- Work/Life Balance
- Culture & Values
- Career Opportunities
- Comp & Benefits
- Senior Management
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
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.
Excellent environment for adaptive/iterative problem solving, surrounded by very smart individuals.
Opaque approach to compensation and retention breeds a culture of paranoia.
It is a nice company
To get in
That is. Bad
Advice to Management
Hi I like turtles
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.
I worked at Valve Corporation full-time (More than 3 years)
1) Really amazing people all around
2) Amazing offices (Google them)
Not a lot of cons I could see around.
I have been working at Valve Corporation full-time (More than 5 years)
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.
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.
I have been working at Valve Corporation (More than 10 years)
Growing company and great minds.
Not enough time in the day
I have been working at Valve Corporation full-time (More than 5 years)
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.
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 Management
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.
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