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[flagged] Sick of these startup executives, painting a rosy picture for employees
64 points by 1qazxsw23edc 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 40 comments
For example: https://twitter.com/LadyAshBorg/status/1378237638671364099

But the actual reality is closer to this: https://huyenchip.com/2021/02/27/why-not-join-a-startup.html

The same founders will lay you off in a heartbeat if the situation demands, and they keep on preaching to naive employees about trust, loyalty, and shit!

PS: To be clear, I'm not totally against working at a startup, if you like their mission, please go and work for your chosen startup. My issue is that they should be more thankful to the employees who have joined them in their journey and not treat them as a resource!






Hiring is just like any other kind of marketing: an employer is going to paint a rosy picture to get you to join, and you are going to paint a rosy picture to get hired.

At the end of the day ignore the rosy picture and look at the fundamentals - whether it's a big organization or a tiny startup. Will this job be good for my career? What's the feedback from ex-employees or customers? (Glassdoor etc). What's the salary like? What are their coding practices? Are they nice people?

Look for the warning signs: negative reviews, over-convoluted and time-wasting interview processes, asshole behavior at interviews (turning up late, rudeness etc), blank stares at the phrases "continuous integration" and "testing practices", low salary offers, and so on. If you are going to dedicate a chunk of your valuable lifespan to a company it's on you to do due diligence and adopt a healthy attitude of scepticism.


“Continuous integration and testing practices? We think those things are great, but we’ve been too busy to get to that, because we’re a startup ...”

It's kind of like trying to save time on a marathon by not stopping to tie your shoelaces.

I mean it takes maybe a day or two at most to set up a CI/CD pipeline with Github actions or something similar. It takes maybe a day to set up test runners, and you can just sprinkle in small tests as you go. There are plenty of templates you can find depending on your language/platform that do most of this out of the box.

You don't need a perfect pipeline or test coverage, just something you can improve on incrementally. It's much, much harder to do all this on top of a bloated legacy codebase and infrastructure and that's when "adding CI/CD" becomes a Big Project that we'll get to real soon now.


I love your shoelaces analogy.

I’ve expressed it as sprinting forward as fast as you can while looking straight down at your feet - which is basically the exact same sentiment.

Of course there’s always “stopping to sharpen one’s saw”

A new I came up with myself “removing the stoplights hoping it will end rush hour sooner ...”


A startup doesn’t have a known course with a finish line and competing forces defined by rules.

A startup is running from a grizzly bear and tying your shoe laces is an engineering decision. There are important tradeoffs and potential bad outcomes either way.


“Continuous integration and testing practices" are useless when you are going to rewrite the software from ground up every year or two years. You just patch the software until it's time to throw it away.

Many startups write something that they can sell, get experience, realize what they should have been doing instead, then do that.


Your team’s velocity will be faster from week 2 through the end of the 2nd year if you build the rapid feedback cycles provided by automated testing and CI/CD into your progress from the beginning

UNLESS your team lacks the experience to build and maintain a test suite with a high benefit-to-cost ratio, which is unfortunately the case for most teams.

In this case I don’t have any good solutions, other than choosing one’s team and teammates carefully, before starting the project.


“Continuous integration and testing practices" are not exactly a great burden, and you don't know when the thing you are working on is going to snowball and become the thing you need to nurture and grow. Even if you pivot, you will likely want to re-use code written for earlier attempts.

I suspect the reason startups don't do the bare minimum here is because their developers tend to be cheaper and less experienced (at least until they get funding), and "we move fast and break things" is just a lame justification for incompetence.


Actually you are more likely to rewrite and migrate away from that legacy codebase once you succeed/pivot

I recommend watching Kent Back’s 3X talk for that, I also wrote a blogpost about it: https://rchavesferna.medium.com/designed-v-evolutionary-code...


In theory yes, you're supposed to migrate away from the legacy codebase.

In practice I've never, ever, ever seen that happen: it's too much upfront cost to start over, especially when you have real customers and real data on top of it and you need to keep pumping out new features.


It's not that. For a startup figuring out what the product is and making it happens in parallel.

Product and product research are the same.


