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Three Years of Misery Inside Google, the Happiest Company in Tech (wired.com)
252 points by jmsflknr 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 230 comments
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My eyes are hurting from seeing these articles whining about their misery while collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Most companies have issues, and these issues are not "Company" issues but PEOPLE issues. Once you're large enough, you are going to have people with differing opinions, beliefs and values. These are going to clash. If you happen to be on the losing side and don't learn to accept it, you will find yourself miserable. Accept it and solider on to change if you truly believe in your fight.

There are folks out there working minimum wage jobs who are truly miserable, back breaking labor, standing on their feet all day, standing in the hot sun or out in the cold weather, avoiding dangerous machinery and avoiding trying to be maimed or worse loose their life. Dealing with stupid harassment and constant abuse from their boss who makes a $1 more above minimum wage.

Folks out there are really going through it. It doesn't mean that we don't have tough challenges in tech, but we have become spoiled and a bunch of whiners. The majority of the population are outside the industry and they roll their eyes when these type of articles come out and these incessant complaints don't endear them to us.


My inside-FAAMNG experience has been that most employees seem to be not interested in the politics and are primarily focused on doing good work (people in their 20s), or on putting in their 8 hours and going home to their families (people >30 mostly, of course they also want to do good work, just have additional new priorities in a young family).

Then there is a vocal minority who leverage that no individual's performance really affects the money printing machine. They blatantly view the company and its resources as a means to further their political goals.

They come across as incredibly entitled and tone-deaf against the actual working class or people actually suffering from oppression (say, women being incarcerated in Iran for decades for taking off their veils, or protesters in HK). No matter how petty and entitled the request, anything denied is interpreted as some larger act of "violence" against them.

What I didn't/don't understand is why management allowed that to happen. Either they actually believe in the political goals themselves, are afraid of the conflict, or believe it just does not matter for the company.

I think what management fails to understand often is that giving in to a demand is not viewed with gratitude but merely as accepting what's naturally right and good. In other words, giving in to demands 1..n does not give you credit when demand n+1 is posed. The ultimate conflict is just delayed.


At a certain size, corporate roadmaps and people management are inevitably political. Google modifying their search criteria to participate in China's market.. is political. Google's HR department working towards demographic goals.. is political (I'm not judging its political-ness, but it ended up being political, didn't it?).

Each of the major FAAMG companies has a political/dominance issue of some kind, one that comes to mind more immediately than all the political issues associated with those companies. Taking a swag at it:

* Facebook: privacy - exploitation (personal data exploitation)

* Amazon: automation

* Apple: privacy - enforced (withholding from gov't)

* Microsoft: [I'm not even sure, they're flying low.. perhaps monopolization, or government backdoors?]

* Google: politicization/curation

I would suggest that Google's the clearest "ideation" company here, where censorship/curation is the most core part of their business model (Facebook is social media, Google is a borg-like machine collection all of the Internet and then putting algorithms around access to it), and most prone to politicization crossing the internal/external cultural barrier. [edit:spelling]


Microsoft is the oldest of them all. Microsoft had its own "teenage years" problems... maybe it has less problems these days because it's more mature?

The article mentioned participating with China in state surveillance and censorship.

Yes, but, they're not taking as much public heat for that as other companies, I would say.

True, if we're talking about PR problems and not just moral and ethical issues, Microsoft seems to be faring relatively well at the moment.

I agree completely with this.

Keep in mind that true evil is MBS ordering the murder of journalist Khasshogi. True evil is invading and conquering Crimea. True evil is murdering your generals with anti-aircraft guns or watching dogs tear them apart while still alive.

Serving banner ads across sites does not even remotely compare.


Yes and no, some of the projects mentioned in the article, like Project Dragonfly, involved developing the kind of censorship tools necessary to prop up dictators like the ones you mentioned.

That’s not whining imo, that’s standing up to exactly the breed of ‘True Evil’ you define here.

We have seen this before in tech: Nazi Germany was probably IBM’s second largest customer at the time. There is a moral imperative to not let something like that happen again.

We should all be disturbed that the executive team at Google felt that Project Dragonfly was appropriate.


So by that logic, US and like minded allies should ban their industries from working with China / Russia / Middle Eastern dictatorships? Are you advocating for complete trade barriers?

If not, why single out Google when Apple / Walmart / ... are allowed to benefit from Chinese market?


My opinion is that someone is going to be providing that service, so it might as well be me (better the devil you know than the devil you don't).

Exactly the reasoning used by arms dealers.

The world is not absolute. It would be nice to be able to take an absolutist, moral stance against things I disagree with. But as I get older, I realize that one must be able to compromise and see in shades of grey.

Compromise is important, and one doesn't need to go the way of the Sith, but giving in on your morals is pretty much what leads to problems in this world.

I agree! But also being able to compromise so that you still can wield influence is important. For example, if an American company (such as Google) does not fill the need for this service for China, that leaves the door open for other countries to fill this void -- countries which America might not want to be furnishing this service.

true evil is...

This is a straw man argument. The critique made of Google is not that has come to embody "true evil". But that it has (by degrees) slouched towards moral ambivalence, and acquiescence of (yes) evil.

Serving banner ads across sites does not even remotely compare.

I think you are perfectly aware that Google is engaged in a lot more than simply the business of serving banner ads.


True evil is also believing all crap that yellow press and country-level echo chambers produce and then to bring it at someone’s table.

While I completely disagree with a commentor who calls “not interested in politics” an euphemism, as if they were disgusting and uneducated, your set of scary factoids likely falls right into this category.


...or invading and destroying countries and countless communities across the globe with a smile on your face.

I agree with you completely!


true evil is threatening countries who wont sell oil strictly for USD with nuclear warfare

True evil would be if the Kremlin were to warn about the threat posed by Belgium or France to Russian security and the need to contain this threat and even declaring a national emergency. Like the USA did in their backyard, "that little region over here" aka South America. Crimea was a very logical step after NATO kept violating the promise made to never move an inch geographical beyond Berlin.

Did you just compare Google's advertising business to assassination, murder, and war crime?

He literally said they do not even compare.

He was contrasting them.

My BigTechCo experience has mostly been people working a 9-5 shift, and politics doesn't play into it at all. There is a general desire to avoid conflict and not be an asshole, and maybe do some occasional good with spare cycles.

The vocal minority you refer to doesn't influence my day to day or month to month. You get people posting manifestos, and people whining about XYZ, but you only butt heads with them if you actively seek them out and want to get offended.

The idea that there are some kind of political commissars reprimanding me for "whitelisting" features for certain customers, or giving out demerits for using gendered pronouns in promo packets, is a paranoid fantasy.


My experience also aligns with this. Probably, Google's open culture was okay in the early days of internet and the company. Now that political activism has spread across all the SV companies, I sincerely wish that leadership across entire tech industry squashes the noisy vocal minority. If someone is really passionate about their political cause, they should pursue it in their personal time using their personal resources.

That majority of people can afford to focus on work or put in their 8 hours and go back to their families thanks to a "vocal minority" which was able to convince others in the past to fight for new rights and for what's right.

Obviously some people think there's more to life than cashing a large paycheck and writing code. "Not interested in politics" is an euphemism for clueless and easy to manipulate by those that are.


>That majority of people can afford to focus on work or put in their 8 hours and go back to their families thanks to a "vocal minority" which was able to convince others in the past to fight for new rights and for what's right.

That it is due to a vocal minority doesn't mean it is due to this vocal minority. Not all vocal minorities are equal, and nor should all vocal minorities be treated alike.

Freedom of speech is a great thing. That doesn't mean everyone exercising their freedom to speak results in a positive.


I was drawing a comparison between the people inside Google fighting against e.g. censorship and military contracts and others which fought similar fights before them.

I did not say that the same vocal minority is responsible for all progress. Neither did I say that all vocal minorities are alike. All of this should be blindingly obvious to any adult, unless they're trying to twist words, be pedantic or generally argue in bad faith.


>That it is due to a vocal minority doesn't mean it is due to this vocal minority. Not all vocal minorities are equal, and nor should all vocal minorities be treated alike.

This is obvious and should go without saying. The parent comment gave an example of a positive consequence of an instance of this so-called "vocal minority", since the grandparent comment left no room for any positive angle on this.

I'm seriously confused how this translates into treating all "vocal-minorities" equally or that they all result in a positive.


>since the grandparent comment left no room for any positive angle on this.

I do not see this. Grandparent said "a vocal minority", which I interpret as a specific vocal minority. Like when someone says "there is a vocal person in my team who is obnoxious" - it does not imply that all vocal people in all teams are obnoxious.

My point was the example given by the person I responded to is kind of irrelevant. Yes, vocal minorities have done great things for many, many people. The GP to my comment was not talking about those, and listing positive vocal minorities that exist or have existed is irrelevant.


My interpretation of the initial comment you replied to was that pointing out that there are consequences of "vocal minorities" in the past that have led to great improvements and considering such examples almost always have significant pushback implies the possibility that perception is misplaced.

