A new "take no prisoners" memoir by an ex-Facebook employee about working for Mark Zuckerberg and his social media empire has been called a "great" "must-read" book that "matters." In fact, Antonio García Martinez’s Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley has received three glowing reviews from The New York Times alone.
DealBook columnist and Too Big To Fail author Andrew Ross Sorkin praised the book while writing that it will "make you laugh out loud." David Streitfeld, who covers Silicon Valley for the Times, writes that Chaos Monkeys "bracingly succeeds in capturing an era," adding, "Nothing I've ever read conveys better what it actually is like to be in the engine room of the start-up economy." And Jonathan Knee, a Columbia Business School professor and senior advisor to the investment bank Evercore, had this to say about the book in the Times Book Review:
There is plenty not to like in Antonio García Martinez’s Silicon Valley tell-all … his aphorisms are sometimes lazy, the facts can be sloppy, and the studied cool—all the while insisting that "I am the uncoolest person you will ever meet"—can be grating. And yet, somehow, "Chaos Monkeys" manages to be an irresistible and indispensable 360-degree guide to the new technology establishment … [I]t is a remarkably learned book.
Knee also points out that the book does something that many top investment banking firms (including his own, presumably) are going to welcome with open arms: it paints Silicon Valley as no better or worse than Wall Street when it comes to being a desirable (or undesirable) place to work.
Mr. García is providing tools to honestly deconstruct a corner of the world that has amassed breathtaking cultural, economic and political influence, and not always for the good. Fully 60 percent of Harvard Business School graduates now go to work at companies with fewer than 500 employees. A fuller conversation is required before we rejoice that the invidious hegemony of Goldman Sachs, McKinsey & Company and hedge funds as the resting place for our best and brightest graduates has been replaced with early-stage tech companies.
Incidentally, before he worked for Facebook as an ad-targeting product manager, Garcia Martinez was a Ph.D. student at Berkeley, worked for Goldman Sachs in credit derivatives, and co-founded a start-up that was sold to Twitter (for a reportedly nominal amount). Currently, Garcia Martinez lives on a 40-foot sailboat in the San Francisco Bay.
As for some of the dirt that Garcia Martinez dishes in Chaos Monkeys, along with calling his ex-employer a "tech whorehouse," he has this fun little section on Facebook's famous CEO and co-founder.
Martinez doesn’t do his former boss any favors, portraying him as an ill-tempered autocrat. He recounts the time Zuckerberg made an example of an employee that had leaked a feature to the press. The CEO allegedly sent out an email to the entire office with the subject line "please resign," explaining that the person had betrayed the firm.
In one specific anecdote regarding Zuckerberg, Martinez writes how the billionaire entrepreneur flew off the handle at employees after disagreeing with their take on creative expression on the company’s message wall.
The passage reads: "That weekend Zuck sent another to-all email (or maybe it was posted in the general Facebook internal group to which everyone belonged), the gist being: I trusted you to create art, and what you f*****s did was vandalize the place."
As for Zuck's right-hand woman, Garcia Martinez writes that Sheryl Sandberg is trying (unsuccessfully) to change Facebook's male-dominated culture, which Garcia Martinez compares to North Korea. Here's the New York Post on Monkeys:
[Garcia Martinez] sees a clash of cultures between polished, corporate brand ambassadors such as Sandberg and the unwashed spotty boy tech nerds who do its grunt work. To guard against sexual harassment—Facebook is maybe 10 percent young women, Martinez says—the nerds are told at orientation they are allowed to ask out a lady colleague once but not twice because “no meant no.”
The Post also reveals this interesting detail about the privileged 250 inside Zuckerberg's empire.
Wealth management is a persistent problem at Facebook. But how to discuss it? You can’t exactly mention your mountain of lucre in mixed company. Luckily, Facebook has a solution for that: a group called NR250. The NR is for “New Rich” and the 250 originally meant the first 250 Facebook employees, the ones who made bank at the IPO. The meeting group had to operate quietly, Martinez says, but all sorts of useful information came out of it. “How to buy land under an LLC [limited liability corporation] to hide the fact you’re amassing a compound, the best resort on Maui, how to book or lease private jets, the best high-end credit cards to use, and so forth. But not a word of it while on campus.”
In summary, as Bloomberg points out (and like Knee implies in his review), "The way [Garcia Martinez] sees it, Silicon Valley is much like Wall Street, or any other sector of corporate America, when it comes to shady dealings."
Even so, what might occur in the aftermath of what's more or less being called The Great Silicon Valley Memoir, might be more, not fewer, young people (men) joining in on the Facebook fun. Here's Knee again:
The greatest danger of "Chaos Monkeys" is that it could suffer the same fate as many equally prescient cautionary tales: It is appreciated less as trenchant social criticism and more as a how-to manual. Such is the irresistible pull of Silicon Valley that I fear the manuscript will be pored over mainly for clues to getting a job at Facebook ... If that is the case, we all may want to join Mr. Garcia on his boat and just sail away.
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