Saturday, June 28, 2008

Back to Microsoft

Last week I left Google to go back to Microsoft, where I started this Monday (and so not surprisingly, I was too busy to blog about it).

I think I am the first person in the Seattle/Kirkland area to do so, so this merits an explanation. Isn't Google an insanely cool place to work for? What about the free food???

There are many things that Google does really well, and I plan to advocate that some of these things be adopted at Microsoft.

Among them is the peer-based review model where one's performance is determined largely based on peer comments, and much less so based on the observations of the manager. The idea that a manager is far easier to fool than the co-workers are is sound and largely works. A very important side-effect that this model produces is an increased amount of cooperation between the people, and generally better relationships within the team.

The wide employee participation in corporate governance through a concept called "Intergrouplets" is a good one and merits emulation. Unlike most other companies where internal life is regulated largely by management, a lot of aspects of Google are ruled by committees of employees who are passionate about an issue, and are willing to allocate some of their time to have this issue resolved. Many things, such as quality of code base, testing practices, internal engineering documentation, and even food service are decided by intergrouplets. Of course, this is where 20% time (a practice where any Googler can spend one day a week working on whatever he or she wants) plugs in well, for without available time there would have been nothing to allocate.

Doing many things by committee. Hiring, resource allocations at Google are done by consensus of many players. If you are to achieve anything at Google, you must learn how to build this consensus, or at least how to not obstruct it. This skill comes in very handy for every other aspect of work.

Free food. More than just a benefit, it is a tool for increasing communications within the team, because it's so much easier to have team lunches. I don't think making Redmond cafeterias suddenly free would work (maybe I am wrong), but giving out free lunch coupons for teams of more than 3 people from more than one discipline to have lunch together - and at the same time have an opportunity to communicate - I think, has a fair chance of success.

There are other things that I would want at Microsoft, but which will probably not happen simply because there is far too much legacy. I will miss the things like one code base with uniform style guides and coding standards - there's too much existing code at Microsoft to try and turn this ship around.

So why did I leave?

There are many things about Google that are not great, and merit improvement. There are plenty of silly politics, underperformance, inefficiencies and ineffectiveness, and things that are plain stupid. I will not write about these things here because they are immaterial. I did not leave because of them. No company has achieved the status of the perfect workplace, and no one ever will.

I left because Microsoft turned out to be the right place for me.

First, I love multiple aspects of the software development process. I like engineering, but I love the business aspects no less. I can't write code for the sake of the technology alone - I need to know that the code is useful for others, and the only way to measure the usefulness is by the amount of money that the people are willing to part with to have access to my work.

Sorry open source fanatics, your world is not for me!

Google software business is divided between producing the "eye candy" - web properties that are designed to amuse and attract people - and the infrastructure required to support them.

Some of the web properties are useful (some extremely useful - search), but most of them primarily help people waste time online (blogger, youtube, orkut, etc).

All of them are free, and it's anyone's guess how many people would actually pay, say $5 per month to use Gmail. For me, this really does make the project less interesting if people are not willing to pay for it.

This orientation towards cool, but not necessarilly useful or essential software really affects the way the software engineering is done. Everything is pretty much run by the engineering - PMs and testers are conspicuously absent from the process. While they do exist in theory, there are too few of them to matter.

On one hand, there are beneficial effects - it is easy to ship software quickly. I've shipped 3 major features (a lot of spell checker and other stuff in the latest Gmail release, multi-user chat in Gmail, and road traffic incidents in Google Maps), and was busy at work on my fourth project in just a year. You can turn really quickly when you don't have to build consensus between 3 disciplines as you do at Microsoft!

On the other hand, I was using Google software - a lot of it - in the last year, and slick as it is, there's just too much of it that is regularly broken. It seems like every week 10% of all the features are broken in one or the other browser. And it's a different 10% every week - the old bugs are getting fixed, the new ones introduced. This across Blogger, Gmail, Google Docs, Maps, and more.

This is probably fine for free software, but I always laugh when people tell me that Google Docs is viable competition to Microsoft Office. If it is, that is only true for the occasional users who would not buy Office anyway. Google as an organization is not geared - culturally - to delivering enterprise class reliability to its user applications.

The culture part is very important here - you can spend more time fixing bugs, you can introduce processes to improve things, but it is very, very hard to change the culture. And the culture at Google values "coolness" tremendously, and the quality of service not as much. At least in the places where I worked.

Since I've been an infrastructure person for most of my life, I value reliability far, far more than "coolness", so I could never really learn to love the technical work I was doing at Google.

The second reason I left Google was because I realized that I am not excited by the individual contributor role any more, and I don't want to become a manager at Google.

The Google Manager is a very interesting phenomenon. On one hand, they usually have a LOT of people from different businesses reporting to them, and are perennially very busy.

On the other hand, in my year at Google, I could not figure out what was it they were doing. The better manager that I had collected feedback from my peers and gave it to me. There was no other (observable by me) impact on Google. The worse manager that I had did not do even that, so for me as a manager he was a complete no-op. I asked quite a few other engineers from senior to senior staff levels that had spent far more time at Google than I, and they didn't know either. I am not making this up!



At Microsoft, the role of a manager is far more obvious. A dev lead is responsible for the success of the feature and the health of the feature team. A dev manager is responsible for the success of the product and the culture of the dev team. A PUM is responsible for the success of the business, and interoperation of the three teams that work on the product. And so it goes...

Given all this, after a year at Google I realized that I had no idea how my career was going to progress. By contrast, my Microsoft career goals were pretty clear within the first month after I joined the company in 1998.

This is when I knew it was time to go...

Am I sorry that I spent this year at Google? Not at all! It gave me a different perspective. It gave me new ideas. It cleared my mind. It gave me a much needed change of pace after the death march of the Windows Home Server release. I enjoyed the company of quite a few really good people from whom I learned a lot...

Good-bye, Google, hello Microsoft. It's good to be back!

198 comments:

Nikola Smiljanić said...

I've been tuned in for some time now waiting for that article about C++ coding standard used in Google. I think now is the right time, before your memory starts slipping ;)

Sergey Solyanik said...

Nikola,

Here you go... Google C++ style guide.

http://google-styleguide.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/cppguide.xml

-S

smcnally said...

Great post, Sergey -

Your solid examples of peer reviews and multiple opportunities for intra- and inter-team collaboration are great takeaways.

Your wish to be involved in the Engineering and Business aspects - i.e. the more complete "Product Aspects" of your projects - is admirable, too. That seems to be a successful way to lead product development teams.

You do understand the following is a non-sequitur:


the only way to measure the usefulness is by the amount of money that the people are willing to part with to have access to my work.

Sorry open source fanatics, your world is not for me!


There's plenty of opportunity to charge for "access" to your code as well as services around them.

Back to your excellent post, though: it would be interesting to hear you expand on how you think Google Apps - or any "Office"-like apps in the cloud - could do a better job at being "Enterprise Ready."

Of course, some "enterprises" are small and can more-than-get away with using just Google Apps (or Zoho, or others). They could thrive, even. Small workgroups within larger organizations can, too.

What do you feel are the largest stumbling blocks in the way of larger adoption by larger workgroups?

again, many thanks -

Steve

Anonymous said...

I don't think he meant "access" as in "source code access".

Anonymous said...

"You can turn really quickly when you don't have to build consensus between 3 disciplines as you do at Microsoft!"

Hmm, I know exactly what you mean, and I don't consider that a good thing. It makes me wonder if I would fit better at Google than at Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

when talking to a friend about getting a job at google, he asked me if I was interested in making better adsense algorithms. it was then that I knew google was not for me.

gregory said...

oh, gosh, trading the sun of california for the gray of puget sound ... no thanks

though i know the majority of your life is under flourescent lights beathing filtered air, so maybe it doesn't make any difference

Anonymous said...

Sergey,
This post resonated with me in the part of preferring to work on marketable products over pure “cool” things. This is why I was never really interested in Google.
One question: how do projects like that traffic thing on maps get initiated at Google? Does anybody need to put together the value proposition and get VP/GM approval? How to get a project funded?

Thanks!
MSFT colleague.

Anonymous said...

sergey,

What technologies do you guys write code at Google? I am very curious about this

thanks

Anonymous said...

GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!
Congratulation Mr.Sergey

Cristian said...

All of them are free, and it's anyone's guess how many people would actually pay, say $5 per month to use Gmail. For me, this really does make the project less interesting if people are not willing to pay for it.

While GMail might not be an extraordinary application, since it's a webmail application after all, it was much better than Microsoft's Hotmail, which until recently had a storage limit of only 2 MB (now it's 5 GB IIRC). I still have my Hotmail account, but I'm not using it anymore. And I'm not the only one.

Let's be honest here. GMail is one of the best webmail applications, if not the best.

Besides this, I liked the rest of the post. Thank you for the inside perspective!

Andrew said...

Hey Sergey.

Wish I had known you were going, would have done lunch or something.
I'm not convinced that the level of incompetence or attention to detail is really different here or there. I do understand the career thing. For me, I just want to write code, and maybe do some tech lead type stuff. I also like the hands-off mgmt here. Google isn't for everyone...and I think that it might be harder for senior people in some respects.

Anonymous said...

People can validate the usefulness of a service by "paying" with their time rather than their money. There is clearly a difference between a service that has lots of active non-paying users and one that has no active users.

Vadim Peretokin said...

Out to make money. Good man!

Just don't use any open-source software in your programs, eh? Because clearly it's useless, since it was made for free.

Илья Казначеев said...

I don't see why you wouldn't want to open source the software you sell in a long run.

You don't sell much selfware these days, and software as a pain treatment would work regardless of whenever it's open source.

Jadd said...

"and the only way to measure the usefulness is by the amount of money that the people are willing to part with to have access to my work."
Nobody's willing to part with their money to have access to Microsoft's work. I can't think of one single person, ever, who was willing to pay Microsoft. They are legally forced to, if they want to use that software. Now what is rewarding, is when people who are under no obligation of paying, still donate for the software project.
Oh, and, not all open-source projects are free of charge, so you should have said "sorry freeware people". You obviously don't understand open source at all.

Anonymous said...

"Btw, if you want to comeback here, please write a public blog about how bad your previous employer was. Thanks."

Anonymous said...

Don't worry. Microsoft will soon be forced to switch to the open source model, once their market share is gone. Money isn't the sole sign of approbation (and in the case of Microsoft products it is not a sign of anything other than that OEMs and enterprises still feel compelled to buy into the outdated model). If you really wanted to know if people find your code useful, perhaps you should look at your access logs or start a project feedback page.

