Sunday, January 23, 2005

uh oh, what happened to my bank account?

so i happened to look over my finances this past weekend and i realized something: i'm broke. which is odd, because i had a bunch of liquid capital in my checking account last time i checked, and now all of a sudden i have nothing.

i realized the root problem was that google's relocation process requires the employee to pay all the expenses up front and then get reimbursed for them later. that means you have to cover an apartment hunting trip, your final relocation, lease termination fees and temporary housing expenses all in advance. not to mention that they don't pay out your signing bonus and relocation money until your first paycheck (which i haven't received yet). finally, add in the fact that i had to put down two months rent as a deposit for my new lease, and i'm flat broke.

on the plus side, this first paycheck is going to be huge... (which unfortunately means i'll probably end up getting taxed huge on it. doh!)

which led me to thinking about the "benefits" package at google. as i thought about it, i realized that most of the "benefits" actually seem to be thinly veiled timesavers to keep you at work. take for example: free lunch and dinner. now this one is an awesome value proposition for google; i'm not exactly sure why other companies don't also recognize the value and join in. consider this: it probably costs google a maximum of $3 per employee for lunch and $5 per employee for dinner. so that's only $8 per day, but if you think about the fact that the employee now probably only takes a half hour lunch break and also stays late working, the company actually realizes far more than an $8 gain in employee output. not to mention that most people think this is a great "benefit" and google gets a ton of positive press on it. in short, this "benefit" is designed benefit the company, not the employee.

then look at all these other fringe "benefits": on-site doctor, on-site dentist, on-site car washes... the list goes on and on with one similarity: every "benefit" is on-site so you never leave work. i'm not going to say this isn't convenient for us employees, but between all these devices designed to make us stay at work, they might as well just have dorms on campus that all employees are required to live in.

next, let's look at the health care benefit provided. arguably, this is the biggest benefit companies pay out for their employees. google definitely has a program that is on par with other companies in the industry; but since when does a company like google settle for being on par? microsoft's health care benefits shame google's relatively meager offering. for those of you who don't know, microsoft pays 100% of employees' premiums for a world-class PPO. everything you can possibly imagine is covered. the program has no co-pays on anything (including prescription drugs); you can self-refer to any doctor in the blue cross blue shield network, which pretty much means any licensed professional; and you can even get up to 24 hour-long massage sessions per year.

lastly, google demands employees that are 90th percentile material, so what's with the 50th percentile compensation? the packages would've been decent when the company was pre-IPO, but let's be honest here... a stock option with a strike price of $188 just doesn't have the same value as the ones of yesteryear. even microsoft adjusted their base salaries to 66th percentile years ago when it was clear that their stock options weren't as much a part of the total compensation package as it used to be. for a post-IPO company like google, it only seems fair that they adjust things accordingly.

all in all, despite these rants, i still chose to come to google. the work environment, projects and risk/reward equation were all more enticing than up in redmond. but just like when you look for apartments in SF, no option is ever perfect.

36 Comments:

Blogger Rose said...

microsoft is #14 best company to work for in t he large companies sector, #57 overall - making the rankings consistently for as long as fortune has been making the list. it also boasts most generous health coverage.

I suspect the data may be skewed as well. 67% of the score is based on employee responses - I know that for me, I may have scored certain areas lower, in hopes that the company will continue to improve its benefits program. I'm sure that the old-timers do it while reminiscing the old golden days. besides, ms will lose points on the guy-female ratio, which is 25% of the company evaluation (the remaining 1/3 of the total score).

1/24/2005 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Devin said...

Awesome blog, a pleasure to read.

1/25/2005 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger Eddie Awad said...

Keep on blogging, this is very interesting.

1/25/2005 01:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Qualcomm also offers such fringe benefits to keep their employees working. Seems like you are not exactly jumping up and down to be in google.

1/26/2005 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was previously at microsoft and enjoyed the benefits thoroughly. the peace of mind that comes with being able to walk into ANY hospital, doctor's office, dentist's office or pharmacy at any hour and know that it won't cost you a penny is wonderful.

it still didn't make up for the botched hiring program and job dissatisfaction that i went through, though... :)

1/26/2005 04:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're gonna be fired, aren't you ?

1/26/2005 04:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Based on the quality of the food, I think you're pretty far off the mark when you say it costs Google only $3 per employee for lunch. But even if it's higher, it's still worth it.

Sure the benefits are "designed" to benefit the company. But I think it's ridiculous to say that the benefits are not "designed" to benefit the employee. Google has clearly recognized that by taking care of employees needs and making things convenient, the employee becomes happier and more efficient. So -everybody- benefits. Google saves you 30-60 minutes per day going out and finding (and paying for!) food, and you may or may not return some portion of that time to the company. I don't understand why this wouldn't be perceived as a good thing for an employee, even if it has some slightly negative side effects.

1/26/2005 05:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

... maybe because benefits "designed" for employees are mostly illusions.

Mark Jen, you seem to be too smart for being a Google Employee and not enough docile - please, stay as you are !

1/26/2005 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger dugstore said...

Flaco sos un re pelotudo, te quejas por que tenes de todo, si era todo tan feo por que no te quedaste en Mocosoft, idiota, hacete hervir y tomate el caldo

1/26/2005 06:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't know Google hired such accomplished whiners.

1/26/2005 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

um... whoever is "brave" enough to call someone who posts frank & honest opinions about their employer an "accomplished whiner" should be brave enough to post non-anonymously.

- dave mcclure / 500hats.com

1/26/2005 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger Olaf said...

I work with CheckFree and they have a similar benefits model. Though I'm only contracting with them, many of their benefits are still extended to me. We actually have an onsite hotel. I've asked if that has ever caused issues...you know...hourly rentals and such. No answer to that yet. I don't think they take me seriously. There's also a track through our very lovely, wooded grounds. Nothing truly out of the ordinary in many large companies with the exception of the hotel.

