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Google Memo on Cost Cuts Sparks Heated Debate Inside Company (bloomberg.com)
271 points by petethomas 21 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 329 comments

I've heard that getting promoted at Google is kind of a shitshow -- that your manager can't vouch for you and it's basically up to how well you summarize and present your work to a faceless promotion committee (i.e. how well you play politics). I don't think this is entirely a bad thing, per se. In light of this memo, however, I wonder if the layered bureaucracy of the promotion process is an intentional way of not promoting promotion-worthy employees and keeping costs down.

Been @ Google 7 years, and never gone for promo precisely because the process is obnoxious. I'm fine with my level and salary anyways. But the process is ... Very showboat. I just want to do a good job and be a person who contributes incrementally and care-takes a code base. Promo encourages another kind of personality entirely.

To me, Google in many ways reflects the very academic background of its founders and senior employees. Larry & Sergey never worked in industry before Google -- they founded Google out of their project @ Stanford. The office is a campus, with cafeterias and layout like a university. Promotion and other things are done via committees like a graduate thesis committee. Design and planning is often about large documents and presentations like term papers or group assignments. When I worked in another product area there were poster sessions to present your work similar to what my wife had to do for some of her uni coursework. The interview process is like a test for your final year algorithms and data structures courses.

Its an environment that is immediately familiar to academics, researchers, and recent grads. At least that how it seems, to me, as someone self-taught who worked in smaller companies and startups for years before coming to Google.

Xoogler here: I was promoted L5 -> L6 (senior -> staff SWE) in 2015, so I can talk a bit about this.

Your manager can actually be helpful, but the process is byzantine. In my case, my promo committee approved my promo. However, at L6 there was an automatic review of all promos to that level by a 2nd committee. The review committee denied my promo. My manager came in at this point and lodged an appeal on my behalf to the review committee's decision. That appeal took the promo to a 3rd committee that ultimately approved it.

I did not know any of the details of what was happening. I only learned what happened in my 1:1 with my manager when he told me the whole story. He was so happy and proud of himself that he managed to help me get promoted. The sad thing is that this was the 1:1 where I told him that I was leaving for Netflix (much better offer due to non-monetary factors).

The truly kafka-esque part of this: Since promo at Google is a huge deal, and since you if you are hired back, you retain the level at which you departed at, I really wanted to leave as a L6. So I delayed my start at Netflix until my promo went through. I resigned effective a day after the effective promo date. However, in the HR system, the resignation cancelled the promo. So I had to jump through some hoops to get the promo re-instated. I know it went through, because I had friends check go/epitaphs and I eventually got my promo jacket..

Ouch. You did nothing wrong, but that must have sucked for your manager.

> However, in the HR system, the resignation cancelled the promo.

Can I ask you about occurrences of fence post errors?

There was a very important eng who was basically a sole contributor on a difficult component in a system. He announced his retirement date well in advance, but after the bonus payout period. HR terminated him early, denying him the bonus and leaving the team to scramble and organize a mini-summit to do knowledge transfer. The team itself had no control over the date. I believe it was a similar company.

I left my last company the day after our quarterly bonus and HR managed to reverse the transaction. To be honest I didn't even realize te bonus was due that day and I gave my usual 2 week notice. They could have not even deposited the amount and I would have not noticed. HR leadership used be a lot kinder at that company until there was a shift to a new HR director.

That sounds illegal.

It doesn't matter if its illegal or not, if he wants to dispute it, it will probably go through binding arbitration.

Arbitrators do not need to have any understanding of the law, and are notoriously employer-friendly.

Possibly but the amount lost was small and I had already gotten 98%+ of all my bonuses up to this point.

If you have an important or arbitrary milestone coming up in the next two weeks, don't give your two weeks notice until after that milestone. It sounds paranoid but it's better to be paranoid than to be screwed on something like this.

Gee, and in another thread we were wondering why people walk off jobs without notice. This is a prime example to reinforce the move.

In my case, fear of this sort of thing is why I could not let my manager know that I was planning on leaving. He would not have intentionally screwed me over like this, but I was afraid somebody above him in the org chart would.

I felt really bad that he went to bat for me for the promo.

denying him the bonus and leaving the team to scramble and organize a mini-summit to do knowledge transfer

I hope he said “no bonus, no knowledge” because that’s the only reasonable response!

The process has changed in significant ways since you left.

Not all that much for ->L6 and above. Just for L5 and below.

Yes, also for L6+ in ways that would have affected key parts of drewg123's experience.

I'm curious too.

I'm a current employee and subject to the confidentiality agreement, so I can't go into detail here. But you probably know as a former employee that Google often makes incremental improvements to their processes, and the promotion process (including L6+) is no exception. Sorry for the boring corporate-speak. If you really want to know the details, come back! :)

(I realized after re-reading my comment that it was ambiguous; I didn't mean to suggest that your eventual yes would have turned into a no. I merely meant that the process to get there today would have been different, and hopefully more predictably efficient.)

EDIT: actually there is one hugely confidential scoop that certainly would have affected you and that I'm totally going to share with you. They no longer have promotion jackets. (Readers, these were lightweight zippered jackets or pullovers that read "Google Engineering" near the breast-pocket area. They were so understated that they triggered this sort of CrossFit reflex that compelled some wearers to tell everyone within earshot about them.) In the past couple years the company has tried to tone down promotion celebrations, at least in Tech, so many of the broadcasted congratulations are gone, along with the jackets. Fine with me -- promotion season is nice for those who get what they asked for, painful for those who didn't, and in either case something that should be private by default, like your salary.

Interestingly enough, the jackets also went away in 2016 in the latter half of the year, just before holiday gifts.

Care to elaborate?

Damn that sounds insanely bureaucratic. I can't even imagine anyone would ever want to work there, it sounds like a shit show of stupidity.

Even skipping the complicated and pointless interview process, if I were offered a million a year I'd say no.

Congrats! I have a couple questions if you don't mind: - Did Google give you a counter offer? - In what ways is Netflix better for you?

I did not leave for monetary reasons. Netflix offered me a few things that Google couldn't. I don't recall if there was a counter offer. I think there was talk of one, but I made it clear that it was not about money.

At Netflix, I get to contribute to an open source project that I'm passionate about (and which Google does not use). Netflix is also much smaller, and I had more impact at Netflix in my first 2 months than I did in my entire time at Google.

I should mention that Google was a fantastic place to work. I loved my co-workers, and I loved working for Google. Netflix just happened to be a much better fit for me.

This was a great read. Thanks for sharing

Are you still at Netflix?

Yes. It is by far the best place I've ever worked.

How does the "only A players, adequate performance gets a big severance package" idea play out in reality? That seems like it would be a constant source of stress unless you were clearly in the top 10% even at Netflix.

It sounds far, far worse than it is. This was a really big fear of mine going into the company almost 4 years ago, and so far I've been fine. I think it is a common fear that new hires have.

Netflix is much faster to let people go (famous for no PIPs, etc). But I've never seen anybody shown the door with 0 warning.

That's a little relieving; if anything, making the policy sound more brutal than it really is probably sets better expectations than making the policy sound more lenient than it really is. For example, as far as I can tell, the PIP ceremony is just that, a ceremony. Not that nobody has ever survived a PIP without getting fired, but it's typically a mechanism to manage people out while minimizing the company's liability. It's probably an improvement to replace an expensive, bureaucratic mechanism that keeps disgruntled low performers around with a lump sum of cash that gets them out the door ASAP (assuming the "generous severance" tradeoff is accurate).

Also, every company talks a big game about setting a high bar and only wanting the best performers, so if you want to accurately convey the notion that you really do set a high bar and really do only want the best performers, you have to overstate the point to a degree that sounds brutal or even sociopathic.

your manager can't vouch for you and it's basically up to how well you summarize and present your work to a faceless promotion committee (_i.e. how well you play politics_). (emphasis mine)

Googler here, speaking for myself.

Isn't what you describe literally the opposite of playing politics?

I'm an Xoogler and was promoted when I was there. (see sibling comment for details).

