January 2014 Archives

booking.com - a toxic company for developers

I have worked for Booking.com for 2+ years in their Amsterdam office as a developer and I need to let the developer community know about what to expect here.

Booking.com as you know is hiring aggressively under the pretext of growth; Yes, the company is growing about 40% YOY but the reason they are hiring developers “always” is due to the high attrition(employee turnover rate). Let me explain why this happens and the real Booking.com secret sauce which you would come to know only after working with the company and having wasted 2 years of your life.

  1. Booking.com treats its employees like dogs. And this is true regardless of the department you work in.
  2. Exploitation is the real secret sauce of Booking.com which has helped it pack a huge cash surplus. Exploitation of employees and hotels is the secret sauce.

Let me explain how exploitation is carried on in Booking.com:

  1. Exploitation of the employees.

    1. The Dutch have a history of slave trade. It is estimated that the Dutch transported 550,000-600,000 Africans as slaves. Suriname was a Dutch slave colony. Although slavery is banned, the Dutch society still has exploitation of expats ingrained in their mentality. New engineers are given a 1 year contract to start with and this is renewed 1 time before they are kicked out of the company. This is because a third renewal as per the Dutch law leads to a permanent contract and a permanent contract ensures that the employer cannot kick out an employee on a whim.

      Good International companies in Netherlands give out indefinite contract to the expats at the beginning of their employment itself but not Booking.com.

    2. About 20% of the actual developers in Booking.com are Dutch. This was not the case earlier but when the management tried to use the exploitative tactics on the local Dutch engineers they resigned and left for greener pastures.

      So … If you’re a foreigner and are considering moving to the Netherlands, be careful with companies where the majority of employees is not native.

    3. When you join Booking.com as a developer you will be forced to copy paste code in the name of speed. There is no architecture documentation, the code is old and messy due to a history of copy paste done by developers who left in a hurry.

    4. Don’t expect projects that are going to help you in your career or you can add to your resume. All the good projects are picked up by developers who are in the company for a long time. As a new developer you are going to be given a really old maintenance project which no one wants to work on.

    5. Booking.com has one of the worst salaries for engineers in the Netherlands. In your contract there will be a promise of a bonus but that will never be paid to you. Increments are in the range of 1–2% per annum.

    6. The underlying philosophy of continuous hiring is so that if a developer complains he is asked to leave as the other developers provide the required redundancy. Their philosophy is if you are not happy with “our” exploitation or complain “we” are going to kick you out.

  2. Exploitation of the hotels:

    Booking.com charges 16% to 25% commission. Also they employ cheap exploitative tactics to bully hotels. There have been numerous lawsuits filed against Booking.com for price fixing.

Cheap politcs at work in Booking.com

The main ring master is Brendan Bank and he doesn’t like defiance. Many good engineers were kicked out when they disagreed with him. Its more of a dictatorship.

Below him you have a layer whose only job is to stop the bad smell from the rot reaching the developer community. This layer is active in hiring and one of their performance metrics on which their bonus depends is how well they advertised the company and this is the reason you will see them trying to defend the company. This layers primarily consists of: Yuves Orton, Rafael Garcia Suarez, Giel Goudsmith, Nick Perez, Benjamin Mouw, Eric Herman, Steffen Mueller.

Promotion/Performance review in Booking.com is a joke where your relationship with your team lead is the only factor.

Many good developers from the Perl community have refused to join the company since they know what to expect here and hence Booking.com nowadays tries to hire developers who are not active in Perl and have never heard about Booking.com’s exploitation.

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