I have been working at Google full-time
Big company, you get lost
Fast paced and very competitive
Imposter syndrome is real
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.
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.
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 worked at Google (More than 3 years)
Google is a world of its own. At every other company, there were lots of people who had serious gaps in their skills. At Google, I could have a serious work conversation about technology with everyone and could trust that they have solid expertise. In that way, Google is a sheltered garden from the rest of the world.
There is a general sense of trust in the company. You can leave your valuables and laptops lying around, and they are safe. People joke that it's the only place where you use an expansive laptop to reserve a seat at the cafeteria, while walking away.
At other companies, teams are very protective of their own code. Trying to execute another team's code requires following a 50 step installation process that's out of date and was never complete to begin with. Google has almost all the code in the same source repository. An engineer can look at the code, easily execute the code because it comes with intelligent defaults and standard build process, and contribute enhancements/bug fixes. The other teams are generally grateful for getting improvements. They understand that it's better for the company if the bug is fixed rather than holding onto territory or insisting on their own strange ways.
Google takes care of you all around. From food, health care, generous vacation, onsite gym, and so on, you are well taken care off and can focus on work rather than dealing with life's hassles. There are cases where Google goes above and beyond tremendously. Here is an example that floats around internally. A Googler had worked at Amazon before. Amazon relocated him. Because of the relocation, he had to change his partner's health insurance for some critical and expensive life changing medication. Due to same sex partner and relocation, the health insurance company refused. Amazon was so unhelpful that the HR representative who was forced to deliver the news broke down crying and then quit over it. He switched to Google. The Google HR department negotiated an exception for him with the health insurance and included the necessary change for the following policy year for all employees.
A lot of Google products have a huge impact with over a billion users. Working there, you can feel that you change the world.
I was very happy with the compensation. There are also a lot of opportunities in the company to follow your interest. Pretty much anyone can get an intern, participate in setting coding standards (obviously you have to argue the case for your proposals), interviewing, supporting local schools with tech expertise. Google opened up a lot of opportunities in the community or in general in tech to volunteer in.
Google is considered the largest functioning anarchy. That has its good sides, like the glee of joy for operating without strict oversight. It also has its dark side, like a hands-off management tends to encourage politics.
Another beauty for engineers are internal tools. Your development environment is in the cloud. You can sit down at a loaner computer and be productive within seconds. There is a massive cloud compiling system that shards your compiles across many computers in the cloud. The search function across the codebase is powerful. You'll feel that downloading and compiling code on your own computer in your IDE is something of another epoch, like something from before the industrial revolution.
The Google badge is a wonderful thing to carry. It opens doors to a different world. The office spaces are beautiful with work, rest, and play areas. The MTV location is like a utopian city on its own. Everything in it, food, drinks, work spaces, swimming pools, gym, bowling alleys, showers, and so on are free (for employees). It is a whole world of its own.
Most companies have a one-over-one promotion model. Your boss has to decide to promote you. Your bosses boss has to sign off on it. At Google, the promotion is decided by a relatively impartial committee that due to promoting lots of people has experience in it. You can even get promoted in rare cases against the will of your manager. Rumor has it that managers won't hold a grudge if that happens but support it. The hiring committee looks at a promotion packet that includes reviews from peers. There can even be unrequested peer reviews. In general, it creates an environment that discourages bicycling - bowing to the higher ups and kicking the lower downs hard. However some people have realized that they can hurt colleagues with bad reviews and impunity. It's rare, but colleagues careers took a dive due to someone holding a grudge or simply writing a thoughtless review. (There is some concern about stack ranking, but I don't understand enough of the background to comment on it. There are plenty of discussions with insight elsewhere.)
To underscore how Google is one of a kind, there is an internal database with legendary things that happened at Google. Someone parked his car for many years on the employee parking lot. When after years, he went looking for his car, it was gone. He went to security. He found out that it was simply moved because the parking lot had been repaved. Another Googler lived in the office fulltime to save money on rent. He wrote a guide on how to do that. As there are showers and other facilities, it is possible to do so. And Google let it happen. After a while of saving rent payment, he could afford the down payment on buying his own place. All these stories make Google a wonderful place to work at.
An important topic to bring up is work/life balance. Work/life balance is an amorphous topic that means a lot of different things to different people. Getting up to speed at Google is consuming. Depending on your work, it could take a year to become productive. Many colleagues reported no longer having a personal life after starting at Google. Some colleagues simply love technology and can't think of anything better than working until the AM hours on some tech that gets them excited. You can tell these people by physically looking at them. For them, it is a heaven. If you are a balanced person with personal interests and relationships, you are likely going to be challenged. If you signed up for one of the big five tech companies, you wanted challenge, right. If I would do something differently, it is to take advantage of all time saving things. Pay for a laundry service. Pay for a cleaning service. I've had a moral hangup about doing that because on a moral level, my time shouldn't be more worthy than that of another human being. If I could do it all over again, I'd pay for every possible service to save time. In the grander scheme of things, if you work at Google, your skill is so valuable to humanity that you should make use of it instead of standing in line at the grocery store. I don't mean that in an arrogant way. If you work on a service with a billion users, your ability to make life better for them with another hour of work is worth more than folding laundry. You've paid the price in education, training, and effort to be able to do that. Make use of your power for the great code. (The view that all those perks are only there to keep your nose closer to the grindstone is the wrong way of looking at it from a philosophical point, in my humble opinion.)
