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Title: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: K9 on April 23, 2012, 06:38:26 AM
Link to pdf (http://cdn.flamehaus.com/Valve_Handbook_LowRes.pdf)

Just in case anyone hadn't seen this; it sheds an interesting light on how Valve operates.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Ironwood on April 23, 2012, 07:03:17 AM
 :heart:


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Ironwood on April 23, 2012, 07:07:32 AM
The more I read, the more I wonder how that could possibly work.  Is this a wind-up ?


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: K9 on April 23, 2012, 07:39:30 AM
I want to believe.

It matches what I have read in interviews of Valve folk though, seems like a really great place to work.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Amarr HM on April 23, 2012, 08:24:28 AM
If that isn't real it's one of the most highly elaborate ruses I've ever seen.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: 5150 on April 23, 2012, 08:36:42 AM
I would spend far too much time in the Valve restrooms to be valuable/productive :-(


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Tebonas on April 23, 2012, 08:38:06 AM
Guess thats why they wrote they only take the best, which decidedly means not people like us.  :awesome_for_real:


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Ironwood on April 23, 2012, 08:46:36 AM
Well, in fairness, they say the exact opposite.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Nebu on April 23, 2012, 09:26:35 AM
Quote
Hours
While people occasionally choose to push themselves to work some extra hours at times when something big is going out the door, for the most part working overtime for extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning or communication. If this happens at Valve, it’s a sign that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected. If
you’re looking around wondering why people aren’t in “crunch mode,” the answer’s pretty simple. The thing we work hardest at is hiring good people, so we want them to
stick around and have a good balance between work and family and the rest of the important stuff in life. If you find yourself working long hours, or just generally
feel like that balance is out of whack, be sure to raise the issue with whomever you feel would help. Dina loves to force people to take vacations, so you can make her your first stop.

I love these people.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Kageru on April 23, 2012, 10:05:31 AM

I think it's a cunning plan to get every employee in EA to either commit suicide, storm the management offices or resign.

That said the idea of having teams self-organise based on how interested people are to be a part of it isn't a terrible idea. Would make for erratic schedules (yeah, no evidence for that) but also means that a game that stank would be quietly abandoned rather than dutifully finished and shipped. Though they can partly do this because their product costs nothing to construct, ship and has limited legacy code or integration complexity given it's a stand-alone entertainment product.

Still, keeping this... love this left-field stuff especially if it looks like it would probably work. And they're definitely right in that being self-funded and owning their own IP's is what allows them their flexibility.



Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: kildorn on April 23, 2012, 10:15:41 AM
Quote
Hours
While people occasionally choose to push themselves to work some extra hours at times when something big is going out the door, for the most part working overtime for extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning or communication. If this happens at Valve, it’s a sign that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected. If
you’re looking around wondering why people aren’t in “crunch mode,” the answer’s pretty simple. The thing we work hardest at is hiring good people, so we want them to
stick around and have a good balance between work and family and the rest of the important stuff in life. If you find yourself working long hours, or just generally
feel like that balance is out of whack, be sure to raise the issue with whomever you feel would help. Dina loves to force people to take vacations, so you can make her your first stop.

I love these people.

I have spent so many hours trying to explain to a friend of mine in game development that expected crunch periods are a failure in project management, not just a thing that happens. It's something that should be done to solve the emergency, then followed by an after action to make sure that issue does not come up again. Game devs just seem to assume a game takes 2 years to make, the last 6 months of which are 80-100 hours a week and that's just how it must be done.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Merusk on April 23, 2012, 10:24:55 AM
A quick review of that resonates a lot with my current firm.  For liability reasons and client-oriented deadlines there's no way a flat structure would work here but a lot of the rest of it holds true. 

Still, the idea of a flat structure is mind-boggling to me.  I guess that explains why we've never seen more of Episode II.  Nobody's interested in taking it on.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Kageru on April 23, 2012, 10:36:05 AM

Yep, they're probably about the worst people in the world to attempt episodic game releases.

It's interesting reading all the ways the ME3 fiasco couldn't have happened. Lots of the blogs on TF2 testing made it clear they play-test their own stuff extensively and are quite happy to poke holes in something that doesn't work (something which I suspect of Blizzard as well). And there is no one able to pull rank or keep the process secret. Their attitude to the customer is an awful lot different too if the document is true;

"we are all stewards of our long-term relationship with our customers. They watch us, sometimes very publicly, make mistakes. Sometimes they get angry with us. But because we always have their best interests at heart there's faith that we're going to make things better."

It reminds me a bit of "Maverick!" by Ricardo Semler as well.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: shiznitz on April 23, 2012, 10:40:36 AM
Great document.  I am trying to think if such a structure could work at a different business.  I don't think so, although there are elements that could be adopted.  I like the T concept for personnel.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Kageru on April 23, 2012, 11:19:58 AM

The document has a link to an article on cabals (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131815/the_cabal_valves_design_process_.php) which is externally hosted. I've read it before but it's more interesting when seen a demonstration of the approach this document describes.




Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Lantyssa on April 23, 2012, 02:54:04 PM
Still, the idea of a flat structure is mind-boggling to me.  I guess that explains why we've never seen more of Episode II.  Nobody's interested in taking it on.
It requires a bunch of people who have bought into the idea of a progressive company.  It can only work for small organizations or if they really do stick to trying to hire people better than themselves.

It won't work with large swaths of the population.  (For example, I'm not sure I could make it in an organization like that.)


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Ironwood on April 23, 2012, 03:09:43 PM

The document has a link to an article on cabals (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131815/the_cabal_valves_design_process_.php) which is externally hosted. I've read it before but it's more interesting when seen a demonstration of the approach this document describes.




Yeah, I've seen that article before too, but it reminds me of how well they did this and what a fucking fantastic and game changing experience the Original Half Life was.



Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Trippy on April 23, 2012, 03:32:50 PM
Quote
Hours
While people occasionally choose to push themselves to work some extra hours at times when something big is going out the door, for the most part working overtime for extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning or communication. If this happens at Valve, it’s a sign that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected. If
you’re looking around wondering why people aren’t in “crunch mode,” the answer’s pretty simple. The thing we work hardest at is hiring good people, so we want them to
stick around and have a good balance between work and family and the rest of the important stuff in life. If you find yourself working long hours, or just generally
feel like that balance is out of whack, be sure to raise the issue with whomever you feel would help. Dina loves to force people to take vacations, so you can make her your first stop.

