That said, I've never seen all those things under the same roof, much less in a single day. The perfect storm of insanity makes me doubt the author's story a little bit, but each of the things she's brought up I've seen.
Shit, I literally just read a racist internal email an hour ago about the new cleaning lady at the office.
Plus the pointless credential-rundown you get every. single. goddamn. time. you meet a startup person in this city. Oh, you went to Harvard 10 years ago? That's so relevant considering we just met 2 minutes ago! You used to work at Goldman and now you're doing a consumer-tech startup? Yeah, that really needed to be in the first 3 sentences you've ever spoken to me.
I once worked under a CTO who remarked "it's not like we're going to hire a woman" after interviewing a female dev candidate, which would be horribly offensive even if he was just kidding (he wasn't kidding, I was shocked he even took the time to interview her).
There's definitely a sense of "startups are the new banking." It's frustrating because there are also a lot of good people, but man is there a glut of bros who fit all the worst stereotypes of old boys club business.
We need a new word. "Startup" has essentially become as meaningless as "agile". Semantically, "startup" is now just an umbrella under which the same paper-pushers and conference-call-bros we were trying to escape from are convening.
"A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup."
Wikipedia says a startup is "a partnership or temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model". The relevant Wiktionary entry defines it as a "new organization or business venture", fairly similar to the OED's "newly established business" definition.
I think if we place emphasis on the word "scalable," PG + Blank's definitions are compatible. Both distinguish "startup" from "new company." I don't think most people would categorize building a tech company and starting a hair salon as the same activity because of the force multiplier of scale.
During the sit down on the marketing meeting a new person was introduced to the team (not unusual). They came up to the group and was obviously another senior, experienced addition to the group, hopefully with a long and interesting career behind them.
They walked up to the front of the group and introduced themselves, "Hi I'm <name>, I went to Yale" and sat down at the table and proceeded to offer nothing of any substance over the next 8 weeks until they were quietly asked to go "contribute" their Yale credentials somewhere else.
I've been hit with every kind of credential wagging since then, "When I was at McKinsey..."* or "When I went to Harvard..."+ are usually immediate signs of an immensely useless person and I go out of my way to avoid them. It's actually kind of pathetic.
The best people I've ever met actually seemed a bit shy about notable credentials in their past and it wasn't until after months of probing that I could finally learn about some cool job or notable place they went to school.
* I wrote this before reading the article
+ seriously, it's like a cliche
As someone who was coming from a very different background to a lot of these people, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect.
While I would be the first to admit that things are less than perfect in a number of ways, generally speaking the people I met and eventually ended up consulting for couldn't possibly be much further from some of the personalities described in a number of the comments here.
Overall I was super impressed with the humility, the intelligence and the general standard that I saw in a lot of these people.
Then again, there is a world of difference between someone who chooses to live on next to nothing in a 3rd world country where they are there primarily to help others and the types described in the article.
bad Bane, stereotyping is bad!
No, all Americans. But from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Only time to brag is if you were a cofounder of the company you're referring to.
Who hasn't worked for a Google/Amazon/Microsoft/Apple/Facebook/etc?
You worked at goldman? Ok, so I'm to take from that the assumption that you're entitled and incompetent to be leading a tech startup? Good to know.
You went to Harvard? And you think this is relevant? So you care about pedigree more than competence? We can expect nepotism as you hire your friends? Good to know.
These are great services they are offering-- you know not to take the job.
That's the biggest newspaper in the country, which incorrectly identified the first Uruguayan who worked for Facebook.
Interestingly, there are quite a few Uruguayans at Microsoft, and I think there are a couple at Google.
There is a prevalent and totally erroneous school of thought which naively assumes that people do bad things simply because they don't know any better, and so all you have to do is take them aside as you would a misbehaving kindergartener for some "training" and then all will be well. It doesn't work that way. Some people are just assholes and always will be, irrespective of any amount of "training" you give them.
It doesn't matter if somebody is a racist/sexist/homophobe as long as they don't act it out.
Their only purpose is to deflect liability from the company in case any employee should bring a court case. "Your Honor, we couldn't possibly be held responsible for condoning a hostile work atmosphere, we have our employees sit through those execrable things once a year." Judging from just how popular they are, this tactic is working well.
Serious question. What did you do about it?
