Eran Kampf
Eran Kampf
5 min read

Sergey Is Leaving Google For Microsoft (Not THAT Sergey...)

Dare has written a post that claims there’s an exodus from Google to Microsoft. The post is driven by his own observations and a post entitled Back to Microsoft from Sergey Solanik detailing his departure to Microsoft.
Sergey’s post contains some very interesting observations:

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.

And some observations of Google’s culture (bolding was done by me):

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.

Dare also quotes Svetlin Nakov that also have some interesting things to say about the Google culture:

Google interview were not professional. It was like Olympiad in Informatics. Google asked me only about algorithms and data structures, nothing about software technologies and software engineering. It was obvious that they do not care that I had 12 years software engineering experience. They just ignored this. The only think Google wants to know about their candidates are their algorithms and analytical thinking skills. Nothing about technology, nothing about engineering.

Google employ everybody as junior developer, ignoring the existing experience. It is nice to work in Google if it is your first job, really nice, but if you have 12 years of experience with lots of languages, technologies and platforms, at lots of senior positions, you should expect higher position in Google, right?

This just demonstrates another cultural problem – Google doesn’t hire the right people for the job.
Granted, young, enthusiastic developers, with string academic background (and probably several degrees) can do some cool innovative stuff. These are exactly the type of guys you would want in your R&D department.
But it also the type that tends to loose interest when the research phase ends and the projects has goes to scaling and maintenance phases where you have to deal with stuff like support, maintenance (Google doesn’t even provide a roadmap for its products), localization, scalability, …

The bottom line is, as Dare concluded, is that Google isn’t a small startup anymore but it still thinks and acts like it is – in its hiring policies, internal processes and culture.
When measuring it up against other software giants it simply seems to lack…

As Fortune sums it up:

Think about that. Google recently made headlines by bidding almost $5 billion in a government auction of wireless spectrum, even though the company had no plan for using it. Some of its more peculiar products include Google Sky, Google Mars, and Google Ride Finder. It has become a significant investor in alternative-energy projects. Yes, alternative energy. And its founders fret that its risk-taking days are over? Then again, Google’s biggest risk may be recreating the magic it enjoyed as a startup– that intangible quality that makes Silicon Valley tick. Paul Buchheit, the former Google engineer who is on to his second startup now, recalls what he loved about Google’s early days. “I was always so excited at Google, because I didn’t know what would happen next,” he says. “Then I knew what would happen next.” Predictability is a virtue in the world of big business. It’s just not particularly Googley.

Maybe some of us in the industry were writing off Microsoft and crowning Google a little bit too soon…