Not All Tech Companies Are Alike

1/18/12

From cloudy Seattle to the vast suburbs of Silicon Valley, we covered a lot of ground on MIT Sloan’s recent technology trek, which concluded with a leg in Boston.

The first stop was Seattle where it was predictably raining. Visiting Amazon, Microsoft, and Adobe, we came away with an appreciation for how much tech activity is actually going on in that city.

At Microsoft, we got to talk to alumni about what it’s like to work there. Yes, it’s a large company and therefore bureaucratic, they confessed. But, the huge plus is that they have the resources to work on some very innovative projects. Amazon also was big, but the theme there was its quirkiness. In addition to all of the desks being made out of doors, they also have whiteboards everywhere, even in the elevators. I made sure to leave an “MIT Sloan was here” tag in one of the elevators!

Adobe seemed like a more typical office where they provide a pleasant work environment with lots of exposed brick and wood. Overall, I could really see myself enjoying working in Seattle.

Moving on to Silicon Valley, it was noticeably sunnier and warmer. It was also a lot bigger. In Seattle, you could probably get by with just a bike and public transit, but good luck to anyone who tries that in Silicon Valley. Here, you definitely need a car. Being settled with a family might help too, as the area is comprised of endless suburbs punctuated by large office parks where the tech companies are located.

If you want to live where the action is, you’d need to get a job in San Francisco or do the 40-minute commute each way and hope for no traffic. I guess I should point out that Palo Alto does have a downtown, but it’s just two or three streets and most people would still have to drive there.

As for the tech companies, most of the ones we visited were in Silicon Valley and all offered quite a lot of amenities compared to what we saw in Seattle. Free food, gyms, yoga classes, dry cleaners, and acupuncture were just some of the perks you get at most of these companies. I guess they need these things to entice people not only to live away from the city, but also to work some pretty long hours.

For example, the employees at Facebook—who all seemed to be in their 20s—joked that working at some firms in the Valley is like working in a sweatshop. Employees are expected to work extremely hard, but they also provide an endless amount of food that includes a rotating candy of the week. Facebook keeps its employees well fed, caffeinated, and hydrated with the largest cafeteria of all the tech companies we visited.

Google had a similar environment with lots of … Next Page »

Kousha Bautista-Saeyan is a first-year MBA student at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Follow @

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