Damon Clark
February, 07, 2017

Graduating as an Oldie: 1 Year After Dan Lyons' "Disrupted"

It’s almost one year since the publication of Dan Lyons book, Disrupted, which happens to coincide with myself graduating from HubSpot.

Since leaving Hubspot, I have finally managed to find time to read Dan’s book. I thought I would share my thoughts, particularly since I was also an older HubSpotter. I know I don’t look it, but I’m 40. In HubSpot terms, it's like watching a retiree complete the 100 meter hurdles in the Olympics.

Unfortunately and maybe ironically, being totally transparent is going to be challenging for a number of reasons.  Unlike Dan, I have an agreement in place with Hubspot.  Like most, paying the mortgage and fear of being labeled a ‘troublemaker’ has meant leaving others to speak up.  To which we should all be grateful.  I am also working at New Perspective, a HubSpot partner agency which has received great value over the years as a partner agency.  So this review may not have as much bite as I would have wished. Despite feeling very upset after graduating from HubSpot, I've tried to remain as objective as possible, while providing my thoughts and feedback about the progress HubSpot has made after Dan Lyons’s book was published.  

Handling the bad press

First of all and maybe not surprisingly, HubSpot did a marvelous job of dealing with the book internally and it caused very little disruption.  HubSpot took many of Dan’s criticism on the chin and continued to work on addressing some of the issues he raised.  

For example, Dharmesh Shah’s Linkedin response to Dan’s book apologizes for using the term ‘graduated' when employee’s left. He comments, "We realized that it was a mistake. It was disrespectful and misleading."  Personally, I actually like the term.  The term ‘fired’ has negative connotations. If someone is underperforming, they get fired.  In many circumstances, 'graduated' feels more appropriate.  I am very proud to have graduated from HubSpot.
hubspot-grad.jpg

Meetings with Molly

HubSpot acknowledged bringing a teddy bear to meetings to remind everyone that customers have a voice was a little goofy.  I totally disagree.  Maybe it was a little cheesy, but it’s important not to suppress creativity.  If companies feared to be different, we wouldn’t be able to work from home, have flexible hours or even give men maternity leave.  All these happened from someone saying "I know it sounds crazy but let's give it a try." So what? If some ideas don’t work, it's important to try new things.    

Diversity in the workplace

Dan draws attention to HubSpot lack of Diversity, focusing on ethnicity and age.  HubSpot has since made and continue to make progress within the area of diversity.  Katie Burke, HubSpot’s Vice President of Culture and Experience, has just written a very open blog about Hubspot's plans within this area.

Controversially, although it's important to always challenge companies about ethnic diversity, especially when the numbers look bad, I feel the issue isn’t as simple as it was laid out in the book.  I was recently chatting about this topic with a current HubSpotter at a large sporting event.  We looked around at the thousands of people around us, and all we saw a sea of Caucasians. Regarding race and ethnicity, White Americans made up 83.4% of New England's population, of which 77.7% were whites of non-Hispanic origin. Black Americans composed 7.3% of the region's population, of which 6.9% were blacks of non-Hispanic origin.

85% of Hubspot's ethnicity is white, which is slightly above New England’s figures.  Hubspot continues to put a lot of focus on improving this further. Keep up the good work, Hubspot.   

Maybe a better indicator to measure is the ethnic applicant to employment ratio compared to whites.  I suspect the figures would look more favorable to HubSpot.

Regarding diversity of sexual orientation, I'm going on total 'gut feel' but I've always felt HubSpot went above and beyond when it came to LGBTQ community. To which I was very proud to be part of and admired. One of the many positives Dan did not express in his book.

Battling ageism at HubSpot

Sexual orientation and ethnic background have no impact on an individual's ability to do the job. However, there could be some arguments that suggest age could impact team performance.  My father was in the military and he would explain stories of seemingly pointless tasks. For example, painting grass green and digging trenches only to fill them in again.  Part of his training involved carrying a beaten up oil barrel around an island.  The barrel couldn't be rolled and was heavy. He had to spend his whole day picking it up and throwing it. Mind you, it was the peak of summer. The ground was a mixture of sand and mud, not to mention he also had to wear his full wetsuit.  Why?

There comes a point in your life, which often occurs with age and the experience that comes with it when you think "Screw it" and decide to question "why?".  The point is, moving into a combat situation against an opposition who want to kill you, you don't need your team having a debate on whether or not your strategy is a good idea. So it's vital you do what you're told, and not to question orders. This training is designed to weed out nonconformists and condition your team.    

HubSpot doesn’t have Marketo pointing guns at them, but they need to use every weapon in their armory to compete in a very competitive environment.  I'm not arguing whether it is right or wrong, but there is arguably an advantage for having aligned teams moving in the same direction.  It's easier to manage with younger teams who don't have the experience to question decisions.

I am experienced and do speak my mind, so I'm far better suited leading a smaller special ops unit than being a foot soldier.  So although I agree on many of Dan's points over ageism, I do see a cloudy logic on why this happens at tech companies.  HubSpot is putting more focus on building out benefits that cater to employees with children, something that will be more relevant to their workforce as they age.

Company culture


Dan also fails to highlight how amazing and talented the young team is.  Ok, their Hubspottyness does send you a little crazy, but that's a good thing right?  To be passionate about where you work.  I can not begin to put in words how amazingly talented the employees at HubSpot are.  I've worked in some of the world's largest tech companies and have never experienced such a friendly, smart and hardworking workforce.  It's the first place I experienced virtually no politics or backstabbing… truly remarkable.  

Dan’s insight into both the inbound methodology and product is pretty negative.  Inbound is not a silver bullet for all, and the product did have limitations at first. But for the right business, it's the best solution out there.  It continues to evolve, and I'm excited to be still working with HubSpot products.

Final thoughts

This blogs flavor is more pro-HubSpot, for obvious reasons, I’ve not focused on the negatives. Right or wrong, they are not the first or last company to adopt less than ethical behavior, and we need books like Disrupted to help provide balance within this space.

Positivity does not sell books.  I was once required to write a paper about how widespread the corruption in the Catholic Church was.  Upon researching historians' work on this subject, each one noted that only corruption and abuses were published. The daily good deeds and work from the majority of the church were never highlighted.  Once an organization reaches a certain size, it can become an uncontrollable beast and difficult to maintain the principles the founder first established.  HubSpot certainly has a unique culture and took a much-needed hit for the team.  I've seen far worse in larger and well-known organizations.

Similar to Dan Lyons, I was not a good culture fit for HubSpot and I 'graduated.' My graduation came as a total shock and was a huge disappointment.  So I want to be clear my thoughts on the book and my time at HubSpot are not a result of drinking too much orange kool-aid.  Dan's book is compelling on many accounts. He highlighted a number of concerning practices that I feel are widespread throughout many corporate cultures. On the flip side, however,  I don't feel the book had a balanced perspective.  

On a positive note, HubSpot is a great platform, and I am looking forward to working with it here at New Perspective. One of the most important tools in the HubSpot platform is measuring the performance of your website. Are you wondering how your own website is performing? Schedule your free website health check from us today!

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