No More Hustleporn: Working For a Chinese vs. American Tech Company

Tweet by Lucas Ou-Yang

Currently leading new initiative @Tiktok_US previously engineering / product @snapchat & engineering @facebook. I write about Asian issues & tech

Ever since I've started working at #Tiktok 1 year ago many friends r curious about what it's like at a Chinese company and the differences vs American tech

This question is more important as Chinese tech companies have become increasingly
competitive and relevant globally

This is why Natalie, my friend & PM partner at Tiktok, and I made a video going over our experiences & learnings in the past year

A summary below:

1) Labor cost difference between 🇨🇳&🇺🇸 leading to:
* engineers in 🇨🇳 don't write unit tests(!) they rely on QA to manually test each code commit
* 🇨🇳product teams r more hands on + rely on manpower (ops teams) to drive growth, opposed to passive + data-driven Western tech

1) Labor cost (cont.)
* e.g. of ☝🏻 Tiktok creator fund: Tiktok deployed $200M via armies of ops teams to give to 🇺🇸 creators to grow the platform. At the time this was highly unconventional in the US, but it worked, & Youtube/IG followed suit

1) Labor cost (cont.)
Most differences we noticed between Chinese🔄US tech were a side effect of labor cost, a trend of Chinese firms relying more on manpower

We think this is a key reason Chinese companies succeed @ entering new markets so quickly

2) Meetings:
* 1:1 meetings are rare bc they are unscalable. why? teams are less partitioned, you're interacting w/ way more ppl
* top-down mgmt results in 90+ minute meetings with 60+ people. usually 1 person talking, rest reading a doc. fewer socratic discussion meetings

3) Org structure
* Org charts are hidden due to competitive nature of poaching in China
* Orgs are extremely flat at Tiktok, some managers manage 200+ reports (not partitioned!) some reports don't know what their manager looks like

4) Process & execution
* Chinese firms have less BS, people r heads down working & less writing narratives & virtue signaling
* Flip side, Chinese firms r less mature on process side. Docs & improving team comms r not rewarded behaviors. No code review for engineers!

5) Work life balance:
* 996: Chinese coworkers work from 9am-9pm & alternate 6 and 5 day workweeks bi-weekly 大小周, but 2x pay for weekend work!
* 996 not required of US teams, but we must keep up w/ 🇨🇳timezones, led to big attrition, 10/10 of my PMs quit at 1 yr mark

5) Work life balance cont. (key drivers)
* With 4x the STEM PHDs and fewer tech opportunities (TAM of Chinese tech < USA), competition in China is higher than it is in the US. Leads to 内卷, where people increasingly compete within a fixed space for fixed resources

5) Work life balance cont. (key drivers)
* Class anxiety: coworker friends in China expressed fear of losing their tech jobs and falling a rung in society — thus why it's so competitive. 躺平 is a cultural response to 内卷, avoid the blades of capitalism by lying flat

cc @filipgwriting @ruima @derrickshsu @asianometry @