back to article Google a broken hell for five-year-olds

So, everyone and their brother is yapping about a recent blog post from Microsoftie Dare Obasanjo, who says he knows lots o' people who've forsaken Larry and Serg for Big Steve. "Recently, I’ve been bumping into more and more people who’ve either left Google to come to Microsoft or got offers from both companies and picked …


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  1. Wonderkid
    Black Helicopters

    William Golding

    Any entity that relies upon young, possibly arrogant still maturing individuals who have yet to gain true industry and/or life experience is going to suffer the consequences. If you want a very good example of this, consider 'Great' Britain today. It is broken, and things appear to be getting worse on an almost daily basis. A number of mission critical entities world-wide today lack common sense, discipline - and most importantly, values. If trust in such entities is to be restored, then due process and value based leadership needs to be restored.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm ... sound familiar ?

    "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 per cent of all the features are broken in one or the other browser..."

    And of course, Microsoft's software is never "regularly broken" (and often *by design*) - and rarely if ever is it FUNCTIONAL (or even usable/palatable) for more than 10%....

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

  3. Chad H.
    Thumb Down

    sounds like this guy should have a chat to mgabe about a job

    Seriously, this guys comments sounds like one of those aim government owned media items you can read on all-Africa... Objectivity.... What's that?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same experience as Nakov

    And in the same place: Zurich. My google interview experience was underwhelming at best. Too much minutiae, not enough emphasis on problem-solving.

    Up until now I thought it was just me.

  5. Daniel B.
    Thumb Down

    Returning? Yeah, right.

    If I leave a company to jump ship, and then find said "ship" to be rotten, I'm jumping ship... somewhere else. Really, you don't just switch jobs for fun; usually there's something better on the other side. And this being Microsoft, there must be strong motivations to jump ship.

    If so many guys actually "came back" to Microsoft, I'd think they're getting some big bonus, because that's the only way I'd return to a former job.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Different strokes...

    Different people thrive in different environments.... so what's the news?

    Many people get attatracted by greener pastures, then find they actually prefered where they were. Again, nothing new.

    Yes, Google probably does need to "grow up" to get into serious stable product producing mode, but it is hard to transition to this mode and still keep a playground-like excitement that drives newer products and services.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Yada, yada, yada, and this year's Most Interesting Person whinging about the younger generation is probably not going to be ElReg poster, Wonderkid. Pity because you'd be up there with people like Pliny, Aristotle, Cervantes and Churchill. Apologies for not listing the winner for every year in 'Western' history but however interesting the 3000-odd names are individually they rapidly start to sound like Matthew I.

  8. Bill

    Google interviews too "Googley"

    One Google refugee's observation about interviews stood out: "The only think Google wants to know about their candidates are their algorithms and analytical thinking skills. Nothing about technology, nothing about engineering."

    I had my first phone screen with them over seven years ago. They didn't care much about my well-known scientific insights, algorithmic inventions, business experience, etc...what mattered was "What is the C-language function call for opening a connection with a foreign host over the internet?" I answered "look it up in K&R", which was apparently the wrong answer.

    My two subsequent interview days (a couple years ago) were similar: I kept getting the same questions about the most efficient ways to sort 10^8 integers, for which I had to invent answers on the spot, having never taken a CS class myself. So Google clearly values not just "analytical" skills, but only the narrow kind of analytical skills which they themselves already prize, the "Googley" ones.

    A recipe for monoculture to be sure. Glad I didn't get the jobs after all; I would have probably been indulged, barely, as a dull old fogey.

  9. Herby

    And Microsoft is "better"?

    I think not. As was said before, Vista isn't anything to brag about. Of course when you are a monopoly, you can say lots of things. If Microsoft were split up (as was proposed back in 2000) they wouldn't have much to say. But I repeat others:

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

  10. Seán

    Dry flakey people

    Just goes to prove, some people are bred for the yoke and can't survive without eight bosses.

