Palantir: Revelations About Life on the Inside

Palantir, the top-secret data-analytics startup previously known for its government contracts and serving its staff artisanal bacon, isn’t quite so secret any more. Last week, it debuted on the New York Stock Exchange with a closing valuation of $15.8 billion.

As a public company, Palantir registered a prospectus with the SEC. That prospectus contains various interesting details on how to get a job there, and what it’s like if/when you do.

1. Palantir spent years hiring wildly; but this year, headcount has dropped.

Between 2010 and 2019, Palantir’s headcount went from 313 people to 2,398 people. However, between December 2019 and June 2020 it dropped from 2,398 to 2,391, which isn’t quite so bullish. 

2. Most of Palantir’s people are in the U.S.. Fewer than half are technologists. 

Only 850 of Palantir’s roughly 2,300 employees are in offices outside the U.S., while 929 of its employees are software engineers and other technical staff.  

3. If you want a technical job at Palantir, you need to come as an intern or graduate hire.

Palantir’s prospectus says very specifically that:

‘Much of our hiring into technical roles comes through our internship program or from candidates joining us directly from undergraduate  or  graduate  engineering  programs  rather  than  industry  hires.’

Palantir then admits its staff often have less industry experience than the employees at client companies they’re working with. 

4. There’s not much in the way of HR processes.

Palantir says it has a “relatively  flat  reporting  and  organization structure,” and “few formal promotions and performance reviews.” Plenty of people might welcome this.

5. Palantir people won’t be in an office this year.

Palantir has told people not to return to the office until 2021. 

6. Palantir technologists work partly in the office, partly on clients’ sites.

“Software engineers rotate between field and development functions to ensure that advances in the field, learned from working directly with our customers, are incorporated into our core platforms,” according to the company.

7. Palantir operates a no-jerk policy.

In a letter to employees at the start of the prospectus, chief executive Alex Karp says: 

“At many organizations, employees spend their days, even their careers, posturing for others, concerned with claiming credit for success and avoiding blame for failure. Entire companies can subsist for years on a business model that may have made sense at some point in the past. In the short term, there are often profits to be extracted from the enterprise, and from customers. We have rejected this way of working. The alignment of interests between our employees and our company, and between our company and our customers, is one of the principal reasons we have come as far as we have.”

Again, many technologists may find this refreshing, considering all the recent emphasis on teamwork and collaboration (i.e., soft skills).

8. Last year, Palantir gave each of its employees an average of $100,000 in stock compensation. 

Palantir doesn’t break out its salary expenses, but it does state that it allocated $242 million to stock compensation last year, which is an average of $101,000 per head. In 2020, it’s ramped this up and is on track to allocate an average of $152,000 per head.

How much do software engineers at Palantir earn? Glassdoor suggests average software engineer base pay at Palantir is $124,967, with average additional pay of $16,256. Levels.fyi, which also crowdsources salary data, puts average Palantir software engineering pay at roughly $226,000. But a rising stock price, combined with stock options, could radically change an individual engineer’s take-home pay.

A modified version of this article originally appeared in eFinancialCareers.