Jon Masters said...

Er, do you really care only about how much people are willing to pay for something? And that's the only way to measure its value? Really? Wow :)

Anonymous said...

Google sucks big time !!

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft will soon be forced to switch to the open source model, once their market share is gone."

As long as there are salesman, marketers and generally IT unfriendly people out there, Microsoft will have the marketshare they need to stay in business and thrive. As an advocate of open source myself, I wish the fanatics among us would try and refrain from being so stereotypical in your defense of the open source model and attacks on Microsoft. Its just embarrassing. Ultimately, it really does all come down to money.

As for the post, extremely insightful. I don't to question the veracity or your intent in the post, but I do wonder whether Microsoft encouraged you to write about your experiences. Either way, I'm glad you did.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, I was using Vista - a lot of it - in the last year, and slick as it is, there's just too much of it that is regularly broken. It seems like every week 10% of my time is lost trying to get the OS to cooperate on a wide range of issues (drivers, UAC, software incompatibilities). At least in XP - the old bugs were getting fixed, now it is new ones introduced. This across not Vista but the torturous snarl of code that is Office 2007.. most especially Outlook which hangs at odd intervals, thrashes the drive, and demands a reboot for every update.

Anonymous said...

If you're serious about reliability, why aren't the end-users of Microsoft seeing the benefit of value(s) you speak of?

Microsoft (products) and reliability is like oil and water from my experience.

Anonymous said...

Wow, first you say Google gets things done faster - but you were glad to get a change of pace for a year at Google. I suspect the pace seemed slower because you weren't spinning wheels with PMs causing a bunch of meeting and killing productivity while seeming to work really hard.

Enjoy going back to your "death march" - which is usually a term applied to a project doomed to fail. I don't know anything about Windows Home Server - or windows in general - but I believe Windows Home Server is on the market.

szlevi said...

"Some of the web properties are useful (some extremely useful - search), but most of them primarily help people waste time online (blogger, youtube, orkut, etc)."

Ouch. Apparently you didn't even get the point: in Google's business models those layers SELL ADS. You know, ads - lots of ads, so much that MS cannot even get anywhere close because they don't have the surface to carry it. While those Google 'things' are FUN and get great exposure, MS sites are usually BORING, cluttered and largely useless.

Of course, I am sure the explanation is that you are not a manager or business type, hence this incredibly short-sighted and hilariously clueless comment... but wait, there's more:

"All of them are free, and it's anyone's guess how many people would actually pay, say $5 per month to use Gmail. For me, this really does make the project less interesting if people are not willing to pay for it."

Ah, it's OK, I make lamb (hint: MBFGW reference)... you not only clueless about your former employer, Google's business model but you also you have little clue about any other one...

"Google as an organization is not geared - culturally - to delivering enterprise class reliability to its user applications."

PRICELESS!!!
As someone responsible for technology at a smaller HPC-like company first I couldn't imagine this comment wasn't pure sarcasm, seriously.... then I finished this whole post, looked at your photo and I realized you are serious - and it is fine because you just found your place, you are a perfect fit now, you're obviously in your native environment.
As the saying goes only totally clueless managers/marketing trolls use BS structures like "delivering enterprise class reliability to its user applications"... I think the use of these cheesy cliches is always a telling sign, it shows the lack of imagination/lousiness on the speaker's part.

And it didn't even end there:

"This orientation towards cool, but not necessarilly useful or essential software really affects the way the software engineering is done. Everything is pretty much run by the engineering - PMs and testers are conspicuously absent from the process. While they do exist in theory, there are too few of them to matter."

This is TRULY the icing on the cake... seriously, HOW OUT OF TOUCH/CLUELESS ONE CAN BE?
I mean licking the @ss of your new boss, kicking the old one is not surprising from any MS bot but this level of craziness is quite shocking - I can't imagine you have nobody around you to wake up... actually I can't imagine you are serious, pal.

PS Ah yes, one more thing: if this photo is also real, you should seriously consider a hair salon visit, it's a very urgent matter: your look is almost as ridiculous as your claims about MS and "reliability" or the lack of managers.
Hey pal, you actually look worse than my Russian teacher, back in elementary school, during the early 80s - and he was already past 50...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for an alternate view to the normal Google-is-paradise stuff you hear. Sometimes I think about going to Google, and have a hard time getting anything other than "it's awesome!" even from people that I've worked with in the past.

In some ways it sounds like it would be awesome to work with little PM or QA oversight, but I think it's one of those things that you need just the right amount of. I'm guessing Google has too little, and MSFT has too much (just my opinion, never worked there).

Sharninder said...

Hi Sergey,

Going by the number of people who have commented against this post, I'm guessing a lot of people still think Google is the coolest company ever.

I, though, disagree with them and agree with you totally. I agree with with your insider observations. Working at Google is probably not the holy grail of employee satisfaction. Or probably you had different ambitions than the thousands of other Engineers working there. Google is clearly still a company made by engineers and for engineers. And you probably had different ambitions, of being a manager.

And that is the problem with a lot of *cool* companies these days. We have a lot of engineers at these companies, who think bugs are a normal thing and want to share their code with the public as soon as they're done with it.

Anonymous said...

i find it amusing that a company can have peer reviews when it appears based on your comments most projects do not produce revenues. this would be like joining a softball team where everyone gets along but never wins a game. i do respect what google has done in regards to advertising, search and an incredible infrastructure. much of the other stuff that cannot produce revenue is not something many companies would want to mimick. do people have to hit schedules for services that are free? how does google define success for projects that do not generate revenue.

Agasfer said...

man it is so Russian/Sovok to shit on the company you just left...

Itai Raz said...

Well,
I was with you until you started trashing the quality of google's products.
I'm a keen user of every new product that Google comes up with.
I'm also what some may call a Microsoft "expert". I've been a programmer on windows servers for the last 15 years.
I can't think of a different way of saying this - Google products are such high quality compared to what I'm used to be getting from Microsoft. What Google calls "beta" Microsoft calls a mature product (this is just how I feel about it, let's not drill down and try to prove or disprove). Gmail was a real breakthrough - first time a big company proved that you can have a thick client application that will run on all (two) major browsers. The new hotmail is a poor low-quality attempt that fails to compete with it. And best of all - Gmail was working great since day 1. Very small amount of bugs, if any, in a very unstable environment (the web).
Like I said, I'm a big fan of both corporations, and I can see why would want to work in one and not the other, or vice-versa, but comparing the quality of products was really shooting yourself in the leg as far as I'm concerned.

Anonymous said...

"and the only way to measure the usefulness is by the amount of money that the people are willing to part with to have access to my work."

Dude, there are SO many ways to measure the usefulness of your work. What you've described is not usefulness, it's merely a corollary thereof. Usefulness is a simple enough concept. But by your definition, anything you write will pale in comparison to such consumer goods as:
-Cocaine
-Large yachts
-Toilet seats made from gold.

Compare this with the Internet, for which people pay much, much less. And compare it with Google's search engine, which is free... and totally instrumental in how every single user surfs the internet!

Please, for Microsoft's sake, define usefulness as whether people want to use your software. The goalposts for Vista and Win7 would be in rather different locations in that case. With Windows, you can screw 80% of computer users out of their money by default (other 20% being mac,*nix,pirates), but it won't mean that the software is automatically more useful to any of these people. :)

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Google develops non revenue generating products more, then how come it became a billion dollar company ;)

Dzembu Gaijin said...

Congrats on making it to Slashdot! You rocks!
What describes Google much better is this blog:

http://fakesteve.blogspot.com/2008/06/lesson-in-badges.html

:-)

Like ... more fun to read :-) Yo! :)

Anonymous said...

wow. nice perspective. roles, culture and sense of mission all play in the 'where am I going question'.

- from an orthogonal Yahoo! employee who wonders what the view is like from both inside Google and Microsoft

Anonymous said...

Sergey,

Very good, objective points. I agree with you on the 'enterprise reliability' versus 'coolness' bit.

You said: "All of them are free, and it's anyone's guess how many people would actually pay, say $5 per month to use Gmail. For me, this really does make the project less interesting if people are not willing to pay for it."

I think you might be missing a point here: People *are* paying for Gmail, etc. Just not the same people who're using it. The advertisers are. Kind of like how broadcast TV has been working for a long time.

Afkham Azeez said...

Sergey,
I think your comments about open source, Google, doing cool stuff etc. are all subjective. It may be true that nobody may be willing to pay money to use GMail, but you cannot say that these free services do not contribute in a major way towards Google's revenue. IMHO, in the future, at least some aspects related to the software need to be free so that you can attract users and compete more effectively. Also, more people have started to place more trust in open source, since a large and diverse expert community is involved and inevitably, this leads to better quality software. YMMV. You cannot deny the fact that MS is also starting get actively involved in open source software development.

Google and MS have different business models. At the moment, you cannot say that one is better than the other.

Azeez
http://afkham.org
http://wso2.com

Anonymous said...

Sergey,

first, welcome back to MSFT, it's nice to see good people returning.

> I need to know that the code is useful for others,
> and the only way to measure the usefulness is by
> the amount of money that the people are willing to part with to have access to my work.

I'm certain the developers of Clippy and the WGA tool share your sense of satisfaction. So many people paid good money to get access to their work too, so it must be something good.

While we're at it, we also should include all the people responsible for any of the annoying to catastrophic bugs in popular software, because so many people were willing to part with their money to have access to that work too.

Sorry to say, that statement goes into the same bin as Al Gore's Internet history.

Cheers,

Chris

Anonymous said...

"I can't write code for the sake of the technology alone - I need to know that the code is useful for others, and the only way to measure the usefulness is by the amount of money that the people are willing to part with to have access to my work."

Which, as the comment above me already stated, is distorted by the de facto monopoly microsoft historically had on the desktop market.

"The only way to measure the usefulness?" it sure isn't, anyway.

Besides, you're a pro- pros have enough experience to judge their work per se, after measuring it against the achievements of their peers.

Moorthy S Venkatraman said...

I strongly feel this is an extremely subjective discussion. And moreover as most of comments are say, Microsoft and Google are having extremely different views on their business.

And, regarding paying for GMail services, its not jus advertisers, I personally pay for extra GMail space. Free is limited to an extent where things dont burn themselves.

