100-hour weeks are the dumbest thing about otherwise-brilliant Silicon Valley culture. They result in suboptimal quality, but worse, they waste human capital.
A recent true-life post, The Truth About What It’s Like Working For Uber, sounds like every job I had in the Valley — except the company I ran, where I could encourage rest.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, the engineering culture for at least 40 years has promoted self-flagellating sleep deprivation. For example, at a VC-funded software company I wrote code for in Menlo Park, our head of engineering held a contest to see which coder could sleep the least during the final weeks to our initial release. The “winners” were basket cases for years afterward. I took last place, sleeping an average of 5 hours a night — yet I am the only guy on that team to finish another programming project in the next 5 years. The rest were wiped out, ruined in their mid-twenties. This is not unusual.
Later, I ran a software company in Mountain View. With the previous company’s death marches fresh in my mind, I gently asked everyone to leave the office by 6 or 7pm, to get some sleep. With no death marches, we still hit deadlines, either by narrowing product scope or through clever workarounds. We released groundbreaking mobile apps a decade before everyone else, but more importantly, we wasted no human capital: our engineers generally went on to productive jobs elsewhere.
Programmer David Heinemeier Hansson concurs in his post, Sleep Deprivation is Not a Badge of Honor. DHH created the Web development framework Ruby on Rails, co-founded cloud-based project management SaaS firm BaseCamp, and won the 2014 Le Mans auto race (how’s that for polymath?). He does it on a reasonably consistent 9 hours of sleep.
Just sleep more.