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9 people found this helpful  

The very best reason to work at Google can be summed up in one word: culture.

  • Comp & Benefits
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Senior Management
  • Career Opportunities
Current Employee - Technical Writer  in  Mountain View, CA
Current Employee - Technical Writer in Mountain View, CA

I have been working at Google

Pros

The very best reason to work at Google can be summed up in one word: culture. Since that is a rather vague term, let me elaborate. Google has established and continues to nurture a culture that fosters, high levels of both work satisfaction and contribution from its employees. It does this by recognizing the potential in all employees via established work policies, rather than just through lip service, like many companies. Following are some concrete examples of this:

Promotion and work performances is entirely reliant on peer reviews. In other words, to get ahead at Google and to get a positive performance review, you must get positive reviews from your fellow co-workers. Your manager might love you, but if your co-workers don't like you, you have some work to do. Managers are also required to seek peer review from those they manage. (I have never seen this before in my career.) Senior level employees from other fields are also encouraged to seek peer reviews from people in other departments. For example, engineers need reviews from people other than engineers in order to advance. For this reason, a culture of cooperation is endemic at Google. This is great because the percentage of "cowboys" that seems common at other high tech companies is quite low at Google. It also fosters an awareness of the type of contribution made by people outside your department, since everyone reviews people in other fields, and therefore must learn a bit about what others do outside their sphere.

Career tracks fall into either management or individual contributor. This is great for people who might want to try management but later decide that they perform best as an individual contributor, or who just want to take a break from management for a while. In addition, it's not too difficult to switch between tracks. Finally, managers and team leads are also encouraged to solicit leadership-level contribution from the reportees, as a way to encourage career growth and to share the load, so to speak. This whole mechanism results in a very strong sense of independence and high-level of function from everyone, because if there is a problem that you think should be fixed, you can fix it and get genuine recognition for it, both from peers and managers.

You are required to keep a work log, as a means for you to accurately report on your contributions and as a source for your own assessment and of others' assessment of you. In addition, there are other assessment tools that are big part of Google work life, designed to keep you mindful of your work contribution and to help you and others write performance reviews. This sort of sounds tough, but the end result is that you can work to your best and not have to worry about mis-perceptions of your performance: you've written it down. Additionally, if you are spending a LOT of time working on tasks not related to your main project, your log is a way for you to work with your manager in order to change unnecessary demands on your time. I would say that this practice exemplifies one portion of the transparency that is so pervasive at Google.

Ideas and contributions from employees are highly encouraged. This results in some great products for the company, like AdWords, which was an idea from an early Google engineer, and Gmail, which was a 20% project. Googlers also gain a lot of company and community recognition for extra efforts/contributions that they feel passionate about, and this only adds to the environment for everyone. As another example, some employees at Google Mountain View worked hard to create alternative means of fresh drinking water for employees, rather than having the company stock water bottles (which contribute tremendously to landfill waste). This was a big effort. Now we have filtered water stations all over the place--it's not directly tied to "search" but it contributed to the company mission to "do no evil" and it added to the green image of the company.

I could go on and on about culture at Google, and I've only scratched the surface, but hopefullly this conveys a sense of what I mean by "culture" at Google and how important this element is to a great working environment.

Cons

From my four years of working at Google, I've seen the following downsides:

* In sales, management level employees tended to be hired from MBA programs rather than be promoted from within. I was not personally affected by this practice, but I witnessed the demoralizing effect this had on a good number of very high performers who would have benefitted from a performance-education program so that their level of effort and seniority would have been recognized. In addition, as is almost always the case from hiring outside management, there was a great deal of frustration from employees because the manager was completely unfamiliar with the culture and process at Google, and this resulted in a feeling of being managed by someone who learned management at Harvard or Yale.