Moreover, I jus have one question for you, I have been watching Google and its corporate policies from day one, and I never felt they ever advertised themselves in the way you expected, then what is that made you join Google?! I am wondering still...

M said...

I found the following very funny and naive:
* " I can't write code for the sake of the technology alone - I need to know that the code is useful for others, and the only way to measure the usefulness is by the amount of money that the people are willing to part with to have access to my work.

Sorry open source fanatics, your world is not for me!"

You have to grant that coming from Microsoft, you have absolutely no clue about open source. Plus, you seem to believe that just because there are products that are not monetized right away, they're a waste of time and effort. At least Google's share price (from $85 at IPO to $526 today within 4 years - an increase of 400%+ compared to MS' increase of 15%) tells a different story. It looks like Google is not effectively monetizing all their products, but they do have a good cash cow in search advertising. And there's nobody even close to Google in that space now.



* "Google software business is divided between producing the "eye candy" - web properties that are designed to amuse and attract people - and the infrastructure required to support them.

Some of the web properties are useful (some extremely useful - search), but most of them primarily help people waste time online (blogger, youtube, orkut, etc)."


You don't get the point that some of these "time wasters" are products that make users extremely sticky to Google's offerings. Of course, there are better products from other companies out there. But anyone who knows a little bit about marketing knows the value of stickiness.



* "All of them are free, and it's anyone's guess how many people would actually pay, say $5 per month to use Gmail. For me, this really does make the project less interesting if people are not willing to pay for it."

Were you on an inter-planetary trip while Google sold these apps for enterprises that didn't want exorbitantly priced solutions from other vendors? At $50 per user per year, it does look quite close to services sold at $5 a month (with a discount for annual payments). And Google apps is not just Gmail - it also includes calendar, sites, docs, and talk. Maybe you believe that all the people who use Microsoft Office and Outlook pay the hefty prices - you definitely need a wake up call from Mr.Piracy to know where your hard work is going.



* "The Google Manager is a very interesting phenomenon. On one hand, they usually have a LOT of people from different businesses reporting to them, and are perennially very busy.

On the other hand, in my year at Google, I could not figure out what was it they were doing. The better manager that I had collected feedback from my peers and gave it to me. There was no other (observable by me) impact on Google. The worse manager that I had did not do even that, so for me as a manager he was a complete no-op. I asked quite a few other engineers from senior to senior staff levels that had spent far more time at Google than I, and they didn't know either. I am not making this up!"

Does anyone in this world know what their manager does all day??? You need a reality check first. Second, as Rands says, what your manager does all day is none of your business, even when we know that they do absolutely nothing. :)

Anonymous said...

...and we really don't want you and your fucking money. Thanks. Go away. Good life.

Anonymous said...

Google is an infant yet. It is very creative, but very caotic also.

Microsoft is a vey old man. It has a good tricks, but is fat and walks like a ball. Rolling, not running.

If you want a really good example of a software company, that knows how to create great products and have a excelent customer satisfaction and high profits, look and Apple man... That is the company that rocks!

Goog luck for your new job.

Anonymous said...

I works in Google.

I failed to get promoted from Software Engineer II (the lowest level) to III. While 2 other guys who had peer review from very senior engineers did that. I don't think these 2 guys are better than me.

My manager told me during 1:1 that the promotion committee's feedback is "He has peer review from only one senior engineer".

Ohhhhhhh. I only worked with one during that yr. We don't have much senior engineers here in Beijing office.

So, besides the peer review system, I think senior (or more senior) engineers are most precious resource in Google.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention that I had "exceed expectation" score from my manager. My manager gave me very good assessment.

awflasher said...

Okay, so just enjoy your old memories in MSFT :)

Randall said...

Great post. I think I like google's world better, but I'm totally willing to admit it isn't for everybody. I definitely can appreciate the need for consumers to use your product. In media, that's all I care about (for now.) I'd love to get to the point where you're doing art for the sake of art (true open source people are more akin to true artists than developers, making code for the sake of efficiency, etc) but there are people who don't want to be artists! Some people need to be different. I know sometimes it's difficult for artist-types to realize there needs to be balance in all things, but it's refreshing to see deviation.

Thanks for the post!

netster403 said...

There really are two defined people in the technical business world.

The Suits: Enjoy sales, enjoy pushing and making money for a company, want to make a billion dollar deal. Like the term "Sales Engineer". Loves applying change control to an extreme degree.

Pro: Old-money business oriented. Can make money and lots of it.
Cons: Overall encourages bad software, Lack of new ideals, will push inferior products if fixing them takes too much money or time.


The open engineers: The young (or even older) open source pushing generation. Likes terms like "UNIX Admin, Network [engineer,architect], etc"

Pro: Produce amazing code, truly concerned about the quality of the product (to the code level). Innovative.

Con: Will not easily merge into the business environment. Harsh and not very social (sometimes) Will push changes to make product better without evaluating the costs and time factors. Only motivated by interesting programs and code. (of course money also... but hey.. thats you you have a job)


Everyone has the faults and everyone fits into a different category...

Personally I'm and arrogant open source bastard... Google for me! :P

M Bellanca said...

I loved the following statement:
"Given all this, after a year at Google I realized that I had no idea how my career was going to progress. By contrast, my Microsoft career goals were pretty clear within the first month after I joined the company in 1998.

This is when I knew it was time to go..."

Many engineers lose sight of their career path and feed into what I call the 'kool-aide' 'coolness' of what a company is selling. I am happy for you that you chose the road least traveled....and that is doing what makes 'you' happy! Kudos to you!!

Willdoak said...

Hey, Sergey, you made news!

http://blogs.zdnet.com/SAAS/?p=545&tag=nl.e539

How are all those albums I gave you holding up?

Will Doak

Sean said...

netster403 said it well: two type of ppl in technical world.

The thing is that if you don't want to do technical coding and want to be a manager, etc. route, then google is probably not right for you.

There are great individual contributors that want to innovate and code. Then there are people want to climb up the corporate ladder. Unfortunately, some of the people climbed up in the ladder are not really technical and don't care the quality of the software. Those kinds of people just want to make the software look good from the outside so that their career can climb up again to another level.

Elliott said...

I wouldn't want you on any of my projects. I see why Google let you go...

Tadeu said...

For god's sake, I can't even make the "resize to fit column" default at windows vista. Way to go for enterprise testing.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you're just not leet enough to work at Google...

Anonymous said...

coolness vs. utility, that is a great concept. The whole web 2.0 movement is based on coolness, look at techcrunch any day of the week, the apps being churned out are laughable at best. Thanks for the insight.

Anonymous said...

The thing about working here is that we expect folks to fix problems when they see them, too bad you didn't try that....

As for money, why didn't you try working on the ads team?

As for bugs - what product really exists without bugs? At least they are being found and fixed.

As for the managers - mine is great. Mgrs are great because they help with career advancement, remove roadblocks, get resources - but stay out of my way for the most part. They don't micro manage or create red tape. How could that not be a good thing?

Glad you see your entire life laid out before you at msft because after this post you won't be making a trip back Kirkland.

Anonymous said...

Greedy fuck

Russell said...

Google's way of doing things has always interested me.

For example, you mention peer review. My company uses a 360 peer review process which is nice but the weight of the peers is much less than the managers. Also, WHICH peers provide the input has a HUGE factor in the end result. How does Google select the peers? How many peers are selected?

Anonymous said...

Wow google sounds even better now... no PM's and peer reviews... going to work to make better software? wish i could get in :(

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. As a Google employee it's neat to see insight about the other fields of green.

Different strokes for different folks.

Anonymous said...

If Search turns out to be the only way that Google ever makes money and all the rest of the cool stuff that everybody loves turns out just to be, well, . . . cool stuff that everybody loves, then Google is going to have a lot of p***ed off investors. Google's stock P/E ratio is in the stratosphere and investors want $$$, not just to be the #1 cool guy.

Anonymous said...

Google is an infant. It's made $ on one thing: search. It's done 2 other things very well: maps and gmail. Other stuff that it's done is of questionable value.

Compare to MS. Word was better than Wordperfect. Excel was better than 123. Outlook better than Notes. Powerpoint, Visio and Project have no legitimate competitors. .Net has overtaken Java. Visual Studio is by far the best developer's tool. The XBox is as good as any other game environment.

So to all the Google fanboys, I say come back in 5 years when Google is making $ on something other than Search.

Anonymous said...

Sergey - thanks for the insight. A couple of thoughts, and I don't work for either MSFT or Google:

1) As you grow professionally, I am confident you will realize what managers do, especially those at Google (about whom I have heard very good things from another Googler friend of mine)

2) Will never work for MSFT - I consider it evil and a copy cat (e.g. Windowing system, OS, .NET, Zune - the list is endless; thankfully, there are some few exceptions), and have turned down an offer to move out there

3) Will never work for Google either - no career path. However, I did phone-screen once with them for a manager's position to see what it's all about, and I have to tell you the interviewer was extremely technical and knowledgeable - can't tell anything about his management skills. I passed the very tough (all low level networking questions) phone screen according to their recruiter, but never heard back from them - so I suppose I didn't really pass.

BTW, someone said right above that .Net has surpassed Java. LOL!!!

I am confident that MSFT is the better place to have a career, so Cheers! Good on you mate!

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed at the cluelessness of the people ragging on this comment:

"...the only way to measure the usefulness is by the amount of money that the people are willing to part with to have access to my work.

Sorry open source fanatics, your world is not for me!"

This is an opinion about HIS FEELINGS. It's not a statement that can be judged right or wrong. He's not saying that Google doesn't have monitizible products, or that Google doesn't have a good business model. He's also not saying it's not neat that people are willing to contribute to an open source project. What he's saying is that by parting with their money, he FEELS people send a message TO HIM that they really feel that they can't live without the product.


He's saying "if someone is willing to pay extra to have the product I work on, it makes me feel better than if the company makes money giving away the product and advertises." This is an opinion about his feelings. It doesn't mean he doesn't understand that Google makes money advertising as one person railed on about for five paragraphs. It's just as valid to say, "the only way to measure usefulness is if someone is willing to spend money advertising on a product I create, open source world, you're for me!".

Everytime some moron posts in here about this comment, they might as well be arguing about someone disliking a band or disagreeing with their appreciation of the color blue.

And golly, I wish I had a nickel for everytime in the last 20 years that I've heard that Microsoft is on it's death bed.

Anonymous said...

