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Microsoft or Google? 490

Posted by Cliff
from the better-working-environment dept.
Undecided asks: "I will be graduating next April, and I have been fortunate enough to receive job offers from both Microsoft and Google. This has left me with a bit of a conundrum, however — I'm having real difficulty deciding which offer to accept. Putting aside compensation and other personal circumstances that will factor into my decision, what is the Slashdot community's take on this? Am I crazy not to go with Google? I am especially interested in the insight of others working in the computer science industry, in particular those who may have experienced what it's like to work at both companies."
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Microsoft or Google?

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  • So crazy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Feefers (985994) on Friday October 13, 2006 @08:27AM (#16421627) Homepage
    Tell both companies the other has noted in an interest in you working there and ask the question that most job interviewees hate; but not "Why should you work for us?" but "Why should I work for you?" It's the question they will be least expecting and the answer may be somewhat telling.
  • Google, no question (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blackjackshellac (849713) on Friday October 13, 2006 @08:30AM (#16421657)
    I've been working in the industry for 25 years and IMNSHO I would recommend that you take the job from google. Microsoft's business model is a dying entity, and with Vista in an eternal state of delay, history has shown that these sorts of companies have a very hard time of changing directions and coming around. This is not to say that Microsoft will not turn around, there's just a lot of momentum in the other direction, and it will take time for them to put the brakes on and come around. Enough with the metaphors.

    Web 2.0 is almost certainly the future, and chances are very good that neither Google nor Microsoft will provide the first real web 2 killer app, but with google you'd be on the right side of the technological dividing line.

    Go with google for a few years. And for some real fun, if you like working long hours, join a startup, cause thta's the only way to make big money, although your changes are only slightly better than winning the lottery.

  • by mzs (595629) on Friday October 13, 2006 @09:09AM (#16421939)
    But be very careful figuring how much it will cost you to live in the Redmond vs. Bay areas. Also consider how soon you could get married and have kids. It gets WAY more expensive to house a family in the Bay area.
  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Friday October 13, 2006 @09:11AM (#16421961) Homepage
    But even if I was working a lot of overtime, I'd still be doing a lot more interesting stuff than some people I know who are working in the large corporations.
  • Re:YMBFJ (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 13, 2006 @10:08AM (#16422741)
    And google is perfect?

    They have a great advertizement program funding their search engine (along with the IPO money). Which search engine isn't as good as it used to be IMO. Too much results are from ebay/amazon/and linkfarms lately...

    Other than those 2 things they've had for pretty much forever, what have they done that's overly impressive? gmail is OK... Google maps is pretty good. Video is so-so. But that's about it. Most of their other stuff was bought outright (like youtube, writely, etc). Some of it plain sucks (like their poor excuse for a spread), and besides their search (and perhaps gmail), the number of users is rather low... They just don't have many big successes.

    In comparison, MS is no worse. Look at all the new exciting tech in the .NET Framework 3, Office 2007's new and very innovative UI, Vista's new techs (all kinds of), etc.

    Also, they're a younger company, give 'em a few years and they'll be very much alike to MS and older companies.

    This will be modded down into oblivion for going against the slashdot groupthink (M$ bashing), but still, consider it!
  • Re:Seattle Rain (Score:2, Interesting)

    by What'sInAName (115383) on Friday October 13, 2006 @10:32AM (#16423099) Homepage Journal
    I always thought that Seattle's notorious rain was just a smokescreen (rainscreen?) to keep people from moving there! I have to say that both times I've visited (ok, both times it was summer, but still...) the weather was gorgeous.

    One question: Are the drivers there more courteous than in other big cities? That was the impression I got last time, even on the highways, people seemed more patient. Perhaps that was just my impression because I was on vacation and feeling relaxed.
  • Re:innovation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by michrech (468134) on Friday October 13, 2006 @10:50AM (#16423341)

    I'm not sure that buying someone else's product and slapping your name on it is the sort of innovation the original poster had in mind...