The way to get promoted at Google seems to be to play a game where you tick all the boxes for performance at the next level and have the right people write for you. In some ways, that helps the company (working across teams, for example). In other ways, it may hurt the company (launching potentially redundant products is seen by committees as being more valuable than incrementally improving existing products). I think that a lot depends on who writes recommendations for you in your promo packet (and that's pure politics)

In my case, I was basically gathering requirements and helping other teams integrate with an internal product. So I was perfectly positioned for promo. I was an L5, and talking to a lot of senior folks in other teams (sr. staff, director, vp) who were willing to write for me. I'm pretty sure having a VP who knew me and could write about me really made the difference.

> I think that a lot depends on who writes recommendations for you in your promo packet (and that's pure politics) ... I'm pretty sure having a VP who knew me and could write about me really made the difference.

It sounds like that VP knew you because of the work you were doing, not because you bought him dinner or something. In that case, it's not pure politics, your work was apparently important and impacted a lot of people.

In this thread it sounds like a lot of people think promotion (and work performance in general) should be measured by purely technical contributions only, which is not realistic. That kind of work is important and makes sense for entry level work, but that's not how big projects get done.

That's true, he knew me because of the work I was doing on my 20% project. This was a small stealth-mode thing which was a pet project of his. So I mainly just lucky. Meanwhile, the guy who sat behind me, worked much harder, came in earlier and left later, and turned out mountains of high quality code never got promoted (he retired).

But Google prides itself on being a meritocracy, when really it is just another case of "who you know" is as important as "what you know"

(my guesses from reading this thread) The work was important, but the GP was _the face_ of that work only. Many other people collaborated on shipping that work - the VP only knew GP. The issue people are pointing out is that this incentivizes people gravitating towards such roles which are high in. "visibility".

> The way to get promoted at Google seems to be to play a game where you tick all the boxes for performance at the next level

This is how it works at every company I’ve ever worked for. Companies don’t want to promote someone into a position where the outcome seems risky.

Don't know how it is now, but most of my promos at Microsoft (in 00s) were unexpected by me. I just kicked ass, and my managers delivered the goods. I liked that system. That's how it's supposed to work. :-)

Some other people have mentioned hiring people defensively so they can't compete. I don't know how true that is, but if it is... then making a redundant project means you need to be retained so you don't write clones for anyone else.

That's not a problem with the process, that's a problem with what the senior engineers value (making themselves feel smarter than their aspiring peers, not producing valuable products)

You know, I'd even believe you if I did not observe with my own eyes, at Google, how people get promoted despite not really doing much themselves other than gaming the visibility, and people who are literally one of a kind and who delivered world class, pivotal work get denied promotion repeatedly.

It's still a human-based system. It's still vulnerable to nearly the same political bullshit you see elsewhere: cliques, favoritism, backstabbing, etc. Heck even your boss still affects your promo (there's a "private" section in the feedback you don't see). If you don't see this, then you're probably not getting promoted either.

A good friend of mine from university is a Googler. He is a nice guy, but incredibly political and technically not very capable. A master of making himself look good, schmoozing and talking the talk. He has done rather well at Google.

Yet another friend, a brilliant, straight-talking techy, struggles at moving up the ranks Google.

Only one data point, but given the comments here, perhaps it is somewhat accurate.

The solution is to work for a smaller company where your output is directly tied to the market success of the entire organisation, and where its small enough that the CEO/Founder can directly appreciate your efforts. Just make sure that you have a solid bonus/promotion structure pre-agreed and you're good to go.

Bonus is that these kind of jobs are often located outside of Silicon Valley, so your living costs will be much lower.

You're saying to walk away from $250k+ at Google so you can pull in 120 at a failed startup?

If someone doesn't have the weaseling skills to weasel up the ladder at Google, they're going to be horribly exploited at a smaller company too

No, from my experience what is meant is to join a small and medium-sized enterprise and become a part of their success. $200k is a lot in salary, but it isn't that much for a company as such if they sell or provide high value products or services.

This is false. I’ve been at 4 different startups and the ones I made myself key to market success were way better than working in these soul crushing meat grinders like Goog or FB. There’s more to life than TC.

Just for what it's worth, my experience is the opposite; I've found Google less of a meat grinder and less soul crushing than startups. But I think it's possible that a lot depends on where - both in the country and in the org chart - you're located.

> There’s more to life than TC.

Easy to say but those "soul crushing meat grinders" can pay literally hundreds of thousands more in total annual comp than some dinky startup.

What does TC stand for?

Total compensation

total compensation

Some smaller companies (including startups) pay really well, too. And I agree with the poster below, there's more to life than total comp.

I don't get this statement. Google doesn't force anyone to work overnight. It doesn't force you to work at all, to be honest. Some people can spend a workday skiing and then arrive at 6 pm for dinner. TC is 400K. And once you're bored or feel undercompensated, you just go to FB, Netflix or Snapchat and get a 30-50% pay rise.

But you're an inconsequential cog, and in order to get a decent bonus and _any_ RSU refresh at all (which is the majority of that 400K btw) you have to jump through insane hoops and shave yaks all day. At some point it feels like Dostoevsky's labor camp description: you dig a hole and then you fill it back up. Except this is a very comfy labor camp, with 3 meals a day, and you can leave if you want to.

But some of us like to actually make things, and have a sense of purpose, and other things higher up on the Maslow's pyramid of needs. For them Google of 2019 is mostly not a good place, unless they end up on teams (and in positions on those teams) where they can do work that's meaningful to them, rather than copy proto buffers in some soon-to-be deprecated backend. Meaningful work is scarce there, and has been for at least the last decade, and a lot of people are competing for it.

> But you're an inconsequential cog

In the grand scheme of things everybody is an inconsequential cog. You, me and everybody you know are average people who will grind away at whatever thing we happen do. You aren't gonna change the world. I'm not gonna change the world. Accept this and move on.

> Meaningful work is scarce there

"Meaningful work" is in the eye of the beholder. Learning to find joy in whatever task you are working on is an important skill to learn.

Being a very highly paid "inconsequential cog" at a mega-corp and working below market at some dinky startup can be the difference between actually affording to buy a house. It can mean you get to retire years earlier than you would have otherwise. It can mean putting your kids through a top notch education program. It buys you a lot of things.

The entirety of one's world view is defined by their perception. If you can convince yourself you're not a cog at Google, hey, more power to you, enjoy those golden handcuffs. But if not, there are plenty of options out there which let you pay mortgage, put your kids through college, and "buy a lot of things". It doesn't have to be FANG.

So Google is bad for promotion and startups too are bad. I am not sure what other options people are looking to suggest.

The other option is to realize that in the world of people, your people skills can be even more valuable than your technical skills. I think that L5 is the tipping point where people skills start to dominate.

Technical skills are the skills to make machines do whatever you want, they get no say in the matter. People skills are the skills to make people do whatever you want. You can see why many are reluctant to get involved in that.

...the obvious answer to that would be “non-Google companies that are also not startups.”

Y’know, there is a whole world of companies out there that don’t depend on venture capital to survive...

> Just make sure that you have a solid bonus/promotion structure pre-agreed and you're good to go.

That is a pretty big "just". Bonuses aren't common everywhere, and unfortunately it seems like management being directly involved in the company can also go the other way. Since they have a larger incentive to short change you on salary as it is their own bottom line.

That said I think looking at the promotion structure is something underappreciated and should really be part of these "how to be successful" post rather than maxing out you credit card (or whatever).

Higher levels at Google inevitably mean getting people organized. Convincing that your design is worth investing resources into.

If you are awesome only at cranking out code, you are stuck at L4.

so they keep the smart people doing useful work, rather than convert them to useless managers?

same as it ever was.

Promotion at Google does not mean management.

Specifically, there are two job ladders in this area, one for management and one for engineering. People are welcome to switch ladders, though there's some friction in the process because they actually are different jobs. The idea is that people shouldn't sacrifice talents to progress in their careers, as often happens when talented engineers are pushed into people management at other companies.