I love these people.
I have spent so many hours trying to explain to a friend of mine in game development that expected crunch periods are a failure in project management, not just a thing that happens. It's something that should be done to solve the emergency, then followed by an after action to make sure that issue does not come up again. Game devs just seem to assume a game takes 2 years to make, the last 6 months of which are 80-100 hours a week and that's just how it must be done.
It's easy to do this when you are a private company with an estimated worth of 3 billion dollars that's self-funded and has the luxury of releasing products whenever they feel like it.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Tebonas on April 23, 2012, 04:11:53 PM
Well, people could argue there is a reason why they are worth 3 billion dollars despite being self-funded. How they treat their employees and customers could very well be that reason.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Ironwood on April 23, 2012, 04:41:55 PM
Quite.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Trippy on April 23, 2012, 05:01:44 PM
If "treating your employees well" would make any video game developer into an id or Valve don't you think they would all be doing that? It's not that simple.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: HaemishM on April 23, 2012, 05:20:47 PM
If "treating your employees well" would make any video game developer into an id or Valve don't you think they would all be doing that? It's not that simple.


It's not that simple, but there are also a shitton of people in the business world who don't believe it works and would never try it.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Miasma on April 23, 2012, 05:27:54 PM
I'm not sure what valve employees really do (and if that handbook is real neither do they), they seem to just be coasting on steam, selling other people's games.  They don't really create much in the way of actual gaming themselves.  With all those people doing their own things you would think someone would say "Hey let's wrap up this fucking half-life plot already".

I'd be content if episode three consisted of nothing more than a choice of three buttons to push to select my CGI ending...


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Kail on April 23, 2012, 05:33:19 PM
If "treating your employees well" would make any video game developer into an id or Valve don't you think they would all be doing that? It's not that simple.

It may be that simple to talk about, but it's very difficult to effect that kind of change on a corporate level.  As Lantyssa (edit: and Haem) mentions, it's not like the CEO of EA can just shift corporate culture overnight, wake up in the morning, fire 90% of his staff, hire the best minds in the industry to replace them, write up a nice powerpoint presentation that says "EVERYONE STOP BEING DICKBAGS" and expect it to work.  It's kind of an ongoing problem in a lot of industries, and there has to be a lot of work put into it at a high level for a long time for it to stick.  

And I don't think that everyone really wants to be id or Valve, at least, not in that respect.  I'm not convinced that companies like EA are really concerned enough about the creative fulfilment of their employees to jeopardize the development of Madden 2013 like that.  That's fundamentally not how the company works.  They could maybe change, and they could maybe make some money, but why would the people at the top jeopardize their current model to do that?  It's more risk than reward for them.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Malakili on April 23, 2012, 05:47:21 PM
I'm not sure what valve employees really do (and if that handbook is real neither do they), they seem to just be coasting on steam, selling other people's games.  They don't really create much in the way of actual gaming themselves.  With all those people doing their own things you would think someone would say "Hey let's wrap up this fucking half-life plot already".

I'd be content if episode three consisted of nothing more than a choice of three buttons to push to select my CGI ending...

Team Fortress 2, Portal, Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, Portal 2, currently working on Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

Yeah, not like they've done anything of note since Half Life 2.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: K9 on April 23, 2012, 06:03:11 PM
and DOTA2

I agree with Trippy that this isn't some universal panacea, but I think when you are in a position to attract the best talent in the world, making efforts to improve their quality of life will have marked improvements on how well they work. If nothing else the creative freedom sounds fantastic. In many ways Valve sounds a lot closer to something like Bell Labs or some of the funkier departments at high-end research universities where really bright folks are allowed to indulge in blue sky thinking, compared to something like EA which seems to operate much more like a conventional engineering firm, or major pharmaceutical company (for the sake of the analogy).


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Miasma on April 23, 2012, 06:23:09 PM
Team Fortress 2, Portal, Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, Portal 2, currently working on Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

Yeah, not like they've done anything of note since Half Life 2.
and DOTA2
Those were all created by groups, modders and companies outside of valve, then valve bought/hired them.  If they managed to get a sequel out the door then they probably weren't absorbed into the thinking behind that absurd handbook.

Don't misunderstand me, I'd love to work for a super rich kooky company that did something off the wall like that - but I still know it's a mostly stupid idea.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: HaemishM on April 23, 2012, 06:34:18 PM
TF2 was built in-house, as was Portal. The ORIGINAL TF was a mod for Quake, but TF2 started as an in-house project and went through multiple iterations before it got released as the game we know now. It was vaporware forever - it's original design called for something more like what Battlefield 2 became. Portal was just a team in-house that said "go do something whacky."


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Miasma on April 23, 2012, 06:53:25 PM
The portal team were outside hires from Narbacular Drop (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narbacular_Drop).  I assume they remained together as a team and didn't randomly move their desks around allowing them to actually put a product out the door.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Paelos on April 23, 2012, 07:03:10 PM
Here's a key point about Portal that other studios should note:

Quote from: Erik Wolpaw
We designed the game to have a very clear beginning, middle, and end, and we wanted GLaDOS to go through a personality shift at each of these points.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: K9 on April 23, 2012, 07:04:40 PM
To an extent, but it would seem that Valve offered those people (like the Portal guys) the opportunity to achieve more with their idea than they ever could on their own, without hamstringing them in the way that a conventional studio/publisher would. Narbacular Drop would have most likely passed through history more or less unnoticed had Valve not picked the guys up and turned their idea into Portal.

As the manual stresses, Valve's main focus (and arguably it's one of it's greatest successes) is hiring people. At the end of the day it doesn't matter if the original idea for something like L4D or Alien Swarm was had outside of Valve, Valve picked those games up and made them into something better than they otherwise could have been, and better than a lot of other games out there.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Paelos on April 23, 2012, 07:18:11 PM
It seems to be the opposite solution from EA which is to buy the Company Name, not the people.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Johny Cee on April 23, 2012, 07:18:18 PM
and DOTA2

I agree with Trippy that this isn't some universal panacea, but I think when you are in a position to attract the best talent in the world, making efforts to improve their quality of life will have marked improvements on how well they work. If nothing else the creative freedom sounds fantastic. In many ways Valve sounds a lot closer to something like Bell Labs or some of the funkier departments at high-end research universities where really bright folks are allowed to indulge in blue sky thinking, compared to something like EA which seems to operate much more like a conventional engineering firm, or major pharmaceutical company (for the sake of the analogy).

Yes.

I have two bachelors degrees.... one from "elite Northeastern private school", where the most common restriction you were given on assignments was on TOO MUCH effort or length.  For instance, most times you had a very hard limit on how long a paper could be, but short papers that made their point were fine.  I'm lazy as they come and I still more than once had to prune a paper from 30 pages and play with font and spacing to get down to the limit.  A routine group project was always in danger of becoming hours of certain people aiming for perfection on something that just didn't really matter that much in the long run.

The other degree is from a SUNY college, where literally if the professor didn't lay down the law people would try to skate out of everything.  I don't know how many times I ended up carrying the load since half the group on a group project was aiming at a pass or willing to skate and not do a blessed thing, and show up on presentation day expecting you to have put together something for them.


