I have been working at Google full-time (More than a year)
* If you're a software engineer, you're among the kings of the hill at Google. It's an engineer-driven company without a doubt (that *is* changing, but it's still very engineer-focused).
* The perks are amazing. Yes, free breakfast, lunch, an dinner every weekday. Aaaaaamazing holiday parties (at Waldorf Astoria, NY Public Library, MoMA, etc.); overnight ski trips to Vermont; overnight nature trips to the Poconos in the summer; summer picnics at Chelsea piers; and on and on and on. I don't see this going away unless the company starts hurting financially.
* Speaking of which, the company is doing quite well, which reflects in bonuses and equity grants.
* There a huge diversity of work ranging from defending independent journalism worldwide (Google Project Shield) to crisis response during disasters (see Maps during Hurricane Sandy or Tsunamis), to the best machine learning experts and projects in the world, to more mundane revenue-driving projects in advertising, there's really something for everybody.
* It's easy to move around within the company as long as you're in good standing (the vast majority of engineers are).
* The company is amazingly open: every week Larry Page and Sergey Brin host what's called TGIF where food, beer, wine, etc. is served, a new project is presented, and afterward there's an open forum to ask the executives anything you want. It's truly fair game to ask anything, no matter how controversial, and frequently the executives will be responsive.
* No, nobody cares if you use an iPhone, Facebook, shop with Amazon, stream using Spotify, or refuse to use Google+. The company is amazingly open and flexible.
Neither pro nor con, but general information on work-life balance, promotions, and advancement.
* Work life balance can be what you want it to be on most teams. (Some teams are in more competitive sectors and require more crazy hours all the time - but very few of them). If you do what's expected, you'll be fine at least for a handful of years. Working a roughly 40 hour work week is possible, and many people do it. There are also people who are hyper-motived and work like crazy just because they love it, or because they're competitive, or they want to get a promotion. If you work 40 hour weeks without putting in anything extra, you'll fall behind them as they advance and you stand still - and maybe that doesn't matter, so it works out for everybody. But at least know where you would realistically stand.
* If you excel and work your butt off, you'll be compensated and promoted. If you let yourself be a code monkey, and just sit coding with your head down all day, you'll be fine but won't advance. A big complaint from some Googlers is about not being able to advance "even at Google" with pure coding. Sure, if you're the uber genius who created MapReduce and Bigtable, you're going to advance like a rocket without having to do anything but coding; but if you're like most engineers at Google -- smarter than average, but just average compared to other Googlers -- you're just a good coder and not revolutionary. Code monkeys are important to actually get stuff done, and to be sure you absolutely need to be a good coder as a software engineer (it's the minimum requirement), but code monkeys won't advance because they're not leaders and they're easy to replace. To get promoted you need to lead and do more than just code. There are plenty of ways to lead other than being an official tech lead, so this isn't actually _that_ hard, so the real point is just that you can't just sit there coding what other people tell you to code all day and expect to advance.
* It *is* becoming larger, and with it comes growing pains: bureaucracy, slow to respond to market threats, bloated teams, cross-divisional tension (though nothing remotely approaching that of Microsoft's internal tension).
* The quality of the engineers is possibly dropping, but possibly not. It's hard to get real metrics, because as the absolute number of people grows, naturally the number of bad apples grows; as a percentage it's supposedly the same as it ever was, but with larger numbers of poorer quality engineers it just _feels_ like things might be changing for the worse.
* Also with growth means more internal-confidential data leaks (again, because of the raw numbers of people) -- product announcements being ruined, etc. That means the company has to be tighter-lipped internally to avoid leaks, which makes things less open. It's still an amazingly open place, but less so than it was even a couple years ago. The good thing is they recognize it and actively look to improve things because they know how important it is to keep the good culture.
Advice to Management
Keep the focus on the user. Everything else will follow.
I worked at Google full-time (More than 8 years)
1) Food, food, food. 15+ cafes on main campus (MTV) alone. Mini-kitchens, snacks, drinks, free breakfast/lunch/dinner, all day, errr'day.
2) Benefits/perks. Free 24:7 gym access (on MTV campus). Free (self service) laundry (washer/dryer) available. Bowling alley. Volley ball pit. Custom-built and exclusive employee use only outdoor sport park (MTV). Free health/fitness assessments. Dog-friendly. Etc. etc. etc.
3) Compensation. In ~2010 or 2011, Google updated its compensation packages so that they were more competitive.
4) For the size of the organization (30K+), it has remained relatively innovative, nimble, and fast-paced and open with communication but, that is definitely changing (for the worse).