Like a lot of jobs in tech, there is overlap. Managers can write code, and senior engineers can manage people if they want. Everyone needs at least some technical skills, and everyone needs at least some people skills. But the intent is to provide a good long-term path for people who want to focus more on one or the other.

That is true, but what's also true is that it's _way_ easier to get promoted beyond L5 as a manager, and darn near impossible to get promoted beyond L6 as an IC. Google values managers more, just like any other company. That's why you see like 7 layers of management there by now and directors reporting to directors and VPs reporting to VPs: people want more money but can't get to the next level as ICs. Fun fact: when I left Google, I was 1 level deeper in the hierarchy than I've ever been at Microsoft, a company that at the time I left was twice the size of Google I left 7 years later.

I wouldn't say it's easier to get promoted in the sense that the work is easier. A company with 85,000 employees needs a lot of managers (who themselves need managers, and so on), so there's definitely demand. But that demand need not change the stringency of the job requirements.

Google could let half its managers go tomorrow and things would only improve. And you know it, even if you are a manager. :-)

... until you figure out that maybe comparing numbers of high level technical engineers to numbers of high level managers would be the correct way to gauge this. Your chances of becoming a high level manager are very slim, but your chances of becoming a high level engineer are much slimmer.

But if your message is "it's better than elsewhere", then yes, it probably is.

It usually means "tech lead" which is management without the labor relations legalities (except where NLRB calls the bluff?.

If Google could distinguish between smart people and useless people, why keep the useless people?

I guess i should clarify. Useless in a technical sense, not in a bureaucratic sense. You still need them of course.

And I'm sure even the worst at google are far from 'useless.' Figure of speech.

Edit: Possibly better than the alternative overall though. So frustrating to have competent people promoted as you're trying to put out a working product. Cancel those meetings and fix this code!

But just to be clear for when this comment gets mined by some future HR department. It is of course very important to have good people making the high level architectural decisions, and you should absolutely hire me for your senior technical positions to maximize the output of all those around me!

It's just the whole needing to give blunt assessments of underlings that may have consequences for their and their families livelihood that I'm not suited for.

I've seen it go both ways. Definitely agreed that it's a human process and it can be gamed a bit. There are (or had been in the past) some checks on that with secondary committees that re-reviewed primary committee results (not just appeals of negative cases). I think the removal of those checks and move to org based promos has allowed more of what you described to take place in unfortunately.

Is it? It might not be playing inter-personal politics, but it's like doing a campaign speech.

Instead of a long term assessment of your work (and the real interactions within your team etc), it's how you represent it in a pitch that is measured... The most charismatic presenter (e.g. bullshit artist) wins.

Well, I would call everything you have to do besides the work itself to 'play politics'. Since very few tasks in a company require to present your work afterward, it is hard for managers to find out who did best without extra presentations.

In the end, I think it is the manager's job to motivate their people to present their work, but ultimately it is in the employee's interest.

My advice is to get used to having to present your work. Otherwise, you might end up doing a fantastic job and being disappointed when nobody notices that it was you who did it (probably resulting in promotions for people who didn't do as good as you did).

Engineering is a social job. Coding is much less of one. Explaining, debating, and presenting the relevance, correctness, quality, and comparative advantage of one's engineering work is part of "the work itself."

You're right that it's kind of pointless to "present your work afterward," and indeed, promotion committees at Google actually pay little attention to after-the-fact summaries of technical work. Instead, they look for artifacts of in-the-moment design and implementation discussions. This is the evidence showing that a given solution wasn't just one person's moment of inspired genius that he or she deigned to bestow upon the codebase, but rather the best of many possible solutions that the team chose, as a team, drawing on all the resources available such as literature, other projects past and present, the informed opinions of others in the field, the experience of senior engineers and former engineers now in management, the PMs who agree this solution achieves business goals, etc.

All too many junior engineers think a design document is "what we actually did." It's not. It's "why we picked the path we did, and why we rejected the alternatives." And yeah, as you say, nobody's going to care about what you actually did. That's kind of like being forced to look at a long series of selfies on Instagram. But they definitely will care if you asked their opinion which way to go at the start of the project, and later on they'll respect the fact that you consulted them and others on their area of expertise, because what you built has a little bit of them in it.

That's the difference between coding and engineering. Code is something that works. Engineering is the selecting the best of the possible working solutions, and being able to explain why it was the best.

A good manager should present their reportees' work for them, or help hire someone to do that for them. Do you want salespeople doing your tech jobs?

Well, kind of. But it's still very bureaucratic.

To be cynical, though, being successful with that kind of process requires knowing how to describe your accomplishments, what metrics to emphasize, and what projects are simply not worth spending time on because they won't scream "promote me!" during your review (even though they might be necessary & important).

It also requires being given the opportunity to pursue high leverage projects in the first place. And guess who decides that.

Nope: playing politics mean talking corporatesse and a promotion commitee only understands that. Like when asking for scientific funds.

You can call almost anything 'playing policits'. In other companies, getting along with your manager on purpose to get a promotion and taking credit for successes, can certainly be called 'playing politics. The difference in Google is that there's a standardized process, so maybe that avoids a manager promoting his friends.

I'd say that is correct. Unless you work alone you are going to be playing politics to some degree.

>You can call almost anything 'playing policits'.

Except what does matter, and should be counted: your code, your design decisions, and the quality of your project output...

Getting along with people actually matters.

Brilliant jerks lower the morale and output of everyone around them.

I agree that promotion processes suck if they don't create room for understated high achievers, people who are just a little more shy or awkward or humble.

But focusing exclusively on individual output and ignoring more pathologic behaviors can lead to massive problems. And some team projects absolutely require communication as a core skill that influences overall output.

But none of that is the same kind of “playing politics” that it sounds like is required by Google’s processes. Indeed, if you’re good at playing politics, you can be an absolute jerk on a regular basis, but still get promoted all the time by saying the right things to the promotion board.

Someone else’s comment had it almost right: playing politics is anything you choose to do at work primarily for the purpose of making yourself look good to those you think have the power to promote or fire you.

Something apparently missing from this is that what you say is only a small part of what the promo committee looks at. They also see peer reviews from coworkers and your manager.

So this idea of blindly sucking up to the promo committee doesn't happen. (And in practice I'd agree, everyone I've seen get promo deserved it).

The promotion board pays attention to what your co-workers say. More attention to that, then what you say, actually. If everyone says you're an asshole in your promotion packet, you're going to have a hard time getting promoted.

>Getting along with people actually matters.

And that's another thing that can't be decided by a committee where you go and play nice for a few hours...

> your code

Who decides what "good code is"? There is no gold standard for such defenition. Guess how that gets decided? Politics.

> your design decisions

In order to "get credit", how does anybody know your design decisions were the best? Hell, how do you even know it was the right move. Just like the code, there is no 100% correct design decisions. It's all trade offs. Knowing you chose the best path and more important trying to get credit for it is.... politics.

I mean, you had to convince people your design decisions were correct to get them implemented. That was political....

> and the quality of your project output

What does "quality" mean? Wanna define it? That is politics.

What does "project output" mean? Wanna define it? That, too, is politics.

Engineers always think they can avoid "politics". But politics is everywhere and is an unescapable feature of life. It isn't even a bad thing. Any time you have limited resources and people are in contention for those resources, you are gonna get politics.

Stop trying to avoid it and embrace it. Politics are part of every job if you want to be successful.

Hell, even attempting to convince people that they should ignore politics is itself a political move.

>> your code Who decides what "good code is"? There is no gold standard for such defenition. Guess how that gets decided? Politics.

There doesn't have to be a "gold standard", just sensible experienced programmers doing code reviews, instead of office-politics-players and executive drones.

>In order to "get credit", how does anybody know your design decisions were the best? Hell, how do you even know it was the right move.

How about people with actual domain knowledge judge that?

All the rest of the comment is the same, as if any judgement of a project/code/design is impossible outside of "who likes whom" and "who kisses whose ass".

If that's the case where one works, they should get out pronto.

Who would know the employee's work better, her manager or the promotion committee? This reminds me of an interview process that does not include checking references.

