Seattle Times Article: Google vs Microsoft

The front page of the Seattle Times today featured an article on me (and some other people) in reference to employees leaving Microsoft to go to Google. After three internships at Microsoft and a two year stint as a Microsoft campus representative, why didn't I go to Microsoft?

I went to Penn's career fair yesterday representing Google and that seemed to be the popular question there as well. I guess most people just assumed that I'd go back to Microsoft.

So what happened?

It wasn't a clear cut decision. My offers at Microsoft were from Mobile Devices and Windows Media Player, and I was really excited about Mobile Devices. At Google, I didn't know what I would be working on, and I'm not that interested in server-side or web programming.

But, there were lots of little things that made me lean away from Microsoft:

  • I wanted to do some feature design work, and Google lets developers help drive the product. At Microsoft, while developers can be "in the feedback loop," they're not driving the product - they're just giving occasional feedback. No, it's not the same thing. The PMs at Microsoft do all the design. Yes, there are some group that are very technical (aka, compilers) that are more dev driven, but those aren't groups I'm interested in.
  • I'd been getting this vibe from people that Microsoft's culture was changing... for the worse
  • Microsoft, in my experience, seemed to take a "good enough" approach rather than truly driving for excellence. I didn't really recognize this until I went to Apple and I saw the contrast between the two attitudes. Apple really seemed driven towards perfection, where Microsoft would shrug its shoulders and say "eh, good enough." Google's attitude, although I had never worked there, seemed more similar to Apple's.
  • Microsoft was cutting back on benefits whereas Google seemed to be expanding their benefits. Sure, maybe Google will change, but there's nothing holding me to stay at Google forever if it does.
  • My last summer at Microsoft just wasn't much fun. I didn't exactly have the best manager, and I just wasn't that into the product I was working on. While that may not have been representative of Microsoft, I can't say that didn't make Microsoft a little less glamorous in my eyes.
  • Microsoft didn't really seem to work together as a company; instead, it seemed to have a "not my team, not my problem attitude."
  • How many products are Microsoft do people say are just "awesome?" Not that every product is bad - I'm not one of those people that sits and complains about Windows. But really, how many products are customers really excited about? Xbox, maybe. What else? If your customers aren't excited about what you're doing, will you be?
  • And finally, let's face it: it's nice not working for the "evil" empire. Microsoft is a monopoly - maybe not in the technical sense of the word (it's debatable), but in the sense of it making it damn tough for anyone to enter the industry because Microsoft can always bundle software. It's nice working for a company that you can really feel good about - and that actively remembers to not be "evil."

So those were all the little things that were going on in my head when I was debating the offers. I guess what it comes down to is that once I spent sometime at Apple, I realized that Microsoft is not as great as it seems.

Meanwhile, Google had these great things about it: the 20% time projects (engineers are encouraged to spend 20% of their time on a different project), free lunch, different locations, etc.

For some reason though, it still wasn't clear cut. I really was seriously considering the Mobile Devices offer. In the end though, I realized that I was simply more excited about Google, and nothing Microsoft could offer me could make up for being excited about your job.