I agree that it's a bit pointless to mention that you studied in a prestigious university, but unlike the other commenters I think it makes sense to say that you worked in a company that is reputed to pay well, because if you left that well paying job it means that you have high hopes for that startup. Of course it would be douchey to say "Hey, I am Sam, and I used to work at Goldman, so kneel in front of me!", but saying "I worked at Goldman but I believe there is more money to be made in the house cleaning space" is a sign of confidence in the company - something I would like to see in a founder.
If someone says that they worked at a well paying job, my suspicion would be that they were run out of it, doubly so if they were engaged with such a shoddy, rag tag start-up. It would take pretty strong evidence to the contrary to believe otherwise.
Doesn't matter. They still get millions in funding.
Do people think this is acceptable? Building shitty businesses and just subsisting off VC dollars, businesses that would otherwise never have a chance but get subsidized because they use an app or website to interact with their customers.
I can't wait for all of these people to get wiped out.
I've encountered a couple of startups and founders like this and as much as it pains me to defend Handy, t does seem unlikely that they could have accomplished this if they were actually as dysfunctional as this story makes them seem. I'm skeptical of the author's claims.
I thought myself more or less immune to much of these schemes as I have been around that industry a number of years in the past, but recently feel for a company pretending to be a local locksmith on google maps, when they are actually a lead gen company that sold me on an unrealistically low quote. When the guy showed up at 11pm and told me it was 5x the quote and explained all the reasons why the person on the phone really did not "lie" to me, I suddenly remembered what lead gen is...
Perhaps it could be partially automated by looking for storefronts in google street view?
In a booming market a company that is only half functional, often to do overtime or heroics, can appear very successful. But as soon as the market cools down to normal or even still accelerated pace companies like this (assuming it's 100% true) start to drop like flies.
High profit or customer acquisition numbers can hide serious fundamental problems for a few years.
But when there's a boom going on in an industry it can be so easy to make money and gain new clients that it can cover-up a lot of fundamental problems with the way that business is run.
Because money is pouring in the door (either by earning it or from VCs) the company can afford to give out a lot of perks and raises. It's easy to hire extra employees to pick up slack or for employees to get away with wasting large amounts of time or being semi-competent. If customers buy your service once and never come back who cares if there are beating a path to your door? There will always be more so you'll stay in the black. The atmosphere can be really relaxed and fun and casual. Lots of different ideas can be tried in a "throw spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks" manner. It doesn't really matter if you fail, things are going really well!
The problem is what happens when the market starts to cool down. The perks suddenly disappear in the raises stop happening. Manual processes that wasted a lot of employee time or cost extra people to have to be hired suddenly get cleaned up and people find themselves working overtime or without jobs. When the executive start seeing the money disappear the feeling inside the place changes completely. You better not make any mistakes or trying waste money with a new idea. Best to stick with what used to work; that must've been correct. Wasting money is the last thing you need.
But it doesn't really matter if the employees were doing their best job and weren't slacking off or wasting resources and all. Even if they are model employees the business model may have been unsustainable (like pets.com) and never would've succeeded even if everything had been run perfectly. $300/customer acquisition cost doesn't work well when the average customer ends buys $25/year in products.
If you knew all this was going on, employees could get out near the top or skip the ride altogether and work in a company that's solid building up their reputation there. Instead they might get laid off or have to leave under desperate circumstances and might have to find another job on the quick.
All because a change in the market revealed that there was a company that never should've been successful in the first place and may have only grown through an accident of luck.
I've known coworkers to suffer daily humiliations while I'm treated with absolute respect. They'd quit, often causing obvious pain to the bosses, but the company kept growing. The bosses could replace them eventually, as the corporation is structured to treat them as cogs.
Higher-up priests & bosses are treated well. Those nearer the bottom are miserable.
This company is a disaster on so many levels. It sounds like three employees low-paid are performing a critical service function and it's very easy to see them all walking out the door.
The positive reviews seem fairly obvious fakes too.
And self reported income is often bullshit income. The figure is probably triple their best week which itself was a one off, before cancellations and charge backs.
Are you kidding me?
EDIT: Here's something from the CEO a month ago, in response to "dude/bro" culture:
> Dude / bro / elitism - As a leadership team we have been guilty of focusing on high performers and not giving enough coaching / support to under performing team members. We need to work on this.
This is probably one of the more obvious downsides to strict capitalism. All that matters with regards to funding is whether or not the company is making profit doing this. If they can abuse their staff, have a toxic culture and still make money, they'll get funded and eventually probably succeed.
Even if they do get sued for sexual harassment or whatever much later down the line (ie. when they're worth suing), it'll still be peanuts compared to their total profit and thus no disincentive to their behaviour.
