Which One Is Better For An Engineer To Work On “Google Or Facebook”
They may vary significantly from others’ experiences, particularly when one travels from department to department within each business. (Android and YouTube, for example, would have seemed a lot more like Facebook in many respects than the basic Google of Search and Ads that I used.) I also can’t speak to how Google has changed since Sundar Pichai took over as CEO; from what I’ve heard from former colleagues, there have been some victories and some losses, but they are more reflective of the Google of 3+ years ago.
#1) Execution Speed
Facebook comes out on top. Move Fast is in the company’s DNA. Facebook throws everything against the wall day by day, month by month, to see what sticks, operating at a breakneck speed in comparison to Google, which is slowed by bureaucracy, reviews, and perfectionism. Done is preferable than perfect at Facebook. Moving quickly is applicable to many aspects of life, not just engineering. So recruiting, personnel decisions, and team changes all happen quickly, and being sluggish (without a compelling reason) is just seen as an execution mistake. It’s difficult to exaggerate how significant this gap is, since I consider Facebook to be 3-4 times quicker than Google. Now, there are real negatives to this velocity; it has real collateral damage of all kinds— and my own department of News Feed Integrity (reorganized since my department) was created in response to the unintended consequences of a News Feed that grew super-fast, becoming a place of addictive virality, with exploitation and harm-to-society that needed to be repaired.
#2) Moonshots / Vision
Google comes out on top. Google, starting with Larry and Sergey, is more about bold dreams and risky investments than Facebook. Google, more than Facebook, undertakes things for idealistic, visionary reasons, loves technology for its own sake, and places a higher emphasis on “alpha bets” in its DNA. Now, not everyone at Google is in a position to profit from this flexibility, but the business as a whole has a greater ability to experiment with and test out novel ideas than Facebook. Facebook has short time horizons, is brutally metric driven, and although they race up hills quicker than many Googlers, they don’t keep their sights on the distant horizons.
#3) Professional Development
Facebook comes out on top. Engineers at levels 3-5 at Facebook are more likely than engineers at Google to get to interesting work and advance quicker (30 percent, I’m guessing?). Being a Noogler carries a lot of weight, and compared to Facebook, your first few years at Google may be slow. Facebook makes quick actionable feedback a strict requirement, with supervisors who don’t help with development receiving a swift reprimand. The disadvantage is that a Facebook developer is twice as likely as a Google worker to be fired… The greater the risk, the higher the level at the moment of hiring! However, the danger is low for a clever individual who works hard, understands the business structure, and isn’t stymied by ideas that are at odds with Facebook’s culture and expectations.
Diverse Projects and Ideas
Google comes out on top. Google just has a lot more going on than Facebook. More platforms, systems, business types, initiatives, and so on. As if one were always in grad school, Google’s culture of tech lectures enabled for continuous learning and sharing. Facebook has never seemed as open-ended as it does now. I found Facebook teams to be more collaborative and less hierarchical than Google, which might be beneficial in key business areas— but there was just a fewer variety of jobs if an engineer wanted to move.
When I first joined, this was a significant difference… However, as Facebook develops, it will most likely be pushed to diversify and become more like Google.
Facebook comes out on top. When I compared comparable teams from Google and Facebook, I found that the Google teams were engineer-dominated, with other positions under-represented and under-powered. We were better equipped with Data Science, User Experience Research, and User Interface Design responsibilities at Facebook. (Other positions were more evenly distributed.) With strong individuals in these varied positions, I believe a Facebook team could bring more diverse ideas to the table quicker, and engineers would be less likely to graze over a cliff without being redirected by the important other views.
