The Old Silicon Valley, hammers Dan Lyons in "Disrupted," had been about technology.
Startups such as Microsoft and Apple actually focused on creating breakthrough products. Those ranged from an operating system to a user-friendly personal computer.
Now, the game has shifted to creating forms of distorted realities which can make the founders and investors very wealthy. A breakthrough product may come about. But that's irrelevant. And, as Lyons documents, the losers usually are the employees.
His experience working in marketing in a Boston-based startup - HubSpot - was accidental. (Silicon Valley has evolved into a mindset. It's no longer a place.)
A journalist, at age 52 he was laid off from Newsweek. Essentially, the message was that the company could replace him, at his salary, with five young hires. Yes, the issue of age discrimination permeates "Disrupted." Lyons is hyper aware of his gray hair.
Lyons had a disabled wife, two young children, and a mortgage. Since HubSpot was located in Boston, where his family was settled in, that seemed the best job offer to grab. He needed the medical insurance.
Initially, when he arrived, he was shocked. Then, taking the advice of a friend, he took on the role of anthropologist, studying this strange tribe who was typical of The New Silicon Valley. The book resulted.
At HubSpot the founders and top layers focused more on The Show than product development. Their software for inbound marketing was mediocre. The objective was not a profit. It was scaling revenues.
Rapid revenue growth was what attracted investor funding. In some tech startups, which as Amazon, that formula did pan out. At HubSpot it wasn't as successful. However, as a result of the IPO, a founder became very wealthy. And Lyons himself walked off with $45,000 net.
Hiring involved recruiting new college graduates. They were paid peanuts. And burnt out before they vested. But while there they were socialized to hold sacred that they were working at a cool company which was making a difference. Among the employee perks was a wall of candy. There were no heretics.
There were only a few others in addition to Lyons who were over-35. Like those I coach, he was deeply affected by ageism. His age was brought out by the members of the tribe.
An interesting point Lyons makes - and he might not realize he is complimenting startups - is that HubSpot played it by ear. It really didn't know what it was doing. That seems to be a best practice for both all companies and all individuals in the current wild-west economy.
Those I coach who believe they know what they are doing only find jobs, are promoted, and navigate career transition after they get it: It's all experimentation. There is no master plan. You have to try things out.
Ironically, another issue Lyons brings up is that working has become a continual job hunt. You get an offer, you sign all the forms, you settle in, and soon enough you're back looking for a job or assignment. He brings up that founder of LinkedIn - Reid Hoffman - framed that as going on "a tour of duty." That ends. You move on.
Here's the irony. After a few years, Lyons was able to quit HubSpot to write for Gawker. Gawker, as we all know, no longer exists. But since he's well connected and has a gig writing for HBO's "Silicon Valley," he's probably doing just fine. In a sense, he's the new role model for all of us, aging and young, on earning a living when everything is changing.
The funny thing, though, is that one laid-off 50-something I coach was asked on several job interviews why he had had so many jobs. Of course, he was prepared to answer that, to their satisfaction. He did receive a good offer. He took it. He had to. He needed the health insurance. Even via COBRA, the monthly nut for the family would have been $2,500.
Then five months later a better offer came. He took it. That man truly entered into the ethos of Perpetual Job Change. He did to the system what it had done to him.
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