There is no real capitalistic answer to this problem that I've ever heard of. It requires scruples from the start and that often requires regulation in a more "socialist" style. Regulated work hours, regulated holiday, regulated minimum pay, etc...
Interesting example you use there as some sort of proof against "strict capitalism". Indeed, you claim that the individuals can sue, yet then you attribute the lack of sufficient penalty as a failing of capitalism? And not of, say, the state that's failing to regulate it to a sufficient amount of your liking?
A capitalistic answer is this: leave it alone, and it'll correct itself. You can't create an imaginary problem and then blame an economic system for not fixing it to your liking. By imaginary, I mean to say arbitrary, imagined by each individual based on his views/limits/boundaries. Take your examples, you seem to think that "toxic culture", "abuse" and "sexual harassment" are problems, and not just inconvenient situations. Others, like Ashley from the article don't see them as problems enough to warrant her losing her job over. She has other values in mind.
If you want to call "strict capitalism" then you have to admit that people will value non-tangible things. Sexual harassment, toxic culture, weird work hours. They're all factored in by individuals based on the their situation. And the mere fact that they're in that situation means that the return they get from the job is valued higher than the negatives.
Does bad stuff happen? Sure, that happens all the time. Some do cross the really bad boundaries that the majority of individuals agree on. Those are the sorts of things that your state should be "regulating", and not the fluffy stuff below that people are willing to work-around. We suck up and ignore all sorts of stuff all the time, just look at the numerous examples in this discussion. And of course, they also stand up and complain/leave/quit if something crosses their boundary. The big difference is that a lot of people don't go crying to the state to make their special little boundary a legal binding, enforceable on every single employer and employee that may or may not be affected by it.
These problems aren't something that should be sucked up. They're abhorrent and I'm surprised that you're trying to defend it. It's not like it's difficult to not be sexist/racist/homophobic...
>> There is no real capitalistic answer to this problem that I've ever heard of.
Of course there is. Exposure. As soon as this behavior is exposed, again the experience shows the pressure is enough to make pretty big companies to listen and move. Smaller companies probably would be even more susceptible to the pressure. Of course, that wouldn't solve the basic problem (some people are assholes) but it can go a long way to make them not feel welcome and encouraged.
US capitalism is also a caste system. Unlike the Indian system, it pretends very, very hard not to be.
Us capitalism is nothing like it. Something closer to the caste system might be the tribalist cultural grouping of people in the us (e.g. fishtown and Charles Murrays other subgroups, or Scott Alexanders reds and blues).
I know its fun to say capitalism is just like all historical bad things, but its silly.
Their included Twitter feed is blowing up with damage control.
Reread the section about Lupe's attempt to reach the client in time.
I feel like companies in these markets will eventually reap the whirlwind when the USG decides not to allow people filling these roles to be classified as 1099s, and the whole segment falls apart. Or maybe I just hope it.
These startups are essentially converting monthly wage jobs back into piecework jobs. Not satisfied with rolling back the new deal, we're now rolling back the progressive era.
People who work these jobs never had a monthly wage job to begin with. If you're fully employed as a house-cleaner, why bother with Handy? If you're a full-time black car driver, why even bother with Uber?
This is lead-gen business for industries that tend to have a large amount of self-employed individuals to begin with.
The $35k/year/worker support staff would seem to be the only capital-intensive aspect of the business.
I've seen several people try to start services like "Handy" and fail due to this.
One big problem is that the best tradespeople already have work, and don't need lead generation services.
What's really sad is that ordinary folks are complicit in the exploitation as they don't see anything past the pretty UI. They think they're hiring vetted people who're treated well, when in reality, they're better off being hired directly via old-school Yellow Pages or even Craigslist.
For all the hoopla about Facebook et al. the old-fashioned forums are still a hotbed of activity for services like this.
While I totally agree with this I wonder about whether / why people working this jobs would be re-classified?
Many if not most people I know in work in technology on 1099 and are applied in ways which would seem to be more clearly misclassified than these workers.
Is that how you view it, and then go on to classify it as exploitation? The fact that these individuals are somehow treated unfairly?
Following from that, how would you change it so that it fits within your definition of fair?
Section 2802 of the California Labor Code requires employers to reimburse employees for expenses “necessarily incurred” with the stated purpose of “prevent[ing] employers from passing their operating expenses on to their employees.” Lest anyone think this issue can be resolved with a waiver of the right to reimbursement, Labor Code section 2804 prohibits waivers of an employee’s rights to reimbursement.
