Valve Corporation Reviews

Updated Jun 1, 2021

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Found 48 of over 62 reviews

3.8
54%
Recommend to a Friend
62%
Approve of CEO
Valve Corporation CEO Gabe Newell
Gabe Newell
31 Ratings
  1. 3.0
    Current Employee, less than 1 year

    No Games!

    Mar 9, 2019 - Anonymous Employee 
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    We get to go to Hawaii!

    Cons

    I feel like I'm going to lose my job, I'm only making 15 dollars a year, and I've been put in the basement.

    Continue reading
    20 people found this review helpful
  2. 5.0
    Current Employee, more than 1 year

    Dream Company

    Jan 7, 2019 - UI/User Experience Designer in Bellevue, WA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Pay, Benefits, People, Projects, Self-Management, Vacation.

    Cons

    There are vague expectations at times. Learning curve when starting is bigger than other companies.

    6 people found this review helpful
  3. 5.0
    Current Employee, more than 5 years

    The best company to work for in the tech industry

    Apr 25, 2013 - N/A in Bellevue, WA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    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.

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    22 people found this review helpful
  4. 4.0
    Former Employee, more than 3 years

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

    Oct 7, 2014 - Anonymous Employee in Bellevue, WA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    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.

    44 people found this review helpful
  5. 3.0
    Current Employee, more than 5 years

    Valve is theoretically utopia, but the reality falls short

    Jan 31, 2015 - No Job Titles in Bellevue, WA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    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.

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    87 people found this review helpful
  6. 3.0
    Current Employee, less than 1 year

    Awesome Company

    Jun 17, 2019 - Customer Service in Orlando, FL
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Pay, they help you quickly

    Cons

    They dont have any so far

    5 people found this review helpful
  7. 4.0
    Former Employee, more than 1 year

    Challenging, chaotic, interesting, surprisingly similar to other great companies

    Nov 14, 2014 - Engineer in Bellevue, WA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    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).

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    42 people found this review helpful
  8. 3.0
    Former Employee, more than 5 years

    A flawed experiment but still viable, if you can hold your nose from time to time.

    Jul 17, 2018 - Anonymous Employee 
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Valve’s flat structure and relatively limited bureaucracy really unlocks your ability to produce. If you are a multi-talented individual who can run a million miles per hour and are tired of other people getting in your way, Valve is probably the most productive environment you will ever see. Compensation can be excellent and the perks (annual paid vacation, laundry service, personal training for self and spouse, great office views) are wonderful. You can work with the smartest people in the world at Valve and just sit down for lunch with them whenever you want, and learn a ton about everything from hardware manufacturing to software engineering to network operations at scale.

    Cons

    Flat structure really means an informal power and influence hierarchy, so you have to be socially adept or you will get blindsided repeatedly. Some employees are more equal than others and are the ears and mouthpieces of board members. Cash compensation can be average or below average for people with solid but not exceptional skills. Company leadership is allergic to the word “policy”. Libertarian to the extreme - unwilling to even agree on matching basic humanitarian charity contributions, lots of “both sides” arguments in debates about online behavior. Being a jerk or worse to your coworkers is largely tolerated because the leadership does not place any value on “being nice”. Tiny HR department tries but they are necessarily subservient to the leadership, and at the highest levels, the company doesn’t believe that HR should get involved in anything except hiring, benefits, and logistics. If Gabe takes a personal interest in your area, you could find yourself suddenly overruled in ways that feel surprising and whiplash-inducing given the otherwise autonomous nature of employment at Valve.

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    69 people found this review helpful
  9. 2.0
    Former Employee, more than 3 years

    VALVE either succeeds because of itself or in spite of itself. I honestly can't tell anymore.

    Jun 26, 2017 - Technical Support in Bellevue, WA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    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.

    Cons

    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. Cons: 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.

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    65 people found this review helpful
  10. 5.0
    Current Employee, more than 5 years

    Great place to work and learn

    Apr 4, 2013 - Software Engineer in Bellevue, WA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    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

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    9 people found this review helpful
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