uh oh, what happened to my bank account?

January 23, 2005

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.


No Responses Yet to “uh oh, what happened to my bank account?”

  1. Rose Says:

    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).

  2. Devin Says:

    Awesome blog, a pleasure to read.

  3. Eddie Says:

    Keep on blogging, this is very interesting.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    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.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    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… 🙂

  6. Anonymous Says:

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

  7. Anonymous Says:

    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.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    … 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 !

  9. dugstore Says:

    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

  10. Anonymous Says:

    I didn’t know Google hired such accomplished whiners.

  11. Dave Says:

    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

  12. Olaf Says:

    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.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Is the food good?

  14. volterwd Says:

    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.

  15. hotsnot Says:

    wow i’m not surprised you lost your job.

  16. Erwyn Says:

    “…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.

  17. TruceX Says:

    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.

  18. 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.

  19. H. Says:

    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.

  20. Mary Says:

    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.

  21. greatempty Says:

    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?

  22. doles Says:

    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.

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

  24. alias420 Says:

    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.

  25. tyke Says:

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

  26. mikemason29 Says:

    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.


  27. chris Says:

    As a senior engineer in silicon valley, I have mentored many fresh college graduates. Some express disappointment at the reduced benefits for new employees. Others resent lack benefits other firms offer. I tell them: You are here because we are a profitable company. You will have a job tomorrow. If you want more, get another job. You deserve nothing. If you want more, work had and EARN IT!

  28. markjen Says:

    Hi Chris – I do agree somewhat with your statement; after all, if someone is really that upset with their compensation package, then maybe they shouldn’t have accepted it in the first place (there’s no shortage of jobs nowadays).

    But oftentimes, people make compromises. I decided that overall, the package at Google was pretty good so I took it; but there were many things about it that I didn’t like. Being able to discuss my opinions about it is what makes this country great (but clearly, my employer doens’t have to continue employing me if I choose to exercise that right).

    When you join the league of top tier companies and work your employees hard; I think it’s reasonable to expect top notch benefits and compensation. That’s just my opinion though…

  29. frank cavan Says:

    Wow – I’m amazed you weren’t fired the first day. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you….you not only bite it, you tell the world in great detail what it tastes like. Now that you have all this free publicity, you will never find a new job. By the way, have you figured out yet that SimplyFired.com is making tons of money on your story and you’re getting nothing? You had better get going on a new blog entry on that topic…. at least Google paid you.

    I’m wondering if you ex-boss at Microsoft threw a big party the day after you left…

  30. Lou Says:

    You had a nice job, why did you go and spoil it? Just because your friends are blogging their heart out doesn’t mean you have to be a fool and follow. “Gee…blogs are cool, look at me…I just got fired!” Surely, you must have learned your lesson, or maybe not. I guess you have to be a 45 year old fired engineer with a family counting on you first, then you’ll see that working is not a right, it is a privilege.

  31. markjen Says:

    Hi Frank – Actually, you might want to take a look at this entry. After people found out about my story, recruiters called me. Easiest job search I’d ever had 😉

    And of course, all the stuff I wrote about was publicly available information. The benefits – and even analysts’ financial estimates and forward looking statements – are available online.

    Hi Lou – Given what happened, looks like it turns out that it wasn’t as great of a job/company/culture as I originally thought 😉 I definitely did make mistakes, but who doesn’t?

    As for your last comment about working being a privilege… wow, I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. I’d hope that the relationship between an employee and their employer was mutually beneficial – maybe ideally both parties feel it is a privilege to work together?

  32. ray Says:

    mark, google isn’t the only one who’s done the food/service. the prudential in newark, provided each employee lunch and, if necessary dinner, for years (since the 40’s). and that was before productivity models. it was an “elegant benefit”. the buildings also connected via tunnel to bambergers (now macy’s) department store when a department store carried groceries, dry cleaning, tailors, etc. kennedy airport has a dr and dentist (most major int’l airports do). the bell system provided tons of “elegant benefits” depending upon what office you worked in, including transportation.

    now i know you no longer work for google BUT they were actually going retro with the bennies to a time when the employee actually counted, not the shareholder.


