Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Surreal Start-Up Workplace

Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble
By Dan Lyons
Book Reviews on

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5 Stars
Sobering, Shocking and Hilarious Look at a Utopian Hellhole Rings True on Every Page
By Charlie White on April 9, 2016

This book affected me at a profound level. I was the oldest employee at various startups for a decade, and Dan Lyons accurately described the absurdity and frustration I encountered at all of them. He crafted his story so well that I felt transported back to that special hell of a fifty-something writer toiling away for years in a frat-house sweatshop with a "team" of ill-prepared (yet oh-so-special) snowflakes.

If you find yourself considering employment at a similar company, and if you're "old" (over 40 and certainly over 50), please read this book before you sign anything or accept any job offers. It's a cautionary tale that is the most perfect description of the current startup "culture" I've ever read. It made my blood boil while reading it, and at the same time I found myself laughing out loud throughout.

The book is a remarkable achievement, giving both prospective employees and investors a razor-sharp look inside a hellhole that seems so pleasant from its exterior. I loved this book and hope all my former, present and future colleagues take the time to read it.

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5 Stars
Wildly entertaining AND important
By Social Science Reader on April 5, 2016

Disrupted not only wildly entertains; it also sheds light on some troubling issues in the startup and tech cultures.

Entertainment: Disrupted caused me to laugh out loud more often than any other book has ever caused me to laugh out loud. Would you expect less from a writer for the TV show Silicon Valley? Reading Disrupted is like binge-watching SV, only this company is a REAL place, which makes it even better.

Important social issues: Disrupted also raises a couple of troubling issues that surely extend far beyond the culture of this one company. The first is what appears to be a false promise of meaningful work to young people who desperately want to be doing meaningful work, but who are really just making a couple of people very, very wealthy. There's a smoke-and-mirrors quality to the ways in which employees are recruited, trained, treated, and then "graduated" (Hubspot's term for "fired"). They're told that the work they'll be doing is changing the world (when really what they're doing is online advertising), that Hubspot is more selective than Harvard (when this is actually a severe distortion of the data), and so on. The perks used to attract employees include an 'awesome!!!' candy wall, shower pods, beer, nerf gun battles, etc. You quickly get the sense that the work is empty, meaningless, even soulless -- and that what it's really about is making a couple of guys very, very rich (which I would be okay with IF the work truly were meaningful and IF the employees truly were being treated as individual humans, not as hypnotized sheep.)

Second, Dan is brave enough to bring up another important issue in startup culture: ageism. Older people are seen as having nothing to contribute. The age discrimination is actually shockingly overt. Imagine saying, "I want to run a company that really attracts people with blue eyes, because people with brown eyes just aren't creative." You'd (probably) never say something like that. But people who run this company openly say that about young people versus older people. I'm glad Dan is talking about it, because someone needed to start that conversation.

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5 Stars
If your company considers this a "banned book," you should probably find a new job
By JS77 on April 5, 2016

Really good. It's like the movie "Office Space" but not a parody. I suggest not showing this book cover if you work at a company where you have no independence and have to drink the Kool-Aid or Else. Grab the audible version and commit subversion with your headphones.

Disrupted is but isn't about HubSpot; it's about work culture gone awry and it has in so many ways. We've traded factory floors making things for a factory of cubicles sending junk to people. To be clear, every job has a level of "salute the flag" which is totally understandable. However when you have a company that doesn't understand you have a personal life, that doesn't understand that your family is important, then you have a company that's going to churn through folks and isn't a place to stay. I also appreciate his clear call-out of tech culture's lack of diversity and the fact that these held-up cultures by breathless writers aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Enjoy the book and watch out for the Bozo Explosion.

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