    Picasa? *cough*Writely*cough* Google Docs? YouTube?


    Google.com? Gmail? Google maps? Google Earth? Google News? Google Pages? Google Talk?
  • Re:Seattle Rain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Morphine007 (207082) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:10AM (#16423607)

    Weak beer.

    I'ma get modded troll for this one for sure, but that sounds like any other place in the US...

    Come to Canada where we have real beer, and some absolutely insane shit(*) [unibroue.com]

    (*) - yes, it really is 9% alcohol beer. It's called La fin du monde which is french for The end of the world

  • Re:Seattle Rain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr. Smeegee (41653) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:37AM (#16424001) Homepage Journal
    Just last week I just took a sunny trip from Seattle down 101 to Portland (college buddy's wedding + vacation). My spouse and I were both shaking our heads at the abundance of speed-limit-driving, turn-signal using, let-you-ining, smiling, waving humans from all socioeconomic groups populating the highways. For folks used to the NASCARphilic, carpet-chewing arsetulip driving in southern indiana it was like floating on a cloud of soft, soft boobies.

    We rented a Yurt in a state park on the beach. We were agog at the cleanliness of the Yurt and the Shower/Restrooms. The next morning we woke up to find the state employees briskly, yet serenely raking the gravel in the driveways in front of the other Yurts. They stopped for a second to exchange pleasantries and coo over my daughter, then returned to work without a sigh, eyeroll or snide comment. Abubhbuhbuh?

    It was like we had wormholed our way into a world populated by enthusiastically miscegenating swiss hoteliers, japanese gardners, appalachian philosopher-lawyers (think Atticus Finch with a bong) and mexican day-laborers all happily guzzling good coffee.

    One drawback that kept us from trying to find work and stay: Greatful Dead on the radio. *shudder*

    So yes, I think perhaps folks there know how to drive. Civilization is pretty neat!

  • by jchenx (267053) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:40AM (#16424041) Journal
    I work in MS, and I can tell you that we don't work 60+ weeks where I am. It's the same way with other groups. But there are teams that are under crunch time, and I'm sure they might be putting in late hours (Vista anyone?). I'm guessing it's the same way with Google. Some groups are going to be under more pressure than others, or maybe it's the end of a milestone, etc.

    If anything MS is trying to push for a more "friendly, softer side" of things regarding work-life balance, etc. We've had some major HR overhauls and revisions in the past few months, and I can say that it is making a difference. Also, the benefits package in general for MS is amazing. I don't know what Google offers, but the author should definately take that into account.
  • Free Research Time (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kazrael (918535) on Friday October 13, 2006 @12:17PM (#16424655) Homepage
    It is my understanding that Google employees are given around 25% of their time to research and develop new initiatives. If you are the type that enjoys taking on new tasks, coming up with new ideas, and are the inventor type of person, definitely go with Google. You really might find yourself making a difference if you came up with something new and impressive in this time, not to mention it is up to you to figure out what it is that you want to dedicate that time to. It is really hard to beat given free time for R&D and getting paid very well to do it. I do it in my spare time at home simply because I don't have time for it at work...
  • by Wee (17189) on Friday October 13, 2006 @12:26PM (#16424825)
    If you work at Google, then work will be your life. At Google you'll end up being at work all the time, but you'll enjoy it, and you get really good free food.

    You can most definitely have a life outside work at Google. Yes, work can be demanding -- but that's what makes it fun (especially if you like to be challenged). But "work will be your life"? Not by a long shot. That's a complete myth.

    Yeah, you definitely see people in the office late at night and on weekends. I've put in my fair share of long weeks, worked a couple weekends straight, etc. But that was because the work needed to be done, not because someone was behind me cracking the whip, or it would look bad if I wasn't there or whatever.