However, I see where you are coming from and thank you for clarifying.


It's not irrelevant at all. The ex-Google poster was using the fact that only a minority of Google employees are fighting for those causes to dismiss their views.

I countered by saying that vocal minorities were able to achieve great things in the past, so implicitly their arguments should be evaluated on their merit.


> "Not interested in politics" is an euphemism for clueless and easy to manipulate by those that are.

Or a polite way of saying "I fundamentally disagree with you but don't feel like getting into a debate at work, please leave me alone."

That there exists a vocal minority does not mean they are right. There exists vocal minorities calling for the dissolution of most of your most fundamental rights.


> "I [snip] don't feel like getting into a debate [snip], please leave me alone."

I do this for all manner of things, including political discussions at work. That other people don't hold this as a default position is astounding to me.


My comment was posted on an article about Google, so it follows that it's connected to the minorities inside Google which were fighting against e.g. a censored search engine in China or military contracts.

Notably absent on their list of demands was the dissolution of most of anyone's fundamental rights.


"Not interested in politics" is an euphemism for clueless and easy to manipulate by those that are.

Conversely, there are also those who are "too political" and want to bring their politics into every aspect of their lives and the lives of those around them. People like this can be as toxic as those they are speaking out against.


Indeed, reading this I have to wonder how some of the characters have time to do the jobs they were presumably hired for.

This matches my experience 100%.

> My inside-FAAMNG experience has been that most employees seem to be not interested in the politics

...or perhaps they're not interested in talking about politics with you.


Reminds me of Nassim Taleb's minority rule.

https://medium.com/incerto/the-most-intolerant-wins-the-dict...


I so agree with you. You seem cool and smart.

>>My inside-FAAMNG experience has been that most employees seem to be not interested in the politics and are primarily focused on doing good work

In other words, you could end up having absolutely no conflicts about scenarios like these: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/technology/myanmar-facebo...

Or maybe even end up patting yourself in the back at the end of the quarter for outperforming KPI (e.g. ISP marketshare increase) and get a nice bonus while you are at it.

The problem with your reasoning is that your actions at FAAMNG does not happen in a vacuum.


[flagged]


This kind of flamebait is not ok on HN. We ban users who post like this, as well as the comment which you've since deleted. Please don't add any more of this kind of thing to HN.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Could you explain what exactly makes this flamebaiting? I find the lack of modesty in the West at times appalling, so I can empathize with cultures with strict levels of modesty. It is also quite clear that women tend to behave more childlike and are less willing to take on responsibility. So it's not oppression, but cultural adaptations to biological realities. That's all.

Gender and religion are two of the issues that people have the most painful history with and the most passionate feelings about. If you make pejorative general statements about those topics, you're certain to provoke others into quick and hostile replies. That's flamebaiting.

It sounds as though you believe you're simply describing facts, but that is bewilderingly far from true. To most readers here, saying things like "women tend to behave more childlike and are less willing to take on responsibility" is an extreme provocation. It's also a strangely limited and limiting statement, since we all know many people who would sooner make such a statement about men than about women.

You mentioned empathizing; my guess is that with a bit more empathizing, you wouldn't want to say such things any more. There's too much opportunity to hurt other people and start highly reactive, zero-communication arguments with them—especially on the internet, where the lack of any mitigating information (like tone of voice, gesture, or pre-existing relationship) guarantees that people will project into your words the worst and most monstrous interpretation they can bear, whether you meant them that way or not.

Would you mind taking a look at the site guidelines at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html? I think you'll find that several of them apply to threads like this, especially this one: "Comments should get more thoughtful and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive."


Thanks. Us full-time nerds sometimes need to be reminded that people have all this emotional baggage. It is actually scientifically clear that women are childlike, both in physique (relatively large eyes and heads, shorter, weaker) and behavior (crying, emotional instability, docility etc.). Admittedly, the effects of modesty have never been studied scientifically to my knowledge, but it seems very logical that tabooing sexual signals should reduce bad feelings due to sexual competition, envy, mate guarding etc.

> It is actually scientifically clear that women are childlike

Since I just asked you not to do this and explained why at length, it seems clear that you don't want to use this site as intended. I've banned the account. If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.


> scolding a child is not oppression

This is not as self-evident as you imply.


Hitting a child is probably counter-productive. Scolding it all the time is definitely counter-productive. Scolding it in extreme situations is quite effective in my experience; this is what I was referring to.

>> Forcing women to wear veils is not oppression in the same way scolding a child is not oppression

Women can be compared with children now?


Suffering is always relative and it's a slippery slope to dismiss as whining. By this logic, 99% of issues in the US are "whining" because other countries have it much worse.

Anyone in Sierra Leone could claim to a US citizen: "Sugar lobbies are meddling with public school meals and making children diabetic? Lucky you, my country doesn't have public schools and children are starving". This of course doesn't invalidate the issue.

Having lived in a third world country it would be very easy for me to dismiss "they refuse to call me by my preferred pronoun" as whining. After immigrating into the first world, it's a clear realization to me that suffering is relative and that's necessary for civilization to continue progressing through time.


Talmudic question: what's the average fertility rate of the clientele worrying about misgendering, and how does that average relate to civilization progressing through time?

(please google Talmudic questions before downvoting parent - they're asking for consistency in my example and that's fair)

The utility of the example I gave depends on your moral values [1], which admittedly was crafted for the perceived majority of the HN crowd.

The example for me is a sign of respect for the freedom to be who you want to be, in contrast of imposing your morals on others. It's a sign of advancement to me that individuals feel comfortable with themselves, instead of wasting energy hiding trying to conform to an arbitrary standard. I spend less energy calling people how they like to be called than they would spend by being uncomfortable with themselves their whole lives. I won't get into the accounting of energy wasted, take my argument or leave it.

I'm sorry you're being downvoted without explanation - cold shoulders divide people even further.

[1] Moral values change according to time and place: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mores


The issue I see with giving in to people who want to be called a preferred pronoun is the reason they want it.

They want to be called a certain pronoun because they want to be thought of as their preferred gender. They don't really care about the pronoun. They care about the opinion it signals. An opinion they don't want people to be allowed to have. In order words, they want to change language in order to change people's thought patterns and mental models. If people were allowed to speak however they want it would break the spell. It would break the suspension of disbelief.

Having your thoughts decided for you is exertion of power and dominance that makes me deeply uncomfortable. It is no small thing to give up.


The M/F/Congenitally-Infertile distinction is not an "arbitrary standard", but rather a natural kind, and the essence of reproduction of the species.

Morality is something we impose upon ourselves and others precisely to coordinate the polity, in order avoid or manage conflicts (e.g. driving on the left vs driving on the right).


I think critics of preferred pronouns would argue that there are virtually no Americans who have problems as trivial as the pronoun issue; that it’s a contrived problem. In other words, it’s not that suffering is relative—everyone agrees on that—the disagreement is about the ordering.

puts on international hat

Actually, all of you Westerners[1] are rich entitled whiners. You have consistent access to clean water that comes straight to your house, you even have a house, with insulation and carpets no less. You have a cornucopia of diverse and nutritious foods, and your social institutions will even feed you if you're poor! Not only do you have all these necessities, even your poor people have opulent expensive toys like cars, TVs and cell phones!

1. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/west...


> all of you Westerners[1] are rich entitled whiners

This is provably wrong, many people are not whiners no matter which country you look at.


From another perspective, you could say Westerners are people who don't let others have the best of them and bring them down. That they have incredibly high expectations and standards. That they don't take no for an answer. And they will assert themselves and their rights strongly, vocally and openly. Or in other words, give me liberty or listen to me ask for it until I die.

Now the question becomes, how much is this attitude responsible for all the richness you described? If it is partially or fully responsible, then others should adopt it as well, and they'd be better off "whining" as well.

Let's give a scenario, two kids at a table, one shouts "I demand desert". The other responds "Stop whining, I didn't even get to eat anything, at least you got an entree". Whose most likely to get what they want? Maybe the other should have whined instead: "And I demand a full meal!"


We have safe potable water for now. As public investment continues to lag we will see more Flints in the US.

California does not provide safe tap water to all residents: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/24/us/the-crisis-lurking-in-...

A $2000 rusty car, a $40 used tv, and any cellphone made in the last 10 years do not equal opulent expensive toys in my eyes. There are homeless people with these three things. The 'welfare queen' of your conservative fantasies does not actually exist.

That's exactly the point. Even homeless Westerners have access to expensive toys. And opulent wealth is taken for granted so much that Westerners don't even see owning a rusty car, used tv, and cellphone as noteworthy.

It's written from the perspective of someone living in a mud hut and probably not on your continent.

I find this argument so facile. You can agitate for greater labor rights - I don't see why anyone would be convinced by: "but look how much more shitty these other workers lives are."

Exactly - and managers would do that to tech workers in a second if they could. Let's make the best of our negotiating position while we can.