  11. Tom

    Is this not just a difference in culture and business focus?

    What do google sell? Adverts, right? And all their products are just excuses to stick some adverts on the side of your document.

    Microsoft are in the productivity business, so their products are aimed at work-a-day people. Cool is cool, but it doesn't put food on the table (though it may keep it fresh. Is that mixing metaphors?).

    It's not so much comparing apples and oranges as promotional pens and oranges.

    I'll get my metaphorical...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    selection bias

    Of course he's bumping into more people who left google for microsoft--because he's back at microsoft. He can't be bumping into anyone who left microsoft for google, they'd be hundreds of miles away.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google's interview process

    I've been approched the G-entity several times for moderately senior roles, and on one occasion (I normally just tell them that "compulsory fun" should be left at Butlins) let the recruiter get as far as telling me about the interview process.

    I was told that:

    "you can expect 5 or 6 additional telephone interviews, including an on-site."


    Someone's got too big an HR department!

    (Admittedly the role in question was outside the UK, so perhaps they're just trying to save time and effort).

    They even admit that they "hire by committee" on their own website...

    I don't do "hive-minds". I don't want to work in a Prozac anthill. And I don't believe in democracy in the workplace.

    If a company can't determine whether or not I'm worth hiring based on one phone interview to verify that we don't hate each other and one face-to-face to verify that I know what I claim to know and I'm not going to knife my line manager (or vice-versa), it's clearly not the kind of place where decision-making is valued!

  14. Rainer
    Paris Hilton

    Number of Rounds

    To be fair, at most places three rounds is normal.

    I can imagine if they want to expose you to a lot of people you are going to work with (or for) and see if you like each other, they'd do more rounds.

    Of course, six rounds is kind-of insane. Kafkaesque, if you want.

    I have to ask who these people are, whom you are facing in the various rounds?

    Do they have day-jobs? Do they just commute between the cafeteria, the gym and the shower while they check their Gmail accounts once in a while?

    Also, I remember a not-so-recent slashdot-story about Larry or Sergej signing-off every new hire personally until then.

    I do like Google (even without being affiliated with them) and I do dislike MSFT, but from these reports, there's something truly going wrong in there.

    That's not to say that MSFT does everything right. If only 10% of the stuff on is correct, they're in deep shit, too - although with other problems.

    Paris, because I don't know which of the two would hire her first - I suspect it would be a close call.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    The truth about triple agents

    "Ever wonder how far a tech giant would go to spy on the competition?" To think that a bunch of job wanderers are part of a covert scheme to spy on the competition is just pure nonsense. Which one of them do you think is actually spying - Google for hiring ex-Microsofties or Microsoft for hiring them back ? Or even better, maybe Google is sending them back after a yearlong "training" session ?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thats nothing!

    Here in Australia I have heard several stories about interviews going 13 rounds!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Thats nothing!

    Damn, you beat me. I was going to regale to the world with the story of my collegeue going through 11 rounds at Goldman Sachs (before getting the job).

    Here it's 1 phone and 3 face to face (1 techy, 1 business, 1 HR).

  18. Solomon Grundy

    Solyanik says

    If he thinks 10% of software is buggy, and is a problem, the he's in the wrong line of work... Software never works as advertised and successful IT people realize that. He's going to be job hunting soon.

  19. J

    But the real question is...

    But the real question is: at the end of the interview, do you have to press a button labeled "I'm Feeling Lucky"?

  20. Syd

    Not just Google, not just Vista

    None of these companies - not MS, not Google - have much incentive to improve their products - they make a ton of money as-is, and the costs of fixing them outweigh the costs of putting things right.

    I've been hearing privately from people on the SQL Server team for years that their product is broken; and last week even one of the highly on-message tech-marketing guys we have to endure basically admitted that several of the features in 2005 were released incomplete. In particular, defy anyone to use Management Studio for more than 5 minutes without finding creepy-crawlies.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Google interviews too "Googley"

    I would second that.