A system like you describe would seem to favour the employee who is adept at promoting her work. It also might disadvantage employees who are better performers than promoters. It would fail to detect employees who are poor or average performers but adept at covering that up.

Does the promotion committee consult with the manager?

A system like this suggests the company is concerned about favouritism and may not trust managers. It also suggests they may be willing to blindly trust self-promoting employees without knowing much about them.

How does the system account for high-performing employees that are too busy working to prepare presentations for promotion committees? Is there no such thing as an unsolicited promotion based on performance under this system?

Surely managers are reporting on the employees they manage. Assuming that includes any information on performance, then a system like this could allow the company to ignore the issue of rewarding high-performers with promotions, unless and until those employees came forward and presented to a promotion committee.

However a system like this does seem potentially beneficial for employees who feel they are undervalued by their manager.

"How does the system account for high-performing employees that are too busy working to prepare presentations for promotion committees? Is there no such thing as an unsolicited promotion based on performance under this system?"

I think maybe "high-performing employee", in this system, is simply defined at least in part as "one who prepares excellent presentations for promotion committees."

In any system based on individual inequality a high-performing employee is whoever is appreciated by the central authority. If you actually want to award performance you need collective inequality. That is, you need differences between successful and unsuccessful projects rather than between employees deemed successful or unsuccessful in those projects.

In a few ways, the hurdles you outline are a helpful filter management skills. Presenting and promoting your team's work will become just as important as doing the work. Providing context for failures, which could be seen as covering up, is critical. If you are too busy working to prepare an important presentation, you are not ready to be a manager.

Even if the promotion keeps you at an IC, your responsibilities are still increasing, so I think most of those points stand.

"Presenting and promoting your team's work..."

Is that what is being promoted in a presentation to a promotion committee arguing that you individually should be promoted within the organization?

"... too busy to prepare an important presentation..."

Important to whom? You or the people you are working for?

I agree a system like this could filter for what we commonly recognise as "management qualities".

Although I am not sure they would be qualities such as selflessness and putting the needs of their reports and the organization ahead of their own aspirations.

It might also filter for self-serving behaviour.

If you can't advocate for yourself, how are you going to advocate for anybody else? A promotion process, if there is one, is an important time for you and the organization. Lots of people's time is being spent to figure out whether to elevate an individual towards a position of company leadership. In the long run, it's far, far more important than any individual project you might be working on (and if it isn't, show that you can get yourself out of the front lines, or you are destined to fail at management).

My brother is an Xoogler, who told me a few years ago there was a de facto 3-year "up or out" policy. That is, if you go 3 years and haven't been promoted, you should probably expect to need to find work at another company.

Before L5. (At least as of when I left, which was 4+ years ago.)

It’s L4 as of like a year ago; also going up to L5 no longer has promo committee per-se, but instead is a PA meeting between leads who hash it out, and the manager is much more involved.

with that kind of policy, it's no wonder they can't retain talent. Since most people can't be promoted, then they have no choice but to leave or get laid off.

To be honest, promotion is a difficult process in general. I'd like to hear of a company where promotion isn't a 'shit show'. Generally, either companies like to err on the side of 'this is gonna be very difficult, buckle up!' or they promote too many people, which has a number of side effects. That leads to even worse results if you ask me.

Promotions in other companies are usually in the year’s budget, so the number of seats is known in advance.

The only question is who gets to level up, and it becomes a dancing chair competition with none of the participants having a direct say (managers will take feedback and do whatever they want with it).

For a small and growing company it’s not rare for higher ups to explicitely fish around for people to promote as they just need to grow the ranks. The bigger it becomes the harder the competition is.

What you describe sounds like an equally broken process.

I like (what I've seen) at my workplace. We've designed a rubric across multiple dimensions (basically leveled epectations at each role, software engineer 1 through 4 plus two levels of principal engineer). Everyone knows what is expected at each level. You have goals tied to personal and team initiatives. Managers are limited in the count for direct reports and work daily with their teams, and the they also often solicit feedback on strengths and opportunities for growth from direct reports for teammates who have more interaction with each other. Managers then all get together and level set on performance and promotions. Managers have to defend a promo and performace with data. It helps protect against rubber stamping and from being overly hard. Sure there is a budget that is taken into account, and that is life. We announce all internal promotions, and when you know the person, you always can agree it was deserved. I've been promoted multiple times and have increased my salary a lot each time.

To be honest, this sounds pretty much like the same process as Google, with the main significant difference being that the promotion is approved by committee. But even then the purpose of that would seem to be exactly the same as your statements "Managers then all get together and level set on performance and promotions. Managers have to defend a promo and performace with data." It's just done with more formality at Google due to their size and desire for equitable treatment across teams.

I’ve literally gotten 1 promotion in a 15 year career. Every other title and salary change was from switching jobs.

I have also never gotten a “promotion” in over 20 years and only twice have I gotten a meaningful raise and they were both around $10K and that was early in my career.

I stayed at one company for 9 years and made only $7K more in year 9 than I made in year 2. I stuck around mostly because of side businesses that I was hoping would turn into full time businesses.

But I did learn my lesson. A company has exactly two years to at least get me to local market value.

Now being on the other side of the bell curve, after working for 5 companies over the last 10 years, I either have to settle with just cost of living raises or move into an area that I am qualified for but doesn’t really excite me - consulting (“digital transformation consultant”, “cloud consulting”, etc.)

What was your longest stay at a company?

5 years at the one that promoted me.

Sure but all big, desirable tech companies have almost identical promotion processes: every 1.5-8 years (with higher levels generally taking longer) you get a title/full level bump. And the biggest, hardest bumps are always the bumps from IC to manager. Yeah it’s a shitshow but there’s much less diversity in process than you seem to think

The highest paid people I've ever known, as developers, work at Google. And that top salary was $650,000/yr. I have no idea what the benefits were, but I'm guessing substantial. And, from an HR friend of a friend, I found out that managers in a group make at least as much as the highest paid report.

It may be my sample size is very senior or very desired, I don't know.

650 is L6 which is maybe 5% of the Google's population. The median pay would be around 300.

I can't speak if it was indeed true, but this was/is what engs at Amazon thought about the promotion process in place there, too.

Frugality is a core leadership principle at Amazon, after all, however misunderstood it may be.

This changed for almost all promotions around when this slide deck was allegedly made. Now, below L5, it is more or less conventional, because your director effectively makes the decision. So your manager now has a LOT of influence, for all the promotions people care about (the mandatory ones). They had explicit promo budgets per org at least once. So if anything the more recent changes were made to facilitate something like this.

What was really interesting to me about this was that although it did seem like a good way to avoid politics, what the original promo process actually did was incentivize fire-and-forget projects that would be more promotable if they touched as many other moving pieces as possible. This to me explains a lot of Google.

I won't write a long whiny post, but when I left in 2009 it was really bad, at least where I was.

Since the committee that promotes you don't know anything about your daily work, you're free to lie about your accomplishments, and the promotion essays I saw and were asked to endorse took credit for vastly more than the person had done.

"kind of a shitshow" would be an improvement over what it really is. If you intend to work at google, negotiate your title up front, while you still can.

Can entry level applicants do this?

Your success in any negotiation will usually depend on what your leverage is

What if you don’t have any leverage? Just take what you’re offered and work on becoming an invidial with leverage?

Perhaps some people are content with their role. I know many engineers, who, by virtue of being productive, got themselves promoted into managing roles where they hardly ever write code.

Perhaps this system works because it allows "climbers" to proceed up the ranks, ensuring they don't become resentful, while ensuring productive engineers get to stay productive?

The problem is that up until recently there was an expectation that you climb or you don't belong. If you stayed at L4 for too many years they'd start to take a close look at you and consider you for... ejection.

They say that's not the case anymore. Entering year 7 without promo, so I'll let you know how it goes.

Reread the ladder, L4 is now the growth expectation. You're safe, comrade.

Google has an IC ladder. You don’t need to go into management when you get promoted.

