I have been working at Valve Corporation full-time
Great people to work with
awesome company community
none I can think of. had a great opportunity there
I worked at Valve Corporation full-time (More than 5 years)
Free food, smart people, casual working enviornment , gym
advertising flat structure when there actually isn't flat structure, not enough/proper communication between teams, things go through a lot of instances before they finally "come together" or "start moving" - even years, or not at all, management has too much power and directing pace of projects too much compared to well known iconic public individuals(Gabe etc.)
Advice to Management
I enjoyed my stay at VALVe in the beginning very much so, was very exciting to be part of this vibrant team. Like mentioned the pros are marvelous and teams can start to feel like a family but the company "changed" over the years, coming to work started to feel more and more mundane as it was only maintenance most of the time, the project restrictions from the leads/management(yes there are, dont believe Valves propaganda ;) ) made me lose this exciting vibe for working there, some old coworker folks started to retire or leave voluntary and made the workplace feel even more generic, the company has started to become a chaotic playground which then again wasnt chaotic cause of aforementioned restrictions and guidelines/project priorities;
If you were a young developer just finishing colleague and wanting to kick off a career in gaming and it was 2009 - I'd say join Valve. Now in 2017 - Valve is still a good place to get ton of experience and make good connections in the industry, but not a good choice if you want to be creative and speak your mind out. A young dev should be able to push his limits, engage with new exciting scenarios every day, and experience beautiful but stressful flow of game production/design/shipment, sometimes even pull allnighters like I did in my younger days ;). Aspiring devs doing maintenance work is wasted resource and time for these young folks, something no one seems to care about at Valve anymore(from my experience late 2015 - doubt things have changed much though 2 years later).
So: good company - lost it's "magic"
I worked at Valve Corporation full-time
Work/life balance, if you choose to prioritize it
Recommend chatting with someone who's previously worked at Valve and left before accepting an offer.
I worked at Valve Corporation full-time (More than 3 years)
The best part about VALVE is by far the people who work there. For the most part, they are a brilliant, down to earth and fun group to be around. The laid back office culture is a plus, as is the flexibility to set and adjust your work schedule. The healthcare benefits are amazing and the fringe benefits are some of the best around (free onsite personal training sessions for employee and employee's partner/spouse, yearly all expenses paid trip to Hawaii, free food/snacks, lax control and encouraged use of corporate cards for socializing and team building, etc.) If you are a rock-star in the field that is currently the in thing with upper management, then pay and bonuses/options can be pretty generous.
For lack of a better analogy, I think VALVE can best be compared to a department store window display. From the outside, with your nose pressed up against the glass, everything on the other side looks amazing. It's full of new and exciting things, all perfectly arranged and spotlighted with the outside world in mind. From the inside however, behind the display, you soon start to notice the way things were hastily put together, or the items are for display only and don't actually work. The dust and decay is starting to build up in the areas hidden from view and you soon realize this one display window doesn't necessarily provide an accurate representation of the store behind it.
While still working at VALVE, I had the opportunity to chat with a number of former employees (including those who left voluntarily and involuntarily) about the positives and negatives of working at VALVE. It's funny how when you are still an employee, you can brush off the critiques and convince yourself everything is great due to the fringe benefits and office environment. Working there, you almost train yourself to ignore your own gut feeling deep down that is telling you something isn't quite right here.
Lack of senior leadership and strategic direction. Gabe Newell hasn't been actively managing the company for years. Besides playing DOTA games in the office and reversing a decision to ban the game Hatred from Steam, I can't think of anything else he has really done in the last few years. To be fair, I don't begrudge him for this and everyone deserves a break at some point, but stop pretending already and officially hand over the reins.
Those currently "running" things don't have the qualifications or drive to do much more then let Steam continue to make money. Strategic goals or long term plans are ill defined or non existent. Those making decisions at Valve confused arrogance for brilliance sometime ago. Instead of making products that customers actually want, Valve jumps from new technology or idea to the next like a schizophrenic playing hop scotch. Expect nothing from Valve over the next few years but micro economies masquerading as games and hardware products nobody wanted or asked for. The project I saw the those at the top put the most amount of effort into was having new offices designed. I guess if you are going to show up to work and do nothing but play games and surf the web, your office should look cool at least.
