Valve Corporation

www.valvesoftware.com
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Valve Corporation Reviews

Updated February 16, 2015
Updated February 16, 2015
11 Reviews
4.2
11 Reviews
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Gabe Newell
8 Ratings

Employee Reviews

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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
  3. 2 people found this helpful  

    Great work if you can get it, and by "get it", I mean "understand it"

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

    I worked at Valve Corporation full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Good compensation, unbelievable perks. Very smart and talented coworkers with impressive high-profile experience in the game and film industries. Got first-hand experience with the fabled Valve flat hierarchy. Family-friendly schedule (at least for me). Enjoyed almost everyone I worked with directly.

    Cons

    The downside to the lack of hierarchy for me was a huge amount of confusion over roles on given projects. Employees are encouraged to take risks and chart one's own course in terms of initiating projects and/or choosing projects to work on, which sounds good, but ultimately left me constantly second-guessing my bigger decisions. I also don't think I picked up many skills that have benefited me outside this company.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
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  5.  

    my review

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

    I worked at Valve Corporation full-time (less than a year)

    Pros

    great culture to be working in.

    Cons

    that all companies aren't run like this!

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    keep up the good work

  6. 8 people found this helpful  

    Great Company

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

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

    Pros

    - awesome work environment
    - very talented people
    - great benefits

    Cons

    nothing bad about this company

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  7. 25 people found this helpful  

    It's like being in high school again.

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

    I worked at Valve Corporation full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Good pay, sometimes good projects, good talent

    Cons

    The lack of solid structure in management reduces the company to schoolyard politics where bullies and loudmouths reign.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Don't make promises to prospective employees that you're not planning on keeping. Stop pushing the hype about flat management structure. It's not true at all.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
  8. 14 people found this helpful  

    The best company to work for in the tech industry

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

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

    Pros

    Amazingly empowering. No management. No red tape. Salaries are above top of the industry. And families come first - work-life balance pretty much couldn't be better. Not constrained by public/outside investment - entirely self-funded, so making customers happy is all we have to worry about. Easy to make an individual contribution that impacts millions of customers in a positive way - every day. Whole company takes everyone to freaking Hawaii (with families) every year - not to work, just to chill out. And so far, things the company doesn't do well have gotten identified and have become the target of concerted redesign and improvement.

    It's not the superficial workplace niceties that make Valve awesome - those are a given. It's the substance of the place that is different.

    Also, Gaben's beard.

    Cons

    Not having a boss often makes it hard (at least temporarily) to know whether I'm doing the right thing. Let's see, what else... Company doesn't yet have an office in Hawaii.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    N/a. Maybe I should use this space to advise myself... Uh, use breath mints more often. Remember to smile.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  9. 6 people found this helpful  

    Great place to work and learn

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

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

    Pros

    You get to work with the smartest people in the industry, you get to take on as much responsibility as you are capable of, you get to directly influence and make decisions about product direction, no on else has the authority to force you into a decision you don't agree with, compensation and benefits are amazing

    Cons

    You will be held to very high standards, having to take on more responsibility and make higher level product decisions can mean additional pressure/stress vs more narrow roles at other companies

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Keep hiring only the very best and don't let standards slip as the company grows

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  10.  

    Brilliant people, brilliant CEO, deluded culture, strange management

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Valve Corporation

    Pros

    Valve has managed to hire some of the smartest people in the world, and strangely, almost everyone there is easy to get along with. Valve pays almost double industry standard. It is a thriving company that is making more money than it knows what to do with. Anything you work on at Valve will affect millions of gamers worldwide. The CEO, Gabe, is truly brilliant, and any chance to hear him or talk with him is worth a lot.

    Cons

    The culture at Valve is a bit like a cult. There's a party line and if you veer from that, it is discouraged with one-liners rather than discussion. Valve cultivates the image of a company where anyone they hire can choose to tackle anything they want, but in reality, people who cause extra work for management can be fired without warning. The incentives are setup so the people who place themselves around upper management the most and are the loudest about what they're doing (that jives with what upper management likes) will be compensated several times more than those who don't. Therefore, if you can't sell yourself well, then Valve is not a good place to be.

    Gabe is a brilliant leader, but he is virtually invisible at the company at this point.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Gabe needs to take a more active hand in encouraging projects to move forward. Sometimes projects at Valve feel like they're completely out of context because Gabe rarely or never provides that context. Sometimes at Valve, a team utterly fails to deliver because there is no place where the buck stops. If Gabe did a monthly reality check with each team and gave some high-level encouragement and feedback, it would help.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  11. 1 person found this helpful  

    Good start for engineers alike

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Valve Corporation

    Pros

    Very good for engineers like myself

    Cons

    No cons at all, you know yeah, none

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