    Besides being a monoculture they are actually playing revolutionaries. They are not. While the rest of the industry is coming back around to understand the value of people who know more than one are Google is pretty much a replica of IBM and other mastodonts of old.

    Straddling sacred boundaries like networks/servers, networks/services or god forbit networks/servers/services is a total no-no. You must denounce any aspirations to all areas but one before you are considered for a job. Once you have made sure that you no longer have 50% of your career potential you get a long sequence of terminally dull and disfunctional phone interviews during which you are considered to be a pawn which the Empire can move anywhere it wishes.

    Anyway, overall I will agree - Google has created and is maintaining monoculture which can trivially be beaten by any company that has enough resources and is capable of bridging the interdisciplinary gaps. They will get a good smacking by someone like this sooner or later and they will very well deserve it.

  22. Rune Moberg
    Thumb Down

    Sure, blame Vista

    A colleague of mine is haunted by a Dell laptop that is really slow at booting. He continuously blames Vista, but doesn't bother tracking down the culprit (e.g. disabling superfetch might be advicable if you find yourself booting often).

    Then another colleague gets the same model laptop, only this time with XP. Again it boots _slowly_.

    What I am getting at... Maybe it isn't automatically Vista's fault. I've yet to see someone experienced, complain about Vista. My laptop hums along nicely, but I've made damn sure I know what starts after powering up my little bundle of joy. E.g. CodeGear wants to run a .net based SQL server at startup. Nope, I disabled that one (and was instantly rewarded with a more responsive startup). Antivirus? No thanks. Etc...etc...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Google interviews suck

    I interviewed with Google twice. The first time, the fucked up the phone interview three times (miscommunication, people just being in a meeting that was "more important" without anyone telling me, etc). The second time they just booked phone interviews twice, and never at the availabilities I had given them.

    Most of the HR staff I've talked to didn't know their arses from their elbows (with one or two exceptions). All the questions were biased for people just getting out of university (sorting, searching, etc. stuff you look up when you need it).

    If great people work at Google it's sure as hell not because of their hiring process but in spite of it.

    Paris, becaus she's equally clueless.

  24. Pandora

    @Solyanik says

    Hmmmm! Geat real - it depends on the code. and the developer.

    But what a concept ....Software that never works as advertised = Successful IT

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Interviewing for Google sounds a bit like Rackspace. Interviewing for Rackspace feels like you are being recruited for a cult and it's the only place where I have been so desperate to get out of the interview and as far away from the place as possible.

  26. Rob

    thing is

    we're expected to pay for MS stuff, generally not so for google, I can put up with some random bugs in a FREE service, but MS apps are well expensive, yet always revised, and still full of bugs

  27. Geoff Mackenzie

    Re: Look it up in K&R

    Does K&R cover BSD sockets? News to me.

  28. Chris C

    Shock, surprise

    So a Microsoft employee knows more people who left to join Google then returned to Microsoft than the other way around. Gee, could it be because he, himself, works at Microsoft? Big surprise there.

    People who left Microsoft to go to Google are now being re-hired by Microsoft. Big shock there, too. With Ballmer's desire to "f'cking kill Google", I wouldn't be surprised at all to see massively overwhelming bonuses and/or salaries offered to people to get them to leave Google and return to Microsoft (and I suspect they'd be generously compensated for any information they happen to bring back with them).

    10% of Google software is broken? Wow, color me shocked again. Maybe that's why they consider all of their products "beta". Nah, that couldn't be it. Like I've said before -- at least they're honest about it (as opposed to Microsoft who releases beta software as "production" quality; code which is so buggy it requires updates to patch newly-found vulnerabilities every single month, even 7 years after its release).

    Google operates like an army of 5-year-olds? Seriously, did anyone reading this think any differently? I thought we knew this years ago. The spat between the two over their private jet was a clear indicator for those not already paying attention.