If you are concerned about making money out of the software you are involved with you should start your own company -- as an Engineer I would prefer to work with cool new stuff (of course useful stuff - how many people thought web search was useful 10 years a ago?) Anyway I believe in engineering driving the way and I believe anyone who manages a team of engineers should also have an aptitude for engineering the same way as the developers. if money making is your goal you should be in product marketing or sales.

Anonymous said...

maybe you just want to go back to a place that remains immersed in c and c++?

Do you really think that an amount of money paid is a measure of software value? You would do well to take some basic marketing classes.

At the very least..please read more from engineers/managers such as Akio Morita. Quality and the marketing of quality has to do with the entire organization and it's environment. Beta was better than VHS.

Christian Busch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

At least you prove that no brains are leaving Google for Microsoft as the slashdot article wrongly implied. At times when everybody is moving to free and open software you did the right step by going back to the vendor with the 100% bug free software.

"I need to know that the code is useful for others, and the only way to measure the usefulness is by the amount of money that the people are willing to part with to have access to my work."

Nice. Citing your new employer's marketing documents certainly increases your chances to make a fast career there. I believe this was even the only cause for your change, but it wouldn't have made it in the news then.

Anonymous said...

Its look like that
"In google there are less Domains to work on then Microsoft"

Eek said...

I found it interesting that two Microsofties commented that "how useful something is can only be counted in people paying for it"

I wonder if this is a value that's thought at Microsoft? It sounds very much like the kind of thing I've heard people working at MS say about MS.

If so, you've just been recruited back to MS through a very recursive process: You've been taught a value at MS which makes you come back, a value which MS again often has only been able to fill by using it's previous success (near monopoly) to enforce monopoly in a different area.

Anonymous said...

I found interesting your comment about your preference for code that produces immediate revenue vs. experimental 'cool' code that may not. How do you feel about pure mathematics vs. applied mathematics? Should researchers stop pursuing lines of research which, while interesting to them and leading to something new, show little sign of immediate applicability?

Google's (and Apple's) style seems to be: let smart, creative people do interesting things...some will be profitable, most won't, but in the end we make money and everyone is more fulfilled. This, in my opinion, is how most revolutionary changes have come about in any field. Microsoft focuses on mimicry, so personally I'd rather work for an innovative company.

Hughes said...

Sergey,

I think this was a very informative and well thought out post. I think many of the open source folks take any sort of statement like "this is fine but not for me" as an attack on their ideology, which is regrettable. I think you were being honest about your own personal feelings on what motivates you personally to write code, and it annoys me that others want to argue with you about that. I will not argue with them beyond that statement. I understand your view and I think it is valid.

Hughes

Harry Hiles said...

With all due respect, comparing the culture of an older established company like Microsoft to the culture of a relatively new company like Google is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Google's growth has been tremendous, but its business culture is still maturing. Microsoft, on the other hand, has been around for eons and has matured several times over.

Your decision to return to Microsoft is understandable. To each, his own. I'm sure the open source folks feel just as strong about their position.

While Google's products still lack the sophistication needed by enterprise customers, they are more than adequate for small and even midsized customers. Combining Google Apps with other products like Open Office gives customers alternatives to the costly Microsoft product suites.

Google's ideas for the emerging cloud computing model are ingenious. Ten years from now, cloud computing will be the norm due to the efforts of organizations like Google and even Microsoft.

We just need to nurture it and watch it grow.

Anonymous said...

great insight! but It's hard for me to admit the value of work can only be measured by if people can buy the product. my point is every company has its own business model. Microsoft earns money buy selling its products, while Google is via ads... why can Google get so many ads? one of the reason, which can never be underestimated, is its COOL applications. They stick thousands of millions people online. It looks like Google gain more eyes than Microsoft now. it's also hard to tell which company will get more success in the future, I think most of us are not interested in this topic as well. what we can do is find the right position in right company for ourselves.. you did well in this point.

Courtenay said...

Fascinating insight into the inner-workings and differences between Google & Microsoft. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Billie Jo Murray said...

I've had it with MS! The hours are killing me and no one repsects me!

Can you give me help with getting in at Google?

Anonymous said...

- but most of them primarily help people waste time online (blogger, youtube, orkut, etc).
….This orientation towards cool, but not necessarilly useful or essential software really affects the way the software engineering is done.
- It seems like every week 10% of all the features are broken in one or the other browser. And it's a different 10% every week
- Sorry open source fanatics, your world is not for me

None of the above points will stand any scrutiny. You made a move for personal career reasons and that's cool but I wonder if you're getting carried away in the emotion of it all a little bit.

I think the piece has some good points and a lot of rank bad ones.

Just FYI: I chose MS over Goog at campus.

Anonymous said...

but most of them primarily help people waste time online (blogger, youtube, orkut, etc).


Bothers me that a senior techie in this day and age would say that blogging, online video and social networking are somehow "time wasting" apps and not as "useful".

I mean, c'mon. Smell the coffee.

Meow said...

thanks for the great opinions! a year ago, i had a good chance of getting into google as a PM/PMM. A good friend, who is a senior technologist in the bay area advised me that google is not too friendly to non-engineers.

further conversations lead me to abandon that pursuit, and I am actually pretty convinced that I chose the right path.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

If all that is said in the post is true regarding Google and Microsoft busines models, only question I have is why Microsoft considers Google the biggest threat/competitor?

Jonathan Hayward said...

It sounds like you are genuinely better off at MicroSoft than you would be at Google, and from what you've said, programmers who want to promote from a programmer role to a management path might well do well to apply to MicroSoft ahead of Google. That stated, I would like to say a few related things.

I'm not sure if it's your fault, Google's fault, or both of your faults that you switched from MicroSoft to Google for a while without getting the difference between how the two companies operate and how they make money.

In terms of money-making model, MicroSoft is more-or-less classic capitalism, and Google is more or less Freeconomics--if you haven't read it, it might give you some insight into Google.

Saying that classic capitalism may be real economic value but Freeconomics is economically irrelevant fluff is like saying that Sears Craftsman tools are directly useful in performing mechanical work while MicroSoft sells nothing particularly well-suited to a construction worker in the act of pounding nails in, so Sears sells real, genuinely economically sound tools with its sound business model and MicroSoft's products and model are frou-frou.

Both Sears and MicroSoft have economically useful products--and both MicroSoft and Google have economically useful products and business models.

If you really think Google's model is frou-frou compared to the seriousness of MicroSoft, I conclude with two words:

GOOG MSFT

Cordially yours,
Jonathan Hayward

Nii Amon said...

"and the only way to measure the usefulness is by the amount of money that the people are willing to part with to have access to my work." - WOW!

Congrats man: You have single-handedly managed to deliver a kiss of death to the ailing MS PR machine. Well done!! But then again I guess that this kind of thinking is pervasive in MS when I look at the incredibly crappy and buggy Vista that took lightyears to produce. But I guess that because people are willing to pay for it it makes it more valuable, useful, worthy than Ubuntu that just kicks ass in all respects.

Yi Li said...

Some one just mentioned PEER REVIEW.
In Google, ordinary engineers' peer review just be ignored by promotion committee.
If you don't have a senior (or even more senior) engineer in your project, who would write peer review for you? Just cry...

Anonymous said...

ahem.. calling blogs and youtube "time wasters" is a good insight to your corporate view. Good luck.

The Other Steve said...

I agree with you regarding the value of writing software people are willing to pay for. While google search has been pretty good, in recent years it's become near valueless because it is primarily handing out results which are paid advertisements. So it's useless to the consumer, but valuable to the person paying for the content.

From the other side of that discussion, if you look at gmail it's really a pretty lousy user interface. Links to do tasks aren't where you expect them to be(compose new email) or worse, sometimes they're entirely missing. For instance navigate to an email using the gmail gadget at igoogle. Note that there is no way to delete the message, the button is not even there. What's amazing to me is that gmail has been stagnant since it came out. It's still in beta, and the UI is still lousy.

But people put up with it because it's free, and gives a lot of storage space.

Anonymous said...

Great Post! Totally agree! Also left Google for Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

http://www.25hoursaday.com/weblog/2008/06/29/TheGOOGMSFTExodusWorkingAtGoogleVsWorkingAtMicrosoft.aspx

A. Murat Eren said...

> the only way to measure the
> usefulness is by the amount
> of money that the people are willing
> to part with to have access to my
> work.

Wow. I'm speechless.

> So why did I leave?

Probably because nobody liked you there?

This post is like one of the best advertisements of Google. I'm so glad that you are real and this is not only a viral marketing move from Google.

Anonymous said...

I am working in Microsoft Technology and I love working with Microsoft Product, but still i don't agree with you totally.

As you mention none can be perfect and won't be....

Google is generating new ideas and inovation, which microsoft was known for???? but suddenly Microsoft had stop inovating things as compare to Google....

May be google product might not be at enterprise level, but still it is been widely used... "Lets not forget Customer is King of Market". Till the time they are able to make their client happy they are king...

1 observation... Hotmail was most popular before Microsoft acquire it than why people suddenly switch to gmail... Why World's Popular free mail service is just out with some New Free Mailing Service... You cannot compare things like that.... I can understand that you might not be satisfied working as Manager as you were not given importance, its always best to take everones involvement to take better decision rather than individual.

Some of time wasting product you discussed is what we called social networking, is what we called Information Technology/Sharing.

Sla said...

Thanks a lot, Great post.
More insightful posts would be very, very welcome :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like a rationalization of why you returned back to Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Did you consider working at Apple post Google? If not, why not? Is there some frustration at MSFT because so many seem to prefer Google's & Yahoo's online apps, and Apple's operating system?

"Wasting time" on the web...what is being "productive"?

zippy said...

Hi Sergey, thank you for sharing your insights. I recently started a small business, and if it were 10 years ago, I certainly would have paid for MS Word and MS Excel.

I'm using Google Docs.

Why? Because it works well enough and I can share and edit documents with co-workers without needing to set up a server to host them.

I think that Google Docs, and other free 80% solutions (80% of the features), are going to kill Microsoft Office's revenue growth.

Anonymous said...

Sergey is spot-on about the weirdness in goog's daily work culture; it feels like being in the cast of a reality show that could be entitled Academics Gone Wild.

I'm not insinuating that they're not a great company - goog clearly is and life at the gplex is good - yet I do think their ideals are overstated and oversold which is why i left.

Great post Sergey.

Anonymous said...

Nice post.

Neither work for MSFT or Google.

Anonymous said...

Google mail or Gmail is much better than MSFT hotmail.

