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A product manager who worked at Meta and Google reveals which company is best for work-life balance

Lloyd Lee   

A product manager who worked at Meta and Google reveals which company is best for work-life balance
  • A product manager wrote about his experiences working at Meta and Google.
  • Both are great companies to work for, but Google employees may make less money, he wrote.

What's the better company to work for, Meta or Google?

A Meta product manager who also worked at Google in a similar role revealed some differences between the tech companies based on his experiences over the past six years.

Daniel McKinnon was a product manager at Meta between 2018 and 2022. He left to work at Google for two years before returning to Meta in February to work on the company's Ray-Ban AI glasses.

Business Insider verified his employment history.

McKinnon wrote on his personal blog that while the companies may seem similar, prospective candidates should know some key differences between the two, from work-life balance to compensation.

"Meta and Google are both phenomenal technology companies where great PMs can thrive," McKinnon wrote, adding that if someone is looking for "growth at the expense of stress and pressure, Meta is probably a better fit."

"If you want to prioritize work-life balance, stability, and job security, Google could be a great place for you," he wrote.

A spokesperson for Meta did not respond to a request for comment.

Here are some of the differences, according to McKinnon.

Compensation

Meta and Google offer product managers a salary, bonus, and restricted-stock-unit grants but have different pay structures, McKinnon said.

McKinnon wrote that Meta evenly distributes its RSUs over four years while Google front-loads its grants, so 70% of the stock is provided within the first two years of employment.

Overall, the "typical Google employee" may make less each year because the company offers much smaller stock refreshers than Meta, he wrote. Some employers provide stock refreshers — essentially more stock after the initial stock grant is provided — as an incentive for employees to stick with the company.

"Refreshers at Google are significantly smaller than Meta for the same level and role and performance multipliers are much scarcer," McKinnon wrote.

Employees at Google can be rated to have a "significant impact" on the company but receive no additional bonus or stock refresher, he said.

In a statement to Business Insider, a Google spokesperson disputed McKinnon's assertion that employees make less each year partly because they aren't awarded additional bonuses or stock refreshers for having a "significant impact" rating.

"A 'Significant Impact' rating provides a generous multiplier for every employee who receives it, which boosts their bonus and equity refresh above the target amount. We know most Googlers are making a significant impact, and we want to reward them for that," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also noted that the "vast majority of Googlers received a compensation increase" in 2024, including a salary bump, equity grant, and bonuses.

In March, Business Insider reported Google employees received smaller compensation packages this year.

One employee told BI that the stock refreshers were "noticeably smaller than what Google has historically offered," while a manager said some workers saw their total compensation drop despite receiving an "outstanding" rating.

Project opportunities

McKinnon describes Meta and Google as "bottom-up" companies, where ideas largely originate from small teams building prototypes and other colleagues joining in if the prototype gains traction.

"Both Gmail (Google) and Marketplace (Meta) were famously side projects that grew into major components of the businesses," McKinnon wrote.

However, the companies evaluate and support new ideas differently, McKinnon wrote, saying Meta's leadership can be enthusiastic about new projects and pursue them "aggressively," but the idea can be quickly dropped if it does not meet expectations.

The product manager recalled how he worked on an audio-social project when Clubhouse, an audio-based social-media app, was popular.

"A couple hundred friends and I got invited to see if we could make social audio work in Facebook Blue," he wrote, referring to Facebook's attempt at the time to make an audio-social-app competitor. "Less than a year later, when it was clear we weren't meeting expectations, our team was blown up."

McKinnon also said that Meta's leadership, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, can also intervene if they find conflicting visions among teams for a product.

"If Mark or his execs encounter two different visions for a product, they request reviews from the battling parties and make a call based on their judgment," McKinnon wrote. "This top-down control can cut both ways, depending on which side of the decision you're on."

At Google, however, teams can work on similar projects for "literally decades" without leadership intervening, McKinnon wrote, pointing to Maps and Waze, GPS apps that are both owned by Google.

This can be fruitful for product managers who want to pursue their visions for a product with their respective teams but also "frustrating for ambitious PMs who want to build products that require larger teams," he wrote.

In addition, project timelines can "span decades" at Google, according to McKinnon.

He wrote that when he pitched an idea to a Google VP, the executive responded back that the idea was great but that he'd rather have employees focus on Google's search business.

"This interaction encapsulates how Google thinks about change, which is likely correct from the perspective of Google shareholders but potentially not appealing to prospective product managers," McKinnon wrote.

A Google spokesperson pointed to CEO Sundar Pichai's statements regarding Alphabet's first-quarter performance, in which the CEO explained how the company is trying to move faster by simplifying team structures.

Company transparency

Meta does maintain some of the transparency the company was known for in its earlier days, McKinnon wrote.

At Meta, McKinnon was aware of what other teams were working on, partly through the company's internal forums and dashboards.

Zuckerberg also still hosts the weekly Q&A sessions with his employees, taking questions "off the cuff," McKinnon wrote.

Managers are expected to be up front in their reports about promotions and employee ratings, and "compensation is formulaic and predictable," he wrote.

One downside to the transparency is that employees have "nowhere to hide," meaning everyone knows what employees are working on, and people won't be able to "take a back seat," McKinnon said.

At Google, employees mostly communicate through email or chat, so it's more difficult to know what everyone is doing, McKinnon wrote.

McKinnon also wrote that he felt Pichai wasn't as candid with his answers to employees like Zuckerberg.

He wrote that compensation is also less predictable, and feedback from leadership is harder to obtain at the search giant.

"While this isn't great for those looking to learn and grow, this organizational style makes it much easier to let work drift into the background when other life priorities need your attention," he wrote.

Overall, transparency has declined for both companies, McKinnon noted.

'Expression' in the workplace

At Meta, McKinnon feels that dissent is welcomed.

"Meta feels like a quasi-academic, truth-seeking organization where decisions are made with data and dissent is encouraged," he wrote. "This environment can be quite unsettling to those used to a more consensus-based or non-confrontational culture."

Google is different when it comes to "free expression," and employees are more "reserved," according to McKinnon.

"Questioning priorities is generally not encouraged, which does tend to make for a more collegial work environment but can be frustrating for PMs who want to effect change," he wrote.

In April, Google fired at least 28 employees for protesting the company's Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion cloud-computing contract with Israel's government.

Career ladder

McKinnon wrote that the career ladder seems faster at Meta than at Google, where progression can often be based on seniority.

He also said that Meta's leadership is filled with young VPs, including the company's chief financial officer, Susan Li, who assumed the role when she was 36.

"Google is much more time-based," McKinnon wrote.

Managers are given a quota for tenure-based promotions, and while promotions based on excellent performance can happen, they are "much rarer," he said.

But he added a caveat: "However, these career progression observations cut both ways. I have never been in this situation, but I believe that it is much easier to get fired for poor performance at Meta than Google, which should certainly be a factor for those for whom job security is paramount."

PMs versus software engineers

Product managers at Meta and Google can serve different purposes, according to McKinnon.

At Google, McKinnon saw that projects were largely created and led by software engineers, and PMs played a more auxiliary role.

At Meta, there's a stronger emphasis on product managers who are "responsible for both ensuring the broader team is building something useful and that usefulness can be quantified and iterated on," he wrote.

"Both approaches have their merit, but I never could shake the feeling that Google could delete its entire PM function and not feel much in the way of repercussions," McKinnon wrote.


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