It has been an exciting 3 months since I Joined Google on the 2nd of September 2013. During the arduous interview phase, I had researched Google well enough to write a book. I knew the history, i had read all the important articles (and research papers), I knew about the products and the vision behind it. I had watched Larry Page talk about Moonshots and read Eric Schmidt inspiring book about the digital future (the New Digital Age) I was excited about adding to all of this awesomeness… I was going to be part of Google! But… i did worry that it would be very hard to have an impact. Well, I am happy to report that so far it has been a dream come true. And this is one of those good dreams, the type where you try and go back to sleep just to prolong the dream and hence turn up late for work… not that you could turn up late to work at Google… because there is no designated start time or end time…
And while it is true that having an impact here is going to be a challenge, the scope of my work and the immediate feedback or connection I have makes this a role like no other. Where else can I directly influence millions if not billions of users? Where else can I have conversations about the future of the internet with the very people who are designing those systems? A day at Google is unlike any other.
Work (if you want to call it that) has given me great opportunities to learn technologies and tools that are easily the best of breed. The engineering talent at Google is second to none and the infrastructure.. more on that later. What I can tell you is that I have seen the sheer scale of Google’s operations and my expression was a lot like that of the cat below when i first realised what I had gotten myself into.
(you know you have failed as a writer when you need to resort to an image of a cat to get cheap laughs)
The elaborate scientist analogy that will make no sense
I think I should compare myself to a scientist for whom Google is NASA. And this Scientist formerly worked at a high school science lab where he built a model of a solar system to impress students. But now the Scientist is being asked to plan the manned space mission to Neptune. The Scientist knows what Neptune is, but he has no idea how big or how far it is. He also has no idea why everyone else thinks its a piece of cake. SCALE. That’s the hardest thing to get your head around. And you are expected to launch an iterate… ie improve your design after you have launched to Neptune. Famously, Google Search and most early Google products used the same format. Your skills are suddenly meaningless. Your tiny scientist brain (even if you had a Phd) can start to get overwhelmed… and the talent level of your peers gives you the shivers. You are called… a ‘noogler‘.
You wear a funny hat with a beanie on top. A propellor cap. It is funny. It’s a ritual. It is fun.
Oh btw, I am not a scientist. Also, I don’t have a Phd.
In those first days, you try and get the jargon right. ‘Excuse me, is the BigTable the one in the cafeteria by the window? How am I supposed to flush the BigTable then?’ or better yet, ‘So, if I run MapReduce, I can access Google Maps faster huh?’ Luckily no one laughs at you though I am sure they wonder how I got in. But here I am, jotting down all sorts of commands and hyperlinks that get through the day. At some point you realise that you are the only guy who says, ‘eh. sorry? I didn’t get that’ – a lot. But its OKAY! I’m a Noogler!
While all this talk about work has been great and the people extremely friendly and accomodating, I must confess I have been lucky. Work has not yet taken over my life. Despite my attempts to work my ass off, Google’s distractions have helped kept things engaging and fun. My friends will know that I am committed to learning things really fast and this could very easily be misdiagnosed as a borderline obsession- but… I am also finding time to take breaks and enjoy the distractions that Google throws at you
And those distractions are: a million cool projects, a great games room, amazing video’s about all the tech, talented and smart people that lead to interesting conversations, the great free food, the micro-kitchens, the schwag, the massages, the gym and… did i mention the food?
(this cab mysteriously showed up at work today. No one knows why.)
Here is a list of the top 10 most important things I did once i started….
- Migrated to Google Apps.
- Attended TGIF with Larry and Sergey!
- Learnt some fancy new terms like MapReduce, Big Table… also, uploaded some code to a Google Data Center.
- Sampled all the free food.
- Got the Noogler Cap!
- Set my personal moonshot and 10x goal and am working hard to achieve it.
- Met all the managers and leads- this is called networking during the MBA… but I think for a change I had fun in those conversations.
- Presented something to the engineers at MTV- this was a high point.
- Dogfooded some amazing new products.
- Changed my email signature to say -Sr. Strategist at Google. And the feeling was EPIC.
So, what is the plan for the next 90 days?
For starters to master my role as fast as possible. I am on the right trajectory, but I want to be nimble and ready to make a course correction when required. I need to also take the feedback fast and often to ensure I have a meaningful impact soon. I also need to work on that new trick shot I have been developing on the foos ball table. Finally, and perhaps most important of all, I need to make time to read, to write and to blog.
But that should change now. (i hope)