weird going on when companies identify as startups, especially if they're seeking funding. Things deteriorate as they grow, "perks" you mentioned like dogs in the office don't make you feel any better about not seeing your kids after school, and the free coffee tastes like shit anyway.
Worst of all though, you're blowing 8-10 hours a day on Canadian pay. If you're in the west like I am, this is a giant fuck you to your bank account. Going remote was an immediate $25k raise with better hours and no commute.
What is the real history of employment stability? I mean I can imagine that a Blacksmith was probably safely a Blacksmith for life back in the day, but is even that really true? And that's for identifiable trades, which it seems were not even easy to get trained into. So maybe the reality is that employment for most people has always been precarious?
Hasn't tech merely brought this instability to a social class that was exempted from it for the latter half of the 20th Century?
Would love to know more from someone who has some grounding in this.
I'm guessing in most countries a Blacksmith (a toolmaker if you will) was usually self-employed. Of course they were "in-for-life", nobody was there to fire them. But this doesn't mean that it was easy going, they could still have a bad economy or some other blacksmith underbidding on price (or offering much better quality, marketind, whatever).
You can open your own toolmaker shop as a programmer. Your success won't depend on whether your boss likes you, but whether you can sell your tools, whether you can provide the appropriate quality, and whether you're not underbid by a large competition.
The feudal system, as done in Europe in the middle ages, is actually a result of just one man: Emperor Diocletian. His policies essentially ushered in feudalism as Europe knew it. He forbade the travel of skilled craftsmen, inadvertently encouraged the self sufficiency of large estates, and tried to fully regulate all prices in the empire. His early attempts gave Rome the Tetrarchy and yet more civil wars; essentially his efforts were total failures. He actually retired, a first, and went off to grow really big cabbages in modern day Turkey. Though many of his reforms flopped, the feudal system of 'jobs for life passed onto kin' did stick for about 1500 years.
Now appart from very specific jobs like lawyers and doctors, I don't know many people around me that haven't already changed job several times.
Just a data point of course.
As someone who is looking for a career reset in the short/medium term, it appears companies/recruiters have a very narrow window for what kind of new employee they feel is acceptable.
This is not the case. The old world also had job variety: you could join one of the many ad agencies or one of the many manufacturing companies. Consulting was also a thing. Today's GDP is occupied more and more with startups, not companies focused on the long term.
Many people say they work for other reasons, like socialization, meaning, etc. Robinson (the author) makes a point that you can find these things in volunteer activities, and that your loyalty ends at the paycheck. Your company will not hesitant to eliminate you when it's financially viable. Why should you be any different?
I'm working for money, but why can't I "double up" these working hours to also get socialization and meaning out of them? Sure, I could volunteer, but that's not an efficient use of my time.
Also, I don't understand your point about company not being hesitant to eliminate you. Yes, but so what? There are two parties in the work-for-hire transactions, and of course, both parties are looking out for their own self-interest. I see no reason why they should extract the same exact resources from this transaction, though.
That assumes that you have a very high natural ability to lay off gratification to pursue your goals. If so, good for you, most people don't, and this quality (conscientiousness from the big 5) is not really mutable above very early age. So, if you do try such a strategy, most likely you will fail because you don't have willpower for it, won't be able to suffer through the job that you hate and took only for the money, and will hate yourself for it.
> Here was the biggest surprise about working in tech: even though everyone wears their team T-shirts and hoodies, rah-rah chants at the monthly all-staff meetings and competes for the sombrero of shame at the tropical off-site, no one loves the start-up they work for. No one feels secure. No one is loyal. There’s no certainty your start-up will exist in a year—or next week.
I can testify from personal experience all of these generalizations are false. Did it never occur to the author that maybe they were just being exploited by a crappy company?
The commenter on a forum is simply asserting that these facts are not true about ALL tech startups, and it's perfectly valid to discredit a generalization about ALL with one anecdote.
Not in a hopeless, we are doomed way, but you can make a lot of money in sales, but you have to go out and make that happen. In your mid twenties you can make the equivalent of an investment banker or top lawyer, and you don't work anywhere as many hours as they do.
Note: I work in external recruiting (which is a very sales heavy role).
As I was reading the article, I started to wonder: is this the Holy Grail of everyone who wants to be disruptive, creative, productive, etc., when it comes to work with tech products?