For full disclosure, there are some people who coast at Google. They probably don't have any complains about work/life balance or perhaps the worst complaints because they are all about coasting.
Many company mishandle projects. When the next time comes around, they mishandle it in the same way because the people responsible aren't the ones working late nights and weekends. Google does two things to get better: (1) There are honest and public postmortems. They are the pride of a lot of true engineers. (2) Zeitgeist is an annual survey about the work place and the company. The survey is quite exhaustive. Every manager from the CEO to the front-line manager reports on the result of his/her area. Then they take actions to attempt to improve areas that got low scores. Having worked at companies where now improvement effort is done, this annual and systematic process is very refreshing.
If you don't work in MTV (HQ), you will be given work. However if you are passionate and want to advance your career, you should relocated to MTV. Any project that started doing well and getting important seemed to get transferred there. Promotion opportunities are better there. It seemed that everyone who relocated from another location to MTV, was a lot happier.
Officially, the company focuses on impact. In practice, it seems to focus on being highly productive in producing code, but not necessarily in actually succeeding. In theory, if you have a simple idea that doubles the revenue/customer satisfaction, it should be more appreciated than an idea that took a lot of effort/difficulty and had less improvement. But it tends to be the other way.
Promotions tend to be tied to launching a project that makes peers at a higher level happy. That's often easier with an API that happens to be really useful for peers than launches that benefit users. Landing the right kind of project to work on is a big factor of getting a promotion, which is easier in MTV and also encourages politics. A colleague was told directly from his boss that he has to get better at "turf war."
A general rule of thumb is that everyone ends up in ads. Non-ads projects tend to be more volatile and have a tendency to end with people ending up on ads projects. This is not necessarily a con. One should simply prepare for it.
There seems to be a general trend as Google gets larger (60K+ employees) and the founders are withdrawing their impact on the company that Google's specialty is fading a bit. Microkitchens stock less eye popping snacks and drinks. The Christmas gift went from a nice bundle of cash to a coveted phone to a cheap phone to simply a donation to a charity of your choice. The hiring bar seems to get lowered to satisfy the need to hire more people.
Managers tend to become managers for their tech skills and not management skills. It definitely shows in the quality of management. Very smart people, very technically capable, not so business and people savvy. This is not necessarily a complete con because a manager without a clue in tech is definitely a lot worse.
There are some stars that people belief that Google still has but doesn't. The myth of 20% time is alive outside of Google. It's discouraged inside of Google. The only person whom I knew to participate in 20% time did so by working on another team, which he wanted to test out before transferring. Outside people belief that 1 day a week a Google can work on anything he/she deems interesting. Management doesn't outright deny it, but it's formulated as: If you work 20% time on something else, it has to have company impact worth 20%. This is not necessarily a con. It's more like a missing pro.
Another shining star that's gone is the "don't be evil" motto. It was silently dropped and replaced with "do the right thing." Google didn't turn overnight evil. There is some philosophical case to be made why the new motto is better. However it seems with the founders drawing back from company involvement that the dramatic standing up for users of the old times is also fading. Google is still a far cry from Monsanto.
If you work there and want to advance your career, don't volunteer for anything. It is kind of viewed as a "vacation" if you volunteer for things. For example at other employers, interviewing was viewed as a prestigious activity reserved for the most trusted employees to shape the future. At Google, any hour you spend interviewing means missing an hour to increase your performance score. You'll be rewarded for finding ways to dug out of the interviewing responsibility. Again this is not necessarily a con, simply something to understand.
You are going to meet some of the brightest and most brilliant people. You are going to meet people with interesting backgrounds. You are going to have wonderfully engaging conversations. But all of that intelligence tends to also have caused nature to create that intelligence at a trade-off (in some people). Perhaps a lack of humanity or emotion was the price of it in some people. You are going to have some lunch conversations that are going to make you spit your food back out, like a colleague seriously proposing to use nuclear bombs to solve social issues. I sometimes felt the need to take a break from the office to be around people who display normal emotions (or any emotion). While the general office culture is very liberal/progressive, there are some pockets of social beliefs that are breathtaking to how little they care about human life or different lifestyles/opinions out of some law of the strong or ultra libertarian reasoning.
Advice to Management
Promote managers into management for their manager skills. Train manager in managing skills (both business and people managing skills).
Focus more on the user. It seems that OKRs are more focused on internal metrics than actually understanding the user and making them happy.
Roll back the trend towards becoming a regular company.
I worked at Google full-time
Great people - high caliber. Fun environment
Hard to make impact as one of 60 000 people
I have been working at Google full-time
Smart people, great environment
Short on PM, thread out really thin
I have been working at Google full-time (Less than a year)
Complete autonomy, endless learning opportunities, great culture
Too many people are comfortable in their roles and not super driven; while they do a lot to ensure the right people are hired/promoted, under-performers don’t get fired
Advice to Management
Do more to measure effectiveness of high level employees -don’t keep them around if they’re not performing at an extremely high level
great food, facility, work environment
too many groups, teams to reach sometimes
I have been working at Google full-time
Co-workers are really smart
Disingenuous performance review and calibration process
Promotion process driving decision
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