I'm CTO at a startup and I've made a 180 on this in the last year. I used to paint a rosey picture. Now I feel it's my duty to give employees full disclosure on what they can expect: cash burn, runway, technical debt, what we likely can and can not spend time on, that potential stock options should not influence the decision making, because the future is impossible to predict and it's very likely to be worth nothing.

I do also tell candidates that it's an investment in themselves and a great learning experience. You'll get more responsibilities than in typical companies and you'll be very out of your comfort zone. If you're the kind of person that thrives in such an environment, and learns best by experience rather than by theory, then this might be for you.


First, thank you.

Second, as I read “... because the future is impossible to predict and it’s very likely to be worth nothing”, I thought, “Hmmm, that’s the arc of life itself, when we cut through all the delusions.”


It is, but it's good to remember that YOLO cuts two ways ;)

Lol, she mentions you don't need a degree. Would like details on how many employees she's hired without a degree or rejected applicants like that

On a broader note- It is usually the HR & not the company per se at fault. Ex. A lot of FAANGish companies in India have the best engineers(who might have worked abroad or in better comapanies) but the same shoddy HR personnel from other local cos. They bring their own play it safe by the rulebook policies which would actually fly in the face of the company's founding/founder's ethos, ex. Google - They do hire folks from varied backgrounds & couldn't give a damn about your degree. But in Google India & similar offices to even get a foot in the door you need a premier college degree or have an MS from abroad. Just check their postings on LinkedIn if you have the time.


It's a lot like dating a "nice guy". They're awfully defensive and insulting about how nice they are. But that doesn't mean all of them are bad, just the ones who insist that you're a moron for not being able to see what's in front of you.

There are definitely some good startups. Glassdoor has some good reflections. The good startups are rated higher than FAANG. They often have high CEO approval, and talk about how high the pay is and how hard the work is, but they'd never want it any other way. I'd say those have a legitimate shot at becoming a unicorn. They take hiring risks that large, established companies often don't.


Like all companies, you need to make sure, and having in writing, the bits of your job you worry about.

For example when I joined a startup, I got in writing that my hours would not exceed 40 a week. If a company doesn't want to do that, then I don't join.

Now we are lucky that presently a sysamdmin/SRE/devop can be picky.

There are so many startups out there, some are run by people who genuinely care about their staff, and some are run by callous shits. As with any job interview you really have expend effort reading your interviewers.

Are they worried about speaking plainly?

Do they raise eyebrows when you say that you have a family you want to see?

Do they get defensive when you ask them about engineering choices (platform/language/pattern)

Do they use issue tracking?

Etc, etc, etc. as with all interviews, you need to make sure that you are happy with the answers, and have no nagging doubts before joining (unless you are desperate for a job of course. )


I'll just plug my project here: a list of questions you can ask the company before joining https://github.com/viraptor/reverse-interview

So sick of this too, particularly the notion that you should be thankful and happy to work for a startup.

Do you believe strongly and are you passionate about what we are doing?

I'm like no dude I can code and want to get paid for it, do you ask if your plumber is very excited about fixing your toilet?


On top of that the whole masquerade of "We here at <generic startup company> want to make the world a better place and truly believe that". Marketing lies are one thing but being forced to repeat the ad slogans inside your work environment is just creepy.

Plus they’ll be making something like ‘plumbing tools, but for dogs’.

Like, I’m happy you are paying me a lot of money to work for you, but don’t expect me to be excited about that.


In other news: water is wet. Company isn’t a family, HR isn’t your friend, CEOs care about shareholder value. But no point being upset about it, you can learn to filter the copro speak out.

Do you mean "copro" as in shit? Or "corpo" as in corporate?

All I can say is that typo is on point.

I think both apply equally?

Simply having a cash cow doesn't make you a learned person on all matters startup

Am I the only one who doesn't see a rosy picture in the Twitter thread? The tone is definitely positive compared to huyenchip but it isn't idealized to the point of being disingenuous. I'd say it even paints an accurate depiction of a start-up's struggles.

Her first point is even "Play the long game". It's not an overnight success. "Wealth creation doesn't happen in one go, make it a long game, with regular payouts, that then get invested in some form again & grow more & more".