Freedom and treating people well works if your employees are dedicated and driven and bright, because what they really need is resources and for idiots to get out of the way.  And let's face it, NFL 2012 or Tiger Woods 15 you just need to get it shat out on time as most of the core game play and everything else is routine.  If the work sucks, or people are there for a paycheck, or whatever....  you better have someone standing over their shoulder driving them.

Didn't we already cover this during the tech boom?  Plenty of studios and developers went with a new model relaxed approach, and ended up either not producing anything or being years late and millions over budget for mediocrity.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Miasma on April 23, 2012, 07:53:58 PM
It seems to be the opposite solution from EA which is to buy the Company Name, not the people.
The results seem to be the same.  Buy company, put out sequel, never hear from them again.  They are like the happy hippy version of EA.  Except that the sequels are good.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Kageru on April 23, 2012, 10:14:43 PM

They also built steam which basically saved PC gaming from extinction, not to mention developing an entire in-house tool suite they can build on.

Didn't we already cover this during the tech boom?  Plenty of studios and developers went with a new model relaxed approach, and ended up either not producing anything or being years late and millions over budget for mediocrity.

What the manual doesn't say is the negative side of it. If you get perceived as being a no-talent, no-potential and impossible to work with drag you quickly get sidelined and ostracised. At which point you are probably going to end up having a chat with someone at valve who wields the hatchet. I very much doubt they've never fired anyone.

The really bad results come when you still have management but try the relaxed approach. Because the employee's have no responsibility and no ability to self organize, exclude people who aren't contributing and a dead-weight can keep their job as long as management (which is in relaxed mode) doesn't notice.

As I said though it works fine for Valve because their product is "stuff that's fun" which is a fairly forgiving goal. Though the Semmler book I mentioned is vaguely similar in approach for a manufacturing environment.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Paelos on April 23, 2012, 10:20:03 PM
It works in the entertainment world.

Still, at some point you have to track the money, and you don't want those guys moving their desks around making up their own assignments.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Viin on April 23, 2012, 10:40:16 PM
Don't misunderstand me, I'd love to work for a super rich kooky company that did something off the wall like that - but I still know it's a mostly stupid idea.

It's not just "kooky" companies. Though Google is certainly "rich" they also do this thing, called self-organized teams.  I don't believe they do it for 100% of their work, but maybe 20%? (Quinton might be able to say for sure).

Other progressive software development companies do this as well.

The biggest thing to remember is that while they are self organized teams, they can't just do whatever they want. Typically, if a team forms to do some project, they have to present a business case to management and get approval from them to move into a prototype or design phase. Once they get approval, they have to identify their milestones and timelines, which they are project managed to.

Self-organized teams != free for all. But, you do get better output from people who chose to work on something because it excites them vs whatever they are handed as the next project.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Megrim on April 23, 2012, 11:15:20 PM
iirc GoreTex runs a similar structure as well. So its not just software developers.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Ironwood on April 24, 2012, 03:45:32 AM
If "treating your employees well" would make any video game developer into an id or Valve don't you think they would all be doing that? It's not that simple.


Nothing ever is and for my part need no reminders of the fact.

But taking a stab at making things easier is a good first step and, frankly, what most companies miss.  Seriously.  Once you're up in the rarefied of Upper Management it's all you can do not to look around your colleagues and realise they're all fucking clowns who are deliberately trying to make it harder for your company to succeed.  No-one will ever admit to it, but it's true.





Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: HaemishM on April 24, 2012, 09:36:41 AM
The more corporate culture I'm exposed to, the more I wonder at how so many of these companies don't implode daily from the sheer stupid bouncing off the walls of their offices. It's stunning the amount of sheer incompetence out there.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Surlyboi on April 24, 2012, 09:46:00 AM
Have to agree with Ironwood and Haem. Even "good" companies have their fair share of idiots running the show that really shouldn't be. They say incompetence rises to its own level, they're absolutely right. Valve gets away with its quirkiness because it's small and agile and can afford to be rather picky. They probably don't have a bunch of know-nothing MBAs running shit either, so that helps too.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Paelos on April 24, 2012, 09:47:40 AM
If you can destroy the job protectionist mentality, a lot of the corporate issues and "incompetence" go away.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Ironwood on April 24, 2012, 10:10:21 AM
Which is what that handbook would actually do.  With a flat structure like that there's literally nowhere to hide.  Add in ever changing peer reviews and, frankly, it gets rid of the Coffee-Cup transporters and the meeting people that we're discussing in that other thread right off.

I also love the beta-testing process they had.  So much win.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Mosesandstick on April 24, 2012, 05:40:54 PM
iirc GoreTex runs a similar structure as well. So its not just software developers.

Gladwell dedicated a significant chunk of one of his books on goretex and the "150" rule.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Quinton on April 25, 2012, 01:07:15 AM
Don't misunderstand me, I'd love to work for a super rich kooky company that did something off the wall like that - but I still know it's a mostly stupid idea.

It's not just "kooky" companies. Though Google is certainly "rich" they also do this thing, called self-organized teams.  I don't believe they do it for 100% of their work, but maybe 20%? (Quinton might be able to say for sure).

Google is pretty flexible -- employees are given a lot of opportunity to transfer between groups (though you can't just pack up your stuff and walk over to another building or something without talking to anyone), to pursue their own projects (20% time, etc), but Valve seems to take it a few steps further. 

Google is also two orders of magnitude larger than Valve.  I'm not sure how far this model can scale -- I know we've developed a bit more process in the 7 years I've been here, which is partially a necessity of dealing with an organization of the size we are now.

My suspicion is that for this model to work you need to start with a small team of excellent, motivated people and grow slowly, ensuring you continue to hire excellent, motivated people.   You definitely need people who can hack it in a management-light environment -- some people thrive when they have freedom, others flail around.  It's a model that I've seen work well for 10-30 person teams, but am impressed to see continue to work well for a company of 300.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Ironwood on April 25, 2012, 03:51:39 AM
The important point here - and one hammered home in the handbook - is that the hiring process is core and they need the right people in the place.

With the right people you can do anything.  With the wrong ones, welcome to meeting hell.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Fabricated on April 25, 2012, 05:57:26 AM
Any company that understands the literal uselessness of crunchtime and gets the million man hour myth is a good company.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Murgos on April 25, 2012, 07:44:58 AM
The important point here - and one hammered home in the handbook - is that the hiring process is core and they need the right people in the place.

With the right people you can do anything.  With the wrong ones, welcome to meeting hell.

This is the key point.  Some people just won't work without a deadline, structure and clear guidelines/goals and can't be assed to explore an idea of their own no matter how many resources you present them with.  Others will bounce around from idea to idea never accomplishing anything.

There probably aren't too many who fit that happy middle (hence the emphasis on T shaped skill sets).


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Kageru on April 25, 2012, 08:24:35 AM

Which valve can afford to demand because they have an amazing rep and lots of people want to work in games and are self motivated to create once there.