Am I crazy for thinking that type of presentation sounds like fun? I love that kind of thing. Not saying it’s the best way to determine who gets promoted, but I’d look forward to making a pitch like that.

That sounds a lot like their interviewing style — treating people like cogs by reading from a script. Instead of immediate feedback and interaction the results are sent to a committee for analysis.

It is almost by definition more objective but there isn't evidence it achieves better results. It doesn't seem worth the cost; most people appreciate being treated like people.

It makes sense for a company of Google's size, where there's an endless pool of candidates.

What I don't understand is why so many small companies are eager to copy Google's interview process. It's not for them.

That sounds nothing like politics. Politics would be if you promotions depended on how Well your manager likes you.

that’s only for people senior and above. (small amount of people). 99 pct of people reading this would never get to that level. although you are correct that it used to be the case for a lot more people.

> 99 pct of people reading this would never get to that level.

Wow, that's fairly presumptuous of you. Most software engineers make senior (L5) after they've worked in the industry for a few years.

Source: worked at Google and Facebook before.

That's only true when you ignore all the people who quit or get manager out for non-promotion.

Yeah. I've been with Google 8+ years. Got promoted once, 3 years ago. Then in two consecutive years, on two different teams, I had a manager leave me, and ended up reporting to a sub-optimal manager that I didn't choose to report to. That meant zero career progress for that time period.

Now I am 6 months into another team. I have a good manager on a good team who is unlikely to leave, and I'm on track to get promoted again.

You don't just 'make' L5. You have to prove you deserve it with a whole bunch of showboating. The process encourages self-promoters and fame seekers, not incremental contributors. They fiddle with the knobs every few months and say they're trying to rectify this, but it's never going to change. It's not like you can just do a good job and move from L4 to L5. You essentially have to lead a project. And that means fighting for a project or lead of your own. Which means nobody wants to do the grunt work, because there's no recognition for it. You will be promoted for initiating and leading a new effort, not plugging away at an old one. IMHO this has a deleterious effect on engineering quality and when its PMs doing this, it leads to runaway competing novelty projects.

I'm expecting to get to l5 in a large part due to (necessary) grunt work.

It's also unclear what you mean by plugging away. If you make improvements to an existing system, you absolutely can get promoted. But on some scale, those improvements are probably viewable as a "new launch", so that's sort of tautological.

This has improved in recent promo rounds, there seems to be more recognition of this. However the L4 to L5 process has been in the past framed as "L5 owns/leads a project/component." In some smaller projects, or in my 'remote' site, this can often mean having to stick your elbows in, in order to own something, rather than just contributing to something someone else owns.

It's also far easier for an L4 to get competing offers for amount far exceeding what L5s make. That's also how many (most?) people get the L5 level: they negotiate with HRs when they have the leverage (competing offers). Getting to L5 via the promo committee is probably the hardest way to get there.

Perhaps the most significant change in the proposal called for trimming the rate of promotions. Each year, a certain number of employees are up for promotions based on performance and other metrics. The slide deck suggested reducing this by 2 percentage points. The document said this could be rolled out without upsetting staff because workers didn’t know what the existing rate was, so wouldn’t notice if it declined.

That last sentence is quite telling about Google's attitude toward its employees.

Oh come on, that's the way employers everywhere treat their employees. There's nothing specific to Google here at all, really. Every company that reaches the end of a growth curve needs to start finding revenue growth in the higher hanging fruit. That means fewer perks and lower compenstation. It happens everywhere.

Consider that it might be an abuse of power for companies to use information asymmetry to create an unfair pricing mechanism.

I think companies should pay employees what they are worth, after taking a fair cut. Common opinion is that should pay what they can get away with, using any and all cultural forces, information asymmetries, etc available to them.

One of the ways companies pay women less is by taking advantage of the fact that women are less likely to think they are worth as much as they are. It's easy for companies to take advantage of this things, so they do. I still think it's wrong.

I won't think less of you for disagreeing, because as you say it's quite normal. I would say it's a common wrongdoing. Many/most employers aren't aware of the harm they are causing. And common (therefore often subconscious) wrongdoing is a lesser evil than conscious wrongdoing. But it's still wrongdoing.

I think it’s easy to forget that it’s someones job to design employee compensation and they usually aren’t the same person or even team working on retention, benefits or recruiting. When they get rated on how well they do their job it’s mostly on how efficiently did you use our capital which means as they optimize for their reward they pay people the minimum they can get away with.

Yes! Teams should have a role for someone whose full time job is just that: designing employee compensation.

There is so much money to be made by companies in paying someone for this: think about how much lost productivity there is because underpriced employees aren't bothering to solve problems they have the skills to solve!

Essentially: someone who efficiently uses capital to pay themselves to find ways to give more capital to employees who can efficiently use it. Micro VC I guess you could think of it is? Like each employee is a place to invest capital, and that is inevitably disbursed as higher wages.

> a common wrongdoing

I’m not aware of any other term that captures a practice that is both commonplace and wrong.

This is good and I’m adding it to my lexicon. Thanks!

> It happens everywhere.

Doesn't mean it's a great idea. While Google is a great cash cow, I'm not sure we will continue to see great innovation.

have we really seen innovation from google though?

- tensorflow, I think a huge innovation and a big win for google.

- great work in self driving cars, but that has yet to come to fruition.

- the tech behind gmail has also been really important to the web.

- chrome is great, though not a huge leap in innovation over what firefox was doing

a lot of their other products i would argue were just purchases from a company with a lot of money and weight such as:

- android

- youtube

- google maps (its my understanding that the creator wouldnt allow google to buy his company unless he could do this but i could be wrong)

so hmm, yes I would say they are innovative and we have seen some great innovations from them; though, not at break neck speeds a lot of people assume. curious to others thoughts

MapReduce, Pregel, Spanner, Beam, Kubernetes. Actually, I'm pretty sure Google innovations are endless or close enough to make no difference.

Remove Dean and Ghemawat from Google and I wonder how big this list would be.

Re: Chrome, it started with webkit, from Safari, (and from KHTML and Konqueror).

You're right, it happens everywhere and it's been happening for years now.

The problem is that while this was happening, Google was issuing large stock buybacks, essentially transferring their balance sheet away from wages for the rank and file to investors and the executive team.

Instead of leading by example or applying their principles, Google treated it with the same HR analysis any other company would do. I can see how Google's employees, especially the earlier "Don't be evil" hires, would be upset by the lack of innovation in this space.

And when every firm behaves the same way, the long slow decay of the middle class (see charts below) starts to boil over into the political space. It's a serious problem.



All of that sounds fine, but to the extent it's fixable at all, the solution to problems like that is organized labor and not specific whines about "Google is bad".

It also said that Google doesn't have enough higher level work for people if it promoted them (because the promo rate is so much higher than industry average, and Google has shifted right in levels) but just about everyone ignored that.

You can't create larger scope/etc roles out of thin air (you actually have to need the work done), and levels always seem to right shift over time.

Then maybe Google needs to stop advertising that it needs and has the most intelligent engineers in the industry. If they don't have enough work to feed them, they don't need to have them.

Does Google hire them to work at Google, or to not work somewhere else?

This is the key insight that many people ignore, straight out of The Monopoly Operating Manual. When you are Google size, many of your investments are, and should be, wisely targeted at buying insurance against risks to future revenues and cash flows, not just growing them.

I don’t remember who talked about this on one of the YC podcasts but they brought up that google hires the smartest people for 3 reasons: to kee them from going to competitors, keep them from starting something that may challenge google, use them when they need to build something incredible.

This is my biggest issue with their hiring process. They clearly need grunts like me to do shit work and fix bugs in products like Android, but they won't hire me because I don't reflexively vomit whiteboard code and lack knowledge of website design. They are so intelligent in so many ways yet they fail to have enough self-introspection to adapt to their current situation.

Haha. It’s the first time I hear Google finally admitting to this under duress. Normally, in the recruiting propaganda there’s always room for “Doing Things That Matter”, and the lobbying for immigration expansion message always echos the need for additional “best and brightest” folks, who when hired get assigned to do the most basic gruntwork (affectionately known as “moving protos”).