The thing is, much of this is not about their own conditions. Much of it is about the way the company treats other people, either within or outside the company.

If worker-boss relationships can't be fixed at a company where the workers are economically valuable and highly educated, how can that be propagated downwards to the rest of the economy? Do people actually want it fixed, or are they more afraid of their fellow workers than their abusive boss?


Of course people with minimum wage jobs have it worse. That doesn't negate problems experienced by people at FAANG-level companies. It's especially interesting to hear about problems at these companies, as they're usually considered paradise, when in actuality they have problems like everywhere else, usually just different ones.

The average tenure at these companies is ~2yrs, so clearly the money isn't worth it for most people. It's interesting to hear why that is without dismissing any possible problem out of hand.


I regularly have chuckles with friends about entitled tech workers. Complaining about the type of bottled water, the gym compensation plan, the type of company laptop.

It's really sad.


Recently, they were discussing how to best secure their offices because a deranged woman came to the office and tried to kill all of them. [1]

And yes, they're also human and discuss whether single-use water bottles are bad enough that they're worth replacing, how best to keep fit so that they don't cost their employer-funded health care program too much in the long run, and yes, like many nerds, they discuss the type of laptop they like best.

But hey, if it makes you feel better to judge people, go for it.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YouTube_headquarters_shooting


Oh, don't joke about the type of laptop

Our boss knows that having TrackPoint is a "conditions of employment" issue. Yes, it's a privilege... at the same time, it's what we spend 50+hrs of week on, so it needs to not cause ergonomic and usability issues every second of every minute of the day ️


I get people get all riled up about this. Even more when they are young and have no real perspective.

But it gives tech workers in general a really bad vibe. Pompous, spoiled brats.

Of course, most of these people are nice human beings, but somehow they get lost in minutiae and 0th world problems the moment they join some hot startup.


Yes, we can have discussions about 1st world problems of work conditions that don't involve hazardous machinery or manual labor, or have poor wages.

But that whole "don't complain, people have it worse" vibe extends to almost anyone living in the United States vs other countries where money means nothing, rule of law doesn't exist, or the mother country is about to slaughter thousands of people for wanting democracy.

The point is: Maintain perspective, but still continue bitching about the uncomfortable chairs.


> the type of company laptop.

Fun fact: when Google employees had Windows laptops, the government of China hacked them, trying to steal identifying information about dissidents.

Do you have state-funded hackers attacking your laptop so they can kill people?


Why is it "entitled" to make demands of your employer if you are in a position to make demands? Do you also "chuckle" at people who try and negotiate pay raises or more vacation days?

No, but some of the things people get worked up over in the tech industry can get silly, especially the ones with less experience who see themselves as temporarily embarrassed 10Xers. It’s usually in proportion to how overly seriously they take themselves, and it’s often from manufactured conceit to cover up insecurity about other things in their lives. It’s not most people but it’s definitely a type you encounter in places like SV.

But think about the starving children in [insert some county here]!

Quite common fallacy and useless misdirection. Article is not about minimum wage work struggles but about a struggle of people with particular skill set in particular environment. Not sure how your inappropriate outburst and lack of focus is relevant here?


My eyes are hurting from seeing these articles whining about their misery while collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Multiple easily findable sources suggest that the median tech salary at Google is well below $150k -- probably more like around $130k.

I get your point about the "whining" -- but while the average Google definitely does better than someone with a non-tech salary -- it most cases they aren't bulge-bracket either, or anywhere near it.


I think you're looking at pay minus stock options. True median comp at Alphabet is closer to $250k [1], which if you have two workers in a household puts you in the 1%.

[1] https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2019/01/08/median-t...


Not disputing that I may be horribly wrong -- but the same source puts Larry Page's (obviously symbolic) compensation at $1 (ignoring equity) - so I'm not sure what to make of it.

Lol, let me guess, you are citing glassdoor which still uses data from a decade ago in their average. 150k is new grad rates these days and senior engineers are making on average 350k [0].

[0]: https://www.levels.fyi/salary/Google/


This is a really bad take.

It's not a valid argumentative tactic to dismiss legitimate concerns as "whining", especially since you haven't addressed the substance of the issue at all, and it's pure what-aboutism and crab mentality to suggest that because somewhere there exist people who have it worse, you shouldn't try to make things better.


In developer words, it’s zeroth world problems.

Yes it is miserable to work in Google but you're getting proportionately compensated for your misery so you can't complain of injustice.

What is your point ? you seem to be objecting that some googlers have politics (which would be considered mainstream in many countries and companies) which disagrees with yours.

I'm not really getting your point. Is it: There are people who have it worst, so we need to stop trying to have it better? Because if so, that's a logical fallacy: https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Not_as_bad_as

Or are you saying that, this kind of article will not win us sympathy from the greater populace, and we should adopt a different strategy in that regard?

Or something else?


>There are folks out there working minimum wage jobs who are truly miserable, back breaking labor, standing on their feet all day, standing in the hot sun or out in the cold weather, avoiding dangerous machinery and avoiding trying to be maimed or worse loose their life.

And that is also very unacceptable.


> To invent products like Gmail, Earth, and Translate, you need coddled geniuses free to let their minds run wild.

That statement needs to be challenged. The Montessori method might be great at small scale in an educational context, but that doesn't mean it's a great way to run a company worth most of a trillion dollars. Yes, empowering employees is good. Yes, having a few "coddled geniuses" to drive basic science or radical innovation is good too. OTOH, having every single engineer haring off in random directions all the time might not be so great. I believe this boundary-less freedom to focus on whatever's most interesting and ignore everything else is why issues like privacy and social impact have been routinely shortchanged at companies like Google and Facebook. We've seen where that leads. (It leads to some characteristic technical problems too but that's not the topic right now.)

"Don't be evil" and similar promises don't fulfill themselves. At FAANG scale, sticking to such promises requires a certain amount of focus and discipline every working moment, not just a few people spending more time on internal groups/lists than doing technical work. I know that's going to rub most employees at those companies the wrong way, but that doesn't make it untrue.

P.S. I work at one of those companies. I do know how they work, and I'm not criticizing for criticism's sake. I'm trying to get at what I think is necessary for me and my colleagues to better ourselves and do things we can be proud of.


  That statement needs to be challenged. 
  The Montessori method might be great at small scale in an educational context, but that doesn't mean it's a great way to run a company worth most of a trillion dollars. 
  Yes, empowering employees is good. Yes, having a few "coddled geniuses" to drive basic science or radical innovation is good too. 
  OTOH, having every single engineer haring off in random directions all the time might not be so great.
Your whole post seems to be very reasonable, but there is one thing I'd like to mention, which is that you will immediately run into problems if you have rigid standards for what constitutes a "genius" and who is part of the just "the normal engineers". A "genius" can't very easily be defined. Historical examples like Mozart or Einstein make it easy to think that there are only a few geniuses whose talent is immediately entirely obvious to everyone, and the rest of society is merely average.

That is not true. To bring that kind of potential about in many people who thought they were not geniuses prior to encountering an environment where their skills are fostered is one of the greatest advantages a company could possibly have.

Some might just call this "good HR", or "caring about people". I have worked in companies where there were people who truly cared about their employees and about their strengths (and who could not afford the obvious "geniuses") and who thus almost "created" these geniuses. I know there are many ways in which I am simplifying this and I know that no company should try to employ purely geniuses. I have worked in a small team of six "very, very advanced" people in their respective fields. It was basically impossible to create any kind of cohesion. I would suspect it would be similar with other teams of "geniuses". Maybe not, but I think you are overall right in what you say, but it is so incredibly important to understand that the lines between a "genius" and a "run of the mill" developer may be more blurred than most people expect.


Fair point. To clarify, I think of "coddled genius" as a good-to-have role, not a descriptor of a person. In fact, I think it's even better if multiple people rotate through that role. A permanent division between "people who play" and "people who work" (as I put it at one job) is bad for both groups, and for the product/company. The point I was making was that not everybody should be in that role, but I neglected to point out that it shouldn't be too limited either. Both the percentage of people in that role and the standards to which they are held (different than those in more traditional product-oriented roles) should be intentional, not the result of applying a universal culture or management style more appropriate to an elementary school than to a place of business.

I find it somewhat hypocritical that this article describes Google as a safe haven of dissent and open discussion, while it is pretty unanimous that expressing even slightly right-of-center opinions at Google will have you ostracized and possibly fired.

I can't really speak from experience but almost certainly it follows that open dissent will be greeted with open dissent.

As for retaliation, that's something else.


Google circa 2010 and Google circa 2019 are very different companies.

The article did a good job of explaining the events that led to that. Basically just a bunch of internal controversies involving shit-slinging, leaks, and basically what has become the standard for internet discussion in the past few years have combined to erode the trust and protections employees had to openly discuss even their far-right/left beliefs without retaliation.