Compensation. Unless you are a rock star in the field Valve currently favors, don't expect "amazing" compensation. I understand the income disparity between top performers and everyone else is status quo in the tech industry, but for some reason this myth exists that VALVE pays everyone fantastically. It's not true. Especially if you are in a non-tech position, supporting a product or doing any other non-technical work your compensation will be just OK for the Seattle/Bellevue area. Also, if you fall into the latter category do not expect salary matching bonuses, and nobody will ever mention stock options while you are in the room. I think upper management follows the first rule of Fight Club when it comes to options, you do not talk about options.
Lack of meaningful performance reviews. The peer review system is one of the worst aspects of working at VALVE. It's basically, stack ranking, but the results aren't based on meaningful data. It really is a popularity contest and who can portray importance/being busy the best. Results are then entered into a system and then stacked against everyone in the company, in theory. I say in theory because I saw the results for an entire group tossed and the previous years rankings used for no other reason then the man in charge was upset and decided to do it that way. So basically, at years end when bonuses are released, you are waiting for an email with a number and you have no clue what it will end up being.
Lack of company employee protections and competent human resources department. I mention employee protection because there really is no standard process for termination at Valve. You want to avoid upsetting the wrong person or having a different opinion from someone in the good graces of upper management at Valve. Problem is, you don't always know who that is or who has say over your employment status. You can be fired by someone completely outside of your group if they have the ear of a senior leader.
In regards to human resources, previous HR managers at Valve actually functioned as HR, providing feedback, acting as mediators and were generally a good resource regarding performance/standing. The HR team today at VALVE act as paper pushers and fill an office requirement. Since they aren't part of the hiring/firing process decision making, anything goes.
Personally, after many years of employment, I was let go via a generic email following a group meeting with 1 days notice.
Advice to Management
Retire or sell the company. Seriously, it doesn't seem like any of you actually enjoy coming to work and you are all wealthy enough never to have to work again. The value you provide isn't clear, because it sure isn't leadership.
Also, you have confused your own arrogance with brilliance quite awhile ago. Stop making products people don't want and haven't asked for and listen to your customers.
If you insist on keeping the flat structure management system, then please implement some actual HR guidelines and protections for employees. Also, implement a real employee performance review and feedback system.
I worked at Valve Corporation full-time (More than 3 years)
Great benefits and competitive pay.
Good work life balance.
Fully stocked kitchens and free personal training.
Flat company structure allows for cliques and messy office politics.
They treat all of their employees as though they are expendable.
Benefits do not make up for the unappreciative company leaders.
Advice to Management
Treat your employees with respect and appreciation.
its a great company i wish it had
THERE IS NO HALF LIFE THREE
I have been working at Valve Corporation full-time (More than 8 years)
Valve can be an amazing place to work, but it requires the right fit.
The people who will do well at Valve need to be high performers in their specific area, but beyond that they also need to excel at thinking about users and products and contributing to product level decision making. Additionally people need to be able to take in a lot of sometimes conflicting opinions and advice from co-workers who are all peers and then go make good decisions on what they should work on and what direction they should take their work independently. People who can demonstrate an ability to do those things well will be afforded a huge amount of freedom, independence, and responsibility at Valve.
Most of the people who do those things well are extremely happy at Valve and have trouble imagining leaving. For those people Valve is a place of huge opportunities, freedom to take big risks, freedom to work on many different projects, and a place filled with smart people who will help you accomplish things you couldn't on your own.
In terms of more tangible pros compensation is competitive at the base level, and for high performers bonuses (cash and sometimes equity) can be extremely generous. The company takes you and your immediate family on a free vacation to a fancy resort every year, you get extremely good medical coverage, life insurance, a very generous 401k matching plan, free food, free personal trainers, etc. Overall benefits are generally as good or better than the best companies out there.
The biggest con is that fit can be difficult to measure up front. The company has a difficult hiring process and works hard to measure not just your competence at your role but also your ability to work without a manager and to make high level user/product decisions. This process is tuned towards allowing false negatives and trying to avoid false positives but mistakes in hiring can still be made.
For those who end up inside the company and struggle with the environment it can be very painful. Since you don't have a manager it can be difficult to get clear guidance on how to improve and you may get conflicting advice from peers. The company has a yearly ranking/review process that has proven very effective at correctly compensating those who are doing well but I agree with a prior reviewer who stated that it's never been 100% effective at providing useful feedback to those who need help.
