Employee Review

  1. 2.0
    Former Employee, more than 1 year

    Poor/false culture and too much politics. Only join if you cannot get similar pay elsewhere.

    Mar 23, 2020 - Staff Software Engineer in Sunnyvale, CA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    - Competitive initial compensation compared to large tech companies like Google, if you believe in their options' value. - Interview process is easier than large tech companies with similar pay. - 10 year exercise window for the options, so no fear to leave any time after the first vesting. - Good work-life balance (at least for the platform teams). Playing Niantic games during work hours is somewhat encouraged. - Most people are friendly.

    Cons

    - They claim to have an open culture, but don't accept negative comments even when things suck. As a platform engineer who just wanted the game/company to be better, I got punished by echoing Pokemon Go players' complaints which had been there for more than a year. E.g. players with close to 200 friends have to spend 20 minutes every day just to send gifts, which is repetitive and produces no value to the company; exclusive moves make the same pokemon caught/evolved earlier useless, even if it was a Mewtwo caught one year ago by spending money. (They're fixing some of those issues, but much later.) If people don’t agree something is negative, how can anyone start fixing it and making it positive? - Sometimes even constructive suggestions are not acceptable. I suggested a reusable dataflow (map reduce) to fix multiple player-facing issues like the missing shiny Entei/Suicune for the initial 22 hours (Sep 2, 2019), missing Psystrike for ~10 minutes after UltraUnlock week 3 (Sep 23, 2019), and missing Shadow Ball from EX raids during New Taipei City safari zone (Oct 5, 2019). Based on my estimation this would only require a couple eng days of one-time initial work and one eng hour for each individual fix. But an executive basically asked me to shut up and said "It isn't helping to suggest solutions only." (I had volunteered to help on 2 other larger Pokemon Go tasks and was willing to help this one as well, but at the very least I need permissions.) - Heavy politics in the calibration process. My manager is the same level as me and cannot join my calibration meeting. My performance score of 2019 was reduced from 4.0 (Strongly Exceeds Expectation) to 2.5 (Inconsistent Performance, 3.0 is Meets Expectation), mainly because of the aforementioned executive's complaint on my "behavior". No one else in the calibration meeting had worked with me closely or had 1:1 with me before that, so I had basically no way to affect my final score. The person who could but didn't consider any of my positive "behavior" during the calibration meeting was later "shocked" when I wanted to leave and spent more than an hour trying to convince me to stay. What gives? You gave me a 2.5 when my skill is worth 4.0, of course I will leave. Why did I have to shut up for 2 months until I got some vested options and a job offer just to discuss this issue equally? Why did you want to keep someone who missed your expectation any way? - Though most employees play it, few people on the Pokemon Go team really know the game well (or the people who know always have other “high priority” stuff to worry about instead of the actual player issues). Before the mass clockblocking of central/mountain time zones’ EX passes on Apr 10, 2019, Silphroad (reddit) already had a post predicting that with 200+ upvotes. But no one on the team did anything. So after that I had to notify them proactively to avoid similar issues twice, including the conflict with Regigigas ticketed event on Nov 2, 2019. (It was simple to postpone the invites before they were sent, but no one else did anything until I warned them in the last hour.) There were other cases where I was able to improve things simply because I understand both the game and some of their tech stack. (My suggestion resulted in the first and simple way to monitor shiny pokemon caught by players, to help prevent missing shiny. I'm glad that they did accept some of my suggestions.) - Poor prioritization on new features vs. fixing existing issues/bugs. AR buddy multi-player took a lot of engineering effort but do players really use it? Why did some long-lasting issues only get prioritized and fixed 2+ years later? To what extent do they consider players’ voices to be large enough? Why did the non-spawn issue on Salamis island get prioritized immediately after some press coverage, but other posts with 1K+ upvotes just got ignored? - Poor feature design process which changes spec a lot, costs additional engineering effort and introduces unnecessary issues. The 20-minute gifting issue was because friendship level was supposed to be asymmetrical initially, so a proper fix requires a lot of changes. - Mediocre engineers. Because the interviews are simpler, the average engineers are not as good as big tech companies’ engineers (Google or Facebook). Engineers’ levels also tend to be inflated. Some “Senior Software Engineers” struggled with designing small systems. Some “Staff Software Engineers” didn’t know much about database transactions even after using them for a while. The same scalability issue on database indexes fixed one week after Pokemon Go launch (and covered in a tech talk) happened again after the recent AR buddy launch. If you play Niantic games, you probably experienced enough issues which could be avoided by better engineers. (There are great engineers at Niantic, but far from enough.) - Though there wasn't another formal valuation/funding round, the real value of the company probably went down because Harry Potter Wizards Unite is far below expectation. IMO WB is the main one to blame, but some people started losing hope of the company as well. - Check blind. I’ve said a lot, check what other Niantic employees said on blind, especially after Jun 2019 (Harry Potter Wizards Unite launch).

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    132 people found this review helpful

    Niantic Response

    Thank you for sharing feedback. You raised a number of points and it seems the underlying theme is that you felt your experience was not consistently one of an open culture. I'm the new Chief People Officer of Niantic and have been here for a couple months. My observation is that Niantic works hard to promote an open culture. In supporting an open culture, there is a lot of debate and often disagreement. It's how you work through the disagreement that cultivates a healthy open culture. Just this week, I was part of an open debate on a challenging decision. I was pleased to see that people could voice their point of view, engage in constructive dialogue and ultimately commit AND support the decision. We have some work to do and embracing feedback from our employees is key to helping us cultivate an open culture. I wish you well on your next endeavor.

  1. 5.0
    Former Employee

    More fun than Niantic

    Sep 15, 2021 - Software Engineer 
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Lots of autonomy in the work place

    Cons

    Can't really think of any

    1 person found this review helpful
  2. 2.0
    Current Employee, more than 3 years

    Engineer

    Sep 27, 2021 - Software Engineer in San Francisco, CA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Great talent. Autonomy depending on team. People are helpful.

    Cons

    Lack of cohesive direction. Large workload, Eng leadership team is weak. Overall Eng culture is lacking.

    2 people found this review helpful

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