It’s officially review season! That wonderful time of year when managers and bosses have programmers and artists jumping through hoops to prove they are worth that $20,000 bonus in the best case, and not worthy of firing in the worst case. Some reviews and fun, some tortuous, some boring, but everyone seems to have a different way of doing it.
I used to live in Florida and work for a company specializing in… well let’s just say particular arts that involve electronics. I won’t mention the specific company for fear of revealing any secret info, but I can tell you that the games I worked on included Maddening and Lion Forest GPA 2009.
The PACE review process bordered on absurd. Its been three years since I worked there, and I may be a little fuzzy on the details so hopefully Szymon Swistun, Ben Carter, or Jon Sterman can jump in and correct me if I screw up. There were three (that I remember) components to the review process.
First of all, you needed to find coworkers to fill out evaluation forms on your behalf. This part of the process was a bit of a joke because people always chose their friends who would of course give them a glowing review. If you didn’t have any friends or none of your coworkers liked you, you were officially screwed. I understand there is some value in being notorious among your coworkers, but when 400 people each collect 3 – 5 peer reviews each, and every single one starts with the sentence “X is irreplaceable and an asset to the company, capable of such amazing feats of engineering”, then what’s the point? Luckily for me, I had a crew (Mike, Jason, Ser-geon, and Arturo) and we helped each other out, but others weren’t so lucky.
Then there was the job matrix. This was the matrix that made The Matrix 2 and 3 look sane in comparison. This was a chart where columns were the specific job and rows were things you should be doing. For example, to be an SSE1, you have to create some kind of tool, and then force an entire game team or studio to use it. Of course this meant that every aspiring SSE1 out there was writing tools and packages that do things existing tools and packages already did, and then tried to force entire teams to use it. Some of the job criteria were even more ridiculous than that. Pretty early on, I realized that stuff in the job matrix was complete and utter crap, and that I didn’t have any interesting in doing the stuff that an SSE1 does. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to become an SSE1, but the stupid crap in the job matrix actually demotivated me from trying for real.
Finally, the ACTION values. You can tell from the fact that ACTION is an acronym that it is some new-age hippy manager crap.
The A.C.T.I.O.N. Values are:
. Individual Accountability
. Reward for Success
Everyone has a “customer,” whether it’s the customer who buys the games, a supplier, or a co-worker in another EA department. We find out what our customers want and use their input to measure our performance.
. Identify Key Customers
. Build Relationships
. Get Feedback
. Play Our Positions
. Execute Our Key Assignments
. Offer Enthusiasm and Support
. Think EA World — See the BIG picture
. Openness and Honesty
. Keeping Commitments
. Equality: We are a one class society
. Innovative/Work Smart
. Manage Our Own and Other People’s Time Effectively
. Self-Expression/Good Citizenship
. Express Our Views
. Urgency — Do It Now!
. Priorities — “Live with the Hot Ones!”
. Be the Values, Make the Culture Real
Sorry, I just need a minute to stop laughing. “Live with the hot ones” always makes me lose it. Deep breath… and… Anyway, they provided this list of ACTION values, along with a thick booklet containing examples of what “proper” examples of each value look like. So we would have to look at the ACTION values list, look up what good examples of each value look like in the booklet, and then copy/modify them to contain our names. I like to tell myself that Insomniac has something like the ACTON values, where ACTON stands for
Code is less important than data
Three big lies
OOP solves nothing
Nothing taken for granted
but I don’t think they would do anything that stupid. Be advised I have similar acronyms for other programmers I talk with on Twitter.
I also seem to remember there being surveys to fill out, but maybe they were part of some career direction initiative. The first question was always “what if your goal for this year” to which I replied “become an SSE1”. Next question was “how will you know you achieved this goal” to which I replied “I’ll be an SSE1”. I never really took them seriously but then again neither did a lot of people I worked with.
I’m not saying that I know of a better process. I realize EA is a huge company where not everyone knows everyone else well, but still. To further complicate matters, as soon as the review process was finished and the few available promotions were given out, emails were sent out to the whole company. Everyone knew who got promoted and who didn’t, which instantaneously unleashed a wave of angry programmers upon the offices of their managers demanding to know why the incompetent Mr. X got a promotion while they did not.
Currently I am working at Q-Games which has a far more sane process. This year we had to fill out a short 10 question survey with questions like “what is the coolest thing you did all year” and “what are you doing to improve and get better as a game maker”. Of course Q is a smaller company where it’s easier to know how your coworkers are doing, and we have a flatter structure (no SE0, SE1, SE2, SE3, SSE1, SSE2, SSE3, TD1, TD2, TD3, etc) so fretting over promotions and the jealousy that goes with it is pretty much nonexistent.
So, that brings me to the point of my post. My parents are visiting me in Kyoto and I didn’t have time to write another post thats up to the <sarcasm> high standards of technical excellence </sarcasm> of my previous posts. Therefore, I figured it would be fun to allow readers to post their evaluation processes, the good, the bad, and the f–king insane, for the rest of us to enjoy. So, go for it. Reviewed people of the world, you are among friends. Managers GTFO.