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auntieannie

auntieannie

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I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59

I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 - Douglas Edwards Occasionally, there was too much detail, but overall, I found it intriguing. Interesting perspective on a slightly older (early 40s) non-techie family man, working in the midst of lots of young, driven, hard-core engineer types. Intriguing study of a "new" workplace. Interesting both to learn more about Google, such a big part of so many of our lives the last several years, but also interesting as a story of a career -- not the rock-star engineers or founders, but someone trying to make a living and a difference within a corporate culture. "Google went through some rough times in 2001, though the hard work and stress paid off -- mostly with Marissa [boss] and I crossed each other's paths with increasing frequency that year. We'd spend weeks toiling in the product fields of perfect harmony, agreeing on significant projects... and then some minor difference of opinion over a word here or there would turn into a flame war that singed every thatched roof in our communal village. ...Marissa's desire to "fix things" as soon as they came to her attention was a common impulse among engineers, and Marissa was unquestionably productive. But where Urs had emphasized the need not to do tasks that fell below the priority line, Marissa's focus seemed diffuse. Every problem that came along required her immediate solution, even if it belonged in someone else's realm." p. 245-6"So what did I learn from all this? I learned that obvious solutions are not the only ones and "safe" choices aren't always good choices. I had thought that due diligence meant finding the product most people relied on, then putting pressure on the vendor to cut the price. It never occurred to me to talk to a startup, even though I worked at one. It never occurred to Larry not to do that. We had different tolerances for risk and different ideas about what two smart people working alone could accomplish in a complex technical area -- and that is why I spent seven years working in mainstream media while Larry found a partner and founded his own company. Two smart guys working on complex technical problems, it turns out, can accomplish a hell of a lot. " p.258"The day after the deal went live, John Bauer added code that boldfaced the keyword a user had searched for when it appeared in an ad, making it obvious that the ad was relevant. That single improvement increased clickthrough rates by 400%. One engineer. One change. Four hundred percent." p.304Edwards leaves the firm after it goes public and grows in ways that don't seem to have a role for him anymore. "I had practiced the marketing arts in one form or another for 25 years, and I didn't want to do it anymore. The position I left at Google had been the pinnacle -- the best job I could imagine for someone in my field. I had watched over a brand that exploded from obscurity to dictionary definition in five short years. My colleagues were some of the most brilliant people on earth. I traveled the globe and made my fortune. I learned things about my limits and my capabilities. And I like to think that, in some small way, I helped advance the human condition. Or at least that I did more good than harm. ...I started my career working at ad agencies. It was fun, challenging, and potentially well paying. I quit because I didn't like the idea I might have to sell something that I didn't believe in. I worked in public broadcasting and then newspapers, where I found coworkers who sacrificed material rewards to be part of something connected to the common good. I got that same sense at Google, but with greater intensity and urgency. And stock options. This was no institution continuing a long tradition of public service. This was a headlong rush to reshape the world in a generation. And therein lies the company's biggest flaw, in my estimation: impatience with those not quick enough to grasp the obvious truth of Google's vision. "When were we ever wrong?" Larry asked me.Not often. But "not often" is not never. If Google's leaders accepted that reality, they might understand why some people are unwilling to suspend skepticism and surrender to Google's assurances the company can be trusted.After Google, I find myself impatient with the way the world works. Why is it so hard to schedule a recording on my DVR? Why aren't all the signal lights synched to keep traffic flowing at optimum speed? Why, if I punch in my account number when I call customer service, do I have to give it to them again when I get a live person? These are all solvable problems. Smart people, motivated to make things better, can do almost anything. I feel lucky to have seen firsthand just how true that is."p. 389-390