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history may repeat itself

I have wondered what it's really like to work at Google, because they have been so successful, and seem to have succeeded in every way that AV failed. I have wondered if they have good project management, good planning and logistics, the ability to get projects done without burning out their staff, etc. (You know, all of those things that you usually associate with successful companies that are also enjoyable workplaces.)

I got my answer today in a Fortune article. Too bad. It reminds me of AV about four years ago, when things started to go bad.

I have never understood why in some tech companies today, organization is such a difficult thing to do. It is almost as if these companies are afraid that if they take the time to organize projects, some other company will pass them by. What's worse, it is the customers that are asking for organization, and not getting it. These companies don't seem to realize that the customers have lots of other options. If they're not getting what they need from Google, they'll go elsewhere.

Anyway, I feel sorry for the people who see what's going on and are trying to straighten things out, but are fighting an uphill battle.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 5th, 2003 12:58 am (UTC)
It was fun to work at Google.
Dec. 5th, 2003 04:55 pm (UTC)
Did you work there during summer vacation? (It looked that way from your journal.) If so, I can understand how you enjoyed it. There were plenty of summer hires at AV. Several of them, as far as I know, had positive experiences.
Dec. 5th, 2003 05:20 pm (UTC)
Yes, I worked at Google during summer vacation.

People in general like it there. The food is -terrific-. The people are very smart, and in general very upbeat. There are tons of interesting projects going on, and there is a great deal of open-ness in the air, as well as freedom to do things... There is definitely a lot of company culture and pride.

Before working there, I worked at a startup for a year and then at Symantec corp. The atmosphere at Google is an order of magnitude better than either that at of those places.

I knew a summer hire at AV or two from years past...
Dec. 6th, 2003 08:48 am (UTC)
AV was like that about four years ago. Lots of free food, lots of parties. Most people were generally optimistic.

In what way do you think Google people are smart? We had a chief scientist who once claimed that Google people were generally smarter than AV people.

Dec. 6th, 2003 12:21 pm (UTC)
...it's not really something I can explain totally, just a feeling. At most other places I've been, I had the [perhaps wrong] feeling of being generally more capable than the people around me. Right now I'm a 19 year old in the Ph.D program at Caltech, I was 16 when I was a software engineer for the startup, etc... At Google, on the other hand, I felt like there were several people there that clearly outclassed me. Basically everybody I interacted with went to elite highschools and MIT like you did, and were generally very sharp. Also, the person who wrote the AI textbook UCLA uses is at Google, and there are a disproportionate number of Ph.D's on the engineering team.

A lot of it may have to do with the fact that Google is currently very much in demand, so they can afford to do intelligence-style filtering in the interview. I don't think there's really any engineer there who isn't in the top half percentile, measured by some metric.
Dec. 6th, 2003 09:13 am (UTC)
Also, do Google people ever get burned out? If so, what happens? If someone needed to be away from the office for an extended period, e.g. a pregnancy or an injury, how does their work get covered? How are project priorities set? Who is able to assess the progress of a project? At what point would management be concerned if, as was written in the article I mentioned, customers were becoming unhappy and/or respected peers in other companies were losing confidence in Google? (I suppose you might not know these things, being a summer hire, but any insight would be helpful. Most of this is just for my own edification; I just want to understand how Google was able to succeed where AV failed.)
Dec. 6th, 2003 12:22 pm (UTC)
I think that Google tries hard to keep customers satisfed. Beyond that, I can't/shouldn't really say.
Dec. 9th, 2003 02:57 pm (UTC)
OK, thanks for answering. In general, I'm pretty demoralized about what happened at AV. I've worked at several places and been involved in several different types of projects. I've never seen a company fall apart so completely the way AV fell apart.
Dec. 9th, 2003 05:49 pm (UTC)
It's kind of a shame that the search engine space is so dominated by one or two players.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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