Is this really what tech-startup culture is?

A year ago I wanted to make a change and joined my friend who is a VP at a startup. She and my team are great even up to the C-suite level. But after a recent encounter with the core developer team here… I’m at my
breaking point.

This dev team is extremely tribal. It’s as if they view other tech teams as “others” and it’s “us vs. them”. My team works on a different vertical so I’ve never interacted with them before and a timeline of events is below. Is this kind of behavior a normal thing at a tech startups?

Here’s some highlights from the last month…

- Customer demands a deliverable because it’s in a contract signed a year ago.
- No one in dev can be troubled to lift a finger (holiday season). I get called in to support.
- This isn’t my code - I’ve never seen or used it before.
- None of dev’s documentation is up to date.
- Find out dev hasn’t touched client’s project in a year.
- Spend weeks working with it. Find fundamental flaws which could have put us in legal jeopardy.
- I realize dev never finished this project because it doesn’t even have basic functionality to do what customer needs.
- Spent entire Christmas/New Year working.
- Create dozens of bug tickets and merge requests.
- Barely squeeze by and save multi-million $ contract renewal.

So what happens next?
- Reprimanded by the dev lead. He tells me I’m “hurting people’s feelings” by pointing out so many problems.
- A PM in a public Slack channel told me I was “passive aggressive” for a Jira issue where I wrote (verbatim) “Can we enable code highlighting in this text box? It’s difficult to show steps to reproduce the bug.”
- get told by VP to stop talking to them
- a bunch of merge requests rejected without explanation
- weeks later I see someone in dev run into a bug I found. I sent him the fix. They accepted his MR in the same day and it actually added another new bug.
- I lookup the recent commits of the lead-dev who chewed me out, he’s been working on adding colors to his console log output for print debugging. This is a time-critical application and he adds 30% overhead with logging debug information in production.
- Meanwhile dozens of major bugs exist and are ignored.
- The CTO at this company loves these people - though he hasn’t brought in any new business (literally) ever.
- My team is about to close a new contract and we’ve spent 15 days to work on it.
- The CTO said my team is slow and doesn’t fit with the business model of the company.

My team has never dealt with these devs before, so I checked Glassdoor for other experiences, the dev team apparently…
- uses “vulgar slurs for women”
- talking about technical issues “resulted in a lot of resentment”
- has an apparent “desire for revenge”

/ end story

This last month really shocked me because for my career so far I’ve never dealt with this kind of behavior. I could see a startup accepting this kind of culture if was bringing in a lot of revenue but they aren’t. They dropped the ball so hard we all lost our bonuses this year. It’s made even worse with the fact that they are constantly producing complete dog poop code (I’ve kept that opinion to myself though).

I’m really left wondering if this is just how it is in the high-stakes startup world.

Sorry - this started out as a question but ended up another dev rant.

  • 19
    Nothing to do with startups and everything to do with shitty people
  • 8
    This sounds more like old entrenched enterprise dev team than startup.

    The main problem sounds like the CTO that treat development as his private domain and not as a part of the company.
  • 10
    Get. Out. While. You. Can.

    ( Of course first find a new position )
  • 2
    I'm surprised you still work there, I can never handle such toxic traits in work/team environments.
  • 4
    Acting offended is being used a manipulation technique in this scenario.
    You have to clearly stablish boundaries.
    Technical reviews should not be dismissed based on feelings.
    I see this as a lack of ownership and character.

    Congratulations, you encountered a group of cowards. 😅
  • 4
    Can happen in startups. The original team often gets praised as gods because they've built the product from the ground up, so management think they're awesome, because in their eyes building a working product with crappy code is far harder than maintaining it, that's what the plebs do.

    Get out now. It won't get better. Company might survive, but any dev will be a nightmare.
  • 2
    Tbh read your legal docs and get started with building a competing start up. You already know how to deliver and get multi million dollar contracts
  • 4
    Get out of that shithole as soon as you can. Its all about internal power games there, even if you come up with some genius ideas you will get shot down and best case scenario you will get gaslighted and other devs will take your credit for themselves. Literally no point to stay there, unless you enjoy the drama and being berated all the time.
  • 6
    “In any type of institution whatsoever, when a self-directed, imaginative, energetic, or creative member is being consistently frustrated and sabotaged rather than encouraged and supported, what will turn out to be true one hundred percent of the time, regardless of whether the disrupters are supervisors, subordinates, or peers, is that the person at the very top of that institution is a peace-monger.”

    —Edwin Friedman

    I always prided myself on being a person of tenacity. Experience has taught me that I endured a lot of hell because of that stupid pride. Find another gig ASAP and walk. Best of luck!
  • 1
    Like what @AlmondSauce said... The devs who build the product from scratch in a startup in its high risk budding phase sometimes develop an unusual attachment to their project and the team... And the founders are grateful of those early key people who helped the startup stand up on its feet by creating a working app - the code quality doesn't matter at that point.

    That being said, the amount of toxicity against other people or teams you mentioned is not the case with every startup at all, you just fell into bad place. I'd say it's the CTOs fault tbh.
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