One link here:
Edit 2: It was actually on Reddit. This is the link to Reddit commenting on the computer world article focusing on the same ruling at the appellate level:
I've had some companies ask me to implement small snippets of code (QuadTree in C++ type stuff) as part of an interview process. Do I have chance of billing them for my time?
The difference between "work" and "work sample for interview purposes" can be muddled that was the point.
I am in no way doubting you, but this is such a common occurrence I hear about that I'd like to have a few links in my pocket to give people who either a) think this is a good idea, or b) have to experience this.
The other angle is understanding at which point an interview turns into an illegal full-day interview with actual work.
> This is disturbing and in no way represents working at Handy. Companies go through growing pains and these facts have no bearing on us today
> When Amanda says she applied 1.5 yrs ago, our company was newer, smaller and still figuring out best practices. Things have changed since.
> We do not stand for racism or sexism of any kind. That kind of behavior is not tolerated and never will be.
> We understand that our employees and professionals are the lifeblood of our business and we work every day to ensure their happiness.
They don't seem to deny what Amanda is saying. And I don't see how they can say they've changed if some of those same people still remain...
I take issue with this statement the most. The author clearly identifies the CEO, whom is still there, was present when the comments and inappropriate jokes were being made. It's entirely possible the CEO did say something, but I'm guessing based on the tone of the article they did not.
While it's natural for a company to go through growing pains I've never heard it used in reference to office culture how customers are treated. If this was going on 18 months ago it means it's still there today.
I feel like I read stories about horrible jobs and tough times finding work from young college grads regularly and the news would seem to corroborate them .
Apparently, these people end up serving coffee or answering phones for clown shop start-ups.
Meanwhile, I know people trying to hire for what I'd consider traditional entry level jobs (clerks, reception, no-risk security, no-experience necessary apprenticeships) offering full benefits plus 35-45k+ salaries who would be overjoyed to see a single college-educated applicant.
What's going on here? Do people believe in this Amway-esque pitch for a "world of opportunities"? Do traditional jobs feel like giving up? Are they too restricting?
Also, I know people see a lot of "openings" for "decent" positions, but most of them seem to be fake spam positions from companies that don't really want to hire people considering that every person I know who has ever applied for one has never heard anything back, except for a couple people who've had it explained to them that an opening wasn't for college graduates.
But doesn't it sound like it would be a supremely profitable relationship if such a job did exist?
I agree - it seems like every day I read a story about how my peers can't find jobs, how the job market is terrible, etc. But then I see thousands of postings for those typical desk jobs. I don't fully understand it, but if I had to venture a guess, I'd say it has to do with the "coolness" of the job.
It seems much more superior these days to say you work for the latest startup over a traditional multi-national corporation. Also, people entering the job market today really seem to value the work environment. I read an article on HN recently about how the finance industry is losing applicants to the tech industry. Recent grads hate the stuffy 9 to 5 culture, not getting free lunches, wearing suits to a job where they sit at a desk all day, etc. etc.
Regardless, I would think they'd rather have a job somewhere like that than no job at all, but that's been my limited experience talking to 30 or so new grads.
On top of that, we treat searching for jobs in a very focused way: I'm looking for a job in "x". I'm sure there are lots of other jobs, but if I never think to search for them it's like they do not exist.
So why don't we see more of these? Because -- and this is according to a lawyer who did pursue a few of these cases and would've liked to pursue more -- most of the news articles are lies or gross exaggerations. The press will write a clickbaity article and play fast-and-loose with the facts. Lawyers will look into it, hoping for a case that leads to an easy settlement, and find that, underneath all the outrage, there's very little substance.
The concept of companies being held responsible for things they do that hurt or exploit people is a humorous anachronism from a bygone era.
Sharp-eyed employees will notice this in their new hire documentation but most will not. The company can then claim that they did not make forced arbitration a condition of employment and did give the employee an opportunity to opt out, which they declined to take. Courts have upheld this as legal:
Again, contracts still need consideration. Employment is consideration. They never employed her.
If what she wrote is accurate I don't really understand how they managed to raise $30 million in funding.
Probably covered by the part where the founder was at Harvard
It could well be a HBS-only thing, though. They have their own thing going on.
Wharton grads, on the other hand... Never more than 10 minutes before they drop it in.
People with substance don't need to flash their Ivy League emblem everywhere.
Screw that noise. It is clear from just that they don't respect people's time.
