Sigh... why do I always get sucked into these things?
By now, it seems like everyone has read Life at Google - The Microsoftie Perspective. And now, I too am getting sucked into this discussion...
- The email pretty much states that one of the primary goals of this article is to give pointers for how Microsoft can convince candidates to come to Microsoft. eg, how can we spin Google's perks the other way? Keep that in mind. These are not necessarily things he does or doesn't like about Google.
- People are walking away from this article thinking "oh my god people at Google work really long hours." That's not actually what it says. It actually says that people work 10am - 6pm, but also spend time working from home. 10am - 6pm is an eight hour day - including lunch. Not bad. I work for Google, used to intern at Microsoft, and most of my friends work at Microsoft. I've seen no difference whatsoever in working hours.
- "Nearly everyone is on e-mail 24/7". Microsoft employees tend to have SmartPhones with work mail on it, Google employees don't. Also, Google employees tend to use separate accounts for personal and work emails, whereas Microsoft employees tend to use their work address for both (not sure why). So actually, Google employees can more easily stay away from their work email.
- "Your [20%] project needs to be tacitly approved by your manager." Heh. That's not true.
- "Most managers won't remind you to start a 20% project." That's true. Google has a more hands off management style. They don't babysit you.
- "Google doesn't seem to think that private offices are valuable for technical staff. They're wrong." Ah, yes, the often discussed "open office" vs "private office" issue. There are pros and cons for each. The pros for a private office are pretty obvious, so I won't go into them. I think people overlook the pros for an open office: everyone on your team is right there. Have a question about the system architecture? Just ask. Everyone's right there. You don't have to call a meeting. You don't have to run down the hallway. You don't have to make a phone call. It saves a lot of time - and avoids unnecessary meetings.
I actually had my own office for a few weeks when I first started at Google, and after that I shared an office with just one other person. It seemed cool at the time, but now, I actually prefer an open office plans. If I'm getting distracted I can put on my headphones, but normally, it's just nice to have everyone right there. (I've heard that the Bungie team at Microsoft was encouraged to switch to private offices when they were acquired. They declined. I didn't understand why they wanted cubes when I was at Microsoft either. It makes sense now.)
- "My manager had over 100 direct reports and is the common case for managers at Google." A slight exaggeration on the reports, but anyway... The email discussion on management only tells one side of the story. You might think, for example, how can a manager with 100 direct reports review you? Well, they don't, your peers do. That's just one example. I guess what I'm saying is that you can't apply Microsoft's management structure (eg, reviews by managers) to Google's numbers (100 direct reports) - that's mixing and matching, and it doesn't work. The structure is very different between the two companies.
- "Oh and conflict resolution between team members is very complex." Not complex, just different. Instead of some PM or manager coming down and saying "this is my decision - now go implement!", decisions are made more as a result of team discussion. A manager could step in, but usually a group consensus is better than just one person's decision.
- "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." Heh. Now you're just being silly!
Is he happier at Microsoft than Google? Why did he leave Google? I'd be curious about those two points which are never addressed.
In my mind, there's one pretty powerful fact in Google's favor: many people have left Microsoft for Google. Microsoft would be more than happy to take them back. If they were happier at Microsoft, don't you think they would return? I don't know anyone who has.
And... I really have to stop getting involved in petty debates :-)