1/27/2005 09:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is the food good?

1/27/2005 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger volterwd said...

Did you ever have a job before... since when is the companies priorities its employees? Why the hell would a company pay for lunch solely for the benefit of its employees... were you drunk when you wrote this?

Your grasp of reality seems to be tenuous.

1/30/2005 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger hotsnot said...

wow i'm not surprised you lost your job.
idiot.

2/08/2005 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger Erwyn said...

"...if you think about the fact that the employee now probably only takes a half hour lunch break and also stays late working, the company actually realizes far more than an $8 gain in employee output."

Not if the employee were as lazy as me! I would spend the other half hour of my lunch break on the Internet or doing nothing, and I would stick around for free dinner and just use up more of their electric bill. Google probably made the right decision in not hiring me. BTW, sorry to hear that you lost your job.

2/09/2005 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger Corey Ward said...

The face that Google got so upset over such information is obvious that something Mark said struck a nerve. Honestly, it seems as though the company felt threatened by Mark, and did not want to take the risk of him finding out any more.

As far as the benefits, something is up. I mean, take a step back and look at this scene as though you were watching it on TV. Doesn't this seem more like some kinda movie or something with all of the stuff you get free? It is nice, but it is creepy as well.

Think about this: A large company makes its money through semi-illegitimate means...they need employees...to keep employees from talking they need them happy...so they act like your best friend.

Here's where the movie comes in...A reporter notices this is a little fishy, and goes in to interview some employees and try to see what is up. The reporter knows a bit too much, and then he is missing. The employees will cover, because it would be wrong to betray their best friend.

Man, I think I just wrote a script for a movie...too bad it has already been done!

Think what you will, just look at all the facts. I am getting more suspicious of Google every day.

2/10/2005 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Gabriel Harper said...

I respect your honesty but I don't blame Google for letting you go. You're post might be truth but is also dangerously close to slander. For a two-week employee, you're treading thin ice. Your point regarding benefits is good though - if any employer wants 90% material they need to treat their employees as such.

I'm not so much in agreement about the food situation though. Unles Google is forcing employees to work through food breaks, they have a great system. What's wrong with a mutually benefical setup like that? I for one would want my employer to do as well as possible, and if they benefit from me eating their food on their time, well, great!

Or, maybe I've just seen to many employer's who expect top notch performance and offer pathetic benefits coupled with nonexistent motivators because they think they can take advantage of a soft employment market. I'm just glad I'm my own boss these days.

2/10/2005 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger H. said...

The "concept" of free inhouse recreation & meals was originally conceived by the most frugal CEO in the history of technology, Charles Wang from Computer's Associates. The company I worked for (10+ years ago) was run by a close friend of Mr. Wang so I had a little insight into CA's policies
Yes, the idea was that it was DIRT cheap to offer all of these perks to employees because they weere indeed MUCH more productive with the perks. As you point out Free lunch usually meant only 1/2 hour break and you're back to your cubicle. In fact CA had inhouse lodging , so if you pull an all nighter you could sleep at the campus.
The facility had everything , from movie theather to a day care center. Killer gym and all the snacks you wanted throught the day were in free vending machines.
Wang used to brag about single employees going home only on weekends. Salaries at CA were ridiculously low, but just walking into those facilties was enough compensation. THE place to work for in Long Island NY WAS CA!.
As an aside, Wang commented once that Microsoft's policy of FREE Coca-Cola was just so the employees would be wired up on caffeine, then he joked he was going to start putting JOLT Cola on HIS machines.

2/10/2005 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger Marmaven said...

Seems like I am hearing a lot of anti-corporate sentiment here. Obvious to me that none of you have ever taken the risk of being a business owner with employees. I keep hearing socialistspeak -- the evil employer is trying to do it to the employee! Having been on both sides of the coin, being an employer is much more difficult. A business needs to focus on making money (profit) or it risks going down the toilet, along with thousands of jobs. It's much easier to be the employee who not only gets a market wage, but added benefits for health, life, dental, etc.

Anyone who wants to piss on their employer -- I say you should hit the road and find yourself another gig and spare your fellow employees from listening to your violin. Nobody likes a whiner, complainer at work. Google sounds like a great place to work with lots of great bennies. My take -- Marc Jen doesn't belong there and Google recognized that.

2/10/2005 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger greatempty said...

I'm curious as to what led to your firing? Surely not comments about food or health benefits. If the post that led to you being fired was removed, why not make it public?

2/11/2005 06:30:00 AM  
Blogger doles said...

I think your view is a little narrow. Most firms have some or the other way of making themselves attractive. Money is not always the best motivating factor or attractive factor in individua;'s job searches. Some people value on-site carwashes more than 70th pecentile package and others value ease of procuring lunch and dinner (over asking their wife perhaps). I wish you thought more than what you have.

On the other hand - you have my sympathies or whatever long distance support you need for being fired.

2/11/2005 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger Oklahomabarry said...

You ought to work for a tech company in Oklahoma, moron. You're lucky if you get benefits at all.

2/11/2005 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger alias420 said...

You seem like one of those people who just doesn't know when to keep his head down and his mouth shut.

Live and learn.

2/14/2005 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger tyke said...

pull your neck in and grow up.
support those that support you. life's much easier and you'll get a lot further, dude.
tyke

2/15/2005 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Cost of the food may only be $3. What about the peoples' salaries that work there? What about the cost of the space that it takes up? Yes, it may work out that workers stay a little later, work a little longer. Yes, said employees don't have to pay for their food.

Does anyone bring their significant other to Google's Restaurant for a nice quiet dinner? Cause that would be funny.

Mike

2/16/2005 08:15:00 AM  
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