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30 comments

a year ago

When we spoke about this on the podcast @David M. Brear 🔥🔥 said Storonsky probably didn't intend to come across like this... but evidently he did. In fact in this one he makes it sound like even more of a toxic place to work.

Let's break it down:

Nikolay Storonsky spends 99.5 percent of his time at the office

Because this is definitely how you understand real customer problems, right?

He talks as if at war, and sounds as if he hires like it too.

Please God hire someone to do your HR, because this kind of attitude means you're heading for a lawsuit.

But if everything is extremely competitive and you're a startup - you have less funding, you have less people and less clients. You’re up against these big corporates, so what's your advantage?”

FEWER FFS.

he hires people that are similar to him and who can be productive in a grueling work place.. “You just hire people who have the same intelligence, they want to achieve great things and they are ok to work hard for it. You make sure when you interview candidates you ask them specifically, ‘are you prepared to work hard?’”.

There's your diversity problem in a nutshell.

“Apart from your product, your advantage in this industry is that you pull more hours. That’s what helps you win this game.”

Citation needed.

If you can stick it out, however, Storonsky says it's not only worth it but a much more efficient way of getting to where you want to be. “It's about whether they want to work super hard for three to five years but then never need to work again, or work for 30 years and then never really get rich.”

Does this ever actually happen? Plenty of people I worked with at the bank had more money they could ever spend in their whole lives, yet still worked 18 hour days because they don't know how to do anything else and live on the adrenalin (and presumably because they have no friends or social life anyway).

a year ago

Does this ever actually happen? Plenty of people I worked with at the bank had more money they could ever spend in their whole lives, yet still worked 18 hour days because they don't know how to do anything else and live on the adrenalin (and presumably because they have no friends or social life anyway).

Maybe what he meant to say was if the whole company does this then the founders will never have to work again?

Even with their 300m valuation, there's not enough money to go around for everyone to retire, when you factor in the investors too. And who's going to look after the employee's who end up needing another job but are burnt out?

a year ago

Good spot. EVEN IF he's handing out the equity he comes across as a prick and makes Revolut sound like a dreadful place to work.

a year ago

Getting shit done isn't about work long hours. It's about working the hours that you do smartly... don't mix the two. I actually don't think that he is saying people have to be at their desks for hours and hours either to be honest.

Starling and Revolut are killing it right now with features and progress. Whatever they are doing so long as its sustainable then more power to them.

a year ago

It rarely sustainable, though. People burn out and leave after a period working those kind of hours (been there, got several t-shirts). Talented people are put off of joining because they can't (or don't want to) sacrifice their quality of life for a company.

Storonsky's quoted as saying "No one is sitting there telling them they have to work long hours". Which is probably true - rarely are employees told to work 50, 60 hour weeks - but they get overlooked for projects if they don't, side-eyed for leaving at 6pm when others don't, and looked over for bonuses and promotion. That especially affects parents (primarily mothers), but more experienced hires who have other commitments. It's shit like this which perpetuates the bro problem in tech - which impacts both the quality of the product and bottom line.

a year ago

THIS. 100 times this.

If you're building software in a sensible fashion with a project plan, a project manager and product owner and a skilled, empowered team, then if they're having to work 12-13 hours a day on a regular basis, your plan is wrong and your project is doomed. It might not show immediately, but give it 6 months and the signs will become clear. People will burn out, quality will drop, team members will leave and the end result will suffer. It's not sustainable.

I've been there more times than I'd like, especially early on in my career. It's doubly unfair on those more experienced team members who may have families or commitments outside of work, and as @sharon points out, they'll get discriminated against come annual review time.

Getting stuff done does not require crunch-mode hours.

(gets off soapbox)

a year ago

@martinspain Preach, brother.

It's one thing doing those kind of hours during a crisis or to get a project over the line for a deadline, but if you're pulling those kind of hours on a regular basis something has gone wrong. It might work short term but it costs money to replace people and the knowledge they take with them when they eventually think "fuck this" and leave.

a year ago

I think it's a little unfair to assume that's the case at Revolut.

If you are working on a product that your team really believes in, then many may simply be comfortable working longer hours. I know many - male and female - who enjoy the camaraderie and company of the team they work with and see it as an extension of their social circle. I also don't know of a startup project that hasn't at some point required longer than normal hours to achieve what was necessary. It's a necessary part of the industry that you gamble what can be done vs your runway or investor goals, and sometimes you underestimate.

You can't assume that Revolut (or others) don't know how to differentiate between the input of those people (who often aren't really getting a lot more done than those who work a solid 8) and those who have a family waiting at home.

a year ago

Agree here. I think there is a difference between people who love what they do and put in the hours vs being expected to work weekends.

a year ago

rolls up sleeves, pulls up soapbox

While there is a difference between people who work those hours for the love of the product/company and those who are coerced into doing so, it’s rarely clear-cut - and plenty of orgs harbour under the illusion they are the former when in fact they’ve just created a culture which normalises/expects long working days.

There’s a fine line between healthy camaraderie and the siege mentality that comes from teams being under excessive stress.

While of course it’s necessary to burn the midnight oil at crunch points, if people are doing it all the time that’s poor planning/resourcing. As @martinspain said above, it might not show immediately, but give it 6 months and it will.

