Wanted: aggressive people with no lives

Sarah Mei just tweeted:

Whenever anyone asks why there aren’t more female developers at startups, I’m going to send them this job post. http://bit.ly/6Lsr1F

The link goes to this job ad for Mahalo:

If you’re looking for a 9-5 gig where you can keep your head down and collect a pay check don’t apply—we don’t want you. Seriously, I don’t care if you wrote the book on Python or MySQL… if you’re not a hardworking maniac who is hungry as hell you’re of no use to us. We need killers. So, if you’re a killer who wants crush it with a bunch of killer who already crushing it send me your resume.

Their benefits include:

We’ll clean your car for you and do your laundry—literally. Seriously, we don’t want you thinking about doing your laundry, cleaning your car or what you’re doing to eat—let alone spending time on that non-sense.

Who is this aimed at? Young single people, for starters. People who can move cross-country for a job. People without kids. People whose partners care for the kids. People who are aggressive. People who like working with other aggressive people, including the boss. People who are pushy enough to deal with a self-described meritocracy, or be fired. People who can identify with a long list of male names, representing people who previously enjoyed working this way.

Sound appealing to you? If not, how would you write that ad to make it more appealing?

26 thoughts on “Wanted: aggressive people with no lives

  1. Sarah Mei

    Kirrily, thanks for posting.

    I love working at startups. I love the sense of cameraderie and the feeling that we’re building something important. When I did startups, when I was younger, I worked really hard and I wrote some incredible code. I suppose you could say I crushed it.

    But even then I would have been turned off by this ad. I’ve never wanted to “crush” things, and I certainly don’t want to “kill” them. And I don’t want co-workers who are going to try to drown me.

    I can’t do a startup right now – my emotional energy is elsewhere. (I have two kids under 5.) But in a few years when they’re older, I’ll be able to go back. I’m lucky enough to have a partner who can (and will, cheerfully) pick up any slack. Those are pretty ideal circumstances for a woman engineer.

    But even then I wouldn’t consider talking to a company who posted something like this.

  2. gamerchick02


    There is no way I could work for a company like this. Usually, in an environment like this, I would not be able to concentrate on anything, partly because I knew if I messed up, I’d be fired on the spot, and partly because my co-workers could/would sabotage whatever project I was working on.

    I guess I’d re-work it like this:

    “Company is looking for a competent coder who is self-motivated and passionate about his/her work.”

    Seriously, that’s exactly what the whole paragraph boils down to. Actually, I’m glad they worded it like that. They’ll get the (generally) male coder with no life that they’re looking for.

    Like Sarah above, I have no desire to crush anything.


  3. Amy Farrell

    I suspect “crush it” is a reference to Gary Vaynerchuk’s book, which I haven’t read yet … but from listening to Gary speak, I don’t think he’d recommend working long hours for someone else as a path!

    Beyond that, the ad doesn’t appeal to me, and I doubt it ever would have, but … do you find this to be typical of job postings for start-ups?

  4. Zrusilla

    Not only is this ad obnoxiously macho, it also says to me, “Come build a snarled mass of unmaintainable spaghetti code with us.” “Killing it” does not suggest engineering to me. Unprofessional on two levels.

    1. Sophie

      @Zrusilla: No kidding. I’d estimate that they probably use lines of code as a metric. :/

  5. Sarah Allen

    Reminds me of a release celebration after we had all worked hard and I felt a real camaraderie with my fellow engineers. We had pulled off something awesome. For the champagne toast, the VP of Engineering said something like “If software were a war, this is the team I would want on my side.” It made me feel like he had no idea of the creative power of the team and the sparkling image in my minds-eye of our new creation seemed somehow tarnished. I talked to some of the guys afterwards… I wasn’t the only one with whom the war metaphor didn’t resonate. I don’t think this is only a gender issue, but worth calling out in any case.

  6. textjunkie

    I love the kind of job where they will do your laundry for you and wash your car so you can pour all your energy into work. That kind of energy and passion are enthralling and addictive and incredibly rewarding. So that part is fine by me. :) It’s the “kill” and “crush” motif that turns me off–I don’t work for destruction, but to be proud of my creations.

