What's it like to work at Google? Ask a Microserf

A former Google employee tells all to his new colleagues at Microsoft. Allegedly.

By Farhad Manjoo
June 27, 2007 8:34PM (UTC)
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I've just written a book about how lies, rumors, conspiracy theories and propaganda spread through the Web and cable news, so perhaps it's fitting that I pass along this completely unvetted, possibly fictitious bit of info. There's allegedly an e-mail floating among Microsoft employees concerning what it's like to work at Google. The scoop comes, the e-mail says, from a developer who first worked at Microsoft, then left to start up a company that was later bought by Google, then left Google to come back to Microsoft.

Caveat: This may be completely fake. But here are some of the best bits (all mistakes and emphasis in the original).


On Google's culture:

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 10am -- 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.

On what kinds of people enjoy working at Google:

College kids tend to like it 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.

Mid-timers, people who've worked at other places for a few years tend to be a mixed bag. For some, this is the first stability they've seen after a few failed startups. For others, this is the company that represents a "better" way to run a company than the company they worked at before. Either way, for these folks to succeed at Google they have to drink the cool-aid and duke it out with the college kids because Google doesn't place any value on previous industry experience. (It puts tremendous value on degrees, especially Stanford ones).

"Old-timers" tend to like Google because they're the ones who know to take the most advantage of the perks. These are the people who religiously take their 20 percent time, use as many of the services as possible, and focus on having a "peaceful" experience. They're here to do a job, enjoy the perks, and that's about it. They still put in a lot of hours, but the passion of the college kids isn't there.

On how Microsoft could become more like Google:

Make the food in the cafe free. If an employee eats an average of $15 of food per day (the actual average at Google which is closer to $10) it would cost Microsoft $3,750 per year per employee to offer 3 meals a day. Instead of increasing starting salaries, switch to free food. Give everyone else half the merit increases we would have gotten AND ANNOUNCE THE FREE FOOD AT THE SAME TIME. For that quoted $10 average Google provides free soda, free organic drinks (odwalla, naked juice), breakfast, lunch, and dinner (most people only eat lunch), free sport drinks (vitamin water, etc.), and free snacks (trail mixes, nuts, chips, candy, gum, cereal, granola bars).

That single benefit gets people to work earlier because hot breakfast is served only until 8:30. And since dinner isn't served until 6:00 or 6:30 the people with a home-life tend to skip it.

For the whole e-mail (it's really quite good), see this anonymous blog post.

[Via Google Blogoscoped.]

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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