J.Kirchartz Web Yinzer

Five Things I Learned Working at Google

I worked at Google in 2015 and learned a great deal of things, I wrote this shortly after; now I think it’s finally ready to publish.

Post-Mortems

Failures need to be investigated so you can learn from them and avoid making the same mistake in the future. Any time you create a program there are eventually going to be human errors, perhaps a cavalcade of human errors. Firing the developer for a bug after code-review and QA approved their work isn’t going to fix anything. If there’s an error in the workflow that causes people to step on each other’s toes or causes stress for the team it needs to be discussed to avoid repeating the same problem in the future. If somebody made a mistake they might not have even known, it’s just not possible to predict everything software’s going to face in the real world. Learn from your mistakes, don’t point fingers to find a scapegoat, and shrug — fix it.

Meetings

Meetings need itineraries, start/end times, and people need to stick to them. Creating an agenda for a meeting in a shared doc allows everybody to put a blurb/links to their issues to discuss during the meeting. A meeting can go 5 minutes over, but shouldn’t go much further, schedule additional meetings if more discussion is required. This agenda can even be edited any time during the meeting if something that warrants further discussion comes up. It’s great for avoiding bad meeting formats like “Random Story Time” or “Pages of Meaningless Numbers.” The agenda keeps meetings from being a waste of time, if you want to waste time schedule a “Sync Up” meeting with a small group and enjoy.

Google isn’t its Mythology

Google is pretty much like every other company on the planet, except with more people and more money. They make a bunch of neat tools (for themselves first – eating their own dogfood) but don’t have anything super special to prevent problems with clients, communication, workflow, or staffing. Managers and teams have opportunities to discuss and modify how things work, but everybody has their own style and they’re allowed to work with it. There were no trick questions at my interview, they had me do FizzBuzz and some regexes.

The Caste System

I’ve read things before about the heirarchy of employees at the big G, but first-hand I saw FTEs, Interns, then there’s TVCs (Temps, Vendors, Contractors) — each gets a different colored badge. Interns get a specific problem to solve. FTEs get to drink beers, ride scooters, invite guests, go to off-site events, and even get Christmas gifts. TVCs get none of that, for legal reasons. I was a contractor, not a Google employee, as part of their orientation I was told I worked “at” and for the benefit of Google, but very specifically not “for” Google. At every single event that the entire office was invited to another TVC would ask if we were allowed to be there, We were never expelled.

It’s just business

As a contractor, I had a pretty good idea of when a year contract would expire, but I didn’t know if it’d be renewed or not. I was mistaken in-so-much as my year contract was only scheduled to last 11 months, ending a little over a month before Christmas. I’d seen contractors leave, and some return; so I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. During my last 2 weeks the word was funding for the next year wasn’t determined yet so my contract would not be renewed. My last week I received applause and gratitude for my work in our regular meetings. Not two weeks after my contract ended another staffing firm contacted me for the same position, this time earning a little over of half what I was making before — after all, it’s just business.