    If you need to put in some extra time, then you can. If you want to work a normal week, then you can. It's all results-based, not time based. A lot of the younger folks, or those new to the area, tend to work longer hours. But us oldish guys with families and stuff? We work as much as we need to.

    It was worse at my last job, a place that is known for being very laid-back. When I left after four years, I found I had only taken like 9 days vacation. I used to keep a cot and sleeping bag in my office. Not anymore. Last month, I took 17 days off to travel to various countries in Europe. I'm working all next week at a remote engineering office, just because I can (and I want to see my sister). They really encourage you to take your vacation time. I've traveled more in the past two years then the ten previous.

    I have no idea what the work is like at MS, but at Google, engineers are expected to be able to budget their own time, and set their own goals. Yeah, your manager will go over your goals with you, and if you've bitten off too much you guys will probably talk about it, but they'll let you reach if you want to. They also let you set realistic expectations for yourself, sort of a "I know I can get all X done, but I'm also going to try and get Y and maybe Z finished, too" kind of thing. But the hours you put in come from those goals you've set. Things can come up that mean you have to put in extra time or whatever, but there's absolutely no slave driving there. You basically set your own hours since you're the one that has to get the work done.

    As far as the perks and food and such, well, I've been there a while now, and I'm continuously amazed at how well they treat their engineers (and other employees). They just opened a juice and smoothy bar for crying out loud. Last Wednesday, we had a Hawaiian Luau for lunch, complete with a roasted pig in the ground and everything.

    Actually, the thing that appeals to me most is that the structure there is flat enough that if you have a cool idea, it can bubble up to the senior mgmt level very quickly. You can also check out everyone else's work, and if you see something you like, you can contribute. I was searching for a library the other day and got off on a rabbit trail that had me a couple hours later checking in a few hundred line changelist to this guy's part-time project. I may end up helping on a more formal basis. Did I get in trouble for goofing off? Far from it. Pitching in like that is rewarded (and rewarding). I'll work a few extra hours for that kind of satisfaction.

    -B

  • by TheMeuge (645043) on Friday October 13, 2006 @12:28PM (#16424881)
    I don't know if the programmers, IT people, and other techs should be complaining about the hours. In finance, law, biomedical research, and medicine, the hours are often far far worse. For example... I put in 9am-10pm every day (often 9am-12am)... and 12pm-6pm both weekend days... and get crap if I don't work 7 days a week. That comes out to 80+ hours per week... every week... with no vacations.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 13, 2006 @12:29PM (#16424903)
    I also have friends/family at both companies. All 3 of my aquaintances with Microsoft are in Redmond with titles from SE I to Director and here's the picture they've painted for me:

    Hours - lots of long brutal hours are expected.
    Reviews - the reviews are tough to score well on, you are competing with co-workers for points, and a bad score in one year will affect your opportunities for the rest of your time at the company.
    Politics - like any big company politics are rampant and you can easily get caught in the middle.
    Creative Freedom - Microsoft's varied strategies and goals *might* have a strong influence on dictating technical decisions in your project.

    Either way the topic starter will get a chance to work with some very intelligent and capable people. He should use this to his/her full advantage - ask a lot of questions, admit want you don't know, and try to find a mentor. If it were me I'd go to Google because of the youth factor, fun, freedom, and advancement opportunities. Also, I hated the gray bleak overcast haze that is Seattle for 2/3rds of the year.
  • Google is in NYC (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Isochrome (16108) on Friday October 13, 2006 @12:36PM (#16425033)
    I work at Google's engineering office in NYC. We are hundreds strong and work on core projects, so there is some choice. Google has a philosophy that you should hire people where they want to work. So we have engineering operations in Boston, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Bangalore, Brazil, ... New York is the largest outside of Mountain View, though. I wouldn't give up living here for anything.

    As far as being at work all the time at Google, it doesn't happen. You can't even schedule a meeting before 10:30 because people won't be in yet. Management is practically non-existent so nobody is clocking your time as long as you are getting your work done. We also tend to have work hour outings designed to make shy programmers interact. So we'll spend a day at Coney Island or go on a scavenger hunt.