FYI I do not work for either of them.

I am sure given time Google will provide a much better products than msft has in all this time.

Krish said...

And you call blogger a tool to waste people time and you use it to write a big post on one of your important decisions in life. Yeah, right!!

Daniel R Dumaraos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I think you are just getting too old to be a Googler yourself!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting read, however your quick change of loyalty has me questioning the very integrity of your migration.

Now that you are back at MS, could you please starting trying to convince people to make quality software once more instead of crap like vista? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Wow! The comments just go all over the board. Obviously you have the MSFT and GOOG lovers and haters. BUt it was the Open source comments that really take the cake. You offered your views and were lambasted by a group of open source folks who... somewhere along the line make $$$ for themselves as well as their company with FREE code. Open source is cool (enterprise? not yet), but I bet they are getting paid too. From a business sense, not really free is it.

And just for kicks I'll through this at you. Google $$$ from advertising. We all accept them don't we. Not so much when ISP's start charging at the bandwidth level. And, like TV advertising (I fast forward throug htem, or ignore them outright) Too much advertising turns-off the user. Google WILL need another revenue stream

Anonymous said...

as a former employee I pretty much agree. However as many people have pointed out, you seem to be missing the point of how google does generate revenue.

The politics and internal bureaucracy is overwhelming and the amount of people that work there for the sake of working there as opposed to being truly interested in providing great ideas and products seem to be rocketing and falling, respectively.

I went a completely opposite route though and found my niche in an open source organization, but I can't disagree with the majority of your points.

Anonymous said...

"For me, this really does make the project less interesting if people are not willing to pay for it."

Sounds like you didn't get any Google shares let's say 5 yrs ago & so you can't cash out. I sold my MSFT shares a while ago (nice cash out!) & turned them into GOOG & cashed out again. People are very willing to pay me for my GOOG's !

Ranjeeth said...

"but most of them primarily help people waste time online (blogger, youtube, orkut, etc)."

Thats funny.. considering that your blog too is hosted on blogger.

Anonymous said...

I am a current Google Employee (Software Engineer) and sadly I agree with Sergey in general. What disappoint me most are the politics, inefficiency, crappy code and too much BS. Google could be a "cool" place for fresh graduate, however many other experienced and senior engineers are as frustrated as Sergey and some of them already left.

To be fair, I had a high bar and expectation for Google and the disappointments are relevant to that. Google is still one of the best choices for software engineers.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! As difficult as Microsoft politics are, it's good to know that there isn't a silver bullet in Google-land either.

When I spent some time sampling the (rather bad) Google Kirkland food last year, I met some people that felt like they were in the 10% at Microsoft... and that turned me off from the process, realizing it was about what I would make of the situation in my current employer, and not one "awesome" company that is perfect.

Best of luck. I appreciate you being open and candid with your thoughts.

- Fellow Microserf dev lead

mgco said...

So it's been like Google this & Google that, or Microsoft this or Microsoft that...

So how much are you earning via Adsense?

(=

vftw said...

Well, Google is a media company that gets software as the vehicle, where microsoft mostly sells licenses making it easier to derive the value. So, your model of usefulness was never going to work for google products.

But any value you place on your work using this model for products develop(ed) in Microsoft is purely artificial, as it assumes that the consumer is buying the microsoft product purely out of choice. In reality most of the consumers get their microsoft products through hardware bundles, where they have very little choice. Many are pressured into buying and upgrading through "recommendations" from an organisation they depend upon, e.g. their kids' school. That doesn't show the value of your work, but rather the force of a Monopoly.

Viewpoint from the Web

Zahid is Blogging said...

I am astonished you are comparing Google with MS. MS is all-ill and Google's efforts are simply appreciable. Your tool for gauging efficiency of code is terrible. Your instance on open-source tells me why you liked MS whose prime mission is to squeeze everything from people's pockets. But my dear, don't forget that MS won't pay you as much as it will get from selling your code.

Anonymous said...

Sergey, I really enjoyed your post and found it incredibly objective and well reasoned. Please ignore the snide comments and childish remarks others have made as many readers really do appreciate the opinions and thoughts of others even if we some times disagree.

szlevi said...

'and found it incredibly objective and well reasoned."

Ohhhooohh, yeah, especially "objective", suuure - sweet irony...

ROFLMAO

Valery Tolkov said...

The big part of the post looks to me like Google advertisement. I start thinking about going there. You obviously do not fit Google's culture, as I never fit MS's one.

Anonymous said...

Welcome home. Both cool companies -- glad you found the one for you.

Anonymous said...

I work for Microsoft but I started my career during the first .com boom in an internet start-up. What's interesting is that all of the things that I like about Microsoft represent what I hated by working for a start up and vice-versa. The engineer in me see's the value of being able to turn around software quickly. That culture is changing somewhat. Just see the things that are being produced and delivered through http://iis.net. However I understand that some projects don't lend themselves to such a culture. It can still be frustrating when something that seems very simple seems to require so many processes and bueracracy. I think Sergey really just drives a point that when millions, sometimes billions of dollar are on the line structure is necessary if for nothing more than checks and balances. It would be interesting to so how Google's culture evolves as they began delivering on other products that they plan to generate revenue from. You can afford to make mistakes when tons of money is not on the line and especially when you continue to deliver something as beta (i.e. Gmail). You can quickly fix bugs and move on without having to consider the impact to the customer. If Gmail and Google Docs are "good enough" then people will continue to use them which in turn means more traffic to their site and ad revenue. Ultimately that's what it's all about eyeballs and not necessarilly quality. Either way to each their own. I believe Microsoft can learn a lot from the Google culture and likewise Google can learn from the Microsoft approach as well.

jill gallagher said...

Sergey,
i was your original recruiter back in 1998! (jillro back in those days). i remember you as being quite nice and pretty exceptionally brilliant.

i'm glad you have returned to the 'soft; i too have come back a few times as a contractor and start a new gig there next week.

there will always be people who hate msft, find fault after fault, think you are crazy for returning, etc. but i'm glad you made the choice(s) that are best for you and, most likely, best for the company.

Bochibullet said...

These are all very interesting comments and insights. Ironically, I see the two sides of the story as very real. What I think may be missing is an appreciation for what Google's goals really are. To the best of my knowledge, their business is about selling search results thus traffic and appropriate advertising! What better way to promote traffic for your sights and therefore your clients? ...cool free stuff!

How is this in line with beating Microsoft at their game? It's not! The comparisons are draw (in my opinion) based on two things; first, the alignment of the applications general function; and second, the large successful companies that they are. Will Google docs replace MS Office on the computers of corporate users? I think not. Will Google docs be used by a very large number of non-commercial or business users and therefore support the goals of Google's advertising engine? Possibly.

Saulius_Big said...

Sergej vy - prodazhnaja osoba, iz za tokich na zemle ploditsa M$

BadTux said...

It's all about cultural compatibility, in the end. Google and Microsoft keep recruiting me, I keep telling them "no", because neither corporate culture is one where I can thrive. Practically unmanaged? Uhm, no. I have millions of great ideas. I can't implement them all, and if I don't have management to sit down and work through what we think will add the most value to the company, what the bleep am I supposed to do regarding weening thru those ideas? Then there's the Microsoftian thing, where you have to convince fifteen different committees that your idea is a good one, and by the time those fifteen different committees are finished, the final spec calls for implementing fifteen different versions in mutually incompatible ways in the product in order to insure "optimal flexibility". Err, no. There's gotta be something inbetween those two extremes. And indeed there is, I know it because I'm living it :-). Point being, this doesn't have to be a "Google or Microsft" thing. There's a whole big world out here, y'know?!

Anonymous said...

Firstly, not half, the entire list of disgruntled individuals would not be writing here if they were not paid (atleast for the internet charges) by their mum, dad, or the company. And you can write endless trash if you are truly jobless.

The point is, if Nymex can be used as an indicator to determine crude value, it would always be subject to manipulation by speculators. So, while Microsoft does have a sound business model of paying for software, it is manipulated by these very (open source guys) who want software to be free. The person willing to pay for software would still pay for it.

I only ask, what's wrong with a paying model? How long can Google subsist on ads, once the initial euphoria of Orkut has passed?

The only good product of Google has been its search, but search doesn't pay, its the ads. If the US economy is in a recession for 5 years, Google may not survive a reduction in ad spends, but Microsoft will.Now what's wrong in leaving a company for an assured future?!?

BadTux said...

Well, if you're good, you have an assured future regardless of what company you're currently working at. If you're not good... (shrug). I work where I want to work, not where I feel I "have" to work. I'll leave the wage slavery to the Dilberts and Wallys of this world.

In short, working someplace because you think it's an "assured future" is a loser's game. Just ask all those AT&T workers in 1982 who worked for the company because it was an "assured future". Now their jobs are all in Thailand or China, and they're singing the "will you have fries with that order, sir?" blues. There's nothing "assured" other than death and taxes. Well, death. You can avoid taxes if you wanna live under a bridge bumming food off of passers-by or somethin'.

Paco Mesa said...

Can I translate it and put the spanis version in my blog?

And good luck in the new way :-D

Paco Mesa said...

Can I translate (spanish) and put the text in my own blog?

... and good luck in the new way :-D

Harry said...

Agree with you. It seems Google does not have a clear aim for its empoyees. So sometimes they lost and feel bad such as valueness.

Wilbur said...

• The mushrooming of the software development companies have been instrumental in raising the bar for the quality of the software services. The increase of the concerns providing software services have made it possible for the clients to choose the best software development company from among the lot. In the cut throat competition only the best can survive and hence the companies give their best in order to thrive amidst this competition.

laptop battery said...

[...]resource[...]

Roland Judas said...

Sergey, your insight into the Google world is great and I think this will be the biggest fight for the next decade: Microsoft vs. Google, Mission Critical vs. Cool, corporate vs. customer ....

Problem with MSFT is, that they are fighting on too many fields, so they are loosing ground with some essential topics.

Roland

New Trolls said...

What do you mean?

Толян said...

Дарова,

Пасиб за ревью, я подумывал пойти погуглаться, но понимаю, что даже если пойду, то не надолго.

В чём я не согласен, так эт в измерении полезности деньгами. Не смотря на то как мне нравится gmail, я бы не платил за него даже 5 центов - зачем - если куча альтернативы? К тому же, если бы гуглы и начали чаржать бабло за gmail, я бы наверное себе бы его просто написал и деплоял куда-нить на godaddy'вский сервер :)

Например ты считаешь live.com полезным? Если да, то почему он до сих пор бесплатный?

