When Your Company Is Not What You Think It Is (We Read So You Don’t Have To)


Some of the happy people at 50onRed. Source: Instagram

“If you want to work here,” CEO Stephen Gill says about his company 50onRed, “you have to be passionate about advertising.” That’s not true. If you want to work at the Philadelphia-based tech stalwart, you have to come to terms with the idea that you’re working at a company that makes its living from malware.

The Perks Are Great. Just Don’t Ask Us What We Do,” Juliana Reyes’ longread for Backchannel, goes deep on what it’s like when people find out that the business they think their company is in (advertising) is actually something much darker (injecting rogue ads into websites via malware). Some leave, some find reasons to stay ranging from greed to fear to comaraderie to the genuine technical challenges the company offers, some vacillate. It’s an outstanding, social look at what it’s like working at a company dedicated to making the world a little worse.

This is an extreme example, but it does get at the most basic question of work: should I be here? For most people, it’s not just black and white. Yes, the company’s business model is quite distressing. But most found genuinely earnest reasons for staying, at least for a while. There were plenty of mercenary reasons, too, and they held sway for many.

George Orwell once wrote, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” This is a vivid example of smart, good people compartmentalizing … until many of them couldn’t anymore.

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