Everyone is an ant on a hot pot: why I left Byte Jump

“At Byte, don’t think of yourself as a person, just break yourself down and be a good tool for good use.”

After working for two and a half years, Tina left Byte Jumping in 2020. At that Time, her next job had not yet been determined, but her mind and body could not continue to be overdrawn.

Tina has done at least five or six projects, in addition to Jitterbug there are several innovative projects …… in the first year of employment is still exciting and stimulating. After that, frequent change of projects made her bored. “The equivalent of taking your skills in a different business directly copy and paste.”

The constant adjustment of business is almost the norm at Byte Jump. Along with that came mid-level transfers. In the two and a half years that Tina has been on the job, she has gone through more than five different leaders. Tina says, “Every six months, they write my performance, and they don’t know what to write.”

“I think everything here is short-term oriented.”

A former department director who left ByteDive had a more insightful observation, “In a way, this giant App factory advances the business by iterating through the middle. It has to do with its organizational structure.”

  1. Flat Structure, Tired Mid-Level

Many people who have left Byte talk about the company and are most impressed by its flat management.

Byte Jump has 10 levels, which looks not much worse than Ali’s 11 levels (professional level, and M level) and Tencent’s 13 levels. But a former byte employee said that in fact, byte’s ranks can be simplified into four levels, and those below level 3 are pretty much the same, the ones who do the execution.

Level 3 (3-1 and 3-2) is the middle-leader, team leader level, while 4 and above is the senior level (R&D department level is one level higher than other departments), and the top level 5-2 is Zhang Yiming. Zhang Yiming will also communicate directly with colleagues at level 3. In Tencent and Ali, similar things rarely happen.

This is the source of pressure on the byte middle level. “Because the spread is flat, so the people caught in the middle are the most tired.” Xiaofei said, “You have to do business and management at the same time.”

Xiaofei’s experience at Byte is from 2017 to 2019, and “it feels like these three years have gone by longer than six years.” He is the head of a small operations department at Byte.

In his opinion, the work pressure of Byte cannot be said clearly in a sentence or two. Xiao Fei believes that, unlike external perceptions, byte’s performance pressure is not that heavy, “at least not as heavy as Ali”.

It comes from Byte’s famous flat management, which makes the daily work different from the general organization. “Each department is small, so a lot of work is done together across departments, that is, we may initiate a task that requires collaboration across departments, and we often get collaborative tasks. Then I’ll split it down and divide it up among the students who do specific things.” Xiaofei said.

Therefore, as a mid-level, the starting point of daily work is to receive a synergy task, then split the task and then assign it to their subordinates. “Specifically, it’s a meeting during the day and work at night.”

Fei felt as if he was in a huge production line, with work packages coming one by one, which he disassembled one by one into parts, put them on a conveyor belt, and let the employees behind him finish processing them, then put them together and move on to the next department.

Compared with the previous traditional enterprise, the busyness is doubled, and the high speed and efficiency bring job satisfaction. In particular, the swarming self-organized way of working is a fresh, ahead-of-its-time feeling that he has never experienced before, and it excites him more than dopamine. Many byte-exit employees will mention that there was an exciting and stimulating honeymoon period when they first joined the company.

The pressure also increases with each passing day. First of all, there are long working hours, “There is a regular meeting once a week, which usually goes until midnight. Other times it would be after 9 p.m. before I could get Home.”

“In fact, the most abusive thing in bytes is the middle layer.” Fei is a little jealous of the company’s young people, “The basic employees at the bottom are well taken care of.”

The flat structure also makes 360-degree ring reviews tough for the middle tier, because all the colleagues you’ve worked with can write reviews. “Subordinates can easily voice grievances, and they’re anonymous.” Fei believes that the Culture of headlines is very unfriendly to mid-level leaders.

Tang Ze, who used to do R&D at Byte, also said mid-level employees around level 3 are very tired. “The team leader is the most bitter, I think.” The team leader has a dozen programmers under him (this position corresponds to should Ali P8 , P8 management team is generally within 20 people). He told All Now, the team leader not only has to accompany his subordinates to work overtime, but also upward management to ensure the completion of performance. “And the money must be much less than the director.”

  1. pragmatic view of employing people

In some reports, Zhang Yiming, the founder of ByteDance, is portrayed as a “robot” who always maintains emotional stability. Former employees interviewed by All Now believe that, in a way, he is indeed such a person. Even when he found employees in a group discussing the game “ProtoGod” intensely, his first reaction was still relatively restrained. “Is it common for students/departments who are chatting in the group early in the morning until now to have a very free day at work?”