"WHAT?! We expected you to start tomorrow! Can't you just quit? Don't you want to work here?!" - Aaaaand, we're done here.
I don't know if everything there is true, but this article has the indirect effect of making my opinion of michaelochurch going up.
Startups that hire unskilled labor are only pulling back the curtain on the actual job market. If anything you can expect to hear more about it as the tech startup world starts building things that require more staff than an engineering department.
I liked this until the unpaid part. Maybe there are just too many impossible laws and logistics to get around, but I've always thought it would be cool if more companies tried something out like a 10-day contract (paid of course) to make sure the job is a good fit, and so both parties can make an initial decision without as much risk.
I wouldn't want to see all, or even most, companies do this. But for those of us not living in the Valley who need to support families, it's nice to know there are sources of employment out there if/when the poo hits the fan.
In general, you don't want to bias your hiring pipeline away from people that currently have good jobs.
> It's clearly not outside the realm of possibility to pay someone to work in your office for a day.
Of course not. But when you pay someone to work in your office on a set schedule every day to do the things that you tell them to do and those things are central to your business? Well, you got yourself an employee.
Always a red flag.
That is if you get over $600(the IRS rule was $600 in late 90s not sure now) in Prime credit it has to be reported.
I wonder how he would have reacted to my utterly uninterested facial expression. Nothing of that is of any interest when trying to asses his value as a person or if his idea/company is good or not.
I honestly say "I've never heard of <institution>" - the reactions are great :)
Seriously. Let's get real. There are what? Say thirty thousand or so startups in the U.S., with ten thousand joining and dropping out in any given year? So if 1% were fuckups, we'd be able to run several of these stories a day. Forever.
I think people like them because it feels good to see young jerks acting like, well, young jerks. Don't we know so much more than them? Wonder how they feel, now, those assholes! You can get the holier-than-thou feeling and you can riff off the righteous indignation. Lots of folks just can't get enough righteous indignation. Then you can sit around and share stories from the good old days.
The problem is, not only can you run these ad infinitum without actually doing more than sharing a ton of anecdotes -- it doesn't lead to any sort of productivity. It gives me nothing to go and accomplish, it offers no insights into what public policy changes might be required to stop it (if it did, it'd be politics, and we don't want to go there). It's just -- nothing. Like driving by a fender bender and talking to the other people in the car about what happened and who must be at fault. A waste of time.
I really wish there was something useful here. Best I've got is "People who don't understand employment law are going to make lots of mistakes"
So I got that. I got that with the first of these.
Maybe we're seeing the start of a new genre, like FuckedCompany. If so, perhaps there's a subreddit for it somewhere? After a few dozen of these, it ain't going to be stuff hackers are interested in, unless they're some pretty monotonous hackers.
If you're an exempt employee, there's no requirement that you be paid overtime, no matter how many hours a week you're required to work.
The U.S. Department of Labor has lots of information about it:
You can see their web site at "http://www.handy.com/". The page source is amusing. They seem to be more interested in ad networks than booking actual business.
What could they possibly have worth stealing?
Why the surprise at all this? Here in NYC I speak to funded startup founders and employees every other day who lack basic business, business management, and people management skills and experience. Investor actions (i.e. $$$$) seriously devalue these things now.
(But we have advisors!!!!!!!)
Question: How do you know somebody has an MBA?
Answer: They tell you.
Full disclosure... I have an MBA!
This may be a violation of wage and hour laws.
> “Great! You’ll need to bring your own laptop and smart phone. Will that be a problem for you?”
Many states forbid companies from requiring that their employees bear the costs of business expenses. I wonder if employees at this company are being reimbursed.
> “Okay, our Customer Experience Associates normally begin work at 8 a.m. and wrap up the day around 8 p.m. They work five days per week, plus one rotating weekend shift. Is that okay?” She looked at me warily.
It would be interesting to know if the company is treating "Customer Experience Associates" as exempt or non-exempt employees. Customer service roles are almost always non-exempt, and non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay. Given that the author wrote she was offered a $35,000 salary and made no mention of overtime pay, it sounds like there might be a misclassification issue here. These misclassifications can be very, very costly (unpaid overtime plus interest, numerous statutory penalties, attorney's fees, etc.) so they're incredibly attractive to plaintiff's attorneys.
> “Service provider” was a pleasant euphemism for Handybook’s fleet of freelance cleaners and handymen. After signing up with Handybook, service providers received text alerts about available jobs, which they could claim for themselves by texting back, on a first-come, first-serve basis.
