Remember in, like, 1993 when it was awesome to work for IBM? I remember hearing about their awesome rockstar offices and how many amenities that they had. This guy at my church had just finished Chubb's "Top Gun" program and now was a shoe in at IBM because it was such a great place to work. I heard they had a coffee shop and hair salon INSIDE the building. (hey, it was cool then). I had heard that programmers that worked for big companies like IBM made, like, $200 an hour. It was the place to be.
Then around 2000 I started noticing that only my dad's weird friends worked at IBM. The ones who didn't care that much about where they worked or what they did. The company name wasn't thrown around that much, didn't have the same impact anymore. I no longer had any desire to be a programmer at IBM, it seemed like a bummer.
So, this past weekend the Microsoft in Manhattan hosted Code Camp III. I had a freaking blast, not only did I get to rock my new hightop sneakers but it is so much fun communing with other nerds, isn't it? I don't get to do that too often, my office hasn't had any other developers until recently (our hardcore vegan yoga teaching flash guy), and though I have programmer friends I don't actually SEE them too often. The talks were great, even though I didn't pick up any new tech I wanted to try it's good to see how other people do things sometimes. Gives you a lot of ideas.
One thing struck me as odd, though. So, I expected MS in Manhattan to be posh. However, when I got there they looked like a regular drab office in the city. Now, how "cool" your office looks doesn't make the entire company. However, it does reflect on the management and how much they prioritize their employees. Now, they did have xbox workstations, however, they were the kind you see at Radio Shack. Obviously for visitors and not employees.
Here is a team that knows what they are doing. The fog creek offices are seriously posh. Who WOULDNT die to work there (well, maybe not DIE). Something that Joel knows is that in order to make your staff bust their buns and make your company successful you should show them that they matter to you. Make them love where they are. Even in Joel's blog post about the subject he said it cost a tiny fraction of their revenue. I'm in some pretty sweet digs here (I'll post some pics in the AM, I'm tired). This company understands that in order to attract the talent you need to show them how much they mean to you, we have some serious rockstars under this roof.
Like I said, it's not EVERYTHING. However, if I got a call from Microsoft tomorrow I don't know that I'd be jumping for the phone. That's a very different attitude than the one I used to have. Am I hating on Microsoft? No, I am pretty grateful for this whole "career" thing... but I think that in order to stay current they need to spend a "tiny fraction" of the big bucks they have. Because beleive me, reputation trickles down. If developers don't want to be there users will find out. No matter who they hire, one thing they know is that developers are the best evangelists they have.