Recently joined a bay area startup called Verkada, having mixed feelings

Verkada xzqf77
Jan 11 27 Comments

I joined Verkada after a brief stint at another bay area company. The interviews went smooth, the recruiters pitched hard, the execs wooed me with fancy food and a generous offer I couldn't refuse. Some N months later my bubble is burst and I regret coming here.

It all started when I discovered that most of the senior engineering managers can't write a decent piece of code or conduct a simple technical interview. I have never seen a bigger team of inexperienced engineers working together on a critical product.

The company is mainly sales driven, everyone here is blinded by getting rich young and quick, living in a successful IPO/acquisition dream bubble. The CEO is strongly driven by making money through sales, rather than focusing on developing a quality product for the customer.

Though a surveillance security company, the features appear quite immature and dysfunctional. There was a customer incident last year and the camera failed to notice it with it’s weak AI capabilities. Highly hyped, below-par product features are released every quarter targeted to make even more sales than previous quarter. The engineers work long hours and operate under a 'release quickly first, fix later' motto.

The company is loaded with investor money. They constantly throw lavish parties, team outings and provide crazy bonuses that brainwash employees to work harder every quarter.

———

While having lunch with a couple of early engineers on the team, one of them confided that the company culture is no longer the same as the time when he joined. People are frustrated and uncertain with where things are heading, there are plenty of latent egos floating around.

He told me that one particular head of Sales quit and joined another surveillance camera competitor, which was a huge bad sign in itself. Many people in sales were unhappy when they found out. The mobile and web design teams seem okay, the core software engineers work 24/7, fixing constant bugs and working on ambitious features that are killed in the bud or replaced with a newer dream feature next quarter. The new products team doesn’t have a working product yet. Majority of the AI computer vision portion of the product is powered by deep learning services from external companies, far behind other similar startups in the surveillance domain and is at best average.

To save costs, the camera hardware is cheaply manufactured from Asia with limited capabilities. The engineering hiring targets are scarily ambitious, engineering culture hints traces of ageism, there’s plenty of prevalent nepotism in hiring execs and fellow employees across all teams.

The product targets are listed out every quarter to achieve a shorter term success, without clear long term goals. This sets of a repetitive cycle of broken features, weak bug fixes, duplicate engineering workload and a state of confusion among team members.

Another engineer said he was quitting sometime this year and was already interviewing actively.
———

My initial good impressions of a seemingly successful startup are now replaced by severe doubts. The startup is 3-4 years old and has a long way to go to be a game changer in the market. My fear is that they will be acquired by a giant company(Cisco, Amazon, or equivalent) in the next few years and squashed down quickly.
And us newer employees will leave with nothing but peanuts in hand.

I want to take a calculated risk between leaving asap and staying on. But I have a family and this decision is not that simple.

I need your help and advice!

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TOP 27 Comments
  • Microsoft Vbsm66
    It's pretty obvious that you should just leave.
    Jan 11 0
  • Verkada U05
    I work at Verkada as well yet I have the exact opposite feelings as you.

    1. Sales culture was definitely big at the beginning, now it’s become a lot more balanced.

    2. CEO is clearly a lot more product focused, it’s inherent to who he is. He barely spends any time with sales and is working right beside the engineers.

    3. Very clear long term vision and likely IPO on the not so long term horizon.

    4. Bugs are normal, the key is to keep pushing forward with the vision as we continue to fix bugs. Short term success is important or else we end up losing momentum, you want long term success, join Google.

    5. Can’t speak for quality of every engineer but the ones I work with were on the verge of genius.

    6. Cameras are manufactured in Taiwan, had they been in China you’d be right. But no, the hardware is solid, it’s better than what’s out there on the market for mass production. That said, if you’re focused on the hardware you’re clearly missing the point of the company.

    7. If you have a family, you should do what’s best for the family but don’t waste our time, we’re in it to change the market upside down and it’s clearly already happening.

    8. No head of sales ever quit this company. The only person to quit this company was a channel manager who was frustrated that he kept getting demoted. He then joined a competitor as a VP as his leverage of the knowledge at Verkada provided him with a fake bargaining chip.

    I think you should speak with your manager because you’re clearly ill informed.
    Jan 11 1
    • New HXwF46
      I think the OP is someone who clearly doesn't understand startup culture and how he needs to identify problems and lead solutions. He talks about the code challenges, yet what is he doing to fix bugs and bring things up to par?

      This startup has money for a reason. This startup has payroll met for a reason. The reason is successful sales and OP should be very pleased with that. Sure not everything is right, but show me any company of any scale that is 100% right. They do not exist.
      Jan 13
  • Amazon / Eng Q.E.D.
    TC?
    Jan 11 1
    • Amazon MarcG
      +1 TC or GTFO
      Jan 12
  • Scientific Games MetaMind
    You will have 2 brief stints in a row on your resume. Doesn't look good. Start the job search but be more selective this time. Don't be wooed by money and sales pitch. Look for a challenging position that can teach you something.
    Jan 11 1
    • Airbnb kYFK02
      No it won’t
      Jan 11
  • Amazon Northman
    This sounds pretty normal for a startup. Lots of tech debt, push features fast to drive sales, cut corners where possible, overhype with buzzwords that are backed by some outside services ("AI-powered", when you are really just using some 3rd party vendor API). If the company has product market fit and is scaling well, then the lack of maturity in the engineering org is par for the course. Whether you should stick it out or not depends on 1) whether the company has sufficient traction and growth 2) how much your options are worth 3) whether you are learning fast despite the issues 4) whether switching right now will look not-so-good on your resume (probably true).
    Jan 11 0
  • New oOFe86
    Hopefully nobody else from Verkada reads this
    Jan 11 2
    • Verkada U05
      I have but the goal is not to blame people for how they feel but see how we can always improve.
      Jan 11
    • New oOFe86
      Agreed completely. I'm just saying that because this isn't Google we're talking about. I don't know how big Verkada is but op gives away potentially identifying info while throwing managers/coworkers under the bus and also advertising the opinions and plans to leave of other workers (potentially) without their consent. I don't know, maybe Verkada is a huge startup with lots of employees 🤷🏻‍♂️
      Jan 11
  • Apple TryAgainn
    I have interviewed there for a SWE, the engineers seemed knowledgeable and nice.
    IDK about the sales stuff.
    Jan 11 2
    • Apple nOGD15
      How was the package you ended up getting? I’m also interviewing there
      Jan 13
    • Google rm -rf op
      I'm curious about the offer too
      Jan 24
  • Amazon Blazon
    I’d get a second opinion from some else you respect within the company who has worked at other places. I doesn’t sound like you have too much experience and I’m not sure if you’re being too harsh due to that. If they also confirm your beliefs then yes it’s time to go.
    Jan 11 1
    • Verkada U05
      Check my reply.
      Jan 11
  • Amazon MarcG
    Few observations I made...

    1) You’ve accepted a generous offer.
    2) The company has quarterly target, and give out bonuses accordingly.
    3) You think company will be acquired in couple years (i.e. you think the company is doing well)
    4) Obviously you shouldn’t expect working with “Google-class” code at a startup.
    5) I’ve worked at A and G. Even for those companies, wlb was dependent on a team.

    I would love to join. Is this your new hiring strategy?
    Jan 11 0
  • Google toofani
    TC or GTFO
    Jan 11 0

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