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Protocol | Workplace

By Michelle Ma and Lizzy Lawrence
June 28, 2022


Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. It’s only been four days since the SCOTUS decision. In case you missed our workplace coverage of the weekend, we wrote about what tech companies are doing to support workers and how companies can prepare for what’s next. Today: Michelle Ma returned from Collision in Toronto, where she spoke to dozens of tech execs and startup founders about what’s happening in their workplaces right now. Here’s what industry leaders think about hybrid growing pains, the looming recession and whether it's OK now (or ever) to talk about politics at work.

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How founders and execs feel right now

 

I was at the Collision tech conference last week in Toronto moderating two panels on hybrid work and the war for talent. I also had the chance to talk, mingle and brush shoulders IRL for the first time in a long time with hundreds of founders, tech execs and VCs. I asked them how they’re feeling about remote work, the state of the economy and what it means for their businesses, as well as the biggest challenges they’re facing right now from a talent and workplace front. Here’s what they told me:

Hybrid and remote work is here to stay, but there are still cost and collaboration elements to figure out.

  • Most tech execs agree there is a limit to how far away employees can be physically from a productivity standpoint. Pitch co-founder and Chief People Officer Vanessa Stock caps it at a five-hour time overlap of working hours; any more can be a collaboration killer.
  • GitHub CEO Thomas Dohmke agrees that creative, in-person brainstorming is the biggest missing piece right now, but he feels that the benefits of remote work far outweigh the loss. “You don’t get constantly distracted by people walking by your desk and asking you questions,” he told me, and the time gained from cutting a commute and getting ready for work is worth it. The whiteboard piece, in his mind, can be solved by individual teams meeting in person once a quarter or every six months.
  • The consensus is shifting on how to pay people in different geographies. It used to be that lower-tier markets received lower pay, but the competition for talent has changed that. To stay competitive while keeping costs down, Loom issues geo-neutral pay within the same country, but for hires outside of the U.S. where the cost of living is considerably lower, they’ll apply “geo-dips” to reduce costs. “We’re entering a market that rewards capital efficiency,” Loom co-founder and CTO Vinay Hiremath told me. Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader said his company has a similar compensation philosophy around stateside mobility and country-specific base comp, equity and bonuses.
  • As more companies hire remotely, they’ll have to start making decisions around when it makes sense to invest in real estate. For Smartsheet, the threshold for investing in office space is when a geography has about 150 or more employees, Mader told me.

There’s a growing debate in tech over whether or not companies should take a stand on social issues.

  • This started when Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong wrote a controversial blog post on the subject — that he reiterated recently on “The Good Time Show” — saying that employees who are passionate about external issues are typically devoting more time to them, thereby marking themselves as underperformers who are “easy to eliminate.” Kraken CEO Jesse Powell made a similar statement recently. "Most people don't care and just want to work," Powell tweeted as part of a long thread, "but they can't be productive while triggered people keep dragging them in to debates and therapy sessions."
  • I asked Dohmke about how he and others at GitHub approach the subject, and he said while he won’t be commenting on “every socio-political issue around the world,” GitHub does make statements on topics “if they directly affect us,” which include issues like climate change and diversity and inclusion, as well as racism.
  • Ceridian co-CEO Leagh Turner told me she believes that CEOs who don’t connect to the things that matter to their employees, like DEI and social issues, are “shirking responsibility.” Benevity CEO Kelly Schmitt, who I interviewed on the same panel, concurred. “I don’t think it’s acceptable to stand for nothing anymore. People will vote with their feet,” she said.

We’re headed toward a recession, but they’re not worried (at least not for their own businesses).

  • World Fund founding partner Danijel Višević told me this moment in time is essentially separating the wheat from the chaff from a startup investment and growth perspective: “When you see that there's a crisis, that’s when you recognize whether or not a solution is really solving a problem.”
  • Dohmke told me that, other than seasonal slowdowns, GitHub is not seeing a slowdown in its own hiring (even though parent company Microsoft has slowed hiring in certain divisions). “Nothing to announce on layoffs or anything like that, and it’s not on my mind, but you know, ‘Never say never.’ A recession is looming,” he told me.
  • Schmitt told me she regretted pausing hiring at the start of the pandemic “to see what would happen in the world,” since it subsequently took Benevity two years to catch up on hiring. She said the corporate giving platform is in a similar situation today, and it has to be “careful not to whipsaw and do something that would put [it] behind in certain core parts of the business.”
     
— Michelle Ma, reporter (email | twitter)
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The UK may steal your talent 

 

President Biden may have undone some of the immigration restrictions from the Trump era, but the U.S. still turns away hundreds of thousands of highly skilled tech workers each year, even those educated in the U.S. The U.K. seems to have taken notice, and has set up a new visa that could woo talent across the pond. The High Potential Individual visa looks for “talented graduates in areas such as science, engineering and research from internationally renowned universities,” according to the U.K.’s Home Office.

Read the full story.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email | twitter)

SPONSORED CONTENT FROM APPDYNAMICS

 

Why full-stack observability should be a priority as enterprises face the next wave of innovation: Full-stack observability with business context enables companies to digest IT performance to easily identify where they can prioritize performance and tackle issues that strategically impact their bottom line. This correlation of technology and business data allows IT leaders to make smarter, strategic decisions based on actual business impact.

Read more from AppDynamics

These job titles net the biggest salaries

 

O’Reilly just released its 2022 Cloud Salary Survey, analyzing trends in compensation, remote work, training and other workplace issues. The results from the nearly 1,500 cloud professionals that O’Reilly surveyed showed that job titles matter, even if they’re not at all consistent across the industry.

The survey offered the choice of four roles: executive, director, manager or associate. It also allowed respondents to write in their own titles, and O’Reilly said that roughly half chose this option.

Average salaries of cloud professionals, according to title:

  • Directors: $235,000
  • Executives: $231,000
  • Architects: $196,000
  • Leads: $190,000
  • Managers: $188,000
  • Engineers: $175,000
  • Associates: $140,000
  • Consultants: $129,000

More stories from us

 

The chip industry isn’t sexy enough for college grads — and that's really bad news.

AWS paid an outside firm to investigate worker allegations. The firm found nothing wrong.

The battle for compensation benchmarking tools is heating up. Pave just bought Option Impact.

A firm backing underrepresented founders just laid off 75% of its staff.

SPONSORED CONTENT FROM APPDYNAMICS

 

Why full-stack observability should be a priority as enterprises face the next wave of innovation: Organizations that have already started the move to a full-stack observability approach are seeing results and clear return on investment (ROI). In the AppDynamics research, 86% of technologists reported greater visibility across their IT stack over the last 12 months when implementing full-stack.

Read more from AppDynamics

Around the internet

 

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Meta tells employees not to discuss abortion on its internal workplace communication platform … again.

Learn from Elon’s mistakes: If you’re calling all your employees back to the office, better make sure there are enough parking spaces and desks.

Are your remote work policies even legal? Tech companies might consider hiring a professional to make sure they are.

And speaking of the law, on Friday we wrote about what experts say companies should do post-Roe. Law360 provides additional considerations for companies, including that they should “prepare for legal challenges.”

 

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com.

 

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