This line is a gem:

> “Everyone thought Google had an absolute right to stop you from talking about anything related to Google"

So, safe and open - as long all speech and action is completely controlled by the company.

PS - Google's corporate political line and that of most of its employees, from what it looks like, seems to have been aligned with the corporate/right-wing of the Democratic party, i.e. right of center even of US public opinion.


"Completely controlled" is not accurate, but yes, not talking about Google outside work was the deal. It was a good deal. That's what made it work, up until the company started leaking like a sieve.

Have you ever worked under those conditions? It's incredibly distracting.

The alternative to trustworthiness and self-control is Apple-level secrecy. (And even they are leaking a lot these days.)


I'm willing to bet you have a pretty wild idea about what "slightly right of center" means. The most recent "conservative" Googler in the news whining about being fired (Cernekee) was an open white supremacist.

I'll bite just because I'm curious.

I support strong border control and Canadian style immigration (point based/merit based).

Where on the spectrum do you believe this idea lies?


As of now the most popular comments here seem to decry the notion that anyone making six figures could ever relay an experience of misery. This is utterly non-sensical.

The article, to me, seems to imply that perhaps working at a radically free corporation doesn't yield pure bliss and benefit.

Is there some reason this article needs to balance out any possible misery with all the luxurious amenities Googlers enjoy? Does anyone actually think that it's not possible someone could have a miserable experience at Google?


I have to say, I think the article has a very poor title. Most of the people discussed said they really liked working at Google, most of the time. They felt their jobs were interesting, did important work, and had impact.

The "misery" I think is talking about the company, not the employees per se. None of the employees in the article claimed they were miserable... and as you can see the simple word "misery" has totally allowed the conversation to bypass anything substantive about Google's policies and focus only on feeeeeelings that aren't even in the article.

I think someone could be miserable at Google. Humans have a remarkable capacity for misery in all sorts of circumstances!


> None of the employees in the article claimed they were miserable

Not in so many words, but many quit for cultural reasons and (at least perceived) retaliation. Others are engaged in lawsuits, presumably not out of pure joy.


What's interesting is that the folks in the article who quit are about half on the 'right' and half on the 'left'. Does this mean Google is doing things well.... or not?

Reading the article, I got a sense that the ones who quit seem to be the outliers who were more interested in pursuing non-work related goals rather than focusing on work. Good for Google, it seems!

> that it's not possible someone could have a miserable experience at Google?

I think that. Google employees are at the top of the pyramid, so if the article was true, they would have left for an almost identical salary nearby. The fact that they don't means that either google pays way above its direct competitors (it doesnt) or these people are outright lying, and their actions speak louder than 12k words


I disagree. Concluding that because they don't "just switch jobs" means they're being dishonest seems very flippant.

In fact, the idea that any organization on the planet could be exclusively a place where only happiness exists, and no one could be misfit, is patently absurd.

I see an implication in your response that money buys happiness and there are no other significant factors worth mentioning. Am I wrong?


If you are the sort of person who enjoys bringing your politics to work then naturally you will stick around as long as possible at a company that permits or at least tolerates it.

Fong-Jones, Whittaker, and Stapleton did resign as per this story.

hi, I'm at honeycomb.io now, and having a blast! :)

Where in the article does anyone say they're miserable, though?

I sense there are certain parallels between this article and the one recently on HN about the challenges at Yale. As an "outsider" to both Yale and Google, I admit the problems in both cases seem over-wrought, but I can't deny that the people involved feel very emotionally invested so I am still curious to see what can be learned.

Both articles present insider perspectives lamenting how internal conflicts within highly exclusive organizations were pushed into the public sphere through leaking and protesting. Both organizations are experiencing disconnects between people in various roles (admins vs students, execs vs employees) and a sense of loss of culture.

So my thoughts are:

- is this a generational culture shift? Less trust in internal systems and better access to outside publishing means young people aren't making a real effort to stay within the system to discuss?

- is "internal transparency" an impossible thing at scale in the modern era? Keeping things internally private doesn't work because you only need one bad actor out of thousands to leak everything?

- are the culture of Yale and Google really that special, or were they just really well marketed? Why are people so personally and emotionally invested in these organisations? Are all big orgs like this now, or were the cultures at these particular spots just well evolved for loyal following?


We're reading about them because they are the center of attention and they leak.

But I also have a sense that lots of things that were considered positives in the early days of the Internet have become negatives, or are simply taken for granted. For example, growth was once considered good, but now it's bad. Giving services away for free is ho-hum at best and maybe suspicious. Trying to fix Internet problems is greeted with deep suspicion based solely on who is doing it. Personalization was once good, but now it's bad. And so on.

That's inevitably going to result in a different internal culture at an Internet company than back in the days when Google's search engine first appeared on the Internet and got near-universal respect.


Wow, that was a fun read - a reminder why I support Wired with a digital subscription.

I have some sympathy for Google, as flawed as they sometimes might be. I base this on experience working as a contractor at Google and also having just retired from a job managing a deep learning team at a large financial institution. Both companies seemed (to me) to make a large effort in diversity, ethics, etc. training and a general atmosphere of fairness.

That said, problems occur in large organizations. Really off topic, but I dream of a world with smaller corporations, a more decentralized world. I don’t know how we are going to get there.


I have a feeling Amazon would not tolerate this level of push back to products and business strategy (and they have the corresponding "don't care" reputation!).

Google management seems to give in so much and if you are a GOOG shareholder you could have a real case here (re the Maven project). [Disclosure: I am not a GOOG shareholder]. Management has to keep the interests of the company at heart - they are legally bound to do whats best for the company. One could argue that getting involved in AI+Warfare is bad for the image of the company, but the revenue it brings in as well as getting an entry into defense dollars would be a huge benefit for its nascent cloud division.

Whether you like it or not, employees will have personal opinions and it is great to accommodate their expression of such opinions. However, as a public company, GOOG management has legal obligations too. As conflicts with and demands of management increase, and it impacts revenue, we shall see top level management excuse themselves from interacting this openly with employees.

Unfortunately, more open and liberal companies are also more susceptible to such attacks and lawsuits when compared to a corp that is more authoritarian.


For a company like Google, which is highly dependent on getting and keeping highly skilled tech workers, "What is good for the company" often involves keeping employees happy.

Google got to where it is by aspiring to have the best working conditions available, and much of its talent came for that reason. You can build companies other ways--just like Amazon did--but changing that deal out from under the employees who came based on that deal would be quite disruptive and result in turmoil during the transition.

Would things be better for the company coming out the other side of such a transition? Hard to say, but the costs would be quite high.


The supposed legal requirement to do "what is best for the company" is overrated. All sorts of things can be justified as best for the company. It's not really anything that company lawyers worry about. There is company training to make sure nobody does illegal things, but it's not focused on shareholder value.

Shareholder value is more of a pervasive cultural thing. Most people and certainly everyone in charge has stock or stock options, so naturally everyone wants the stock to go up. People are also rewarded for increasing revenue. There are OKR's. And this is all justified as aligning the interests of the employees with the shareholders.

However, just because you have incentives to be pro-business doesn't prevent you from putting other considerations first when that's what's important to you. The pro-business bias is often not that strong, but it's persistent and pervasive.

It would be interesting to compare how this plays out in different companies.


Google is effectively controlled by Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt through their voting shares. In fact the stated reason for having a dual class of shares was so they can "manage the company for the long run".

Everyone here seems to think that if you have a good job you shouldn't be involved in labor organizing, because everyone else has it worse?

Isn't the point that everyone should be organizing because working conditions everywhere are much worse than they could be, and the organizing at Google is a case study for how organizing works at one particularly unusual company?


Furthermore, those who have a good job are the most empowered to organize because they don't have to worry about how they will put bread on the table.

It's disappointing that the author didn't take the opportunity to choose language that didn't provide a distinct slant to the article. An objective tone would have been totally achievable and this would've been marked as a fairly good summation of a rather tumultuous few years for the giant.

But half-credit for the summary of Demore's views. It was surprisingly even handed about that other than saying he thought women were per se neurotic.

Tonally, it is telling that some personalities had descriptions of their emotional states (from what source?) while others only had their actions and opinions described.


One key misrepresentation:

> In the memo, Damore wrote that hiring practices aimed to increase diversity “can effectively lower the bar” at Google.

Damore wrote that Google "...lowered the bar by reducing the false negative rate." Unsurprisingly, almost every news outlet chopped off the last 6 works of the sentence.


fwiw, "neurotic" in the way he used it was specifically the psychology definition, where it's one of the main personality traits in people. The popular definition doesn't really match this.

There's no way of knowing from the outside, but this seems relevant: "For this article, WIRED spoke with 47 current and former Google employees. Most of them requested anonymity."

Spot on. It was an otherwise very thorough retelling of the Google timeline.

that’s not what wired is about. don’t be disappointed at the author.

The comments here, paraphrased: those entitled tech they don’t know how much better they have it than people under oppressive governments, how dare they use their position to try to prevent their companies from helping oppressive governments!