... when it's a work-flow database back end no one will ever see (other than when it breaks) more of a challenge.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Ironwood on April 25, 2012, 09:38:26 AM
I'm not sure I entirely agree;  if you have a customer need for something you can create the same motivation in your team with the same hiring process.  It just needs a bunch of people who really, really, really want to make the best work-flow database backend they can and understand it well enough.

 :grin:


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: HaemishM on April 25, 2012, 10:18:02 AM
A lot of that is on people finding the thing that they feel really challenged in a good way to do. I can do graphic design and like it, but for my job, I'm actually more intrigued by trying to take a design and make it work as a clean HTML/CSS template. If you don't want to work on a database back end, or don't enjoy that challenge, no amount of freedom or self-motivation will make you or your product any better. Ironwood is dead on. Hiring the right people is the core step. Most companies don't have a systemic appreciation for the individual efforts and talents of their employees - they are systemically interchangeable pieces. The second piece of organizational juju is making sure those great people you hired are actually working on the things that challenge them in an inspirational manner as opposed to a stressful one. The right people for the right product. The last piece and no less important, is treating them like human beings who have value as individuals instead of Energizer bunny automatons to be tuned to a specific production speed based on when the product has to ship.

An organization like EA (and most dev houses I've heard of) does all 3 steps in the exact opposite manner, and thus are hellish places to work at, and produce good products more by accident than design.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Ironwood on April 25, 2012, 10:20:16 AM
The second piece of organizational juju is making sure those great people you hired are actually working on the things that challenge them in an inspirational manner as opposed to a stressful one.

Very, very true.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: UnsGub on April 25, 2012, 11:04:32 AM
... there's literally nowhere to hide.

Some peole cannot function and leave in our agile process for this reason.  Daily accountability on what you are working on or not working on is not for everyone.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: bhodi on April 25, 2012, 12:22:25 PM
An organization like EA (and most dev houses I've heard of) does all 3 steps in the exact opposite manner, and thus are hellish places to work at, and produce good products more by accident than design.

Which is why they buy smaller development studios and wring them dry.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Murgos on April 25, 2012, 12:23:49 PM

Which valve can afford to demand because they have an amazing rep and lots of people want to work in games and are self motivated to create once there.

... when it's a work-flow database back end no one will ever see (other than when it breaks) more of a challenge.

Considering that Valve's largest and most successful and continually improved product is basically an enormous database (Steam) I think that the opposite is true.  No one seems to want to work on games (See: HL3 release date) and everyone wants to work on the DB.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: kildorn on April 25, 2012, 12:53:32 PM

Which valve can afford to demand because they have an amazing rep and lots of people want to work in games and are self motivated to create once there.

... when it's a work-flow database back end no one will ever see (other than when it breaks) more of a challenge.

Considering that Valve's largest and most successful and continually improved product is basically an enormous database (Steam) I think that the opposite is true.  No one seems to want to work on games (See: HL3 release date) and everyone wants to work on the DB.

Quite frankly, I find the idea of MMO Operations teams fascinating for a few reasons. Most of which have to do with the logistics and new stress points in dealing with exceptionally high volume systems. Most Operations gigs I can get will talk up their setup's stress levels, but in reality the whole thing is running at 30% with 4-6 hours of minimal use all over the place. Things like Steam or WoW have low usage points, but by and large the setup behind that has got to have some fascinating support structures built.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Surlyboi on April 25, 2012, 06:08:45 PM
A lot of that is on people finding the thing that they feel really challenged in a good way to do. I can do graphic design and like it, but for my job, I'm actually more intrigued by trying to take a design and make it work as a clean HTML/CSS template. If you don't want to work on a database back end, or don't enjoy that challenge, no amount of freedom or self-motivation will make you or your product any better. Ironwood is dead on. Hiring the right people is the core step. Most companies don't have a systemic appreciation for the individual efforts and talents of their employees - they are systemically interchangeable pieces. The second piece of organizational juju is making sure those great people you hired are actually working on the things that challenge them in an inspirational manner as opposed to a stressful one. The right people for the right product. The last piece and no less important, is treating them like human beings who have value as individuals instead of Energizer bunny automatons to be tuned to a specific production speed based on when the product has to ship.

An organization like EA (and most dev houses I've heard of) does all 3 steps in the exact opposite manner, and thus are hellish places to work at, and produce good products more by accident than design.

All of that.

On point and correct. Now to get some people where I am to remember that doing the things you mentioned is what made us great and get them to start doing it again.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: WayAbvPar on April 25, 2012, 06:19:43 PM
Once they get that going, feel free to hire me (I need very little responsibility and quite a lot of money...can you make that work?).


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Chimpy on April 25, 2012, 09:22:13 PM
What I got out of it was less about the time table stuff or the organizational structure stuff but the simple fact that they have, as a company, devoted themselves to a culture that says people matter. Be that your employees or your customers, they are what matter the most.

They emphasize hiring quality people, and treating them well. They then ask them to constantly be concerned about serving the customer.

It is the polar opposite of most companies (at least in the U.S.) where people are seen as unimportant in any way other than as a means to transfer money from one place to another. The customer is there to give you money, and your employees are there to take their money.

Conceptually, I love the flatland thing. But I know that I would probably not function that well in one as many of my skillset is best suited to a more hierarchical structure. Though as I think about it, when I worked in the scenery construction business I could very much have been considered T-shaped, and a lot of companies I worked for valued that. But that was a business that was almost without fail peopled by creative types and thus working in a collaborative environment was something they could handle well.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Khaldun on April 26, 2012, 01:07:40 PM
When things work right, a lot of academia has the same "flat" structure. Except that we can't move our desks around and choose who we're teaching with. (Believe me, I would love that.)

When things work wrong, a lot of academia has the same "flat" structure.

This is the tricky problem with any organizational structure. They're all prone to certain intrinsic weaknesses or diseases. They all have certain possible advantages. And if you have great people, they often can overcome every bad structural obstacle put in their way. If you have shitty people, they can often shit up every possible structural affordance and tool they're given. 

To me the smart move is, build a diverse structural ecosystem. Checks and balances: hierarchy against flatness, flexibility against fixed structure. Let people find the structures that are most productive them; let structures find the people who are most unproductive.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Ironwood on April 26, 2012, 02:42:46 PM
Ohhhhh, I wouldn't put Academia in with that at all.  I really, really think that's apples and oranges mate.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: amiable on April 26, 2012, 03:02:20 PM
As much as I love the valve model it really only works if you have a bunch of high-quality, self-motivated and actualized employees.  Even one weak link can be an enormous drag.  The sad truth is that very few people would meet their requirements.  Most people kind of suck.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: UnsGub on April 26, 2012, 03:14:15 PM
Was working on Windows NT when Abrash started at MS.  He now works at Valve (http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/abrash/) and comments on what it is like.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Ironwood on April 26, 2012, 04:43:59 PM
Hey, Sam got a mention.

