Is this the real life, at Google? (Is this just fantasy?)

Caught in a landslide on Thursday's IT Blogwatch: in which a Microsoft re-hire talks openly about life at Google. Not to mention the best way to fix traffic congestion (no escape from reality)...

Our Redmond deep throat opens your eyes
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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.
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Most people don’t actually have a 20% project.  Most managers won’t remind you to start one.
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Google believes that developers are, with few exceptions, interchangeable parts ... there are people who’s desks are literally in hallways because there’s no room anywhere else. There are even buildings that experiment with no pre-defined workspaces or workstations – cogs (err, people?) just take one of the available machines and desks when they get to work.
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My manager had over 100 direct reports and is the common case for managers at Google ... the product’s manager isn’t involved day-to-day, probably doesn’t actually manage all of the peers who are trying to resolve a conflict, and likely hasn’t spent any time with their employees anyway.
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Google actually pays less salary than Microsoft. Google’s health insurance is actually not nearly as good as Microsoft’s. Google has no facility for career growth.  Microsoft has more, but could do better.
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Private offices for employees is a big benefit ... Play this up.
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Google has the concept of “Tech Stops.”  Each floor of each building has one.  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 ... If you need more equipment than your job description allows, your manager just needs to approve the action.

Look up to the skies, it's Eric Wise:

Being the darling of the day, any look inside Google is of interest to a geek like me and probably you readers too ... Despite the pay and benefits, I really couldn't see myself working at Google and being happy and successful.
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Not having a personal space or privacy to call your own would make me feel like a "cog" ... [I] wonder if the perpetual beta state of a lot of Google's stuff is due to people simply not being interested in doing the boring maintenance and enhancement tasks at the other end of the life cycle ... 100 direct reports?  I would strongly argue that most managers can't manage more than 7 direct reports if they are in something as complex and highly skilled as IT.

But Google intern Ben Maurer's just a poor boy (he needs no sympathy):

[This] got me thinking about what I like and don't like about an internship at Google ... [it] hinted at the end how huge of a factor the free food actually is. It's a relatively inexpensive perk that makes a huge difference.

The comments about how the developer's work areas are laid out is also really interesting. The first time I saw the Google layout, I was a bit surprised. "I thought I was getting an office!". I ended up really liking this in the end ... my coworkers are sitting very close by. I can work something out on a whiteboard with them. I don't have to walk a long way to their office.

It's easy-come, easy-go for Mick Stockinger:

I'd hate to work at either place. The reality for many if not most engineers is that you'll spend a year working on some ridiculously inane piece of a much larger project. That sucks. One would think that throwing bodies at a problem would make it all happen so much faster, but each addition increases the management burden until you spend all of your time communicating about the project and no time working on it.
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On the other hand, some of the coolest stuff you've ever seen was produced by very small teams, often no more than three or four people.
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Microsoft does provide their people with more space--I approve. I hate cubicle farms. Nothing says "you don't matter" like a cubicle. Google is great about tools though--all the equipment you want, when you want it ... on-site medical, dental, free breakfast, lunch, supper, T-shirts, cell phones and bus service. It all sounds like a gilded cage. Will an employee wake up one day and reflect on the fact that Google has hijacked their life?

Put a gun against TheRaven64's head:

The biggest difference between Google and Microsoft is that Google turns research ideas into products. Microsoft spends something like five billion dollars on research a year, and pretty much any conference has a few interesting papers by Microsoft Research, but five years later you still won't see any products based on them. Google have a good track record of turning employees '20% time' into products. I think the difference here is that Microsoft have a research arm, and a products arm, and are not good at passing ideas between the two, while Google have people doing product work 80% of the time and research 20% of the time, so there is no disconnect.

And gelfling didn't mean to make you cry:

MS is probably ... a tomb. Some MS insider should check to see what the average tenure with the company is now. I'm sure its dropping. If it's a really low number ... then that's a red flag for a company that just wants to operate on the lowest cost basis, probably out of the country and where innovation and quality are already dead.

In fact, Mark Twomey wishes he'd never been born at all:

I'd like to believe that the management layer wasn't that flat for a company of Google's size but it makes sense when you consider how singular their market focus is and reminds me a lot of the Meta-programming model (As developed by Charles Simonyi) Microsoft had in place during it's early days. That didn't last for too long as Microsoft grew and Google's system probably won't last for much longer either should they begin to grow beyond their core market of selling ads.

Does Queen Mary Jo see a little shill-o-etto?:

Who would you expect to be behind the new blog? A Microsoft recruiter/employee? A Google recruiter/employee? ... The obvious answer would be a Microsoft employee. But look at the comments at the top of the new post: There are many, allegedly from Microsoft employees, criticizing the anonymous “Just Say No” blogger for making the “Life at Google” e-mail public.

The next question becomes: Are these real Microsoft employees criticizing the decision to publicize this e-mail? Trolls? Again, it’s impossible to tell. I would think Microsoft employees would be in favor of this e-mail coming to light, since it portrays Google as a mostly unattractive place to work ... On the Web, no one knows if you are a dog. Or a Microsoft (or Google) employee.

And Deane Barker does the fandango:

Of course, this is coming from Microsoft, so this could all be anti-Google propaganda.

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

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Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk. Any way the wind blows [gong].

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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