As for me, I made a cool mashup with the maps API, and they offered me a job, subject to approval by HR. You could tell by the way they were talking that they thought they were offering me a glimpse of a ticket to heaven. When I asked some clarifying questions, they didn't even bother to answer them. Silence for the insolent fool!
So arrogant they undoubtedly are. People inside the company find it hard to understand why anyone would not leap at the chance to work there. I was actually considering it but they shut down the conversation, and I'm glad about it now. I turned the mashup into a company and it now brings in a lot more than even Google would consider paying me.
I also agree with the author that humility is a scarce resource at Google.
Don't get me started about the developers. They hardly do any work, they get quoted in the press all the time as if they're gods, and make millions of dollars, and I do all the work
Huh? Satire? I can't tell...
Might this be the milestone we look back on and eval:
(not (not (= google evil)))
I have no idea if it's like that anymore. A lot of my friends who stuck around after the IPO report that it changed, that there arose much friction between the perceived old guard and the newer post-IPO employees. Maybe now that there are a zillion Googlers in a dozen or so countries (Ireland, Switzerland, India, China, and teh USA were already set up by the time I left), perhaps there's less camaraderie. Maybe the SarbOx role-based access control (which I helped implement as part of my job) means that you can't poke around MOMA and the Perforce tree after work hours and gawk at the new patents.
It was a great place to work, but in the end I moved on because I didn't get the position I really wanted to be promoted to, and I noticed that all of the guys doing really, really cool stuff had completed some advanced study, more often than not in CS or comp bio.
Given that machine learning doesn't seem to be going out of style, I have to try and remember that $80K or so is really not a very good salary for the amount of work that an SRE drone is responsible for, and figure out 'what next' instead.
I didn't have a wife or a kid when I left Google. Now I do. It's harder now to embrace the risks of starting up a company, although I made a sizable chunk of change in the meantime simply by developing and selling a hobby website. If the idea is solid and the execution solid, there's at least some chance that even the 'just for fun' projects will end up putting a roof over your head (literally, in my case).
I'm still conflicted, but I like to think that the mathematical and computational skills I've picked up in the meantime (especially modern statistical methodology, and applications in comp bio and machine learning) will continue to provide me with fun stuff to work on, regardless of what happens at Google. If it weren't on the opposite side of town, though, I'd be tempted to apply for a different job at Google once I finish my thesis. Hopefully I'll have something better to do with my life than be a cog, though.
(%) ps. If you've ever wondered whether it's better to automate everything up-front at your Little Start-Up: yes it is. You're not going to have any more time to deal with it if you succeed, and if your company stagnates, automation will make it easier to walk away and do something else.
I'm not sure what to tell you about Google today versus then. Yes, you will be a cog, but in one of the shiniest and most well-maintained machines ever. There's a non-negligible chance of doing a significant 20% project.
The one thing you'll notice is how much stricter the standards are for testing and code quality generally, while the codebase has expanded exponentially. Sometimes this results in code that's so great it practically makes you weep. Other times, especially for the really old projects, it becomes a morass of incomprehensibility but whose quality is carefully husbanded. I knew of a guy who spent weeks getting one change into the basic webserving code, because running all the tests took an entire day, and by the time he was done, other people had committed new changes that broke his change. It was Xeno's Changelist.
Maybe you can answer me one thing: in the early days, did people think they were a moral force for good in the world? As Dave Winer correctly notes, one of the amazing/insufferable things about Google is that many engineers there really think this -- especially the pre-IPO crowd. It's the sort of attitude that enables them to open for business in totalitarian China, because how could you deny the Chinese the wonderfulness of Google?
Also note the proliferation of teams which make promotional videos starring themselves. This started with a team that happens to have a very charismatic dude working for them, but it seems that everyone's doing it now.
Yes. I thought it was ridiculous at first, but after a while I decided it was nice to be part of a group that had a moral compass -- and actually used it.
But using Adwords and dealing with some of the folks at Google was really a pleasant experience. They really went out of their way to accommodate me. I was really surprised!!