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Google and Googleplex seen by Microsoft

Google and Googleplex seen by Microsoft

Take a former Microsoft employee who, after a fling with his startup, acquired by Google, decides to return to Redmond, ask him to provide information about his previous occupation and distribute it to colleagues on an internal mailing list. What comes out is a sincere and lucid description, which someone has thought of making public on a blog created for the occasion, with the declared intention of unleashing a scandal.

A hoax? A gimmick from Microsoft? Or Google? Mary Jo Foley, in her ZDNet blog, claims she can confirm the existence of the former Google employee, while the identity of who started the blog remains uncertain. But it doesn’t matter: in the battle between the two IT superpowers, everything is broth, even the calm observations such as those reported by the insider, hidden behind a weblog with a misleading title, “just say no to Google”.

How does life go on inside the Googleplex? The email talks about young people who have no social life or family duties, induced to dive into work by all-encompassing attitude of Google, as Aaron Swartz was already raging in recent months. The company has all-inclusive workplaces : Provides clothing, unlimited food, specialist medical care, entertainment, private transportation services, and countless concessions. Even in unsuspected times, there were those who called Google headquarters a “toy land for engineers”. Google’s is a protective embrace that is particularly appreciated by young people who come from college, an environment from which it is difficult to free oneself, in the perspective of having to carry out certain tasks independently.

Employees, moreover, especially the younger ones, tend to make Google well beyond ordinary working hours, of eight hours: carried away by a proud and grateful passion, often their email account is kept under control twenty-four hours a day and the work is also carried out from home. The situation of more experienced employees is different, but not too much: email only until midnight, less dependence on supplies provided by the workplace, but more concrete possibilities to enjoy the benefits offered by Google’s corporate culture.

In fact, only the elderly are able to take advantage of the famous 20% of weekly working time, reserved for Google employees to develop projects in which they are interested. Projects that, says the former employee, must be tacitly authorized by superiors, projects that, in any case, play in favor of Google, as it was for Gmail, AdSense, GoogleNews.

Although the all-inclusive formula may seem expensive, the anonymous feels like advising Microsoft in this regard. Like Google, it would be a wise move to advertise free food and services, and at the same time contain wages : if at first there is the risk of an assault on buffets and entertainment, overeating and the rush to immoderate use of services is destined to downsize, bringing this item of expenditure back to alert levels, while employees continue to perceive an increase in the quality of life, despite the savings on salaries.

It is worth taking an example from Google also for its “geniuses” Tech Stop . Located on each floor of each building, they manage the computer equipment, solve problems and replace malfunctioning machines in a short time, without the employee having to worry about problems that distract him from his work, without having to get involved in bureaucratic procedures : all movements of the material remain tracked, and each employee is allowed to take advantage of the material within wide limits.

As for the spaces , Google seems to pursue a strategy of extreme openness: few private offices, large shared spaces, even unassigned workstations. The former Google employee, encountering some confusion and total lack of privacy, recommends that Microsoft pursue the strategy of private offices, while taking an example from Google in the use of color, while allowing employees to customize the offices to them. pleasure (here a nice gallery of Time on the Googleplex seen from the inside).

This recommendation is also motivated by the fact that the freedom of space, on some occasions, is reflected in the concept of career development and in the working method. In fact, there are no predefined and certain career paths, the meritocratic system of Google is accidental, made up of word of mouth and compliments exchanged in front of colleagues. On the other hand, as regards the working method, employees assigned to a division can be recruited by managers from other divisions. In the e-mail circulated in Microsoft’s home, the complexity of solving problems and the misunderstandings that can arise from very elastic horizontal structures but administered through hierarchies with few vertices compared to the broad bases they have to worry about managing.

Despite the provocative title of the blog that published the email, it seems that life in the Googleplex is not that bad: as confirmed by a blogger who has work experience in both companies (and an ongoing career at Yahoo!), every work environment has strengths and disadvantages. In addition, many on Slashdot consider Google’s working hours to be ordinary and even enviable, where employees can enjoy pools and delicious meals, surrounded by passionate and motivated colleagues. It is the insider himself who draws a comparison between working life at Google and that of Microsoft’s early days: young staff, uncertain career prospects and a lot of passion. And, remembers Joe Wilcox of Microsoft Watch: Wasn’t Microsoft more dynamic and successful in those days?

Gaia Bottà