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I can certainly see a lot of parallels with Oculus / Facebook.

Perhaps unusually, I actually wanted FB to impress itself more strongly on Oculus post acquisition because, frankly, Oculus was a bit of a mess. Instead, Oculus was given an enormous amount of freedom for many years.

Personally, nobody ever told me what to do, even though I was willing to "shut up and soldier" if necessary -- they bought that capability! Conversely, I couldn't tell anyone what to do from my position; the important shots were always called when I wasn't around. Some of that was on me for not being willing to relocate to HQ, but a lot of it was built into early Oculus DNA.

I could only lead by example and argument, and the arguments only took on weight after years of evidence accumulated. I could have taken a more traditional management position, but I would have hated it, so that's also on me. The political dynamics never quite aligned with an optimal set of leadership personalities and beliefs where I would have had the best leverage, but there was progress, and I am reasonably happy and effective as a part time consultant today, seven years later.

Talking about "entitled workers" almost certainly derails the conversation. Perhaps a less charged framing that still captures some of the matter is the mixing of people who Really Care about their work with the Just A Job crowd. The wealth of the mega corps does allow most goals to be accomplished, at great expense, with Just A Job workers, but people that have experienced being embedded with Really Care workers are going to be appalled at the relative effectiveness.

The communication culture does tend a bit passive-aggressive for my taste, but I can see why it evolves that way in large organizations. I've only been officially dinged by HR once for insensitive language in a post, but a few people have reached out privately with some gentle suggestions about better communication.

All in all, not a perfect fairy tale outcome, but I still consider taking the acquisition offer as the correct thing for the company in hindsight.




Often workers are perfectly capable and eager of Really Caring but then the company incentives and politics force them into Just A Job category. Especially when joining Big Tech not via acquihire.


Thanks for sharing this. It just goes to show that even the best of us can find it difficult to effect change in a big company. The nature of a large organization is it requires lots of communication, alignment, and on-the-ground politics to make things happen, which is definitely a challenge for those of us who just want to get shit done.


> The wealth of the mega corps does allow most goals to be accomplished, at great expense, with Just A Job workers, but people that have experienced being embedded with Really Care workers are going to be appalled at the relative effectiveness.

I think the problem is actually deeper than that. I've spent much of my career avoiding megacorps, or even just corps, because I find them pretty frustrating. I have though worked at a couple of larger companies - one of them very large - as much to see what I could learn as anything else.

I sit somewhere on the spectrum between "Really Care" and "Just A Job", and it's varied quite a lot depending on what I'm doing and who I'm working with.

The problem with big companies is the "Really Care" gets beaten out of you: if you show any initiative whatsoever to try to get ahead of a situation or help another team you pretty quickly get shut down and told to stay in your lane.

Big companies tend to fragment and specialise responsibilities, if not actual skills.

Related to this hardly anyone has any decision-making power which means that any change requires a combinatorial explosion of interactions between individuals and teams to happen regardless of how competent or committed those individuals are.

It just favours mediocrity and coasting, along with a high tolerance for boredom, because there often isn't a viable alternative course of action for many employees no matter how good (or bad) those employees might be in another context working for another company. Sometimes you're in the right place at the right time, or have a conversation with the right person, to make something happen.

Another related issue: the vast majority of employees at big companies have no concept of the value of time, which manifests itself in all kinds of ways, but ultimately results in the performance of large quantities of BS/non-value adding work. If you're employed by a smaller company working in partnership with a larger company the asymmetry in understanding of time's value becomes particularly stark: you can often find yourself wondering why these people at the larger company feel so free to waste so much of your time asking you to do things that aren't valuable to the partnership or to the success of either company, or asking you to have the same conversation over and over again with different groups of people.

Back on point, the corporation has to "make do" with "Just A Job" workers because, in large part, the corporation creates them regardless of their initial state of motivation.


Everything you said is spot on and resonated with me personally


While I totally agree with your Really Care and Just A Job characterization, I think that money does play a significant role in overall picture. People behave very differently after they run into six, seven, eight figures. And that behavior isn’t perfectly correlated with how much they put into the job. There’s a fair place for the “entitled” narrative, and when these people have outsized leverage on the company or product, it can create outsized problems.


“For a million dollars, anything is your passion”

Joel on Software used to explain that rich entrepreneurs always sound passionate, but it is useless to try to emulate passion, because a big success can make someone passionate for anything. (...and I confirm – since we make 70k€ a month per cofounder, I became more passionate).


A million dollars or some other significant sum of money doesn't nourish the soul the same way something you're actually passionate about does. You can fake it for a long time, but it's never quite the same, at least that I've found.


> but it is useless to try to emulate passion, because a big success can make someone passionate for anything. (...and I confirm – since we make 70k€ a month per cofounder, I became more passionate).

