[A friend of mine forwarded this article on Google by Patti Wilson. The perspective is so very different from the rah-rah perception of Google, that I asked for her permission to publish it here.]
Google might be a great place to work for a certain population of people but the hyperbole is over the top and inaccurate about it being one of the best places to work according to Fortune Magazine. Those lists are pretty subjective anyhow.
I have collected over the years anecdotal information about most Silicon Valley company cultures. Yes, I do have a point of view about Google and it is based, not on its product, but on years of feedback and input from reliable sources: my clients.
My clients have interviewed and been hired into Google, they have interviewed and not been hired and they have rejected offers from Google. And yes, I have recruiter friends at Google as well.
Here is some of what I know:
How they hire engineers: you are phone screened, the brought in to interview, then interviewed again (5 to 10 people have talked to you). Then you are hired as Member of Technical Staff. You will not know what group or manager or project you will work on until you accept the offer and join the company. Google’s view being it’s all good, interesting and that shouldn’t factor into your decision in joining the company.
When onboard, every single person’s objectives for each quarter are visible to everyone in the company, as are their “report cards” grading their previous quarter’s results. A new hire’s base salary is at the bottom of the range for equivalent jobs at companies in the industry.
Yes, total compensation can add up to much more, up to double the base salary, but that comes with lots more work. You have to work very hard to earn each incremental level of pay. As for stock, they just give you so many shares per year regardless of price, the number depending on your level. One client got offered 20 shares.
Just an aside, during the industrial revolution a version of working like this was called piecework because you got paid for increments of output, only then it was just smaller increments as in one bowl, sock, apple picked at a time. You had to work like hell just to make a day’s wage.
Yes, you get 20% of your time (whatever part of your 70 hour piecework week that is) to work on stuff you like. In effect the whole company becomes a giant R&D lab for Google’s new products….but does anybody get rewarded with shared patent revenue? I don’t know.
Of course there is free food, but SAP has free food for employees up on Hillview Avenue in Palo Alto. I am told by a foodie friend that it is really good. And they have done it for years. Of course, SAP doesn’t have Google’s Pajama Day where you get to come to work dressed up in your nightclothes because grownups work there.
When I was at Sun there was a massage therapist who came around once a week, the mechanic picked up and returned my car, the detail guy washed and waxed it in the parking lot, and the dry cleaners was next to the cafeteria. All that sure kept me in front of the monitor and productive.
And Apple had a totally crazy Halloween party campus wide when I worked there. Cisco has ice cream stands located between buildings handing out free cones during the summer months. And they all rented movie theaters for the premier of the Star Wars movies, etc. What’s the big deal about Google’s perks aside from their employees who don’t know better raving about them?
The average age of employees at Google is under 35 years of age. As a 20 year Silicon Valley career and business consultant, I have seen that younger workers’ values, goals, needs/wants, and level of life force energy enables the kind of workplace mass delusion of grandeur that Google foists on upon workers. And before Google, Apple, SGI, and Microsoft, to name a few, did exactly the same thing.
How do they transform being a normal wage earner into a grander role? They make the company cool, edgy, different, clubby, exclusive, fun, playful and not feeling, looking or acting like, oh god, work. They provide a vision of an outrageous, disruptive technology product/service vision that you want to be part of to give your life meaning. Not that they aren’t doing cutting edge, money making products, it’s just that the hype is beyond the pale.
The result is that younger workers will bust their collective behinds for the proverbial blocks, sandbox, toys, and a great epic fairy tale to act out. Apple used to say slogans like “think different” and “changing the world one computer at a time”. Hey, I bought into it.
When I was in recruiting at Apple the Director of Technical Recruiting said that there was a problem with Apple’s image that was hurting recruiting efforts. Apple was perceived as too elite and cool a place to work so engineers did not apply because they thought they didn’t measure up. Google walks a fine line with this issue in their voracious hunt for top talent. One client told me when she turned down Google’s offer because it wasn’t enough money, in retort the Google recruiter told her “it is a privilege to work at Google”.
If a company succeeds in creating and selling the epic saga tale, a youthful workforce will work hard and long in service of the company’s grand delusion. And if you are really good selling it, like Google, they will work for less money too.
Aside from Google, at least the aforementioned companies continued to create wealthy employees after they went public. The jury is out, but I don’t believe that will be the case with Google. It is more likely that their employees will end up older and ultimately exhausted.
Just like in the movies, Google is selling a dream, and, as in the movies, it does require a willful suspension of one’s disbelief to partake in the story. What great spin!