Every so often, we get the strange pleasure of reporting an “employee migration” – where a major technology expert moves from one company to a competitor. In addition to sometimes foreshadowing big changes ahead (as was the case with some of the ship-jumping that took place at Yahoo last year), it provides an opportunity to ask direct questions about how the companies differ. Well, a recent migration gives us some especially interesting insights. These come from Leon Wong, a former Microsoft Search employee who went to work for Google who then came back to the Microsoft Bing team. Here’s what he had to say.
- It’s not as though the companies are “better” or “worse” than each other. Rather, “the structure of each company plays to their relative strengths,” with Bing focusing more on “focused execution” and Google more intent on innovation.
- The structure of Google is more “flat,” with fewer managers and a lot more independent decision making. That’s “nice if you’re a frontline engineer, but if you want to move up to become a manager, it’s not ideal,” says Wong.
- Google’s decision making allows for many voices to be heard, but this “egalitarian” approach “can lead to difficulty in reaching consensus when there are large numbers of stakeholders with different opinions.” The biggest dilemma, according to Wong, seems to be that many employees are too idealistic, while Microsoft’s management structure allows for fast and brutal decision making.
- Wong decided to stick with Microsoft as a technology company because it has so much reach into different software fields that “it’s a very good company for making lateral career moves.”
Leon Wong has worked for various departments inside Microsoft and worked at the Pacific Northwest Google satellite office as an engineer on the AdSense team. His decision to switch back to Bing has far more to do with the Redmond location and the advancement opportunities than company philosophy; to advance in Google, Wong would have had to move to a major office, with the nearest being Mountain View.
[via the Microsoft Jobs Blog]