I remember reading an article about a Chinese cockroach farmer that incidentally described how his wife said the cockroaches were misunderstood. "Look how shiny they are!"

I imagine it helped the cockroaches' case that, by her standards, she was rich and successful.


sorry, downvote, that just so viscerally doesn’t ring true. the sibling comment speaks of soul nourishment. yes. at the level of 400k, 1M, 4M it’s a fucking digit on a screen in your bank’s app. come on now...

my experience is the absolute reverse direction. money is so very numbing


But as someone who recently bought a Quest 2, it really is an amazing product, so some things there must have been very right. In retrospect, do you know what those things were?


Honestly, I doubt the Quest line of products would have launched when they did with such a low price if FB was not running the show. Quest 1/2 might not even exist at all. The original founders were mostly focused on PC VR. Carmack was the odd one out in that respect in pushing for standalone VR (as can be seen with the Samsung GearVR).


For what it it’s worth, I was part of the founding team and led the hardware development of Rift, but also kicked off the hardware architecture of Quest 2 (and the original Quest). As much as many of us were and are PC people, by the time we started Quest 2, everyone who was left had come around to standalone.


I was an early backer of Oculus having bought the DK1/Dk2 back in 2012/14 and I was so perplexed when they announced they were putting effort into a mobile headset. It made no sense to me until I put the Oculus Quest 2 on my head last October 2020 and I learned a massive lesson!


There is a third group. Programmer as Artisan/Craftsman they recognize that it is a just a job, but they care about quality and their work most. People that would invest countless hours into their craft and would build applications that provide high value for both users and employer. They are mostly immune to corporate bullshit and have great IC careers.

People that have worse are "Just a Job" crowd that lack real programming skill. They would be quickly hit by ageism and their careers stuck very quickly on Senior Developer position because they do not care enough to be promoted into management.


>Personally, nobody ever told me what to do, even though I was willing to "shut up and soldier" if necessary

i wonder who at FB has the cachet to tell such thing to John Carmack. Zuck probably had the poster of John Carmack on the internal mental wall while going to middle school.


Like happiness, work ethic varies by individual overtime. With happiness, people who won the lottery and people who lost a limb were tracked. After a year (after their windfall or trajedy) each was just as happy orbsad as they were prior to the event. Some folks are happy go getters, some are slackers & whiners. The art of leadership is helping the later become the former so they can truly succeed in life (it’s not always about the explicit compensation package, but fairness helps). The leader needs to be clear about the role, deliverables and boundaries of each member of the team and use a framework (like Agile) to keep them in sync to meet spec, time & cost targets aligned with a shared vision to which all are committed. If you’re heart is not in your work, if you’re not living your dream, do yourself a favor and change leaders, projects, companies or career. Life is too short to sell your time to “work” at something for which you have no passion. Get a dream & follow it. The purpose of life is to struggle at what you love, progressing toward a worthy goal. And if being a parent is part of your dream, being a very good one. BALANCE. No one is perfect. We learn from our mistakes and move on. No regrets or sour grapes. Just loving kindness and respect for one another.


Just curious, what things did you want/expect FB to be more hands-on about? General things like company organization, or more specific product decisions (I'm thinking of one particularly controversial product decision but I understand if that's a sensitive topic)?


I suspect he won't want to get into thorny PR issues, but probably company organization. It's easy to imagine a disorganized startup scaling poorly, and those within it wanting guidance from highly-scaled FB.


It's surprising to me that your (former) title wouldn't entail more direct leadership, even as a simple messenger for "shut up and soldier."


> people who Really Care about their work with the Just A Job crowd

These aren't discrete categories.

There are a lot of people who care about their work and also recognize that at the end of the day, it is a job, and the reality is that they can only play a role in shaping the outcome, not dictate it per their vision.

Also, depending on the job, the team, the project, and the product, people can go from one of those perspectives to the other. There are a lot of people whose current job/role situations aren't intrinsically motivating, but then find incredible motivation due to a change in project or role (I've experienced this multiple times).


This point hit home for me:

> but people that have experienced being embedded with Really Care workers are going to be appalled at the relative effectiveness.

Unless you've experienced the Really Care type of team and situation, it's difficult to understand.

I don't mean any disrespect to the Just A Job people. There is nothing wrong with keeping your head down, getting your work done, and checking it at the door when you sign off at 5PM Monday through Friday. Frankly, that's the correct approach for most people.

However, there really are situations and teams where people won't stop until they can get the outcome as close to their vision as possible.

In my experience, this is far more likely to happen at small startups where members have reasonable equity to work with, as well as significant career upside for accomplishing the big tasks. Large companies like Google are so big that finding upside or even a niche to influence can seem impossible. Combine that with guaranteed high income and the motivation to do work that goes above and beyond gives way to a motivation to be associated with the right projects at the right time, regardless of your contribution.

