Programming Interviews Exposed

The T-Shirt Signal

by Eric Giguere

Occasionally I’m asked what’s the biggest difference between working at Google and working for my previous employer. There are some obvious answers like better compensation, better perks, more opportunity, smarter colleagues, impact-based promotion system, etc. But really it all boils down to the additions to my wardrobe. I’m talking t-shirts, folks!

It seems silly, but the number and variety of t-shirts you get as a software engineer is a strong signal as to what kind of company you’re working for. New t-shirts can mean:

  • The company has money to spare. (When it doesn’t, “frivolous” expenditures on things like t-shirts are the first to get chopped.)
  • The company values your team. (You get t-shirts designed specifically for your project and/or the members of your team.)
  • The company values its products. (You get t-shirts when a major new product or product update launches.)
  • The company supports its employees. (You get t-shirts for initiatives around women in computing, LGBT issues, diversity, etc.)
  • The company is a fun place to work. (You get silly t-shirts for silly reasons.)

It’s quite amazing how excited software engineers get about t-shirts. T-shirt distribution at our office is often a frenzied affair. It’s a simple and inexpensive perk that makes those software engineers feel just a little bit better about the work they do and the company they work for.

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