Maggie Shiels

Workplace porn or career karma?

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 18 Jun 08, 20:40 GMT

If you crave a job in Silicon Valley and think coming to work for one of the premier companies like Apple, Google, Yahoo or Microsoft will result in untold riches and happiness, then think again.

Let's get to the money part first.

Engineers at Google rake in an average of $113,000 (£58,000) including compensation, while over at Microsoft and Yahoo it's around $106,000 (£54,000). The penny pinchers in this equation are Apple, who pays its engineers a measly $89,000 (£45,000).Google canteen

Still I suppose the Apple crew do get to work on some of the coolest products on planet earth, and I am guessing they get a good employee discount to boot.

All this information is courtesy of workers at these firms who have anonymously lifted the lid on the sacrosanct topic of their wage slip. And they are sharing this with the world via a new website that has just recently gone live called

GlassdoorThe aim of the site is to provide information about everything from career opportunities to management culture and from salary to what the boss is like.

Jerry Yang, post-Microsoft, is having a tawdry time in the approval ratings. To date he scores a dismal 46% compared to his nemesis, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, at 55%.

The mission, says Glassdoor, is to "bring more transparency to the workplace so that everyone has the information needed to make better career decisions."

I think if you are a top notch engineer considering a move to Silicon Valley you would be mightily depressed by these salaries. So perhaps in this case, ignorance is bliss because it would allow you to go to a company with real conviction demanding the heavens.

On the other hand, I guess human resources will love it because they can keep expectations low.

But hey, it's not all about the dollars and cents. What about career satisfaction and development?

Let's look at what is being said about Google, which comes out top in survey after survey as one of the most desired places to work.

One review is titled "Awesome culture, bad management". Another says "Fun at first, frustrating in the long run". Uh oh!

Someone else carps that "Google is deteriorating at the edges" while someone else really goes for the solar plexus by noting "Google: an elitist's playground". Ouch!

There are positive reviews but they aren't as much fun as, say, that last posting from a past employee which goes on to say: "If you enjoy your individuality and time alone, Google is not the place for you. Google pushes a highly 'Googley' atmosphere, which is something akin to what the Brady Bunch would be if they lived in Communist Russia.

"People are encouraged to have Googley attitudes, wear plastic smiles, and not to question the infallible nature of the executive management group."

Okay, enough vitriol! But, man, don't you just love reading this stuff? And that's why Forbes has dubbed the site "Workplace porn".

It's car crash rubber necking at its best.

But love it or hate it, it seems to be a runaway success if the numbers are to be believed: 32,000 reviews covering nearly 7,000 companies from people in 165 countries and 1.2m page views on day one.

Impressive stuff, but should we care? Well, that rather depends on whether or not you are looking to work at any of these companies. CEO Robert Hohman, formerly President of Hotwire, makes a good point for the need for Glassdoor.

"Google serves up 15.4m sites with reviews for the iPhone, yet I can't find a good site that can tell me what it's really like to work for Apple."

He can now because the reviews of Apple vary from "Awesome company" to "Dead end career".

The issue of course comes with trusting what you read on the site. Mr Hohman claims that every effort is made to verify the anonymous reviewers are bone fide and that actually "We're rejecting one or two out of every 10 reviews because they violate our community guidelines in some way, are clearly bogus, or it's someone trying to post duplicates."

Hm, that seems quite high to me and given the recent volume of reviews, it might seem wise to read some of the extremely gushing or caustic ones with a healthy bit of scepticism.

And just to prove it's not all about negativity, the company is actually offering reviewers $500 for the most thoughtful posting.

The winner first time out is someone who works for Netflix and writes that the company is all about "Freedom and responsibility. You're treated like an adult. You're part of a pro team that is highly functioning. You matter."

As for advice for senior management, the reviewer writes "I have none. Senior management is fantastic, smart, focused and led by example."

Now, depending on how cynical you are, you are either looking up Netflix's phone number or asking for someone to pass the sick bag.


  • Comment number 1.

    "Still I suppose the Apple crew do get to work on some of the coolest products on planet earth, and I am guessing they get a good employee discount to boot."