Lots of folks here are complaining there's no TL;DR, and I find that many of the comments (including my previous comment here) are essentially irrelevant to the article & simply rehashing the same old things we always talk about on HN... getting to be like old married people here....

So here's my TL;DR, in an effort to refocus the conversation to what I think is interesting about the article.

* First, the article does not discuss personal misery at all, so if you're talking about rich people whining about their problems, notice you're in old-married-people conversation mode, having an irrelevant yet comfortable and reassuring conversation.

* The article is long and has a broad arc, contrasting "don't be evil" with 1) Google's steps and missteps in China, 2) Google's tensions with the US government, and 3) Google's controversies over sexual harassment payouts and the Damore memo (HN's favorite!).

1 & 2) The article alternates employee walkouts over the Trump travel ban (tension with US gov), the initial entry into the Chinese market (tension with the employees and the US gov), the exit from the Chinese market (Google employees in China sad, US employees joyful), the Maven project (working for US Dept of Def, trying to downplay it to employees), the political backlash for dropping Maven (US Gov: Google is evil & unpatriotic), and the Dragonfly project for bringing Google back to China (unpatriotic like I said right?).

* The geopolitical push and pull is discussed in terms of employee opinions and government opinions. The harassment and diversity issues are discussed in terms of employee opinions and media and internet opinions/doxxing/etc. The larger idea is to compare the internal and external forces pushing on Google and Alphabet's C-suite and examine where they're going.

So. Do you think the comparison of internal activism re: Dragonfly & Maven to internal activism re: the harassment payouts is warranted? To what extent should Google be following the lead of its employees, and how should it do that when employees disagree? Do capitalism and "not being evil" fundamentally conflict?


The only thing the article conspicuously omits is that the controversies were regularly hashed out on HN, Reddit, etc. A Martian reading the article might assume the controversy mostly stayed on Google internal platforms and right-wing corners of the internet. As you point out, that was clearly not the case.

> To invent products like Gmail, Earth, and Translate, you need coddled geniuses free to let their minds run wild.

A cute meme that people like to repeat because it 'sounds right', not really accurate. Gmail was someone's pet project, Earth was purchased, and Translate was a boring statistical analysis program for 10 years. I mean, really, how "wild" does your mind have to be to write a crappy CRUD app or design an algorithm?


You're being downvoted but I agree with you. Most of the work here at Google is frankly of the very boring day to day software engineering slog -- bisecting crashes, fixing emergency issues, reading and writing long documents. Coddled geniuses doesn't really describe how things get done. It's more like, keep the geniuses (or not-geniuses) coddled, so they don't get annoyed with doing what is really not-very-sexy work :-)

To me, Google Maps/Earth seems to be one of the most advanced web apps in the world.

Gmail and Translate are, indeed, not extremely exciting.


At the time Gmail was introduced, it's hard to overstate how groundbreaking and influential it was. Totally raised the bar for web apps everywhere by making effective use of XHR, which at that time was hardly known even to web developers. An absurdly large amount of storage space (1GB when Hotmail was 10MB, IIRC?), fast and effective search. There's a reason Google was the most loved and respected company in tech for years, and IMHO Gmail was a huge part of that.

But does it really take a coddled genius whose mind runs wild to develop a modern web app and give it lots of storage space? Or was it just a cool idea that a team of regular-old software developers decided to implement?

Lots of teams of regular-old software developers have done cool stuff over the years, but in this case, it happened to be a coddled genius. At least that is the story we've consistently been told over the years. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Buchheit

I'm pretty sure there were plenty of geniuses on the Hotmail team at the time, too--maybe they weren't being coddled enough in the Ballmer era! ;)


Not sure why your comment is being downvoted. It's completely accurate and welcomed counterpoint to a common misconception.

Read the 1st part. Didn't understand a thing.

What is this article about, anyway?


> What is this article about, anyway?

Privileged people making lots of of money acting like spoiled kids despite having limitless alternative options.


Got it. Skiping it.

Thanks for the tldr.


>What is this article about, anyway?

It's about 12000 words long.


This is the most shocking part

> “the only way to deal with all the heads of the medusa is to no-platform all of them.”

Shouldn't it rather be the heads of the hydra ?


Gorgons have snakes growing from their hair and presumably that's what's being referred to (though I agree that the author of the quote is probably confused).

But "the medusa" is also an error at another level, because one should write either "Medusa" or "the gorgon". Medusa was the name of a specific gorgon.


It's worth a watch if you haven't seen Joe Rogan's podcast with James Damore. I think it adds some much needed context: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ1JeII0eGo

This is so sad. You should guys all quit in protest. You deserve better than this. I mean it, goo

goo is listening!

In my opinion, this is why workplaces should be neutral and no personal ideologies or beliefs shouldn't be allowed to be expressed to keep it that way.

lesson learned: large companies can afford to be wasteful.

google can afford to fight all these ideological battles and employee spats because of their large revenue. If they weren't raking in so much dough, I doubt they would be willing to humor employees complaints on the scale cited in Wired (an entire social network for employees and supported by the company?). I'm sure similar incidents occur at other large corporations. They definitely happen at mid-sized companies, albeit with lower intensity. working in HR for google must be quite the safari


Well, yes, and there are lots of other things Google can do because they have so much money, like their various research projects.

But remember that Google+ was a company-wide initiative intended to compete with Facebook, which is kind of a big deal. Yes, they had lots of money to throw at it, but it was for a purpose.

The internal version was originally for testing. (Also, the business version of Google+ is still a product as part of G suite.)


I don't think "misery" isn't the right word here.

happiness = reality - expectations

if you expect reality, you have zero happiness?

Yes, but I interpret it as: you'd be content; no positive or negative change in happiness.

Of course it's just a pseudo equation.


so if you expect more then reality, you have negative happiness because you will never get it?

Yes, but not because you'll never get it. It's just that at that moment the reality of your situation is different than what you expected (in a negative way).

Tried to read article. It's long and meandering, lede is buried. Is there a TLDR somewhere?

Notice, this is long article. Around 12 000 words or 30 pages.

Does Wired even have editors? Any editor who's not incompetent beyond belief would have told Nitasha Tiku that it's not necessary to include every single detail from three years' worth of notes. In fact, the excess verbiage makes it less impactful than it could have been. A good editor would have trimmed this to one half or even one third of its current length, and it would have been better without the bloat.

Don't be ridiculous. The New Yorker regularly has articles of this length if not longer. It's ordinary longform journalism.

There's nothing wrong with something being longer if the content warrants it. Complex topics require lengthy exposition. But that requires the writer to write, to arrange and connect things into a coherent narrative. That's not what happened here. This is a thin article, padded out to novella length with repetition and irrelevancy. Again, it's not bad that the article exists. It just needed a better editor.

It's endless and it doesn't get to the point.

What is the point?

I think the article tries to make the following case:

1. There's a ton of dissatisfaction in the Google employee base

2. It's distracting company management and hurting the company core mission (making cash)

3. It won't go away any time soon

(FWIW, I believe the case is overstated.)


That the company culture ain't what it used to be.

I generally enjoy longform journalism but this is an exhausting read.

May have been better as a series of articles.


Google will have no problem identifying the infidel based on a phrasing analysis.

What's the TL;DR?

Spend 5 min reading the first few blocks couldn't make out what's this about.


Do Google employees understand that most people hate their jobs and you work because you have to?

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in action.

I never know how seriously to take Maslow. It resonates intuitively for some people I guess. But he just made the theory up. There's not a lot of scientific evidence to support it.

"In their extensive review of research based on Maslow's theory, Wahba and Bridwell found little evidence for the ranking of needs that Maslow described or for the existence of a definite hierarchy at all"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs#Cr...


it would be very difficult to convince me that maslow's hierarchy is wrong.

I don't mean the specifics of the hierarchy, but the idea behind it. Sure, maybe the specific hierarchy isn't right, but the idea that some needs have to be satisfied before a person can contribute to other needs is absolutely spot on. I know this from life experience. So to convince me that the underlying idea is wrong would take a hell of a lot of evidence.


There's algae in the tube feeding the ice machine in my company's break room, multiple wet ceiling tiles all year long, signs telling us to literally not wipe our feces on the walls in the bathroom, shared desks with other shifts, a constant smell of mold and I make 35k a year, no chance of promotion at all without taking on tens of thousands of dollars of debt to get a 4-year degree in literally anything, at a rabidly anti-union company, in a state where an employee can basically fire you for no reason at all.

Man, I wish I had the problems of these Goooglers.

Sure, sexism and racial discrimination is bad bad bad, but this happens at the vast majority of employers. If I and/or my co-workers tried to do one of these walkouts, security would be there when we came back to take our badges and tell us to leave or the police would be called.

I find it extremely difficult to feel any sympathy for these folks because they have it much better than I do, and extremely better than millions of people in the United States and billions of people worldwide.