    1. Skud Post author

      Will they come to my house and do my laundry, or do I need to buy a car to get it to the office? Oh wait, the job’s in Santa Monica — never mind ;)

  7. Restructure!

    I don’t agree with the suggestion that female developers cannot be aggressive and always have family lives. Yes, it appeals to childless people or people whose partners care for the kids. But why do we accept as normal that women should take care of the kids?

    I like the part where they do your laundry and clean your car. The perk of having your laundry done may not be beneficial to a married person whose partner does the chores. It would be beneficial to the person who does the laundry.

    I don’t like this part, though:

    So, if you’re a killer who wants crush it with a bunch of killer who already crushing it send me your resume.

    Besides the poor grammar, I wouldn’t want to be a lone woman within a bunch of “killers”. Many men are already aggressive against women, when they would not act that way towards other men, so I would not want to be in the company of men (I assume most of the other developers are men) who self-identify as “killers”.

    I think many men (who are married and/or have children) would be turned off by that ad as well. Unfortunately, however, jobs are not created for the job seeker, but for the employer. A startup generally needs employees who have no lives.

    1. Skud Post author

      Do you think they’d do a whole family’s laundry? I’m guessing probably not. Nor would they cook meals for the family. So if you had kids, you’d need a stay-at-home or at least not-working-long-hours partner to take this job.

      1. altamira16

        Would someone with a family to support work for 15% than the going rate? I don’t think so.

        1. Jonquil

          I don’t *think* so. If they can’t afford to pay you the going rate, then they haven’t raised enough capital. Smart people who have been burned know that startups crash and burn all the time; they’re willing to risk losing the job on a moment’s notice, but they aren’t willing to give up salary for a job that may evaporate unless they’re in the mix so early that they’ll get rich. I can pretty much guarantee you that nobody hired in 2010 is going to make fuck-you-I’m-vested money from their Mahalo stock.

          “We’ll abuse you. We’ll expect you to take it. But your stock will be fabulous!” No. Life is too short to work with assholes.

          Whenever I do job interviews, my first “do you have any questions?” answer is “Are you having fun?” The answer to that question tells me a lot — not just what they say, but how they say it. “I’m having fun because I am CRUSHING AND KILLING AND NEVER HAVE TIME TO BREATHE!” makes me edge away slowly.

    2. Daniel Martin

      I’m glad you mentioned the grammar. I don’t think I’d want to work with or for management who would be so careless as to write something as grammatically horrible as that last sentence in anything but an off-the-cuff email. (and I’d prefer not to deal with it then either, but such is life)

      Then again, the thought of taking a job where I could burn out in two years is never something that appealed to me, so I’m probably not the target audience.

      1. FoolishOwl

        I found the poor writing just as repellent as the machismo. The entire ad comes across as something written by some teenaged boys who came up with a get-rich-quick scheme yesterday. It’s amateurish.

  8. Carla Schroder

    I thought it was comical. Trying to turn going into an office, typing on a computer, and rolling over for wage and hour violations into a rough n tough macho warrior job is rather silly, methinks. Hooaaahh, we’re little and we’re loud, we’re pasty and we’re proud! Roar!

  9. Jonquil

    Run awaaaay! Run awaaaay!

    So. Here’s an ad that would attract me.

    “You know how to get the job done. You know why to get the job done. You can get more done in a well-targeted hour than most people get done in an all-nighter (and without the avalanche of new bugs!) You want to work with other people who are bright, bold, and creative, where you can think up a genius idea and put it into production. Come join us.”

    1. Betsy

      But then you would attract well-adjusted and quietly efficient people! And they’re harder to ~exploit~.

  10. spz

    “Come and let us wring you dry. After 5 years you’re going to suffer from burn-out (if you last that long) and we’ll kick you out and get the next idiot lured by macho posing.”

    In my experience, “we’re so edgy” is a means to lure the naive and exploitable.

