Google insider eyes

    Hi, Habrahabr!

    About a year ago, I wrote my previous post on Amazon Habra through the eyes of an insider . I did practice three times at Amazon and, there’s nothing to hide, I became attached to this company, accepted many of its principles, and learned a lot. And I saw the company from different angles, as I had the opportunity to work at Amazon Retail and the Kindle, Seattle and California. However, my goal, starting from the second year, was to practice in Google. Therefore, when I was finally invited to an interview, and according to the results I was invited to Mountain View to practice as a Software Engineer, I did not dare to refuse. I spent three months there, working in the Gmail Spam & Abuse team. Involuntarily and unconsciously, I compared life and work in Google with Amazon, which I want to share.

    Disclaimer: in the previous article I talked about everything as it is without comparisons. This is partly because little is known about the internal culture of the Amazon. On the contrary, everyone knows about Google. Talk about Google "from scratch" does not work. Therefore, here are my purely personal observations and comparisons. I hope no one’s feelings are hurt.


    About location

    California is the promised land. Especially NorCal. Here you have the ocean to surf, and the mountains to snowboard, and the city of San Francisco of remarkable beauty, and the best universities in the world, Stanford and Berkeley, and Silicon Valley. Facebook, Apple, Oracle, and thousands of other companies and startups literally surround Google’s headquarters. This is not the eternally gloomy Seattle with Amazon in the middle and Microsoft in nearby Redmond. However, I must admit that life in Silicon Valley has its drawbacks, among which I will take out exorbitant taxes and sky-high real estate prices (not only ownership, but also rent). I am sure that those who have been living in California for a long time have something else to tell about the pros and cons, but during my six months in the Valley, I paid the most attention to these aspects.

    About buildings

    The Amazon buildings in Seattle and Sunnyvale, California are the true epitome of corporate spirit. Being less pompous and more comfortable than the buildings of the same Oracle and Microsoft, they are still multi-storey glass offices. Google’s headquarters is qualitatively different in that the campus of the "corporation of goodness" looks pretty much like university campuses: low buildings that form together a single complex. Together with numerous attractions such as the skeleton of T-Rex, hammocks, slides, bicycles, tables for billiards, volleyball courts, etc. scattered around the campus, this complex is a much more comfortable place where you want to spend more time.

    About the device and departments

    If Amazon’s device structure is logical, then Google has some "oddities" with this. For example, as part of the Gmail Spam & Abuse team, we were part of Google Social, rather than part of Gmail. Google Maps, in terms of hierarchy, is a division of YouTube. I asked how it happened, and in return I received unsatisfactory stories about bureaucratic and historical reasons. But here is the point: in Amazon, rarely appear new teams from the initiatives of workers. Often, new teams and departments appear by decision of the highest layers of management, based on strategic plans. In Google, the darkness of small teams, which were formed from 20 percent projects. (Explanation for the uninitiated: in Google, up to 20% of working time is allowed to be given to work in other teams, your projects, training, mentoring, and teaching inside Google). With so many small startups inside the company, it’s hard for everyone to find a logical place in the hierarchy. In addition, the essence and purpose of some teams changes over time. Hence a little mess.

    About attitude to business

    It contains critical differences between the two companies. In Amazon, launching a new product or a new department is a matter of market research and profitability. Yes, Amazon puts its customers first, sometimes harming its own interests. But in matters of company development, everyone dictates forecasts and prospects. In Google, as mentioned earlier, thousands of mini-projects are launched, which are themselves provided to prove their profitability. Of the hundreds of launched projects, only a few will be truly worthwhile, and 2-3 will set a new trend. This is similar to two types of extraction of resources: intensive (in depth) and extensive (in breadth). Google is digging in breadth and no, no, and stumble upon a couple of top-quality diamonds. You need to understand that not every company can afford to bury hundreds of projects in order to find several worthwhile ones.

