Hacker Career Advice
The Cult of Culture
For the last decade, tech recruiting has put a lot of emphasis on “culture.” And at face value, that seems very progressive.
After all, we ain’t robots. We have thoughts, feelings, ambitions, and it feels great to work on challenging problems with like minded people who share our values.
But, I do have some issues with this cult of culture.
1. Companies and culture aren’t static
The company you join today won’t be the same a year from now. Here are a couple examples:
- Company A becomes massively popular thanks to 3rd party developers. But an increasingly developer-hostile attitude leads to deprecated APIs and stagnant product development.
- Company B bans brain teaser interviewing and drops 4 year degree requirements, opening up a bigger and more diverse talent pool.
- Company C starts off as an exciting community, but in order to improve profitability, product shifts pro-business and anti-user.
- For decades, Company D is known as a monopolist, but new management changes course and devotes significant resources to open source and innovation.
If you join a company because you love its culture, be prepared for it to change.
Your product can change. Your mission can change. Your team can change. And you will definitely change.
2. Company culture is not the same as work culture
When CEOs, founders, and recruiters talk about company culture, they highlight stuff like their vision, motto, employee perks, and inspiration behind the company. It’s the indoctrination part of culture.
And while it’s important to know about & buy into those things, it’s different than the more practical work culture which affects your day-to-day and career growth.
Work culture deals with how teams interact with each other and how they are structured: cubicles or open office, flat & collaborative or siloed & secretive, micromanaged or autonomous, chaotic or well aligned, etc.
Before signing an offer, think about both the company and work culture you’re committing to. Are you more flexible about your work environment or the purpose of your work?
In my experience, you’re more likely to leave a company because of how it operates, than what it believes in.