What I have learned about the Netflix culture in my first year
Note about the blog: This blog speaks on my experience and MY opinion so far. I am not sure IF there are people who would disagree with what I share here but all I can do is be honest about my experience and how I have felt this past year.
On Sept. 8th this year I celebrated my first year anniversary! And to be honest, last year I didn’t think this day would ever come.
When I started, I had to handle my mom’s concerns about me possibly overworking and field questions from those in my network (who don’t work at Netflix mind you) regarding if I am ready for the competition and cutthroat culture. I have to admit, I was shook. I became skeptical of how long I would be here.
It made me question whether or not I really learned everything I needed to know about the culture before jumping in. But after going through the interview process and talking to people at Netflix, I decided it was still the right place for me to be. Having over a full year behind me, I can confidently say what I had heard about Netflix’s culture before I started is not at all true. I decided to write this post to address some of those common things that I have heard.
Question #1: Do you have to be a pretty senior and self motivated engineer to get (and stay) at Netflix?
Yes and no. I say yes because historically and from what I can see in the engineering org, all of the engineers have “Senior” in their title. I say no because if you weren’t already aware, this year we have postings for New Grad hire for User Interface Engineer as well as Software Engineer. Regardless of title, you definitely have to be self motivated based off of our Culture Memo which highlights being a part of a Dream Team and having Freedom and Responsibility.
Question #2: I heard people are fired very quickly, is that true?
I think this question comes from the keeper test mentioned in our Culture Memo and the misconception that your manager could ask themselves how hard they would fight to keep you after only having a month on the job and decide to let you go. As with other companies and jobs, just cause is necessary. So no, you don’t get fired so quickly. In my experience in the past year, support is abundant. Everyone is really committed to helping each other succeed and meet those high expectations. In addition, failure is perfectly ok and accepted. However, repeated failure without any kind of progress or addressing feedback received is something to be mindful of.
Question #3: Is it pretty cutthroat to work there considering the keeper test?
Not at all. In fact, I think I have felt less competition here than at any other company. Considering the fairly flat structure (everyone has the Senior Software Engineer title) and my confidence in pay considering they pay top of my market, I no longer have to compete for that coveted promotion or raise amongst my peers. We work together for the good of the team and company and not to just make ourselves look good for more money or a better title.
Question #4: Are things pretty chaotic with a flat structure and what seems to be a lack of tech lead style roles?
Nope! Just because we have a flat structure and everyone might have the same title does not mean there is no leadership or progression within your career. We do have engineering managers, directors, VPs, and so on, but we don’t have a concept of staff or principal engineers for instance for individual contributors. This doesn’t mean there isn’t any career growth either though. Just because there are 4 backend senior software engineers on a team doesn’t mean there isn’t any tech leadership. It could mean there is a team lead or the team is structured in such a way that each engineer is an Informed Captain/Subject Matter Expert (SME) for a particular feature or application.
Question #5: Did it take some adjustment for the transparency in the culture?
Yes because with Freedom and Responsibility everyone has insight and access to pretty much everything which could be information overload. I really love and appreciate transparency and that we actively seek out dissenting views in our discussions. In fact, I realized that the way we do things at other companies in terms of transparency might not be the right way to go. For instance, have you ever decided to Slack or email someone about a feature you are working on together at work only to find they are nowhere to be found and their accounts all deactivated? You have no idea if this person was fired or quit or how their work will be transitioned. That has never happened at Netflix and it is refreshing!
Question #6: So you have secured THE BAG when you got hired at Netflix huh?
Can neither confirm nor deny. ;) What I can say is check out the paragraph under Dream Team about top of market pay in our Culture Memo. They have stuck to their word here. If you are really interested, the best way to find out is to apply and interview.
Question #7: Do you get free Netflix?
No and it does not bother me in the least bit. One benefit employees do have is access to content ahead of the rest of the world. We can even provide feedback on the platform and content to make the experience better for our users. As with most things, this of course falls under the Freedom and Responsibility value I have mentioned a number of times already.
Question #8: Did you just drink the kool aid and here to upsell Netflix to everyone else?
No, not at all. Read my other blogs where I show some clear honesty and skepticism. I am the kind of person that leaves raving reviews for great service any chance I get and don’t just complain when I don’t have a great experience. Netflix has stuck to what I was presented in the culture memo and the interview process in this past year and wanted to share my insight. I hope that continues to be the case throughout the rest of my tenure here.