Happy to announce that I have decided to become 10X more blunt in my blogposts going forward. Here is a list of things I wish people talked on Twitter instead of virtue signalling 24*7.

Flat organisation is a myth and there are always invisible ladders.

  • A company I worked at claimed to be flat on paper. But at the same level a few people would get stock grants but others won’t. Why?
  • Another company calls everyone a PM on paper, but they issue special grants to people above X level. Why?
  • Everyone is same, but there are secret private slack channels where you get entry based on either internal levels or proximity to leadership. Why?
  • If you get marked as a critical hire, you get more % hike than the standard % hikes announced to the rest of the company. Why?
  • When there are flat organisations, instead of a transparent ladder that everyone can see and climb, people create hidden ladders and groups. In another flat organisation I worked at where people cringed at the thought of awarding public titles, there are actual meetings where HR sits with you and goes through your reports - making them as critical hires, poor performers you should put on performance improvement plan, people who can be fast tracked to promo, possible replacement for critical hires. Why?
  • In the absence of transparency there is 10X more hidden politics.
  • The only people who don’t care about titles are already at the top of their function. Why would they care if their title is Head of X or a VP?
  • The same people who say titles don’t matter go to conferences and announce their titles.

Most Product Managers are glorified Project Managers.

  • Whenever I hear a PM in my organisation or someone I mentor crib about doing project management and having to execute what their leaders want, the first question I ask is “when was the last time you actually talked to your customers or spent a day looking at data that helped uncover some key insight?”
  • If you think logically no CEO would want to self sabotage their company by working on things that don’t matter. The problem is that they have too much on their plate, and hence can’t go deep and focus on breadth instead. If you are the PM it is on you to do the research on behalf of your CEO and helped show why you should be doing X over Y. Most people won’t though. Because it is far easier to blame their CEO or HOP.
  • How do I know this? I have also been in this situation where I stopped giving a fuck and just became an execution machine. BTW I am not saying all CEOs are rationale and everything is your fault as a PM. But first do your homework before blaming your CEO.

Most people on Twitter are grifters who have not done any real work for years.

  • I see so much gyaan on Twitter by people that does not match the reality of what they actually do in their organisation. How do I know this? By now I have enough friends in the ecosystem that I can ask them and get the real view on people.
  • Why do I do this? I have lost count of people who have joined organisations based on Twitter gyaan by their managers and once inside they realised what they preach comes nothing close to what they practice. You can see a related whatsapp screen shot in this post.
  • Please do a reference check before joining someone’s team. Don’t just go by Twitter or Linkedin gyaan. Will save you months of pain if not years.
  • Another question to ask before you take someone’s gyaan on Twitter seriously: What impactful project has they shipped in the last 6 months? If you can’t ask them this directly, ask someone in their company.

People hate being called out even if they are not called out.

  • I wrote that most leaders don’t follow what they preach on Twitter a few days back. People started instantly debating with me on this simple statement. Why? I never call out people using actual names. I don’t even hint. You would get pissed with these tweets only if you self identify as one of these gyaanis.
  • Then another friend gave me an insight that makes a lot of sense - If you call people by names, you don’t leave anything to ambiguity. People don’t feel you are talking about them. You also signal to both of their lovers and haters. People who love them will argue. People who hate will like, retweet. But when you write generic statements, then it causes anxiety. People start wondering what if he is writing about me? This stresses out people more. Now instead of the case where the person being called out by name hating you, you are hated by the entire ecosystem. Because lets face it there are actually a lot of grifters and full time gyaanis on Twitter.

People are not actually kind. The same discussions are happening in private groups.

  • As you grow in your career you start realising a lot of things that you never knew. One of it is the existence of these private whatsapp and telegram groups where people shit on other people. I have always been the kind of person who would rather pick up a fight in public with someone than shit on them in private. But that is a career limiting strategy. So what happens instead is that people shit on others in private, but act as best friends on Twitter. I have lost count of how many times I have had 1-1 DM with 2 people on Whatsapp where they were actually shitting on each other. But bring the same 2 people in a group and they would not say a word.
  • If people were actually kind, I would have been the odd one out. But they are not. What is the truth: most people lack the courage to voice their opinions for fear of public disagreement. Hence they survive in hidden Whatsapp groups where they can shit on others in peace.
  • Just because you don’t know the bad leaders/managers in the ecosystem does not mean others don’t too. Sadly info about these people will lie in private groups and no one will dare call these people out in public.

The world is not as meritocratic as people on Twitter would want you to believe.

  • Do you know that interviews can be fast tracked if you know the manager in a company? Not in all, but many.
  • Do you know that people have hidden list of companies, engineering schools they want to hire from?

Correlation is not causation when it comes to culture.

  • There is a company where people thought that they had the best culture. Leaders used to go to every conference possible and shout about how great their culture is.
  • They took pride in not having titles (at least officially). They even hid what levels everyone in the org was at. They thought they actually grew because of these practices instead of inspite of it.
  • Then they bled so many people that leadership finally had to accept that they had an attrition problem.
  • From trying to convince employees that they were being paid a salary that was best in the industry, they started paying one time bonuses out of cycle to retain people.
  • What if their stellar employee satisfaction and retention in the past that they had attributed to culture was just them paying top of the market salary and transparency. Once the company scaled and they could not maintain both, people left for greener pastures. This makes me wonder if culture does actually matter?
  • Look at the hiring woes in the Indian startup ecosystem. If culture actually matter won’t select companies with better culture (however you measure it) have an easier time hiring as well as retaining employees? Makes you think doesn’t it?
  • If you check Blind, all people discuss is salary and titles. Culture comes far lower. I am not saying culture does not matter. It probably does. The question is how much.
  • Another company I have worked at used to be the ‘it company’ when it came to campus recruiting. They are considered to be one of the few Indian companies with great culture. Based on the data I have, even they have not been able to hire or retain people any better than other players in this market.
  • If you are a company claiming to culture or brand moat, you should be able to hire and retain employees much better than the competition, and not just by paying top of the market salaries. I think there are only a few companies that can claim to do that. Stripe is one example.

This post is not about any specific company or person. If you talk to your friends who have enough experience in the startup world, they will validate most of these points. It is not politically correct to speak about these things. So no one does.