The following thoughts belong to me, and I am an observer of things that happened while employed at Jane.
I started my job at Jane hopeful to accelerate my career as a frontend developer, because I was getting more skilled and I wanted to be challenged. In addition, a new CEO was hired to lead Jane to have a more competitive edge, and that got me excited to work. At the time, I perceived that Jane had a hopeful future.
The first challenge that I encountered was cooperation with the product team. In all honesty, there always seems to be a challenge to work with the product team no matter which company. At Jane, the product team gave tiny assignments, and it was driving me nuts. I would often wonder, “How is it that we are supposed to drive competition and sales with such tiny assignments? We need to get moving!” The assignments from the product team never really improved much, but that may be given by the fact that most of the attention was for the seller platform website. Even with all the attention that the seller platform website was getting, I evaluated the needs of Jane.com and I made a task that I perceived would help give value to the consumer website.
Fairly soon into my employment, a round of lay-offs were announced. This is when management started to get perceptibly off-key. Full-time employees were being let go so that off-shore contractors could take their place. Getting off-shore contract workers were tricky, and perhaps a quarter of the contractors that Jane got were legitimately good. Jane had to deal with the other unproductive contractors, and babysitting them was detrimental to progress.
I just shrugged off this first round of layoffs as a need to remove unproductive expensive employees. Things went on, and the product team assignments more-or-less stayed the same. I continued to work on the assignment that I deemed to be of high-value for the consumer website. In addition, I encountered a few disagreements that I had to professionally settle in order to get progress moving.
But soon after the first round round of lay-offs, a second round was announced. The result of this round of layoffs felt different. A sense of urgency started to take place in the company, and everyone I talked with felt that things weren’t looking too good. Around this same time, the CEO and some technology leaders left. I heard by rumors that things weren’t looking to good financially speaking.
The CFO took charge as CEO. The CFO consistently told us how we didn’t meet our finance goals, and goals had to readjust constantly. The work culture of Jane was changing, and I started to grow more skeptical. Up until now, I was dedicated to try and improve the consumer website.
Eventually, a third round of lay-offs happened, and I completely shut myself off to Jane. I needed to leave for my own financial safety. There was no way that things were going to get better, albeit I didn’t know how quick things would downturn. The week of the third lay-offs that I survived, I started looking for a new job. People in the company looked more and more desperate, and management were saying that everything was going to be just fine. On one occasion, management dedicated an entire all-hands meeting to praising workers, and with this meeting it seemed to me that management was getting desperate.
My Professional Assumption
Throughout my time at Jane, there was a struggle to get technology needs addressed versus business needs. Under the executive suite, the company was driving to get a full on marketplace with products that lasted as long as there were items to sell. Originally, Jane was constructed off of the idea that these products were temporary or discounted products. And for software engineering reasons, the company couldn’t immediately convert over to a marketplace, and there needed to be a process. With pressures mounting, that process started to get shortcutted so that the business could try and get profitable or address the increasing debt.
It is understandable to prioritize business needs over technology needs, but at what cost? At the expense of culture, people’s livelihood, or mental health? Where is the line drawn? I think that the management of Jane didn’t stop at any line, because they were desperate.
So here is my final assumption at what killed Jane.com. The technology structure of Jane could not scale to what management wanted it to do. Management continued to drive debt and they ignored the advice of technology that marketplace needed to pause or at least slow down. And with all the debt that was accumulated, Jane ceased operations soon after I left it.
What probably should have happened was a dramatic scale down of employment size, clean up all unnecessary expenses, and build from there. It would take time, but at least the money that Jane was getting from sales could probably have helped Jane limp to success with the technology changes that needed to happen in order to get to marketplace.