    I really thought everyone's reaction to your apple comments last week was a little bit unwarranted, as the story really had genuine interest, and was a big story all over the internet.

    But it is comments like the one I have highlighted which is going to get on peoples nerves.

    It certainly gets on mine as I haven't seen an Apple product get me excited since the iPod Video.

    Where as google for example are knocking out cool stuff all of the time.

  • Comment number 2.

    @ringsting-iom This is a blog, therefore it contains personal opinions. If the author likes Apple products she is free to say so.

    As for the site. I do wonder if these kind of sites don't just fill up with reviews from people who have axes to grind against former employers.

  • Comment number 3.

    "Still I suppose the Apple crew do get to work on some of the coolest products on planet earth, and I am guessing they get a good employee discount to boot."

    Yes I'm sure you are right that Apple exploit this to pay lower salaries.

    Just as advertising creatives are the biggest suckers for advertising, Apple employees are the biggest suckers for the Apple myth.

  • Comment number 4.

    Maggie Shiels: "Apple crew do get to work on some of the coolest products on planet earth"

    Ah, the old BBC pro-Apple bias showing it's head again.

    Also, the name of the planet has a capital letter.

    Also, it's much more fun working on systems than hardware. From an engineering point of view with Apple it's just a pretty case.

  • Comment number 5.

    "Still I suppose the Apple crew do get to work on some of the coolest products on planet earth, and I am guessing they get a good employee discount to boot."

    How much does apple pay for all this advertising the BBC puts out for it?
    Personally I'd rather take an extra £13k a year than a discount ipod.

  • Comment number 6.

    I really gets my goat that in a PC or Mac or whatever there are chips with in excess of 1,000,000,000 transistors in them that can process 125,000,000,000 instructions a second.

    And LAZY hacks look at the case.

    Sorry to be critical but could the BBC find someone who actually knows something about the subject to write

    Last week we had "shock horror" ADSL is slower further from the exchange, which is in the spec of the zarking specification and always has been.

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm really Shocked at that wages.
    I mean, I was thinking, with all the perks I can understand that they won'y pay the best, but firms in this country (UK) will pay you that much and they aren't even multinationals or Market leaders.

    I Think Google is the best for its employees (friends have told me) but they are very clever in the perks that they offer you.

    Call it a Conspiracy theory or not, but having spoken to their employees; the free food, video games, and 'relax zones' are all very very clever ideas conjured up by occupational physiologists.
    If there are objects of desire, that you do not have the luxury of having at your own home or will spend with your own cash, you get the wealth affect. You try and use them as much as possible.
    Now with this employees can stay at work for longer hours, as when tired 'drained' they have somewhere to get away from it all.
    This leads to longer hours spent in Google, amongst your co-workers, and thus adding to productivity, because instead of spending 37.5 hours a week, you end up spending over 50.

    According to me those guys at Google are Genius!

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm sure working on cool products and getting a discount on them is worth £13,000 in salary.

    Or not.

    This is a good article but please, Maggie, put down the kool aid.

  • Comment number 9.

    Most of the companies in question were set up by young entrepreneurs/engineers, at the time they were in their 20s or early 30s and had the determination and drive to work long hours (I have coded all night as well). So, they hired similar people, and kept the same culture in the company going for a very long time. For example, I remember reading about Bill Gates sleeping in the server room.

    The problem is that most of the employees probably have families, or lives outside the company. I find it a bit disturbing that corporations expect us to dedicate our lives to them. There is a fine line between making the work place comfortable and making it our home. I wouldn't work in an office where I feel uncomfortable or my colleagues do not communicate at all. I enjoy interacting with people, and going for coffee breaks, etc. However, come 5 o'clock I am out of the door.

    Even Bill Gates is taking an early retirement, he had enough. So, he should understand that we all have lives outside the corporate world.

  • Comment number 10.

    I have worked and lived in San Francisco for the past 10 years. Through the dot com craze, the dot come bust and out the other end.

