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Jan 31 / Matt

Corporate stereotypes, and why Microsoft could kill your startup career

Note:  This post is intended for engineers who are looking to start their own company or join an early stage startup.  Many of the critiques I suggest do not apply to engineers who enjoy the comfort of a larger company. (Note of self interest: my company, SpeakerText, is hiring.)

As the CTO of a growing early stage startup, I have had the experience of interviewing a number of very talented people.  As with any large enough dataset, I have come to find some consistent patterns amongst the candidates.  While there are and will always be a set of clearly untalented unqualified people, I am surprised by the number of genuinely talented people who––because of choices they’ve made in their career––are now unqualified to work at an actual web startup or start their own.

The provocative title to this post may sound like I’m suggesting that the problem is local to Microsoft. In reality, Microsoft just epitomizes the large bureaucratic environment that seems to confine an engineer to become just that, an engineer.  This typically leads to detailed knowledge in some proprietary technology which is not compatible outside of the company it applies to.  Moreover, larger companies tend to position engineers to remain engineers.  If you want to someday start your own company, you will need to have a network of investors and people with diverse and complimentary skillsets to your own.  And after three years at Googlesoft, the only people you know will be engineers.

This goes against a prevailing mindset amongst freshly minted, high talent engineers, which seems to be that if you aren’t ready to start a company, the next best thing to do is to go to a “startup” like Facebook or Google and get connected into the valley.  This would make sense if either Facebook or Google was actually a startup.  Neither one is, and this path can end up leading engineers down a decidedly non-entrepreneurial path.

The more likely outcome if you do go down this path, is that every day you become less likely to start your own company.  Every day you are probably learning some proprietary technology that isn’t helping your startup career.  Every day you are becoming more and more accustomed to that cushy job and fat salary.

I’ve seen this happen to too many friends that I once would have considered “die-hard” entrepreneurs. I hate to see entrepreneurs give up, it’s a truly sad thing to witness.

Below are some stereotypes that I have gathered from the larger subsets of candidates I’ve interacted with.  I use the word stereotype purposely to indicate that these are unfair assumptions when considering individuals at each company, but seem to embody the culture at said company.  This assessment is intended to give startup-minded engineers an idea of how experience at some of the bigger tech companies looks to a startup founder hiring early employees.

Facebook:  Some of the more intelligent people I have talked with, but borderline autistic.  To date, I wouldn’t want any one of the people I’ve talked with at Facebook working on my team.  My impression is that this type of person would create beautiful software, but jet at the first hint of trouble. There seems to be very few risk takers.

Beyond that, for a young startup there are characteristics other than technical prowess that are vital to growing a company. Outside of Facebook, Asperger’s Syndrome is not thought of as an “asset”. A small team can’t have the liability of someone on the team alienating other team members because they aren’t aware of human emotion. If even one of my team members is constantly getting pissed off at another member, dev team productivity can go down by 50%.  Can’t happen.

If you are at Facebook and looking to someday do your own startup, make sure you are interacting with non-tech people.  Get out of the office…but don’t just go and play Rock Band with the same two friends you’re used to.  Make sure you are interacting with non-tech people, they actually do have value in the startup world.

Of course if the only thing you care about is working on interesting technology, Facebook sounds like a great place.

Google:  The new IBM. No longer a startup culture. Despite what they like to tell themselves, the company has morphed over the past three years.  Once again, Google is huge and of course there are some startup-minded people there, but that’s not the prevailing culture.

What I have seen are a lot of talented engineers who end up working on “interesting projects” that have no place in the market.  I find it entertaining reading quotes from Google, such as:

“Google is still the same entrepreneurial company it was when I [Larry Page] started, encouraging Googlers to take on big ideas and high-risk, high-reward opportunities”.

Take a moment to think of what the real “risk” is at Google. What happens if you fail?  Your project is just a drop in the bucket from the endless Google money pit. Most likely, you will not be scarred.

Whereas entrepreneurs systematically try to create something that people want (and will pay for), Google systematically creates things that hardcore engineers think are cool. When a company openly dismisses the value of designers and business analysts, you end up with Google Wave.