Мне кажется, полезность можно определить количеством людей / трафиком, фидбэком, т.д... И деньги к этому отношения не имеют. Так же не хотелось бы верить, что помощь своим друзьям и семье должна оплачиваться, чтобы осмыслить свою полезность...

Привет "Пиратам из Сиетла" :)

Philly,

Толян

Anonymous said...

1. It almost sounds like you are a spy who was sent from Microsoft to Google, to scope out the place and bring back some coolness.

2. How could Microsoft refuse to hire anyone coming from Google?

3. You're now a "Dev Manager" at Microsoft, which means a considerable pay increase.

From the sound of it all, you left Google for more money. The rest sounds a little like baloney.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting about the post regarding whether GMail would get people to pay $5/mo or whatever for this service.

Honestly, I doubt GMail makes huge ad revenue for Google. I think I have clicked on an add once in 2-3 years of using it. However, I love google's simple web searching and definitely click lots on that.

With many of their other apps, they are generating good will, exposure, etc., but raw $s from it I think it qualifies as small.

GMail gets them access to information and all the benefits of mining it. I do want an alternative, I don't like being analyzed and will move at some point.

Anonymous said...

If you were a new employee at my company, and made a public post like this, I'd fire you immediately based on poor business ethics.

Leandro said...

If you don't like a job and quit to get a new one, you just say thanks to your boss/colleagues, and leave. That applies to any company and any job position.

That way you would be showing respect, ethics and professionalism.

Anonymous said...

You are one greedy soullless bastard. Measuring software by how much money it makes??? Glad I ran Linux at home and at work and haven't had anything to do with your immoral company for more than 10 years!!

Anonymous said...

Таките жадные до денег уроды разрушили нашу Родину - Советский Союз! Гори в Аду!

Россия - Линукс - Коммунизм!!!

Anonymous said...

http://bp0.blogger.com/_VsIB2Nr2f1c/SILJnH1QkCI/AAAAAAAAAI4/iSXhU0f5szk/s1600-h/DSC_0190.JPG

Ko said...

Hi Sergey

Thanks for the insider's view. Barring the parts where you tell us your preferences, you've laid out the difference in the Google and the Microsoft lifestyle in black and white.

I'm still a student, and I'm studying about Web 2.0 these days. It seems the current "fad" is for applications to be open-source, developer-friendly and with a certain level of trust in the user's ability to utilize existing information and contribute with more knowledge. Maybe Google just had a different ideology, and your years at Microsoft had conditioned you to be a different person with different expectations.

You haven't burst any bubbles for me. I'm happy for you that you had the opportunity to get back to what you really wanted to do with your life. Wish you a good time back!

Elton said...

GREAT post, Sergey! I learned a lot from it, thanks! Unfortunately, some of your comments aren't so great...

"You are one greedy soullless bastard. Measuring software by how much money it makes??? Glad I ran Linux at home and at work and haven't had anything to do with your immoral company for more than 10 years!!"

You're a moron. Not all software can be open source, just deal with it. I think Sergey made great points about measuring software by tangible value, and there is nothing at all wrong with his opinion.

"If you were a new employee at my company, and made a public post like this, I'd fire you immediately based on poor business ethics."

You're a bigger idiot. He didn't reveal any trade secrets and only put into perspective information you can easily find elsewhere (e.g. at Glassdoor.com).

Anonymous said...

There's something about Google that makes me think of the "Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde".
Most of the people who posted are trying to "legislate" their taste. Few people can make a balanced commentary like the author did. And I have to say that most of the infant remarks come from the Google partisans.
Try to read the article with calm and understand what the guy is trying to convey and then blog your rants.

Anonymous said...

Actually I can't see how you can say that MSFT points on the efficiency and stability of their software.
Outlook, Word and Excel are far form stable.
I definitely never experience any crash or bad behaviour from gmail.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

After reading your post, realized that google should never hired you, because it seems that you didn't believe in google products at first point, when you say you laugh about google docs.

also you think pay for a service is the way, let me remind you that in real life many services paid for are crap.

also when you expect everyone to pay $5 for a webmail service, you need to see not everyone gets the same wages you do, and also its another reason you should had never go to work for google coz it seems that you are tottaly don't support open source, free applications and alternatives...

oh dear, it seems that programmers still that just programmers.

Anonymous said...

you write:
"I can't write code for the sake of the technology alone - I need to know that the code is useful for others, and the only way to measure the usefulness is by the amount of money that the people are willing to part with to have access to my work."
I absolutely respect the "need to know" your work "is useful for others". It is a first-rate human quality. But I think that money, i.e. your work become a commodity, is not only not the only way to measure the usefulness, it is the worst way.

Consider multi-K$ bottles of rare wine. Ditto diamond necklaces. Etc with all the whims of the filthy rich.

But do not stop there, by any means. Consider fighter planes, high-tech tanks and all the other commodities produced by the military-industrial complex. Consider highly paid bullshit-artists (known as the advertising industry) and the other costs of their "product". Heroine. Disinformation media giants. Huge dope and money infested ultracompetitive kitsch like the Olympics. Junk food. I have to stop somewhere... or else I could be typing for ever. One last thing: consider nuclear weapons. "People" pay undisclosed/unknown vast amounts of money for them. Really useful, for human-race suicide, bullshit-presented as "defense".
I understand from your name and some posts in Cyrillic that you come from somewhere in the former "workers paradise" block, and I guess you got your dose of commodity fetishism as a reaction to it. I was never a fan of stalinist "socialism". But "free" market is not the answer to that inhuman system, rather it is its brother monster.

Alberto Florentin from Cyprus

Gourab said...

I totally agree with Sergey's view. I don't want to go into details. Just think,the next time you use Gmail, Google Calendar or Google Docs, take a close look at the service's logo. You'll notice the word beta there, even though some of those services have been around for several years; Gmail, for example, was launched in 2004. If Google is really ready for IT prime time, shouldn't it move its software out of the beta cycle? I think Google is nothing but a HOUSE OF CARDS

Anonymous said...

Couldn't get passed this

'I value reliability far, far more than "coolness" '

So you went to work for Microsoft? purveyors of the worst hack job OSes in history?

Sorry your opinion just lost it's worth.

Anonymous said...

GG man

I didnt think of goodle in that light before but it makes sense thanx for the post

Personally I'm a developer entirely focussed on quality + usability above all else, 1 of the reasons I dont use Gmail, seriously! sticking the word beta on an app doesn't give it license to be crap

I really dont like Gmail the UI is horrible, I seldom use my hotmail account, I use my YAHOO account IMO its the best.

I can understand why you say the payment for use is a good way to measure the success of a project(in a small way i feel the same), but I have to send my vote another way, there is more to sucess than the revenue.

As a reletivly new developer I like open source as I can learn more from it.

For Google they need to focus more on quality of their apps, that way there is less debugging for them

Now to Microsoft, PLEASE knock some sense into the ppl there, their marketshare likewise doesnt give them license to make nonsense apps, I have high expectations for Windows 7, with +-2000 staff involved with the project you have ppl who can fix issues and you have enough damning of Vista to work with, XP was a great system, but recently the quality in Microsoft apps have been lacking, office 2007 for example.

From a career point of view I would rather work for microsoft than google, reason being goodle's lack of structure and thats all, maybe 1 day when I go to USA ill apply to work for microsoft until then ill just watch the Microsoft\Google or Microsoft\Apple wars unfold

ps. Good luck in your new job

Craig
Non-Microsofter
Non-Googler
:P

Anonymous said...

Mianly to Szveli...

I'll give Sergey the benefit of the doubt. Your points are completely valid based on your interpretation, but I think they don't get to what Sergey really meant. My read:

1. He's tired of 50% of googlers who do nothing. There is no accountability, they have a product that works whether they come to work or not, and no one is checking.

2. He likes to build the Camera that shoots movies, he doesn't want to make the movie. I'm sure he "get's" the business model, he just isn't excited by developing things that "might" work to generate revenue.

3. Everyone loves to say how buggy MS code is...Well, Microsoft ships code worldwide, shrink wraps it, regressions tests it against more combinations of desktops, etc, etc. He's tired of the lack of process at google and the amount of bugs in a relatively small code base that probably has very little process to maintain it.

4. I'm sure many googlers have a sense of entitlement because of all the rediculous perks they get. That must get tiresome to deal with.

5. Engineers don't always get business, you need creative folks who don't think like engineers to help with the creative process. I think Sergey and Brin really, really don't get this one...because they are too smart for themselves. Everything is not an engineering problem, and their product suite proves that. They are no where remotely close to cracking into the enterprise or making money with anything but ads.

I think both companies do amazing things. Google has scaled a system like no one's business and MS runs a 60k person organization that develops an incredible amount of code and products. Sergey just is pulling back the covers on a company that too many people give a "pass" for being so great. In my experience, far less than 50% of workers can work on a self directed basis...and that tells me google is in for big trouble long term unless they grow up and put some management structures in place. Stop letting rediculous stuff go on like letting people come into work in pajamas, that's just stupid.

Anonymous said...

I love these stupid comments like, "So you went to work for Microsoft? purveyors of the worst hack job OSes in history?".

Ok...so when is the last time one of your hack jobs ran just about every freaking computer in the world?

Go back and write some PHP.

Milind said...

Few stupid people paid 1000$ just for a Gem Picture for iphone on Apple Store ( http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,398903,00.html ). Usability of the software has nothing to do with the usability of the app, open source is not evil because its free.

sanjuro said...

It was an interesting read. I'm skeptical about the open source model as well, however, if as an engineer you are sufficiently paid, I don't see what concerns of yours the company's preferred model should be.

What bemuses me is some of your other statements. Saying Blogger, YouTube, Orkut, are time-wasting activities is one thing I can understand, even though one could argue the Net's entertainment value primary lies in such applications; what sounds hypocritical to me is that it's used to disparage Google even though Microsoft provides similar services which are also free but just less popular, such as Live Space (blogging), MSN Videos, Wallop (social networking). Microsoft was also very keen to throw $240 million into Facebook, another website completely free for its users.

As for how many people would pay $5 a month to use GMail, well... possibly more than people paying $5 a month for Hotmail?

I think we all value reliability far more than coolness, which is precisely why a lot of Microsoft's products are under constant fire. Comparatively, I haven't had that much problem with Google's products yet. They're not perfect and I don't like them all, but the ones I like do exactly what I need them to do. That mix of simplicity and efficiency is what makes Google an enjoyable company, for me, as a user.