Zhang Yiming believes in hard work and dedication. The first job “do not distinguish which is what I should do, which is not what I should do”. Within two years, he was promoted from the grassroots to the small department head. He also demanded a high level of “hard work” from the middle and senior management of the company. But once you get past the start-up stage, especially when the number of middle-level people exceeds 150 (the maximum number of stable human social relationships), it is difficult for the boss to ensure a fair distribution of benefits and to personally urge everyone to move forward at full speed.

Zhang Yiming did not avoid this problem, saying in his 2020 all-employee letter, “We have seen a number of management problems, and the most direct feedback is the decline in employee engagement and satisfaction statistics.”

As a manager with a technical background, Zhang Yiming believes in pragmatism, in order to maximize the interests of the team, the company, personal emotions, ego, satisfaction should be put on the back burner. Efficiency is reflected in the employment of this matter, can not run, or experience can no longer be used for the company’s senior management will soon be left out or hollow.

The former deputy editor-in-chief of Sina.com, Zhao Tim, for example, from Zhang Yiming personally scouted, in 2015, “high-profile join”, as one of the heads of today’s headlines frequently stand speech, to 2019 in public gradually “disappear”, but less than four years of time The first thing you need to do is to get a good idea of what you’re doing.

The interview with Xia, who was interviewed by All Now, came to Tim Zhao’s team at that time.

“Before Tim Zhao’s arrival, there was actually no one at the top of Byte who knew anything about content. Xia told AllNow. At that time, Tim Zhao was in charge of the overall content operation of Today’s Headlines and reported directly to Zhang Yiming. In short, she was instrumental in helping the headline break the headline content copyright dilemma and single-handedly establish a content operation system.

However, the bottleneck came soon after the rapid development of Today’s Headline App. 2018 to 2021, Today’s Headline’s CEO changed three times. According to QuestMobile, its daily active users barely grew from August 2018 to August 2019, and also dropped slightly, slipping from 120 million to 115 million.

Tim Zhao started to fade out of the operations line at the end of 2017, and then slipped from being at the same level as Chen Lin to reporting to him.

This may also be related to the “status” of operations in Internet companies. Another Internet company’s operations staff said, operations is difficult to do not only in bytes. Compared with technology, it is more replaceable. “When a project is laid off, the product technology can be transferred, and generally the operation is directly laid off.”

According to a report in Perceptive 2020, among the start-up operations staff of Shake, in addition to Li Tian sitting in charge of operations, the rest of several people are no longer in the company.

After 2019, Zhao Tim is rarely seen in the media press. The project Xia Xia was working on was cut, which he found unreasonable, “We had a good team, and the data was actually good.”

As a mid-level, the most extreme failure is the project was laid off, and in the growth of Byte, due to the success of the new business represented by Jitterbug, it got the reputation of “APP factory”, but on the other hand, this fast-growing giant in the process of rising, more failed business, including the most famous Wukong Q&A and social attempts Dodong.

Byte’s current product portfolio (Photo: screenshot from ByteDance’s official website)

  1. Always looking for better people

Those mid-levels who can’t make it will leave soon, of course, but those who do well may not stay either.

“You know Zhu Jie, right? Zhu Jie can be fierce.” Xiaofei said.

Zhu Jie used to be the head of Shake Music. In 2018, 70% of the songs in China’s annual player Top100 came from Jitterbug.

According to Tencent, Zhu Jie chose to leave because of a disagreement with Mou Fei, a leader who was parachuted in, and could not reach a consensus. A year after Zhu Jie left, Mou Fei left and Cao Zhen took over.

The fact that everyone knows that Zhu Jie was originally in charge of Shake Music, and then parachuted in the leadership above her, is self-explanatory. “Zhu Jie is not doing a bad job, it’s just that the company feels it has found someone better.” She believes that during Byte’s rapid growth, the company has been looking for better people in the market to replace the current ones.

Yan Liu could be a similar example. Zhang Yiming brought this senior vice president of Uber to ByteBeat in 2016 to take charge of international business. However, the space for her abilities has been gradually limited.

With ByteDance’s acquisition of Music.ly and its founder Alex Zhu joining Byte and taking over the international business in 2019, Liuyen’s room to play is compressed to overseas investment and legal affairs. With the arrival of former disney executive Kevin Meyer, Yan Liu’s authority may be further narrowed to domestic legal affairs. in May 2020, Yan Liu left ByteBeat.

“Sometimes, the person you interview may actually be there to replace you. It’s really not a good feeling to be replaced and transplanted at any time.” Xiaofei said.

In terms of the external environment, the business is growing rapidly and itself attracts better people, which allows Byte to advance the business with constant iterations of the mid-levels.

Xiaofei left in 2019, in addition to not wanting to be iterated, he said he was also too tired and “couldn’t liver it anymore.”

Liu Siyi, the founder of Qunrong, who spent a short time at ByteBeat, believes that ByteBeat is a company that aggressively performs redundant recruitment.