> A programmer giggled and called out, “Ashley, do your Chinese washer woman impression again!” “My Chinese washa wo-men?” she pulled back the skin on the sides of her face. “I do you laund-wy! Own-wy ten dollah!” She laughed hysterically, “I clean you house!” The programmers sniggered loudly. “Ching chong!” someone yelled out and collapsed into laughter.
> “Want to hear a joke I heard today?” a programmer asked, eying me and giggling. “What’s the difference between a woman and a refrigerator?” “…what,” I said. “Refrigerators don’t moan when you put meat in them!”
This behavior is toxic to businesses that want to remain in business.
A lot of these "on demand" companies are built on classifying their service providers as independent contractors. In many cases, however, independent contractor classification is questionable. In this case specifically, the description of how the company dealt with Lupe raises serious questions.
The more funding these companies receive, and the bigger they get, the more attractive they're going to be to plaintiff's counsel. One of Handy's competitors is already on the radar of a prominent Boston class action attorney.
Honest question: what is legally wrong with it? If people show up late, you are allowed to remove them from your network. I don't see anything at http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employ... that indicates paying attention to the time when work is done disqualifies one from being a contractor.
"You are not an independent contractor if you perform services that can be controlled by an employer (what will be done and how it will be done)."
Enforcing specific working hours is definitely controlling how a job will be done.
BYO Technology? that should be an OPTION, not a requirement...especially at 35K.
12 * 5 = 60 hours per week. That's illegal in the EU.
I did have to deal with one company that said they had trouble "finding senior people" when the whole office was a playground. But no one told me any sexist or racist jokes.
I don't know why it rubbed me the wrong way
Yes they do. All the time. Well, probably not in America, cause that would be stupid (I doubt they say "Indian guy" in India for the same reason) but I've certainly heard it in the UK and Ireland. I've no reason to believe it's isolated to those countries.
Edit: I feel I should now say something about "Family Dad", but I'm not sure that's right...
edit: when I say something is not insane or unexpected, I mean it in the context of a person looking for work in customer support. These are the things you run in to. So if you are shocked that they have to provide their own hardware, then you are shocked at the way support people are often actually treated. I'm not advocating for or supporting that.
The interview process and criteria for being hired have really high variance compared to engineering interviews.
The author of this piece made the classic, and often unavoidable mistake of being between a rock and a hard place and not vetting the company she interviewed at and ultimately worked for for a day.
Even if you're not an engineer/designer/data scientist (or one of the typically highly desired people for a startup), you should be working at places you love and believe in, when you're not, you end up having bad experiences and those bad experiences are amplified by the environment.
First, I didn't find Ajay's interview to be that weird, saying why you came up with the idea for your company and your qualifications should be expected, not interpreted as a way for the founder to diminish the potential future employee. If you don't believe in your leaders, and don't trust them, you are in a lot of trouble.
edit: I think that not having interviewed with the actual support team members is a huge red flag here as well, but owing to the author's somewhat desperate situation, they moved forward anyways.
12 hour days is insane, and wrong. Having to provide your own device is not really that insane for small teams. Obviously it's great if a company provides it, and probably larger companies should always provide a workstation, but this doesn't come across as totally abnormal. The constant "want to hear a joke" and racist/sexist tone at the company is also not acceptable, but clearly was supported by the people working there at the time, if the anecdote is taken at face value.
It's super easy to pay for a trial period, and as far as I'm aware, it's not even legal to have people work for free unless you are a nonprofit or government organization, so that's shady, even if only for one day. I've done two week trials that were fully paid, and it was a great way to get a feel for the company and vice versa.
Not having any onboarding, given that the trial was for a day isn't too surprising, but that is clearly a problem with a one day trial. They should have absolutely been given some lead-in material to help them get prepped before starting.
There appear to be a lot of growing pains at Handy, which isn't a surprise, but hopefully they can move fast and get their support/service wing to be as tight and focused as the rest of their team (assuming that is true).
Requiring employees to buy their own computers is past unprofessional; it implies among other things zero IT security. For a CSR position that depends on IT connectivity, it's economically abusive. But it's also penny-wise-pound-foolish. It speaks to mismanagement.
The constant "want to hear a joke" sexist/racist stuff is unlawful. An employee that leaves because they feel forced to make a decision between a hostile environment and no job has a claim against the company. It does not matter if it was supported by the people "working there at the time". It's an example of company mismanagement.
