Talis Information Reviews
1 person found this helpful
Pros – a great place to be if you want to be visible and accountable and want to work with some smart, very committed people, doing some interesting fun things. Opportunities arise quite often by making a personal decision to understand and develop a knowledge of something. This personal initiative is encouraged and supported. Learning is expected
Cons – Its full on and can be relentless. The visibility can be a double edged sword. Making your own role is great if that's what you want but can be incredibly personally challenging
its not in California
Advice to Senior Management – Keep listening across all parts of the company all of the time, keep that listening evident for all and maintain the information sharing as the challenges increase
Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend
2 people found this helpful
Pros – The company is organised into 3 divisions, so the type of work developers are involved in varies depending on the focus of the division. I have only experienced working in one of these divisions, but from my own time in post, Talis offers the following:
- Very strong technical team with a forward thinking mindset and a broad and deep range of skills; there are a lot of people here from whom you can learn
- Interesting and challenging projects in emerging areas (e.g. Semantic Web, Collective Intelligence)
- Human scale employer (c. 100 employees and planning to remain around a similar size), meaning you are considered and treated as a real person as opposed to just a faceless cog in a big machine
- "20% time" (and not just for developers) to pursue technologies and projects of interest during core working hours, most recently through internal hack days
- Working with interesting, cutting edge and emerging technologies on a regular basis
- Agile development practices and a commitment to continuous improvement, fully backed at management level. TDD, continuous integration, pairing, etc. are pretty much standard across all divisions, but each team is free to adopt and refine a process that works for them
- Flexible working; every employee has a laptop (you can choose whether you want to go with Mac, Windows or Linux) and working from home when required is never a problem
- The opportunity to have a real influence on your own working environment in terms of technologies, tools and processes
- Open and friendly culture
- Regular and valuable feedback from director & senior management level, including quarterly company meetings providing detailed information on the financial and strategic goals and performance of the company and each division within it
- Employee share option scheme
- Lack of internal politics, squabbling and ego-driven behaviour
- Excellent visibility and standing in the Semantic Web community, which is an area Talis is investing in increasingly for the future. Don't take my word for that; just Google "semantic web talis" and spend a few minutes following some of the links. The same is also true for the Library community, which was the original focus of the company and is still the biggest source of company revenue
- As a developer, I report directly to a developer (and a very good one at that), i.e. someone that has a full understanding of my job. The developer I report to also reports to a very strong developer, so the 2 layers of management directly above me are both highly technical people with a very solid appreciation of software development. In my experience, this is invaluable.
Cons – The location could be better; Talis is situated on a modern business park close to Birmingham International airport. Whilst the environment is pleasant enough, there isn't really anything much around in terms of amenities (shops, banks, etc.) within walking distance.
Advice to Senior Management – I don't have any advice for the senior management team; they seem to know what they are doing. The only reason I am filling in this section of the form is that it is a mandatory field and I couldn't submit without completing it.
Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend
Pros – Great technology, some great people (that avoid becoming managers), good work life balance on the surface
Cons – There appears to have evolved a distancing between senior management and the rest of the business, which has manifested itself in a very dictatorial, none-consultative and opaque style of management. This is not only worrying and undermining for those directly on the receiving end, but has also helped create a culture of fear and distrust amongst the majority of Talis employees.
This is particularly true of two members of the Senior Management Team (SMT) who have very little management experience.
There are numerous people who will confirm that the SMT continue to make decisions behind closed doors, without negotiation, consultation or even reasonable explanation with those the decisions will effect, even if the effects are profound and result in changes to the individual's core role, responsibilities and sometimes employment contract. Often decisions are communicated in a worse than dismissive way, verging on bullying.
There is a growing impression based on the way SMT has conducted its self over the last few years or so, that anyone who speaks out against what are clearly mistakes by the SMT, that they will eventually leave the company aggrieved, even if no formal process is started.
There is a sense that particularly when managers reporting to SMT start to question or challenge the two SMT members in particular, that the issue stops there. Also that if the CEO becomes involved or is directly challenged he will seek council only from the SMT members and do nothing to take a wider view. In fact probably part of the problem is that the CEO has removed almost all channels of feedback that go below the SMT; it has been noted in company meetings by those brave enough to speak out that the CEO appears to be distancing himself from Talis. It is clear that he has a lot of trust in his SMT members, which in some ways is commendable, but it verges on blind trust and allows no room to seek sensible mechanisms to appraise the SMT's performance. His impression of what is happening at Talis comes almost exclusively via the SMT.
Worse than the fact that if there are serious issues raised to the two mentioned SMT members the issue stops with them, is that it appears almost as though they close ranks to protect themselves from any negative impression that should make it to the CEO, and are prepared to twist the truth, quote out of context and deny past statements and conversations so as to direct the blame away from themselves, they do all this hoping the opacity they've created will hide the truth from us, so when, inevitably their tactics require them to focus their failures on a scape goat, and there have been many at Talis, we wont notice.
Advice to Senior Management – read less, I was going to say do more, but actually do less too, do less of what you are doing and do more of respecting the people who actually make the thing tick. If its about the people find a people person who is in fact personable
No, I would not recommend this company to a friend
Pros – Talis have flexibility at the heart of their work ethos. Home working, laptops for every employee and flexible working hours are all what I experienced as a developer at Talis. However, these priviliedges were being curbed towards the end by a manager who didn't understand the team, had little grasp of how to communicate with us and ignored our advice effectively demanding we accept and implement his ideas, effectively dismantling the team.
Cons – Top heavy management structure. For a company of roughly 100 people we had 4 layers of management, CEO (chief exec), CTO (chief tech), TA (tech architect) and team leads. The two top levels sat in offices away from the rest of the company and hardly spoke to the rest of us. Communication between the layers was poor and decision making was massively impacted.
Be assured there is little scope for career advancement at Talis. People are put in and taken out of roles at the whims of top tier management. You are more likely to get ahead through sycophancy than merit. In fact I've seen two very competent senior managers constructively dismissed because they were trying to improve their areas of the business which was highlighting the deficiencies of their managers. Projects with source code in a poor state have been half completed by those in team leaders that are in favour and passed across to teams less in favour to do the hard bit and the blame for the lack of progress has then landed on the shoulders of the largely innocent recipients.
They make out to their customers that progress on key products is continuting at a steady rate when the teams that worked on those products have mostly moved on to pastures new to escape the destructive atmosphere. Staff turnover at Talis is massive with over 100 people moving on or being forcibly removed in the last three years. That's 1/3 of the company each year.
The last internal company meeting (which, at the time of writing, was Dec 2008) indicated that profit was nearly 0%. Staff pay structure is almost non-existant with wages reflecting your ability to massage the egos of the top tiers of management than deliver good, quality software/products.
They have diverted cash away from their main library software products in a gamble on semantic web technology. Whilst not necessarily a bad thing in itself their approach is doomed to failure. They have left hardly any money for future development of their existing product suite putting their existing client base at risk and are piping the cash into a SaaS semantic web platform that doesn't scale and is difficult to use. A simple open source offereing hosted in the cloud would derail their whole approach and any business model based on it would collapse leaving all the money invested wasted.
Edit: - whoops, there already is one. It's called OpenLink Virtuoso.
Advice to Senior Management – Resign
No, I would not recommend this company to a friend