Reading this entry, I somehow have the feeling that you knew from the start your stay at Google would be temporary; some of the criticisms could have been made by a mildly well-informed outsider as well. You obviously liked working at Microsoft in spite of the shortcomings you noted, so why leaving at all? Perhaps just for testing Google's popularity as a workplace?

Carl said...

Here I go just "wasting time" on Blogger again, and it has a YouTube clip in it to make things even worse!

I think free, open source software and apps connect you with the purest form of information exchange, especially if they are subsidized by the ad model. Fee based services/software, which have their benefits, segregate the populace in some instances. Things like Blogger get information out there from places that may not have money. If Blogger or GMail cost $5 a month, the oppressed would lose a voice. The internet is about information and people for most users, and its about money for MS or Google. How you decide to make your money simply changes the tenor of the information produced. Some good, some bad.

Just my 2 clicks.

Deryck said...

Interesting article. Who are you again?

Not to be rude, I'm serious. Though the name does sound familiar...

Anonymous said...

Sergey -

I enjoyed your article, even found it "useful". Now, where do I send my check?

:)

Best of luck in your new position.

Mark said...

l love your Office Space video in conjunction to the worse manager.

It's safe to say that most of us have been there. Thus it is good knowing that every company has its flaws.

Thanks for the read, it really didn't end up wasting 7.5 mins of my life.

-- mt -- said...

This is a nice post!

Ian said...

Your experience more or less parallels mine with open source and google "cloud" products.

The kids calling you "clueless" as one did are just that (usually). Kids, or college students who don't have to make a living yet. Talk to them in 20 years and you'll see a remarkable re-definition of "clueless."

Google sells ads, but there's a limit to that. Yes, their applications can be cool (I love Google Maps!), but they're not necessarily practical. Medical analysis software is practical. Flight scheduling software is practical. Engineering software is practical. You're not seeing anything like this out of Google. Too boring. Not "cool" enough.

Plumbing isn't cool, but just try doing without it.

Anonymous said...

Your post is based on your experiences. Some of them I can fully agree with and understand and others I can not. But I do appreciate your perspective and candor.

The following quote is interesting:
"Google as an organization is not geared - culturally - to delivering enterprise class reliability to its user applications."

There is truth in this. Historically, Google values pure computer scientists far more than good enterprise software engineers. This is probably because the founders themselves come from a computer science background.

Google has a lot of amazing people who can create an amazing new product or feature. But creators of such products rarely, if ever are able to polish those products. The process of polishing takes an entirely different personality than that of the creator. Google does know this, but they don't always value that type of engineer in the same way.

This is something that Google can fix.

thanks++

Anonymous said...

I'd have taken your comments a lot more seriously if you hadn't written this: "Since I've been an infrastructure person for most of my life, I value reliability far, far more than "coolness", so I could never really learn to love the technical work I was doing at Google."

Microsoft does NOT produce reliable software, period. Reliable software has targets like 5 nines uptime (i.e. 99.999% uptime which translates to around 5 minutes downtime per year).

The last time I used a microsoft product, it regularly consumed that budget just installing one stupid update after the other, followed by a reboot.

arnshea said...

Great post. Your reasoning resonates with me. Sounds similar to the reasons why some people thrive in academia while others thrive in industry.

I too enjoy the process of shipping product. There's a bit of an adrenaline rush to making deadlines that have financial impact. Deadlines with financial impact also impose a discipline on the development process - when money is on the line you have to balance the search for ideal/optimal solutions against the need to meet the deadline.

Don't get me wrong I am a huge fan of getting things as close to right as possible; I love elegant algorithms, love the creative insights where an overly complex approach gets reduced to a simpler, cleaner feeling solution. But I also really enjoy having users faces light up when something that used to take days or weeks now takes seconds because of a well designed app.

Financial impact creates tension. That tension, if properly managed, can help focus the mind. At least for me it can help focus the mind. :)

Bruce Epstein said...

I'm a skilled engineer who can program circles around most people. I'm also a skilled technical manager who enjoys mentoring junior developers, guiding product development, and getting my hands dirty when I have the time or the need exists. I interviewed at Google to be a technical manager. I concur with the blog poster that Googlers have no ideas what managers do. I wish I knew that before I said I was interviewing for a managerial position. Bad managers suck, but so do bad engineers. That is why we call them "bad" (and "sucky" sounds too immature). Google clearly has no management structure in place. They don't seem to understand that they need one, either. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so. There is not just a bias for "coolness", but it seems a bias for chaos. Anyone my age (42) is unlikely to fit in there. Let me repeat that I'm a hardcore programmer, but I can add more value to a business by performing technical management as well. This isn't just sour grapes.

Anonymous said...

You post about enjoying the peer-review basis that Google uses, but then criticize it's managers lack of "real actual work". Seems like you're looking for a balance between the two that simply doesn't exist.

Fan Decheng said...

I have to say Office 2007 Word has a major drawback that it can'[t show style information properly: it has a Style Inspector, but the inspector cannot be docked easily at a corner of the Document Map. It can only be docked as a big vertical space on the left or on the right. As reliability is a major goal in Microsoft, why isn't useability also such a goal. I like many Microsoft products, but not Word 2007.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was cool, very funny all the goooogle people venting their anger. Just one thing with google nothing is free, you pay with your privacy and personal details.

Anonymous said...

hehehehe. Google search is about the buggiest app every written. Problem is, no one can verify it. All those data centers, replicated data, different results based on where you query is routed to, etc. It is "good enough", but it is not perfect. Imagine the effort to fix data issues...if you know data, you know that google is awash in issues...but no one will ever really know the scale of those issues.

Google will be the source of a congressional hearing some day...mark my words. They are too arrogant to believe that search is a public utility...they'll tweak the results for someone's favor, and then it'll be all she wrote. Mark my words.

Anonymous said...

you definitely have your reasons to leave Google. I'm not google supporter or microsoft supporter but i really dont agree that paying $$$ is a measure of your software's success.

What you dont accept is that people pay top $$$ to generate revenues from Google / Google related services. Its an entire ecosystem. Google goes, the whole ecosystem fails.

With microsoft its easier for you to perceive the money as you can see people directly shelling out $$$ for their products...

Anonymous said...

and reliability and msft? you MUST be KIDDING :)

Anonymous said...

I don't really agree on comparing microsoft and google.
the core of the business model differs, microsoft relies on selling real software, servers and windows... it is meanly the infrastructure on which the business services relies... while google is actually making a lot of money of doing services that use infrastructure including os, db servers, web servers...
the problem is that google is making a lot of money... which is actually provoking microsoft to try to get some of google's share...

google has aloways had better services on the web... far better actually... but when I develop software, I can't imagine hosting my application and building my business in the cloud.... i still can't get with that.... I believe that anyone that has real business will need to host things in house... and that is where microsoft or other software vendors will come in play...
while microsoft products are not always great, and ususaly full of bugs... I still think it is a good choice...

Anonymous said...

2Elton

I disagree, there are open source office suites, open source operating systems, open source databases, open source development environments, open source games, open source 2d and 3D graphic editors. In every area there are open source competitors eating MSs launch and MS doesnt know how to destroy them , Their old fashioned tricks don't work on us. They tried it with their attack dog SCO and look how it ended in total fiasco for MS shills. Serhey, you returned to Titanic and there aren't any life boats left. You'll be very sorry.

IUnderstand said...

To me it looks like your coding skills are getting rusty and Google was too much for you :). I can understand why you can't wait to get in the manager role... But everything you described increases my respect for Google culture. I'm MSFT employee and I hate the way our 90,000 people have fattened up the company. When I look around in the team, I realize 60% of people can't read or write code. They are either PM, UX or dump testers. These people have no business in software company and my experience is that they almost often come in a way in making software. I've our senior leadership who is busy creating processes and scorecards. None of them have writen any cod e in two decades but they will sure write up pages on how to develop software. I've UX guys who takes 6 months to produce stupidest designs with obvious bugs you can come across. And worse, they won't let you go ahead with your ideas before they are done.

So you must be liking those meetings (or rather chain of them) to discuss one stupid simple change that other dev will get it in 5 minutes but you have to still waste your time convincing PMs, UX, Test for a week to compensate for their lack of technical skills. I often joke around that I should start a vendor company and offer Microsoft to deliver exact same feature at 1/3th of the price they are paying beating the quality they are delivering and still make 100% margin.

Regarding bugs in Google software - well - I have yet to encounter a serious bug that I come across everyday and annoys me. Infect I don't recall any bugs at all! May be there are bugs on some obscure browser for obscure feature but for my purposes and more than 5 years of use of most Google properties I don't remember having encounter any bugs. On the other hand, almost every single Microsoft products which you claim that is carefully developed using wisdom of PMs and tested by army of testers somehow always have legions of super annoying bug/features and lack of features that I have to deal with every day. In general I believe a team of smart developers can produce MUCH BETTER software than these soup of PM, testers and dev. Infect if you know MS history, PMs weren't there and Bill used to cringe at hiring these guys. Today these guys have played a major role in screwing up + delaying our products (why we are still stuck at WM6.1 dinosoure after whole year and half when iPhone has already moved on to 2.0 in same timeframe).

And if you are telling me you find managers here useful then you are either smoking something or... want to be manager! Please don't tell me next that VPs are useful too :).

I think Google is perfecting software engineering and does much better than us "more experienced, old and fat" people at MS. Everything you described actually makes me go there :). But I understand your position... you are getting old and you need peaceful life without having to deal with fresh brains, get better pay with manager position without having to worry about technical skills. Microsoft is ideal sanctuary for all such "senior" people who want to enter in pseudo-retirement stage. Welcome!

Anonymous said...

2 IUnderstand --

the great post ! - i agree completely

cheers!

this is from Symbian world :)

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is easily the greatest company of all time when viewed in it's entirety. Microsoft will see a hundred Googles in it's life time. Cool always looses. Sorry guys.

Anonymous said...

To IUnderstand:

I suggest you come to Google, if you can, and work 1~3 years as Software Engineer to have a nontrivial taste of the environment, then you will understand Sergey's words better and have a more balanced comparison between Microsoft and Google.

Anonymous said...

Your case isn’t unique and surprised at all, and in short, it is because you didn’t join the company with an adequate expectation, which is a common phenomenon when a person resigned from a well-established enterprise environment and joined a smaller company or started his/her own small business.