    Paradox and irony, but Google’s internal search engine is a piece of poop

    It really is. Compared to Amazon’s internal search engine, the Google intranet is an extremely disappointing experience. There are several reasons for this. First, a naturally pop-up question: why not use the same indexing algorithm for Google’s internal pages as it does for the entire Internet? The answer is simple: the indexing algorithm relies on the fact that there are more links in the document body than the documents themselves. If this is true for the Internet as a whole, then for the Google intranet this is not so. Another reason for the slowness of the internal search engine is the fragmentation of content. Often, internal pages are documents stored in Google Drive. Moreover, these pages are written - who is what much. In Amazon, this problem was solved by a centralized wiki-guide, which is much easier to search.

    About culture

    In my first summer in Amazon, I wrote a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos with the following text: “Hi Jeff! I am an intern in your company. You know, this summer about 900 people (interns) gathered in Seattle. And I thought, why don’t you bring us together for an hour or two in some big hall and not give an inspired speech. It would be cool. ”As you would expect, this letter was left unanswered. It would have gone unanswered in 99.99% of the companies, so there’s nothing to be offended by Jeff.
    It was nice that in Google did not even have to ask. Every Thursday, Sergey Brin and Larry Page themselves go on stage in Charlie's cafe on the campus in Mountain View and talk about events and innovations in the company. At the end of the meeting, they answer questions from the internal microblogging and ... to questions from the audience. All Google employees located in Mountain View can attend this meeting. It is only necessary to take a place in the audience early. Accordingly, anyone present can communicate with the almighty founders of Google. And that's great!

    About wastefulness

    Oh God, what a wasteful Google! Yes, Amazon has instilled in me a desire for frugality. You need to understand that Amazon does not cut you back in what you need. But no surplus! In Google you are provided with everything that you need, it would be nice to have, and not necessary. Yes, we are talking about massage, decorations, furniture, robots for video conferences, etc. The top of my surprise was the sending of a whole branch to the resort for several days at the expense of the company - and this counted as working time, not vacation. Of course, from a worker's point of view, this is cool. Of course, someone will say that the company is captivating with this, and someone will say that the company really cares about the happiness of employees and builds a team spirit. But everyone will agree that it is expensive and not necessary. In general, spending time in Google, and watching its generosity / wastefulness, I wondered: Is this generosity a good and important contribution to the hard work, diligence and loyalty of its employees? Does the company, in the final analysis, really get more from them and prosper, or does it still thrive despite these costs?

    About gyms and sports

    Gyms in Google are frankly bad. A lot of people, old simulators, no iron needed, not enough space. There is no pool in principle - there is just called an infinite pool. It’s such a bathroom where water moves against your movement, like a jogging machine, only for swimming. But the wonderful fields and jogging parks and bike hills are very close to the campus. Volleyball courts and football fields are what you need. I have not tried to engage with an instructor or in a section, but it's nice to know that there was such an opportunity. In fairness, I note that in Amazon, by default, there is no bad gym. But twice, I still got a free visit: for the first time, Amazon put me in a hotel that had an agreement with a local rocking chair; the second time - he worked in a rented office, which was part of a complex with a wonderful sports club. I love America for a freebie!

    About trust in interns

    In Amazon, interns are not weakly trusted. I have never come across the fact that I needed to get special permission to use a special database or service (of course, unless it is paid). In Google, on the other hand, I constantly had to fumble for the manager to request this or that access for me. I had to suspend work until they gave me access, and sometimes they refused at all, citing the fact that I was an intern. On the one hand, it’s good that Google guards its information with a sword in its hands, but it also complicates the work.

    About equipment, interviews, and compensation

    In Google and in Amazon, approximately the same kit is issued for the developer: a hospital with a couple of screens for development and a laptop for mail and meetings. The interview is also fairly standard: two technical interviews of 45 minutes by phone. After passing these interviews, the process of determining the team goes through. It may turn out to be difficult to get exactly where I would like to, as the teams choose the candidates themselves. But if the goal is simply to get into Google, then most likely somewhere, yes they will determine. (Note: this information is for internship applicants only). Compensation (the so-called salary and bonuses in the States) is also at the same level in these two companies. True, you need to consider that in Amazon you still have to spend money on food, when in Google you don’t have to worry about it.

    Such is the story, again about everything and about nothing. Interneships are a great opportunity to get to know different companies and their styles in a short time. But the review turned out to be very superficial. Who can contribute by deeper and longer observations, welcome in the commentary.

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