A cursory Google search (ha, maybe I should have used Bing) on-site physicians, paid PATERNITY leave, death benefits, leave of absence to pursue education, having Google on your CV probably helps tremendously if you try and get a job somewhere else, Google allows employees to spend 20% of their time pursuing a project that they are passionate about, apparently Googlers can bring their pets to work, have access to all sorts of other benefits like shuttles/food/recreation that simply do not exist for the vast majority of people in the world.

The lifter in my work chair has been broken for years now, it has recently started tilting to the left as well, it is 12 years old. Our windows 10 upgrade removed a functional calculator, something I use every few minutes, requiring me to either buy a calculator or use Google for work-related maths. There are 3 microwaves and 2 small refrigerators for 100~ employees. In the winter the upper 60's are not uncommon in the office with the upper 70's and lower 80's not uncommon in the summer with business casual dress mandatory. Need to go to the doctor, be prepared to at least take a half day which you have to request well in advance most of the time with about a month and a half blacked out every year where no one can take time off. Need a personal day, well you better fake sick and call in and if you call in 2-3x in a 6 month period you're now on their radar and risking verbal warning territory.

I'm sorry, but I just can't feel sorry for them.


Your entire premise is fallacious. It's responding to someone complaining about an injustice by saying there are starving children in Africa. Your situation sounds awful and if you are that miserable I would be happy to help with anyone that I know that has open positions, depending on your concentration. That being said, saying things like: "Sure, sexism and racial discrimination is bad bad bad, but this happens at the vast majority of employers." is not acceptable in my opinion. It's defeatist and dismissive. No one should just accept an injustice because it happens everywhere. That's simply not how civilization should work.

The main point of this meandering article that I'm gathering, and that's being kind since it's basically a 'book' about notable events at Google over the past few years, is the erosion of communication and transparency between the upper echelons of Google and the lower level employees. The amount of doxxing in particular really scared me.


I agree with you that dismissing sexism and racial discrimination on the grounds that it happens most places is unacceptable.

And I agree that there is a problem there, we should talk about it, doxxing is awful, and injustice needs to be tackled at every level.

However, I think your response is partly fallacious, in that the GP is not comparing a local situation to far away starving children in Africa.

Rather, in that analogy, they _are_ one of the starving children, like in Africa, and to rub it in it's in the same neighbourhood. Both make quite a different perspective, I think.

I think the GP's point was more that they struggle to feel sympathy for the Googlers, when they themselves are in a much worse situation, which they regard as just realistic life in their world for ordinary people.

I think they wanted to paint a picture for the rest of us of what "real life" is like for a lot of people in exactly the same country, lest we forget, and start to think it's generally good except at Google.


I think the premise has merit. I work at a Big4 with a, as of yesterday, larger market cap than Google and our company culture isn't dysfunctional as this article would suggest.

The Schmidt idea that they have to keep their "divas" like Andy Rubin seems not to be yielding results.


Anthony Bourdain committed suicide despite a wildly financially successful and engaging life. I hear constant anecdotes about how messed up (drug use, suicide, etc) the children of rich people are.

At the end of the day we're all going up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and as you get closer to the top you start freaking out about existential stuff the same way people working the bottom freak out about physical necessities. If you started out fairly close to the top (i.e. born to the upper middle-class, like many Googlers) then that existential stuff is likely the only type of challenge that's ever consistently existed in your life, which gives it even more weight. So you focus on it and don't appreciate the benefits of being a Googler. That's just expected after a while.

It's not all decadence though, in my experience a lot of people who had to rise from humbler origins are actually held back by their relative conservatism; they stop improving at a certain point because they don't prioritize the existential stuff as much. I work with some engineers hailing from blue-collar backgrounds who give me weird looks when I tell them about my side projects, they're shocked I mess around with tech outside of work. Why would I want to do work when I don't have to? How is it fun? It's like I told them I was mining coal in my backyard. As a result I sometimes know things about their work that, despite their fundamental competence, they never learned.

Plus, we need people to agonize about the existential stuff (although perhaps in a more coherent manner than this article). If everyone was satisfied with basic material needs things like sexism and racial discrimination would never get addressed (What do you care you didn't get that job you wanted? You still have a roof over your head and food in your stomach!)

Misery knows no social class, and everything's a trade-off.


If it makes you feel any better, I work at Google, but have found toilets with pee all over the floor and toilet seat and much worse I'd rather not talk about. :-)

Googlers are the first to admit we're spoiled. _Most_ of us are conscious of our privileges compared to other workers.

But as others have pointed out that doesn't mean we should turn a blind eye to issues of sexism and lack of diversity, attitudes towards minorities, etc. which are issues more _parallel_ to the privileges you're describing than in contradiction to it.


I think the issue is how strongly people are complaining.

For example.

I think we can all agree that sexism is bad, and that in a perfect world your coworker would not be looking at you with "hungry eyes". But the world isn't perfect, and you have a coworker who is attracted to you. Maybe even a bit too flirty.

But then people treat this as if the coworker is a horrible human being rather than maybe just an oblivious or socially awkward person who isn't really trying to cause any sort of harm. And this behavior then gets equated with sexual assault, "violence", and so forth.

The perspective is all skewed. It's not nearly as large of a problem as they're making it out to be. There was a story a while back about a woman who realized her drink (coffee I think) would start tasting strange in the middle of the day so she took it to a lab and had them analyze it. It turns out one of her male coworkers had been ejaculating into it when she walked away. THAT is horrific. Your male coworker being a bit flirty is not nearly on the same level, but people treat it as if it is. And that's where the problems arise.

And you just watch, atleast one person is going to respond to me affronted and imply that I must be arguing that it's ok for unwanted attention, or that I believe it can't cross unacceptable lines. It absolutely can, that's not the point.


Actually that makes me feel worse. I've never fully understood that sort of bathroom etiquette, even when it happens in a public restroom at a public park (which is common). But, to hear it happens within Google makes me lose a little bit of hope that we will ever achieve a civil and courteous society.

I really hope you're treating your job like a gig to tide you over until you find something better. That environment will crush your soul. Don't let it become your life.

Regardless of what your employer thinks, you don't need a four year degree to make a good living. There are lots of fulfilling careers that don't require you to go to college. On the other hand, if you get a solid engineering degree, you can take on a few tens of thousands of dollars of debt. If you want to study liberal arts, then you should look for ways do it without spending so much money. It can be done.

Figure out what your goals are and what you need to do to achieve them. I'm sure it won't involve staying indefinitely at your current job with the algae in the ice machine.


Disclosure: I work at Google, and in absolutely no way do I speak for anyone other than myself.

Your situation is awful. In fact, it's so bad that no one should ever have to be in it, and you're absolutely right that ours is eons better.

That doesn't mean this is the way things must be.

All of those benefits you listed—they are things that any decent society would provide. The fact that Google choosing to be decent is not only so rare, but also contempt-inducing in people who are ground down by other companies is a staggering win for every other company that doesn't want to offer good benefits.

The fact that instead of saying "hey, we expect to be treated as well as Google treats its employees, and we're willing to pass laws to that effect if need be", people are saying "man, look at those coddled Googlers" while aware of their own untenable positions—that's a triumph of the soul sucking machinery of modern employment.

I'm not suggesting action. I'm not even asking you to feel sorry for us—you're right, in most cases, there's nothing to feel sorry for, though depending on your sympathies, a kind thought towards those who receive torrents of abuse would be…well, kind.

I would ask that you imagine yourself in our shoes and wonder: is working at Google the be-all and the end-all of a life fulfilled? Is Google really perfect? That's what the internal fights are about. We should make search accessible to billions in China! No, we should never lend support to oppressive regimes! We should increase our reach by hiring across demographisc to make sure we truly understand our global user base! No, we should not mess with the hiring recipe that has given Google this dominant position!

These fights come from a sense of responsibility. We at Google are uniquely privileged to work at a company that has immense influence on the world. The fights are about what our responsibilities are to this world. To the people that come to us expecting truth, to those that come to us expecting safety, to those that entrust us with the details of their daily lives, and those of their children.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: the takeaway from this article isn't that you should feel sorry for us. It's that you should be aware that somewhere where you have little influence, fierce battles are being fought that will affect you in ways great and small. Whoever you back, I'd take away that someone is trying to have your back.


> All of those benefits you listed—they are things that any decent society would provide. The fact that Google choosing to be decent is not only so rare, but also contempt-inducing in people who are ground down by other companies is a staggering win for every other company that doesn't want to offer good benefits.

I've been trying to articulate this in this thread, but you've said it far better than I did.


It sounds like there are multiple OSHA violations at your work so you could report them.

You could buy your own chair for work and I believe you can write it off in tax as a work expense.

Given your long years of work experience you could almost certainly get into a distance learning Master’s degree in the U.K., e.g. the Queen Mary University of London MBA.

https://www.coursera.org/specializations/mba/

If you don’t have managerial experience of any kind I can recommend CeFIMS

https://www.cefims.ac.uk/programmes/ipa/

You can start with an individual professional award and transfer to a Master’s proper and be done in three years for ~£10,000.

