Thursday, December 22, 2005

Comment Report - MarkL nee of Microsoft now of Google drops by

Google! Google! Google!

MarkL dropped by to share his point of view of post-Microsoft, in the thick-of-it Google. This sort of kicked off a discussion around work-life balance, the wisdom of developers putting in so much code so late, and questions around the quality of code. I think it's more around being excited about what you're doing and not wanting to do anything else at that time. I've had milestones like that.

Also, before we get to Mark's comment, here are a couple of interesting Googler comments:

(1) Bad apples crop up everywhere, some even in Google:

Hey guys I am a GOOG employee. A buddy of mine asked me to check this out. GOOG is a great place to work and all but I think of some you folks are exaggerating it a bit too much. It ain't exactly heaven out there in the Plex and we have our share of retarded assholes who have a my-way-or-highway attitude in meetings. At the end of the day, unless you are at the top, you will have to deal with these elements. It's just a matter of to what degree.

(2) Sure you're smart and you got through the interview process and you now work for Google. C, C++, C#? Uh, no. Brush up on that thar JavaScript and get typing:

[...] You get none of this in Google. Some of my fellow graduates with a deep interest in systems joined Google and got thrown into messing around with JavaScript! Can you imagine how dissapointing it is for someone who has sharpened and honed their low level C and assembly skills and hacked around with the Linux kernel day in and out to be slaving on with something WAY high up from the metal like JavaScript and having to deal with a bunch of assholes during code reviews? Sure they are making more money than me in free lunchs and stocks (not much difference in the starting base pay at all tho).

And as Microsoft and Google throttle each other back and forth, I can only imagine Yahoo! strolling by, whistling past the graveyard. Anyway, onto MarkL's comment:

The sparsely populated parking lot on weekends being used as an indicator of employee morale is pretty foolish. Five years back, everyone did not have broadband and the VPN infrastructure was pretty crude. Now a lot more people have that and there fore are better off working from home instead of having to deal with pessimistic folks like you at least on week ends.

Hmm. You might be right that broadband and VPN means that you physically don't have to be in the office to contribute on weekends. Hard to say, but I am sure you could just do a few "sd changes" commands and count all those weekend checkins?

I was there in the old days and witnessed and was part of the awesome energy that was happening at Microsoft. Sixteen years later, I remember walking through the halls rarely seeing anyone in their offices. Everyone seemed to be at lunch, at the pro club, or stuck in a meeting. When does the actual work get done?

A little over a year ago I left Microsoft and went to work for Google. During the interview process, one of the things that really impressed me was the energy in the work places. There were people everywhere coding, talking, obviously engaged in solving problems. Every engineer is sitting in front of dual 24" monitors cranking out code, exploring ideas, etc. Google is alive. I compare this with what I witnessed during my final years at Microsoft, and yes, you have a problem. I don't think it has anything to do with broadband, vpn, or empty parking lots.

I think you have a bunch of fat cats in upper management at the partner level that contribute little or no code and instead spend their days in meetings and planning strategey. They are sitting around, most of them just waiting for the next round of massive restricted stock options to begin vesting in the next few months. To these guys, Microsoft is a safe place to hang with a garunteed big payday.

Those of you in the trenches writing code, there is virtually no incentive to work hard, crank out code ahead of schedule, invent and implement innovative new ideas, etc. Microsoft is just a safe place to collect a paycheck...

This week at Google, I spent three days in Mountain View, and the last two days working from home. My team includes guys in our New York Times Square Engineering office as well as folks in Mountain View. On Monday, I flew up to Mountain View and arrived in the office at 10am. I worked until 3am and guess what. I wasn't the last one in my area of the building the leave! There was plenty of company. All these guys are proud of their work, love what they are doing, and wanted to nail their deadlines and then take a few days off for the holidays. At 330am I arrived at my apartment, slept for a few hours, and then arrived at the office at 8am, grabbed a free hot breakfast, and put in another full day leaving work at 4am. Again, i was not the last one to leave. I work in an area where a team is preparing for an upcoming launch and 90% of that team was there when I left at 4am, and they were there when I returned at 830am the next day. On wednesday, I had a short day. I arrived at 8am and had to leave to catch my flight at 7:30pm. Those guys that were there at 4am when I left the morning before were still there, heading down for dinner when I left at 7:30pm. For me, thursday was a normal 12 hour day, and friday was the reward. We met our quarterly milestone and met our launch. I am confident that my friends who pulled a few all nighters this week will also lauch on time.

Are we all stupid for working this hard and ignoring life around us? I am sure that some will argue that this is exactly the case. For me and the guys around me, this kind of energy is what we thrive on, and whats needed from time to time to create great products.

This is the kind of energy that I think is missing from Microsoft. It was definitely there in the old days.

I don't buy for a minute that the empty offices and empty parking lots are because people are working from home. Instead, I think that the fat cat partners are in meetings while they wait for their stock to vest (== empty offices). And the guys in the trenches have no incentive to work extra hours.

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