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- Comp & Benefits
- Work/Life Balance
- Senior Management
- Culture & Values
- Career Opportunities
I worked at Valve Corporation full-time (more than a year)Pros
Valve offers extremely generous benefits and perqs, and affords employees high levels of trust to do whatever they need to be productive. It is a privilege to work with the folks at Valve because nearly all are exceptionally accomplished, competent and eager to build something great. The environment really encourages employees to be positive and to focus on work that will directly impact the customer. Productivity is rewarded in part by peer review which makes employees accountable to their team. Changing teams/projects is usually easy, and is usually each employee's own decision. Employee autonomy is inherent in Valve's process.Cons
Many of the ways in which Valve seeks to differentiate from other companies are not actually so valid. While it's true that Valve has no official job titles or promotions, compensation varies greatly among employees and many teams have an obvious pecking order. There is no formal management structure, but it's clear that some people have substantially more control over project direction and the work of others. Even though productivity is said to be the only metric that matters, people who are already connected or are accomplished social engineers will do just fine. Denying that all of these social forces are at work makes the problem intractable and difficult to even discuss.
For a company that makes so much money, Valve is surprisingly risk-averse. New projects, internal tools, dev infrastructure, and anything that doesn't contribute to a current product are met with disdain. Because teams are intended to be self-forming, it's rare that enough people will want to assume risk to all collectively embark on a new project. It's too safe and too profitable to just contribute to something that's already successful. Even though failure is supposed to be tolerated and even encouraged so that employees will try new ideas and experiments, there is little evidence of this. After a few rounds of bonuses, folks learn quickly what is rewarded, and what is not.
Valve's success has made folks arrogant, and this contributes to the problem of how new ideas are considered and discussed. Dogmatic thinking is actually common because people can always point to a great success in the past and use this to justify why everything should continue as it is. Some folks at Valve do not want the company to grow. Valve already has an incredibly strong profit/employee ratio. Why dilute it? This line of thinking crops up in project discussions as well, and causes many ideas to be dismissed because they seem too niche/unprofitable (at the time).Advice to ManagementAdvice
I think that funding separate companies would be the best way for Valve to invest in new/different product areas. Identify capable teams who already work together and let them make their own rules and set their own goals.
Be more honest about management structure. It will go a long way toward helping people make better decisions and will create more trust among employees.RecommendsPositive OutlookDisapproves of CEO
Getting an Interview
Getting an Interview
- Application Details
I applied online. The process took 6 weeks – interviewed at Valve Corporation in January 2015.Interview Details
Applied online, got a response about a week later that there was overlap between my skills and what they needed. Set up a phone interview with two senior designers that we had later that week.
Phone interview was a simple, if a bit contentious, portfolio review. I was surprised that they not only challenged what I said (totally fine), but did so in a pretty irascible manner. They were definitely ready for me to misspeak or screw up. Regardless, I just continued to explain my work and at the end they put me on hold for a moment and told me they'd like me to come in for an in-person session.
In-person session took place about a month later, mostly because of the Christmas break. Was a multi-part process with teams of two - I made it through three rounds, first two rounds were with two designers each and the third round was lunch with a lawyer and a developer. First round was another portfolio review, second round was a design working session (design a mobile app), third round was less focused.
What I would do differently:
First round: I spent a lot of time explaining the product I've been working on, not nearly enough time taking credit for it. I'd make sure to emphasize the scope of my role more, and to explain that I'm showing them each of these features because I was strategically responsible for them at some level.
Second round: I made a genuine mistake by jumping in too quickly to sketching out ideas on the whiteboard, without asking enough questions beforehand. Who is the target audience, Why does the client want it, basic problem discovery. In retrospect, was a pretty huge oversight.
Third round: This one was a little strange. lunch interviews with people who don't particularly want to be there are always less than fun. I was asked what I would change about Steam, which is actually a bit of a touchy topic it seems. I said that I'd try to simplify the profile/account management stuff, which is currently pretty labyrinthine, and I also said I'd want to get rid of the carousel on the homepage of the store. This received a lot of pushback, and I think I was able to defend my position well enough, but I wish I'd had more data at hand to back myself up. I also think I should have been more willing to use my anecdotal opinion of the carousel (that it's annoying and frustrating) as justification for changing it.
I was told after the third round that they weren't going to continue with me. I was given two reasons/pieces of feedback: 1. That I didn't have the strategic/high level experience necessary (this is incorrect, and effectively an indictment of my poor, overly humble self-selling), and 2. That I should have asked more questions before jumping into the working exercise (this is totally correct).
The upshot: it was an overall good experience that didn't lead to a job, but was certainly one of the more challenging interview processes I've experienced. It made me a better interviewer on both sides of the table.
My advice to future candidates: I think getting a job here as a designer takes a lot of self-positioning/selling, and a bit of luck - get them on the right day or whatever. Be aware of the product you're selling (yourself as a designer) when you go in, and sell it enthusiastically. But honestly, don't go into this one thinking you'll probably get a job. They're interviewing a LOT, have a ton of candidates at hand, and they really look for any reason to turn someone down. I don't mean this in a negative way, I just mean that you can think you're holding your own pretty well (I did), and you'll suddenly get dropped for reasons that may not make total sense to you. It's great interviewing experience at the least.Interview Questions
No OfferPositive ExperienceAverage Interview
- My design working session was to design a mobile app. View Answer
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Valve Corporation keeps gamers moving full Steam ahead. Along with creating video games for consoles and portable devices from Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony, as well as for the PC, Valve also runs the industry-leading online game distribution, management, and social platform Steam. Popular Valve titles such as Half-Life, Portal, and Left 4 Dead are available on Steam, as well as games from publishers such as Electronic Arts and Ubisoft. Valve also licenses its Source game engine to game developers and others, and it provides gaming content to a network of cybercafes in...