> It also said that Google doesn't have enough higher level work for people if it promoted them

That's job title inflation! Banking is the poster boy for that. Any junior has the title of "Vice President", and a typical large bank has a few thousands "Directors". Zimbabwe-style job title inflation!

All service jobs, consultants, lawyers, bankers etc. That sell services get better sounding titles so they can sell to similar titles in a big org.

Any junior has the title of "Vice President"

It’s partly that sure, but it is also that to enter into financial contracts on behalf of the company you need to be an officer of the company, and VP is the lowest reasonable title for such an officer, and entering into such contracts is a bank’s core business.

VP is mid-level too, you would expect a VP to have 8-10 years experience usually. More experience than many who call themselves senior software engineers!

You mean the company that is known for some of the best working conditions, benefits, and salaries in the corporate world?

This is the natural progression of an organization worth over half-a-trillion. Growth slows and they have too many people competing for too few high-level slots. Most companies at this stage just keep adding more mid-level titles so you end up as a "senior executive vice president II" on a meaningless ladder focused on politics over product.

Welcome to the world of HR. If you thought Google would be different I wonder why you thought so?

Unless a company is small, maybe below 20-50, where everyone knows each other transparency is something HR will always lack, because they are there for the company, not the individual. That's why apps like Blind are so popular amongst some employees that like these rumor mills. My advise is to stay out of it and focus on your job, do what you like and dont be jealous about other coworkers when they get promoted but you don't. There are much more important things in life then status and earning anything beyond 100K is already an amazing achievement (luck?) that majority of citizens dont have.

If you thought Google would be different I wonder why you thought so?

Different, no. Actually this is exactly how I would expect Google to behave.

Is this public knowledge where you work? Because in my entire career I've never seen management talk about these kinds of metrics to employees.

Companies on the smaller side tend not to have "metrics" like these, actually.

But I would agree with you that there's probably nothing special about Google in this context.

No. It’s indicative of what one group of HR staff thinks about Google employees. It’s a brainstorming deck, not company policy.

I should note that I do not now nor have I ever worked for Google.

I started at Google right around when this deck was made. I never got a holiday gift. I got three "badges" for this (one for not getting a 2016 gift, one for, at the time presumably, never receiving one, and one for being in the first year of employees to have such a distinction). In a very characteristic example of Googliness all three were silently rm'd from the central server in between when I got my morning badge summary email and when I got to my desk. To be explicit, that means it became company policy sometime in that hour for those badges not to exist.

They re-architected the promo process for 95% of promos (according to another comment itt, but for sure closer to 80% than 20%), making it more conventional. Allegedly to prevent orgs from promoting wildly (for... Some reason I guess), "promo budgets" were floated. This rightfully pissed people off because Google only promotes you after you demonstrate consistency at the next level, meaning you would be working at LN getting paid as an LN-1 for at least another cycle if not longer. It also really upset the orgs that are structured by function rather than area. Allegedly these budgets never existed, but personally, after my management chain bluntly and directly lied about the Maven contract, I never believed anything they said. I'm sure they're all excellent people, but capitalism gives us all incentive to do things we otherwise wouldn't. Lying about Maven, and restructuring promo to make it your managers decision, were certainly company policies. Budgets might not have been, but then, even if there's no evidence now, it took us decades to find out the truth about Tonkin Bay.

So, for a brainstorming deck, a lot of stuff from it actually happened. Given that, you have to start questioning how accurate other parts are.

I left Google recently, though I knew what a "company" was going in and didn't expect anything different. I was very sad to leave my immediate team, but not at all sad to leave Google, mostly because of how glaring the difference is between what they say they value and what they actually value. I wouldn't even begrudge them the honesty; every other "conventional" company somehow manages to keep employees.

Google is doing a Yahoo.

(trying to) Forcing bad products (g+), adding a top bar everywhere (look! we are a portal!), and cheaping out on labour which leads to missing out the only people capable of innovating.

This is the attitude of every employer, please do not be fooled into believing otherwise.

Promotions don't increase performance, they simply cost money, in exchange for improved retention, maybe.

To be fair, it sounds like it was some group brainstorming ways to reduce costs and throwing ideas out there, not something the senior leadership were actively planning. Probably one of those brainstorming sessions where they say “there are no bad ideas, just throw everything out there!”

It doesn't suggest anything unless it was adopted.

> One worker asked why Pichai was paid hundreds of millions of dollars, while some Google employees struggle to afford to live in Silicon Valley

I mean I understand getting upset at the income gap between CEO's and regular people, but it seems kind of strange to be complaining about your salary as a Google employee, where you are almost certainly making well over $100k, and walk past rows of camper trailers and homeless people on the way to work. Saying that you are struggling to afford to live in Silicon Valley seems like a bit of a stretch if you are an engineer at Google. I can sympathize with non-tech workers at Google who are probably making less though.

Chances are the question was asked by a childcare provider or a cook (some of them are still proper FTEs)...

Edit: for clarity, even if you're a Google FTE, Google will only pay you "nearly top of the market for your job description", which for professions mentioned won't be all that much.

None of those roles are allowed at TGIF. Nor are the cooks FTEs, though I will give you that one of the most inane "digital well being" proponents was a nursery teacher.

I'm pretty sure I remember a childcare provider asking a question in one of the Californian all-hands that reach me in Europe, not sure if it was a TGIF or an event-oriented one. I'm pretty sure not an org-oriented, given her profession.

About the time I joined (I assume you can look that up) there was a bit of a ruckus about too many non-tech folk being contractors. Quite a few of them have been converted to FTEs, I assumed cooks were in that crowd and some are still around. Can be wrong about that. But I'm pretty sure that Charlie was truly a FTE ;)

You haven't looked at housing prices in Mountain View recently. If your goal in life is simply to own your own home (which seems reasonable to me), then even lower-level engineers are struggling.

That wouldn't really be affected by how much Google pays its engineers, though. There's a fixed supply of single-family housing in Mountain View, and >>> available supply seeks to live there. Under those conditions, housing prices adjust upwards until they reach the amount that the Nth bidder (where N = houses for sale <<< Google employees in Mountain View) is willing to pay. Increase salaries and you just increase the amount that everyone is willing to pay, and then you still get outbid by your coworkers.

Assuming that owning a single-family home is non-negotiable, the only ways out of this are a.) get all your coworkers fired or b.) move out of the Bay Area. Mountain View (and the rest of the Bay Area) is basically fully built-out: there simply is no more land for 1/4 acre lots.

(If you're willing to compromise on "single family home", there's another alternative: build up. This is the most realistic solution, but requires that people give up on the idea of a detached house with a yard and settle for condos instead.)

There are many people in Mountain View who don't work for Google though. Most people, even.

But overall, yes, I agree that the primary problem there is restrictions on development of denser housing. Earning more money would help though (it always does).

> There's a fixed supply of single-family housing in Mountain View

Well, that is the whole problem right there. It doesn’t have to be fixed.

Single family housing? That generally refers to a detached home so yes the supply is very much fixed.

Even if we're talking about multi-family housing, there is still a limit on space, resources, traffic capacity, etc.

Then let’s start building vertically.

It is a social choice to limit housing like this.

there's plenty of land just outside the bay area. from those 5 lane jam packed freeways: 680 and 580, you can see nothing but green or yellow for miles on end, for much of the stretch.

There is a big difference between struggling to live, and struggling to afford a detached house in Mountain View. I don't think it is reasonable for every Google employee to be able to afford a house there - there just isn't enough supply, and that isn't Google's fault.

It is Google’s fault if it wants to have most of its engineers in Silicon Valley though.

If only there were somewhere else in the entire United States where software engineers could enjoy a great standard of living and easily be able to afford a nice large house in the burbs....

> your salary as a Google employee, where you are almost certainly making well over $100k ... I can sympathize with non-tech workers at Google who are probably making less though.

Quite a few of these "non-tech workers" are employees, too.

