Every once in awhile, people ask me how I like working at Google. “It’s pretty cool,” I say. But there’s more to tell if you want to dig deeper. Here’s a peek behind the curtain, where you can see both the good and the bad.
What do you like about it?
First of all, I’m surrounded by extremely talented people every day. It’s like having Superman at the desk next to you, and he can teach you how to gain laser vision. I’m constantly learning from my teammates and I genuinely like working with them. It’s good to be with people who want more than just a paycheck.
There’s tons of good software infrastructure. Engineers at Google have built countless tools to make development easy. Imagine you’re building a house. Need a wall? Already done. Want to add a faucet? Ready to install. And if you need some extra electricity, supporting teams are usually happy to construct additional pylons.
Perks. LOTS of perks. These range from massages to team trips to places such as Disneyland, Tahoe, Las Vegas, and Hawaii. My personal favorite perk is the free food. These days, the steak and lobster have been replaced by kale and quinoa, but it’s still tasty, healthy, and one less thing to worry about.
What could be improved?
Focus on the user. My first project was building an online video gallery where people could download images. Sounds interesting, but it was as helpful as a megaphone during a zombie apocalypse. So much time and talent went into developing a service that no one wanted, and it could have been avoided by doing user testing before development.
Setup is tough. Since Google has a lot of in-house tools, the learning curve is steeper than a warped wall. Some teams are bogged down with legacy systems, human bureaucracy, and resource constraints. And even though mobile is important to Google, the infrastructure for iOS apps is a bit behind Android. (It would be weird if it was the other way around.)
Promotion by bragging. To be promoted, you have to write a packet the size of a small novel and hope it wins over a random committee of people you’ve never met. To be fair, it’s not all bad. Your promotion is not dependent on how much your manager likes you. The bad part is that the financial incentive encourages teams to build
messaging apps that look good on paper, whether they help the user or not.
The Best Part
Though I enjoy the free coffee and complain about the product definition (or lack thereof), there’s one last thing that leads the pack.
It’s not the self-driving cars.
It’s not the culture of openness.
It’s not the comfortable chairs, adjustable standing desks, or natural light sources.
The best part is that every day is an opportunity to learn and feel satisfied with what I’ve created.
Maybe it’s geeky that I like programming. Maybe I’m weird because I’d rather be at work than browse social media for eight hours a day. And maybe my job will change, or I won’t like software development in ten years. But for now, it feels good to develop new skills and see the things I’ve made impact people around the world.
And that’s the best part about working at Google.