When I look back, the happiest time of my career was when I was embedded among people who Really Care, trying to accomplish a goal that was likely to fail, working well over 40 hours a week (my choice), and not getting paid much. I've since moved to much higher compensation at bigger companies, but I'm often tempted to give it up to get back to a situation that sparks that kind of motivation and happiness again.


Definitely a spectrum. I think my Level Of Care is directly proportional to how much impact I can actually have, given where I am on the reporting chain totem pole. Where I am on the totem pole often correlates strongly with salary/equity. If I'm down at the bottom, and my impact is limited to moving protobufs from one level in an abstraction stack to another, and my equity's value ebbs and flows with whatever the company is doing, I'm more of a Just A Job person. If I'm CTO of Oculus, I'm probably much more on the Really Care side, because in that case I probably have significant equity and the things I do might actually affect the company's stock price. Want me to care? Let's talk about where I am on the totem pole and how strongly my actions have a direct impact on the company's success and its stock price.


I am a finance guy... majored in it, worked at Merrill Lynch, and spent the last year building a trading program. I think mergers and acquisitions, venture capital, private equity, etc. actually greatly damage economic growth. Generally all of those finance activities serve to prematurely remove founders from leadership and take skin out of the game.


I think one aspect we're not mentioning is the nature of the projects themselves.

This spectrum of Really Care vs Just A Job isn't entirely accurate. A lot of projects are honestly just hard to "really care" about. The technical work is uninteresting or the mission itself isn't interesting. The monetary goal of success could be the most interesting aspect (i.e. your startup makes it big and you're rich), but the day to day could just not be that compelling.

Over enough time, you will naturally go from a Really Care person to a Just A Job person given the right project environment. The novelty of a job will wear off.

There's no nobility in trying to really care about everything you are paid to do.


> When I look back, the happiest time of my career was when I was embedded among people who Really Care

I think people who Really Care are as much a product of the environment as they are responsible for creating the environment. I Really Care about what I work on, and I try very hard to make it the best option out there, giving it a huge portion of my creative energy and not just keeping my head down and turning a crank, but I also recognize that in the end, it's also just a job.


It is disastrously to Care when you are surrounded by an army that doesn’t.


Why so? I think this is the way to be promoted/lead things. You don't have to live and die with your project but there are definitely a few opportunities that are opening up if "you care and army that doesn't". I believe calling your colleagues "army that doesn't care" is a bit disrespectful and this is what is wrong with "I care so much" people at big companies.

upd: I did generalize "I care so much" people as well; but I do consider myself one.


Examples of what happens when you are an outlier on caring:

- Colleagues push back on providing status, while simultaneously asking for a long roadmap of your future requests.

- Promotions for your best people get blocked by peers because “Not enough time at level, and others will complain”

- Punishment is much higher for picking up a dropped ball “and not following process” than leaving the ball on the floor.

In the end, if you’re outnumbered too much, it’s a road to frustration rather than success.


This sounds like a nuanced view, but I think you have missed the point - we're using terminology that allows for us to talk past each other and that's part of the problem.

At least in my experience, the Just A Job crowd are generally _very_ vocal about their view that this is Just A Job. Their worldview is not compatible with the worldview of people who Really Care. There is a very healthy middle ground of people who (in NON CAPITAL LETTERS) both really care and for whom this is just a job, but they don't _identify_ with those as their primary worldview.


Even if you really care, you can be vocal about things that make it sound as if you don't, in order to e.g. make another developer stop stressing and go home when they've reached the point where they're creating more work than they're getting done, or encourage greater levels of risk-taking by pointing out that the only thing at risk is your job. Perhaps I'm misinterpreting what you're saying, though.


Then consider it a spectrum with Really Care on one end and Just A Job on the other. I don't think it takes away from the original point.


I think the impedence mismatch may also be that among the Really Care group, there are those who think that people in the Just a Job crowd have a sort of moral responsibility to find a job where they Really Care.

That's, imo, an unreasonable requirement, but if you're super passionate about something, I can see why someone might see it.


It's also possible to really care in a way that doesn't match up with what the company wants. Let's say you work at YouTube and really care about the user experience - you probably wouldn't want to introduce first one, then multiple mid-roll ads. If that's your job, "really caring" is going to burn you out.


I don't think you can separate people who really care about their job vs. people who really care about the company they work for and the mission it's on. Part of the problem could be that you loved the job but not the mission of the company, in which case there is almost no outcome that leads to a happy ending. In other words if the company has a worthy mission it almost doesn't matter what the job is.


Along the lines of leaving oculus/fb, can we ask what would have to happen for you to stop using an oculus/fb product?




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