    "Microsoft do software development in more professional way than Google. Their engineers are better. Their development process is better." -- Is this the same Microsoft that originally told the European court that is didn't have any documentation about its products' protocols and APIs, and thus could not provide interoperability information?

    "Their products are better." Yep, gold star there. People are jumping at the chance to shell out their hard-earned cash for Vista and Office 2007. There's a reason Dell and others and still offering systems with Windows XP, and there's a reason the few remaining copies of Office 2003 are grossly overpriced (well above the price they were selling at before Office 2007 was released). But maybe he's talking about hardware products -- how's the Xbox360 RROD situation going?

    "Google was like a kindergarden - young and not experienced enough people" -- young and not experienced are not necessarily bad qualities.

    "an office full of fun and entertainment" -- wow, we certainly wouldn't want that. Nothing kills the work ethic, makes a person miserable, and results in great levels of stress more than an office full of fun and entertainment.

    "...lack of traditions in development of high quality software products." -- but Google's role isn't to develop high-quality software products. Google's role is to sell advertising. And based on their financials every year, they seem to do a great job of it. Their software products are just the method they use to sell advertising. It doesn't need to be perfect as long as it gets the job done (as long as it sells advertising).

  29. Dan

    11 rounds? 13 rounds?!

    I'd expect to win on a points decision, bruised and battered, after that long... who on earth can you be getting interviewed by through all that, and where are these candidates that can take a dozen few-hour spells out of work to attend these things?

    My current job was a telephone pre-screen to weed out the fools, then a full day of group exercises, interviews and presentations. Longest interview I've done, but after it I did feel like I knew what I was letting myself in for.

  30. Andraž Levstik


    I had(my non google(I don't like their invasion of privacy)/non ms job(I don't like their busnisess practises))


    basicaly sent the CV and got invited for an interview

    face-to-face with CTO

    more or less a nice talk about how I would solve some of the problems they had or have

    and the regular what do you expect your pay to be etc...

    face-to-face with the boss

    about the same as the CTO

    and the regular what do you expect your pay to be etc...

    Of course both interviews where in the the 1 hour+ range(from what I hear it's mostly in the 15-45 minute range other places) but in the end I got the job.

  31. Eddie Edwards

    Berkeley sockets API not in K&R

    I don't think the Berkeley sockets API is documented in K&R. So IIRC that is a wrong answer. The correct answer is "fucking Google it", of course.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @"look it up in K&R"

    I think you didn't understand what they were looking for.

    "What is the C-language function call for opening a connection with a foreign host over the internet?"

    There's two parts to this

    1. Function call for opening a connection to a foreign host, for this you'd need BSD Sockets or similar.

    2. C language function, a minor modifier to 1, basically they wanted a low level function rather than some scripting language command.

    You answered 'Look it up in K&R' but kernighan and Richie would tell you about 'C' not sockets, so you answered the minor modifier 2. and missed the MEAT OF THE question (1.) completely.

    So yes, that was the wrong answer, worse than if you'd said 'I don't know'.

    "I kept getting the same questions about the most efficient ways to sort 10^8 integers"

    I guess you answered 'quicksort', which again is the right/wrong answer, and it looks like they gave you multiple chances to answer. What the interviewer was likely looking for is you going through an analytical process or asking pertinent questions.


    How much ram does the computer have? How many processors? (Single processor, lots of ram, just use quicksort and be damned).

    Is the data nearly already sorted? (use shellsort perhaps instead it's performance is more stable in that situation).

    Do we have massive parallel processors, .... well I haven't read up on the maths of parallel sorts, but at this point I would wing it, suggest shell sort, with each subdivision being done by a different processor (so the first pass would order the data into two halves, the next pass 2 processors would each process one of the two halves, on the next pass, 4 processors would sort the 4 quarters etc. and so on).