Quite a few of these "non-tech workers" are employees, too

Google (et al) go to considerable, some might say elaborate, lengths to keep their service staff - cleaners, catering, security, etc - off the payroll and partitioned off. It makes no sense really, treating these people with respect would cost barely a rounding error in Google's bottom line. But even so they have a pathological urge to do it, to stratify a caste system almost.

I feel a lot of Google employee’s request would be to not struggle to live.

Whatever the place and salary, if it’s enough that they don’t have to think about it, they would be fine.

> The document also discussed how the proposals could be best presented to employees to minimize frustration, according to one of the people.

> The document said this could be rolled out without upsetting staff because workers didn’t know what the existing rate was, so wouldn’t notice if it declined.

I really don't know what they expected. You're cutting the salaries of your employees; the best case, yet highly unlikely scenario is that nobody notices. More likely, your attrition rate will increase as Google becomes slightly less attractive for employees to stay at, or the worst case but highly likely scenario is that you have these slides get out and now everyone is unhappy because they're being paid less and having information willfully hidden from them.

GF worked at a game company. When she started they'd give bonuses based on the profits. Later they changed bonuses based on how well the company beat Wall Streets expectations.

Really demoralizing when the company posts a fat profit, the top managers take home a large bonus, you you get nothing because the quarterly profit was a little under expectations.

I'd be surprised if there haven't been economic studies on this type of action. So either the executives don't care, as they know people are replaceable and it won't hurt the company either way, or they don't care as they know they will be moving on soon enough, and they just want to milk their positiion for what they can.

Would they get a bonus if the company lost a ton of money, but less than the analysts expected?

How was her average total compensation affected by the change?

Seen this a few time in my career, "sorry guys, I know we had another record quarter/year, but we didn't make our stretch goals so there won't be any bonus". Then you read the filing which all public companies must do and it details 7- and 8-figure payouts to the big bosses.

Also, on a side note, I wonder if companies are trying to impress when they say that you bonus could be "up to" 10% or 20% of your salary. They way I read it is that no matter how well you do and how well the company does, your upside is capped!

No, they were discussing cutting the number of promotions. If say, the top 10% of people got promotions and now only the top 8% did, no one person can easily notice that they would've gotten promoted but now didn't.

I was immediately reminded of a scene from "Office Space": "Peter: You’re gonna lay off Samir and Michael?... Do they know this yet?

Bob: No! No, of course not! We find it’s always better to fire people on a Friday. Studies have statistically shown that there’s less chance of an incident if you do it at the end of the week."

It's all so hilariously penny-wise and pound-foolish.

> You're cutting the salaries of your employees

They were allegedly cutting their bonuses, not salaries. That's a pretty significant difference if you ask me.

I'm using the term loosely to describe total compensation.

I understand; counting bonuses as a regular part of your compensation is dangerous though. While it is a part of your compensation, the employer is fully within their right to reduce or raise this part as much as they see fit.

Getting angry because of this is rather strange. That's precisely what you sign up for with bonuses: "This part is variable and may go up or down."

Yes, I see your point; slashing base salary is different than not paying a bonus or significantly reducing it. However, the net effect is still the same: employees take home less money, and their estimation of how much they can "expect" to get is thrown off. The change here is actually more insidious, because it takes advantage of the fact that employees don't actually know what the "average" bonus is, so by tweaking it a few percent is unlikely to be noticed by any individual employee.

Even when the bonus formula is well-known and fairly standardized, to the degree that is consistently paid out over a long period, people start thinking of it as effectively part of their salary. If it goes away or is significantly reduced because of company performance or whatever, it's taking away money people were (even if somewhat irrationally) putting in the sure thing bucket.

If Google is like Facebook in this respect then a senior engineer who "meets expectations" in a performance review stands to make at least 15-20% of their salary as a bonus. If you get below "meets expectations" you are probably going to be fired very soon. Hence your "meets expectations" bonus target is essentially no less guaranteed than the base compensation you would also lose out on if you were fired. The bonus target at companies like this is not an "above and beyond" bonus. There are bonus multipliers (and potentially non-standardized discretionary equity bonuses) for higher than expected performance.

It is not uncommon for recruiters to specify the expected value of bonuses as part of selling the position. If the bonuses are subsequently slashed, this feels bad, even though you don't have it guaranteed by your contract.

It is dangerous, but it is also fairly common if the bonuses are all but guaranteed and make up a significant part of the total compensation.

And giving less of a bump on promotion.

So someone promoted 2 years ago? They may be on a not insignificant amount more than you for no other reason than timing.

> The document also discussed how the proposals could be best presented to employees to minimize frustration, according to one of the people.

These approaches always annoy me as it feels the company's leadership is unable to talk straight to their employees. E.g. my employer had some layoffs recently. The language used internally was that some people were "impacted" by "proposed changes". This language was used by so many execs in different business areas that it was clear that there was some top down direction that this was how they should be referred to. Is it that hard to just say "We missed our revenue targets, so we had to lay off some people"?

As someone caught up in this I welcome the Tesla approach...

This is only semi-related, but I just finished Bad Blood (Theranos book) and started looking up some of the characters on LinkedIn to see what they were up to. The infamous HR person (Balwani's right hand person) just started a new position at no other than Google less than 2 months ago!

That is indeed troubling. Keep in mind, though, that lots of great people worked at Theranos - I’ve hired one and she’s the standout on an already very talented team. And of course, I would hire Tyler Schultz without a second thought.

Sure, would have no issue with an IC or someone not cozy with management, but this was a specific senior HR person close to Balwani who was complicit in intimidating/spying on employees and trying to get them to sign shady NDAs, among other atrocities. And Google still hired them.

IMO it speaks to the "skills" that big tech want in their HR people. The fact that they did all these things is exactly what they look for in "good" HR people e.g. protect the company at all cost and no mercy for employees.

any regime needs the same police.


I don't care to name names, but if you've read the book you should know who I'm talking about and can easily search on LinkedIn for this person.

It seems to me like Google is slowly becoming another one of these huge corporations that one works for simply to simply pay the bills. I mean, sure, it may not be such at this particular moment, but that's what it seems they are heading towards. Though they still have an amazing reputation, I don't buy it anymore.

Google 2018 == Microsoft 2005

The product people, innovators and engineers are no longer in charge. It appears Google may be entering their Ballmer era where it was marketing/metrics first over value creation. I hope some internal faction of product/developers can take it back.

It already looked this way to me when I interviewed with them 8 years ago. But it takes time for public perception to catch up with the reality. When they scaled up and hired tens of thousands, they became yet another faceless corporate entity. Perhaps not intentionally; I feel this is simply a factor of growing and having to establish the same corporate bureaucracy as all the rest.

This reminded me of Kim Stanley Robinsons "Three Californias" trilogy. One of them is set in a future where to counter many of the effects of large corporations, companies are strictly restricted in terms of number of employees and other things. No company in the novel can have more than 100 employees. For projects that require more, companies have to establish consortia, but each company remained independent.

I have no opinion on whether that'd be viable or beneficial, but it's a fascinating idea to think about the consequences of, both externally in terms of effects on wider society, and what it'd mean for corporate cultures.

You may be interested in reading the economic paper, “The Nature of the Firm.” Here’s a link to a summary: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nature_of_the_Firm

Thinking along those lines would suggest we need to reduce a lot of legal and communication friction or else capping corporations will make everything much more expensive. It’d certainly be worth improving those things regardless of the end goal. Whether we would naturally see average company size reduce is unknown, but the theory that they would recognize the financial incentive to do so is plausible.

I reference this paper, at least mentally, when explaining to colleagues why using their tech needs to be better for me than using off the shelf tech. If I'm only using in house tech because I can't fire them or if I have to do more work to adopt them compared to using an off the shelf option, they're wasting money, time, and energy.

Wait until they realize that they don't even need those tens of thousands to keep the highly automated ad machine running. I don't think that Google has changed for the last time.

They have close to a 100k employees. It’s hard to maintain “Googlyness” at even 1/10th of that size.

It’s not hard. It would just be utter chaos for any executive to oversee or steer in a certain direction.

Well, I guess that means it’s hard if you look at it from the perspective of running a listed company.

