This week this story in Business Insider showed up on just about all my timelines.
Apparently GitHub is having management issues. Or creating them.
Cofounder CEO Chris Wanstrath, with support from the board, is radically changing the company’s culture: Out with flat org structure based purely on meritocracy, in with supervisors and middle managers. This has ticked off many people in the old guard.
Its once famous remote-employee culture has been rolled back. Senior managers are no longer allowed to live afar and must report to the office. This was one reason why some senior execs departed or were asked to leave, one person close to the company told us.
Others tell us that key technical people from the old days like CTO Ted Nyman and third cofounder PJ Hyett are mostly absent from the office and not contributing much technically.
GitHub has hit “hypergrowth,” growing from about 300 to nearly 500 employees in less than a year, with over 70 people joining last quarter alone.
Some longer-term employees feel like there’s a “culture of fear” where people who don’t support all the changes are being ousted.
In addition to previously reported executive departures, Business Insider has learned that Ryan Day, VP of business development; Adam Zimman, senior director of technology partnerships; and Scott Buxton, controller, have all left in the last six months. Buxton departed in January.
All these changes are causing some turmoil and dissention. What is it all about? Diversity and social justice.
One insider criticized GitHub’s “social impact team,” which is in charge of figuring out how to use the product to tackle social issues, including diversity within the company itself. It’s led by Nicole Sanchez, vice president of social impact, who joined GitHub in May after working as a diversity consultant.
While people inside the company approve of the goal to hire a more diverse workforce, some think the team is contributing to the internal cultural battle.
“They are trying to control culture, interviewing and firing. Scary times at the company without a seasoned leader. While their efforts are admirable it is very hard to even interview people who are ‘white’ which makes things challenging,” this person said.
Sanchez is known for some strong views about diversity. She wrote an article for USA Today shortly before she joined GitHub titled, “More white women does not equal tech diversity.”
At one diversity training talk held at a different company and geared toward people of color, she came on a bit stronger with a point that says, “Some of the biggest barriers to progress are white women.” Here’s a photo of the talk, which was shared with Business Insider.
How is this likely to affect how GitHub gets business done? I have feeling that there’s a rocky road ahead.
Given the growing pains, we’ve been hearing that the unhappy engineers would like to bail from the company.
“Employees live in a culture of fear but the pay is at the 95th percentile and folks just accept the sadly deteriorating culture,” complained one GitHub employee in a recent review on Glassdoor.
Some of these folks may be hanging out until GitHub offers some kind of “liquidity event” — a way for longtime employees or investors to sell some of their shares — which one person believes could take place soon. (A GitHub spokesperson refused comment on that.)
With plenty of competitors, including Atlassian, GitLab, and even Google, one thing is certain: If GitHub does stumble, there are plenty of companies that want to pick up its slack.
Now I realize that the drive for this is coming from the Oh so PC venture capital types dictating this nonsense and a young CEO who probably doesn’t have the backbone to tell them to go to hell. I hope that he realizes that this is going to cost him, and them, big time. The problem is that crap flows downhill and when you start treating employees like crap and hiring on the basis of things other than the needs of the business then the crap is going to spread to the customers, who are going to leave.
Now large established companies can run as Socialist style autocracy, at least for a while. Complete with HR running as the secret police.
A startup like GitHub can’t afford to get deep into that crap. Even the most profitable runs the risk of alienating customers and taking a hit on revenues. A startup doesn’t have a legacy culture, it’s trying to create one and that means that you can’t afford to mess around mistreating your key people. And in a startup, everybody’s a key person.
In related news Intel announces diversity program, investors not impressed.
Another thing to remember is that political correctness doesn’t have an exit strategy. The SJW types can never be satisfied. Every victory they get only leads to further attacks.
My advice to Mr.Wanstath is to get rid of the diversity crap and squelch this right now. That is if you like your company. GitHub is too small and too weak to deal with the tensions that this is going to create. Just remember that it’s them or you.
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