If you are offering a consumer product and your team never experiences real life because they rarely leave the office and only socialise with one another, how is your product going to meet consumer needs?

If your team is drawn from the narrow demographic who can (or want to) stay in the office until 10pm, will they really understand how to develop products that meet the needs of a wider group of normal humans with lives?

It's also bad business sense. One day a real emergency will bite you on the bum and you won't have any goodwill or energy from your team, or any slack in your resourcing to plug the gap as everyone is already at 120% burn.

And there is a limit to what people can really achieve in a day; when people are tired and stressed they make mistakes and bad decisions. (Revolut just had an outage, right?)

Reading Storonsky’s description sounded like a classic case of toxic work culture: “The majority of people, they pass through but some of them, they just realise it's not for them. It's not because they are stupid - they just don't share our vision and our passion.”

That reads to me like people who don’t conform to that culture are politely pushed out as people who aren’t sweating spinal fluid and pulling all-nighters are perceived to be lacking in the necessary passion. Still more, I would imagine, are put off joining in the first place.

I write this midway through working the weekend, again (current status: displacement activity). But I’m self-employed, so I have skin in the game and the only person making me do this is me.

As a leader, however, in bragging about the core team doing 12-13 hour days and weekends, Storonsky either explicitly or tacitly creates an expectation among those who work for him that they should do the same (perhaps to demonstrate sufficient commitment or passion).

When it’s your own company of course you’re going to give it your all. But the way it reads here is that of a culture that isn’t healthy or sustainable. Good leadership means modelling healthy ways of working yourself, and telling people to go the fuck home before they burn out or screw something up - because ultimately it's you who carries the can when they do.

a year ago

Do I get some kind of prize for longest ever comment on FIN? That accidentally turned into more of a blog post.

a year ago

Hey @@AlexS can we get Karma transfers? @sharon deserves some!

a year ago

I agree! I’ll see what kind of 'prize' we can come up with 🙂

a year ago

If only we had a show to talk about this where you could come on and talk about it @sharon 🤔🤔🤔🤔

a year ago

If only such a thing existed.

My rant above came out reasonably fully-formed (journalism training not a total waste of time after all). So I tidied it up, took out the swears and posted it on LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/long-hours-labour-love-toxic-work-culture-sharon-o-dea

a year ago

Good article Sharon.

a year ago

Great read. You articulated all the points I failed to do so in my comment on here!

a year ago

A new interview with Nikolay has just come out & erm, he's doubling down on this Hard work and no play makes for startup success.

Apparently employees working long hours is their competitive advantage -

“If an industry climate isn’t competitive, then maybe a relaxed workplace culture could work,” says Storonsky. “But if everything is extremely competitive and you're a startup - you have less funding, you have less people and less clients. You’re up against these big corporates, so what's your advantage?”

& it's ok because it's the employee's choice -

“Some people, if they don't have this competitiveness in them, they are probably going to work less hard,” he says. “But it's your choice.”

🤔

a year ago

Gah... my comment was supposed to be a reply to yours. Multitasking fail.

a year ago

Haha no worries, that's my fault really for not making the site easier to use 😉

a year ago

Revolut has a new recruitment slogan "work is pain"

But Storonsky says that former investment banking employees usually have some start-up experience, and are “young, and hungry for success”. The average age of Revolut employees is 28, and Storonsky has said previously that he likes to hire people who want to “grow themselves” and that “growing is always through pain”.

Here's the latest interview - https://news.efinancialcareers.com/uk-en/301782/former-credit-suisse-trader-hiring-25-people-month-fintech-start-says-bankers-cant-hack.

I'm starting to wonder if he's trolling us now.

a year ago

“growing is always through pain”

He is going full Patrick Bateman.

There is a phenomenon called post-traumatic growth, where people who have experienced severe trauma find new strengths as a result of their experience. Maybe that's what he means? Encouraging people to work until they are actively damaged by the experience is certainly a novel approach, I'll give him that.

a year ago

"We are not about long hours — we are about getting shit done," Storonsky said. "If people have this mentality, they work long hours because they want it."

Or because they're being set deadlines that can't be achieved within an 8 hour working day perhaps?

The Glassdoor reviews are good though & it sounds like the office environment is pretty relaxed. It's a lot easier to work hard for a company that's making rapid progress & they clearly are!

a year ago

When a vision is well thought out and shared people buy into it and are committed to the cause. With such mindset; commitment and excitement, it’s about getting stuffs done without minding how long it takes. Most times the staffs would finish their task before realising how much time they put in.

a year ago

The focus is not on long hours but on getting things done. People get burnt out when the culture forces working long hours. I think he is only giving credit to his staff for how much they put in. Like @David M. Brear 🔥🔥 said whatever they are doing as long

as it’s sustainable. For now it’s working...

a year ago

Thanks, you beat me to it 😁

a year ago

Go team 🙌🏻

a year ago

Not a good culture and one that risks being named and shamed by HMRC if they end up failing to pay the minimum wage. As a customer my view of Revolut is tarnished.

a year ago

focus focus focus. Less Distractions (this counts as one)