Valve Corporation

www.valvesoftware.com
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There are newer employer reviews for Valve Corporation

23 people found this helpful  

possibly the best game company to work for

  • Comp & Benefits
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Senior Management
  • Career Opportunities
Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

I have been working at Valve Corporation

Pros

good quality of life, and being surrounded by creative people. there are many reasons to work at valve. the standards are pretty high, but they push you and really make you strive for the newest, best thing. there is no formal management structure, and responsibility is given on a competence level or if one asks for it. there is lots of room to try new things, so you feel like you are learning all the time. i have been at valve for many years and found it to be extremely rewarding, both in a business sense and personal one.

Cons

very competitive internally (high standards).

Advice to ManagementAdvice

more insight into what's happening at the company, future plans.

Recommends
Approves of CEO

11 Other Employee Reviews for Valve Corporation (View Most Recent)

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  1. 13 people found this helpful  

    Challenging, chaotic, interesting, surprisingly similar to other great companies

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Engineer in Bellevue, WA
    Former Employee - Engineer in Bellevue, WA

    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.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  2. 6 people found this helpful  

    Valve is theoretically utopia, but the reality falls short

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - No Job Titles in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - No Job Titles in Bellevue, WA

    I have been working at Valve Corporation full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    Valve is a hugely profitable company filled with brilliant developers. They try hard to understand what their customers want, and their steady revenue stream (from Steam and other sources) gives them the luxury of taking their time and doing the right thing.

    The lack of management can be liberating. As long as you don't make stupid choices you get huge flexibility in deciding what you want to work on. You can change projects and, within reason, decide what to work on within a project.

    The resources needed to do your job are generally always available, as they trust you to make responsible decisions with the company’s money.

    Cons

    The idealistic paradise is ultimately undone by a flawed review system. The lack of managers means that a peer review system is necessary, and Valve is very proud of theirs. But their review model is best described as a “popularity contest masquerading as data”. You never know who will (or who has) reviewed you so you have no opportunity to remind them what you have done, or why your work was valuable.

    Employees react to this review system with strategies such as choosing more visible (even if less valuable) work, announcing accomplishments to the whole company in hopes of being heard by their reviewers, or just hoping that reviewers will remember the work they did nine months earlier. None of these are ideal.

    Valve strives for a hands-off objective review, but in reality the system is manipulated by those who run it. All employees’ opinions are equal, but some employees’ opinions are more equal than others, and those employees who run the review system have significant impact on how others are evaluated and compensated.

    You also receive no feedback from your review. You get a bonus, and perhaps a raise, and (rarely) some stock options, but other than those numbers in an e-mail you get no information. There is no indication as to whether you are getting better, or worse, or how you could improve. There is no information about how your performance or compensation look compared to your peers. Many employees don’t even realize when many of their coworkers are getting stock options, and the owners rely on this opacity. Those who get stock options do extremely well, and the others do not. It’s an unacknowledged two-class system.

    The rational response to this uncertainty is to find a patron – somebody who can guarantee you a good review if you do their bidding. These patrons (the knights) guarantee themselves good reviews by doing the bidding of a higher-level patron (a baron), and the barons pledge fealty to the board members. This unofficial structure necessarily evolved and you opt out of it at your peril. The irony of a hierarchical structure spontaneously forming in Gabe Newell’s company after he has spoken so strongly about the problems of “command-and-control type hierarchical systems” is delicious. As was noted in “The Tyranny of Structurelessness”, “structurelessness becomes a way of masking power”, and this masked power is more insidious than formal power.

    So, I quit in order to get better compensation, an acknowledged hierarchy, and appreciation for my work.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The review system needs to be fixed. The moderator should be prevented from influencing people’s opinions and a way should be found to give employees better feedback about their performance.

    Most importantly, employees should be allowed to create a one-page summary of their year’s work, and reviewers should be required to read these. I can’t easily remember what I did nine months ago so how can my reviewers be expected to? Only then can the review system become at all accurate.

    Compensation in general should be more transparent, and every employee should receive a few stock options every year, instead of randomly dolling out one-time grants. The use of large and occasional grants makes stock options an even more capricious method of compensation than normal.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
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