If you end up being in a situation where you are struggling at Valve you will get some advice and guidance from peers and from HR but you will ultimately need to figure out your path to success on your own. For those used to having a more hands on manager as their advocate this can be hard.
Many of the negative reviews here seem to come clearly from employees who struggled at Valve to varying degrees. My experience is that these employees are a small minority due to the difficult hiring process but their negative experiences are still real. The best thing you could do for yourself before working at Valve is to try to really understand the work environment and the high expectations. Once you understand those make sure you are really honest with yourself about whether Valve is likely to be a good fit.
Advice to Management
Keep taking risks and pursuing big opportunities. Work harder at improving cross company communication so employees understand what other teams are working on more clearly. Keep the hiring bar high and don't compromise on hiring anything less than top performers.
It is a nice company
To get in
That is. Bad
Advice to Management
Hi I like turtles
Excellent environment for adaptive/iterative problem solving, surrounded by very smart individuals.
Opaque approach to compensation and retention breeds a culture of paranoia.
free food, decent salaries, free laundry
"Oligarchy" best describes what goes on at Valve. Valve looks like a dream job from far away, but, like with any mirage, if you look closer, you realize that it is an illusion. This company is very big on buzz corporate words. "we are like a big family" "we care about your well being" are some of the slogans you will hear or read. If you buy their rhetoric, you'll hear that there are no bosses, no managers, no supervisors and that there is a flat structure where everybody is so smart, so cool and so intelligent that they can work completely autonomously. That is only a facade. There is probably no other company that is so hierarchically structured like Valve. There are no bosses but there are bosses. There are no managers, but there are managers. In order to succeed at Valve, you need to belong to the group that has more decisional power and, even when you succeed temporarily, be certain that you have an expiration date. No matter how hard you work, no matter how original and productive you are, if your bosses and the people who count don't like you, you will be fired soon or you will be managed out. Valve first tries to manage people out, if they think that firing them will cause troubles. They will assign you boring projects that nobody wants, your boss who is not a boss will harass you, they will sit you in a corner and make your life impossible. Their favorite way to insult you is byt giving you a ridiculously low bonus when those who count are getting bonuses in the range of 60 k or even more. You are not allowed to be using terms such as "boss, supervisor, manager", though. Think about the elephant in the living room. You are not allowed to point out flaws and suggest ways to fix things, otherwise you'll immediately be labelled "negative".
Valve does not want smart thinkers. Incompetent people are the ones deciding who gets hired and who doesn't. Probably someone who was selling TVs at Best Buy a year before, with no formal education, is going to stand on a pedestal and decide who gets hired. Valve has an intricate but absurd interview system that is meant to give the impression that they only hire geniuses, yet some of the questions they ask during these interviews are risible and surreal. Not to mention that some excellent candidates are rejected either because the incompetent interviewer is intimidated or because they appeared too old for certain departments. Juvanilism and ageism are real in this company but, again, you cannot talk about it openly.
Like I said in the beginning, they are big on buzz words and one of them is "team player". They overemphasize how important it is to be a team player and how working as a team is paramount, yet, they cannot conceive the existence of certain duties that are best accomplished in solitude or certain employees who thrive when they detach themselves from the stupid team.
Valve is an incredibly archaic company that has the presumption of being progressive and innovative. If you fall for the fluff, it looks as if it is super modern, but, once you live there long enough, you are shocked at how such a disorganized and inefficient company has managed to make so much money (mostly by living off on old games and leeching on volunteers like mods).
You need to conform to their modus operandi. So, if you are a genius with brilliant ideas, go somewhere else. Everybody at Valve think they are super smart and they even try to adopt the outlook of the typical nerd just because they want to play the role of the super smart person.
They want you to believe that they are your friends, and there is a company trip, each year, to an exclusive location beach resort. Who wants to go on a trip with their coworkers? It's bad enough to have to deal with coworkers in the office, let alone having to see them in a bathing suit (and, trust me, with all the free food floating around and the nerdiness at Valve, seeing them at the beach is not a "belle vue"). Every year they have this company trip, a bunch of people get fired since they forget they are going to a company trip, they let their guard down and get drunk and do stupid things. You cannot have some privacy in this company. They will ask you inappropriate questions, they want to know who you are dating, if you are dating, why you are not dating, how many kids you have. Again, they want to give you the impression that they are your friends.
Advice to Management
hire competent people for management positions and stop saying that there are no bosses, no supervisors. You lose credibility by saying that.
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