Bottom Line: The Google Search cash cow has created an inward, engineer-focused culture that is been systematically shielded from market forces and, consequently, market discipline.

If you are an entrepreneurial minded engineer at Google, don’t get stuck hanging around Googlers your entire time.  Google has done a great job of creating a comfortable work environment that encourages long hours at their playground. You need to get to startup events and go out drinking with actual entrepreneurs and investors. I guarantee that you will hear completely different responses from a startup founder on how they would approach a real world problem as compared with your coworker.  The technology behind the solution will only be part of the answer.

Beyond that, try launching something.  Can you create something that people actually want to use?  Not something that is nice to look at once and strike a fleeting interest, but something that will actually result in people wanting and using your creation. If you can, you are ready for a startup.  If not find someone with complementary skillsets or a startup that can help you learn this.

Microsoft:  Microsoft has kept a pretty tight screening process for engineers, but if you are an engineer there, make sure you are working outside of Microsoft.  Microsoft is very tied to the .net platform.  I don’t know how many startups use .net as their development environment but there aren’t a lot.  In fact, if your primary development platform is Windows your are going to get bumped down a couple notches if you are looking to join a startup.  I have been pretty impressed with raw aptitude from Microsoft employees, but if you aren’t exposed to non-proprietary technologies, its going to be very difficult to sell yourself to an early stage startup.

More Companies: There are many more companies not mentioned due to either lack of enough candidates to make an assessment or to keep from pissing off some of our investors.

In general, if you want to start a company some day, my best advice is to either start one NOW, or join an early stage company.  If you decide to join a startup, make sure you join one where you can have direct interaction with the founders.  If not, you aren’t getting the real benefits that a startup can offer.

Note: My startup is hiring. If you are a talented, entrepreneurial minded engineer at any of the above companies (or just in general) drop me a line.  I will either try to hire you, or give you a sense of where you fit in with what I’ve seen.

  • http://chrisyeh.blogspot.com Chris Yeh

    Interestingly enough, the same can apply to non-engineers as well. The skills that help you have a successful career at Microsoft are very different than the skills it takes to get things done when you don’t have an Empire behind you.

    The track record of ex-MSFT ventures is decidedly mixed. PayPal, for example, has a much better record.

  • http://interesting.rk.net.nz/?p=19033 Corporate stereotypes, and why Microsoft could kill your startup career « Interesting Tech

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  • Wladimir

    I agree with the gist of your article; large corporations have very specialized jobs and it’s important for an engineer to not over-specialize and be aware of the world outside that specific niche. Keeping a more diverse skill set up-to-date improves chances of getting work somewhere else. You know that will be need some day.

    But this sentence is really offensive to me: “Outside of Facebook, Asperger’s Syndrome is not thought of as an asset”. Asperger’s syndrome is not considered an “asset” anywhere. It is a syndrome that is very hard to live with, no one choses to have it, and no one is proud of having it. It’s also not curable. Please don’t use it as a metaphor for people’s attitutes you don’t like.

  • http://www.facebook.com/boz Andrew Bosworth

    For what it is worth, your characterization of Facebook engineers is way off. I’m not sure which subset of engineers you interacted with but it is clear to me that you have not met a representative sample. You acknowledge it is a stereotype, of course, but you claim it embodies the culture and you could not be more wrong. I’ve been an engineer at Facebook for over 5 years and one of the things that has always struck me about the place is actually how outgoing and friendly my coworkers are relative to the median engineering population. I was at Microsoft before this so I have some other professional experience to compare with. I have also kept track of classmates of mine from Harvard who are at Google and other startups which gives me more confidence in my claims. Your assertion that we don’t have many risk takers is probably the most absurd thing about this — even just tracking the change in our product should make that clear, though we make changes to infrastructure on the same order of risk quite often. Your claim that we would shy away from hard code problems is likewise unfounded, though unfortunately so is your claim about writing beautiful code since we tend to be much more pragmatic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/boz Andrew Bosworth

    In particular, if you are talking about candidates who are ex-employees of these companies to interview with you, you must recognize you are victim to a substantial selection bias in your sample set. These are people who did not fit in, did not like, or did not succeed at the company they left. They might be as indicative of what a culture is NOT like as they are what it IS like.