* Google "over-hires" people. By this, I mean that Google regularly staffs highly-qualified people in positions that are not suited to their level of education. So, for example, you would see software engineers being hired by support. That's just stupid. I appreciate the high standards that Google has for its employees, but I genuinely think they tend to over-correct in that regard, and this results in people not really being suited for the position into which they are hired. Sometimes it's possible for such people to migrate to other positions within the company to which they are better suited, but often this results in a level of frustration... mostly in this case people find work elsewhere, but in the mean time, this very necessary position must be filled by another hire, which then must also be trained. Not efficient, and not effective. Google also tends to focus hiring assessment on academic scores, which is entirely appropriate for new grads, but they do this even for people with multiple years in the field. That's just silly, and it actually does run contrary to the whole performance process within the company itself, where effort and accomplishments are recognized. Thus, it makes no sense to disregard this type of assessment for new hires whose professional contribution can far outweigh their academic performance by many years.

* Google encourages employee contribution to so many different projects that it is difficult for someone to get "deep" into a particular project and focus entirely on that effort. In this, I am speaking from my own personal experience. I feel that volume of contribution is valued at times over quality or depth of contribution. There is a sort of "check list" mentality where, the more bullet items you can point to, the more you are seen as a strong contributor. I think there should be more attention paid to contribution to items that are complex in nature and require more focused attention. for me, it's just frustrating, because I cannot live up to my own level of quality in my main project because of other demands from other projects.

Advice to ManagementAdvice

See my three downsides: look to hire from within, recognize significant career experience from new hires over academic, and consider the need for "focus" on particular projects.

Recommends
Approves of CEO

Other Reviews for Google

  1. 7 people found this helpful  

    Understand it's a job, not a life, and you'll be fine

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Eng Manager  in  Mountain View, CA
    Current Employee - Eng Manager in Mountain View, CA

    I have been working at Google

    Pros

    Forget all of the fringe crap like snacks, cafes, massages, etc. That stuff is easy come-easy go (as 2008 has shown), and once the novelty wears off, it doesn't really affect your life much. There are better reasons:

    Overall quality of employees is the highest I have ever seen. You won't find yourself having to dumb down your project so that the rest of the team can contribute. Google's size and wealth give you the opportunity to work on global-scale engineering problems that few other companies have.

    It's nice to work for a company that at least makes a pretense of not being evil.

    Cons

    The lack of any coherent strategy can be extremely frustrating. The entire company just kind of wanders through the daisies as if at the whim of a couple of billionaires with attention deficit problems. Hmm. Let's buy some wireless spectrum! No, let's make a browser! Wait, let's make a phone! Let's make a wireless phone browser social network thing! That will be awesome!

    Be prepared for _enormous_ variance in recognition and compensation, between individuals and between projects. The sexy new project that doesn't make a dime in revenue, and everybody already wanted to work on anyway, will probably get the multi-million dollar awards. Slave away on ads for a few years and, well, you'll get the satisfaction of knowing that you're keeping the lights on for the kids playing foosball.

    Similarly, many complain about the "low-numbered" employees, which are indeed a problem. Why they stick around, I don't know. Their level of talent runs the full spectrum, but you can usually count on them having egos and titles to match their bank accounts.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Get better at fail-fast on both employees and projects. It typically takes 12-18 months to get rid of a person that doesn't cooperate by quitting. And everybody here can name a half dozen project that have been limping along for years with no significant impact in their market and no revenue to show for it.

    Approves of CEO
  2. 3 people found this helpful  

    A great place to work, but not for entrepreneurs

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Associate Product Manager  in  Mountain View, CA
    Former Employee - Associate Product Manager in Mountain View, CA

    I worked at Google

    Pros

    The food is great! The people are smart. There aren't a lot of stupid rules. You can wear what you want, come in when you want, hang out with really great people.

    Cons

    Very poorly organized. You're never sure what you should be working on or how you're doing. Everybody seems nice, but you never know what they're thinking and they don't really help you at all.

    People goof off a lot, so it's not a place for hard-working, intense people.

    My manager took off for 3 weeks a week after I got there, leaving me to figure everything out for myself.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Stop hiring people and organize the ones you have!

    Recommends
    Approves of CEO
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