Jeri Ellsworth, a notable hardware developer on Valve's R&D team who, among other things, was prototyping controllers for the oft-rumoured Steam Box, posted on Twitter yesterday to say she had been fired.
"Yup. Got fired today. Time for new exciting projects," said Ellsworth.
Valve's forays into developing hardware, to tie in to its ever-unfolding Big Picture and on-the-TV experiments, have included toying with biometric sensors. Ellsworth is a notable engineer with a popular YouTube channel.
Valve's nonstandard approach to running its business has intrigued many. "It requires a commitment to hiring in a way that's very different from the way most companies hire," said its famous New Employees Handbook, which found its way online last year.
Speaking earlier in January at the University of Texas, Valve founder Gabe Newell discussed the company's "sink or swim" culture and said it needed to be "aggressive" about firing people.
"You have to be really aggressive about firing people," Newell said. "We haven't done a really good job with interns or new hires, it's kind of a sink or swim thing. People have to take it seriously, right? It's an engineering problem in the sense of you have to make decisions, you have to measure outcomes, you have to make changes as a result of it. I would have trouble working any other way now, and I think most of the people at Valve would have trouble."
"There's something we, somewhat unkindly, call the beaten wife syndrome, where people come in from other industries and really struggle. the worst are people from the feature film industry where people are taught that anytime they show initiative somebody's going to leap out and smite them for doing that. It usually takes about six to nine months for people to internalise the working model of the company."