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Technology companies do 'R&D' which stands for Research and Development. You can think of that as a spectrum where on one end you have 100% research, the end goal is a published paper, and at the other end you have 100% development where the end goal is the implementation of a solution to a specific problem. All of the engineers I've met land somewhere on the spectrum in terms of what motivates them to do what they do. When I was at Google most of engineering was very 'research' focused, there were a lot of what you might think of as science projects, prototypes and experiments which might, or might not solve a problem. I'm more of a 'products' guy which puts me much closer to the D side of the spectrum. I know myself well enough to know I don't do well in places that lean heavily toward research, and so from that standpoint there was always an impedance mismatch between my values and those of the company.

However, it was a company and there were people who put in effort day in and day out that kept things working, people that were indispensable to day to day operations of the company, who were not getting the recognition that folks who would create a solution to a problem nobody had were getting. These unheralded people were 'fighting the good fight' and I worked pretty hard to wake up HR to that oversight on their part. They had just started giving out 'infrastructure awards' as a way of recognizing those folks when I was leaving. I was glad for that. I didn't get a chance to work on one of the committees that evaluated that sort of work which was too bad. Given the changes I've read about since I left it would seem that the company has shifted away from some of that stuff.

To give you an example of how sad a case I was, when I came to the Bay Area I had offers from Xerox and Intel and was totally excited to go work at Intel because they were shipping the products that were changing the world. My wife worked at Xerox and so I got to see a company that could envision an amazing future, and not ship it, and even then I knew it would drive me insane not to get things out the door :-).




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