IMHO, independently of "the hat that one might be wearing", this "Zen of Star-ups" is too much (unnecessary). Dozens of companies forcing this way of life (snacks, beer, parties, video-games, etc.), creating a "cool world", when in fact, it is not. There are investments and decisions affecting the direction of a product (which must be successful for the sake of everyone). There is no paradise in this scenario. This is too serious. Instead of all this "blablabla", why not just keep a serious and cooperative environment? The "Zen of Startup" is a trap (most of the time). Sounds like a lack of reality, which could be addressed by a simple set of values between employer and employees:
- honesty, cooperation, productivity, good compensations and missions
Throw away beers, snacks, spas, video-games, etc. These five things above, are solid enough for a sustainable work environment, and things doing great or not, there's no "Never Land" feeling (no illusion).
Someone has the money, and you might the have the skills that she/he wants. Period. K.I.S.S.
In each startup I worked at the sales guys would write deals that were nearly impossible for the tech people to deliver on.
And when we did manage to deliver on them, it wasn't a 'win' for us.
For one thing it kept us in firefighting mode all the time because we were never given the time to do the job right and and two, it just emboldened the sales guys to write even bigger deals.
I burned out so bad from those jobs that I developed some medical issues as a result. I'm mostly ok now, but in my opinion it's not worth it. If you aren't a founder, those options won't ever be worth anything, and you will never get those years back.
Even worse, if you burn out too badly, you may end up with permanent health issues.
 I won't name them cos I have nothing good to say about them.
 The graphic midway down the article where someone responds to a text about work from bed hit too close to home for me. I can't tell you how many pings I got on slack about some server being down sometimes as the last thing I saw before going to bed, or often as the first thing I saw in the morning.
It's not so bad, most companies are not 'high flying' but if they have 'startup culture' ... maybe not such a great thing.
Also - family companies can be odd. It very much depends on the situation.
An 18 year old company should simply not be referring to itself as a 'startup' and they should have at very least be settling into some kind of routine. It's fine if there isn't hypergalactic growth - but something fundamental should be there.
(I work for 15+ year company that like to view itself as a startup - but the partying is definitely optional)
Or they didn't have a need to. Why depend on other peoples money if you're fine without?
More money is a powerful sign of momentum, and it generally increases valuation.
So sure, maybe $50M is enough and 'more' just comes on worse terms ... but a small company avoiding going past Round A ... it's far more likely they just couldn't raise.
Most startups (if not all) are a cult: they have even 'evangelisers'. Why? They need money from investors and sometimes with nothing to show. So founders need to preach. Employees wake up one day in this environment also. Like in any cult, some people believe more and some people believe less. Some don't believe at all and some pretend to believe. Meanwhile money flows.
I’m not saying startups are a perfect, far from it, but this whole article focuses only on the non-tech side of tech startups. Again, even for those in tech, startups are far from perfect but still, it seems like the author happened to interface with only the most juvinelle/brainwashed groups at a company.
I cringed the entire time at the lucid descriptions of testosterone fueled football throwing and bell ringing, tempered by own personal experiences with sales and marketing (none of them ever useful, and often highly detrimental to the places I worked at). These descriptions are exactly as I remember it.
A Gulag turned into a frenzy by testosterone. What a salt mine startups are! It's like volunteering for a labor concentration camp.
I bow in silent respect to startup founders who toil away in their basements and garages on their own spare time and with their own money, taking none from anyone else. If you are reading this, perhaps it might make you smile a little to know that someone somewhere admires you.
Its a signal for: don't apply here if you're over 40.
That's a culture difference.
I'm never hiring a guy who thinks it's his job to only write code in the stack I tell him to under the rules I place him under. I want to work with people who care about that and have an informed opinion about it.
I'm not hiring a guy who wants to write code but not be affected by the operation of it, who believes that he should operate in isolation and everyone should merge his 30k line PRs, who believes that he should only have his code reviewed by those senior to him.
That's culture. And a hundred other things are, too.
Life's too short to have a net negative weighing the team down.
Of the 3 points you raised the 1st one strikes the highest chord with me: it really sucks to be working with someone who just likes to move stories/tickets from left to right.
My idea of a good company culture is a place where everyone works hard during working hours and then goes home and leaves the work at work so they can relax and spend time with friends and family.
Good for you. In a number of companies, "culture fit" became code for "looks like us, dresses like us, educated like us, thinks like us, is like us".
