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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Google From a Microsoft Perspective

The entrance to Google Hamburg, Germany

Life at Google - The Microsoftie Perspective” is an alleged mail circulating on Microsoft-internal mailing lists. It checks the pros and cons of working for Google in comparison to the Microsoft culture. From that mail:

The culture at Google is very much like the old culture at Microsoft – back when the company felt like most employees were in their mid 20’s. These kids don’t have a life yet so they spend all of their time at work. Google provides nearly everything these people need from clothes (new T-shirts are placed in bins for people to grab *twice* a week!) to food – three, free, all-you-can-eat meals a day. Plus on-site health care, dental care, laundry service, gym, etc. Imagine going from college to this environment and you can see how much everyone works. People are generally in the building between 10am and about 6pm every day, but nearly everyone is on e-mail 24/7 and most people spend most of their evenings working from home.

This culture changes a bit with more experienced folks. They generally work 10a - 6pm like the new hires, and most of them are on email until around midnight. It’s pretty common for them to be working most of the evening, too. (...)

Google believes that developers are, with few exceptions, interchangeable parts. This philosophy shows through in their office arrangements which in Mountain View are all over the map. There are glass-walled offices, there are open-space areas, there are cubicles, there are people who’s desks are literally in hallways because there’s no room anywhere else. (...)

There are front-line developers, and then their manager. My manager had over 100 direct reports and is the common case for managers at Google. Managers quasi-own products and their employees tend to work on their projects, but not always.

Some of this I heard before. A Google employee once told a group of us that (this is my nutshell of what the employee said)...

... as opposed to companies which sell software, Google sells ads – so engineers can also be seen as the ones creating costs, which apparently shines through in some meetings with members of the ad/ sales team which are creating the direct revenue. ... On the pro side, this also means that developer deadlines aren’t quite as strict as within traditional software houses, because the software mostly doesn’t have to be pre-announced and tightly knit into a defined publishing/ marketing schedule.

Part of the mail mirrors a thought Aaron Swartz pondered a while ago – that Google often treats their employees like kids (or college kids). Again, from the Microsoft mail:

College kids tend to like [Google] because it’s just like college – all of their basic needs are taken care of. In fact, even most of your personal-life can get tied up in Google benefits. Google provides free or subsidized broadband to every employee. Google runs its own, private, bus lines in the Bay Area for employees. Google provides free or subsidized mobile phones. A college kid can literally join Google and, like they did as freshman at university, let Google take care of everything. Of course, if Google handles everything for you, it’s hard to think about leaving because of all the “stuff” you’ll need to transition and then manage for yourself.

Suggestions from this mail for Microsoft include offering free food to employees. The mail also points out the advantage of the “tech stops” available all around the Google headquarters, offering help & hardware (like keyboards or cables). “They handle all of the IT stuff for employees in the building including troubleshooting networks, machines, etc. If you’re having a problem you just walk into a Tech Stop and someone will fix it.”

[Thanks Mukthar!]


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