  33. Jan Says:

    I just “happened” on here and enjoyed your blog but I am astonished to say the least. Remember the days when people used to say a government/civil service job was the way to go because of great pay and benefits? Well, that is where I am now. I work at a state park where I am in management, present 90% of the public recreational and educational programs, assist wih security, and so much more. I have invested heavily in time and education to be able to be the best at what I do and I truly love my job. But pay and benefits? I make less that $10 per hour,my health insurance went up 72% last month and is forecasted to go up yet again in January. We only get half off on meals 1x a day even if that day is 15 hours long. Uniforms are provided but are mostly “hand me downs” and to get around my work facility I have to share one vehicle with five other people.
    After reading of the benefits provided by some of the technology giants, I have to say I disagree wholeheartedly with your statement that they seem to not be designed with the employee in mind. Yes, you have to stay at work longer hours to take advantage of some of them but in these times I know of very few people in any business who actually put in just 40 hours a week. Not all of us have what it takes to work for companies like Google or Microsoft, I admire those of you who do but before you feel slighted due to the benefits you are getting, take a walk in the world that a lot of us other folks live in. Bet it will make you better.

  34. markjen Says:

    Hi Jan, thanks for the comments and your story. I do recognize that I’m in a very fortunate position (God has definitely provided very well for me). Many of my blog posts were merely a comparison of Google’s benefits vs. Microsoft’s benefits – two companies that I think are in the same league.

    And then again, as one of my old managers at Microsoft used to say: you can’t ever tell management that you’re 100% content, otherwise you’ll never get any raises, promotions, etc. 🙂

  35. Jack Ryan Says:

    On another note, I have used google for about five years now but after their IPO they appear to be politically ‘overcorrect’ in delivering far less choices in content than before the IPO. Wonder if the new shareholders rule the rost???

  36. Karen Says:

    What a spoiled brat! You get a job with a high-profile company that provides you, not only with healthcare benefits, but then puts the providers right under your nose and does everything to make your life easier and all you can do is complain that they are for the employer’s benefit. Of course it is, but you are benefiting too. That’s the way it should be.
    And as Lou said, it is a privelege to work, ask anyone who has ever been unemployed. If you make enough money that you don’t have to care if you lose your job and can be so over-confident that you will find a new one, that’s good for you, but don’t expect John Q. Public, who has to slave, scrimp and scrounge to get by, to agree with you.

  37. Mike Says:

    random question — what font is used on this site? i love it

  38. markjen Says:

    Hi Mike – The fonts specified in my stylesheet are:

    “Lucida Grande”, “Lucida Sans Unicode”, “Trebuchet MS”, Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif;

    Depending on which ones you have on your computer, you may be seeing any of them. You are most likely seeing Lucida Grande though 🙂

  39. This is a story of a young person who does not have enough experience to realize the good thing he had. It is at best naive to blog about your company the way he did. Sure, much of what he said may be true, and some is probably unintentionally distorted; the point is that companies, like people, like their privacy. More than that, they expect employees to be loyal. To be sure, companies have their problems, but public forums are almost always not the place to reveal them – especially if one wants (even expects) to keep his job.

    And about his comment that recruiters were calling him: any potential employer is going to be wary of immaturity in candidates, which is what is apparent here. The recruiters do not do the hiring, management does. These are two different animals. Good luck, sir, with your career; we all make mistakes and some of us learn from them.

  40. DavidF Says:

    And what do you bet, after all that, google shafted him out of his first paycheck and moving expenses.

    Mark, you’re probably the type of guy who saves the posteriors of those around you.

  41. markjen Says:

    Hi David – Actually, Google was quite gracious about all the expenses. They gave me my first paycheck, reimbursed all my expenses, let me keep my signing bonus, and gave me some severance too.

    Probably their most professional move in my relationship with the company 😉

  42. Isaac Says:

    Opportunity makes the thief. Isaac.

  43. […] The facts of this case really terrify me. If you make harsh public comments about your employer (or let out a company secret) and they find out, you deserve to be fired. That, in a word, is stupid. Yeah, I’ll cut out an exception for whistle-blowers and other extenuating circumstances. However, if you make those kinds of comments and expect to get away with it, you are deluding yourself. […]

  44. […] Normally I don’t like to rant too much… (oh wait, I do). Anyways, we had just finished dinner at Korea Tofu House and we decided to get a little bit of desert. So we walked around Cupertino Village and decided to hit up Q-Cup. If you just clicked through to the yelp link, you’ll notice that it got 1 out of 5 stars, and this review isn’t going to help them out any either… […]

  45. brit Says:

    I would love to live at google

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