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    I hadn’t heard about the current, promotion practices before this article. Obviously, not believing it until I hear from more Googlers but it sounds believable given how normal businesses work. I found this one interesting since it’s (a) more a talk than a full-on rant, (b) leads author to understand what business relationship is, and (c) shows how incentives for promotion create some of worst problems in legacy tech. The cartoons were great, too.

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      Yes, this is pretty accurate, both from my time at Google and from past public criticisms like this one from 2010:

      What if I tried to design a promotion system to piss off as many employees as possible? What characteristics would it have?

      • No pleasant surprises. In other words, you can only be disappointed if you didn’t get a promotion, you can’t be pleasantly surprised by a promotion.
      • Create unhappiness by dependence on scarce resources. In other words, gate promotions based on scarce resources so that even people who would otherwise be qualified could become disgruntled through no fault of their own.
      • Eliminate accountability from people who make the promotion decisions (e.g., through a committee). That way, promotion decisions can seem arbitrary.
      • Ensure that promotions are competitive races between all qualified candidates. This ensures that people who manipulate that packet in such a way as to have the best looking packets will win over people who are trying to get feedback and improve, which is supposedly the point behind all these feedback systems.

      When I looked at Google’s promotion system through this lens, I was very impressed. It seemed as though the system was designed to create disgruntled employees out of people who might otherwise be perfectly happy.”

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        After reading that, I had a thought - promotion schedules are very similar to games, and probably just as likely to be engaging and rewarding. That is - incredibly hit or miss and incredibly hard to perfect.

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          In my experience, people who really win at those games recognize that it is, indeed, a game, and go find loopholes in the rules. For example, in medium-large companies, I’ve seen people who optimize for glorious notoriety get promoted much faster than people who optimize for actual quality work and “exceeding expectations”. I’m not the only one seeing that, I even accidentally did that once by becoming super friendly with my direct managers; things went super smooth, I got stellar raises, got promoted extra quick (with not much to show as a warrant for that promotion, frankly). I’m pretty sure I got that promotion by just asking for it and having good standing with my manager.

          I think the “upgrade by committee” might be a way to try and mitigate this kind of stuff, but I’d wager there’s ways around that too. Games have rules, rules have loopholes.

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        Just wanted to chime in and say thanks for linking this and the tl;dr. I saw this posted on the orange site and skipped it. You posting it here and taking the effort to summarize made me actually read through it - I don’t regret it.

        Great read, well deserved upvote! :)

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          Thanks for the feedback. Ive tried to really-selectively bring articles or sometimes comments over here from there that yall will like without having to read all ths fluff. There was a ton of fluff today but worthwhile comments and articles buried in it.

          Now, we have the good article over here, an abstract, and low-noise comment section. That’s how I plan to do them in the future, esp if rant-prone topics.

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          I worked at Google. My experience was notably atypical and I wasn’t there for long enough to get a sense of how the promotion system works, first-hand, but what he described rings true and he captured Google culture.

          Corporations in general– I don’t think Google is worse, in this regard, than any other– have a problem whereby they separate work into “male work” and “female work”. The stuff that causes pain downstream but makes the numbers look better and results in brag points one can defend in front of executives is “male work”. The actual upkeep of the business– resolving conflicts, defining culture, helping other people succeed, cleaning up messes, mentoring– is “female work” that executards don’t like to see people spending serious time on.

          OP spent too much time, from the promotion committee’s perspective, on female work that doesn’t directly affect the bottom line.

          I hope it’s obvious that I don’t wish to defend this mentality. In addition to the subconscious misogyny, it’s fascistic and short-sighted.

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          The pipeline didn’t record many metrics. The ones it did have made it look like things had gotten worse. My bug discoveries caused the overall bug count to increase. The pipeline’s failures increased because I made it fail fast on anomalies instead of silently passing along bad data. I drastically reduced the time developers spent repairing those failures, but there were no metrics that tracked developer time.

          I have begun to expect this is a core problem with software development under the wage system. Employers need some way to determine whether worthwhile work was done, but when you’re removing code (the best possible work you can do), determining the worth of that work requires a time investment comparable to the time it took to actually do the work. The result is universally bloated code being produced by big companies, regardless of how many developer hours would be saved by removing the bloat.

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            I worked at Facebook, who had (presumably have) a Dead Code Society group. If you delete a few hundred lines of code in a task (without replacing it by a few hundred other lines, obviously), you post your diff in the group. Large deletions get t-shirts (peer recognition) and management recognition.

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              Wow! I guess I would have got a new wardrobe, had Facebook contributed to Harvey! :-D

              Google employees instead have a different culture

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              Yeah. The good news is some are coming up with ways to let managers see the problem. I just submitted my favorite example.

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              I really liked this quote that shows the insane scale these mega companies work at

              If I ever made a mistake at Google that cost the company $10 million, I would suffer no consequences. I’d be asked to write a post-mortem, and everyone would celebrate the learning opportunity. For most of these founders, a $10 million mistake would mean the end of their business and several lifetimes of debt.

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                Well.. This is just a really hard problem and something many large companies struggle with. The startup or freelance route he’s going down is in many ways much harder though.

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                  Uh yeah, he’s gone from something with a little risk of BS and setbacks to something with a large amount of both. Maybe Id buy it if he just said consulting with his Google skills and creds. Instead, he’s basically bootstrapping with stuff he doesnt have a business model for yet. He’ll also have to do similar feature focus to appeal to most software markets.

                  He might have been better off just picking a different company with better incentives or consulting in his skill areas. I sent him a link to Barnacl.es anyway along with a “Good luck!” Maybe he’ll be in lucky percentile [again after getting hired by Google].

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                  “promotion decisions come from small committees of upper-level software engineers and managers who have never heard of you until the day they decide on your promotion”

                  While that has been true until now, it just changed, at least for Sr. Software Engineer and below.

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                    Whats the new method?

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                      Now it’s a set of sr. engineers who work in the same product area and will know what every candidate worked on.

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                        Both the procedures are eerily similar to my current company. I guess people take cultures with them to their new workplaces.