Alternatively you can get a US Bachelor’s for far less than tens of thousands of dollars through transfer credit and credit by examination like the community on degreeforum.net. People have done it in under a year.

It sounds like you’re in a bad situation. I hope things get better for you soon.


>You could buy your own chair for work and I believe you can write it off in tax as a work expense.

We have one employee with their own chair, it required a doctor's note, had to meet certain specifications (I thinks he actually had to show what she was going to buy first) and of course be purchased with their own money.

As far as the two sites you linked, I'm not in the United Kingdom and I doubt many employers would pay attention to those things in the United States.

As far as testing for credit, most colleges still require you to take a significant percentage of your courses through them.

The problem with a degree is I'm 34, if I magically had the funds today to pursue a degree I'd probably graduate around 39. Great, I'd be elligible for entry level work at 39 while there are many high school students graduating high school with an Associates degree and well on the way to their Bachelor's degree so I'd be competing for entry level work in whatever field against 20-22 year old applicants that are willing to work for less money and less benefits while I'm 39~.

Money and conditions aside, age discrimination is very real and degrees aren't even worth today what they were 10 years ago. I was browsing indeed.com trying to find a new job so I could cash out my pension and use it for tuition last week and was finding that even Administrative Assistant positions at small doctor/medical offices were wanting a 4-year degree and larger companies/government agencies were requiring them for the same type of job.

Now keep in mind there are millions, tens of millions, of working adults like me in similar (or worse) positions in life.

49~% of workers in the United States make less than 30k [1] yet 33.4 percent of Americans 25 or older said they had completed a bachelor’s degree or higher [2].

When we hear stories like this article, and then a quick search shows us that an average base salary at google might be 81-173k a year [3] with a mountain of benefits/perks and we here about 'years of misery' we just roll our eyes and think "well, if I cancel my gym membership, and don't have any emergencies, I can retire at 70 instead of 80 unless one of those AI companies puts me out of work."

[1] https://howmuch.net/articles/how-much-americans-make-in-wage...

[2] https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/326995-census-more-...

[3] https://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Google-Salaries-E9079.htm


> As far as testing for credit, most colleges still require you to take a significant percentage of your courses through them.

They generally do but there are three with extremely generous policies, Thomas Edison State University, Charter Oak and Excelsior University in New York. The last demands only one capstone credit be with them. You can transfer everything else.


I wonder if a part-time degree might help you. It would take longer, but you could do it while still working, and perhaps you could apply for positions that ask for degree-level education, while showing that you are in the process of doing a degree? (After all, there is no guarantee all jobs get fully qualified candidates applying, even though the ads ask for that.)

I'm LDS (Mormon) and we have BYU which is well respected, there is a program called BYU-Pathway ( https://byupathway.lds.org ) where for the first year you drive to a local location and take some basic classes, that aren't accredited (so you can't get loans) but do convert to credit at BYU that I've been thinking about doing when the next round starts up here in a month or two, assuming there are enough local applicants to form a class (I've applied, just waiting for enough other people to).

After the year you can apply to BYU Idaho online and they've actually structured the degree in 'certificates' so you earn a 'certificate' from BYU to pad your CV, then another certificate, then another etc and eventually your Bachelor's.

The benefit here is BYU tuition is INSANELY cheap (if you don't fail any classes, 7,800 USD for your Bachelor's but that still stings when I factor in interest and the age handicap when I do have the degree).

The problem here is though, I can't get a loan for the 3 semester and it's something like 400$ a semester, up front each semester, which is a lot of money to me (most of a week's take home).

Also consider I have a GED, haven't been in school for 15-16 years... I've been doing the Khan Academy basic math (started basic division last night) to try and get into the habit of regular study and testing.

Mostly though I'm just doing a lot of "what can I sell and get 400$ for so I don't have to blow my emergency fund". I cancelled my gym membership yesterday which sucks as it's my entire social life, basically the only thing I look forward to and the owner is my friend and we had a bro-hug and both got kinda sad even though we will still see each other, and that savings will cover the 2nd and 3rd semester but doesn't help me with the first.

Last year I had talked myself into looking at WGU since you could do as much as you could handle and didn't pay per credit hour but per unit of time instead... yeah... I had some credits from a failed attempt at an Associates degree when I was 18... I had my transcript sent to them April 9th 2018, they emailed me 4 days ago with the evaluation... glad I didn't take out a bunch of loans for them...


Those are tight circumstances, but you sound really well organized, with a good plan.

The inability to get even a $1200 loan when you have a sensible plan, sucks. Since you are LDS, famed for church community... is that something your church, friends or family might help out with?

In my experience, that's an amount friends lend each other if they've known each other a long time and can do it. Sometimes, with the understanding that the payback terms are extremely flexible. Because that isn't at all a hardship amount for everyone, and it sounds like it could make a big difference to your life.

Whatever you do, best of luck.


>is that something your church, friends or family might help out with?

Yes, but I don't like asking for help. Worst case (hopefully they take card) I can put it on a card and then balance transfer to another card to buy some interest free time.

What chaps me is I fund a 529 (10-15$ a month over the past few years, figuring if I ever have kids I could transfer it to them) which would cover the first semester BUT since the first year isn't accredited... it's a non-qualified expense which means if I take the money to pay it I get hit with tax and penalty.


> signs telling us to lierally not wipe our feces on the walls in the bathroom

This is not like the other details. What the hell caused that?


In the 13 years I've been here we've had

- people wiping on the wall, also multiple instances of feces not IN the toilet (mostly 'I waited too long and sprayed on the back of the toilet sitting down)

- countless "whoops I peed on the floor/wall and couldn't be bothered to clean it up"

- serial nose pick and stickers at the urinals

- someone was trying to flush paper towels down the urinals for several months

- the women have had multiple issues of blood on the toilet seats/floors and at least one instance on the wall

The microwaves have signs stating "do not microwave metal" because people have microwaved metal. The sinks have signs saying do not wash food down the drains (since there is obviously no garbage disposal). Sign saying not to remove the coffee pots from the breakroom. Signs stating the building is fragrance free yet people still come in wearing choking amounts of floral perfumes.

Regular reminders of only TWO personal items, do not touch your desk partners personal belongings, log out when you leave, log out when you leave, log out when you leave, did I mention log out when you leave (because pressing ctrl+alt+del on the lock screen and clicking switch user is SOOOO hard).

Then someone complained about food trucks coming here every few weeks so corporate reminded us food trucks are NOT allowed on the property as it violates company solicitation policies yet if you want something other than reheated food your half hour lunch break does not provide enough time to drive somewhere, buy food, drive back and eat it (unless you eat while you're driving) and don't forget only 'finger food' is allowed at desks yet most of the managers eat in their offices and they'll throw out the rule when they sell hot dogs and chips for 5$ as a fundraiser or when they sell pancakes as a fundraiser (and they cook them next to the ice machine, which makes the ice hardcore taste like pancakes for a day or two after).

But gee don't you know, the company is consistently voted one of the best places to work! Must be those corporate employees that get bonuses (and probably cost of living increases unlike the other 400k plus employees).


> I make 35k

I can only imagine the people this company employees if they are spending 35K on a software developer. 90% sure the majority of staff is making minimum wage.

With such low wages, you can't expect quality.


> if they are spending 35K on a software developer.

You do realize not every human being on the planet, or even HN, is a software developer, right?

>90% sure the majority of staff is making minimum wage.

I make 65% of my state's annual HOUSEHOLD income and 2.3x minimum wage... this is a problem with HN, many of you make 6 figure salaries and assume that everyone is a software engineer making 6 figure salaries.

The 2017 nominal median income per capita was $31,786 in the United States.


I actually somehow expect everyone on HN to be a software developer/enterpreneur/anything-else-tech-related

Am I wrong with my assumption?


There's homeless people on HN. I've seen them post their stories before. There's all types.

Actually I enjoy posts of other domain experts most (pilots, physicians, economists, doctors, content marketeers, ...).

I was on here years before I was /anything-tech-related/

I make a few thousound more currently as a software dev. Work for government in a poor, red state. Luckily, however my office conditions aren't nearly what the parent comment described.

Oh well... I was the one who asked the question and that's how much I make (software developer in southern Europe, currently working for a bank of all places).

I'm not offended by the statement, but if the difference's so pronounced I'll be happy to hear any opportunities for remote work :P


Ha! I worked for a healthcare company in an office with a couple hundred developers... And yep, at one point, we had a shit on the walls issue...

I dont know if notices went up telling people not to do it though! I could never work out if it was intentional or some people just don't know how to shit???

I dont understand it either...

On the current office it's a piss on the floor issue, no urinals in the men's toilet and apparently some guys can't consistently hit the toilet with their piss!


