I’ve always disliked the aggressive “dog eats dog” dynamic of Silicon Valley, especially related to hiring and I am feeling it every day in New York with many companies opening large engineering satellites and aggressively trying to approach my team members and myself. Instead, I try to behave in a more civil manner and not to poach Engineers from other New York City, non-competing start-ups. There’re obviously no non-poaching agreements - those would be illegal - and I do realize that we are fighting for talented engineers or designers. That said, I believe that people are more important than companies and we can all benefit from collaborating with the aim of improving both outcomes in hiring and retaining employees.
Every individual has the responsibility towards themselves and their families of being selfish when choosing where to work. It’s a privilege and a luxury because there’re more tech jobs out there than candidates. I chose to work for my current company because I wanted to work for a small startup, because I was impressed by the founders and the coworkers, and because I was thrilled to work in the domain of art. It was, and continues to be a tremendous opportunity that has been paying dividends in so many more ways than money. So I typically advise anyone about to make a decision of taking or not taking a job offer to think selfishly, one last time before committing to a company, project, product or mission.
Similarly, I would never limit anyone’s mobility between my team and another company. There often comes a time when you are burnt out or a company pivots into a direction which you can no longer believe in. But there also may just be a day when you think the opportunity ahead of you is no longer there, the company is no longer a fit, or you have accomplished all your goals and feel that it’s time to move on. The grass could also be actually greener on the other side. My former team members have been doing great things, including starting companies or going back to school, and I have shaken their hand and thanked them for the excellent work they had done and wished them the best of luck, every single time.
On the other hand, when an engineer at an awesome other tech startup in NYC where I have a relationship with the CTO inquires with us for a job, I of course interview them. It goes without saying that I keep this entirely confidential and go out of my way to ensure that their motive for jumping ship is in line with the positive thinking that I had outlined above. But I do not aggressively try to poach anyone currently happy at work, even if I would be absolutely thrilled to work with them. Instead, I continue working relentlessly on making my team more awesome, so that we are their first choice when they are ready to jump ship.
I’ve never asked anyone to behave the same way, but I noticed many New York CTOs do. I want to thank them for helping us make New York City the number one place for engineers to live and work in.