Not that unusual to garage or ramen-stage companies sure, but these are guys with an office in one of the hottest startup hubs of Manhattan with $45 million in funding.
It's also insane - trusting hardware of unknown provenance with your customer experience? Is it really that hard to buy a few iMacs (or cheapo Dell desktops if that's your speed) for your support reps to use? That way hardware that's critical to your support infrastructure isn't traveling on the subway every day, getting broken, stolen, or god-knows-what.
This is a Series B startup with $45m in funding so far, they should be way past the point of being able to buy some company machines for people to work on.
I guess I just don't understand how a business like this could ever get funded to $45 million.
Where's the competitive advantage?
India sent a satellite to orbit mars for $74 million, these guys have people answering phones to book odd jobs for $45 million?
And the phones aren't even provided by the $45,000,000! Lunch is though, so maybe that's what the big bucks get you.
Vetting a place for a hostile work environment, esp. when the company is small and has had few employees, is really difficult.
> First, I didn't find Ajay's interview to be that weird, saying why you came up with the idea for your company and your qualifications should be expected, not interpreted as a way for the founder to diminish the potential future employee. If you don't believe in your leaders, and don't trust them, you are in a lot of trouble.
His attitude isn't troubling except in hindsight after we learn that sexism and sexual harassment are A-OK in the office and that service providers shoulder a ton of blame for little reward.
> 12 hour days is insane, and wrong. Having to provide your own device is not really that insane for small teams. Obviously it's great if a company provides it, and probably larger companies should always provide a workstation, but this doesn't come across as totally abnormal.
For the low pay those customer service people received, it is abhorrent that they must also pay for supplies to do their basic job. It's a safe bet to say that the programmers there didn't have to buy their own desktops for development.
> The constant "want to hear a joke" and racist/sexist tone at the company is also not acceptable, but clearly was supported by the people working there at the time, if the anecdote is taken at face value.
Uh, the author clearly related that several people seemed uncomfortable by the sexual harassment in the office. Did you even read the anecdote about 'Josh' being harassed in plain view of the office?!
> There appear to be a lot of growing pains at Handy, which isn't a surprise, but hopefully they can move fast and get their support/service wing to be as tight and focused as the rest of their team.
A hostile workplace, sexual harassment, demeaning low wage service providers, and being general assholes isn't growing pains, it's a sign that the company is horrible and no one should do business with them.
From the anecdote, it doesn't sound like she interviewed with anyone from the support team, that is a big problem and something she could have asked about. You're right, it's easy to hide, but since she only worked there one day and ran into this, it seems likely it would have been a red flag in the interview process.
> His attitude isn't troubling except in hindsight after we learn that sexism and sexual harassment are A-OK
I agree, which is why I said "but clearly was supported by the people working there at the time" so I'm not sure why you said:
> Uh, the author clearly related that several people seemed uncomfortable by the sexual harassment in the office.
Being uncomfortable with it doesn't mean that it isn't pervasive and effectively sanctioned by the company. So I think we actually agree here, maybe I've phrased something poorly, sorry about that.
> For the low pay those customer service people received, it is abhorrent that they must also pay for supplies
I agree, they should provide equipment at this company, given the context, and the salary of the service employees. My reaction is that I've done this kind of work and this seems to be a common situation at many companies, again this is why I said engineers may not relate well to the story.
You should check with your less prestigious teams and make sure they are getting the same care and attention that your engineers are, you may be surprised at how poorly non technical people are treated even at your own companies.
Nobody should ever have to vet a workplace to see if it has a hostile work environment!
And how would you vet for that anyways? If the candidate were to ask "do you tolerate/encourage racist/sexist/homophobic jokes?", would the interviewer ever respond in the affirmative?
First step is to actually interview with people from the team that will be your peers, not just your superior. It sounds like the author didn't do that, which is a huge red flag, again, this all seems to boil down to the author being desperately in need of work and not responding to the red flags that were already present.
No, that's puffery. No-one cares except him. The interviewee wants to know what kind of work she will be doing, what the pay is, what the benefits are, and the expected working hours. Anything else is way down the list, especially for a low level employee.
Having to provide your own device is not really that insane for small teams
Yes, it is. Do they bring their own chairs and tables, too? It's a business with employees FFS. I might let this go if they were contractors, but you do business on company-owned equipment with specific exceptions as needed.