My experience in high education tells me that if you see shit being wiped on the walls, it's generally a sign of mental health issues - in the case of workplaces, this is definitely a sign of depression or some form of anger toward the company.

When people get to the point where they literally smear their feces on the walls, they're grasping at ways to make a statement about how god-awful their environment is.

Source: Our toxic geology department constantly had shit on the walls, until we completely gutted it and restructured/replaced the administration and policies. Better workplace, no more shit on the walls.


It sounds like this is normal - Google has the same problem!

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20685700

"If it makes you feel any better, I work at Google, but have found toilets with pee all over the floor and toilet seat and much worse I'd rather not talk about. :-)"


It sounds like you know your situation sounds not as good as a googler, so what are you doing to actively better it?

I think the GP's point is they don't think there is anything they can afford to do to better their situation in ways that matter.

All actions other than status quo lead to something worse. (Loss of job, unaffordable debt, etc.) And it's a perfectly normal situation in their part of the world for their skills and occupation, so it isn't them, it's just real life for the peasants.

That's why they struggle to find sympathy for those whose situation is vastly better already. It's like listening to royalty complaining about conditions in the palace, when you're a starving peasant.


It's so easy to make excuses for ourselves and others but I don't think making 35k vs making 150k is really anything like being a peasant vs being royalty... but maybe I don't know enough about that topic.

On the one hand, I'm a little impatient with the litany of complaint & dismissal of options like getting a degree... there's always something you can do... but on the other hand, making $35k vs $150k really is like being a peasant vs a royal. On $150k a year you can save -- save a lot if you're in a low cost of living area, save a bit less in a high cost of living area. On $35k a year you are fine if you have good health and no dependents, but if you've got to pay for daycare or elder care or support anyone else, you're on an endless treadmill just this far away from missing a bill or being unable to deal with car trouble or a furnace problem or a sudden eviction because your landlord's brother wants to move in.... it really does feel impossible to make it out of the financial trap. It might not be impossible, but it's very very hard.

Fair enough. You're probably right, although I'm not sure how numbers would apply anyway.

I meant the sentiment: Where life at Google sounds so remote and unachievable to the median-income 31k person, as if walled-off in a luxurious palace on the top of a nearby, annoyingly visible hill; a totally unrelatable life of relative luxury.

Rather than a numerically apt comparison.


Sounds like you need a union

I don't understand why people are down voting you. Your post rings 100% true for a lot of folks out of silicon valley bubble.

My impression is that it is a bit not very self-aware

> I find it extremely difficult to feel any sympathy for these folks because they have it much better than I do, and extremely better than millions of people in the United States and billions of people worldwide.

If you are living in the US, and making 35k, you are in the top 1% income worldwide.

So it is a world 1 percenter complaining about not being in the US 1 percenter, and saying by extension, they do not care about people who have it better.

Applying that same theory globally, 99% of people globally should not care about this post.


>So it is a world 1 percenter complaining about not being in the US 1 percenter, and saying by extension, they do not care about people who have it better.

In my original comment I say:

>I find it extremely difficult to feel any sympathy for these folks because they have it much better than I do, and extremely better than millions of people in the United States and billions of people worldwide.

Much better than I, extremely better than billions worldwide implying I'm well aware I have it much better off than a notable percentage of the global population as 'extreme' is more drastic than 'much'.


There's some kind of lesson here.

99% of other companies, especially big companies, do way less than Google to accommodate social justice activists. Yet they seem to be least happy at Google.

Buddha was onto something about human nature.


Can you expand on the last sentence? I don't understand how it connects with the rest.

Desire is the root of suffering.

They've got the paychecks, the perks, and even their politics are constantly validated. But they're not happy.


I hope you don't mind me riffing on this idea. I'm very much compatible with this mindset, but in the case of those pursuing social justice, and still suffering, I think there is something more.

I have a colleague who ran into a software design problem lately. He is looking at all of the apparent possible options and none of them seem like they will result in good code. He's gone on the internet to see if someone else knows the solution to the problem, with no luck. Then he's spent time to see if anyone has written any frameworks that solve this problem. While some claim to have solved the problem, a purusal of the code show the cure to be at least as bad as the the disease. What can he do?

To me, this is the same kind of problem with the same kind of result. When we first see a problem, or instinct is to go and look for a solution. We go to experts to find out what the answer is. We look at proven best practices in order to find out what we need to do. Strangely, though, the advice of the experts and the best practices often lead to situations that are at least as bad as our original problem. Why?

The reason is that we are taking an internal problem and looking for external answers. Buddha said that life is suffering. This is not to say that we should give up and have a defeatist attitude, I think. It's more that you just can't escape it: life is suffering. And code is bad. (In case you are wondering just how crazy I can be, I once gave a talk in public about how code is literally karma ;-) ).

We have to accept the suffering first (or bad code) and then start "acting skillfully". There isn't an external answer that will solve our problems. The guru on the mountain doesn't have the answer because they don't know what the question is. The carefully built system does not work for our issue, because our issue never existed when the system was built.

One of the things I've found about people pursuing social justice is that, on average, they tend to be intelligent people. The more they pursue the justice, and the more the society gives them leeway to do so, the more unhappy they get -- because they discover that their answer is not matched with the problem they are trying to solve. All of that energy has been put forward to solve the problem and they very slowly learn that they might not have the correct problem. Of course some people are always blind and they keep burning the witches, even finding new witches to burn after they run out of the first ones. However, I have found that the majority get really unhappy the farther they progress down this road.


If I recall correctly, it's about that human beings should be rewarded for their work adequately, not in abundance.

Utter self-delusion - either by the author, or by Google employees, or possibly both.

Google has been evil from... well, depends on how you look at it, but if not from Day One, then certainly by the time they started GMail. The whole point is to maintain a vast surveillance network over as many Internet users as possible (later also mobile phone users), to try to capture as much of what they do. The use is for deeply personal and intrusive ads, but also for mass government control (NSA gets copy of everything, remember), individual government control and intervention (through subpoenas by less-secretive agencies), and gradually - the shaping of public opinion and knowledge through more and more targeted changes of search results and content recommendations. And of course - nothing is ever erased, nor will it ever be.

Oh, also:

> To invent products like Gmail, Earth, and Translate, you need coddled geniuses free to let their minds run wild.

Google didn't invent any of this stuff. They were just able to put a lot of compute power and storage behind it before others did.


Google doesn't even pay well enough to treat people poorly. They're wagering an awful lot on the premise that working for Google is prestigious enough to sustainably attract and retain talent.

Meanwhile a smaller tech startup will pay better and give you way more of a hand in shaping the product, and maybe even not work you 80+hours a week. I'm not sure what the appeal of the big names is for devs.


> Google doesn't even pay well enough to treat people poorly. [...] Meanwhile a smaller tech startup will pay better [...] maybe even not work you 80+hours a week

Having worked both at Google and at smaller tech startups, this is pretty much the opposite of reality. I wonder where are you getting these ideas from.


Is google just particularly dogged about salary negotiations, then? The numbers I've seen for someone new to the org don't impress me relative to the competitive baseline. Maybe you have to ask way higher, or you have to come in at a high level already?

Where do you see significantly better salaries? You might be ignoring the stock compensation which is basically like cash for an established stable company like Google

This is actually a common complaint on Blind (anonymous social networking site).

Google seems to consistently low ball relative to other companies (Facebook, Apple, uber, etc.)

Obviously depends on the team/role but seems like google is trying to leverage its “prestigious brand” to pay less


exactly this.

He's right that Google doesn't generally pay competitively, but wrong in comparing to smaller startups. It's some of the larger companies (Facebook, LinkedIn, AirBnB, etc.) that Google tends to fall short of.

Interesting, I don't have that impression. levels.fyi doesn't show much disparity, for example. Where do you get this from?

They have a tendency to down-level a lot, which won't show up on levels.fyi (though if you look at the leveling by years of experience it might be extractable).

Also, from what I understand they tend to lowball much more aggressively than other top companies if you don't have any strong competing offers. Levels.fyi submitters will of course be the kinds of people who tend to shop around and get competing offers.


A smaller tech startup only pays better if you pick the right one and it has an exit.

One appeal of the big names is exactly that — name recognition. It does a lot for the ego when everyone you meet knows that your employer provides free massages and a sushi bar for lunch.


Free massages and sushi bars don't pay rent!

And I'm not talking about mythical exit money, I'm talking about cold hard biweekly salary. I make more money at a small startup than it seems I would make at Google, for example.


Stock based compensation happens quarterly, which is frequent enough to be a regular stream of compensation (and you get a sign-on bonus when you start so you don't have to wait for liquidity either).

You sure about that [0]?

[0]: https://www.levels.fyi/salary/Google/


I think your situation is more unusual than you think.

Small startups vary a lot in what they pay, and in what they can afford to pay. Mostly it's lower than FAANG pay.


95% of small tech startups won't pay anywhere near what Google would offer.

Maybe your offer at Google isn't the reality of all offers.



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