  • http://www.facebook.com Pedram

    While I like a lot of your ideas here your comments on Asperger’s Syndrome and autism imply that you discriminate against people with these conditions when hiring. From what I’ve read it’s my understanding that these are legally protected conditions.

  • Plamena Petrova

    Very interesting article!

  • https://expensify.com David Barrett

    Hi! I like and agree with your post. I wrote largely the same thing on my blog, except generalized to the stereotype of “.NET developers” rather than “large companies” (eg, Microsoft, Facebook, Google). I think your post is better than mine, but you can read it here if you’re curious:

    http://blog.expensify.com/2011/03/25/ceo-friday-why-we-dont-hire-net-programmers/

    Thanks for writing!

    -david (http://twitter.com/expensify)

  • Ian Muir

    This is very well written and dead on. While the post over on expensify implies that .NET developers are just plain bad a programming, this article nails the actual issue, which is culture.

    As a developer who has been working in both PHP and .NET for several years, I can say that the .NET guys I know tend to be better programmers, but also tend to be more set in their ways. In my experience, the average PHP developer is focused on getting something built and making it cool, while average .NET developer is more focused on architecture and scalability.

    Most startups are looking to get a product or service to market quickly, which is a goal that fits best with the PHP/Ruby mindset. More mature start-ups and software companies are looking to make their apps more stable and scalable, which is why you see companies like Google and Facebook transition from developer cultures to engineering cultures.

    Nothing exemplifies this more than the popular MVC frameworks for the various platforms. Ruby on Rails tutorials and documentation focus on rapid development and convention over configuration. ASP.NET MVC resources focus on OOP best practices and scalability.

    The biggest problem with this division of culture is that a healthy, innovative software company could benefit from a balance of developers and engineers. Most start-ups could use a couple hardcore engineers and every big company I’ve send desperately needs people that can be creative and build quick prototypes.

  • http://www.therefinedgeek.com.au/index.php/2011/03/30/what-yall-got-against-microsoft/ What Y’All Got Against Microsoft? | The Refined Geek

    [...] something like PHP/Rails/Node.js. Indeed some have gone as far as to say that .NET development is black mark against you, only serving to limit your job prospects: Programming with .NET is like cooking in a [...]

  • http://blog.expensify.com/2011/03/25/ceo-friday-why-we-dont-hire-net-programmers/ CEO Friday: Why we don’t hire .NET programmers « Expensify Blog

    [...] edit: Skip my post and read this one instead.  It says the same thing, but less offensively.  (Or, rather, more offensively to Facebook and [...]

  • http://www.lowendia.com ET

    Got here thanks to David Barrett’s rant against .NET developers which made the news recently.

    One thing I’d be interested in understanding is how the people reflect on the companies. I understand that the impressions above are from people you interviewed (although this is only specifically mentioned for Facebook), which means that these are people no longer working at these companies. They were either fired or left. Looks to me like this fact should affect the conclusion drawn about these companies (although it probably does say something about their hiring process).

    By the way, I’ve worked at many startups, and they all used Windows for development. I don’t know what experience you have, but you shouldn’t translate it into a rule.

  • http://www.lowendia.com ET

    Rereading, I guess the comment about Windows and startups should be taken in the context of web startups only. It might be truer there.

    BTW, I think your comments about Google are wrong at several levels. Maybe I’ll comment about it later.

  • http://www.agiledevelopment.info/compas-pascal-why-startups-dont-use-net/ Compas Pascal: Why startups don’t use .net | Agile Development

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  • Zian

    By way of context, it seems that many startups get founded while their founders are doing something “normal” (say, a corporate job or going to college).

    Would you say that running one’s own small organization (business/startup/non-profit-org/[insert buzzword here]) on the side would also be a sufficient antidote to the danger of losing the ability to run a startup full-time down the road?

    To extend the question further, are the skills related to running a startup largely specific to the type of tiny organization you’re running? For example, if you start a little company selling bricks, would a future startup based on selling flowers benefit?