 :awesome_for_real:


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: UnSub on April 26, 2012, 08:16:27 PM
As much as I love the valve model it really only works if you have a bunch of high-quality, self-motivated and actualized employees. 

... and over a billion dollars a year in revenue whether you release a new product or not.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Kail on April 26, 2012, 08:32:33 PM
As much as I love the valve model it really only works if you have a bunch of high-quality, self-motivated and actualized employees. 
... and over a billion dollars a year in revenue whether you release a new product or not.

We just did this chicken-and-egg argument a page ago, you really wanna go through it again?


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: NiX on April 26, 2012, 08:43:32 PM
Any company that understands the literal uselessness of crunchtime and gets the million man hour myth is a good company.

I just had my annual performance review and one of their comments was that I don't spend enough overtime in the office, which makes them think I'm not learning.

I read the Valve employee handbook the next day and was sad.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: UnSub on April 26, 2012, 09:13:26 PM
Any company that understands the literal uselessness of crunchtime and gets the million man hour myth is a good company.

I just had my annual performance review and one of their comments was that I don't spend enough overtime in the office, which makes them think I'm not learning.

I read the Valve employee handbook the next day and was sad.

Did you read it at work?  :awesome_for_real:


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Viin on April 26, 2012, 09:29:31 PM
I just had my annual performance review and one of their comments was that I don't spend enough overtime in the office, which makes them think I'm not learning.

Any company that expects overtime and *dings you for it during a performance review* is retarded. Find a new job!


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: CmdrSlack on April 26, 2012, 10:59:51 PM
Worse yet, companies that are very passive-aggressive about taking time for family/personal health are a "GTFO" situation. Too bad that the economy and some industries prevent the GTFO mobility that everyone should have.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Kageru on April 27, 2012, 12:08:44 AM

Which is of course why they do it and don't want employee's feeling like anything other than eminently replaceable drones.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Merusk on April 27, 2012, 05:12:09 AM
I just had my annual performance review and one of their comments was that I don't spend enough overtime in the office, which makes them think I'm not learning.

Any company that expects overtime and *dings you for it during a performance review* is retarded. Find a new job!

My first job out of college was a similar company with a similar ding during my performance review.  Except they flat-out said, "You have to work at least 10 hours of overtime a week.  There are 4 of you in your position and if you all do it we don't have to hire anyone else."   This is the same company that also farmed me out to another department and an Engineering consultant as a simple draftsman because there wasn't enough work in house.  They also consistently did low or no-profit work for Xavier University in the hopes they'd be thrown a big high-profile project. (Guess what, they never did! Shocker!)

Don't stay with stupid companies.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Tebonas on April 27, 2012, 05:16:34 AM
That doesn't make sense. 40 hours overtime cost more than another employee who works the same 40 hours at a standard rate.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: IainC on April 27, 2012, 05:23:12 AM
This was the exact reason that I left GW. There was a team of three of us doing everything for WD except pre-press reprography - authoring, editing, photography, layout, the lot for a 12 section monthly. We were routinely pulling 60+ hour weeks to get everything done on time. There was an ad for a new person but the requirements were ridiculously out of whack with the salary so, surprise, no-one who met the requirements wanted to take a 70% pay cut. One morning we were told that all overtime from now on was being cancelled, the only extra hours we'd be paid for was the weekend a month we spent at the printers proofing sheets as they came off the press. We asked how the magazine was going to hit deadlines if there was no overtime and were told that if the deadlines were missed we'd all be fired.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Kageru on April 27, 2012, 05:42:07 AM
That doesn't make sense. 40 hours overtime cost more than another employee who works the same 40 hours at a standard rate.

You assume it's paid over-time. I've been told (by what was then a very large US multi-national) the first 7.5 hours of over-time are free. And the one game company simply called 50 hours a standard working week (over-time was on top of that).


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Surlyboi on April 27, 2012, 05:50:37 AM
Most companies pay you a flat salary and you don't get overtime, anyway. At least, that's how it's been for me. The only exception was when I was consulting. Then I booked a fuckton of overtime.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Merusk on April 27, 2012, 06:33:56 AM
I was hourly and paid overtime but you all are failing to include the benefits, infrastructure and overhead costs of an additional employee.  That's more than just paying a junior staff member 1.5x for 10 hours.  

However, what Surlyboi points out has been true at other companies.  You're a professional so you're paid a flat salary - often without bonuses linked to anything other than company profitability, which means you're paying even more to hire on another professional.

The first 7.5 hours of OT are NOT free.  That's called lying and knowing people will believe you because why would you lie or totally misunderstanding how the rules work.  They're only 'free' if you let the employee take those 7.5 hours as compensatory time off the next work week of the same pay period. http://ppspublishers.com/ez/html/040610txtb.html


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Murgos on April 27, 2012, 07:58:50 AM
I had a salaried position which, at one point, payed overtime as long as you had worked more than 88 hours in a two week period.  87.5 hours and you got nothing, 88 and you got 8 hours of overtime.  Which of course meant that if you had to work more than a few hours overtime you made damn sure you worked 8.  Like I said though, it was salaried so it was really just a bonus anyway and doesn't change your exempt status.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Lantyssa on April 27, 2012, 08:34:53 AM
I've always been salaried, so I've never gotten overtime.  Never gotten bonuses either.

I will do overtime as a part of an emergency.  If the company has an 'emergency' every week, it's not one, it's bad management and my response is, "plan better".  You get 40 hours.  If I'm feeling generous, productive, or just want to finish up a project you might get more, but never, ever, bank on it.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: HaemishM on April 27, 2012, 11:16:05 AM
That doesn't make sense. 40 hours overtime cost more than another employee who works the same 40 hours at a standard rate.

Not in this country. That extra employee costs the company more because: 1) they have to pay payroll taxes for a 5th employee (I think it's usually about 8-15% of what that person makes), 2) benefits cost them (companies who offer health plans often pay 50% or more of the premiums so that the employee isn't footing the entire bill - my company pays most of my health insurance premium and I pay like $20/month), 3) plus any other benefits they offer, and 4) any expenses for having another person there (another computer, another set of software, etc.).

Why pay all that when you can just grind people down to nothing with extra overtime work? They're replaceable, after all - until they aren't. A lot of companies in this country really don't realize how incredibly valuable some individuals are until those individuals are making money for someone else.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Strazos on April 27, 2012, 11:21:50 AM
I just had my annual performance review and one of their comments was that I don't spend enough overtime in the office, which makes them think I'm not learning.

Any company that expects overtime and *dings you for it during a performance review* is retarded. Find a new job!