    When in my 20's like most of my friends I worked long hours for ok money and stock options. Some of my friends worked for very little money and lots of stock options. Once the bust happened it became apparent to me the only employee->employer relationship that makes sense is as a service provider. I provide a service that I get market rate for.

    No in my 30's with kids I am an independent contractor work gets paid by the hour. I don't want free lunch's, equipment discounts or a game room. I want to do a good job and get paid for it.

    I do sometimes still go to Happy Hours and tech meet ups. You see the next wave of 20 year olds. Working on the next big Ruby on Rails start up or on some cool Widget. Once again earning very little pay and hoping for the illusive Round A of funding or IPO.

  • Comment number 11.

    hi there

    Thanks for your comments re my blog and it seems I have really set the heather on fire regarding that Apple remark.

    Let me assure you there is no Apple bias at the BBC.

    Many of you make a valid point that my comment is open to misinterpretation. Generally speaking writing the blog does allow me to be a bit more casual in the language I use.

    I guess what I meant didn't come over very clearly and what I should have said was that 'there is a general perception that Apple makes some of the coolest products around.' And one can argue that 'til the cows come home I realise.

    In the famed political language of the moment, I mispoke and apologise if it ticked some of you off.

    Thanks though for taking the time to pass comment and keep me on my toes.

    Maggie Shiels

  • Comment number 12.

    'mispoke', hehe

    Nice response Maggie.

  • Comment number 13.

    Well done BBC! More Apple propaganda. I think this 'famed political language of the moment' is just Marketing really isn't it?

    Don't you think there IS a bias for Apple at the BBC if just about every blog response is pointing it out?

    Maybe if the BBC is the 'coolest' broadcaster on Earth it would be a 'cool' idea of them to lower your salary accordingly?

    Only a suggestion.

  • Comment number 14.


    I take it you missed Maggie's apology? I've been critical of the Apple coverage but kudos to her for recognising that even if it's not a real problem it's a perceived one.

    No need to go on about it.

  • Comment number 15.

    I enjoy reading the opinions in these blogs, but don't take them too seriously. Your can like Apple products and say so without it being a criminal offence.

    I share the writers views about cool Apple products, but guess what... I haven't actually shelled out any cash to buy one. Likewise I loathe and detest Mirco$oft in all it's incarnations, but I've spent lots of dosh on their software. Guess they've got the last laugh!

  • Comment number 16.

    I can see there are loads of Microsoft fanboys commenting here!

    And the Microsoft fanboy has stooped so low that they attack an unbiased organisation and its staff for telling the world that Apple is in fact the innovative company!

    Look, MS Fanboys... take the hint, MS is really bad and constantly fail the customer and that includes you.

    If it wasn't for Bill Gates we'd probably have the computing knowledge to have set up an outpost on Mars already!

    Carry on BBC, it is good how you are educating everyone that the commercial world is stuck in a Micorsoft created rut and that there are far better and higher quality alternatives out there.

  • Comment number 17.

    I don't own or use any Microsoft software so how does that make me a fan boy?

  • Comment number 18.

    Anyway... back to the subject matter of the article. and before it, sites like and are all trying to increase transparency between job hunters and employers to help people (and companies) make better recruitment decisions. A noble aim. The key -as maggie highlights - is to take everything with a pinch of salt, and use as many information sources a possible ensure a balanced view before you make any life changing decisions based on anonymous postings

  • Comment number 19.

    what is it with some people? it's a blog, if Maggie wants to make a comment about apple she can. What is it with you apple haters??
    If you don't like their products don't buy them but their's plenty of us that do.

  • Comment number 20.

    The Apple/PC wars seem ridiculous to me. There is no such thing as 'the best' platform. It all depends on context. I am a professional sound reinforcement engineer and I need many platforms in my work, not just Windows and Apple. I find the constant argument about which is better to be a distraction and ultimately a disservice to the end user, me, who needs them all to work together.

  • Comment number 21.

    We can't say this thing has high credibility. I tried to enter details about microsoft and it went in. This is completely boggus since I never worked there.

    I'd much rather things like but it's only for video game professionals and don't show you salaries, just a perception of it


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