In an enterprise environment, you have much clearer rules and job descriptions (though not always) and bureaucracy is the predominated guidance, while in a smaller company, flexibility is the major part of everyday life including job descriptions and product roadmaps and so on, and you don’t get the kind of support that would from an enterprise, so one has to work out problems with little or no support at all.

Also, one year is just too short for the commitment; most likely, you haven’t really known much of the company’s culture and long-term strategies.

There is a saying about your situation: An ex-employee from a blue chip company usually performed poor or failed when starting his/her own small business company.

BadTux said...

To the last anonymous: Okay, that's just plain silly. I've been watching the Googlebots swarm the last week or so (what, this URL appeared on an internal Google mailing list or something?) but:

In an enterprise environment, you have much clearer rules and job descriptions (though not always) and bureaucracy is the predominated guidance, while in a smaller company, flexibility is the major part of everyday life including job descriptions and product roadmaps and so on,

This is just plain ridiculous. The entire HQ staff of our company fits into a 12x12 dining room where I work, but we have a product roadmap, we don't start developing unless we've got product requirements written down and in hand, and we write design documentation before we start writing code. It goes from the VP of Engineering and CTO to the project managers (e.g. me) and I give very clear direction to my team leads in our overseas development labs as to what I want to have happen and they then execute.

The deal though is that Google has decided they don't need to do these things. Probably not for the reasons that Sergey thinks. It seems to be a common Silicon Valley issue. I learned engineering outside of the Valley, where we were developing things with our own money and had to damn well make sure it got done and done right because if it was not, it was our own money out of pocket. When I moved here to the Valley I was aghast at the development practices, or lack thereof, here. Things that I was accustomed to doing in eight months with a team of four took two years and a team of fifty to do in the Valley. From what I can tell it's a combination of things. First, the influence of what I can only call anarchistic thought in the Valley, which says that process is an imposition of The Man and thus to be avoided. Secondly, institutional arrogance -- "we don't have to do that here in the Valley because we're smarter than everybody else." Thirdly, individual arrogance -- "I'm so good that I don't need to be managed." The result: Product that is late to market, buggy, does not fulfill customer requirements, and eventually the company goes out of business.

The only reason the Silicon Valley is such a hotbed of innovation is because there's just so many people and so much money in the Valley. Sooner or later someone manages to almost accidentally produce something totally outstanding, much in the same way as an infinite number of monkeys pounding at an infinite number of typewriters would at some time approaching infinity accidentally create the complete works of William Shakespeare. But jeez, the inefficiency of it all...

- Badtux the Geek Manager Penguin

Anonymous said...

@BadTux:

I don’t know why are you so upset about?

Firstly, your company is not representative enough for other companies, and I was speaking as a senior management consultant who has enough experience of corporate culture.

Secondly, you should pay proper attentions to the key word which is “flexibility” and I made no reference to smaller companies would not have product roadmaps or strategies; it’s just they are more flexible in terms of changing those strategies.

As for your comments, “The only reason the Silicon Valley is such a hotbed of innovation is because there's just so many people and so much money in the Valley.”, you probably have no idea that many countries have done the same trying to mimic the success of the Valley, unsuccessfully.

You have no clues about what are you talking about.

BadTux said...

Actually I have quite a clue. The 20th anniversary of my first commercial software product recently passed. Regarding the Silicon Valley, to create a Silicon Valley you need two world-class universities in the same metropolitan area. I suggest you go back and look at Fairchild Semiconductor (the beginning of the Silicon Valley when you add up the Fairchildren that sprung out of it) and ask why it started here and not somewhere else. Guess what -- it was Stanford and UCB alumni who didn't want to relocate.

The biggest thing keeping the Silicon Valley going right now is the fact that eventually, everybody who wants to do something innovative ends up here. I was paid a fairly significant sum to relocate here, and once here, it's just too easy to get a job to bother going anywhere else. Multiply me by 200,000 and you have a gigantic work force. A work force which, in my professional opinion, is a management nightmare, but if you're looking to start a business you have the Sand Hill money crowd and a ready-made workforce all in one location.

In marketing terms, what the Silicon Valley has is an "early mover advantage". If you're first to market you have a significant advantage over later entrants to the market -- you've already snatched up the top talent in your field, you already have the mindshare, you have the investors coming to you rather than you having to go to the investors. Unfortunately, over the years all this money has made the Valley really, really sloppy... things are not getting done in a timely manner and they're getting released half-baked because people think process is old-skool and not what you do in the Valley. Outside the Valley we didn't have the luxury of releasing product late and buggy, because it was our own money, not investor money, that we used to create the product. But the Valley treats investor money like free money (a former employer recently went under after burning through $40 million dollars in six months time), and the result... it's sloppy.

I find it hilarious that green as grass Googledrones would accuse someone with over twenty years experience in this industry of "not knowing what he talks about", but I'm not surprised. Unwarranted delusions of grandeur and arrogance are not things that the Silicon Valley has a shortage of... especially when it comes to Google.

Anonymous said...

@BadTux
You see leaves but not the tree.

Hint 1: Ecosystem.

Hint 2: Schools and VCs are all part of the ecosystem.

Hint 3: Why Stanford and UCB alumni didn't want to relocate? Refer to Hint 1.

Hint 4: It’s extremely difficult to replicate an ecosystem.

Hint 5: Get an aquarium which may help you to understand what is an ecosystem.

PS: I hope your codes are not as bloated as your writing skill, but I’m done with you

Anonymous said...

This is probably fine for free software, but I always laugh when people tell me that Google Docs is viable competition to Microsoft Office. If it is, that is only true for the occasional users who would not buy Office anyway. Google as an organization is not geared - culturally - to delivering enterprise class reliability to its user applications.

it may be unfair, but i always laugh when i consider microsoft's inability to implement paint, notepad and write as usable applications, despite their functionality being almost entirely located in system wide control libraries. nothing on god's earth could inspire me to use ms office.

and unfortunately, open office is a waste of millions of hours of open source coding becos it aspires to emulate mso. 'scoop the cream not the scum' as one blogger had it..

the truth is, i still use wordperfect 5.1 for any serious writing project. its fast, stable and easy to automate. it's also totally adequate for large documents. the end of effective document management software was signalled by wordperfect's doomed attempt to transition to windows.

and why is windows software so bad? becos its business model has resulted in binary distribution being extended to component level and in opaque, idiosyncratic data formats, crippling all attempts to provide robust automation or interoperability.

if microsoft ever adopted honest engineering, and left marketing out of r&d, it might have some value in the coming decades, but as it is, i think the platform neutrality epitomized by google's model will prove to be a relentless tide, against which the smurfs of redmond will be as powerless as king canute.

Anonymous said...

Let's check this block of your text:

"On the other hand, I was using Google software - a lot of it - in the last year, and
slick as it is, there's just too much of it that is regularly broken. It seems like every week 10% of all the features are broken in one or the other browser. And it's a different 10% every week - the old bugs are getting fixed, the new ones introduced."


As a Microsoft addicted, wouldn't you felt like home with this buggy behaviour? :)

Anonymous said...

Didn't Home Server have that insanely horrible bug that corrupted the filesystem if you edit files on the server?

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/946676

the bug was found in dec '07, shortly after you left microsoft, and wasn't fixed until july '08.

blad3runn69 said...

Great blog, thanks for sharing. :)

lucy said...

Your solid examples of peer reviews and multiple opportunities for intra- and inter-team collaboration are great takeaways.

Simon Gianoutsos said...

Thanks Sergey for this excellent post. It was a great read and provided me with a great insight to Google and some different approaches to getting things done.

Anonymous said...

You have shared you experience so effectively. I was not able to stop reading it. My Blog : earn money chao!

r4 nintendo said...

though i know the majority of your life is under flourescent lights beathing filtered air, so maybe it doesn't make any difference

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Anonymous said...

wow! thanks for another great blog post!
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Akemi said...

Dear Mr. Sergey Solynik
Hello. My name is Akemi Miyamoto, a freelance journalist living in Japan.

We are preparing a cover story about "Google, the future of search and it's culture" for Weekly ASCII magazine which will be published on March 28th (the article will be 69 pages total).

Weekly ASCII is the most popular computer magazine in Japan, sold about 150,000 copies every week.

We're going to visit Google and Microsoft (for Bing search) next week.
But to make the article deeper, I like to hear the voices of ex-Googlers, too.

So I'd like to beg your favor to meet me when I'm in United States. Or If it's difficult, I like to have interview using Skype.
Because your carrier is very rare, you have experience in Google and Microsoft.

If you like to know my past works, I'm willing to send you some copy of articles, which including Google campus' visit in 2006, an interview with Mr. Philip Rosedale in Linden Lab, an interview with Mr.Libin Phil, CEO of Evernote ( you can see it online, too. http://weekly.ascii.jp/elem/000/000/013/13442/) etc.

Thank you for reading my message.
I hope I will hear from you.

Akemi Miyamoto
akemanga@gmail.com
twitter: AkeManga

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Mobile Application Development said...

Great post, Sergey -

Your solid examples of peer reviews and multiple opportunities for intra- and inter-team collaboration are great takeaways.

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Sunburn Treatment said...

From Google to Microsoft? wow, i know must be kept busy, but apart from that, you're living the dream!

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App Marketing said...

The deal though is that Google has decided they don't need to do these things. Probably not for the reasons that Sergey thinks. It seems to be a common Silicon Valley issue. I learned engineering outside of the Valley, where we were developing things with our own money and had to damn well make sure it got done and done right because if it was not, it was our own money out of pocket. When I moved here to the Valley I was aghast at the development practices, or lack thereof, here. Things that I was accustomed to doing in eight months with a team of four took two years and a team of fifty to do in the Valley. From what I can tell it's a combination of things. First, the influence of what I can only call anarchistic thought in the Valley, which says that process is an imposition of The Man and thus to be avoided. Secondly, institutional arrogance -- "we don't have to do that here in the Valley because we're smarter than everybody else." Thirdly, individual arrogance -- "I'm so good that I don't need to be managed." The result: Product that is late to market, buggy, does not fulfill customer requirements, and eventually the company goes out of business. Digital Marketing Services | Video Marketing | App Marketing

Anonymous said...

Are you sure people will pay a single penny to use Hotmail?

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diets that work said...

yeah. why did you left Googe? Google is such a nice place to work with. I saw their office all i can say was "WOW"

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