    By answering that, it may be the wrong answer (I bet somebody has a genius parallel sort), however I would show the interviewer I understood how the sorts work, and the ability to wing it when I face a problem I don't know the answer to. i.e. I identified that there is a way to speed up sorts of parallel machines and reasoned a way forward.

    You get the idea? It's not about the right or wrong answer, it's about identifying the underlying problem and resolving it even when you don't have that spanner in your toolkit.

  33. Snake Plissken

    The fanbois know no limits

    The story is about Microsoft being a better place to work than Google. So why the hell the usual "oh but Vista is rubbish!" bollocks.

    Jesus. Grow up, people.

    Google is like Microsoft, it has got so big despite itself, not because of anything it has done in the last few years.

  34. Caoilte
    Dead Vulture

    bunch of comment troll muppets

    If you want a new job, it's worth boning up on "just getting out of university" questions. If you're smart enough to work at Google it wouldn't take long. The technical questions would be a breeze.

    What they've established by interviewing you is that you're not committed enough to wanting the job, which probably means the recruiter shouldn't have put you forward. You're "happy" in the job you're at. End of story.

    There are disadvantages to 3+ interviews, however. If a company can't get organised enough to go from square one to making an offer in under a week, they're likely to lose the best applicants to nimbler hirers. In a buoyant economy, of course.

  35. Danger Mouse

    I've worked for both

    Google was cool as the work/life balance was/is part of the companies ethos and as Mrs Mouse had just given birth to Danger Jnr I was surely thankful to the management for allowing me to work flexi time even tho I was only a junior sysadmin at the time. Although, the software engineers/math cowboys may have had an different experience working for them, but I tried no to have much contact with them as the majority thought they were 2 Cool 4 School.

    Working for Microsoft sucked,it was like working in an accounts department. I left there to work for a cardboard box shifter called Amstrad, yes Microsoft were really that bad!.

    And before you ask, I left Google to set up on my own, having been given the options to go back if things went tits up. which was nice :).

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3+ interviews? You're having a f*cking laugh, right?

    Surely a couple of years working in any corporate environment is enough to give people the skinny on this? ie. more interviews = more internal bureaucracy at company = more rubbish getting in the way of actually doing the job. You'd want it to be bloody-well paid to be worth that kind of hassle, and even then I'm not convinced...

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Google interviews

    I was "headhunted" by Google and finally caved in to the pressure and ended up having 6 phone interviews (after sending them my CV etc)...

    Current job: location: excellent, standard of living:, country: not UK, pay: pretty good really!

    I have 10 years of software engineering experience, PhD, CEng (not that it means much), 50 papers, my own team of 6 people and lots of challenging projects. Great stuff

    Google offered me: same pay but the location would have been London and the programmer

    WTF?!?!?!! Sorry, but if that's their "fun loving culture" then no wonder people are leaving!

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Leaving Google

    I've heard similar tales of an exodus from Google. Although no tales of people heading back to Microsoft. From what I can see the problem in Google is that they have tried to grow far too quickly when they only have 1 product that works. Whatever you say about Google, they basically make most of their money from 1 thing - ad serving over search. The problems in search are really complex, but they don't require a huge team of people to solve. Google has been trying to hoover up all the best graduates for quite a while now, but from what I hear, very few of them are getting interesting projects to work on. They get attracted by this idea of a fun place to work, then get frustrated sitting in a wendy house on toadstools for meetings but without any enjoyable code to write. So a slow Exodus now is likely to get more severe in the next few years unless they can start finding interesting projects for people to work on; and from what I see that isn't happening.

  39. red floyd

    Interview and other

    @Bill : "What is the C-language function call for opening a connection with a foreign host over the internet?" I answered "look it up in K&R""

    Well, that's the wrong answer. K&R doesn't discuss the Internet. If you had said to "Look it up in Stevens", that would be different.

    My Google interview ranged from minutiae to algorithmic details, to "how would you handle this incredibly huge dataset?" I thought it was a decent interview process.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hiring Processes

    Having just graduated from Uni, I've gone through a few interviews with major companies. I'm not going to name any names, though, as I don't feel completely justified in divulging my opinions on all of them.

