There has been a flurry of posts lately about Trustpilot reviews. Many of us are likely now wondering whether to “trust Trustpilot”. A different website, based entirely on employee experiences, is Glassdoor. It has been the subject of a variety of past posts on this board. The key ratings are “recommend CEO”, “recommend to a friend” and “business outlook”. It seems likely to me that a Glassdoor review has positive reviews which are genuine, as well as those which are there on the urging of management. The more interesting reviews are what I term “negative but constructive”, posted by articulate disheartened employees.
I went through the Lightspeed reviews for the past 2 years. CEO Dax Dasilva currently has a very high rating: 96%. The “recommend to a friend” rating is 77%, which is not untypical of the firms that we follow. I singled out 3 reviews: a long and very well crafted review from Sep 2020, and shorter ones from May and July of 2021. The 2020 review raised my eyebrows. I really hoped to find from the later reviews that Lightspeed is doing things to address toxic practices, but unfortunately I did not find that. I am reproducing these reviews below. It makes for a long post (sorry) but it removes the need for you to look it up separately on Glassdoor if you are so inclined. I bolded one comment which really struck me.
Sep. 5, 2020, Software Developer. Review: overall 3 Stars out of 5. Current Employee, more than 5 years
A company plagued by indefinite growth issues
Recommend: YES, CEO Approval: YES, Business Outlook: NO
Other reviews have said it best, the company’s mission is noble. The industry is vibrant, full of opportunities, and in growth mode. Benefits and salaries are OK, not tech-company exuberant but not bad either, even though since the pandemic started, we lost most of it (no more pension plan matching, no more transport benefit, no more promotions or raises, no more office perks like snacks, coffee, etc.).
They are not doing half-bad when you think about it and it’s a very good company to use either as a first stepping stone in your career or if you’ve already had a stepping stone, to grow into the next phase of what you want to become. It stops here however, as I don’t think anyone could ever think of building a long career in this company. I assume the average tenure must be around 2-3 years across the board.
I’ve been meaning to review the company for quite a long time, as I’ve seen my fair share of good and bad in the amount of time I’ve been working there. However, every time I want to leave a review, the main problems I want to talk about eventually just get eclipsed by a new wave of different problems, and my review feels off. Eventually, I managed to take a step back and realize that these were always the same problem, with a nice fresh coat of paint.
Every company goes through growth-related issues, it’s just part of the game. Sometimes with strong leadership and vision, you can manage to land back on your feet very quickly and make it a learning experience. At Lightspeed though, we deliberately chose to constantly rotate between the same exact problems in some sort of perverted cycle, and I can tell you, we learn nothing but frustration from it.
Let me preface this by saying that leadership (in general) at Lightspeed is weak. At any level of leadership, people fall into three categories: definitely not fit for the job, a decent fit for the job but completely overwhelmed and taken advantage of, and a perfect fit for the job, which eventually makes you leave, because you can see all the glaring issues exposed bare and you are powerless to solve anything.
A lot of people in a leadership position at Lightspeed are definitely not fit for their job. There are a lot of imposters and purely political players who are only interested in looking good and maximizing how many people they manage in order to jump to their next opportunity like their own little traveling locust plague. We had a wave of these people coming from Shutterstock before, today it’s SSENSE. They show up, befriend powerful people, do very little to earn their promotions, surf on their own direct reports’ successes, and eventually, get promoted to their maximum level of incompetence (the Peter principle, anyone?). When their situation becomes too much to bear and they can’t fake it anymore, they just bail to their next target company and leave a complete mess behind them that takes months or years to fix. But who cares? They got stock options, they got a cushy salary and they can brag to their next employer about all the things they didn’t really do.
On the other hand, some people are not entirely fit for leadership positions but are still doing their darndest to earn the respect of others. In order to prove themselves, they put in the extra work to be recognized and in doing so, not only contribute to the ascension in power of more dastardly people (as evoked just before) but completely burn themselves to the ground in the process. It’s no secret that mental fatigue, burnouts, and extremely poor work/life balance are pervasive at Lightspeed, everyone here knows someone that went through some form of it. Eventually though, these people regularly get overshadowed by more politically skilled employees who manage to steal their thunder, which leads to them either becoming shells of their former selves or pushed aside to less interesting projects or positions. In the end, they either stay and do their 9-5 every day without passion or just leave.
