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Tech’s long history of dogfooding

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter, where we share the latest tips, tools and insights to help you stay informed about the modern tech office. Today: DoorDash, talent trends and bad bosses.

—Amber Burton, reporter (twitter | email)

DoorDash and Dogfooding

Right before the start of the year, DoorDash made news when it announced it would require all of its employees — including engineers (gasp!) — to deliver food once a month. And while most outlets got the news right, what was left out of the conversation was that the effort is part of a larger revamped program that launched years before the pandemic.

Here’s what’s happening at DoorDash:

  • The program is an expansion of an initiative to get employees regularly testing its products. It was expanded to include three options for employees to test out the business each month. They’re referring to it as: WeDash, WeSupport and WeMerchant. WeDash is the overall program which includes “dashing,” executing actual deliveries. WeSupport entails employees shadowing a customer experience agent, and WeMerchant, which is the newest addition, entails employees shadowing merchants to better observe logistics and the experience of fulfilling orders. DoorDash encourages its employees who are going out to deliver food or shadow merchants to team up with a couple colleagues to do the job.
  • The goal is for DoorDash salaried employees, including the CEO, to gain a better understanding of the product and troubleshoot any observed issues that arise. The program is strongly encouraged and employees log the time into Workday to keep track.
  • “These are fundamental ways for us as employees to stay close to our stakeholders, and our products, and our offerings and see how they can be improved day to day, which is above and beyond the purpose and impact of the program,” a spokesperson for DoorDash told Protocol.

Some refer to this practice of having employees test and use their own product as “dogfooding.” It’s far from new. In fact, it’s been around for decades and has been adopted by a large number of tech companies over the years. The origin story of ye olde “dogfooding” has been debated and is probably less exciting than you might think:

  • The origin of the term is debated. Some say it comes from software exec Paul Maritz who sent an email in 1988 while working at Microsoft titled “Eating our own Dogfood,” encouraging Microsoft employees to use their own product more often.
  • Also known as “eating your own dog food,” the idiom refers to using your own product or software for internal operations, or simply having employees regularly use a product to gain a better understanding of its use or services.

Companies like Salesforce and Instacart have also become anecdotally known for encouraging employees to complete or shadow tasks outside of their day jobs in order to gain a better picture of how their work relates to the business.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced on Twitter today that he would be doing his own form of dogfooding by living in Airbnbs and staying in different cities every couple of weeks. “It’ll be fun, but more importantly it will help us improve the experience for people who can now live anywhere,” he tweeted. Also, this seems expensive, which Chesky did not tweet.

Ben Bentzin, a lecturer at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, said dogfooding has fallen out of practice at a lot of companies, but it can lead to huge benefits for an organization if done right. Bentzin is CEO and founder of health tech company Interactive Health Technologies, and has taught courses in marketing, e-commerce and product strategy.

“It's really a way to connect executives, and all the employees, with the value that's being delivered to customers,” he told Protocol.

Dogfooding comes with its own set of challenges:

  • “There’s an expense obviously to putting your employees out in the field. Take the case of a software developer, for example. Developers are highly compensated for a very specialized skill set that’s in high demand. So what you’re doing when you take them off of their software development role and put them out in the field, you're paying someone at the software developer's rate to go out and deliver your frontline service to your employees,” he said. “So you want to make sure that you get enough value from that to offset the cost.”

The trick is finding the right frequency for employees to test the product, whether that be monthly or annually. Even with the high cost to productivity, Bentzin still recommends the process and continues to do it within his own company. His case for why you should still consider pulling your highly skilled tech workers off their jobs to dogfood the product:

  • “[It] allows software developers to get that firsthand experience with how their software is actually being used by customers, which is going to be different than this model they have in their minds … you have to have that real-world experience, and it makes the rest of your work more productive,” he said.

Events at Protocol

It now seems almost certain that antitrust action, privacy laws and more will influence the tech industry and will soon affect the most powerful companies. Our expert panel will discuss what lawmakers hope to achieve, how tech companies are already responding to possible regulation and what it might look like a few years from now. Speakers for our free, online event include Justin Brookman, Julie Brill, Samir Jain and Linda Moore, moderated by Protocol Senior Reporter Ben Brody on Jan. 26 at 10:30 a.m. PT/1:30 p.m. ET.

Register for the event.

Workers want more than money

LinkedIn released its 2022 Global Talent Trends Report on Tuesday. The findings are clear: What jobseekers want out of an employer has changed dramatically since the start of the pandemic. Now, it’s all about flexibility, well-being and culture. Jobseekers are rejecting old norms like set work schedules and being tethered to an office, and companies are responding accordingly in order to compete for talent. LinkedIn found company posts using the word “flexibility” attract 35% more engagement, with more interest from Gen Z and millennial users. For many companies, the wants of jobseekers have sparked a cultural overhaul. “Organizations are looking at: What are those true, unique differentiators in their culture that go beyond in-office perks?” Jennifer Shappley, LinkedIn’s vice president of global talent acquisition, told my colleague Allison Levitsky.

Read the full story.


Honeywell's Chief Commercial Officer Jeff Kimbell sits with Futurum's Daniel Newman to talk through the world's emerging trends in innovation, sustainability, tech and markets. Don't miss the insights into Honeywell's latest strategy for 2022!

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Today’s tips & tools

Have you heard of Clockwise, the smart calendar extension that moves meetings for you in order to maximize uninterrupted chunks of “focus time”? The company announced its $45 million series C funding round today, bringing its total funding to $76 million. I caught up with CEO Matt Martin to talk about the tool’s present and future.

  • Helping with meeting relief. Clockwise will automatically build time in between video calls to give you a break. Martin said the company’s found that people need at least a half-hour break after two hours of back-to-back meetings. “Even though that break might come at the cost of a little bit of focus time, we think it’s better for your overall schedule.”
  • How do you spend your time? The ultimate goal is to reveal how workers spend their time, and what’s needed to make their days less overwhelming. “Often, what we have to bridge is that emotional feeling of like, ‘Man, my day’s out of control,” Martin said. Clockwise tracks the optimal times to schedule meetings. But to make a difference, companies need to use that information to decide whether they plan too many meetings.
  • Scheduling meetings with people outside of your company is on the company’s horizon. Right now, Clockwise is focused on internal scheduling within large companies like Atlassian, Netflix or Asana. “How does your time intersect with your peers'? And then we can build on top of that more external functionality.”

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (twitter | email)

Quitting bad bosses

Let’s face it, managing people is hard. And the relationship between managers and their direct reports can be a delicate one. We’ve all heard the saying, “Employees don’t quit bad jobs, just bad managers.” Ok, so I likely butchered that quote, but you know what I’m getting at here. Well, turns out there might be some data behind that statement. Employee background check company GoodHire recently surveyed 3,000 full-time workers about the relationship between workers and managers to find out what employees really think. Here are the highlights:

  • 82% of all people who responded to the survey answered, “Yes, they would consider quitting because of a bad manager.”
  • 73% of software professionals said they would quit their job due to a bad manager.
  • 87% of science and tech workers who responded to the survey said they think they’re more than qualified to do their manager’s job.
  • But it’s not all bad. Overall, 70% of all workers surveyed “strongly enjoy or somewhat enjoy working for their manager."

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