5) With so many departments, focus areas, and products, *in theory*, you should have plenty of opportunity to grow your career (horizontally or vertically). In practice, not true.
6) You get to work with some of the brightest, most innovative and hard-working/diligent minds in the industry. There's a "con" to that, too (see below).
1) Work/life balance. What balance? All those perks and benefits are an illusion. They keep you at work and they help you to be more productive. I've never met anybody at Google who actually time off on weekends or on vacations. You may not hear management say, "You have to work on weekends/vacations" but, they set the culture by doing so - and it inevitably trickles down. I don't know if Google inadvertently hires the work-a-holics or if they create work-a-holics in us. Regardless, I have seen way too many of the following: marriages fall apart, colleagues choosing work and projects over family, colleagues getting physically sick and ill because of stress, colleagues crying while at work because of the stress, colleagues shooting out emails at midnight, 1am, 2am, 3am. It is absolutely ridiculous and something needs to change.
2) Poor management. I think the issue is that, a majority of people love Google because they get to work on interesting technical problems - and these are the people that see little value in learning how to develop emotional intelligence. Perhaps they enjoy technical problems because people are too "difficult." People are promoted into management positions - not because they actually know how to lead/manage, but because they happen to be smart or because there is no other path to grow into. So there is a layer of intelligent individuals who are horrible managers and leaders. Yet, there is no value system to actually do anything about that because "emotional intelligence" or "adaptive leadership" are not taken seriously.
3) Jerks. Sure, there are a lot of brilliant people - but, sadly, there are also a lot of jerks (and, many times, they are one and the same). Years ago, that wasn't the case. I don't know if the pool of candidates is getting smaller, or maybe all the folks with great personalities cashed out and left, or maybe people are getting burned out and it's wearing on their personality and patience. I've heard stories of managers straight-up cussing out their employees and intimidating/scaring their employees into compliance.
4) It's a giant company now and, inevitably, it has become slower moving and is now layered with process and bureaucracy. So many political battles, empire building, territory grabbing. Google says, "Don't be evil." But, that practice doesn't seem to be put into place when it comes to internal practices. :(
Advice to Management
1) Don't dismiss emotional intelligence and adaptive leadership. They're not just catch phases. You need great managers and leaders in order to build great companies and develop great employees. The people who may be brilliant at solving technical issues may not be (and are most often, not) the best candidates for management.
2) Do something about that work-ife balance. Don't just have a bunch of pow-wows and tech talks and discussions about it. Leadership should actually model it. Consider re-evaluating how work is done; what processes are in place that are inefficient and ineffective and need to be updated or removed?
3) Don't forget that there is already a pool of incredibly talented people within the company. If career development is really a goal at Google, then do it. Don't just hire from the outside. Take the time to help your employees develop their careers - then maybe you won't lose some of the great ones, and maybe you'll have prevent some of that burn out and disillusionment.
You can't find a more well-regarded company that actually deserves the hype it gets.
You'll work on cutting edge projects / solve important issues that impact your community and the world
You'll meet interesting people who are your colleagues, managers, and senior management.
You'll open the paper and see your company in the news almost every day, and read about projects you're working on, which is a cool thing
You'll see Larry and Sergey at TGIF and you'll admire how they lead the company. They are brilliant, goofy, low key but intense, and likeable.
There are 22 cafes (more or less), the food is excellent, and it's free.
Your pay will typically be competitive, though it needs to be tweaked up a bit since the economy has improved.
Google cares about how it treats its employees.
The campus is like an academic campus in many ways.
There are tons of activities on campus, like authors speaking about their books, films after work, and gyms where you can work out - but you'll need to make sure to carve out time to do these things.
You'll get plenty of external validation from people who suddenly think you're smart and rich because you work there, even if you're not rich and you're as smart when you didn't work at Google.
If and when you leave, you'll never regret having that company on your resume. It opens doors.
The company is flexible - if you're lucky, you won't have a micromanager boss and you can be somewhat flexible in how you work - but don't get me wrong - you'll work a LOT. But you don't have to do all of it chained to your desk.
I live in SF so the commute can take between 1.5 hours to 1.75 hours each way on the shuttle - sometimes 2 hours each way on a busy day or rainy day. That means being on the bus for 3-4 hours PER DAY. It's a wired bus though which means you can work on the way to Mountain View. But it can feel brutal.
Your first year or two are really important in terms of your career at Google and they affect how you're viewed, and your ability to be promoted. You should always ask to work on high profile projects. If you don't get them, don't expect to get high ratings or get promoted. Always volunteer for cross functional group work for maximum exposure, and then work hard at those things.