Crazy - we're specifically barred from saying anything like that in our reviews.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Samwise on April 27, 2012, 11:38:54 AM
I just had my annual performance review and one of their comments was that I don't spend enough overtime in the office, which makes them think I'm not learning.

Any company that expects overtime and *dings you for it during a performance review* is retarded. Find a new job!

Crazy - we're specifically barred from saying anything like that in our reviews.

Yeah, I don't know labor laws that well, but it sounds a lot like something that opens you up to potential liability.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Xanthippe on April 27, 2012, 11:42:04 AM
Any company that understands the literal uselessness of crunchtime and gets the million man hour myth is a good company.

I just had my annual performance review and one of their comments was that I don't spend enough overtime in the office, which makes them think I'm not learning.

I read the Valve employee handbook the next day and was sad.

I am sure looking forward to the economy improving so that people don't have to put up with this kind of shit. I hate exploiters.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Merusk on April 27, 2012, 12:10:59 PM
My story above was 14 years ago; it's not the economy, that's American corporate culture.  It's just that tech sectors are just getting old enough to have more MBAs involved in exec positions than techhies.   You'll be seeing more of this now that the economy forced them to do it and they realize they CAN do it, not less.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: NiX on April 27, 2012, 01:08:17 PM
Any company that expects overtime and *dings you for it during a performance review* is retarded. Find a new job!
I'm working on it. Started updating my resume the next day and going to spend a day with a friend making sure it's good enough to GTFO as soon as I can.

Did you read it at work?  :awesome_for_real:
Yup!

Yeah, I don't know labor laws that well, but it sounds a lot like something that opens you up to potential liability.
I'm in Canada and they actually have outlines for specific industries in regards to hours worked and what you're entitled to. Somehow, as a Business Analyst, I fall into the I.T./Software industry. This entitles my employer to requesting overtime and since I'm salaried I don't get overtime pay.

Edit: This is posted in our lunch room... (http://dl.dropbox.com/u/41161/Photo%20Apr%2027%2C%202%2009%2023%20PM.jpg)


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: HaemishM on April 27, 2012, 01:20:04 PM
I love how managers and supervisors get eating periods covered, but not IT people. NERDS DO NOT NEED LUNCH, DAMN YOU!


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Daeven on April 27, 2012, 02:26:24 PM
That doesn't make sense. 40 hours overtime cost more than another employee who works the same 40 hours at a standard rate.

Full time employees in At-Will work states who work 'overtime' aren't working Overtime. They're working extra hours. So while you're statement is true for Longshoremen, generally not so much for White-collar IT folk.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Soulflame on April 28, 2012, 06:35:03 PM
Plus the cost of mistakes from 10 hours of overtime per week from four people over the longterm will be very very large.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: UnSub on April 29, 2012, 12:24:09 AM
I love how managers and supervisors get eating periods covered, but not IT people. NERDS DO NOT NEED LUNCH, DAMN YOU!

The Cheeto dust on their fingers serves as the perfect at-desk source of sustenance.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: jakonovski on April 29, 2012, 03:23:05 AM
I've often wondered why there's so much ignorance of the fact that by and large, human beings can only do about 6 hours' worth of effective work per day.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Margalis on April 29, 2012, 05:26:56 AM
I've often wondered why there's so much ignorance of the fact that by and large, human beings can only do about 6 hours' worth of effective work per day.

Probably because that's not true. Sure, working people 14 hours a day 6 days a week is crazy extreme and counter-productive, but 6 hours is extreme in the other direction. I honestly can't say I've ever met an engineer or artist who noticeably falls off after 6 hours. If anything at 6 hours a good programmer who is immersed in a tricky issue is raring to keep going.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: jakonovski on April 29, 2012, 06:51:37 AM
I've often wondered why there's so much ignorance of the fact that by and large, human beings can only do about 6 hours' worth of effective work per day.

Probably because that's not true. Sure, working people 14 hours a day 6 days a week is crazy extreme and counter-productive, but 6 hours is extreme in the other direction. I honestly can't say I've ever met an engineer or artist who noticeably falls off after 6 hours. If anything at 6 hours a good programmer who is immersed in a tricky issue is raring to keep going.

We may work 8 hour days, but we practically never do work all the time. You go and get coffee, chat with cow orkers, surf the web or whatever. At the end of the day there won't consistently be any more than that 6 hours (not 100% sure of that number though, cos it's been a while  since I read about it) worth of results, because diminishing returns kicks in.

edit: there's huge individual variation of course.
edit2: a lot hangs on the definition of work too, here I'm talking about stuff where productivity can be easily quantified.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Margalis on April 29, 2012, 07:03:37 AM
We may work 8 hour days, but we practically never do work all the time. You go and get coffee, chat with cow orkers, surf the web or whatever. At the end of the day there won't consistently be any more than that 6 hours (not 100% sure of that number though, cos it's been a while  since I read about it) worth of results, because diminishing returns kicks in.

You seem to be confusing how much effective work people *can* do with how much effective work most people tend to do. Sure, I've worked with people who waste a lot of time at work and probably put in 6 hours at most of real effort, but that's not because they can't do more, it's just because they are unmotivated.

I would totally believe that the average worker puts in at most 6 hours of good work a day. But there is no way in hell I believe that 6 hours is some sort of actual scientific limit and after that you start to be ineffective. I've worked 14 hour days where I was productive for all 14 hours, and I'm not some sort of crazy outlier. Again, I don't think I've worked with a single engineer or artist who couldn't do more than 6 hours of good work in a day.



Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: jakonovski on April 29, 2012, 07:07:24 AM
The key is in the word consistently. As video game companies like to demonstrate, perpetual crunch time does not work. They do not get equivalent results any faster than companies where people work shorter days.

edit: even on a general level, American or Japanese companies do not have an edge over European ones even though they have longer hours.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Severian on April 29, 2012, 11:53:32 AM
This article at Salon (http://www.salon.com/2012/03/14/bring_back_the_40_hour_work_week/) probably has more than you want to read on the subject, but here's an excerpt:

Quote
Evan Robinson, a software engineer with a long interest in programmer productivity summarized this history in a white paper (http://www.igda.org/why-crunch-modes-doesnt-work-six-lessons) he wrote ("Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work") for the International Game Developers’ Association in 2005. The original paper contains a wealth of links to studies conducted by businesses, universities, industry associations and the military that supported early-20th-century leaders as they embraced the short week. “Throughout the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, these studies were apparently conducted by the hundreds,” writes Robinson; “and by the 1960s, the benefits of the 40-hour week were accepted almost beyond question in corporate America.
...
So, to summarize: Adding more hours to the workday does not correlate one-to-one with higher productivity. Working overtime is unsustainable in anything but the very short term. And working a lot of overtime creates a level of burnout that sets in far sooner, is far more acute, and requires much more to fix than most bosses or workers think it does.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Quinton on April 29, 2012, 07:14:45 PM
There's a huge difference between 50 hour weeks and 60+ hour weeks.

