And then consider that Google's hiring standards seem to have decreased as they need a lot of people and not just the best. Thus 20% of more average people's time is going to be a lot less valuable on average.
While their standards have definitely dropped because they hired me in 2011, they then proceeded to assign hirees like myself to all the work no one else wanted to do around the googleplex.
I suspect this was one of Larry's failed experiments because a whole bunch of the people I met were let go within a year. I personally fled the place after a couple months of trying and failing to find work remotely suitable to my skillset, which was, ironically, what led them to recruit me in the first place.
I've gone on about this elsewhere (search my comments), but it comes down to the utter stupidity of blind allocation for experienced engineers. There were projects that literally needed my exact skill set, and engineers on those teams did their best to try and open up a position for me on them, but middle-level management and HR blocked all their efforts.
I could have stayed a year and hoped for the best, but by then I suspect I would have been so embittered that I would have become the embodiment of a bad culture fit so I left before that happened because I had a great opportunity dropped right into my lap.
Now I suspect I am blacklisted at Google because a few people have tried to get me rehired now that such openings exist and they were immediately shut down by HR.
I'm curious - were the projects you wanted to transfer to in niche technical areas or niche products?
It's very easy at Google to transfer from niche to core. If we (in Search) see someone languishing in another part of the company with skills that we want and they want to work with us, we make the transfer happen, and there's nothing HR or another manager can do about it. It's much harder to transfer from core to niche, and it usually requires a solid track record of sustained performance in your original assignment. I know a number of people that transfer from Search to Google-X after 4-5 years, but I know of virtually nobody that can make that transfer after 1-2. (Basically, the company wants to "make back" their initial investment in you before they'll let you work on speculative projects that may not show a return.)
Arguably some of the niche projects would be better done as startups - they don't face the constraints of working at a large, very visible multinational where they don't get resources or attention from higher management - but the entrepreneurial spirit isn't quite dead at Google.
I was in a core technical area trying to transfer into another core technical area in both cases (really, they needed me elsewhere, I could have made a genuine difference, and the blind allocation process completely hosed that up).
I also didn't know upfront that little tidbit that whatever assignment I took, I would be stuck there for 4-5 years. If I had known that, I would not have accepted my initial assignment, nor any other, until it was something I knew I'd remotely enjoy, and I'd probably still be there today.
So by relentlessly focusing on short-term ROI, Google lost 100% with me.
If they're going to insist on blind allocation, then they ought to not be surprised when it doesn't work out. But I gather the heuristic is to assume these cases are a 100% indicator of non-googliness.
From my perspective, Google recruited me aggressively away from a long-term gig where I had an absolutely stellar reputation. I uprooted my career with the mistaken belief that they wouldn't do this unless they had a reasonably clear idea what to do with me. Apparently they didn't and I'm not the only one who had an experience like that.
Sure, I could have said no and I take full responsibility for saying yes and for everything that happened as a result of doing so. And once I realized that Google was going to be of zero help in fixing what I think was a minor allocation error, I once again took responsibility to do what it took to fix the problem myself: I left.
So here's why I think they wouldn't help: the team onto which I was placed was losing an engineer a month. Every time they got a noogler to say yes (3 times during my short stay), another team would intercept them before they got to their first day on the job. The work was dreadful and tedious and the manager even seemed to hate running the team. And the only reason I said yes was because I had this naive faith that Google wouldn't do something as seemingly daft as blind allocation unless they had a pretty good idea how to make it work. My bad. But not my problem. High level people should have been fixing the root cause here instead of continually throwing nooglers into the pit and expecting a miracle.
I don't think you have a good characterization of this:
What Google has learned over the last few years is that the people they were hiring as "the best" weren't necessarily getting the job done any better than employees from more "average" backgrounds...who happen to be much more readily available in the job market.
I don't think Google's hiring standards have decreased, they've just shifted their focus away from inaccurate signals such as where you went to University and what your GPA was there. One could argue that Google's hiring standards have actually increased, as they're now hiring people who can demonstrate an ability to perform instead of people who were able to get a pretty piece of paper from Stanford.
Full disclosure: I'm a rising senior at Stanford, so maybe your comment is just irritating to me on a personal level. That said, the Stanford CS department is objectively very good; further, judging by the number of people I know who have abandoned or failed out of CS here, plenty of people wouldn't be able to complete the coursework for the undergrad degree even if they were all enrolled. I agree that hiring people based on their school is bad practice (see: people failing out of CS), but I don't think it's fair to call any engineering degree a "pretty piece of paper." I've put too much work into mine for that.
Ability to complete coursework is not necessary and sufficient for being a good engineer in a company. Sorry. I've seen too many people flounder around, never completing things, making inane suggestions, and so on, all while talking great theory. Of course, I've seen the opposite, and Stanford is a very good school, I don't think anyone would deny that.
And that shouldn't be surprising. Look at brilliant physicists. Most end up in either the theoretical or experimental side, and are often quite bad at the other. Likewise, theorem heavy CS has its place, but getting through a program like that doesn't mean that you can write a for loop (I've interviewed Stanford grads that fumbled and failed though that), design readable, robust software, push through a sea of decisions and make effective, near optimal decisions (the whole SW life cycle is a n-dimensional optimization problem), get along with peers, and so on.
There is a huge cachet attached to degrees from certain institutions that really isn't deserved, in my opinion. In that sense the paper is "pretty". It's not a slam of the effort anyone at is undoubtedly making at the school, but the reverent regard with which it is regarded.
Except that's really all it is. You might be fancy with your degree for a short period of time and land some interviews others might not, but it soon all goes out the window. The second you have some sort of industry experience, where you went to school and how you did there doesn't really matter.
Your "pretty piece of paper" is essentially like getting your drivers license. It allows you get behind the wheel, but it makes no guarantees you'll be any good at driving. In the end it really doesn't matter much which DMV you go to.