Valve Corporation Reviews | Glassdoor

Valve Corporation Reviews

Updated October 5, 2016
21 reviews

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4.2
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Valve Corporation CEO Gabe Newell
Gabe Newell
14 Ratings

21 Employee Reviews

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  1. "Great Place to Work"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Excellent environment for adaptive/iterative problem solving, surrounded by very smart individuals.

    Cons

    Opaque approach to compensation and retention breeds a culture of paranoia.


  2. Helpful (5)

    "Valve is good"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    It is a nice company

    Cons

    Hard
    To get in

    That is. Bad

    Advice to Management

    Hi I like turtles


  3. Helpful (32)

    "Utopia for some but painful when the fit is bad"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Software Engineer in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Senior Software Engineer in Bellevue, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Valve Corporation full-time (More than 8 years)

    Pros

    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.

    Cons

    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.


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  5. Helpful (36)

    "Valve is a mirage: it looks incredibly good from far away, but look closer..."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    free food, decent salaries, free laundry

    Cons

    "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.


  6. Helpful (3)

    "Game Designer"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    - Get to work with a highly qualified team of artists,programmers, designers, etc.

    Cons

    - Sometimes food was not cooked properly (there were a couple incidents during my time)

    Advice to Management

    - Nothing, management was highly qualified and amazing to work with


  7. Helpful (17)

    "Mostly good."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Artist
    Former Employee - Artist
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    I worked at Valve Corporation (More than 8 years)

    Pros

    Learning from and working with every day from people at the top of their field. It keeps you sharp because you have to prove your worth every project. It has a lasting effect on how you do things in a positive way. The quality of life is top notch, with great insurance package, massages, haircuts, workout center etc. You learn quick that if you think about how your work will impact the customer, you will get a better buy-in for your ideas from your peers. As an artist, you learn that this is a great skill to have.

    Cons

    Valve is essentially a popularity contest, where you will do well if you have lots of friends and prove yourself to be intelligent and do good work. It's a sink or swim feeling most of the time, coupled with hive-mind thinking. After work drinks are rare, as people are precious about their reputations. This causes a feeling of paranoia and formality. Friendships are sometimes based on trust and who is worthwhile to be allys with. It's a shame, because this can put a damper on free-flowing creative ideas. Valve is mostly about execution, not new ideas (as seen in the absence of new IPs). But if you follow the Valve methodology, keep doing high quality work, and don't rock the boat, you can maintain your job for many years.

    Advice to Management

    The peer review system needs a lot of work. While constructive criticism is healthy, more focus on positivity would be useful, then employees feel like they can trust they will have work in the future, and lessen the feeling of paranoia and encourage creativity.


  8. Helpful (12)

    "The best gaming company to work at!"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Software Engineer in Bellevue, WA
    Former Employee - Software Engineer in Bellevue, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    1) Really amazing people all around
    2) Amazing offices (Google them)

    Cons

    Not a lot of cons I could see around.


  9. Helpful (20)

    "Innovative Entertainment"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    Current Employee - Volunteer Customer Support
    Current Employee - Volunteer Customer Support

    I have been working at Valve Corporation (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    Growing company and great minds.

    Cons

    Not enough time in the day


  10. Helpful (46)

    "Great with the right fit, hard to anticipate fit"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - None, Thanks for Asking in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - None, Thanks for Asking in Bellevue, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    Valve hires very smart people with a shared core set of expectations about communications and problem solving. Individuals and groups at the company act with customer goals identified, and sort tasks and product choices accordingly.

    The employee handbook and occasional articles about how the place runs are true. There are no bosses. No one, including Gabe, has the authority to tell someone else what to do. Proponents must recruit people to projects by explaining why the task is important and how it is important, and convincing people to share time or prioritize over other competing needs.

    The lack of hierarchy and titles is a conscious design to minimize bureaucratic resistance to getting work accomplished (and bureaucratic authority to get the wrong work accomplished). It's also a design to keep valuable employees indefinitely. No one has to leave because a peer got a promotion into a job he/she though he/she deserved. No one has to become a manager because it's the way to get paid more. Individuals can get more and more valuable over years and decades of work, get rewarded as such, and have no particular forcing functions to trigger them to leave. Great to individual and company.

