Monday, March 2, 2009

Not a number



Last week something happened in the main atrium at Pixar. There was a stage, and lots of people were gathering around. What was about to begin is called the "Pixar Awards", happening for the first time ever (and planned to happen every year from now on). So what is that? It is the celebration of the longest time employees. The ones who have been there for 10 years got a Buzz bronze statue and the ones who have been there for 20 years also got a Woody statue.

So what's the big deal? It is the number of people who got awarded. Over twenty people got Woody and over a hundred and eighty got Buzz. I mean... almost two hundred people have been working at Pixar for over ten years! If you drop that to nine, the number greatly increases. That means most people stayed, since Pixar was not that much bigger than two hundred people ten years ago. Digging a bit deeper, the percentage of people who leave Pixar every year is below 10%. And most of them were fairly recent hires.

Now if you are wondering why I am so surprised, you have to consider the VFX and animation industry I grew in. Like another three hundred people, I had to leave Animal Logic after Happy Feet, because there was no work to be done. That was over half of the company. I will not dig into a discussion about the current economic downturn, but so many company in our industry fire great numbers of people with little notice, to cut costs, to outsource the work where it is cheaper, or even to avoid bankruptcy. London was quite extreme in that. Hundreds of people moved from one company to the other every month. And we are not talking about companies with thousands of employees. That was often over half the whole workforce.

Put in that perspective, it is indeed amazing how different things are here. It might be tough to get in if you need a visa to work in the US, but once you make it you know you are not going to be treated like a number. That is a comforting thought.
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