Blog of Rob Galanakis (@robgalanakis)

Why I will never develop for a big company again

I had this post written up for a long time, and it was much more ranty. But now I’ll just give you some facts (all of which are public) and let you fill in the blanks:

Your bonus is based on “Target Bonus %” x (“Your Performance” + “Company Performance” + “Studio Performance”) x “$ Your Salary”

So if company performance is crap, your bonus can be hurt substantially. I won’t say what a normal target is but it isn’t that high- the CEO’s is only about 100% so you can imagine a normal dev’s is only a small, small fraction of that.

Company sales up from previous year, but a net loss because it pays $682 million+ to buy the studio you just started working for, so your bonus gets hosed. CEO owned lots of money in the company that was bought out so he makes out like a bandit.

I don’t know how that shit is legal.

World financial crisis is in full swing and company clearly will not be profitable. So he cancels merit increases but keeps bonuses.

Well no duh- if your max bonus is 10% of your salary, a modest 2% merit increase is 1/5 the size. If your max bonus is 100% of your salary, it is 1/50 of the size. Manipulating to line his pockets.

After a failed acquisition that cost the company $22 million, the expenses were ignored for performance considerations of the executive team, who set the rules for bonuses and have a clause that they can ignore “non-recurring” expenses such as acquisitions (as if acquisitions were “non-recurring” there!).

I will tell you right now. If our CEO did some shit like this he’d be tarred and feathered. It is a great feeling to work in the same building as your CEO. To know that the only reason he doesn’t know your name is because you haven’t figured out a reason to talk to him at the bar. To know his sweat and blood helped build your company and he didn’t hop over as an executive from some multinational baked goods giant.

Taking pride in your work is a great thing, being able to take pride in the place you work feels even greater (at least for me, since I feel like it adds value to my work). I can’t say I’d categorically not work for another large company, but, not one with a CEO like that.

2 thoughts on “Why I will never develop for a big company again

  1. Aryeh Gregor says:

    I don’t think this is related to big vs. small. I spent last year contracting for Google, and it was great. I dealt with no bureaucracy or management, except a little bit to get paid. I was supervised by a purely technical person (Ian Hickson) who gave me a big open-ended task and then left me to do it however I saw fit. And the pay was very good.

    Granted, Google is probably in a class by itself. But now I’ve started contracting for Mozilla (600ish employees, >$100 million annual revenue) and it’s pretty similar. I’ve heard that places like Microsoft and Apple treat their employees very well too.

    Of course, game development has a reputation of not being as pleasant as less glamorous forms of development work, like say web standards development. Maybe the big *gaming* companies are all terrible to work at, for all I know.

    On the flip side, I’ve heard lots of horror stories about tiny companies where you personally know the CEO, but he’s a self-absorbed jerk who appoints his friends and relatives as managers and lets them do whatever they want to employees. Although again, this isn’t specifically gaming-related.

    1. Yup, as with most generalizations, it misses all nuance. This wasn’t meant as a big analysis of large vs. small companies and working conditions. And as I’ve said in some earlier post, different people will have different things that make them happy at work. In my case, I won’t develop at a large corporate company. CCP is globally about 600+, in Iceland it is under 300. It is a good size- small enough that it’s still personal, and big enough that you don’t get as much small-company silliness like you describe.

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