    If I wrote a job ad for a start up, I’d write about why the thing the company did was worthwhile, how I’d integrate the people (throw then into the deep end and throw bricks at them? how charming. Also, how does that get 12 people coming in to a probably none too large project in a short period get up to speed about the project? Mythical Man-Month, anyone? if the job is anything better than isolated code-monkeying, their projected method won’t work, even if they get the greatest dozen of experienced people ready to hit the ground running; there needs to be -some- coordination). Yet another thing is that people who don’t do anything but work and sleep go stale really fast; a wise manager kicks her people out of the office at least on weekends, even at crunch time. If you write “we’ll have your car cleaned for you” it oughtn’t be followed by “so you can work even more” but by “so you can spend your off time really unwinding and recharging”. I don’t want a team of a bunch of newbies that I burn up like a stack of fire wood, I want a team of excellent professionals who boost each other and run together like a Swiss clock. If you write “we’ll have your car cleaned for you” it oughtn’t be followed by “so you can work even more” but by “so you can spend your off time really unwinding and recharging”. etc etc

  11. lsblakk

    I am also glad someone noted the terrible grammar. When I first saw it I thought perhaps this was a spam ad but alas, it seems quite genuine. Being very new to this industry I have only the vaguest concept of what working for a start-up might be like and absolutely nothing I have gleaned makes it seem like a good idea. Everything points to it being a sweat pit full of young men with no outside interests. I’m not sure how or why that is such a great environment for making something big and successful happen.

    If it was a start-up composed of a bunch of well-adjusted people (ie: work/life balance) who like to work hard for a good cause that would help a lot of people, where profit was not the end goal and the company started with and maintained gender parity at the very least if not a higher percentage of women, and where there was stability (ie: not going to be fired at the drop of a hat) as well as highly engaged, intelligent, and driven staff then I would totally want to get on board. Oh ya, I also would want opportunities for advancement that were clearly laid out. The “flat management” thing sounds like you just make a lot of money for one guy.

  12. Ergo

    “Whenever anyone asks why there aren’t more female developers at startups, I’m going to send them this job post. http://bit.ly/6Lsr1F

    Oh my god! Really? I’m sorry if you’re not assertive/pushy enough to deal with this environment, but there are plenty of WOMEN who do–and thrive on it, too. Female socialization isn’t an excuse. When you associate this type of behavior with maleness and assume that this kind of environment isn’t suited to women, you’re saying to me that women can’t be this way or aren’t “naturally” this way (very retro!), and that’s backwards and sexist and only reinforces stereotypes about how women act. Repeat after me: this ad is unappealing to you because of your PERSONALITY, not your GENDER, and if you say otherwise you’re erasing women who don’t act like you.

    *There aren’t that many places where people who are driven and aggressive can work successfully and where those traits are valued.* Most jobs shun people who act like that, especially women who act like that, and those jobs are fine for people who don’t want to work with other aggressive types. This type of meritocracy, even if it depends on things other than raw skills, is a breath of fresh air for some of us.

    (To me, however, this ad loses its appeal because of its grammatical mistakes. It seems very unprofessional and suggests a lack of effort.)

    1. lsblakk

      I think people are saying more than “I don’t like this ad because of my gender”. I’m frustrated by the fact that driven == aggressive in this ad. I don’t like the tone of the ad – the assumptions that you can or would drop everything to be a “killer”. Others have talked about how this ad sounds like this job is targeted at younger folks, people with no dependents. This does mean that the ad is geared less towards women than men. I’m sure there are statistics to back up how many women of all ages are responsible for children and cannot even dream of applying to this job no matter how driven or aggressive they may be.

      You’re right – it’s my personality, not my gender, that is really turning me off this ad and I’m someone who presents as masculine but is in fact female. The original statement though came from someone who is female and felt that this ad was pushing her (and women like her, not ALL women) away from startups. She’s allowed to feel that way and it doesn’t erase anyone.

  13. Mary

    I was just reminded of an old comment of mine here:

    … you sure do have to spend a lot of time proving yourself to people who have arbitrarily decided that they will stand in judgement of you despite no evidence of seniority in formal or informal senses, or, not infrequently, considerable evidence of inferiority in formal or informal senses.

    That’s actually what this job ad makes me think of: wasting my time on status games rather than on getting the job done. I don’t know what form of words I’d use, but I’d prefer to see quality, pride in work(wo)manship and a good amount of challenge centred, not “we will make you re-prove yourself from scratch” hazing kind of language.

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