    On a different note, your post appears to advise people to avoid only knowing people who are like yourself and foreclosing options but some have argued that the latter (foreclosing options) bit is not such a bad thing. Indeed, a pessimist might ask you if you ever wonder about how running SpeakerText may have made you unemployable by the corporate world.

  • erion

    Hi,

    I really don’t understand what is a corporate supposed to do to get it right. Google makes it comfortable. Facebook doesn’t take any risks. Microsoft, well I just got your opinion on Microsoft.

    What is your startup offering that is more exiting then what Microsoft, Google and Facebook ? Technologically and programatically all these companies face real challenges. Of course working on them is challenging and exiting, what is wrong with that ?

    Maybe I lack the experience but I am frustrated cause I spend 10 minutes of my time reading this, cause it was posted on dzone, and really this article is very arrogant.

    Sorry, i would not apply at your company. I already feel you would ask your engineers to work 80 hrs week, as a way to prove to you their innovative spirit.

    I wish I read more about how your startup faces more exiting challenges and how different it is from the culture of Facebook, Google or Microsoft. :\

  • http://buckwoody.com Buck Woody

    Interesting viewpoint. As someone who’s worked at both startups and Microsoft, you’re incorrect, but all are entitled to their own opinion.

    Also, you have several grammatic errors in your text. Perhaps you could fire up Microsoft Word and use the spell-check and grammar features. It’s all the rave among professional companies these days – even startups. :)

  • Corporate type

    Hey Matt, you come off sounding like a jerk. Good luck.

  • Michael Caldwell

    Matt,
    Interesting article, and you’re exactly right in my estimation. I’ve developed in .NET for the last 9 years. I started my new job with a startup yesterday…as a LAMP developer. I dont think I would have been let in the door if not for personal and prior professional relationships with several folks already here. I gave up a cushy,safe job precisely to escape the slow rust and atrophy you describe. (I only had to convince my wife that I wasn’t crazy and this would be a wise move in the long run.)
    Regards,
    Michael Caldwell

  • http://www.facticity.org/2011/04/10/your-programming-language-and-work-environment-shapes-your-career/ Your programming language and work environment shapes your career | Facticity
  • http://www.isosurf.com Gavan Woolery

    Matt — interesting perspective, even in spite of the generalizations.

    I have worked with and programmed on every OS: Windows, Linux variants, Mac OS and mobile platforms as well: Android, iOS, Windows Phone 7. I have worked in a startup (Goowy Media, aq. by AOL), and we actually used the .NET stack, which seemed to actually function pretty well but I was just a front-end engineer doing Flash at that point (two proprietary technologies – argh!). But really it was not bad – Flash and .NET both did everything we needed them to, we did not run into any major problems I can recall. That was back in 2006. Since then, the open-source options have come a long way thanks in part to big companies like Google and Apple adopting OSS.

    Proprietary tech has plenty of flaws, but so do non-proprietary solutions. Windows is used by roughly 95 percent of the world (I don’t know what the exact percentage is at this point, probably a bit lower). Say what you will about Windows, but these are the facts:

    Windows is the most secure operating system. Ask any cracker. It also has the most viruses targeting it due to its market share, but at the same time it is battle-hardened by all of the security vulnerabilities that it has had exposed over time.

    Windows has the widest hardware support – if a driver exists for something, it will exist on Windows before any other platform (unless it is for a mobile device).

    Windows has the most software available for it, and it can pretty easily run OSS – natively or through a virtual console.

    I have a Mac and a PC running Windows. I use my Mac only when necessary, usually to develop iOS applications. My PC used to dual-boot Ubuntu but I got to a point where I was tired of dealing with inferior driver support and wiped it.

    I now use Windows with MS Visual Studio – which works great for developing 3D applications with DirectX, which I do a lot of, I have no complaints there. I worked for a long time with OpenGL, and the development process was filled with various headaches that I don’t care to deal with (not worth an extra 5 percent market share). Even John Carmack now admits that DirectX has surpassed OpenGL. I hate proprietary tech myself, but if it works and there isn’t a better option I will readily use it. Sometimes I use Eclipse for other things but prefer to use Visual Studio when I can. Note, this is coming from someone who has fairly extensively worked with almost every language and development environment out there.