9-10 hours a day is actually somewhat sustainable, especially if you buy into the project/product, are excited about the work, and are motivated to make it go.  Of course there's individual variation, etc -- if you have 1-2 hours a day of commute on top of that, etc, ouch.

Pushing beyond that, or working every weekend starts falling over pretty quickly in terms of inefficiency and burnout.  Doing that for more than a couple weeks just before ship or whatnot rapidly becomes a disaster.

Of course also being compensated in a way that's realistic for the extra time is nice as well.  It can't fix the problem that it's not sustainable long-term, but it at least helps you not feel like you're being totally ripped off as a mid-level "salaried professional" effectively making crap per-hour.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Fordel on April 29, 2012, 09:13:06 PM
I've never seen someone who constantly works weekends and/or 9-10 hour days be anything but a miserable cranky asshole.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Chimpy on April 29, 2012, 09:17:59 PM
I've never seen someone who constantly works weekends and/or 9-10 hour days be anything but a miserable cranky asshole.

I work 6 days every week between my two jobs (and 10 hours 4 days during the week) and I am less of a cranky bastard than I was before! Though if I could make close to what I make with both jobs just doing one job I would be happier.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Margalis on April 29, 2012, 10:22:28 PM
The key is in the word consistently. As video game companies like to demonstrate, perpetual crunch time does not work.

Working more than 6 hours at a time is not "perpetual crunch" or anything close to it.

To me a 9 hour day is perfectly normal. That's 8 hours plus lunch. If I'm in the groove I often work longer. A while ago I worked from 10 AM to 9 PM for a long stint, and it was fine. I would aim to leave around 8 but then I had loose ends to tie up or was in the middle of something and would keep going. I'm the type of person that gets a second wind often. I worked that many hours because I had a lot of stuff to get done but also because I was working on fun stuff. Some things just take time to do, especially if you have stuff like compile and build (both code and assets) times that are basically fixed.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Quinton on April 29, 2012, 11:19:10 PM
I've never seen someone who constantly works weekends and/or 9-10 hour days be anything but a miserable cranky asshole.

It can be situational.  During the first year and change at Danger when we were going from zero-to-product (hardware, service, OS, apps, the works), much of the team (myself included) worked 10+ hour days and often weekends most of the time and generally had a great time.  Small team.  Shared vision of the product.  Drive to get it into production and peoples' hands.  It remains one of the high points of my career though it certainly was a huge pile of work. 

Of course the crazy startup thing often works well if you're invested in the experience and it's not "just a job."  It still may not be entirely healthy from a work-life balance standpoint but it can be a lot of fun.  Could I keep doing that year after year? Not really.  Did I enjoy it?  Hell yeah.  Would I hate it under other circumstances?  Quite likely.

There's a big difference between working crazy hours because you're excited to build something awesome and working crazy hours because management has informed you that the beatings will continue until morale improves...


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: jakonovski on April 30, 2012, 01:58:42 AM
The key is in the word consistently. As video game companies like to demonstrate, perpetual crunch time does not work.

Working more than 6 hours at a time is not "perpetual crunch" or anything close to it.

To me a 9 hour day is perfectly normal. That's 8 hours plus lunch. If I'm in the groove I often work longer. A while ago I worked from 10 AM to 9 PM for a long stint, and it was fine. I would aim to leave around 8 but then I had loose ends to tie up or was in the middle of something and would keep going. I'm the type of person that gets a second wind often. I worked that many hours because I had a lot of stuff to get done but also because I was working on fun stuff. Some things just take time to do, especially if you have stuff like compile and build (both code and assets) times that are basically fixed.

It's not about being present at work, it's how much work gets done, on average, and not by individuals. You're clearly an industrious individual and/or someone who hasn't really thought about what goes on during an average workday, moment by moment.

 Also, even if you don't agree on the specifics, the concept is simple: diminishing returns as the workday gets longer.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Ironwood on April 30, 2012, 03:49:54 AM
Speaking for me and me alone, I'd like Margalis to never, ever be allowed to be my spokesman for my working day or my productivity.

 :why_so_serious:


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: bhodi on April 30, 2012, 11:36:14 AM
Since it's topical, my old boss worked at Amazon for 4 years, left around 2005. This is what he had to say:

Quote
Every group lost their lowest performer every year and the position was immediately backfilled. In theory, it sucks. In practice, there was always at least one person per team who was entirely burned out. It was a little more humane than "we've gotten all we can out of you, you're fired" but that's the essence of it. Orgs like amazon/google/microsoft/et al have different recruiting dynamics, it's not like [mutual workplace], where it was hard to even find resumes from decent people. We always had more good people applying than we had room for. Back then, we worked a standard 96-hour week (6x16). Our employment agreements said '40 hours per week or more as required to meet corporate objectives' or some such thing, but culturally we worked 10am-2am 6-7 days a week. Amazon wasn't a warm, fuzzy place to work.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Pennilenko on April 30, 2012, 11:52:55 AM
Since it's topical, my old boss worked at Amazon for 4 years, left around 2005. This is what he had to say:

Quote
Every group lost their lowest performer every year and the position was immediately backfilled. In theory, it sucks. In practice, there was always at least one person per team who was entirely burned out. It was a little more humane than "we've gotten all we can out of you, you're fired" but that's the essence of it. Orgs like amazon/google/microsoft/et al have different recruiting dynamics, it's not like [mutual workplace], where it was hard to even find resumes from decent people. We always had more good people applying than we had room for. Back then, we worked a standard 96-hour week (6x16). Our employment agreements said '40 hours per week or more as required to meet corporate objectives' or some such thing, but culturally we worked 10am-2am 6-7 days a week. Amazon wasn't a warm, fuzzy place to work.

Amazon sounds like it contracts employees into damn near slavery.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: bhodi on April 30, 2012, 11:56:48 AM
Well, he also bought a house with his stock after he left. FTR, he was a technical manager / coder, not a random guy in a warehouse. He left because he wanted a better work/life balance and because he had a kid.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Xanthippe on April 30, 2012, 12:44:25 PM
I've never seen someone who constantly works weekends and/or 9-10 hour days be anything but a miserable cranky asshole.

Provided it doesn't last indefinitely, I have. My spouse worked 70ish hours a week for almost a year about the time I was pregnant with our son, and he loved it. Loved the team, loved the project, the company treated people very well. It was a really fun time for him.

I don't think that he would have continued to be happy had that been a normal work week, though. He loves what he does but not quite enough to do it 7 days a week for years.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: NiX on April 30, 2012, 01:01:34 PM
Provided it doesn't last indefinitely, I have. My spouse worked 70ish hours a week for almost a year about the time I was pregnant with our son, and he loved it. Loved the team, loved the project, the company treated people very well. It was a really fun time for him.