It’s hard in the sense that they’d probably go bankrupt.

Seems like they've been there for quite a while now.

Maybe I need to stop reading Google related articles on HN. I'm joining Google in less than a month, and some of the comments in threads like these get me worried.

I graduated less than a year ago and have been working at a startup in my hometown since then, and didn't bother applying to Google because I thought I'd never make it. Actually it was a thread on HN that convinced me to go for it. I'm moving away from everything and everyone I've ever known because I've always heard that Google is the place to be to really grow as an engineer.

I'm still excited, and I was nervous with or without reading these threads, but can someone chime in and give me some hope?

You'll be fine.

The problem is that our culture in general, and some parts of the tech industry in particular, have a habit of pampering and infantilizing adult professionals. And, just as you would expect, these infantilized adults get spoiled and throw temper tantrums from time to time.

If you act like an adult, be a professional, do your job, don't pick stupid political fights you can't win, and hone your skills, you'll be fine. This is true at any company that has at least an adequate level of sanity, even though most of these companies engage in hypocrisy and mock displays of insanity to appease their more childish employees.

All my friends at Google are happy. You're going to be fine and you'll find that your work will probably be enjoyable.

If you listened to the Internet, my town of San Francisco is a faeces filled shithole where people will mug you at every corner. My other home in London is a bastion of knife crime and Sharia law with a bit of terrorism mixed in. I should live in perpetual fear that my life may be ended at any moment by actively malicious people bent upon religious and culture war.

In truth, life is pretty good in both these places. I love them both.

What you actually should do is stop giving these people any credence. Any fool can write a blog. And recycled news like this article is usually written by bottom feeders.

The world is a lovely place. Don't let the losers keep you down.

A vocal tiny majority has gotten hold of the loudest most annoying sound box. It's hard to even close your ears.

You don't need to be worried but you need to realize this is the real world.

This stuff happens at all companies and Google is not immune to those dynamics.

I recommend doing a few years at a large software company to pretty much everyone, especially as a first job. It will build a foundation of good software development practices that will hold you in good stead for the rest of your career.

HN is very pessimistic. You've got a good job and there is a pretty good chance you'll enjoy it.

The advice that I would give to myself in my early 20s is (1) nobody cares about your career except you: people come and go, change companies and have their own careers; (2) the only way to move up the ranks is by shifting between companies and getting multiple competing offers; this applies even to outstanding devs; so you are expected to move every 3-4 years if you don't want to get stuck at your entry level pay.

Don't know about google, but last I heard it's close enough from amazon. At amazon, the processes are very modern and smart, compared to most companies. You also work with bright people overall. So yeah, both are big companies and this come with some crap, but you shouldn't worry to much about it. If you're junior, you will learn a hell of a lot and the best of stuff.

Don't worry about it. The internet is awash in people whining about things. I don't work at Google but I know some people who do, and they love it. It only takes a tiny disaffected minority to complain louder than all of the people that are perfectly happy there.

You’re still going to work for a top notch company, and you’ll learn quite a bit about how to be a good engineer. Scrutiny is the price you pay for having influence.

Google helped me grow as an engineer. I learned how to:

- design software that can be incrementally rolled out

- design software interfaces before building

- build secure, internationalized, and accessible web frontends

- write pull requests that are easy to understand

- work across multiple teams and codebases

It's a really good opportunity, congratulations on your offer!

Congrats! Google is still fantastic. You'll have a blast and learn a ton.

Sidenote, anyone have an extension to hide all HN headlines with a keyword filter?

To me, it feels like people not getting the promotions they think they deserve is an extremely mundane problem. That’s fine though, since I can see how such a thing might be of legitimate concern for many of us and is worth discussing overall.

What mainly bothers me mostly, is how click-baity this article is. Such a heavy emphasis on drama and controversy, with every attempt to garner as much divisiveness as possible. It’s annoying, and I notice Bloomberg is notorious for almost always putting out these types of highly charged articles.

Do authors get bonuses for releasing fiery volatile articles at Bloomberg or something?

> To me, it feels like people not getting the promotions they think they deserve is an extremely mundane problem.

Google management to this day claims that eligibility for promotion is based solely on whether or not an employee is consistently performing at the next level on a well defined job ladder. If they are, they're promoted.

The problem is not the lack of promotions. The problem is that introducing promotion quotas or limits directly conflicts with the merit-ONLY-based promotion system that management claims exists.

More clicks gathered is more money gained.

Do authors get bonuses for releasing fiery volatile articles at Bloomberg or something?

Actually, yes: https://www.businessinsider.com/bloomberg-reporters-compensa...

It isn't necessarily nefarious, it's a metric for gauging how important a story is and to direct their staff towards reporting on important stuff. But nevertheless, it does happen.

"Most of the cost cuts that emerged since then have focused on divisions outside the core internet business, such as drones, wearable devices and other "moonshots."

Google/Alphabet is still doing badly at anything consumer-facing that isn't ad-supported. Not for lack of trying. Google Fiber, Google Express, etc. They've had some success at enterprise apps and cloud services, but they're not the major player in that space. The self-driving car thing is not going as well as expected. Ads are still 94% of Google revenue, and they're probably overstaffed for that business.

The entire ad industry is overstaffed. Could easily remove 50% and have no effect, or actually improve results.

You're now the dictator of the industry. Which 50% needs to go and how do you identify them? How do you prevent your metrics from being gamed?

For every new hire two people have to be fired or quit.

Choose randomly of course, Thanos style

Disclosure: I work at Google.

Hmm. Do you count Fi, Flights, and Hardware in that category? (Particularly Nest, Home and Pixel).

One could argue that some longer term plan for Home is ads/cross-sell, but let's just focus on whatever the hardware sales turns out to be. I don't think those need to be on the scale of Apple's or Samsung's revenue to be considered as not "doing badly".

Similarly, I assume (but have no knowledge!) that Flights is mostly a referral business. That's not "ads" to me in the same classic sense. That is I've never heard anyone refer to Kayak as "ad-supported".

> The document also discussed how the proposals could be best presented to employees to minimize frustration, according to one of the people. That caused the most anger among some staff after the document was circulated, said this person.

Not leaking this slide deck was rather important to minimize frustration.

"In case of employees having knowledge of those slides, ..."

> The brainstorming deck also proposed reducing wage bumps when workers get promoted. It also suggested changing Google’s approach to "spot bonuses," sums that managers can award at any time of year. Managers receive emails reminding them to dispense this money. The slide deck proposed ending the emails, arguing that few people would notice. The proposal also included converting holiday gifts to staff into charitable donations -- something Google did at the end of 2016.

As someone that works at a notoriously “resource efficient” company the fact that people would be mad about this is absolutely hysterical.

As a former Googler, the way the company ended holiday gifts was irritating just because of the pretense. Leadership spun it as "we're redirecting the funds into Chromebook donations". As if money wasn't fungible, and the decision to donate Chromebooks was somehow intertwined with the decision to end the holiday gift.

Yep most of us would have just been fine with them just saying "you're all paid well enough, the company is too big, we're stopping the holiday gift". Instead it was a long slow process of "pick your charity from the list" w/ a song and dance around it.

Given the nearly continuous stream of internal shitshows getting leaked to the press by unhappy people, I'm pretty confident that the response wouldn't have been positive if they had said this.

I thought they made it pretty clear that the logistics for distributing actual gifts at Google's growing scale was just not worth it anymore. It probably cost more in time and resources than the gift themselves were worth, let alone the extra tax offset they had to pay on it. I'm not sure why you were lead to believe the Chromebook solution was a "spin". I do agree that giving you a choice of charity though is much better, but I assume they couldn't have pulled it off on short notice.

The idea that they call distributing hardware that locks people to their ecosystems is a "donation" is also comical. Giving a school a bunch of Chromebooks is a way to expand your services business, not an act of generosity. It's like giving away a free printer: The money is in the ink.

Not only that, this was just a deck of ideas, not even actual policies. Apparently, you're not even allowed to have any controversial ideas in a brain storming session...


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