Gabe talks about Life Behind Valve

Gabe talks about Life Behind Valve

I think it’s safe to say that Valve is probably one of the more successful videogame companies out there right now, and possibly one of the more consumer-friendly ones too. Its digital distribution platform, Steam, practically showers its consumers in sales virtually every other day, but it also has a tendency to dish out complete trash as well. For the time I’ve used Steam I’ve not had an occasion in recent memory where I had bad blood against Valve as a company. Perhaps that may change later down the line or perhaps not, but in any case, it appears I’ll be using Steam for quite some time and I can’t help but wonder what it’s like to work at Valve. Well, according to an interview with the Washington Post , life behind Valve is surprisingly liberal.

Gabe Newell, co-founder and CEO at Valve, described what life in the company was like for its employees and as a business as a whole, which–when reading–sounded a bit odd to me. I would expect a videogame company to be structured, with titles and a rank and file and such the like. That doesn’t seem to be the case at Valve. The company is comprised of many multi-talented people who are free to step into whatever their skills allow them to, like programming, art, animation, modelling, etc, and aren’t restricted to one field skill. It’s a company that’s filled with jacks-of-all-trades who are quick to adapt, with Newell’s belief that no-one should be in one specialization as the gaming industry moves from one generation to the next.

Valve also seems to put a lot of emphasis on trust, which is understandable when you consider how lenient it is with its employees. The company trusts its own employees to manage their own choices and their own time as well as their own promises (which, in a way, can be said for any company, really), and the company itself comes across as surprisingly democratic.

I’ll be honest: I like Valve’s sense of openness and the freedom it gives its employees. They allow someone of multiple skills to work in, say, three boxes instead of one, allowing them to fully exercise their talents and skills instead of working on just the one and letting the others become less developed. For example, one its first employees has a bachelors in Fine Arts and works as an artist, but he can also do programming really well, so he’s allowed to fill in more than one job. Freedoms like that are also why Valve doesn’t dish out titles to their employees, as Newell feels giving an employee a working title will conjure up “ expectations of specialization and focus which don’t map really well to creating the best possible experience for your customers.” Whenever titles are given out, it’s usually for one point in time–or even for one project I imagine.

All-in-all, Newell puts Valve across as an eyebrow raising, yet surprisingly laid back company, and a company that judges more on talents than grades. Newell makes Valve out as a company that doesn’t look for credentials, but instead looks for talent and skill, and passion and dedication. This is something that gives me a sigh of relief, as for the longest time I have been conditioned to think that grades are everything. “You must get this in order to get this, yadda-yadda-yadda.” The fact that Valve appears to be open to those who have more than just a number or a letter or a piece of paper is strangely reassuring to me, and kudos to those who get recognised by Valve for their proven, usually self-learned, talent–like with that one guy who scored a job at Valve for making an entirely new Skyrim campaign.

To read the full interview, you can head over to the Washington Post .

Source: Washington Post .

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