Well without getting into too much detail, I was told more than once "I am not a culture fit". The whole experience caused me to rethink my career as a pure software developer, and I've since pivoted to become a cloud architect.
I'm not the OP on this thread but I do agree, when I hear "culture fit" I feel in a sense it's a veiled way to discriminate in some way, age, gender, or otherwise.
It's more of a "don't apply here if you have a well adjusted, balanced life at any age".
This seems like a variant on the just world fallacy - any improvement has to be balanced by an equal and opposite cost.
It's not true. It's very possible to make things just better overall. And college textbook publishing would be close to the top of my list of candidates of things that are just bad for no real reason (other than lack of competition).
It's possible that there is a way to improve on textbooks, but this company won't find it. Or maybe they will?
It seems to me that writing just a single textbook (or equivalent content) well takes a lot of work, and improving on it would be harder than that.
1. Put in long hours (mostly as a result of deadline stress).
2. Have a mission/vision.
3. Acronyms and own company words that they invented themselves. Not necessarily a bad thing, a new word can mean a very specific concept.
But they didn't have:
1. Stock options
2. An explicit company culture
What they did have:
1. More direct than the companies described here. It wasn't brutally honest, but definitely more honest than whatever I read in this blog post.
2. Being more down to earth.
These final two things are also much more ingrained in Dutch culture than in the US culture (and probably Canadian culture).
The Netherlands is a great place to work though :)
Overtime is rarely paid, but the reality is the jobs I see in NL pay a lot less than my current one. Enough less that I haven't moved. I might look in to it in a few years when I'm not at a relatively high-cost stage of life (new family, buying first home, etc.)
Cart food was an option that I started taking after a while. Food was the same and I would de-tense during the break. GC sponsored employees did not dare do that.
When new clients were visiting the office (once in a while) we were supposed to become animated and chatty, draw diagrams and seem deeply involved with some problem; in a few instances 3 remote contractors that were doing design work for us were asked to come to the office to make it look as if the company is larger than it seems. They were thinking of buying a Foosball table and play during those visits to impress potential customers. I left before they they got it.
I worked at a few startups (Unicorns) in Telecom. I was surrounded by amazing senior engineers, but otherwise it was like a 'regular company'. Kind of like a 'Verizon' if it were modernized, and they got rid of the ugly bureaucracy and maybe took a few pointers from startups.
The SF youthful startup scene - no thanks - even in my youth - for the very reasons written in this article.
These guys need some self awareness.
Dan Lyons' blurb from Kindle edition: "Dan Lyons is a novelist, journalist, and screenwriter. He is currently a co-producer and writer for the HBO series Silicon Valley. Previously, Lyons was technology editor at Newsweek and the creator of the groundbreaking viral blog "The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs." Lyons has written for the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Vanity Fair, and Wired. He lives in Winchester, MA."
There is nothing wrong with content creation to reach marketing goals. It can be informative, less intrusive than ads, and help company better reach marketing fit.
> This article appears to contain a large number of buzzwords.
Wikipedia's definition sure falls neatly into the author's thesis:
> ...often have much of the original technical meaning removed through fashionable use, being simply used to impress others... Examples of overworked business buzzwords include synergy, vertical, dynamic, cyber and strategy...
it seems the company probably in normal circumstances should have died - but was on VC life support.
As such any number of pathological symptoms would occur - if you were living day to day expecting to die any moment wouldn't you?
That seems a very bad decision from the author.
> I was initially mystified by how a company that’s been around since 2000 could still call itself a start-up. It turns out it’s not unusual for software companies to hold on to the start-up classification long after the point when businesses in other industries would be considered established. Software companies are forever “pivoting”—changing their business plans, chasing emerging markets, pushing their platform in new directions. The day I joined, Vision Critical had some 700 staff and two main offices: most of the execs, the sales team and I were housed in Toronto, high above Yonge and Bloor, while Andrew Reid and the majority of the devs were in Vancouver, where they’d taken over part of a tower that used to house the Vancouver Sun newsroom. The company also had sales offices in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia. It was established, but it was also very much a start-up, and had only recently pivoted the business to cloud-based market research software.
They want to appear "hip" and "cool" ... forever.
I'd imagine high-growth startups hire many low-experience SDRs like the ones described in the article -- is it possible people are conflating this 'tech' sales culture with engineering culture?