And then, you have the superstars, we have very few of these at Lightspeed, strong competent leaders that outshine everyone else. Unfortunately, these people are so few and far between that their hands are basically tied. I’ve been in this company long enough to have seen plenty of these come in full of hope, and give up usually after just a few months on the job once they realize the number of political games they have to play and the hoops they have to jump through just to do the work they’ve been hired for. Most of these people leave before their one-year anniversary, sometimes even because they are actively targeted and undermined by incompetents who want to keep their cushy positions.
Eventually, what you are left with as an employee is a constant turn-around of managers, directors, and VPs. They all rank somewhere on that scale, and they all eventually give up or leave after what feels like 6 to 18 months on the job. The result? An ever-changing leadership roster, which leads to an ever-changing product roadmap that swerves from right to left every six months, punctuated by non-stop reorganizations to suit whatever vision of the week. I think I’ve gone through five or six department-wide reorganizations in the last four to five years.
You will see leaders constantly pushing for the same solutions to the same problems and failing for the same reasons as before, usually because they leave long before their plans can be put to fruition or because they couldn’t care less about what had already been attempted before. As an engineer, you will see a constant re-inventing of the wheel because there are basically no technical figures of authority that have been here long enough to be able to assume the role, or they just gave up trying a long time ago. As an employee, you will witness the absence of any sense of career progression as you constantly have to reprove yourself to a fresh batch of ever-changing managers and directors that all inevitably hire their own cronies when they come in and couldn’t care less about you as a result. I’ve heard of people that went through more than 10 managers over the last three to four years. That’s roughly a new manager every four months!
You’re going to tell me: “Ain’t that describing all companies really?” and I’ll answer you that yes, it does. But if it was an Olympic sport, Lightspeed would be a triple gold medalist. Working at Lightspeed, especially in the product and technology department, is exhausting, and no amount of internal transfers can solve anything as the problem is rampant in the entire department. This is the first company in my 15 years career that ever managed to beat my passion and drive to a pulp and made me one of these 9-to-5 employees that couldn’t care less about the business as long as I get my paycheque. And I hate every second of it.
Advice to Management: There is no amount of advice I can give to management for the very reasons cited in my review. Either they are the problem and have every incentive to keep it that way, or they’ll kill themselves trying to fix things. Both situations just lead to nowhere. I’ve known dozen of people who left in the last year mentioning this problem during their exit interviews, but nothing ever changes. So what’s the point of trying to give advice here really?
45 people found this review helpful
May 17, 2021, Manager in Montreal, overall: 3 stars out of 5.
Just like a season of GoT
Recommend: NO, CEO Approval: NO, Business Outlook: YES
Working at Lightspeed is much like a season of Game of Thrones.
- You will work in a beautiful castle and be provided with everything you need
- You will take part in unique, wild adventures, conquering (Acquiring) new territories (Markets)
- You will be surrounded and inspired by highly skilled and talented individuals, the best warriors of modern corporations, allowing you to learn, perfect your own skills and become one of the best as well
- You might obtain riches beyond your wildest dream if you are deemed worthy (RSU, commissions)
- Much like GoT, the theory of survival of the fittest is an understatement. Behind the glamour facade of a kind and noble king, beautiful castles and amazing adventures, you will need to watch your back and navigate through a culture of extreme corporate politics, blatant public shaming and humiliation, ruthless demagogy, and insidious plots.
- The storyline will pivot abruptly at any moment and without warning
- You may last 1 minute, 1 episode, maybe 1 season. If you are lucky the dragon will take you under his wing… but for how long? As long as it will suit him.
Don’t be fooled, it is the dragon, not the king, who is pulling the strings.
Advice to Management: The end doesn’t always justify the means
30 people found this review helpful
Jul. 6, 2021: Software Development Manager, Current Employee, more than 5 years
Lots of bumps in the road
Recommend: NO, CEO Approval: YES, Business Outlook: YES
Good technology challenges
Lots of turbulence due to acquisitions
Constant leadership changes
Advice to Management: Identify and remove toxic leaders
- Management does not appear to have evolved much.
- This company seems to be succeeding in spite of itself. They might continue to grow but at the expense of staff churn. Is this sustainable?
- Their multiple acquisitions are adding another layer of complexity to leadership.
- Why does CEO Dax Dasilva have such a high rating? The management team is his responsibility.
- My portfolio is 10% Lightspeed. Obviously I want to see this company succeed with its innovative array of products
- Am I placing too much emphasis on only 3 reviews? Maybe, but I don’t think so. These 3 employees have told very similar and frankly alarming stories.