A Peek Inside Google

A Microsoft employee who is also an ex-Google employee gave some insight into working conditions at his old job, including the perhaps-surprising-to-some idea that Microsoft is a better place to work.

The author of the e-mail is anonymous (although identified as a male), but the specific descriptions indicate that the writer has strong knowledge of the work culture at Google. The e-mail surfaced on a blog, and is supposedly making the rounds internally at Microsoft.

The writer says the culture is free-flowing and informal; in fact, he says it's "very much like the old culture at Microsoft -- back when the company felt like most employees were in their mid-20s."

The writer compares Google's work atmosphere to being back in college.

"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."

But that atmosphere also has its drawbacks. The author says that developers are seen as mere cogs in a machine ("Google believes that developers are, with few exceptions, interchangeable parts", he says), management is haphazard and convoluted, and there is no emphasis on career growth or development.

"Basically if you get good reviews, you get more money and a fancier title ('Senior Software Engineer II') but that's about it," he writes. In addition, he says that wages are better at Microsoft, and the health insurance is vastly superior.

Work is also a nonstop affair, he states: "People are generally in the building between 10 a.m. and about 6 p.m. every day, but nearly everyone is on e-mail 24/7 and most people spend most of their evenings working from home."

But Google also does a number of things right, and the author shared some tips on how Microsoft can improve conditions for its workers by taking a cue from its bitter rival. For instance, free food. Google employees don't pay to eat. The writer says that one change could improve productivity. "That single benefit gets people to work earlier because hot breakfast is served only until 8:30," he wrote.

Another perk is the "Tech Stop," which is basically a station on each floor of the building where a worker can go to get a new piece of equipment immediately if something breaks, or becomes outdated. There are no forms to fill out or budget requests to make.

"The model of repair or replace within an hour is incredible for productivity," he writes, giving an example of how: "For example, I could stop by and swap my second workstation for a laptop because I'm working remotely a lot more now. In the Tech Stop system, this takes 5 minutes to walk down and tell the Tech Stop guy. If a machine is available, I get it right away. Otherwise they order it and drop it off when it arrives."

On the whole, though, this is one employee who prefers Redmond to Mountain View.

About the Author

Keith Ward is editor of Virtualization Review magazine. You can contact Keith at [email protected].