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It absolutely isn't the individual employee developers job or responsibility to try to fix corporate culture. Almost anyone on here or reading this is a line worker developer and trying to take on the job responsibilities of C level staff is setting yourself up for disappointment and failure.

Any company larger than a few dozen people is entrenched - there will be a hierarchy and the top will dictate the order of things. If they are paying you to write pointless software then you are either content with the paycheck and probably a lot of free time at work if nothing really matters or can go somewhere else to find meaningful work.

But seriously, the larger the company the less you should ever consider thinking yourself as some engineering talent can change the system. You change the system in those circumstances by realizing the failure, networking with your peers, and starting your own company to do it better. Assuming you didn't sign a deal with the devil by noncompeting your way into being stuck. You were hired to write code, not fix corporate culture. Largely because most large corporations have layers of management dedicated to insuring it is not fixed.




In my first job I was put into a team of about 5 people in a company of roughly 10,000 employees. After a year or two, another junior person joined my team and he started making contact with senior people all over the place, not quite C-level but only one or two levels down. Not even just in the software department but product development and in sales (to get an idea of user requirements). He sat next to me so I heard all the phone conversations (and winced!).

As time passed, it gradually became apparent to us mortals that he wasn't just being humoured - the people he was contacting came to respect him and even consider him their man "on the inside". He ended up doing pretty well - not promoted instantly to senior management, but certainly promoted faster than me (and ended up moving to sales).

Now admittedly lots of things are different from what your comment is suggesting. That company was big, but not as big as Apple (?) and intra-company communication nowhere near as bad by the sounds of it. This guy also didn't try turn over the whole company culture; for the most part he just spoke to the right people to progress things within our team's products. And finally, a key ingredient was him; if I made a conscious decision to act like he did, I'm sure it would not have gone well.

But my point is just that you shouldn't always write off fighting the corporate hierarchy. For the right person, in the right situation, it can actually make sense.


My argument is more that if you do "fight" the hierarchy, you are doing it as charity. People are paid exorbitant amounts to analyze and structure corporate cultures efficiently, way more than any of the grunt developers will be, and trying to take on those kind of job responsibilities without the compensation for it, even if you are the one in a million that succeeds, just means you did an amount of work that would in professional business be worth a lot to the company for free, and they don't have any obligation to compensate you for your effort because its not your job to do.

And thats all predicated on you succeeding, of course. You weren't offered the responsibilities to fix corporate culture, and thus trying to do so in the first place often just serves to piss off your higher ups who feel you are disrespecting their authority to do it themselves.


Yes it isn't but who else will do that for them? Culture is only possible when people talk to each other and/or exchange thoughts in other ways. If normal people can't do that, there's no single culture, there's many little cultures. Remember that organizations are people and not some magical beings from a different dimension.


Culture is one of those things where once it's broken, it's usually easier to let it die than to fix it. Go join some smaller organization that doesn't have a broken culture and help it succeed. Once enough people do that, the small company becomes a big company, the big company rots on the vine and eventually goes bankrupt, and the cycle starts again.


That assumes that the big company doesn't have enough inertia to keep going on and on, strangling the small business or buying it outright (thus incorporating it into the broken culture, Borg-like).


This. Culture is one of the only things that every employee can change by themselves, just by going out of their way to find and talk to people. It takes work, but also takes absolutely zero permission or red tape, and it makes a huge difference. Talk to a new stranger at work every day, and in a month, you'll be solving problems nobody knew about.


This isn’t consistent with my experience. Imo the fish rots from the head.


disappointing to see this grey, because i think there's a lot of truth in here.

i think a lot of developers are used to wielding great power with technology, getting immediate visceral feedback, shipping, and whatever else. this gives them an impression that fixing people problems is just as easy - the equivalent of opening up the ol' IDE and rocking out for 8 uninterrupted hours, getting an MVP up.

the differences, though, are crucial. the compiler doesn't lie to you - you missed a semicolon; that's not the case with people. the in memory database doesn't have another agenda; again, not the case with people. the UI doesn't aspire to be something greater, or protect itself; managers often do.

i really appreciate that individuals try - i just don't think it's really worth it, if the org is > 15 or so people.


People really hate to acknowledge that working for most corporations, especially big public tech giants, is not them being welcomed in to change the world and blaze trails but to write code for their boss.


> Assuming you didn't sign a deal with the devil by noncompeting your way into being stuck.

Well, in California it's basically impossible to enforce a non-compete, so there's that going for anyone who wants to do this as a current Apple employee.


I think the issue is that culture at Apple is very much not supposed to be this, and this probably isn’t what the C-suite is intending to push. So you’re not really going against them; rather, you’re going with them but against the current status quo.


If upper management wants culture to change they will take the action necessary to change it. The last people to be powerless to inflict change on a corporation are the executives running said business.


You should do some reading about the idea of the "frozen middle", which is pretty much what's being described as the problem. It's as resistant to edicts from the top as ground-up initiatives from the bottom.


Thanks for pointing out the proper term for this disease!


First upper management has to realize there's a problem. Often they're so insulated from the day-to-day operations that they're clueless.


Well, the GE story in the Business Adventures book clearly shows that, sometimes, they are utterly powerless


In the sense that everyone wants cake and to eat it sure.. But really everything anyone wants is stack ranked and their management prefers the apple demo to the world format long after the luster has gone in no small part because of the secrecy, silos and paranoia it requires. In a financial sense their management is right and an employee wanting to be part of something less bland and Oracle like is wrong.


> Any company larger than a few dozen people is entrenched - there will be a hierarchy and the top will dictate the order of things.

To a point, but have you ever tried changing something purely through a dictate from the top? People will just say ‘Yes boss!’ and then keep working exactly as they had been.



This is what unions are good for.




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