Corporate Life

While adding tags to my posts I tagged some of them with “Corporate Life“.

Having worked in both startups and big companies made me realize there are different rules between both. It is hard to build a mental model of working in startups since normally they are chaotic and each story is different. But I can argue with big companies there are similar patterns that hold true to some extent across all of them.

It takes time to build the mental model of the corporate world. I notice it the most with friends who move from small companies to large corporations. At the beginning they are shocked and don’t understand the world around them.

There is the time dimension. Things take a minimum of a week and up to years in the corporate world. When people move from smaller faster environments they are shocked at how the people around them are slow.

There is the motivation. In a small company one is connected to their peers including the company founders. In a big company the culture leans more on the mercenary side and the incentives are different. You can think of it as more exploitation less exploration.

Then there are the different corporate personalities and what I call “game of thrones”. There are typical corporate profiles that behave in a certain way, and there are certain situations where the moves are as obvious as the opening of a grand master chess game. A good introduction to those personalities can be found in books like The Phoenix Project. I don’t know a good book on the “game of thrones”. My corporate expert recommends Robert Greene books (So evil, I know).

I am not the best corporate player. I am good at understanding what’s happening around me, but I am not good at reacting properly. Part of it is laziness, part is lack of discipline, and part fear.

I have friends who are corporate stars. One of them is unstoppable. I call him to consult whenever I am in a situation and don’t know what to do. Although he is young, he had the talent from day one. He is my go to person for all things corporate life.

Finally I try to not put disclaimers at everything I say to avoid it being misinterpreted, but for this post I have to. I am not writing this to say corporates are bad. I am a big believer in capital markets and building big great companies. I am just saying big companies are a different breed and have different rules of play. And if you want to be successful, you have to know the rules and play by them. The good news is there are well known patterns. You just need to find them out, and get a mentor who helps you through. Good luck!

Open Salaries Reflections

One question I got in response to yesterday’s open salaries post was:

And what is your reflections after going through this initiative. How accurate is the data and what observations on the team synergy since then.

My reflections are actually not much. I just took a quick look with more focus on people in the product management job family. In general there were some minor surprises, but nothing major. It turned to be not as scary as it looks (or maybe it is for others, I don’t know).

As for data accuracy, well, it is based on trust. You can’t verify its accuracy unless the manager is also on the list and verifies the numbers of their directs (Managers can’t join the list unless they also share their salaries).

I feel it is accurate to big extent because of the game theoretical element involved if you lie and get caught. I think of it as a variant of prisoner’s dilemma. However I don’t certainly know what makes sense from a game theoretical perspective, assuming one wants to look good while getting access to everyone’s info. Is lying better? And if you lie, should you lie by posting a higher salary? or a lower one? I definitely don’t encourage anyone to lie for the obvious ethical reasons, I am merely interested in the game theoretical analysis of the situation.

On the synergy point, I can’t see any team synergy effects because it is voluntary and the company is big. I think you would only notice this if a big % of a specific team members are on the list and can see the differences in their salaries. And it will make matters worse if those differences are big between people who assume they have the same skills/contribution as their peers.

Open Salaries

I joined Zalando open salary initiative. You submit your salary information to a form, once you do this you get access to all the other submissions of the form.

It took me a long time to wrap my head around the idea. It is scary having your salary exposed to your colleagues.

It can lead to resentment if you discover you are under paid, or fear of envy/hate if you discover you are paid much higher than your colleagues.

After a lot of thinking and discussions with the founder of the initiative inside the company, I decided to join. I already knew where I am in comparison to my salary band before joining. However I had a few reasons to join.

1) Gathering the courage to do this. I like to push my limits and the fact I was fearing the consequences that may arise from this – including my own insecurities – made me more determined to do it.

2) Understanding the market. I hope one day to start a company and this was free data to understand how much it costs per engineer/product manager/data scientist…etc.

3) I don’t fit the typical stereotype of a wheelchair user who is also a social justice warrior, however I thought I might help someone by exposing this info. You never know.

At the end, I believe money doesn’t define one’s worth. What matters is the value you create in the universe and how you treat others around you. That being said, I believe money defines your level of freedom, which I am a big believer in, and that’s why I believe in money.

Tweets are my own

Many people on twitter have in their bio some sort of a disclaimer such as “Tweets are my own and don’t represent my employer”. In my opinion this is totally useless.

If I say something stupid related to my employer, the audience following me won’t say oh, he doesn’t represent his employer, it is just him. People don’t care and won’t draw such a distinction.

And if it gets worse, you will be sacrificed by your employer. No hard feelings, it is the deal.

That’s why I wouldn’t waste part of my twitter bio on something that useless.

Company Management AMA

Most management ask me anything sessions end up becoming HR (compensation, performance, promotions…etc) ask me anything sessions.

Most of the answers in those sessions become expected model answers, which sometimes make me want to ask the person who asked the question “What answer did you expect?”.

Question upvoting systems have benefits like organizing thoughts and anonymity, however since HR type questions are relevant for everyone, they are more likely to get upvoted and hence hijacking the session.

If I am part of a management AMA, I would split the session in parts, part democracy, and part where I pick interesting/random questions to answer, this way I might be able make the session less boring for those who seek an unknown, while addressing frequently asked questions.