Having assisted in negotiating a couple of those multi-million dollar offers, that is absolutely correct. Most of those offers aren't going to "successful senior people." They're going to people who were repeatedly passed over for promotions despite doing great work (i.e., people who fail to manage their careers properly).
I've read this a few times and am trying to parse exactly what you mean.
The million dollar offers tend to go to people who keep their head down and quietly work hard, possibly doing less-than-glamorous work (As opposed to the big-shot high flying 'executive' who get their photo in the company newsletter)?
That seems counter-intuitive to me - but - maybe it's because the "company newsletter types" are already getting the recognition and compensation they deserve? Or at the very least get the opportunity to discuss those factors more often?
That's because those are the people most likely to apply to another job! The people I know getting the big packages aren't waiting to be "noticed." That's not likely to happen since they weren't recognized where they were. They took a proactive approach and shopped around for a new job.
Only then were their contributions recognized internally and the big offers were required to keep them as they were already pissed off.
Trust me, it's not the fast track people who are getting the giant paydays right now. Those people are sitting pretty and already have substantial awards and wouldn't bother interviewing elsewhere.
Attitudes like this is why I had to write a book about startups. In 2003, people said the same thing about Google. It turned out that yes, joining Google in 2003 had a very good chance of making you a millionaire, even if you weren't a star hire.
Guess what? Facebook is in the same situation Google was in 2003 today.
I think that it is possible to build a culture where the grunchy unsexy work becomes much less un-thanked. Microsoft at its best did it: Raymond Chen was much celebrated for his heroic efforts at preserving backwards compatibility in Windows. In fact, when the Raymond Chen camp lost its political battle, Microsoft got Windows Vista, which arguably cost it billions. I think the stakes are very high in exactly this sort of political battle, and it is worth while for top engineers to spend their time fighting for precisely this sort of culture shift.
I know several Apple and ex-Apple engineers. Let's just say that the environment isn't even comparable. Google wins hands down. One of my friends at Apple had to file for an information request so that she could debug a problem that spanned multiple layers of abstraction. A Google engineer faced with that kind of inanity would just quit.
I've also heard complaints from Google and ex-Google people that wouldn't come up at Apple. Examples:
- Launching a hard-to-understand product and providing it with scant marketing support, so it promptly goes nowhere (when Apple launches a product we are committed to making it a success).
- Central hiring leads to o way of knowing what kind of project you will end up working on, and high risk that it will be infrastructure grunt work which is not respected by the culture.
Does internal secrecy suck more or less than those kinds of things? I dunno. I would not be so bold as to make a claim either way without firsthand experience of both environments.