What began as praise for Microsoft by a former employee is now being criticised for being a "glorification of a toxic work culture”. The episode is fast turning into a debate on work ethics but also corporate one-upmanship. Hadi Partovi, now the CEO of education nonprofit Code.org, on Monday shared how developing Internet Explorer was a “sprint” for the team and how they worked really hard to make the project a success but one that led to divorces and broken marriages. Aaron Boodman, technical lead on the Google Chrome browser, took a dig at Partovi saying that the work culture at the Google Chrome project was nothing special and everyone just kept their eight-hour schedules.
Boodman's response to Partovi appears to be pointing to the fact that a company's output not only depends on its employees working hard but also smart. Boodman, who said working on the Chrome project was one of the most formative experiences of his career, added: “Chrome was delivered without any sprints at all” and there was no drama, no broken marriages, and broken families.
Chrome was delivered without any sprints at all. The team came in at 9 and left at 5 (figuratively, people actually kept their own ~8h schedules) every workday for a couple years like clockwork. No drama. No broken marriages, no broken families. https://t.co/PjAQD2vTZ7— Aaron Boodman ???????????????????????? (@aboodman) August 16, 2021
Partovi's Twitter thread described how Microsoft was trying to compete with Netscape Navigator, which held 95 percent of the market in 1995. The Explorer team had only nine people and it was "trying desperately to grow as quickly as possible." Partovi also said the Explorer team was the “hardest-working team” he has ever worked with.
Sadly, there were divorces and broken families and bad things that came out of that. But I also learned that even at a 20,000-person company, you can get a team of 100 people to work like their lives depend on it.— Hadi Partovi (@hadip) August 14, 2021
But some of his tweets were not well-received.
hey Cortana show me "toxic work environment" pic.twitter.com/G5o1oujW5z— Aditya Mukerjee, the Otterrific ???? ????️???? (@chimeracoder) August 15, 2021
Boodman, on the other hand, said the Chrome-team managing “to deliver high-quality software without death marches” was a “miracle” and explained how it came to pass.
I hear you asking, dear reader, how this miracle came to pass. How did chrome-team manage to deliver high quality software without death marches?— Aaron Boodman ???????????????????????? (@aboodman) August 16, 2021
Funny you ask... Turns out that software projects actually benefit strongly from having senior technical leadership deeply involved.
In his next tweet, he went on to describe what he meant by “senior”, and pointed out how it's common for the senior members “to age out to management and leave the typing to the kids”.
By "senior" I mean, as a crude approximation, "old enough to have school aged children at home".— Aaron Boodman ???????????????????????? (@aboodman) August 16, 2021
By "involved" I mean "typing code" and "reviewing code".
I know! In our industry it has been more common for such folks to age out to management and leave the typing to the kids.
“Having strong technical leadership has lots of advantages, but one of them is it naturally leads to a healthier cadence. These folks typically have to be home for dinner, and they're old enough to know that death marches don't work,” he added.
In the thread, Boodman also advised people working on software projects how they should build their business by deploying experienced engineers to lead their teams.