[TUHS] Stories

Doug McIlroy doug at cs.dartmouth.edu
Thu Dec 6 13:22:58 AEST 2018

> So how was it that so many smart - and somewhat like minded it seems
> people end up there? [At Bell Labs]

1. Bell Labs had a great reputation, though it was not at first known
   for computing.

2. Research recruiters were researchers themselves, not HR people.

3. Recruiting was for quality hires, not for particular jobs;
   complementary talent was valued.

4. Whom a candidate met on site was determined after s/he gave a seminar;
   this promoted good matchups.

5. Researchers decided for themselves what to work on--either self-
   generated or an interesting problem from elsewhere in the company.

6. If you needed to know something in most any field, you could usually
   find a willing expert to get you on track to an answer.

7. Annual merit review was collegial. No one lost out because of unlucky
   draw of a supervisor.

8. Collegiality in fact beat that of any faculty I know. Office doors
   were always open; new arrivals needed only to do good work, not to
   chase tenure. 

This culture grew from the grand original idea of the Labs: R&D for
the whole of AT&T funded by the whole of AT&T, with a long time horizon.
I joined thinking the Labs was good seasoning for academia. The culture
held me for 39 years.

The premise was viable in the days of regulated monopoly. It has been
greatly watered down since.


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