Google comes out on top. Google places a higher emphasis on psychological safety, stress management, and minimizing the fear of criticism than Facebook. Googlers have a better sense of security. Because of the dread of poor performance evaluations, Facebook users are more nervous and risk-averse. People at both businesses will grumble about work-life balance, but at Facebook, the attitude may be more negative. We heard complaints about performance anxiety and the short-sightedness stressfulness of metric objectives time and time again during internal employee feedback evaluations and 1:1 coaching. However, this is not a straightforward problem with many competing values. Google has been chastised publicly on problems of diversity, particularly in the years after I departed. Both businesses are committed to progressive values. Facebook has made mistakes in this area as well, but they are not as well-known as Google’s. During the COVID19 crisis, Mark Zuckerberg took the brave decision of canceling performance evaluations and ensuring substantial incentives, demonstrating concern for people’s concerns in a bold dynamic gesture so typical of the culture.
Engineering Management (#7)
Facebook comes out on top. Facebook’s requirements for engineering managers are more stringent. They must be empathetic, give quick helpful constructive criticism, and make personnel choices (up or out, expand a team or cancel a team) faster, all while adhering to the Move Fast mandate’s driving urgency. L6s-L7s at Google often go into engineering management without the necessary abilities, and although these Google TLMs are great engineers, they often fall short of equal-level FB managers. I was often on recruiting committees where I watched L6-L7 Google TLMs wash out of Facebook’s M1-M2 hiring process, and I saw managers at Facebook have their feet put to the fire, and step up over problems that Google could let to go unnoticed.
Engineering Excellence (#8)
Google comes out on top. Google has a culture that values the art of coding and design much more than Facebook, where the code, in my opinion as a ten-year Googler, is sloppy and slapdash. How does this manifest itself? While Facebook is blisteringly fast week after week in comparison to Google’s sluggish pace of work, when you look year after year, Google’s systems are higher quality, better tested, etc., and so a lot of Facebook’s incredible velocity washes out over time — and FB probably nets out at 30% faster year after year instead of 300 percent faster. Maybe the quality difference over 3+ years will put long-term velocities even closer together? I’m sorry, but I’m unable to comment. Sure, both businesses amass a lot of technical debt and trash, and both firms take shortcuts that cost money, but Google’s culture is better for programmers who appreciate a job well done. Googlers are prone to exaggerating technological difficulty and rewarding it. Facebookers despise complicated tech for its own sake, but they may make a mistake by making things easy to launch rather than simple to live with a year later.
9) Concentrate on the business
Facebook comes out on top. The business is renowned for its ruthless prioritizing, quickly directing resources toward initiatives that are successful or approaching a tipping point, and rapidly reducing financing for initiatives that are considered to be dead ends. Organizational focus and discipline are remarkably strong from Mark and Sheryl at the top down, while Google tends to collect huge numbers of projects in permanent beta, zombie projects that linger for years with little supervision or incrementality to key investments, and so on. At Google, you’re more likely to devote a year or two of your career to a project that doesn’t work out. Facebook’s short-term, metrics-driven emphasis results in numerous dynamic, fast-moving job changes among engineers: there is less feeling of permanence and ownership (both can feel stronger at Google). At FB, too, there may be a mercenary vibe, where the desire to move a statistic may take precedence over mission commitment.
Google comes out on top. The tool chains are frequently ubiquitous and beautiful in comparison to what Facebook employs, thanks to Google’s engineering idealism and continuous desire to be the greatest at everything requiring technological perfection. When it comes to fundamental features that everyone uses all of the time, Facebook’s tools are at their best, but there is a lot less development outside of that inner core. Google’s tool ecosystem is more extensive. When compared to the tools available at Facebook, the tools utilized by Google analysts (for launch reviews, forensics, prototyping concepts, etc.) were a significant force multiplier in my own responsibilities. Google’s relative strengths include Test and Productivity Engineering, as well as Site Reliability.
Typically, a winner is announced at the conclusion of such listicles, but I’m not taking sides.
Each of these characteristics was something I noticed in aggregate when looking at snapshots of hundreds of careers, and although others may have different views and experiences, these are what I witnessed in depth and length at these businesses.As a recruiting manager and collaborator with recruiters at Facebook, I sold many individuals on Facebook on the power of its features while being open about its flaws. While many individuals might succeed at each business, others would have a strong attachment to one while being at danger of losing their pleasure at the other. At either location, one may fly like an eagle or be crushed in the spirit. May the former occur much more often.