    The scarce resource at Valve is people's time. Capital is available for most any purchase need, if you can make the case for what you're doing and why. Routine purchasing decisions are devolved to employees.

    This system, hiring great people, giving them resources and great colleagues, and getting out of the way between them and their customers, has produced a lot of value for customers and the company.

    Last pro: Valve takes good care of employees and their families. Benefits are generous and sometimes astonishing. Most anything that can keep employees happy and productive will be considered.

    Cons

    To succeed at Valve, you have to be a self-starter. No one will tell you what to do -- if you ask, people may give you an opinion about what they think you should do, but no one hands you a list of your five most important tasks for the next review period.

    Beyond being a self-starter, you have to come up with ways to judge yourself, or to gather feedback from customers, partners (developers/publishers/vendors), or other employees. I think the comp system works reasonably well, but the feedback system has never functioned well for all employees. When an employee is having trouble, the system (which is really just a group of peers, sometimes guided by HR or more senior colleagues) is more focused and effective at gathering and communicating specific feedback for people.

    Some people are just driven nuts by the uncertainty of this kind of management and feedback system. Some people thrive and delight in the absence of semi-annual self-evaluation forms.

    At Valve, it's hard to get a grand project started. It's easy to get a clever, valuable, smaller project started. Turning the latter into the former requires great communication skills or a clever plan of laying out small projects to take the company in the direction you think is smart (and which is confirmed by the outcomes of prior small projects). There are no patrons to make things happen for you. I disagree with a few other (typically former employee- ) reviews that suggest there is secret management structure that controls everything. There are certainly more senior people (who may or may not be more experienced by years of work) who can give great feedback on what is worth doing, or how to do something. But there is incredibly little control, and shadow management is just not true. I think that is often a projection by people who can't believe the uncertainty of radical freedom.

    Advice to Management

    Hmm. This is really advice to all of Valve, since no one has buck-stopping authority.

    People should consider part of their job to sweep through other parts of the company, either working on some projects, grabbing coffee or lunch, or just asking people to explain what they're working on. At the size of the company (~350 at this writing), projects and individuals can become isolated, and feedback can dry up unless teams actively seek it or unless others come around looking to see what's up. That feedback cycle is the biggest gift at Valve, but it takes energy and repeated focus when there are no lines of reporting.


  11. Helpful (58)

    "Company is flush with cash but is chaotic and disorganized, refuses to "grow up""

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Software Engineer in Bellevue, WA
    Former Employee - Software Engineer in Bellevue, WA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook

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

    Pros

    Great benefits, and yearly bonuses can equal or exceed your salary. This company is at the nexus of the PC game business, so your work can have a big impact if you carefully choose the right project and people to work with.

    Cons

    Placing any bets on a long-term career at this random and cliquish company is probably as wise as betting all your life savings on a single spin of a roulette wheel in Vegas. At this point Valve has devolved into a place you work at to pad your resume and make some bonus cash. Be prepared to be let down once you're inside.

    The basic idea of Valve works well with small (30-50 person) companies, but utterly fails to scale to a company with hundreds of people. The board and their closest friends have become extremely wealthy, so they have very little incentive to fix the company.

    This organization has a purposely opaque, hierarchical, secretive, and very rigid management structure. Many of the board of directors and their friends are utterly capricious and conceited. The longer an employee is at Valve, the more they singularly focus on protecting their yearly bonuses and the less they care about basically everything else.

    Some projects can go on literally for 5+ years wandering around pointlessly without shipping, with little to no direction, and no accountability. This company is terrible at writing and shipping large scale software, and sneers at words like "software engineering", "architecture", and "testing". The random mass firings of 2013 tanked moral, and the stream of talent leaving the company during 2014 didn't help.

    The yearly review process lacks feedback, transparency, and coverage. This company has no formal HR, so good luck if you need to give genuine feedback about troublesome coworkers.

    Advice to Management

    Gabe, there must be something more important to do with your time at the company than wasting it on endless multi-day DotA2 sessions and firing people. Go review a project, give some feedback, cancel some stuff, or start some new projects. Basically, do anything else.

    To the board of directors: Stop treating your employees like discardable widgets. Step away and let new blood in. Get a real HR team and process in place. Fix the completely broken review process, and have a clearly defined stock package. Grow the company up and get real.



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