Ever wonder what the differences between working at Google and Microsoft are? One of the things everybody seems to mention first is that at Google you get free food while at Microsoft you don’t. That’s really just a difference in perks between one and the other, but have you ever wondered what some of the other non-perk related differences are? We’re able to get a few ideas of some of those differences thanks to a former Microsoft employee named Sergey Solyanik who left to go to Google, but now left Google to go back to Microsoft. He recently wrote up a pretty balanced post on some of the differences between the two companies and why he’s going back to Microsoft.

One of the differences he sees is that at Google, they value “coolness” while at Microsoft, they tend to value “reliability.” We’re sure there’s plenty of room to argue that statement, but in several ways, we can see what he means. Google does try to be “cool” and they try to portray an image of being young (they are, compared to Microsoft) and hip. Microsoft on the other hand has to focus a lot of attention on the reliability factor because people pay for most of the software that they develop. Once it ships and hits the shelves at the store, there’s not a whole lot they can do to fix something if it breaks.

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Sergey talks about the “coolness” factor and makes an observation saying, “This orientation towards cool, but not necessarily useful or essential software really affects the way the software engineering is done. Everything is pretty much run by the engineering – PMs and testers are conspicuously absent from the process. While they do exist in theory, there are too few of them to matter.” The benefit to those at Google because of this though is that software ships quick.

He also said something that we agree with and that is that Google Docs really isn’t a viable competitor to Microsoft Office because those who use Google Docs really wouldn’t be the type to buy Microsoft Office anyways. He says, “Google as an organization is not geared-culturally – to delivering enterprise class reliability to its user applications.” Certainly Google Docs has a lot of amazing features, but we can’t see a major corporation using it over Microsoft Office because of the reliability factor.

At the end of the day, for Sergey Microsoft turned out to be the right place for him and that’s why he left Google to return to Redmond. He says, “Since I’ve been an infrastructure person for most of my life, I value reliability far, far more than “coolness,” so I could never really learn to love the technical work I was doing at Google.

If describing working for Google and Microsoft was as simple as saying one is cool and the other is reliable (we know it’s not), who would you be working for?