It's super easy to pay for a trial period
If they work for you, you pay them. End of story. My kid was supposed to work on a neighbor's farm, but got let go after 1/2 hour due to illness. He was still paid for that 1/2 hour. Again, it's a business
Not having any onboarding, given that the trial was for a day isn't too surprising
The only reason it's not surprising is because they have already shown how disorganized they are. Seriously, I've had temp jobs where I was supposed to work one day and the owner still took 10 minutes to explain what I was supposed to do for that day!
These aren't "growing pains." This is a purported business operating like a frat house. Yes, I seriously hope they improved over what it shown here but as it is, I'm still amazed somebody actually gave them money. I am really in the wrong business!
1. Before a phone screen, send several real problems you've encountered and have the candidate write what they would respond, these can be happy and unhappy customers, and they should be answerable without any special knowledge of the company, or with resources available to them (a FAQ page etc...)
Answers should be empathetic, recognize the emotion/state of the person on the other end and attempt to be responsive and human, and apologetic if necessary. Ideally, provide at least one actual response so the candidate can get an idea of what your company's tone is. Some favor long, descriptive answers, others go for short, direct answers. It highly depends on your customers.
2. On the phone, do a live writing exercise (like live coding) see how they respond to a question and how they write while being observed. If your service/support is primarily over the phone, replace writing with a simulated phone call from a customer.
This is mainly to see if they can write ad-hoc, this doesn't even need to be a specific support/service question, it could be something like, write in as much detail as possible about the last amazing meal you had. A lot of support/service is being able to respond quickly and descriptively, and having good communication skills.
3. Onsite, you guessed it, more writing. If you have a technical product, you can add some more technical things here that may involve interacting with your product/internal tools. Have them debug something that actually has happened in the past, or a common issue that your customers run into.
This can be guided, you should help them along if they need it, similar to a complex programming problem, course correct and see how they respond to guidance.
Also, bring your own laptop is cool now? Shall I start bringing office furniture to work too?
Even worse, it bids down the price of labor for people who actually work for a living.
> Even if you're not an engineer/designer/data scientist (or one of the typically highly desired people for a startup), you should be working at places you love and believe in
The job market most people participate in is very, very different than the job market for Silicon Valley engineers. In the job market most people participate in, there aren't a whole lot of jobs to go around, at the moment. This means that participants don't have the luxury of having so many opportunities thrown at them that they can afford to pick and choose between them, or to walk away from one just because a place they "love and believe in" more might come along tomorrow. Walking away from a paying job could mean weeks or months or even years of unemployment. Not "funemployment," but the real kind, where you lose sleep at night wondering how you're going to make next month's rent.
In that kind of environment, you can't blame people for taking a paying job when one is offered to them. If you were in their position, I guaran-dang-tee that you would do the exact same thing. When you have few options, you take the least bad one that's on offer, not the perfect golden unicorn of your dreams.
> If you don't believe in your leaders, and don't trust them, you are in a lot of trouble.
You know what real leaders do? Real leaders lead. They don't let an office full of people they are paying run around saying and doing potentially legally actionable things on the company's dime instead of getting work done, for instance. They organize those people into functional teams, and keep those teams so busy working on things that create value for the business that they don't have time to pretend they're back playing Ultimate Frisbee on the quad.
> 12 hour days is insane, and wrong
And also potentially, um, illegal. You know?
> The constant 'want to hear a joke' and racist/sexist tone at the company is also not acceptable, but clearly was supported by the people working there at the time
Again, real leaders lead. If there's an environment in a workplace where behavior like this flourishes, it's because the managers are OK with it flourishing. If they weren't, they would put a stop to it. They don't, so they are.
One of the subjects HN is obsessed with is "culture," but many HNers seem to not understand that culture is not just a synonym for "dumb rules we force underlings to follow." If you're in management, culture is the tone you set through the decisions you make. And if the story is anything close to accurate, at Handy those decisions resulted in a culture where playing with toy helicopters and telling "ching-chong-Chinaman" jokes are a higher priority than making sure their products and services are excellent, obeying the law, or even just being a decent human being.
If I were an investor in that company, I'd be pretty furious about that.
I know, I'm not an engineer, I work in support, this is the point I was trying to get across, I seem to have gone wrong by nit picking a few things about the story, which I otherwise see as a reasonably accurate representation of the hell people who aren't engineers go through when looking for work. Agreeing that these things happen isn't an endorsement of those things, if anything, they are a call to action to recognize they exist and make sure they don't exist in your own organization, which is what I do :)
Which part of their team is tight and focused?
That is, I don't think you can generalize about startups, funded or otherwise.