I joined Palantir six weeks ago to help expand Palantir's technology footprint in the commercial space. So far, I am very happy. Here is why:Great humans:
Palantir has hands-down the highest density of super-smart, functioning
people I have ever come across. Palantirians are smart, creative, driven, effective - and, above all, collegial.
These are people with which I want
to get stranded at an airport.
Palantir's founders decided very early on in the company's history to take an active role in shaping a distinct company culture. Unsurprisingly, "culture" and "fit" are very important in Palantir's hiring process: does the candidate work hard? Is he or she really passionate about our mission? Does he or she play well with others? Is this person a doer who gets sh*t done - or more of a blocker aka "Dr. No?" Can this person improvise in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty? So in addition to being killer at your job and loving to solve the world's hardest problems - you have to be an awesome person. Mission-driven:
I have not met a single person who does not believe in Palantir's mission of making the world a better place by empowering organizations to make sense of their data to solve their most pressing problems. Just as importantly, I have not met a single person who doubts that we can have a real impact here. Indeed, Palantir sees itself as a collective of unlikely heros - think X-Men with glasses - who are out to defeat evildoers wherever they may lurk.E Pluribus Unum. Palantir's main dining room features the bad-ass logos of every group working at Palantir, from Design to BD Ops to Finance to Support to Helix to the Backend. Flat, no hierarchy, Shire-driven. Flat:
For an organization with over 600 people - and growing its team rapidly - Palantir is still remarkably flat. You have your co-founders, then a couple of directors followed by a handful of leads - everybody else is essentially an engineer.
Power/responsibility is highly distributed
throughout the company. If you were to map out the organization tectonically, you'd have a flat surface with hillocks here and there representing those founders/directors/leads and engineers who have had a huge impact on the company based on their work. (Bottom line, Palantir provides a stark contrast to the organizational hierarchies typically found at many other companies.) Meritocratic:
so many people at the organization having the same title, titles are effectively meaningless inside the organization - and are basically for outside consumption only.
I did not know how I'd feel about this at first, but I've found it extremely empowering and liberating: nobody can hide behind a title
- and you are viewed based purely on what you do to further Palantir's mission of saving the Shire.
Although Palantir does not really have formal titles, there are some informal indicators of impact such as anniversary pins, release T-shirts, and specialized track jackets for overseas deployments or leading an implementation. At the end of the day though, the biggest reward you can have at Palantir is earning the respect of your customers and peers through stellar execution and commitment.
Zero title awareness also makes people more approachable, I find. I am as comfortable chatting with Dr. Karp, our CEO, as I am talking to the product dev team as I am with the awesome folks at kitchen ops who keep us well-fed and happy. We are all Palantirians, and we are in this mission together! Informal:
You'd be hard-pressed to find an organigram at Palantir. Formalized processes and structure are kept to an absolute minimum.
So far, I've received all of the resources I could possibly ever need, but without any of the associated bullsh*t (paperwork, processes, etc.). If you need anything to get your job done - you'll get it, no questions asked.
You also won't find tons of strategy and planning documents. Palantir is short on "strategy" - at least the kind found at many companies, often to their detriment - and long on execution and results. There is a huge bias for taking action early and adjusting your approach as more data becomes available, regardless of what it is you do here. Participatory:
Find something you don't like? Just fix it. There are no sacred cows. I often describe Palantir as Burning Man for Programmers: you get as much out of the Shire as you put into it.
Speaking of the Playa, Palantir has its very own Burning Man each year where we build our own shantytowns and spend the entire week at the office. In my mind, it's a very powerful indicator for how much Palantirians care about this place, mission and culture - and love to hang out with the very same people they get to build great technology.
Also, one powerful indicator of Palantirians' participatory approach to life is the unique language/code that has evolved organically inside the company over the past 9 years. Transparent:
The outside world sometimes views Palantir as "secretive" or "cagey," but I was surprised to see how much transparency is held as a sacred value at the Shire. We have weekly Shire-wide meetings as well as monthly meetings where Palantirians can ask their directors all of the hard questions. Also, meetings are pretty much open to any Palantirian who wants to join. Again, everybody is extremely approachable here. I have yet to come up with a question that has not gotten answered either by our internal Wiki or another human.Caring:
Amazing breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, conferences, drinks, social events, healthcare, massages, on-site haircuts, trainings, travel, laundry service, gym membership, on-site doctors and chiropractors, video games, and monthly stipends for people living near the office. (The food is so good here that people regularly gain five pounds during their first month aka gain "a Palantire.")
Palantir really cares about keeping its humans happy. If there is something that can make you happier - and ultimately better at your job - tell somebody. (Oh, and we also have a bunch of awesome dogs - or Palanterriers - at the company.)
I'm (clearly) still in "my honeymoon phase" here, but I do hope I have described Palantir's working culture without resorting to the cliches that most companies use to when they discuss their culture. I think it will be interesting to see whether the culture as I've described above will be able to scale along with the size of the company. From what I can tell, the company leadership is unwilling to push growth at the expense of culture, because short-cuts like that have been the death of many seemingly great companies in the long run.
Bottom line, Palantir is a great place where its mission, people, culture, and product are in strong alignment, ready to make the world a better place! Let me know if you have any questions.