This is a book my husband Jason read first, mostly because after ten years of futile resistance he finally got on to social media. That is, he joined LinkedIn — or, as you may know it, Facebook’s boring cousin who spends way too much time at work. That said, I can’t be too hard on Jason’s LinkedIn life, because it was through that site that he discovered Dan Lyons’ book Disrupted, which we both read and enjoyed.
Disrupted is a caustic and funny memoir about journalist Lyons’ experience going to work at a tech start-up company, getting immersed in the youth-focused culture of start-ups at the age of 52 (as he notes, twice as old as his average co-worker). Behind the shiny facade of the postmodern workplace with its free candy, open work areas, and exercise balls in place of chairs, Lyon finds a culture that not only openly discriminates against older workers, but treats even its bright young things with surprising contempt, seeing them as disposable cogs in the machine rather than valued members of the team.
Disrupted pulls no punches and takes no prisoners. Lyons makes no effort to disguise the identity of either the company he worked at — HubSpot — or the real names of most of his co-workers (some are given made-up names in the book, but the real identities of many of these people are revealed in the epilogue, so any disguise that is going on here is paper-thin). It’s also quite clear that this is his personal take on the experience and that other HubSpotters will tell a different story (and have done, in the media and on social media, since the book came out). But the book, which is always witty even when it’s cranky, and is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, is more than just the grumblings of a discontented ex-employee (though it’s clearly that too). Lyons sees real problems with the culture of start-ups (and with economics behind them — how is so much money being made investing in so many companies that never actually show a profit? Is this sustainable? Lyons warns it’s not), and Disrupted is his effort to call out and address those issues, against the backdrop of his own curmudgeonly tale.