The Twitter thread and the blog post aren't contrasting experiences. Yes you had to do lots of something you didn't want to do but that something was you, an engineer, had to do market studies for a feature you would later build. Yes most startups won't offer a clear career trajectory because, quoting the thread, "Will you be a brilliant full stack engineer or do you have potential to start as a good one but can pickup quickly & grow into a data engineering role".

Yeah start-ups could overhype the experience the way they oversell their product. But I don't see the that in the thread.


Misrepresentation and lack of appreciation is common to plenty of companies; nothing to do with startups particularly, so I'm confused as to the reason for that specific targeting.

I think as much as anything its just (unfortunately) part of the system; some people lack ethics, some are just under pressure to recruit without anything to distinguish them to the employee beyond what they can conjure up as a goal and hope it sticks.

Needless to say, there are plenty of recruiters who could point their fingers at employees not fulfilling their part of the deal as well.


Best way is to not get involved. I don't mean don't get involved in startups but just don't follow so-called thought leaders and focus on yourself.

These posts are primarily to create engagement and promote themselves / their business. In general it's mostly hackneyed talking points because they are the most likely to get liked / retweeted.


I always do "back door" interviews for this reason.

I try to find a recently departed employee and ask them what it's really like. Not every founder is trying to pull one over on you, but some are...overly optimistic.


Big tears.

Start ups are extremely high risk. If that’s not your cup of tea then go work for a mega Corp with better medical and retirement benefits.


I just finished a consultancy gig with a startup where the CEO expected every employee (almost two dozen) to handle the extremely high risk, while doing nothing about managing the risk... I’m sorry but I feel your idea is transmitted through foggy lens of corporate hate.

As harsh as that reality is, in all seriousness, if that scares you why on Earth would you work for a start up?

There are other reasons people enjoy working at startups.

I currently work at a large org, decent team, the pay and hours are good, they look after their people pretty well. I'm pretty happy, but...

But getting anything done is a pain, because every project ultimately touches at least 5-10 different teams - legal, compliance, couple of systems teams, operations, security, risk/grc (different department from technical security!), supplier assurance (sub department of risk), privacy (different department from legal & security!), architecture, marketing, brand (different from marketing for some reason), etc. These are just the ones I remember talking to in the past year, sometimes other "interested" teams come out of the woodwork. For example, if your project touches "retail" there's a whole separate world there.

There are good reasons all these different department exist (enforce best practices / scar tissue / to protect the org), but most of those people have no interest in the success of your project and have no "skin in the game". They are free to govern you to death because they have no other real work to do. They don't have to ship anything and do not bear the costs of the requirements they impose. The tendency is therefore for compliance requirements to escalate.

New people come in, excited about doing things, and you watch them slowly get crushed as the sum of all the external requirements and legacy tech forces endless delay and compromise.

Startups let you ship more, with less "oversight" and assume different (often broader) responsibilities. If you're lucky, and in a high-trust competent team, it feels low friction. A lot of people (including me) enjoy that.


Oh man, this is a fantastic summary.

I’m not sure I understand the question. Are you implying that there are no other reasons to work for a startup, other than exposing yourself to risk? Might I suggest rock climbing or skydiving instead of startups?

The economic case for working at a startup is the risk. High risk of failure but a chance at a big payoff. He's probably saying that it's already accepted that that risk is there if you work for a startup.

I think the point is that for most employees, there is no chance of a "big payoff" (where "big" = 10X what you'd have made at an established company paying market wages).

In theory I own 1% of a startup worth $10m, but that will likely get diluted further and come to nothing. Even if it doesn't, I could have easily made an extra $100,000 over 3 or 4 years by just getting higher paying jobs at a regular company. And 1% is very high for employees, most of whom have a lot less equity.

The point is unless the startup becomes bigger than Google, most employees will lose out financially vs. working for a BigCorp.


The main complaint is about lies and misrepresentation as well as lack of empathy and appreciation; certainly that isn't particular to startups (and not all startups are like that) but your dismissal implies startup founders get some sort of pass for lying and generally behaving like shits.

Horrible people do horrible things. That is both unfair and unfortunate. I agree that horrible people are not unique to start ups, but unless completely bootstrapped even founders are beholden to someone. Even more unfortunate is that a founder owns a significant part of the company and so cannot be dismissed without some excessive reward.

Yet, that is the risk of being an early stage employee.




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