    It is definitely true that I spend more time with coworkers and sometimes technical topics come up. But that is because I like the people I work with, and technical topics are fun. We tend to discuss things like how much bandwidth you could get overnighting hard drives, and what sort of latency a data center on an aircraft carrier would have.

    Google is a great place to work.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 13, 2006 @12:37PM (#16425055)
    I've been out to the MS Campus a few times and know alot of people from there.. I think people have dreams of working there.. because afterall microsoft is the BEST software shop in the world right? (hardly) This give people that actually work there a huge ego.. trouble is everyone there has a huge ego. The only time I actually enjoyed a visit to Microsoft is when I met Daniel Robbins (from Gentoo Project) during the short time he worked there.

    Most of the lesser employees are like 35 year old people with purple mohawks (or they WANT one) lisitning to 1990's NIN albums on repeat trying to relive there teenage years.

    Seattle is a great city but stay the hell away from MSFT.
  • by markitect (1007129) on Friday October 13, 2006 @12:47PM (#16425273)
    Don't forget about non-competitive agreements, some companies will assure that you never work for anybody else in a remotely related area. Dont forget about Microsoft taking some defectors to court for everything they ever paid them. I don't know about Googles contract, but I would take the least restrictive one. Also consider intellectual property issues. Some companies can take your rights to any code you produce, even if its in your own time, at home. Others simply can take code related to your job tasks. Some can do this for 6 months after you quit, and other can do it for 6 years after you quit. Take the least restrictive one, at least it leaves you with a practical exit stratagy if you don't like it there. Another reason to go with a small company. They usually dont make you sign away as much, and also dont have the full time lawyers/will to sue the crap out of you and often dont have as stringent of agreement in the first place.
  • by LibertineR (591918) on Friday October 13, 2006 @01:03PM (#16425619)
    Actually, you got a lot of that right.

    I dont care what anyone else says, the best perk at Microsoft is a WINDOW. The campus is quite beautiful, and if you get a window in a prime location, it will certainly effect your productivity. The food is very good, and very cheap.

  • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Friday October 13, 2006 @01:32PM (#16426061) Homepage
    He probably means the group that has an enormous Lego pirate in their offices. It's quite impressive. I have no clue what they actually *do* though :)
  • My Experience (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 13, 2006 @02:25PM (#16427177)
    So this is going to be odd advice as my experience is most likely somewhat abnormal. I currently work at microsoft, and it's been a *horrible* experience. The company that I work(ed) at was aquired by MS and we were brought up to redmond. Pretty much everyone else on our team has had a horrible experience and we're all just waiting for our two years to be over so we can collect our bonuses and walk. That said, however -- everyone else here, outside of our team, loves it. We have a pool table, xboxes, early access to cool technology - like the q? I had one way before they were on the market, tons of little perks like that. It seems like we were just in a weird place when we were aquired and we didn't have the right management team in place. That combined with letting go too many people made it abysmal. As I said, however, everyone else loves it. People here do get to work on cool things. There is some frustration, just like anywhere else. You'll be sitting on the bus (free, with wireless, to seattle) and hear people bitching about not being allowed to add things they want & fix stupid things w/ vista, etc. There's much more acceptance of linux here than I expected, and respect for other technologies & viewpoints.

    Also, there are a few people who have come over from google to work @MS. I don't think it's an "either-or" question. Look at whichever one will let you work on things you find more interesting, and which one pays you the most money, adjusted for where you're going to be living. Then, work there for a couple years, learn everything you can, and then try the other one out.
  • by CDarklock (869868) on Friday October 13, 2006 @02:46PM (#16427679) Homepage Journal
    As an SDET in Windows Mobile with a long history in the defense industry, I can say I have never worked at a better company. I've worked for the massive companies like EDS, the beltway bandits like CRC and HFSI, the internet startups like Telmaron and Chili!Soft, and various small companies that wanted to make a difference. I even ran my own company for five years. I enjoyed most of the places I worked, for what they were.