    All of this took place in the fall, before the economy went downhill. (My university had an excellent career services department, which gave us huge opportunities to get jobs with any size company- the school is regularly head-hunted by companies like MS, Google, Cisco, Boeing, Lockheed, etc, in addition to other events put on for smaller companies to get some time to interact with students)

    Job 1:

    Chat at career fair, get an interview for their on-campus stuff the next day.

    Interview takes two hours, one technical, one procedural/interaction based.

    Phone call the next morning asking me to stop by the location that they were still hanging out at on campus, and had a verbal offer extended then and there, written in my hands within 3 business days.

    Before offer expiration, they had set up a weekend for all the people they had offered positions to, flew them all out to the location, got them face time with other employees, managers, etc, and showed them the company facilities, general location, etc.

    Job 2:

    Talked at career fair, got interview for next day.

    Interview started late, took 5 minutes with technical side, (guy was a recent graduate from the school, and they needed a niche role, at a small company, so just mentioning classes I had taken was enough to tell him my skillset) 10 minutes with owner of company, and never heard from them again, despite promises I would.

    Job 3:

    Sent in resume.

    Phone interview, ~30-45 minutes. Used to gauge my skills and figure out what departments I might be suited for.

    Talked a couple times via phone and email over the next week, identified best time for me to fly out to location for on-site interviews.

    Flew out, had interviews with 4 different department groups, all told me at end of time if they were interested or not. (All were)

    Got called an hour after interview saying that, conditional on my answers to a security questionaire I had filled out before leaving, (it was a position that would require TS clearance) I was going to be extended an offer by the next morning, and would have my choice of departments, as all were interested.

    Had verbal offer by next morning.

    I wound up going with 1- and found out during new hire training that I was on the small end of the scale for interview times. Most people in the room went throguh 4-10 hours of interviews over a day or two, meeting with all sorts of people in the department(s) they needed to work heavily with, and making sure they knew what they said, could handle random challenges, and would be a good match for the environment.

  41. Ed

    Bugs? Wtf?

    I've never had more than a momentary hiccup with any of google's services in either IE or firefox.

  42. ben edwards
    Paris Hilton


    I like that old bugs get fixed, new ones are added (or more likely found), and that constitutes a bad workplace. Boo on Google for having such a fast turn around on issues, why, I bet Microsoft isn't so hasty to rush out a fix.

    Paris, because someone had to blow the media spin.

  43. steward
    Jobs Horns

    Unlike Microsoft...

    "The culture at Google values 'coolness' tremendously, and the quality of service not as much."

    Whereas at Microsoft, judging by their products, neither coolness nor quality of service is valued. Still one up for Google there!

  44. Yosemite Sam

    @Australian "13 rounds" AC

    Australia ... 13 rounds ... then that'd mean BEER!

    Hey, if that's the case, and it doesn't go at least 12, then I'm not interested! :-)

    (... and where, oh where, is the "pint" icon?)

  45. steogede

    Google Quality

    I reported a bug a while back to Google's support team, it is an easily repeatable bug and after about half a dozen emails I managed to get the woman in the support team to acknowledge it wasn't a browser issue and get it escalated to higher team. That was three or four months ago and there has been no progress.

    I wouldn't mind but it appears to be a relatively simple problem with their i18n. It appears that google is hiring coders who don't know the difference between UK English (EN-gb) and Ukranian (UK) locales. Visiting, sets your locale to Ukranian, which isn't a problem as most of Google doesn't support Ukranian, until you go to say

    Try it, it's quite funny.

  46. Anonymous Coward

    If Google needs interesting projects...

    to keep their people happy they could consider assigning several to work with the BSD groups. Great OSs and I'll bet they'd appreciate the help.

    Sorry, always looking for a way to plug the BSDs.

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