Want to know what it’s really like at a tech company? You can check out reviews on Glassdoor, but those tend to be very limited in scope, along the lines of “hard to advance,” “too much office politics,” “good benefits.”
So people ask Quora, “What’s the company culture like at LinkedIn” or “What’s it like to work at Google Research?” They get a few qualitative responses, usually from former employees, but sometimes from people reporting just on what friends of friends have said. These answers tend to avoid specifics like salaries, and couch any criticisms in politeness. And people currently at the companies in discussion generally keep their opinions to themselves.
But there is a place where current employees are saying more—a lot more. That’s a discussion app called Blind. Launched in the U.S. 2015 following a successful start in South Korea, it offers channels for individual companies, verifies that people actually work at the company via email address and LinkedIn, and then masks their identities. It also sometimes creates mashups: the company opened a joint Microsoft/LinkedIn channel after the LinkedIn acquisition news.
By March, Blind had workers at more than 100 companies talking among themselves. According to Mashable, in the midsts of Uber’s public relations debacle earlier this year, Uber employees were logging in to Blind five times a day, with each session lasting an average of 14 minutes. That’s a lot of gossip. (And the company briefly blocked the app on its network.) Blind reports that in general, users typically spend 41 minutes a day on the app.
Wouldn’t we all love to know what they are talking about? This month, Blind opened access to all tech workers. It is, however, only limited access. The app only opens a channel for an organization after a critical mass of employees sign up, and that channel remains closed to outsiders. However, the un-channeled masses can lurk in the virtual halls, and sometimes insiders pop their heads out the doors to answer their questions. Those hallways, at this point, seem to mostly be filled by job hunters.
They are talking, for one, about salaries: what do people make at different levels at different companies, how much should someone negotiating for a job at one of those companies settle for. A few examples:
—“What range would you expect the hourly pay rate of a data science intern at Uber to be?” (“should be at least the industry standard of 4K-6K a month” “I wouldn’t settle for less than 10K a month”)
—“What’s the average salary for a UX designer with 9 years experience?” ($140-plus.” “146K base, 35K year 1 bonus, 30K year2 bonus” “150K base”)
They also are asking the crowd to chime in with advice about which of multiple offers to take (Amazon or LinkedIn? HTC or Google?), whether to jump ship from a current job, where to look for a job at a company that will sponsor an H1B visa, and whether or not comments at sites like Glassdoor represent companies accurately.
You can find out if your company has a private channel on Blind’s website, or join the discussion in the hallways, if your email shows a connection with a tech organization (IEEE emails indeed work), by downloading the app.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.