Families and Tech Companies

I’ve just finished reading Disrupted by Dan Lyons. Apart from finding it hilarious, which I did, it offers a somewhat scathing critique of how a modern technology company operates.

I’ve spent the majority of my career working for the kinds of companies that fall into this bucket, and it was interesting to see a different perspective on what’s generally referred to as “startup culture”.

I joined Facebook about two months after my 27th birthday and loved it. I completely bought into the culture of Hackathons, Happy Hours and the various perks (free foods, high end equipment etc).

As I’ve gotten older (and I’m only 33 as of writing), I’ve started to become far more conscious of how geared this culture is to a particular life stage. At any number of companies, the “culture” is defined by all-night, weekend and evening events.

Take meetups for instance. In Dublin, these take place almost exclusively on a weekday evening, around 7pm-ish. Now I love hearing about new technologies and discussing the various challenges of framework X over a slice of pizza as much as the next techie, but when it comes to a choice between that and having dinner with my kids before putting them to bed, I know which one I’m picking.

I’ve never worked as an accountant, but I can’t imagine they learn about the intricacies of Capital Gains Tax over a slice of pepperoni and a beer some evening

In other industries, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is seen as part and parcel of the job. Medical professionals practice new techniques, accountants learn about this year’s tax code. Now I’ve never worked as an accountant, but I can’t imagine they learn about the intricacies of Capital Gains Tax over a slice of pepperoni and a beer some evening. They do it during working hours at organised professional events.

Dinner for 50 please

Going to a meetup has a social element, sure. But what’s so wrong with that? A company’s best source of referrals are existing employees and this is where employees make the connections to people who could be your next Engineering Manager / iOS Developer / SRE.

Put simply, we have to create a culture where people can, and should be encouraged to, attend daytime meetups. Even going as kind of an extended lunch break would be more inclusive than the current situation. Having employees who are familiar with the latest trends in their field can only be good for your company and expecting people to learn it all in their personal time is not much different from expecting them to work for free.

But of course, before people can attend daytime meetups, those events need to exist! If you organise a meetup in your area, I implore you to at least experiment with hosting one during the day. It might be challenging to find a venue at first (since most meetups are in offices after hours), but once you do, I think you’re going to get a much more diverse audience, which will lead to some really interesting conversations.