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Should I work for Facebook, Microsoft or Google?

I think that it is unlikely that I can answer that question for you. All three are leading players in technology. All three are dynamic and progressive. All three will offer world class career and development opportunities. Within all three, you will find people who can mentor you to become amongst the best in the industry. But of course, whilst these organisations may grab many of the headlines, they are not the only players in the tech industries and some fantastic careers are to be had with numerous other players – big and small.

First of all I think that it is important to separate out the differences between the companies. Sure there is overlap in objectives; all are clamouring for revenues on the internet one way or another but the customer base is radically different, the technologies and the focus is different across all three organisations.

So taking a look at Microsoft. Microsoft could be described as something of an old timer in this company. It has been around for over 30 years now. It was producing technology before this years graduate intake were conceived. Likely before their parents had even met (this is making me feel old). Microsoft has industry standard products many of which are still in virtually unassailable positions. Excel, Word, Powerpoint, Sharepoint and other usual suspect Microsoft products are quietly sitting on more computers in more buildings around the world than any other applications. These applications are powering business in a very real way and whilst there is talk of a shift to the cloud for computing applications it hasn’t happened yet. But it is going to.

And it is in this arena that we can see the fight starting to happen. Not as far as I can see between Facebook and the other two. But the two big rumbling forces of Microsoft and Google. It would probably be fair to say that both Microsoft and Google have lost the battle in the social networking space. Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt even admitted as much recently. Microsoft persists but it would be fare to say that it has relatively little to offer the social networker even when compared to Google let alone Microsoft.

Facebook isn’t offering applications? Or is it. In a way it is, but not too many of them seem all that serious yet although we do see some imaginative uses of Facebook by businesses such as the Marriott Facebook application game reported by our very own Guy Clapperton today. Perhaps we see applications being delivered at a popular point of consumer interaction that may indeed deliver significant enterprise benefits on the Facebook platform.

I sense that I am digressing a little. You see each organisation is different. Microsoft is mature and builds powerful applications used by the vast majority of people around the globe and around the planet. I don’t care what anyone says, at the moment this is the status quo. Google want to change that. They want light weight, skinny devices that leverage the cloud and are seriously gearing themselves up for this through the Android operating system and their already extensive cloud offerings. Facebook are not about any of this, they are for me at least again about the consumer and the places where consumers interact with one another.

So if its a career in social media that you are after, then you probably want to go with Facebook right? Possibly. Facebook also host if not the biggest, certainly one of the biggest computing platforms in the world. If you want to be at the forefront of massive, scalable computing applications then this is a very exciting place to work. No doubt about it you will be working with the best on the planet in high performance computing. Google knows this as well and movement of talent between the companies is not unheard of.

So can we for now conclude that Facebook is for those who want to contribute to building the world’s biggest social interaction platforms? Well I’m writing this so for the sake of this blog post I’ll say yes!

So next it comes to Google vs Microsoft. As Microsoft has matured, commentators on the web, company insiders and so on have all said that Microsoft has become fairly traditional in its operations. It is a huge company, and rare is the person who has a global perspective upon what their contribution means to the company as a whole or indeed what the company is working on, what the projects are. This is likely inevitable as companies get larger and as their relationships become more deeply entrenched with major enterprise customers. Many of these commentators say that the original fast moving, aggressive spirit of Microsoft has now been lost however. Here at Working Lives, we would be keen to hear from Microsoft employees about this.

This of course has its upside. More mature career development structures, more experience in handling difficult employee situations and of course sheer size and scale and opportunity to move and adapt your career in different directions over time.

Google is the relatively young upstart. Yes, Google is still a young company despite the way in which is has embedded so deeply in global culture it is a phenomena, of the kind we seem to be seeing so often these days – Google, Facebook, Groupon et al. But Google is the place where people say that the unrelenting focus on innovation as opposed to the balance sheet can be found. This is likely a very innovative but at the same time an aggressive culture one that is inspiring to work in and one that will certainly set you CV alight in the future should you not spend the rest of your life as a Google-oid.

Of course the competition for all of these companies is fierce. They are all great companies to work for. But which would you choose? Remember, great innovation often exists within the start-ups and it is within one of these young fledgling companies that you may be able to make the biggest difference, the greatest impact not only on the way the company works but also in the way that you can change culture and people’s working lives.

And then there are the salaries at Google as reported by The Guardian.. But I’ll save that for another day.

Oh and did we mention that twitter just opened up a new HQ? In London…

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