    In retrospect, they all sucked. I love it here.

    Microsoft is still a large corporate environment. It's much more open and relaxed than, say, Bell Atlantic... but it is very much a large company like other large companies. There's an org chart. There's a heirarchy. There's a structure. It's a loose structure - I have never encountered anyone here saying that he's a PM and I'm just a contractor, for example, although I have had that happen in other places - but the structure is still there.

    Perhaps the most damning thing I can say about Microsoft is that I always wonder which is the real face of Microsoft, and which is dictated by necessity. Is Microsoft a large corporation that paints a false face of camaraderie and caring, or a fraternal group of motivated engineers who have grudgingly accepted the need for large corporate structure? I can't really tell. I don't think anyone can. Like economics, the peculiar synthesis of Microsoft's corporate culture is the result of human action, but not of human intent... so you just pick the one you'd like to believe and believe it.

    I've never worked at Google. My impression is that Google is like the war stories we hear about Microsoft in the early days, so I suspect Google will eventually become much like Microsoft is now. If you're young and just starting out, Google is probably a great place to start and build your career. If you're older, like me, and you want to find the next step... I don't see Google being a good place to go.

    I am, of course, biased. Around seven months ago, I was talking to a very interested Google hiring manager; when he asked how much experience I had in the field, I could *hear* the recoil in his voice after I said 15 years. It may have just been that manager, but I got the distinct impression that Google wants to hire young, and if that's a significant factor in their corporate culture - well, as a late-career hire, you'd be in a bad position from day one.

    The original questioner, of course, isn't in that position. I'm clarifying purely for the benefit of anyone else who may be reading the thread.
  • by Kazoo the Clown (644526) on Friday October 13, 2006 @07:16PM (#16431701)

    With Microsoft, you clearly have a management who believes that producing a truly better product is too hard for them to either implement or effectively comprehend and therefore must resort to underhanded lock-in or other anticompetitive schemes. Either that, or they're simply too enamoured with creating such schemes. And in this regard Microsoft looks to be a really poor loser, though in their favor they're known to come out then winner often.

    On the other hand, there's Google, whos management appears to be quite confident in their ability to innovate. They seem to encourage experimentation and freedom within the corporate culture. On the downside, it's really not very clear what their success rate is-- at this point it's too soon to tell. Working for Google might be riskier, but could be very rewarding.

    Having worked in IT for about 25 years though, I would say that no matter who you choose to work for, there are a couple of things you should be aware of:

    1. A company hires you because they need to fill a position, and am looking for a best-fit for that position. It is often the case that you may have far more abilities than the company you work for can readily utilize. While you might get really lucky and find an incredibly great fit, the situation may be more typical and you will find out that you have all kinds of abilities that they have either no particular use for or they may not be equipped to take effective advantage of them. While your job could be a life-long profession, and you may find a good company willing to hire you to do a job that you're well suited to do, keep in mind that you could spend much of your life underutilized because you have talents they don't know what to do with. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but idealists right of college may be picturing how they can do all this wonderful stuff for a company that they're excited about but end up appreciated for far less than that they feel they could contribute.

    2. It's often the case that you get hired for one thing but by the time you walk in the door they need you for something else that has higher priority. That's not particularly a bad thing but I've had it happen to me at virtually every programming job I've ever had, so all I'm saying is don't be too surprised if that happens. In my case, every thing I ended up doing was just about as interesting so I had no problem with it.

    3. Younger companies tend to be more unstructured-- often you have to invent procedures for doing things for the first time. Older companies often have their "way" of doing things that you may have to conform to. Depending on your own personality, you have to decide what makes you more comfortable-- and, that might change as you become more "seasoned".

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