    I think that ultimately it boils down to user preference and what your target market is. Not everyone is developing web applications, so you have to keep that in mind. I am building a startup, and we have little to no interest in web applications (we are working on 3D rendering stuff, which benefits the most from native client speeds and unabstracted hardware interfacing).

    One last remark — you say:

    “When a company openly dismisses the value of designers and business analysts, you end up with Google Wave.”

    I think that designers and business analysts have relatively little value when it comes to software. I have worked on everything from front-end design to back-end server interaction. Designers are a dime a dozen, and many coders are also competent designers – personally I would never hire someone who was just a designer – if they know how to code than they can much more rapidly prototype and automate various designs. In spite of no formal training in design, I can easily reproduce any of the best-designed websites (or competently design passable solutions myself). And business analysts – don’t get me started. Did microsoft need a business analyst? Facebook? Apple? Google? Amazon? Sure, maybe when they grew into behemoths and had money to waste, but never in their infancy, when they were considered to be startups. Google Wave is what happens when your engineers have to build stupid ideas that middle-management comes up with. In any lean startup, engineers are the only required role. Ideally, you should have (some) engineers with skills other than programming, namely in design.

  • http://www.quora.com/How-do-I-set-engineering-goals-for-myself#ans497132 Quora

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    Invest in your knowledge portfolio. There are many types of engineering goals, but I’d say that learning is the easiest and most effective goal of all to achieve. Here I’ll list some things that help you set concrete goals in learning. In Hunt and Th…

  • http://www.microsoft.com Steve Ballmer

    You’re right. It’s all about entrepreneurs. My eyes have been opened.
    Entrepreneurs entrepreneurs entrepreneurs entrepreneurs!

  • Josh

    You’re an idiot that knows little about business!

    We’re all in this to make money, right?! It is money that drives choices so you choose to use different languagues, frameworks, tools, OS, because of COST. That’s what it is all about.

    You can spin it the way you want and blame big corporations for all sort of things BUT at the end of the day you have to make choices and those choices come down to saving MONEY!

  • Anonymous coward

    Idunno … have you ever considered that some people actually love doing engineering work, and would hate to deal with all the non-technical aspects of a startup? For such people Google for instance is a very nice place to work – if you’re capable, you can always switch projects and sites, in order not to get rusty.

    OTOH, probably more so for really savvy engineers than for average programmers, startups are a heartache. You are usually working under constraints which often impede on quality. You need to compromise every second step, between features, costs and duration. You do overtime to keep up your tight schedule, and there’s no time for research and learning. You can’t really afford the best programmers there are on the market, also due to costs. To somebody technically minded, not really caring about the entrepreneurial aspects, a startup is in no way a pleasant place to work.

  • http://mattswanson.org Matt Swanson

    To clarify, the majority of the people I spoke with had current jobs but were looking for new opportunities. It is quite common for people in silicon valley to willingly leave their company for a new more exciting opportunity.

  • http://mattswanson.org Matt Swanson

    I think running a startup on the side, no matter how big, is extremely valuable experience.

    To your second point, I am absolutely unemployable by the corporate world ;)

  • http://twitter.com/jeremyjvaughan Jeremy Vaughan

    good read, and interesting to say the least. …def interested in hearing more about your definition of an “engineer”.

  • D Sp

    I’d just like to say that as someone who is going through different programming languages trying to find one that seems to fit, your article was very inspiring. I wondered why everytime I tried learning C# etc I just couldn’t go through with it. So at the moment I’m learning Ruby, going on to the RoR framework, then going to brush up my html5, javascript and eventually some C skills to top it all off. Then probably see what else I can do to make me irresistable to employers, find time for some MySQL stuff as well I suppose.

    You carry on annoying people by telling the truth.

  • Ed9010

    Take away my .NET and you will get no actual productivity out of me. By the time I have created a web page, I will be too tired to deal with something both boring and very critical like validation. As a start-up, one’s lack of productivity can be masked by the fact that you are a start-up. In the world of established companies, you need to get things done in a much shorter time frame. The first time I opened a VS IDE, I was shocked by its seeming complexity, but I have come to really like it. As a programmer if you want to have legs, you have to be flexible and keep learning new things (even .NET) unless you want to be stuck in Academia or stuck in start-up mode.

