I’m going to San Francisco for a short stint. These are the never before revelead blog posts about what happens day to day on that trip.
Yesterday began the company tour that we are officially here for. We started with Yelp!. For those uninitiated, Yelp! (which I will stop writing with an exclamation point from now on) is a service where users can rate and review almost any business, big or small, via an app or the web. It’s huge in the US, not as big in Sweden. In San Francisco and, I think, the US in general it is the go-to source to check if restaurants are any good and stores have good service.1
The place was surprisingly familiar. Naked brick and whiteboards, trinkets on the desks, open plan, conference rooms with funny names. Companies are comapnies everywhere, and meetings are meetings. The difference between working here and in Sweden wouldn’t be too big, I think. The same actually goes for comapny culture. It seems the work/life balance is alright. The tech companies have figured out that long working hours don’t translate to faster results, necessarily. On the other hand, I hear rumors that it’s what they tell you, but in reality people are workaholics.
A senior engineer at Yelp gave a nice talk which was very much a case: a problem he encountered, how he broke it into sub-problems, and all the brilliant solutions he came up with. Very enlightening!
And the sushi was ace.
Next up was Meltwater. They worked a lot with hardcore machine learning, and talked a lot about the balance between pet projects and product requirements, and how engineers are free agents, but still slaves to the overarching goals of the product. It’s easy to forget that in the whirl and tumble enthusiasm of Silicon Valley: the product is what it’s about, and you can never forget that (at least nor for any long period of time).
Next stop was a beer garden. As if I wasn’t in love with SF enough already, this place is full of amazing dive bars with cool food and wonserful beer. We drank brews that we will never be able to find back home which almost brings a tear to my eye – those were some of the best beers of my life.
The night ended with pizza and long discussions with a couple of natives. We watched the Warriors basketball game together, transitioned to watching the Giants play baseball, discussed sports and moved effortlessly between mundane topics and comparative politics. This is a recurring theme: with every Uber and Lyft driver I ride with, I talk about weather, sports and plitics, in that order. I find people are very interested in the Swedish model. They have a lot of misconceptions about it and listen intently. They reciprocate by illuminating my ignorance about American politics, which I find to be many.
Tomorrow might be the peak of the visit. First stop is Stanford, them we’re off to Google, and finally I have a private rendevouz at Facebook. I really, really can’t wait.
Interestingly, Yelp has a score of 1.3 stars on Yelp. ↩