What working at Google is like

Posted in Technology trends at 10:16 pm by ducky

Steve Yegge has a long blog post that is very funny and probably helpful; in the middle of it, he talks about what it’s like to code at Google.  It is absolutely dead-bang consistent with what I saw.

It’s been a little frustrating to me to try to express just what it is about working at Google that is so cool.  It’s easiest to talk about the food, the perks, as that’s the most obvious, smack-you-in-the-face-can’t-miss-it.  I tried telling people about how the whole culture is focused on making life easy for developers.  Somehow, it didn’t seem to really capture it in its fullest.

I would make only a few additions and qualifications.

We did have schedules and target dates, they were just (for the most part) very casual.  If we made them, fine.  If we slipped, darn, let’s move on and get it out next week.  There were, however, exceptions.  There were a whole boatload of things that were announced at the Google Geo Developer Day a week after I started.  While I wasn’t really involved, I believe that there was a lot of scurrying around to pull that off.

In general, things happen incrementally when they are ready.  I don’t remember there being a hard drop-dead date for the continuous zoom, for example.

There are three reasons that Google can be more casual about schedules.

First, and IMHO most importantly, It’s all Web-based, so they are not a slave to big monumental releases.  It’s not a shrink-wrapped product where you get one shot to get your feature in, and it better be what the customer wanted, and it better work flawlessly.  If Google puts a feature in, and it breaks stuff or people hate it, they can pull it out quickly.  (This summer there was at least one feature that got pulled because end users and/or external API users didn’t like it.)

Second, they have a whole pile of money.  You can be more casual when you aren’t worrying about your company folding if something doesn’t ship on time.

Third, they work very very hard at not hiring the wrong people.  They have a stated policy that they would rather not hire someone good than hire someone bad.  I fully agree with and endorse that policy, even though I might have been adversely affected by the policy.  (They recently declined to offer me a full-time job.)

1 Comment »

  1. Best Webfoot Forward » Google sowing seeds of own self-destruction said,

    May 26, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    […] Working at Google is awfully pleasant. In addition to the food and stuff, you get to hang out with really nice, really smart people, and other people take care of nuisances like facilities, payroll, tech support, etc. You get to work on fun stuff that you want to do. Why would you ever leave? […]

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