I don't think that he would have continued to be happy had that been a normal work week, though. He loves what he does but not quite enough to do it 7 days a week for years.

Unfortunately a lot of us aren't doing something we love, just something we don't mind doing. The worst part is that I've had something like 10-12 jobs and I know it could be way worse in terms of work environment and stress.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: HaemishM on April 30, 2012, 04:17:34 PM
96-hour work weeks? FUCK A BUNCH OF THAT. Miserable asshole? I'd be fucking murderous.

I worked at a newspaper getting their first web site launched back in 1998. From the time I started at the beginning of February to the beginning of May, I had to get the site up and it was a massive multi-site hydra that had nothing to do with news (the Gannett's shitbags wanted a real estate, classifieds and jobs site before news). For the last month before the launch, I worked from 8 am til 1:30/2 am the next morning, then came back and did it again, every single day of the week including the weekends. By the last Friday, I was fucking mush. That day I came in at 8 am, and wasn't allowed to leave until the next day at 12 noon. And the only reason I was allowed to leave was that I told them I couldn't do this shit anymore and I was going home to sleep. I was literally falling asleep with my hand on the mouse while FTPing files to the server.

I can guarantee you I wasn't in anyway remotely worth one gram of fuck from about 5 pm that Friday. And that was when I was 26 years old. Somehow I managed to sleep that whole Saturday and make it back for another 12-hour day on Sunday to get the goddamn site live. I didn't stay at the job one picosecond longer than I had to. Those fuckers are crazy.

Anybody that tells you overtime is productive is trying to steal from you, and not money but something more precious... time. That person is also a complete gibbering monkey's asshole and should be fired into the sun.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Quinton on April 30, 2012, 07:22:33 PM
Wow 96 is just completely insane, especially long haul.

8-10 hour productive days are totally possible, but beyond that it really gets into diminishing returns pretty rapidly.  In bursts, sure, I've had the occasional 15+ hour day where I was just cranking out the code, or a three day weekend bringing up a new platform where I camped out at the office, but sustaining over 50-60 hours a week for months or more and actually having that time be worthwhile... not something that happens in my experience.

I'm not familiar with the "more applicants than we know what to do with" situation, if you qualify it as "qualified applicants."  Finding good people has always been the hardest part.  Admittedly I tend to interview systems/OS engineers and that's a less common skillset, but even at Google (which definitely gets an absurd volume of resumes submitted) I've found it difficult to find really good people.

And yeah, I'll repeat: crazy hours poured into something that you love (and, ideally, you're getting good pay or other compensation for) is entirely different than mandatory insane overtime.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Fabricated on May 01, 2012, 07:10:41 AM
What the fuck is it with IT/Programming jobs and ridiculous work schedules that people just put up with? Is it just because you're not working with equipment that can actually kill people like factory jobs?

I know my business degree is useless and what I learned was pointless, but literally every book or class I had that discussed HR/compensation/etc basically said, "If you're giving overtime, you are a shitty manager."


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: NiX on May 01, 2012, 07:59:29 AM
What the fuck is it with IT/Programming jobs and ridiculous work schedules that people just put up with? Is it just because you're not working with equipment that can actually kill people like factory jobs?

I know my business degree is useless and what I learned was pointless, but literally every book or class I had that discussed HR/compensation/etc basically said, "If you're giving overtime, you are a shitty manager."

It's really a result of there still being a lot of archaic business practices in place because the people who coveted them haven't retired or died yet. The generation gap in the workplace right now is mostly problematic.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Kageru on May 01, 2012, 09:06:09 AM
What the fuck is it with IT/Programming jobs and ridiculous work schedules that people just put up with? Is it just because you're not working with equipment that can actually kill people like factory jobs?

No professional body. Lawyers and Accountants (and many other professions) have additional levels of certification that reduce the number of practitioners so you can't treat them quite as expendably. Plus it is a relatively young profession and for some reason all the old guys burn out / aren't as employable (probably because they push back when told to work stupid hours).

Working regular over-time is pretty much contributing to unemployment and fat corporate profits.. /cheer.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Murgos on May 01, 2012, 10:23:21 AM
To be fair, other professional bodies do make their (new) employees work retard hours as well.  Lawyers at private practice routinely work 80-90 hours until they make partner and Dr.s routinely work 2-day shifts when starting out.

No, I don't think either practice is justified.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Kageru on May 01, 2012, 10:36:24 AM

Yep, that's how they reduce the number of practitioners. It's a wonderful system if you are on the right side of the bar.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Engels on May 01, 2012, 12:24:40 PM
I used to work at Amazon in the late 90s, and I can tell you that yes, we had crazy overtime during certain periods, but nothing like Bhodi's old boss describes. However, I can imagine some Amazon departments still have that level of nuttyness. Its a hang over from the dot com years, where working at Amazon was basically your 'joy in life'. Amazon folks were your playmates as well as your workmates, and there was a sense that we were all 'making history', so the insane commitment felt more like a mutually shared adventure. Naturally, after the novelty of the internetz wore off, people started to burn out on the hours, and wanted to have a family, and kids, etc.

It was GREAT for 20 somethings making something of themselves. Bullshit for anyone already established in life.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Xanthippe on May 01, 2012, 03:06:48 PM
What the fuck is it with IT/Programming jobs and ridiculous work schedules that people just put up with? Is it just because you're not working with equipment that can actually kill people like factory jobs?

Plus it is a relatively young profession and for some reason all the old guys burn out / aren't as employable (probably because they push back when told to work stupid hours).


Old guys aren't willing to live at the office like young guys are. Which is why they aren't as employable as the hungry.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Merusk on May 01, 2012, 03:16:58 PM
Old guys look back at the ruin of their early lives, families and marriages and say "well that sure as fuck wasn't worth it" and stop working long hours.

Maybe that's just me.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Ingmar on May 01, 2012, 03:27:59 PM
Old guys aren't willing to live at the office like young guys are. Which is why they aren't as employableexploitable as the hungry.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: Murgos on May 02, 2012, 07:15:16 AM
They [old guys] also have less easily replaced skill sets.  Which typically requires their employer to give them more lee-way or risk losing them.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: NiX on May 02, 2012, 08:12:32 AM
They [old guys] also have less easily replaced skill sets.  Which typically requires their employer to give them more lee-way or risk losing them.

I can only hope to one day achieve this status. Tired of the expectation being that I should be paid for as little work as possible while I work ~45-50 hour weeks.


Title: Re: Valve Handbook for New Employees
Post by: jakonovski on May 02, 2012, 09:00:21 AM
They [old guys] also have less easily replaced skill sets.  Which typically requires their employer to give them more lee-way or risk losing them.

I can only hope to one day achieve this status. Tired of the expectation being that I should be paid for as little work as possible while I work ~45-50 hour weeks.

The curious part is that the end result differs very little from Soviet work practices.