Perhaps this is even done purposefully to provide a politically-correct narrative for the low proportion of female engineers.
No, you're being wrong? Source: I used TopHat's predecessor products in University and the predecessor was Terrible (with a capital -T) and made zero effort to fix things. I am guessing this is true for a large swath of largely profitable web-first companies like Top-hat.
Bro culture is a deep-seated problem in tech that I'd love to see excised and tbh, as the author points out, this happens when a company has more sales people than "devs. But "gongs", incentives and aggressive sales goals are a tale as old as Capitalism. The author seems to try to lump a myriad of mostly inconsequential idiosyncrasies into a nice little bow called "bad".
Or maybe, Canadian publishers like Toronto Life are just catching up to the tired old tech "expose's" American media has been writing for about 5 years now.
Textbook publishers are vultures, but their products are inherently optional. You can buy used books, borrow, pirate or simply take good notes and not use the text at all. As long as you show up to the calculus exam with a pencil and your wits no one will check that you've bought the book.
The insertion of Top Hat into higher ed just feels yet another money grab from Big Education for no pedagogical benefit. They've gotten away with it because it looks like shiny new technology instead of just an unjustified fee increase.
When did this start, actually? Where did it come from? I don't remember it really being a thing in the early noughties, but by the end of the decade it was deeply entrenched.
In engineering? Could you elaborate a bit more? I've worked in SV tech for a decade and every large company was about 50% nerdy white engineers and 40% quiet Asians.
> "The subculture is not defined consistently or concretely, but refers to a type of "fratty masculinity"
Engineers are underrepresented in fraternities.
> predominantly "if not exclusively" white In Silicon Valley tech,
Asians are overrepresented by a factor of 10, while whites are roughly at parity with the demographics of the US.
> associated with frayed-brim baseball hats,
Engineers are less likely to care about sports than other men.
> oxford shirts,
Engineers are famously casual.
> sports team T-shirts,
> Maybe this one applies :)
and boat shoes or sandals
> Boat shoes? Hardly.
"I used TopHat's predecessor products in University and they were Terrible"
TopHat's predecessor was terrible and TopHat's innovations are very much welcome (which also made them quite profitable).
I read it because it was well written and about Toronto companies, which is relevant to me based on my location. I got to see a bit inside companies of which I am aware of and/or have met the founders of. There are only so many large Canadian "Startups" so it's interesting to see a viewpoint from the inside and how they compare to SF companies.
If you knew nothing of startups and happen to live in Toronto, this would be a great read to learn more about them, especially ones you've heard of. I'm pretty sure magazine style publications commonly have long articles, so I don't know what you would expect. How often are HN submissions short and/or designed for readers from HN?
> The most common is the engineer who, slaving for hours in the proverbial garage, programs his (or, infrequently, her) way to glory and gets showered with millions by venture capitalists. He is the tech cliché—nerdy and socially awkward.
At least 90% of the technical co-founders I know are well spoken, well dressed, and perfectly capable of attending social events.
It seems like 100% of the problems with this company come from letting sales people (or in this case, men) fresh out of college dictate the culture.
None of the startup founders I work with let their companies go this far, because at the end of the day they have work to do.
I've ran teams that had Whisky Friday, at 5pm we opened a bottle and invited members from all teams to come, sit down, talk, and have a drink. Team culture doesn't require being horribly irresponsible. People who didn't drink at all came and enjoyed themselves just fine. (I can say that because for the majority of the time I ran the team, I didn't drink)
Same team did have nerf guns, but we also had nuanced discussions about world politics, literature, and science.
On a related note, what is up with places having beer available around the clock? Does anyone actually get up at 1pm and have a drink?
tl;dr Give me a few million and I promise to build a responsible, respectful, team culture.
How late did whisky Friday run? On the clock or off?
Plenty of families on the team, sometimes kids + spouses would stop by and chat as well.
Great job not being like that I guess? I don't know how your experience has any relation to the article nor the norms of reality.
As I approach "the hill" and prepare to age over it, I have accumulated a metric ton of cynicism. But after spending nearly 20 years in the business and having worked for multiple startups there's just one thing that I can't get past with this article - the author just comes across as _incredibly outmoded and get-off-my-lawn-y_.
This article is a lot of words to say, "I didn't fit in with the culture of this company, here are their names and you should think less of this company because I didn't fit in."