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Overexplained Lists

Tech Companies, Ranked By The Skill Of People Wearing Their T-Shirts At The Climbing Gym

KIRKLAND, WA - OCTOBER 28: Google Engineering Director Chee Chew demonstrates using the climbing wall during the grand opening of Google Kirkland October 28, 2009 in Kirkland, Washington. More than 350 employees work in the Kirkland facility, which includes amenities such as a gym and soda fountain, consolidates several offices throughout Kirkland. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

There is a lot to love about San Francisco, and a lot I miss since moving across the Bay, but it’s also the sort of place where people wear Facebook t-shirts out in public. Because San Francisco is never in a state of what anyone could credibly call “t-shirt weather,” I mostly noticed this at the climbing gym. I do not begrudge anyone for repping their place of work, because it’s ultimately a losing game, but it’s hard not to be rude when a Palantir guy is grunting his way through a V6 for all of the gym to hear.

Over the years of climbing alongside and with scores of tech workers, I have kept an overdeveloped running tally in my head of the climbing levels of various shirt-wearers. The connections between gym climbing and tech are not insignificant. Google has a bouldering wall in their new Boulder office, as well as walls in their Seattle and Mountain View hubs. Brooklyn Boulders outposts in Chicago and Massachusetts have coworking spaces attached, which do not cater explicitly to tech workers, though they might as well. At a basic material level, gym memberships cost money, and tech salaries are big.

Now that I no longer live in San Francisco, the density of tech t-shirts at the gym is 90 percent lower. Therefore the evaluation process is complete, and I can move on from maintaining this inexplicably rigorous ranking system in my head. I have collected all the necessary data to issue the following list:

  1. Palantir – Stone-cold killers, decently collaborative but alarmingly focused.
  2. Google – My friend works for Google, and he’s taller and better at climbing than me. Probably the largest sample size of any company here.
  3. Apple – This one guy who sometimes wore Apple shirts was really, really good, but there weren’t that many Apple employees, probably because everyone works way too much.
  4. Amazon – The three people I occasionally climbed with from Amazon were all pretty technically competent.
  5. Lyft – Lyft has an office near the gym, so I would see big groups come through pretty regularly, usually led by one very good Lyft employee.
  6. Twitter – There was one woman who wore a Twitter shirt to the gym, and while she was good, she was basically the only bird person I saw.
  7. Uber – Uber has an office really close to the gym (though they’re subleasing it now), and big groups of Uber people would come in and mostly stand in the way.
  8. Salesforce – Salesforce is in the inverse position from Google here: lots of climbers, none of them taller than me.
  9. Juul – Juul’s SF office was even closer to the gym than Uber’s, but also it’s Juul, and the two people I remember in Juul shirts could do V3 or so.
  10. Getting hit by an Uber
  11. Facebook – Maybe all the really good Facebook/Instagram climbers simply wore different shirts.