    I am not a “very good” programmer. But I am very productive, in my opinion. I am also looking for a new job but not sure I would fit in with your company.

  • Dave Dickens

    I’m a bit late commenting on this article but it inspired me to reply. I worked in a reasonably large software development team for over 20 years. We used numerous technologies, Fortran, Java, the Microsoft range and open source. From my experience the choice of technology is just not an issue, you can do pretty much everything with any of the platforms. The mix of people and their talents is, however, extremely important.

    You must have a combination of good engineers, creative designers and entrepreneurs all working together to enable innovation to thrive. In my experience the most productive engineers are those people who have specialised in a particular technology. They know every aspect of the platform, can build robust code quickly and get the best performance. But these folk don’t normally have the creative skills for UI’s, so get them working with designers and get the whole team fired up by the entrepreneurs – the visionaries. So does someone like me fit in?. I’m a jack of all trades and expert of none, so I provide the motivation and communication that glues the talents together. Sounds a bit like your role Matt. So my advice when recruiting is to craete the right mix of people and try to find everything in one person (eg talented, entrepreneurial minded engineer).

    I now have my own start up business – gardening! I can now build my web site in whatever technology I choose and program for the sheer fun of it. If you interested in what I chose see http://www.growideas.co.uk.

  • Riaz Missaghi

    I am a fellow disliker of .net as it excessively abstracts HTTP traffic which promotes a distorted view of the way data moves between a browser and a server.

    On the flip side c# is my favorite language and IIS7 works very elegantly with c# and you can access the basics of the server handling requests from a browser while still enjoying the syntactic sugar in c#.

    Checkout servercyde.com for rapid Javascript based prototyping of application, it is a startup built on .net

  • http://www.facebook.com/vlad.patryshev Vlad Patryshev

    May I?

    I’m still not sure if I belong to the large company world or to the startup world. Well, I had my share of startups, back in Russia, a while ago. That included taking the risk of carrying cash from the bank to the place where my colleagues are.

    Anyways,your post scares me. You are saying that a developer in a startup must be some kind of street whore, adopting to the situation on the fly. If you are a professional software developer, you may take pride in not giving a fuck about the problem of the moment. Maybe your attention span is bigger than a day or two, maybe you bring a solution that would not be a pain in the ass even 2-3 months from now; is it okay in a startup env?

  • Qwerty

    Windows has the most viruses simply because it has the most flaws. Very few important things run on Windows for reason. WIndows is wide-open. Most secure? LOL

    Linux has several orders of more hardware that it can run on over Windows. Try running Windows on non-intel hear. Try running 7 on something from 2003.

    Basically, you prove the authors point about how clueless and worthless people that get locked in to proprietary crap.

    You are drinking from firehose.

  • Mike

    In the grand scheme of things buying into MS crap or whatever proprietary pit you want to live in is of little significance compared to dev salaries.

    What isn’t insignificant is the lock in and the mindset of “MS will provide me everything I need”, That is poison and results in “programmers” that really only exist to tie together various modules, but not actually build them.

    What you want are people good enough to be able to develop these libraries, which 99.9% of the libraries users can not do.

    Further, big corporations insist on a ‘my way or the highway’ mindset so the devs become much less skilled over time.

    If you want true programmer, you don’t look for people who have shackled themselves to corporate group-think or proprietary tools. They are nothing but API monkeys.

    I have yet to meet a good programmer that willingly uses .Net and Java or would work for some behemoth. Ruby, Python,Haskell,Lisp, Scala, Mirah, Ocaml, C and erlang are all superior to the proprietary languages. About the only language that the C# or whatever can beat is PHP, which is so bad even MS couldn’t have designed it.

    There is a reason why all the important and innovative work comes out of startups.

    MS and Facebook has done nothing of significance technology wise. Google hasn’t done anything good since they were a startup. Once they got big, they have followed the MS way: buy something, make it bigger, bloated, and crappier.

  • Mike

    You also have to compromise between features, price and time anywhere you go. Has MS ever put out anything that wasn’t a series of compromises? It is not like these big companies produce anything that is technologically superior or innovative. They have to buy out startups to get that, but then they ALWAYS ruin it.