“Internally, redundancy means that everyone has to fight and fight, and there is room for horse racing, as well as everyone needs to be impatient to open up the territory. Because at large companies, idleness is a harbinger of death, redundancy is instead an activator for employees to find new directions in a sea of 996. The price, of course, is that many people are really formally busy ……,” he wrote in an article.

  1. The worry of stall speed

Byte is not yet at the stage of formalistic busyness, but it is already a real big company.

At the beginning of 2021, Byte Jump, in its eighth year of existence, has reached 100,000 employees worldwide, surpassing Tencent’s staff size. In 2020 alone, it added 40,000 employees, meaning an average of about 150 people per working day for onboarding.

As the company has grown in size, there has been an overlap of functions across departments, and the downside of redundancy has begun to emerge: competition and internal conflict between businesses.

On the other hand, the cake didn’t get much bigger. After two apps with over 100 million DAUs, ByteDance has not produced a breakout product for a long time. 2020, the once most international Chinese Internet company was hampered in its overseas business, blocked by the Indian government and facing the crisis of selling its U.S. business. At home, Education and gaming have failed to grow for now.

This complicates synergy at the middle level, adding to normal communication a subtext of departments challenging each other, “everyone wants to compete for influence and voice.”

“Maybe some LEADERS feel it’s faster to step on each other and run.” said an employee who requested anonymity. For example, operations, user growth, and marketing have competition with each other.

Tina’s leaders attend departmental reports, and a simple speech often requires two hours of back and forth revision.

In some departments, “storytelling” and “upward management” have become essential skills. Daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly and bi-monthly OKRs.

“I didn’t have the energy to think about how things should be better in the long run, into serving one biweekly goal after another, and how to ‘survive’.” Tina says she probably spends half of her work time reporting and polishing her words, and the rest of her time actually doing things.

This is the opposite of the values of “honesty and clarity” and “anti-uplift management” advocated by ByteDance.

However, as we know now, communication in the technical department is much simpler and more pragmatic.

Tang Ze has been working in Byte for a year, and his feeling is that compared with his last job in a big Internet company, it is more direct and pragmatic here. But the uncertainty of the job is greater. In the last proprietorship, everyone knew exactly what they could do in a year or two. “(Bytes) A lot of tasks come very suddenly. Kind of treat people like resources.”

  1. ants on a hot stove

“It’s either too much bullying or too much abuse.” –Knowledge user furburger summed up the working condition at Byte this way.

“Either as a leader, upward management, not book-based not fact-based only top. You have to keep taking orders, distributing tasks, pushing orders, recovering conclusions, questioning output, overturning or reluctantly accepting, personal PUA, and vicious circle.

Either as an executive, positive resistance, ineffective, passive resistance, with emotional implementation, pressure on themselves, pressure on the counterpart, meeting and quarrel, strong words, write the weekly report, barely muddle through.

You look around at your unfamiliar colleagues and think that they can work happily every day and do things in a breeze, don’t be too envious. Until one day you attended her leaving party, only to find that everyone is a hot pot of ants, anxiety, suspicion, resistance, resistance, and even want to bye bye the Internet.”

Anxiety and nervousness are also words we hear frequently in conversations with former byte employees.

A byte-jumping employee told All Now, “All the senior executives, including Zhang Nan who I can get in touch with, are very anxious every day …… but as far as I know, Tencent’s equivalent status is actually living a more comfortable Life.”

The speed and pace of the Internet is already N times faster than traditional industries, but bytes are faster than some of the “old” Internet companies. According to the late report, byte jumping to achieve a product function, from the preparation of online to review the situation, the fastest it takes only a week. A similar thing may take two weeks in Meituan.

Byte is good at blitzkrieg and has always pushed for “vigorous miracles”. When entering a field, it usually invests a lot of resources quickly, with multiple teams advancing multiple projects at the same time. But once you find that the ROI does not work, you quickly shut down. This is a quick trial and error, but when faced with projects with longer input-output cycles, this mechanism often fails.

Sometimes blitzkrieg is also a quick drain on resources. One former employee had more than 50 regional marketers under him when he was working on an education product. But within a few months, the company laid off 40 percent of the people. “I don’t think the company thought through its decisions at the time.”

Another mid-level who left Byte last year believes that sometimes the project may be abandoned because the person in charge above “made” himself, “in fact, our project may be done for a while.”

This adds to the uncertainty. Everyone at Bytes has had good memories and has a good way out after leaving, but the pressure of being able to leave anytime and anywhere makes a deeper impression, even when recalling this generally not so long working experience, describing it as a “survivor game”.

(At the request of the interviewees, Tina, Xiaofei, Xiaoxia and Tang Ze are all pseudonyms)