You'll likely work on something that no one will explain to you and it will take you at least a year to be comfortable doing what you're working on, even if you're super quick at learning. No one has time to train you or teach you what you're doing - which is kind of hard.
After two or three years, people you started out with at Google start to get promoted. If you're not one of them, you'll wonder why and how it happened, and that process is somewhat political and not always clear.
It's a big company now. And super political. So don't be naive. Expect some people to be catty, some people to be territorial, and be prepared to be mentally tough. Don't let people see your vulnerableness. It's a Darwinistic culture with a huge dose of 30-something idealism on top which can fool you into thinking that people are easygoing - they're not. They're driven. If you're not driven, you're not going to fit in.
When you start at Google, it seems like peer reviews are super important - they are, but they are the sprinkles on the fro yo. The important thing is that your direct manager knows your work, likes your work and likes you, and then you can get promoted. If your boss doesn't like you, all the positive peer reviews in the world won't help you. Make sure you know what your boss wants, and give it to them. You will have weekly one on ones, and make sure you are addressing your performance at each one, asking if they have questions, how you can improve, can you work on cross functional projects, etc.
It's really hard to find work life balance at Google. The workload is huge. I hardly have time to work out. The commute is brutal. My family sometimes needs more from me and I can't give it. I'm still trying to find the balance. I think I need more down time than most people so I have a hard time being structured every day to fit all the things I want into my day, so a lot of things slip, like working out.
Advice to Management
Keep on NOT micromanaging - that is a huge benefit to Google. Most of us have a huge workload and we work in spikes and not chained to our desks, and we care deeply about producing, and we produce a lot. We can do that because you respect us enough to give us some freedom in how we do our jobs.
I have been working at Google full-time (More than 3 years)
- Extremely supportive management, both for career development and for personal concerns
- Regular 1:1s with Team Leads and Managers so you don't feel isolated
- Peer bonuses and public kudos systems that encourage cooperativeness and helpfulness
- Project-based work that gives you a feeling of ownership of your work (and pride in your work)
- Good, respectful coworkers who are passionate about their work and care about doing things well
- Managers and Team Leads who try their best to give you projects you're personally interested in whenever possible
- Useful and constructive performance reviews with self-assessment questions and peer feedback (encouraged to be constructive, even when critical), which both encourage cooperativeness and offers a structured opportunity to reflect on one's career with the help of teammates, TLs, and managers.
- Amazing educational benefits (they cover 66% of tuition for anything related to your work)
I've been at Google for 2.5 years, and I'm genuinely excited to go to work on Monday mornings. I feel energized after meeting with my manager or my team lead, and I learn a tremendous amount from both of them as well as from my teammates. It's actually a lot like being in a PhD program, but getting paid 5x more + stocks + great 401K + bonuses + not worrying about future employment.
It's very hard to leave, even if I find a more intellectually rewarding job in a different place, for three reasons:
1. I have un-learned any skill that I may have had that permitted me to operate in a cut-throat workplace. I'd probably suffer through a steep learning curve if I moved to a company where people are mean.
2. I now know that you *can* have a nice career in an collaborative and cooperative environment, and that that's even healthier and more productive than the cut-throat workplaces. So I'd be constantly reminded of that if I ever left.
3. Stock vesting is set up in a way that makes you want to stay to vest all the stocks you're getting, and every refresh adds more stocks that will vest over 3 years, such that you always have stock coming in soon that you don't want to leave without :)
I worked at Google full-time (More than 3 years)
Great perks, great mission. Ability to do 20% projects.
Finance at Google isn't too exciting as finance doesn't have a seat at the table.
I have been working at Google full-time
Work with lots of smart people
The company has too many employees.
I have been working at Google full-time
Most advanced techs, free food
It's already a huge company
I worked at Google full-time (More than a year)
I really enjoyed having strong product leaders and mentors to learn from. They were diligent in teaching me the ropes for how to write good PRDs and crafting user requirements.
Because it is now a rather large company, there is the customary politics that come with the territory. This becomes a bit transparent during perf time (which is the twice-annual promotion/bonus assessment time).
Advice to Management
Continue to build your talent capital, as Google has solidified its brand for having employed some of the best and the brightest. Don't fall prey to the politics that has engulfed some of your earlier competitors.
Very collaborative work environment, easy to work across teams. Very collaborative work environment, easy to work across teams.
Not much allowance fir work from home , which might be a major con given several other companies allow this
I have been working at Google full-time (More than a year)
Easy to move horizontally
Slow promotion process
Less innovative attitude than previous days
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