One month at Google

After 4 years at a growth stage startup, joining a mega-corp like Google has been quite a change. Of course change is exactly why I decided to join such a behemoth – I’d worked at O(10), O(100) and O(1,000) person companies, I began to wonder what an O(10,000) person company might be like!

Decentralizing Everything

A traditional prioritization system begins with the CEO setting high-level goals, which trickle down the management chain, eventually to ICs. At some middle layer, the goals are turned into projects with measurable performance indicators. Members of the team are then judged by those indicators. There’s an assumption that the individual metrics are indicative of moving the needle on the company ones.

So far it seems like there is no middle layer at Google. In the Advertising division, we all have the same top-level metrics – 1) user experience and 2) revenue. Each of us comes up with our own projects and initiatives and goes for it. To frame it against a more common vocabulary, each IC has the responsibilities of a TL and managers perform in a more advisory function.

The expectation that each IC should come up with their own projects, design them, timeline, track and bring them to completion is a very high bar. Being able to code well is an expectation and isn’t really a differentiator since everyone can sling code around.

I’m still wrapping my head around this, it’s definitely the biggest change I’ve encountered. It’s only a month in, but as far as I can tell, I don’t have quarterly/annual goals. I’ve been encouraged to find things I’m passionate about and make a difference.

Automated processes
It’s shocking how automated everything, EVERYTHING is. I had an ‘aha!’ moment after requesting access to some files and receiving an email seconds later. It said, “Your request has been approved by our ML approver, which identifies low-risk grants.” Code style has also been automated – which allows feedback to be at a much higher level, since your code is guaranteed to have consistent spacing, capitalization, newlines, even typos are caught.

Dogfooding
This was super cool, having access to pre-release versions of YouTube, Android and pretty much every other product that Google has. It’s been awesome to see how the scale of employees at Google provides a huge value of high-quality testers who can provide high-quality feedback and reproduction steps for bugs.

Strangers everywhere
When I run into someone there is only a 5% chance I’ve met them before or know them. Day after day this is very strange to me! I used to know every single coworker, the name of their dog and their favorite type of drink.

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