    Few projects at Google amount to more then a pile of crap.

  • Steve

    You are not productive, your tools may be.Not only are you not a very good programmer, you are not a programmer. You are an API monkey, an assembly line worker.

  • http://silvercoins.ag/canadian-silver-coins/ maple leaf coins

    Yep….

    I couldn’t have said it better myself……

  • Junhua Chang

    The post has some valid points about corporate life can possibly ruin a future entrepreneur. It’s no coincidence that Bill Gate, Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Mark ZuckBerg, none of them were ever employed. And the list goes on. However, I doubt that the corporate life can totally destroy a true entrepreneur. Your day will come if you fight for it and you deserve it, not because you are or not employed by Microsoft, Apple, Google, or Facebook.

  • Laur

    I take great exception to the jab about Asperger’s Syndrome. My husband is a developer with Asperger’s Syndrome, and while he many not be able to intuitively read social cues, he is more than willing to adapt to any situation when given explicit feedback and has never been “difficult to work with” by starting a fight with another team member. All of the other people I know with Asperger’s have been similar.

    Please don’t fling mud at people with legitimate disabilities.

  • Laur

    Err, may not be able to.

  • Zacharyj76

    The problem here is that there are not enough coders to go around, and no one is teaching us. How many companies, start up or otherwise actually take the initiative to invite noobs along and actually teach them how to code? NONE! I think in the end, learning how to code from a seasoned programmer is the way to go…..There is lots of talent, but still not enough for the US, right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/hartoo.klignon Hartoo Klignon

    I went too the store to times and almost purchased two many items so I put to of them back.

    Put that in your spell checker………

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  • Jo

    “I am surprised by the number of genuinely talented people who––because of choices they’ve made in their career––are now unqualified to work at an actual web startup or start their own.”

    If you could be 1000% correct then you’re 1 MILLION percent correct. I know this first hand. It sucks. Microsoft work did me well for quite a while but once they shifted to this dot net crap, I fell behind and for a while falling behind was OK but now that no one does the “classic” VB or ASP work, and the maintenance of those older apps are over, I am dead in the water. Well, dying in the water trying to understand Linux, Perl, Python, and the slew of other important technologies in a world OTHER THAN Microsoft. At nearly 50, it sucks to not “know anything” anymore. And its more difficult to learn than it was for me 30 years ago.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the info – great to get an candid account of the hiring thought process of a legitimate start-up.

    However, I must also re-iterate what other have said. When I read:

    ” Outside of Facebook, Asperger’s Syndrome is not thought of as an “asset”. ”

    my metaphorical jaw dropped! I can understand that a team is better off if all members have a good emotional read on others to perhaps better promote a collaborative and positive environment, but I do hope that if you happen to “mistakenly” hire someone with Aspergers (I say mistakenly, because it is clear that they will be discriminated against in the hiring process, albeit discretely), and their condition becomes known to you after the fact, that you do make reasonable accommodations for that person as the Americans with Disabilities Act demands.

    Maybe grow some compassion too!

    Kindly Offended,
    Matt

  • FutureFox

    There is nothing wrong with using .NET. As long as your end product is good and gets people using it, it shouldn’t matter what your dev platform is.

  • Matt

    Interesting that this comment was ignored, yet one posted almost two months later was replied to.
    I hope the writer isn’t quite so ignorant / less of a tool 3 years on.

  • Ryder

    Hmmm…. I hate being so late to a party. The experience at my startup is somewhat the opposite. In the end, the answer to what language to use is: it depends. We have far more “professional” and far more functional/useful applications coming from our various flavors of vb, including .net, than any other language in house. Powerful. Clean. Fast to code and deploy. It get’s work done. (our code is used in house, to manage production). Part of this is that many hardware companies provide interfaces that use .Net. In that sense, it can sometimes be the only choice… therefore automatically the best choice.

    But I generally run circles around our full time programmers in terms of delivering a polished product in very rapid fashion, while they are still struggling with the basics of the task at hand. Since code is about 25% of my job, that other 75% of my time just doesn’t leave me the luxury of being inefficient in developing useful tools.