How Google is Different from Other Companies
I started my career at Google right out of school and stayed for 3 years. In this post, I’ll go into detail about how Google is different from other companies.
Let’s get this out of the way immediately. The perks at Google are better than anywhere else I’ve worked. The healthcare package was incredible. It included dental and vision, as well as all the usual stuff from your health provider. As a single guy, I paid nothing for health insurance, and the coverage was phenomenal. People with families took slight deductions from their paychecks, but I believe they were a lot less than other places.
The food was high quality, and I always felt like I was reverting in maturity. I never had to cook meals, and I would eat breakfast at work.
Breakfast wasn’t just granola or oatmeal – we’re talking a full hot breakfast every single day, with breakfast potatoes and fresh fruit. It was amazing.
Depending on your office, you might get 2 or 3 meals a day. I was in Seattle for 2 years, which is fairly large, so they served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In contrast, Boulder only served breakfast and lunch, although that office is much larger now, so I believe that has changed.
The perks go on. Everyone got free massage credits, and the company paid for gym memberships, if you didn’t have an onsite gym. Fully paid ski trips happened every year.
The sick policy was wonderful, you just didn’t come in when you weren’t feeling well. You didn’t have to take any days of vacation to make up for sick days.
Working remotely was no problem every once and awhile, but it would have been weird to begin working remotely all the time, without management approval.
I loved their 401K policy. At the time, the company would match you at around 50% of the IRS limit. In 2015, that would mean $9,000 you get for free, assuming you max out your 401K. That was dramatically better than anywhere else I’ve worked.
All in all, I think all these perks were worth between 5 and 15K per year, depending on which ones you took advantage of. The 401K was probably worth the most monetarily.
Two things separate Google from other companies:
- Instead of AWS, you configure jobs on Borg.
- Instead of MySQL or Mongo, you use BigTable.
- Instead of Jetty or Tomcat, you use the Google Application Framework.
- Instead of Spring, you use Guice.
- Instead of JQuery, you use Google Closure.
- Building automation frameworks for Webmaster Tools.
- Building internal web tools to pull data from Google+.
- Building backlinks features for Webmaster Tools.
- Chrome Extensions to help automate Chrome testing.
Work / Life Balance
I don’t believe there’s anywhere where you have a better work life balance than at a big tech company. You work 40 hours a week (if that), you get pampered non-stop, and you make great pay. Your hours are flexible, the dress code is relaxed, and dealing with contractors coming to your house (or whatever) is no big deal.
I’ve read elsewhere about the long working hours at Google, but that wasn’t my experience. I liked to work long, but I was usually the only one in the office late at night.
I saw many people doing perfectly well on 40 hours per week. Those 40 hours usually included tons of time for lunch and breakfast, not to mention naps, massages, etc.
When you account for the hours worked, the pay per hour might be the most of any profession, on average.
So Why Did I Leave
Everything I’ve said here has been positive, so why did I leave?
I enjoyed my experience at Google, and I learned a lot. But the company didn’t satisfy the need I had to be somebody. I also thought I could spend more of my time working on interesting stuff if I started a company.
It turns out the 2nd was completely wrong. When you start a company you spend all of your time doing sales, planning out features, fixing bugs, and thinking about marketing. You wind up doing less coding than you did before. If you want pure computer science work, then I highly recommend a place like Google.
They will make you a better coder, and they will pay you well.